Put and Take Style Games

A dreidel. This game has its roots in the Jewish tradition. It is said that the Syrian-Greeks forbade the study of the Torah (the Jewish holy book), but that children defied that anyway. When approached by guards, they would pretend to be playing this put and take game instead.

I’m not sure why, because I’m not Jewish, but the dradle game is one of those things that I picked up an understanding of as a child.  The same can be said about the term “put and take”, which describes the style of game that the dradle represents. This style of game is all about luck, and has players passing objects around the table or putting in or taking out objects from a center pot.  I say “object” because this game can be played with almost anything:  candies, matchsticks, raisins, etc.  However, the most popular way to play this is with money.

Often when put and take games are played for money, the denomination of money that is used is very small, such as pennies.  However, I have seen people play with denominations all the way up to dollars, and there is nothing saying you couldn’t play with hundred dollar bills, should you wish.  All that matters is that everyone starts with the same number of currency.  So if you want to play with quarters, you might all decide to start with four quarters each.

The heart and soul of this style of game is that you roll a die or spin a top, really anything that will give you a random result, and behave accordingly to the roll.  Usually this means passing one of your pieces of currency to your left, right, or into the pot.  In some cases you might take a single piece of currency from the pot, or claim the entire pot as yours.  The game ends when one person has all of the currency you were playing with.

In addition to the very traditional dradle, there are a number of other put and take style games on the market.  The first one I became aware of caught my attention when I was working for Games By James in Minnesota back in 2005.  It was called LCR (short for Left-Center-Right) and it came packaged in a small tube.  The tube contained three dice, and some chips (which could take the place of currency, if you didn’t want to gamble).  On your turn you rolled all three dice and acted accordingly.  Oddly enough, this very simple game was one of our biggest sellers and we would buy hundreds of copies of this game at a time for the store, undoubtedly we always ran out before the next shipment came in regardless.  Now, however, you can pick up this game at any Wal-mart in the country, so likely not such a big seller for your FLGS.

This style of game play has also been plastered with themes.  At least two games are currently on the market that capitalizes on the popularity of this simple style of play and ramps that up with a splash of the occult:  “Mmmm… Brains!” and “Cthulhu Dice”.  While each of these games adds a little touch of unique mechanics, at their base they are simply put and take games.

“Mmmm… Brains!”, is a game where you play as a zombie and attempt to eat the most brains.  This is once again done through die rolls.   This time the dice are colored and numbered, and give you a small bit of choice as to whose brains you will eat.  While you could certainly make this a gambling game as well, this one comes with small plastic brains to use as your objects, and that bit adds some whimsy to the game.  But even though the element of choice is there, ultimately you want to be the zombie with all of the brains.

The D12 used in Cthulhu Dice.

The D12 used in Cthulhu Dice.

“Cthulhu Dice”, just like the Cthulhu mythos written by H.P. Lovecraft, is all about staying sane in an insane world.  The God Cthulhu has arisen and is stealing people’s sanity, which are represented by small glass beads (although you could once again use money if you choose).   On your turn you roll a large D12 that is engraved with lots of odd occult looking symbols which indicates to you what to do with your sanity (win some back from Cthulhu (the pot), give some to Cthulhu (the pot), or give it to a particular occultist (the other players)).  The last person with some sanity left is the winner.

There are lots and lots of these kinds of games on the market, though I don’t quite understand their appeal.  The game play could be played by a computer, as there is usually no choice involved, and when there is (like in Mmmm… Brains!) the choice is very small and makes very little difference.  Playing Rock, Paper, Scissors would be an equally effective way to give your friends your money.  But there in lies the excitement, right?  You have the chance to win money.  And even though the outcome is completely random, a game of Rock, Paper, Scissors would be a rather anticlimactic way to win it.  These games linger for a few minutes, thus building the excitement about getting a lucky roll.  It’s the same reason people like slots.  The next roll will surely go in your favor!?

Do you enjoy Put and Take style games?  We would love to hear what the draw of the game is for you!

This entry was posted by The_Null_Entry on Monday, April 9th, 2012 at 9:01 am and is filed under Board Game Reviews, Luck and Betting Games . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

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