Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Vonderful Goot Fun

My family grew up playing games, and there are a few games that could bear the title "Schindler family game"--games that, no matter the gathering, we would play together. The few games that really captured the entire family, young and old, and have endured through the years are Pinochle, Rook, and Dutch Blitz. The last of these is what I will talk about today.


Dutch Blitz is like Skip-bo on steroids. It's like Skip-bo, only fun. Each player receives an identical deck of forty cards, numbered 1-10 in four colors (red, blue, green, yellow). That is, the decks are identical except for their backs. Each deck has a different Amish implement on it, either a buggy, a plow, a pump, or a barrel, in order to track which player played which card during the game. Each card has a number, a color, and, tied to the color, a corresponding Amish girl or boy pictured. (Blue and red cards = boy. Yellow and green cards = girl.)

Dutch Blitz is a simultaneous card game: everyone plays at the same time. There are no turns. Thus, if you play slowly, you will be left behind. It is a multitasking game. A player must keep track not only of his own cards, but also of the cards everyone else is playing. Dutch Blitz is not an amble through the countryside; it is a sprint through the city. Don't let the nonthreatening pictures of Amish boys and girls fool you. Take the "blitz" in the title seriously.

My sister being crowned Dutch Blitz
champion by the last champion
(that's me!)
The gameplay is simple: The game is played in as many rounds as necessary for one player to reach 75 points. At the beginning of a round, each player, after shuffling his deck, lays out three face-up cards in front of him, then counts out a stack of ten cards. (These have names in the rulebook; we refer to the ten-card pile as the "blitz pile.") The goal of a round is to score the most points. Generally the most effective way to do this is to empty your blitz pile. The round is over whenever one player's blitz pile is empty. Players may build cards solitaire-style on the three cards in front of them (boys on girls and girls on boys), and they may play the top card of any pile to the center of the table. If a player plays one of the three cards in front of him, he moves the top card of the blitz pile over to take the place of the card played.

The center of the table is the common area, where any player can play cards, but piles in the center of the table must be played in order. For a pile to start, someone must play the 1 card of a color, then any player may play the 2 of that color, and so on up to 10. (When the 10 is played, that pile is removed from the center.) Up to four people can play, so there can be up to four piles of a color during any round (if all players move their 1s out to the center). To aid in playing cards, in addition to the three building cards and the blitz pile, the remaining cards in each player's deck act as a draw pile, which players can turn over three at a time, solitaire style, and either play to the build cards or to the center of the table. (Obviously, it is better to play to the center of the table if possible.) At the end of the round, when one player empties his blitz pile, players sort the cards in the middle. Each card played is worth one point. Each card remaining in a player's blitz pile is worth -2. So, it behooves players to play (or at least move) cards from their blitz piles if possible.

The siblings hold up the card
symbolizing their place in
2010's tourney (I finished
third of eight)
So what do I think about this game? It's hard for me to talk about it without all of the baggage that nearly twenty years can add. What baggage can a game have? Well, I learned Dutch Blitz when I was in first or second grade, and by "learned," I mean that I sat at the table and acted as a dummy opponent for my older sisters and relatives, emphasis on the dummy. My six- or seven-year-old brain did not work as quickly as theirs, and I was still a novice at counting. When I ended the round with an accidental eleven or twelve cards in my blitz pile, I was forced to count the full negative points, even though this was beyond the normal scope of punishment. (This was doubly bad when I'd receive back my paltry two cards played.) I often exceeded the positive goal in the negatives. I was also forced to play with the cursed buggy cards, the cards rejected by the other members of my family. These things will sour anyone's taste toward a game.

But for whatever reason--likely the comaraderie engendered by a shared experience--I don't hate Dutch Blitz. I've gotten much better than I was when I was in elementary school, and I've even won one of my family's annual Dutch Blitz tournaments (though there is some controversy about this--but haters gonna hate). The tournament always opens with a recitation of the Dutch Blitz creed (displayed on the front of the game box), but I still haven't memorized this. (I think I'm the only contender for the crown who hasn't.) I now play with the buggies as a badge of honor, and I always count the cards in my blitz pile twice, just in case an errant card sneaks in; I know I can expect no mercy from my family. Then again, they know they can receive no mercy from me.

I'm nowhere near the best in my family, as evidenced by my performance in the last Dutch Blitz tournament, which my sister Jennifer won. (Jennifer, by the way, being the next youngest after me, often suffered a similar fate when we would play when we were younger. This was her first win at a family tournament, and there was some controversy surrounding her victory as well--something about demanding special seating and demanding optimal playing conditions. Her winning may have been a sham.) But I still enjoy this game, mostly because the only time I play it is at Christmas or special visits in the summer, when all of my family is together.

Jennifer flaunting her royal power.
Next year, Jen. Next year...
If you've never played Dutch Blitz, I recommend playing with people on a similar skill level. It probably wouldn't be very fun for a newbie to, say, jump in at our family tournament. And Dutch Blitz is very much a skill-based game. It favors quick thinking and multitasking, the second of which, especially, is not my strong suit. If you don't like these, it's best to stick with Skip-bo. But for a fast-paced card game that keeps all players involved, it's hard to beat the speed and intensity of playing Dutch Blitz. It is, as the Dutch Blitz Creed declares, "vonderful goot fun."

5 comments:

  1. One of my favorites, although my family plays a version using regular decks of cards.

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  2. "haters gonna hate"? I love you.

    Also, Jen won legit. Don't be a hater.

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  3. @ClantoR: That works. I'm much more accustomed to the Amish-themed ones, though. :-)

    @Abby: Legit? That's doubtful. Though her argument of winning despite sitting in the puddle chair was compelling...

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  4. Yes! Dutch Blitz! This game and I became deeply acquainted during the many down-times of my second winter in the Park. And by 'down-times' I don't mean somber but rather when we weren't working. We don't do a ton in the winter. Besides, the times were never sad when we were playing Dutch Blitz!

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  5. @Caleb: I guess it would come in handy during the long winter months. :-)

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