Help Me Find [Card Game] Converts!
November 6, 2012 11:15 AM   Subscribe

There is an obscure (to the US) card game I love: Eighty Points, and its simpler brother Forty Points. It's a partnered trick taking game, and feels a little like Bridge and Spades. However, it requires four (or six, though I've never played that variant) people to spend many hours together, kind of like a DnD campaign. How do I recruit people for this game?

I have previously played it in two situations: (1) with family, over the holidays, as it is a Chinese game and that's just what we do; and (2) college dorms with engineering students, where we had plenty of time, everyone was taught and those of us who liked it played it every night or every other night. When there were only three people, we played 1000. When we had more, we played Finding Friends.

Yes, I play poker (once a month) and bridge (twice a week), but they don't quite scratch the same itch. I also play Dominion (tm) semi-regularly. My boyfriend would probably be able to incorporate me into a DnD campaign he runs if I really wanted to join (but I don't). And there are plenty of opportunities to play Magic the Gathering around here (and I used to, three times a week).

I have tried to recruit people, but my gamer geek friends find that this game requires TOO much logic (and no story at all). Some of them like it but are not good at it (and it's for a lack of logical reasoning, not something that they can learn with more familiarity with the game). I've tried to teach it to non-gamers, but most of them find the logic/memory aspect completely too difficult (e.g. it is played with two decks, and it's best to try to remember every single card that's been played, and then there are all the different statistical/risk factors...). Let's just say, I was part of the group who played Big Two on my school buses, and found it way too easy.

I find it best to just teach while playing, and I am happy to do so. But eventually, there needs to be a set group of 4 or 6 people who will play regularly, as this is a card game that cannot be finished in one sitting. (Each round can be finished in one sitting, but not the whole game.) And I'm not sure where to get these people.

I feel part of the difficulty is because I don't want to hang out with a bunch of super stereotypically Chinese students from the Chinese Student Association at the local university. Even if I did, most of them probably don't know this game, because it's regional. (Most of the Chinese students I met while studying abroad did not know this game. Only one did.)

I also live in Seattle, where there is a huge gamer population, and most people's gaming needs are already satisfied in other ways. (Yes, I also play Magic, but I hate having to keep up with the new stuff instead of honing my skills. I also hate having to spend money to get the best cards.) So when I do say, "I want to play this game because it's long and involves logic, and trying to guess your partner's motives"... People push back with: why don't you try x, y, or z?

I thought about starting a Meetup, but I'm not sure (a) how easy it would be to advertise that or (b) if I can expect the people I recruit to have somewhat real interest and come regularly.

I don't want to play online. (I haven't even looked to see if this would be possible.)

So I guess my questions are: What's my best bet to recruit people either already known to me or new for this card game, especially since I want to like them? Or is there something else I haven't tried that might scratch the same itch (highly logical, none of the storyline frou frou, competitive, and lasts a good long while where the game takes 20+ hours to play through and each round/combat take 15-45 minutes)?
posted by ethidda to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (5 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
So what I'm hearing is:

1) You don't want to play with people who aren't already very good at this game.
2) You don't want to play with people unless they're willing to make a massive time commitment up front.
3) You want to attract people to the game who didn't grow up playing it.

#1 and #2 are incompatible with #3. If you want to build a community of non-Chinese converts to this game, you need to do it gently and gradually. You need to make beginners feel welcome, even if they suck — and even if you secretly think they're always going to suck. And you need to make it possible for people to dabble in the game instead of demanding a 20+ hour up-front commitment.
posted by nebulawindphone at 12:26 PM on November 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

I mean, look. A full high-level poker tournament takes days to play out, involves dozens of people, and requires skills and aptitudes that most human beings will never have. But if I wanted some people to play poker with, and nobody I knew had ever heard of the game, I sure wouldn't insist on organizing all my friends into a hold-em tournament right away. I'd be like "Hey guys, let's play a hand or two of seven-card stud." And then if they had fun I'd be like "Cool: let's play another couple hands tomorrow." And then after they'd been playing a few weeks, then I'd start teaching them little tidbits about strategy; and maybe after a while longer, if they were still interested, I'd introduce a game with common cards; and so on.

Or, hell, it's the same way with D&D. Very few people get into roleplaying by jumping headfirst into a long-term campaign played at a high level. Most people start out, like, "Oh hey someone's doing a little one-off adventure, maybe I'll give that a try, I hope they'll be forgiving if I make noob mistakes." (Even people who end up as really good, really committed lifelong gamers tend to start by dabbling in it.) If DMs all took the hardline attitude that real D&D meant a multi-year campaign with committed high level players, and that one-off just-for-fun adventures weren't even worth bothering with, then there would be a lot fewer gamers in the world.

The gateway needs to exist, or nobody's going to come in.

So that gradual approach is what you're going to have to do here. Suppose you start holding a regular game night, once a week, where you play a hand or two of eighty-points every night. Just one or two hands, maybe flip a coin to decide which pair attacks and which pair defends each time, and don't get too hung up on keeping score. Okay, it won't be a full game, and people will miss out on a lot of the subtleties at first, and you as a high-level player might not find it very challenging. (Hint: the challenge for you won't be "winning" but rather "teaching well." Try and get interested in that challenge.) Anyway, if you're friendly and encouraging and not super-competitive, then the players will still have fun. Some will keep coming back. Some will bring friends. A few will turn out to be interested in the finer points of the game. Eventually, you'll have a foursome of interested players — not great players, but advanced beginners at least — who you can try to organize into a full game.
posted by nebulawindphone at 12:33 PM on November 6, 2012

If you can find a group of boardgamers focused on Euro-type games (Settlers of Catan, etc.), you might get them to play such a game as a regular opener or closer. Some boardgamers are really into Tichu and other trick-taking card games. (Although they probably will not want to play the same game all night.) Look on for club meetings or post a message there.
posted by tracer at 1:50 PM on November 6, 2012

Seconding the Tichu recommendation. It's a chinese trick taking game, played in partners, that has a devoted group of rabid fans. Finding a Tichu group should be easier, especially in Seattle, than finding a group to play a rarer game.
posted by blue t-shirt at 2:26 PM on November 6, 2012

Why not just post about it on Craigslist and see who answers? No guarantee that people will come regularly (in fact most won't) or that you'll like them, but that's where I'd start. (If you were in Denver I'd be totally in.)
posted by Wordwoman at 5:26 PM on November 6, 2012

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