Recently we've been playing German games with a group of Saudi, German, and American friends. German games (also called Euro-style games) are strategy board games like Carcassonne, Puerto Rico, and Settlers of Catan. Many are created by German game designers, but this category of German games refers to any of these complex strategy board games, whether or not they are actually German.
A couple of times, I've been to the apartment of our Saudi friends--the first "real" Saudi home I've visited. There are two front doors! One enters onto the main area of the apartment, just like a western flat. The other enters directly into a formal sitting room, which can be closed off from the rest of the apartment. I guess this allows traditional Muslim households to receive male visitors without all the women having to cover up.
At our last game night, we played Finstere Flure, or Fearsome Floors. Players must guide multiple characters through a dungeon, avoiding the monster that stalks through and eats people. The game includes such features as cartoon-like blood splatters, which allow players to slide from one space to another, and teleporters, which make the monster vanish from one spot on the board and reappear in another. It's a silly game and much less complicated than many German games, but there is definitely some strategy involved. It's worth at least one play if only to enjoy the over-the-top, comic-book gruesomeness of the game board design.
Now I'm in the States and my friends are in Germany. I left plenty of room in my suitcase for game boxes. Each of us is bringing back new titles for the other, so we'll have fresh games to learn in the fall.
In addition to these game nights, Michael and I have gotten into the habit of playing lunchtime Scrabble. I picked up a Scrabble game at a local bookstore not long ago. Despite being a writer, I never much enjoyed Scrabble before. I was so excited to see the game at Jarir Bookstore, though, that I had to have it. That was about a month or two ago, and we've been playing it ever since--always over lunch. It's still not my favorite game, and I get trounced every time by my crossword puzzle fiend husband. But I am improving, and can definitely appreciate the strategy involved in the game.
In other game news, my chess game is not improving much, though I keep beating my head against that wall! During the summer here on our compound, most club sports and activities grind to a halt because everybody goes on holiday. Everything starts up again in the fall, including the Chess Club. I'll be happy to join in their weekly games, especially since their schedule is changing to one that'll work for me, thanks to the new Friday-Saturday weekend in Saudi Arabia. (The weekend in Saudi Arabia had been Thursday-Friday. They just switched it to Friday-Saturday, which is in line with the rest of the GCC countries. Friday is, of course, still the holy day, the Sunday equivalent. But now the shopping day is Saturday rather than Thursday. So it's as if the western weekend was suddenly Sunday-Monday. Very confusing.)
Anyhow, in the meantime I've been playing with a friend on camp who is a much stronger player than I, and more important, a patient teacher. My chess-playing friend is also crazy for Risk, which is one I haven't tried yet. He loves that game so much that he built his own homemade version of it when he was living in the remote mountains of Uganda. He had to have it.
Game-playing of all kinds is something that we seem to have more time for here than in the States, and I'm grateful for that because it's one of my favorite pastimes.