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Bernie DeKoven's Occasional Newsletters: #16 - Senior Games - Mah Jong and Tumblin-Dice


#16 - Senior Games - Mah Jong and Tumblin-Dice

Bernie DeKoven's Occasional Newsletter #16

Games Seniors Play

I don't know if you saw this article in Newsday - Racing to Play - ? It's about the kinds of games seniors play. You know what kinds they are? The Mah Jong, Scrabble, Bingo kinds. The reporter actually interviewed me. She had already done a lot of research and was convinced that she had a fundamental grasp of what seniors (that's me, too, you know) play.

Me, I was horrified. Here's the only quote she got out of me:

"Fun is "noble" in the eyes of California-based game-maker and guru Bernie DeKoven, 64. "I think a lot of older people are reclaiming their need to play," he said, "and they're looking for opportunity and finding places that foster a certain amount of playfulness."

You can almost hear the horror.

Anyhow, all this led me to thinking about games and seniors, which reminded me of a game I recently reviewed, a game as senior-worthy as Mah Jong, believe me. Which, in turn, got me thinking about all those other senior-worthy Major Fun games, and my spirits lifted, in deed they did.

Let me tell you about this game, just as an example. It's called Tumblin-Dice.
Think of perhaps shuffleboard with dice. Think, for example, of a shuffleboard that is on five levels, with, where there were once pucks to slide, dice to, well, slide perhaps or flick or shove. A shuffleboard looking pretty much exactly like this.

Think further of the role, or roll, of luck - how the dice, even though you try to slide them everso carefully, tend to change faces when they descend a level. There's an intimation of the possibility that one could control all of this, making the die land 6-up even by the time it reaches the X4 level after having knocked all the opponents' dice to off-table oblivion. On the other hand, there's an unavoidable element of luck which makes a 7-year-old often as successful as a 77-year-old. Think of this, and you'll understand, almost immediately, why Tumblin' Dice has received a Major Fun Family Game award.

If you know shuffleboard, you'll know how to play Tumblin' Dice. When I introduced the game at the Tasting, I asked my fellow Tasters to play the game without looking at the rules. With almost no discussion, they played almost exactly the way the designer had intended them to. Because the game was so easy to figure out, it is exceptionally welcome in a variety of settings, especially recreation centers, classrooms and my house.

Speaking of classrooms, the game requires enough arithmetical calculations to make it actually useful in almost any elementary school setting. When a die lands in special scoring sections of the board, the face value of the die is multiplied by a given factor. So, in figuring out a total score players exercise both additional and multiplication, and, one might argue, even algebraic skills.

But don't let its educational implications fool you. Tumblin-Dice is an invitation to minutes or hours of play, for kids, for adults, for seniors, for the whole darn community. Did I mention adults? The kind of adults who might be interested in playing for, um, beer, or perhaps beer money?

It's made as well as it plays - a big, polished, two-piece all wood, table-worthy game that you might never put away. Ever.

P.S. If you have a game that you think is Major Fun Award-worthy, and that you'd like us to consider before my "Best of" article for Knucklebones, send it to me, pronto-ly.


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