Sunday, August 12, 2007

In which I finally play one of the great games

No, I don't mean Puerto Rico (BGG, BUY ME!), the number one game on Board Game Geek. I mean Bridge (BGG, WP), also known as Contract Bridge.

I didn't like Bridge at first, much like I didn't like Tichu (BGG, BUY ME!). I can't for sure say why, definitively. Both are partnership games, and there's a lot of strategy behind each one. I haven't really played partnership trick-taking games of any kind beyond Spades (BGG, WP) in high school except for Sheepshead (BGG, WP) and Njet (BGG, OOP). Part of my original dislike of both Bridge and Tichu stemmed from rampant confusion; I simply hadn't had the brain structures in place to grok a game that depended so heavily on good partnership play.

Right now, Bridge kicks Tichu to the curb and laughs at it. I forsee playing Bridge for many years down the line. I also forsee learning Tichu again, now that I've played and am starting to grok Bridge.

I told someone that we learned to play Bridge, and they asked me if it really was an "old person's game." With Bridge, once you've played it for a while, you get to know your partners and their play styles, leading to a more involved game and deeper play enjoyment. Fundamentally, it's not a shallow game. The game of the game is really in the bidding, and a ton of information passes between players, particularly when in conjunction with a bridge convention, which is an agreed-upon method of imparting said information.

What are the other great games? Certainly Chess (BGG, WP) and Go (BGG, WP). Everything else is up for grabs. Some folks might want to include Backgammon (BGG, WP) due to its age, but I've never played. I know I should.

I also read today's Bridge column in the paper, so I know I'm sold on the game.


goulo said...

Bridge is one of those classic games (like chess) which I've wanted to like more than I actually do.

In the case of bridge, I have problems due to terrible skill at trick-taking games (the tactics and the remembering important cards that have been played).

I also have "philosophical" problems in principle with the whole idea that you're not supposed to communicate anything to your partner except literally via your bid. This is fundamentally unenforcable, since even the amount of time it takes me to decide what to say gives meta information, not to mention unconscious changes of voice or body language etc. Most serious bridge players tell me I'm picking theoretical nits about that, and that in practice such meta communication doesn't usually matter, but I've still heard enough stories about it mattering, and in any case the idea of a game with such fundamentally unenforcable rules just rubs me the wrong way. In most games, cheating or accidental rules violations are at least in principle detectable.

Of course fundamentally my main problem with bridge is just that it doesn't have that elusive spark of fun for me. :)

As for other classic games besides bridge, chess, and go... who can say? It's quite subjective! Many would argue for backgammon indeed, and poker, chinese chess, shogi, checkers, mancala, ...

Backgammon is indeed worth checking out. I don't think it's as deep as go or chess or bridge, but it's still a worthy enjoyable classic game.

Yehuda said...

Good for you! Now start playing online.


quantum-mechanic said...

Holy crap, Mischa, you decided to play bridge AFTER leaving Austin? Katelyn and I both play and I could have taught you to play a wicked defense.

Once again, you left too early. Curses!

Jackie said...

You should also consider including Mancala in that list, although it is simpler than any of the games you mentioned. However, it is an old game and compartive in difficulty to Backgammon.

Rob said...

Mischa... give me a call: 504-858-2698. I need someone who can speak the binary language of moisture-vaporators.
-Rob Whitaker