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Now that winter is truly upon us, the greenhouse project is buttoned up for the winter (we ate the first couple of radishes grown in the greenhouse last week - they were delicious!), and the garden is under two feet of snow, we've been looking for something to pass the time. Some time ago, we picked up a copy of the card-based word game "Quiddler," and we still enjoy playing it. For some variety, AJ taught us how to play dominoes (Yes, they really are meant for something other than lining up to knock down! Who knew?) using the set at the coffee shop a couple of nights ago. Now I think I may have to take a stab at making a set of my own for us to use at home. Searching for other games we can enjoy playing together, the criteria for which seem to be minimal setup, straightforward rules, easily portable (or improvised, or no) playing pieces, maximum mental stimulation, minimum adrenaline levels, repeat playability, and civilized play, I've come up with the following:

"Fight!" - A free game from "Cheap Ass Games" which requires nothing more than a handful of pocket change for each of 2-? players. Each player starts out with one quarter, two dimes, three nickels, and four pennies. The starting player (determined by whatever method you see fit) "plays" a coin in the middle of the table (we use a sheet of paper for this "bank"). Subsequent players (going in a clockwise direction - that's to the _left_ for you analog-challenged folks ;-) must each put a coin in the bank, and can then draw out change (if possible) up to one cent less than the coin they put in. For example, if you put in a dime, you can take out as much as a nickel and four pennies, or nine pennies. Play continues in this fashion until a player wins by being the last one left with any coins. It sounds simple (and it is) but we're still figuring out the strategies involved. There's some bluffing, some scheming to steer which coins are left for other players, etc. We've played a few games so far and have enjoyed it.

"Ghost" - A word game "in which players take turns adding letters to a growing word fragment, trying not to be the one to complete a valid word. If a player completes a word, they lose that round of the game and starts a new round. Each fragment must be the beginning of an actual word. Usually some minimum is set on the length of a word that counts, such as three or four letters," according to Wikipedia. We haven't tried this one yet, but is sounds like fun, since we all enjoy playing with words.

If you have any suggestions for us to try, please send them along to bill@geektrap.com. Have a pleasant day!

Update 1/28/10

I ran across this site recently. While they're not free (or even particularly cheap) games, this gentleman has video reviews (often pretty entertaining in themselves) of a number of available board games that he enjoys. It's worth a look.

I also made a set of dominoes out of oak, painted white, with drilled and color-coded pips, recently. We've played quite a few games of dominoes with them. I recently picked up some scrap pieces of walnut trim at a local building-material recycling company and have started making a set of dominoes (double-nines!) from that. They're all cut out and drilled now, and I'm deciding how to make the pips. I tried screwing brass machine screws into the holes, cutting them off flush with a jigsaw, and sanding the surface flat. In combination with a piece of fine brass wire inset across the center to divide the two halves, and a couple coats of varnish, it looks pretty snazzy. Tonight I was trying to use brass rod inserted in the pip holes and cut off flush instead, since it's cheaper than brass screws. Unfortunately, it doesn't fit very snugly in the holes, so it doesn't look as nice. Also, I managed to cut nearly half an inch off the tip of my left thumb when the rod jammed in the saw with my thumb under it, so I had to cut my experiments short to staunch the bleeding. I super-glued the chunk of meat back onto my thumb, and killed the pain with a couple swigs of Yukon Jack. With any luck, it'll heal up without permanent damage, although I have a feeling I'll have a scar on the front to match the one I got on the back of the same thumb last year while working on our bus-to-RV conversion. Some days, it doesn't pay to get out of bed...