Dare to Play Fair

When children play games, squabbles arise over the rules all the time. Depending on the age group, many kids are not likely to read the rules before starting the game. And there's nothing worse than having to break up a fistfight or slapfest when kids start to brawl.

Get Involved

Get the kids into good game-playing habits. Start by helping them set up the game, whether it's a board game or a lawn game. You play the role of referee. Tell the kids that all disputes will be settled by you, and maybe give them a limit of disputes they can bring to you … let's say three disputes per game. If you hear a fourth, the game will be stopped and the kids will have to find something else to do. This is a great way to get kids to work out their own conflicts. If they know they can only bring three to the referee, the rest of the disputes will have to be worked out amongst themselves.

Cheat Sheet

But even more likely than squabbles over the rules of a game are squabbles over cheating. Kids love to sneak one past you wherever they can. I love playing board games with kids because I'm intrigued by the many ways they “strategize.” It's fun to watch their creative little minds trying to sneak around the rules.

Cheating is an age-old pastime. No sporting event or game has gone through history without its fair share of cheaters, but to avoid conflict, it's best to establish a no-cheating rule. If someone is caught cheating, they will have to forfeit the game, or at the very least, forfeit a turn.

Cheating is usually considered the lowest form of sportsmanship and you should avoid it. But if it wasn't for cheating, we'd be missing out on some amazing stories and folklore. For example, Poker is the classic cheater's game—many books have been written, and movies made, about cons and cheats involved in this often high-stakes game. Cards, generally speaking, may be one of the cheater's favorite media. Cheating is so popular a pastime, in fact, that there are games based on the art of cheating. One such game is a card game called—you guessed it—“Cheat.”

Winning Plays

One of the earliest written references to Poker was made in 1834 by Jonathan H. Green. Green mentions rules to what he refers to as the “cheating game,” a game he had seen being played on Mississippi riverboats. It wasn't until this time that he realized the game had never been mentioned in print before, and he decided to call it Poker.

To play Cheat you need a minimum of three players. The more players involved, the harder the game. You deal out an entire deck of cards to all the players and each person takes a turn placing a card face-down in the center of the table—calling out the number and suit of the card as they do so. Each player must put down a card in ascending order, but not necessarily in the same suit. You must call the card aloud as you place it face-down.

Inevitably, you will come to one person who does not have the required card to put down. So that person must bluff and lie about what card he or she is putting down. It's up to the other players to catch the cheater. If you suspect a cheater, you must call out “cheat” on that player's turn. When the card is displayed, if the player who called “cheat” is correct, the cheater must pick up all the cards on the table. If the player who calls “cheat” is incorrect, then he or she must pick up all the cards. The object of the game, of course, is to get rid of all your cards.

Regardless of the game you are playing, you can just assume someone's going to cheat and make finding the cheater a part of the game. That's an interesting idea—a good way to make light of an otherwise sticky situation and even turn it into something fun. For example, if someone is caught cheating, he or she may be eliminated from the game after a group vote—whether he or she cheated or not. Or, depending on the game being played, if the cheater is caught, points can be deducted. Make it part of the game itself—see if you can cheat your way through without being caught! It's a good idea to make sure in advance that everyone knows this is part of the game—remember we want to have fun, not fights!

More on: Games

Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Family Games © 2002 by BookEnds, LLC. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit Amazon's web site or call 1-800-253-6476.


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