Keep those games alive!

Children are inventive, original and very messy. As they get older they start losing these nice qualities. Some manage to hold on. This is what I am trying to do with this blog. My brother - a great inventor of games - kept most of my childhood happily occupied with his original games. This blog started out as a way to keep those games alive. Do read the first few posts to enter his wonderful world. Reader contributions welcome :)

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

An engineer by birth

The sand pit under the guava tree brought out the engineer in him. His apprentices carried out instructions - "dig there", "leave that place level", "make a hill here"... and so half a day went by. At the end of it, there was a big water body, with a dam, bridge, a forest on one side (foliage decoration by me!), and whatever else we happened to think of.

Diwali was when the engineer put his skills to test. The dam was built for demolition. Small holes were made at strategic points and bombs inserted. Took us a while to actually demolish the dam with Diwali bombs, but we managed it... sometimes :-)

Real fun was when we climbed the guava tree and jumped into the muddy water! (Glee for us, grief for our mother when we entered the house in this state)

Soon, I guess we outgrew the sand pit. Also, digging sometimes resulted in unearthing half an earthworm or two. A mixture of "ugh!" and "ohhh sad" made us look for other pastimes. So when the younger set of cousins landed and demanded to play, they weren't so lucky.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Bunk Bed!

Full Action-adventure!

Requires at least 4 kids and a number of pillows greater than the number of kids. Place a few kids under the bed, a few kids on the top bunk. Lower bunk is not used. Best results obtained if there are more kids below.

Kids on the top bunk are armed with pillows. As many as you can get. They are The Guards. Kids below are The Prisoners. The prisoners hide so that no part of them is visible to the guards. If a guard hits any part of the prisoner, prisoner dies. The aim of the prisoners is to get out from under the bed, and run out of the room without getting hit by the guards’ pillows. No mean task. Loads of fun. And leaves room open for more innovation as you play along – what happens to thrown pillows? Can the guard retrieve them? Can the prisoners do anything to prevent that?

Be warned - most often, this game ended up in fist-fights!

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Punch Cards

This is strictly speaking, not a "game". But who speaks strictly here, anyway? I enjoyed writing, hope you enjoy reading about...

The Punch Cards

We've been around computers since the time of punch cards. Just been around them, never actually used them
(For those who have never heard of or have forgotten what a punch card is – it is a rectangular piece of thin cardboard, about the size of an envelope. Small holes at predefined intervals indicate data interpreted by card readers.) Looks like this:

We had a ton of punch cards at home – junk from dad's office regularly brought home for the amusement of the kids – and they certainly did provide amusement. The Inventor filled an entire room with a vast city – fortress, roads, canals... – built entirely with these punch cards. No glue or staples. Just the cards.

They had a particular quality that made them superior to mere cardboard – when folded in half and placed end on end upon another one similarly folded, would hold surprisingly strong. A few more of these and you have a moat for your fortress.

That was before we discovered Lego. But that's another story...

Thursday, March 16, 2006

The War Game

He must have been about 12 when he invented this game. It required a smooth floor (no designs), chalk and some pieces of scrabble. We drew on the floor a battle ground that looked like this

Two teams are indicated as the adjacent Red and Blue battle squares. The small squares in green are soldiers. The yellow squares are Politicians.

Objective of the game: Clear your opponents pieces off the board!

Playing it is a bit like carrom (but I liked it a whole lot more then carrom) - use your pieces to hit the opponent's and if your piece goes off the boundaries, your opponent's comes back in.

This is the simple version of the game - there's no politician.

The more complicated version was... well, more complicated! I don't even remember all the rules. When I consulted with The Inventor, he said we had to make up rules as we played to keep the game from disintegrating! But here are the rules as I remember. If you want to play this, go ahead, and just make up the rules!

Each soldier here is made by stacking 3 scrabble pieces. He has a similar stack of ammunition next to him. You hit the enemy soldier with the ammunition from your soldiers. If you scatter 2 or more scrabble pieces from the enemy's body, the enemy is ‘dead’ (otherwise just wounded) and his scattered body and ammo become yours! This is where the complication comes in - Is a wounded soldier allowed to attack, or just stay there? And the weapons you acquired from a killed enemy were not for immediate use. They became "auxiliary" weapons (I had heard the word for the first time), and there were some rules about when to use them - such as a certain level of depletion of your own ammo. As I said, just make up the rules as you go along!

The politician, as you can see is heavily protected. His scalp is the ultimate prize.

We had loads of fun playing this on lazy summer afternoons, unaware of the addictive powers of the television and internet.

And if you have more kids, just draw a battle square for each kid!

When I started writing this, what really intrigued me was – a 12 year old thinking of placing the politician behind flanks of soldiers, making him the ultimate target (and not a very popular figure in the impressionable mind of his sibling). On second thoughts, not much of a surprise. This was around the time of Indira Gandhi’s assassination, and the Inventor would have soaked up dozens of dinner time political talk.