Tuesday, May 16, 2006

The Game of Spades

Yesterday I was digging through a stack of large boxes full of old papers. I've got two whole closets full of these boxes. I moved in here almost seven years ago, I keep telling myself one of these days I'm going to sort through those boxes, and of course I never get around to it.

Well, yesterday in one of those boxes I stumbled across a sheaf of papers, quite a number of games I made up back in my junior high and high school years. Mostly card games. A few of them, I remember. But many of these games had completely slipped out of my memory. Hey, we're talking over 30 years ago, and an elephant I am not.

Here's one of the card games I concocted, I'd guess in my high school years, early 1970s. It's called the game of Spades: not a very creative name, but the game looks quite playable. In some ways it looks like Schafskopf (the three-handed version), which I was discussing the other day. But in other ways my game of Spades has a character all its own.

Number of Players: three.

The Deck: 32 cards (7 low).

Rank of Cards: A (high), K, Q, J, 10, 9, 8, 7 (low).

Rank of Suits: spades (high), clubs, hearts, diamonds (low).

The Deal: Ten cards to a player, dealt three, four, three, with two cards left over for a blind.

Object of the Game: To take a majority of the points in cards.

Bidding: Starting with the player to the left of the dealer, each person may either pick up the blind or refuse it. A player who picks it up contracts to take at least half the points in cards. After he picks it up, he must discard two cards to restore his hand to ten cards. These discarded cards count for him at the end of the hand.

The Play: Player to the left of the dealer leads to the first trick. The winner of a trick leads to the next trick. A player must follow suit if possible. Otherwise he may play any card. The highest card of the highest suit wins the trick.

Trumping: A card may be trumped by any card of a higher suit; that is, a diamond by a card of any other suit, a heart by any black card, a club by any spade. Since spades are the highest suit, they cannot be trumped.

Scoring: At the end of the hand, the bidder counts up the cards he has won as follows:

ace of spades...........................40
each other ace..........................20
each face card (K, Q, J)..........10
each lower card (10, 9, 8, 7)...5

There is a total of 300 points in the deck. If the bidder took in less than 150 points, each opponent scores one game point. If the bidder took in 150 or more points, he scores as follows:

Bidder takes in: Bidder scores:
150-195...............1 game point
200-245........... 2 game points
250-295.............3 game points
300.....................4 game points

Game: The first player to reach seven game points wins.

Loose ends: Already I can see a few gaps in the rules. For instance, what happens if all the players pass? I suppose this would be handled more or less as in the three-handed version of Schafskopf which I learned around that same time: if all three players pass, the hand is played "for least," with no trump, the blind going to the winner of the last trick, and the player who takes the fewest points scoring 1 game point. Various complicated rules obtain in case of a two or three way tie for least.

I can also see how certain elements of the game of Spades tie in to my own elaborate private "game mythos," going all the way back into my preschool years. The rank of the suits, spades, clubs, hearts, diamonds; the ace of spades as 40, and the other aces as 20: details like these had been set in my inward world quite literally by the time I was three years old. Believe me, you don't want to know just how deep that rabbit hole goes. From a very early age, games had a nigh-mystical significance for me.

Overall, a pretty good card game. I'd say I must have made it up back around age 16.



Anonymous Lucy said...

It does sound rather playable. Then again, I like Spades. And Rook. And, heaven help me, Uno. The kind where there are robot-dinoaurs on the cards and you have to make a crazy roaring sound when you play the Draw-four card. But I digress ...

When I was little I was obsessed with patterns and rules too. Especially quilt patterns. Many of which are scarily complicated. Especially broken medallions. Which don't repeat every eight or twelve inches, but rather take the whole quilt for one "block". (Envision a really pretty swirly fractal)

I distinctly remember being four years old and being able to hold the whole pattern for my grandmother's irish double-chain in my head with each scrap of fabric holding a unique specific place in the pattern.

Years later I read that quilting was often used to "treat" soliders ater the Civil War who exhibited symptoms of shell-shock. Apparently the lack of control and stability was offset by the creation of rules and patterns entirely in their control.

Even if you had a lovely childhood, moving a lot might have encouraged a part of you to focus on rules and patterns that you could control. I'm pretty sure thats why I'm so fascinated with patterns. My childhood was completely beyond my control.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006 12:08:00 PM  
Blogger Paul Burgess said...

I think my imagination in general developed more or less on the grounds you lay out: around age six I suffered a radioactive core meltdown of the imagination, I think as a defense against an extremely miserable grade school existence. I started school not only a year or two behind my class in terms of emotional maturity, but also... how can I put it? Undersocialized. Radically undersocialized. I had almost no idea how to interact with other people socially, and it took me several painful years in the lower grades to pick up on it. Add to that school bullies. Major school bully problems. To this day I have a white-hot hatred of bullies and bully-like individuals, which would scare most people witless if they could see inside my soul.

Anyhow, in an environment like that, it's no wonder I turned within, to the world of the imagination. In a "radioactive meltdown" which has really never let up, forty-odd years later.

Though strangely enough, some of these imaginative elements were there already during my preschool years, which were fairly happy. A lot of the stuff having to do with games. By the time I was three, I just "knew" that the ace of spades was worth 40 points, and the other aces were worth 20 points. Just as I "knew" which color each day of the week is.

As for all the moving, that came later, once I graduated from high school, and it was entirely self-inflicted. I don't doubt that it was also, in its own way, a reaction to my childhood. One way to be in control of your environment is to keep changing it all the time.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006 4:49:00 AM  

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