A COLLECTION OF STORIES BY LUKE TAGG
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SMOKE: The Cutthroat World Of Board Games

Originally published: 6 May 2005

I opened my hallway built-in cupboard to retrieve a screwdriver the other day (I'd told That Bloody Dog that I was going to put a screwdriver through her left ear if she didn't stop licking her wet bum in her basket; she paid me no mind; I'm a man of my word) - and there staring me in the face was a shelf laden with our old board games.

Instant acid flashback (or maybe it was just a memory - it's getting harder and harder to distinguish between the two these days) to Board Games Gone Bad, and times which should have been happy but which were filled with unimaginable hatred, heartbreak, cruelty and sorrow instead.

Instead of fondly remembering good times while absentmindedly running my fingertips over the shiny surface of the Pictionary box, or giving the Scrabble box a good ol' shake for old times' sake and to heck with being shy about a nostalgic moment - I shrank back in horror and slammed the cupboard door shut, glancing nervously around to make sure nobody had seen me.

They hadn't. Tashi was on the phone talking like a baby (a friend of hers just had one, you understand, and women become blithering idiots at times like this) and TBD was halfway to Matjiesfontein, tail between her legs.

She'd tested me, been found wanting, and knew the consequences of a screwdriver through her left ear. She learned after we did the right ear, that other time. Never been right in the head since.

It's just ... board games seem to bring the worst out of people and at times it gets downright ugly.

A night of Kentucky's finest sour mash and Pictionary between four couples - all of whom are having relationship difficulties, some because of others in the room - is more dangerous than a 100-tonne block of solid iron hanging over the head of a new-born child with nought but a thread of wet cotton to hold it.

Seriously charged stuff, dude. Intense.

The problem with a game like Pictionary is that it drags out and exposes your inefficiencies. One couple will be oh-just-like-sooo-in-tune, and he will draw half a dot and she will guess it's a rhino charging through the Golden Acre shopping mall in Adderley Street on a rainy day in June - and of course she'll be correct.

The other couple will be feverishly drawing mad scribbles over every remaining scrap of paper, the walls, the couch and the dog, but the stupid fat pig of a husband just won't guess that what you're drawing is simply an egg.

It's an unfair contest.

I actually hate timed games like that - 30 Seconds is no better. All I want from my games evening is a little relaxation, not having some partner screaming frantically in my ear or drawing holes in her paper and edging me to the brink of frustrated madness.


I can just imagine Pictionary in Joburg. Berea maybe, or Alberton. That's some heavy shit, dude. Gimme Crash Bandicoot, 12 hours and a bankie of Swazi, and you'll find me a mighty chilled spade at the end of it.

Even if I'm accused of being a new-age Cape Town hippie with a milk drip, two palettes of lentils, too many Linton Kwezi Johnson LPs and an unshaven pair of testicles.

Back to the games, if you can call them that - what about Monopoly? I always hated that, because my sister loved it. She loved it because she was smarter than me and bought everything up triumphantly and buried me before I could even get started. I could never figure out how to get ahead. I just got monstered every time.

Scrabble. Someone will always get excited and place down a full house of letters, but will then be accused of it not being a proper word.

Dictionaries are hauled out, versions compared (which is the definitive dictionary, by the way?), discussions turn heated, the chick who placed the word loudly and obviously retracts all her letters saying everything's fine and no problem, in just such a tone that let's you know just how big of a problem it actually is.

She's embarrassed at having been so triumphant only to find out her word is bollocks and loses interest in the game after that, still smarting from humiliation. From then on she only makes small words and puts no effort in and pouts and moans about not having any good letters, and everybody's night is ruined.

Why would you play it? It's rubbish, man.

And don't get me started on Trivial Pursuit Boffins, who - despite never getting anything right - wildly exclaim after getting each question wrong: "Aah no, man!!!! Dammit!! I knew that, man - I was going to say that. Damn! It was on the tip of my tongue. Of course the name of the cook on Rawhide was Wishbone. Like - a two-year old could have told you that. Duh. Dummy. Shit, man."

Yeah, right. Shut it, dimwit.

It's all just way too much pressure. Playing games with friends is like living with them for the first time - great idea before it happens, but when it does happen you discover all sorts of things you really didn't need to know about them.

Board games make you ugly, man. Look how I turned out - you think I got this way by accident? Put it down to far too many games evenings with friends, booze and a pair of dice.

All Smoked Out,
Luke Tagg
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Copyright © Luke Tagg. All rights reserved. A few lefts as well.

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