Pilatch Card Games

UnPub Mini, Part Two

The next group of players to seat themselves at Pilatch's table were very different from the perfunctory pair, Rob & Bob.

Their names were not as easy to remember, though, so I'll assume: Audrey, Brian, and Guillermo. They were sunny, talkative, and friendly. Again I asked what types of games they played. Audrey replied that she liked games that were simple and easy to learn. Guillermo was shy about answering this, being careful to explain that he was a musician, and that he did not do well with games, implying that one interest conflicted with the other. Brian said he enjoyed strategy games, or Euro games. Considering this variety of game preferences, I decided they would try the kids' game, "Battle!" I did so to honor Audrey's preference, and not intimidate Guillermo. Hopefully Brian wouldn't be bored.

Another reason I asked these three adults to try a kids' games is because I had recently discovered that Battle! could be played with three players. It was originally designed for only two, by my sister and father. There was some argument between them about whether the game was skill based at all, but that is another topic for a future blog post. The weekend before this UnPub Mini, I visited my good friends Andrey and Natalie in Fort Lee, New Jersey. I brought a Beta Pilatch deck as a gift, leveraging my generosity to guilt them into trying semi-developed games! Because there were three of us, we attempted three-player Battle!, and found it more entertaining. The rules were still intuitive enough for a kids game as well. Win-win.

Back at the UnPub I asked Audrey, Brain, and Guillermo to read the rules for Battle! because I wanted to test how clearly written my rules were, as opposed to teaching them verbally. For the most part, they were able to interpret the rules accurately. It was especially encouraging when the three of them were Roshambo-ing, and each threw a different symbol, Brian correctly conjectured that they would throw again. It amazed me how lively the game was, and how frequently the players would have to Roshambo. As it turned out, not too frequently, but not rarely either. Probably one-in-five throws resulted in a Roshambo, at most. The action became most intense when the players had to Roshambo repeatedly. I could tell they were putting thought into what to throw. The outcome was important too, as it meant three cards lost from each loser, and six gained by the winner. Clearly the path to victory was paved with Roshambo wins.

Eventually Audrey was eliminated. Guillermo and Brian battled on. At the outset of this game, I had assured them that Battle! would not take as long as the classic "War" game that's played with a poker deck. My experience was that games of Battle! were decided rather quickly, which further added appeal to a young audience. This instance, however, went on, and on. Eventually I refereed a draw. Both combatants compared the size of their card stacks, and found they were exactly equal.

Why did it take so long? I have a hypothesis. Someone in the trio, at some point, shuffled new cards s/he had won. The other players did the same. I didn't correct them because I wanted to see the game play out with this variable switched. In my [admittedly few] previous games of Battle! I did not allow any player to shuffle past the initial deal. My guess is that under these conditions, except for the unpredictable nature of Roshambo, the cards fall into a pattern. Eventually the pattern will overwhelmingly favor one player and the game ends. This hypothesis will take much more testing to be conclusive. Until then, don't shuffle.

I asked them if they wanted to try another, more complex game. At about this time, somebody at one of the other tables asked, "Why is it so quiet in here?" I realized and answered immediately, "Because we stopped Roshambo-ing!" Apparently our kids' game was the most boisterous in the room at the time, and I daresay the most fun.

Recap of the UnPub Mini event in West Chester, PA, from May 19, 2012.