Here's my plan. Each Thursday, I'm going to generate a random number and compare it against my collection of games and just blab about whatever my opinions or experiences are with that game.
The kick in the nuts this week? To start it all off? The randomizer chose "Skip-Bo." So this should be fun, right?
It's Summer of 1994. My friends and I had all found Magic and couldn't get enough of it. We talked Magic. We bought Magic. We went to any little shop we could find and pored over their pitiful little binders of cards, plucking out anything and everything that looked interesting.
During that time, my best friend Justin's house was our go-to destination for late-night Magic. Cards were slung in a cigarette smoke-filled haze as we'd play until 3:00 am in the morning.
Justin's mom Debbie is a saint. Not the saint in the traditional sense of the word, of course. She's brash, opinionated, and will tell you what's on her mind--and she won't mince words about it. But she's a saint in the sense that she'd let these teenagers come over, play cards until the wee hours, and smoke a billion cigarettes. Yet every morning, she'd let us sleep until whenever. And if we were there for dinner, she'd cook these wonderful meals for a houseful of us. Spaghetti was one of her specialties...but if you found the bay leaf in your noodles, it meant you were on point for dishes that night. (She'd later confess to planting the bay leaf on a semi-randomly rotating schedule.)
But I can't talk about meals without talking about her late husband. You see, Debbie's last name is Cobb. Her husband's name? Was Frank. Yes, Franklin Cobb. Yes, that's my user name on Boardgamegeek.
Frank was a man of the earth. He loved his beer...Keystone Beer. He wasn't an alcoholic, mind you, not in the sense you'd probably think of. He was an extremely kind man who would sit and shoot the shit with you about anything you could think of. He was the kind of man that would give you the shirt off his back even if it was his last one. And to bring this back around, Frank would get up every morning at 5am to watch the news. Yes, even on Saturdays. When he did, and there was a houseful of us, he'd cook a metric shit ton of breakfast. Sausage, bacon, biscuits, fried eggs, Now, we'd get up much later and re-heat this smorgasbord of food, but to a group of teenage boys hanging out and playing cards, this was extremely awesome.
(How did I get the username "Franklincobb" on BGG? Well, I'll tell ya. We used to make up all these stories as a running joke about this secret life that Frank, this simple sweet man, was living. He was a senator. He founded his own wrestling league in Florida, the FWW (yeah...Florida World Wrestling.) He was the world champion for there so long, he finally retired and gave up the belt, but there was always that hope for "one more match." So initially, I signed up for BGG to get rules info for War of the Ring and find out more about Star Wars: The Queen's Gambit. As part of the running gag, I used his name as my user name, because the man is EVERYWHERE. I had no idea I'd stick around BGG for the next ten years, with his name plainly visible. He's passed on since I started using that name, and in a weird way, I feel like it honors him a little bit, even if few people on earth really get the gag.)
I know what you're asking yourself. What the hell does this have to do with Skip-Bo?
Skip-Bo at the time was one of Debbie's favorite card games. Her boys loved playing the games with the guns and the dragons and the swords, but she really liked Skip-Bo. Skip-Bo is one of those established games--everyone has stacks of cards they're trying to get rid of, and you have to play them to one of four piles in order. There's not a ton of thought to it as most plays are pretty obvious. But that's the thing--it was the perfect vehicle for spending a Saturday afternoon shooting the shit, flipping cards while watching college football on TV. We'd literally spend two or three hours flopping cards, passing the afternoon away.
So when I found a cheap thrift copy of Skip-Bo a few years ago, I picked it up. I thought my kids might really enjoy it, but they didn't really take to it all that much. And that's probably because of the hobbyist curse I've inflicted on them.
My wife jokes that if "it's a game sold at Wal-Mart, you aren't going to like it." And at some point over the years, after playing piles upon piles of games, I did become jaded to these accessible family games. Precisely the stuff you see at Wal-Mart. Now, there's some justification for that. There's a lot of shit on the shelves at Wal-Mart that isn't worth your time. And I'm not saying that Skip-Bo in particular is worth your time. But I think in the quest to play more and more and more new games, we lose some of the joy of the simpler games that are out there. I wasn't exposed to hundreds of games in 1994. So I could find some happiness shooting the shit and flipping Skip-Bo cards then.
Why do I own Skip-Bo? Nostalgia. It reminds me of lazy afternoons during a simpler time. It's the same reason I own a chess set, though Chess is a game I link with my dad, where we'd play Chess until 5 in the morning sometimes. Of course, that's another story, for another day.