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Recently we were at a friend’s house. (The same friends we talked about in the first Family Fun Times post that use their dates to go to WalMart!) We have played card games with them before, especially games like spades and hearts. Does it mess up anyone else to switch between spades and hearts?? It messes with my brain. What is the trump? Am I trying to take each book, or avoid them? It can all be very confusing – especially if you frequently go back and forth between games. Maybe it’s just me…
The last time we went to our friends’ home, we began playing spades. We like spades. Our friends taught my older children to play, and especially my oldest son is kind of out of control in playing spades. We play spades much more often than we play hearts. Although, if we play hearts I find my son adjusts much better than I do! In either game, I find my wife is much better at keeping up with what has been played than I am, but I like to think I am about the best spades player that it is possible to be without keeping up with who has played what. I mean, anyone could do it if you kept up with all that stuff, but I figure it takes a really good player to be able to play well without the luxury of knowing what has already been played and what is still out there. I guess I am running low on brain hard drive space or something because I just find it hard to keep up with such things.
So, you can imagine that I was a little apprehensive when our friends suggested another game – a new to me game called “Rook”. Now Rook is not played with a standard deck of playing cards – it comes in a box and is its own deck card game. I was initially worried about this, afraid that it would add complexity, but found that it gives it enough of a different feel that it doesn’t seem to mess with my brain trying to figure out whether we’re playing spades or hearts. But, at the same time, you find yourself using similar terminology like “What is trump?”, “What was led?” etc. Or the other people around the table yell at me with that same, all too familiar allegation of “table talk” (whatever that means), when all I’m really trying to do is to get a friendly hint from my partner as to what I should play next. So, you will find some similarities to games you already know and love like spades and hearts, but it is different enough to help keep it in a separate brain compartment – where there is hopefully more space available.
For those of us that have difficulty remembering which suit is trump, this game is handy because the trump is established each hand by the player that leads – so it is always fresh in your mind. Whether to take each book or not, is determined not by what game you’re playing, but by the point values associated with each card. So, if cards with high point values have been played in the current hand (laying face up on the table – no memory required), then you want to take the hand. If not, then it doesn’t really matter who takes the hand because you aren’t penalized for taking cards with no points. The “Rook” card is the mama-bear trump card upon which the game hinges (think ace of spades, or that queen in the hearts game). The rook card is worth 20 points – more than any other card. You want to end up with this card. There is another interesting spin on the game – there is a small pile of cards where the player with the lead can swap out cards at the beginning of each round. The player that wins the last hand gets the pile. So, depending on my hand, I can load up the pile with trash and let anyone take it. Or, I can dump a bunch of points into the pile and then save the rook card to win the last hand to take a huge chunk of points on the last hand, barely saving my partner from that strange condition where she’s changing colors and looking at me in disbelief trying to figure out why I don’t appear worried about getting points.
When I first started this series on family fun activities, I had it in mind that I would write about things we have done for years in our family and grown to know and love. Rook isn’t really like that. It is new to our family, and there is probably a lot of great strategy we have yet to explore or discover. But, I can tell you after playing Rook with our friends, we bought our own deck. I am sure we will grow to love it and play it even more.