Saturday, January 24, 2009

Egyptian backgammon

I call it that, anyway, because that is the country I was in when I learned it. But I've kind of got this impulse tonight to write about it, and beyond that to write a book about it--how to play it, how to play it well, and why maybe it matters.

One of the pivotal scenes in the story of mine that Strange Horizons published involves the game, and nobody outside the Middle East seems to know how to play. I taught some folk in Flagstaff how to play last spring, and in the course of explaining the rudiments I found myself offering up the proposition that it was a game of bad decisions--sooner or later things go awry, and you will find yourself in a place where you have no good choices, but only bad ones, and so the key to success is in learning how to choose best between bad options. \

I was out tonight in a bar that has board games (one of two in town, actually--one of the few things to recommend Flagstaff), and played a bunch of this game while I was drinking beer and letting the stupidness of this week ebb away a bit, and I found myself thinking that understanding this game would actually be a boon to foreign policy officials who want to do some good in the Middle East. That is, of course, wildly grandiose drunken talk, but there's something to it as well, I think. We shall see. But there may be a book in it, in any event. A book that nobody will ever publish, perhaps, but a book nevertheless. Cheers.


  1. Understanding a culture's particular touchstone for amusement, I think, would only *improve* one's comprehension for the culture itself. Draw it up.

  2. That is a far, far better idea than going at it with Nerf bats and papier-mache.

  3. Pfeh. Nerf bats and papier-mache, if deployed correctly, can contribute to a useful educational experience. Mary's right, though...I should draw it up. I might even bust out with graphics, and begin to learn to use to "tagging" feature of Blogger. We shall see.

  4. If you can rig up a backgammon design that saves the Middle East whilst simultaneously deploying Nerf bats and papier-mache, I will literally eat my poncho.