The Numbers in My Head

By Amanda Hamm
Guest Contributor 

We had a different version of Clue when I was a kid. It wasn’t the same as the Clue games available today, unless the theme was “Someone Can’t Seem to Put This Game Away Properly”. In our version of Clue, the knife was a toothpick, the rope was a rubber band, and no one else could play Sorry! while we were using Miss Scarlet. We also had more Euchre decks than one family could possibly use. Standard decks that had lost cards were salvaged this way.

The incomplete games, naturally, caused some frustration. Now and then, a missing piece was discovered after we had started the game and only after it became evident that someone was going to have to settle for a “tainted” victory.

Since introducing my children to board games, I’ve been on a quest to avoid this sort of chaos. I count the pieces as I put them away. I’ve been counting them for years and it’s become so ingrained, it’s an obsession. I count the meeples. I count the cards. I count the pegs. I know without looking how many pieces are in each puzzle on our shelf, how many big and little pawns are in Sorry! Sliders, and how many blocks each player gets in Blokus. I count tiles and animals and sometimes even LEGOs. I know how many dice each game has and yet I still can’t figure out where those two black ones I found on the floor are supposed to go!

It’s become harder than ever to keep track, lately. I have twin toddlers who share our love of games even though they are too young to actually play most of them. They simply play with the game bits. They line up the trains in Ticket to Ride and build towers using the blocks from Rumis. Then they help me clean up by putting them in the box too fast for me to count. If they notice that I’m trying to count, they hand me pieces while saying random numbers. They can only consistently count to five. After that, it gets pretty iffy.

Now that I have all these numbers in my head, I go a little insane when we come up short. I still know how many red chips should be in Vegas Showdown and how many monkeys should be in a Barrel of Monkeys, but I’m trying to relax.

I try to remember that those messed up games we played as kids were still fun. That sometimes we enjoyed patting ourselves on the back and feeling very resourceful when we came up with appropriate substitutes. Sometimes the modified rule we were forced to adapt actually made a nice change of pace.

I also try to remember that those missing pieces might still turn up eventually. In the meantime, the Queen of Spades makes a very nice bookmark. We don’t need another dedicated Euchre deck.

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7 Responses to The Numbers in My Head

  1. Cyrus says:

    Gads, I can relate to this on so many levels, both in my past and present. I grew up with a Monopoly game that was missing the majority of the One’s, a Hungry Hungry Hippos game with 5 marbles, and a copy of Candy Land that only had the game board and for reasons never made clear, a sand-timer.

    From there, it only got worse until my 20’s. When I introduced my little geeks to games, game bits suddenly started showing up under couches….

    Great article!

  2. NullEntry says:

    We have an extensive library in our house, and so for us too it’s rather important to make sure that all of the right pieces get back in the right boxes. To help with this we have a database that lists all of the game parts, so it’s really easy to “check in” games when we are done playing them. We also keep a “game repair kit”. It’s a tackle box full of board game bits: extra pawns, chips, dice, sand timers, etc. We have dug into our kit on more then one occasion.

    • Cyrus says:

      Gads, that’s epic! A “First Aid Kit” for your games? I bow to your organization skills…

      What is this database you speak of? Is it local only to you or is this something that everyone could use?

    • NullEntry says:

      It’s local only to me. We painstakingly created it. If you have Microsoft Access it’s very easy to create your own though.

      We are super organized because we have a small business based around our board games (if you click on my name it takes you to my website), and we use that database for lots of things: tracks the number of players, tracks basic information about each of our games (number of players, genre, all the parts in it, etc). I’m a computer programmer by day and a game enthusiast in my off hours, so a technology based way to deal with the problem of keeping track of our games only made sense.

      Oh, the other thing we use that database for: we print out a list of all our games on our website. While this is nice for our patrons, it’s also extremely handy for us. We have so many that when we find one in good shape (garage sale, flea market, etc) we can check our website to see if we already have it before we buy it.

  3. Jason says:

    Funny and insightful! I admit, the kids are not allowed to play the hobby games when I’m not home for this very reason. If you saw our basement (toy/play room), you’d understand!

  4. Deborah says:

    I have these 3 numbers that appear in my head through out the day.”916″ for no apparent reason. Does anyone have an insight on this behavior. Need help understanding. It’s very freaky to me.
    Thank you

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