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Games, in Fantasy

Hello, friends, and welcome to February! And Fantasy Month! Our champion, Jenelle Schmidt, will not be spearheading activities this month as in years past, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have fun in the wonderful world of fantasy. Just a little less direction, like explorers in the wild country without a guide . . .

Hopefully we won’t run into any venomous snakes or prickly bimbcurdlers. Nasty things, those bimbcurdlers.

Anyhoo, in this month’s celebration of fantasy, I thought it’d be fun to talk about games! Specifically, games in fantasy.

Now, I don’t know how often you come across games in your fantastical reading adventures, but I know for myself that it’s usually a plain-old boring mention of cards or dice thrown in with no real imagination (no offense). Which is kind of a bummer, because games are a great tool for worldbuilding! I mean, if you think about it, cultures around the world have a plethora of games to play for small children all the way up to adults – and they don’t always involve gambling! Score!

A few stories that I can think of off the top of my head that feature games are:

The Hobbit ~ In here, our ‘intrepid’ hero, Bilbo, plays a game of riddles with the creature Gollum in order to escape being eaten by him.

Name of the Wind ~ The boardgame Tak is introduced to the MC, Kvothe – and it even came out of the pages into real life!

The Iron Ring ~ A childrens’ dice game called aksha is the catalyst for young king Tamar’s epic adventure.

Harry Potter ~ Quidditch! Need I say more?

Games like these – fun, imaginative, and tightly woven into the world and plot – are part of what makes reading so much fun! So of course, I had to come up with some games for my own characters to play? At the moment I have three that feature in the story: a sport called kadaar, a card game called Stacks, and a boardgame called etzuru. Each are played by different sets of characters with distinct personalities and plot-related roles – which I did not set out to do, but realize now how that panned out. Which is fascinating.

I developed these games because I wanted to give some more flavor and depth to the world and lives of my characters. But let me tell you, inventing games is hard! I remember doing something of the sort in grade school for a class project, and you never really grasp how much goes into a game until you have to make it all up! The purpose of the game, the gameplay, the rules . . . So I might have cheated a little bit by mashing concepts from a few already existing games into something more unique?

Kadaar is like volleyball-meets-soccer. Etzuru is kinda like shogi (which is like chess, except more intense). Stacks is most like Phase 10/Rummikub, except with a deck of 115 cards! I may have a thing for playing cards, and I may have gone on a wee stint of creating a Phennish deck based on regions and national pride. Someday I’d like to make them for real . . .

Each of these games have been super fun to put together and implement into the story, and I hope you’ll enjoy reading them, too!

Have you come across any interesting games while reading? Did you ever invent your own games to play? I’d love to hear about them!

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