Sunday, April 28, 2013

Post Hell, Aggravation, and other Family Games

Dad worked swing shift most of the time I was in elementary school.  That's when we lived on Walnut Street, in the two bedroom house that my parents had built and were proud of.  My two sisters and I shared one bedroom.

Since he was usually at work while we awake on weekdays, when we played games as a family, it was usually Mom and us, which made a good foursome for board games that didn't have slots for more than four people. 

Aggravation was the first board game that became a regular thing for awhile.  It's played with marbles as tokens and is a steeplechase kind of game, like parcheesi.  We loved it.

Hell is the name of a competative, two-person game of solitaire.  The two people face each other across the table (or floor).  Each has a deck of cards.  The decks must have different patterns on the back, so that you can tell whose card is whose.  Each person sets out cards.  Each has a solitaire setup that they play alone and a center setup, on which both people play.

For the solitaire setup, there's a hell pile of twelve cards played in a stack, face down, with another card face up on top.  Then there are four cards in a line, face up, that can be played on, solitaire fashion.  That is, you can place the next lower card in sequence on any card, with suit color alternating.  A red five on a black six, for instance.

Aces can be placed in the center and they are built on in rising sequence, staying within the suit.  Two of clubs on the ace of clubs, for instance.  Again, you play on your solitaire area and both play on the center.

When a gap opens in your solitair area, you fill it from your hell pile and turn the next card there over.  You can also play directly from your hell pile to the center.  Game play stops when the first person plays the last card from their hell pile.

When game play stops, the center cards are sorted and you tally a point for each card.  If you had cards in your hell pile when play stopped, those count against your score.  The faster you play, the more likely you are to go out.  It can get intense.

Although Dad wasn't home most weekday nights (his days off were Sunday and Monday), this was a game that entered the family as something that Mom and Dad played and we watched.  Later, we'd play against each other, but Mom and Dad always played faster and harder, so watching them play Hell sticks in my mind more than playing it did.  It was fun to watch.  They stayed good humored and enjoyed themselves, but always played to win.

So Hell was the first family game and Aggravation was the second.  I'm guessing that's a function of the family budget.  My folks were always proud of their thrift, which was a good thing because when we were young, it was a very necessary thing. 

Hell can be played with two decks of cards, which are cheap and which can be used for many different games.  Aggravation was more expensive, and could only be used to play Aggravation.  And it was a family game, when it was purchased.  The adults kept it stored and decided when it would be played.

I think the next family game was Yahtzee.  As the years passed and our discretionary income increased, games were purchased that were kid's games and that we kept in our room and could play when we wanted.  The boxes for those games tended to get beat up fairly quickly.  Between the shabbiness and the fact that they were just around and available, they didn't seem as important. 

Odd how that works.  If I stopped and thought, I could probably remember a few of them.  But they were never as important as Hell and Aggravation.  And Yahtzee.  Those were family games and had to be arranged.  They were more important.

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