Not your average playing card game.

I don’t play regular cards very often. I have never had a desire to learn poker or any gambling games, and solitaire has always been a frustrating endeavor for me. There are a few classics that I enjoy: Slap Jack, Egyptian Rat-Screw and Speed, to name some; your average card game that you play with friends growing up. But they are not on the same level as “Pigs”.  You just can’t beat it; Pigs is definitely NOT your average card game, and ever since I learned to play it’s become pretty much the only playing card game I enjoy. I can play it over and over and it will still be fun.

I learned pigs from an Englishman during my semester abroad in Germany who learned it from a Latvian the previous semester. I have no idea where the Latvian learned it, so I’m going to make the bold claim that it’s a traditional eastern European game. (If anyone reading this recognizes it, and has a better idea of its origins, let me know! And to add to the mystery of its origins, I just tried googling it and came up with lots of games called “Pigs”, but none that match the rules I learned.)

Wandering around Stockholm, where some of my fondest Pigs memories are from.

Wandering around Stockholm, where some of my fondest Pigs memories are from.

The object of pigs is to be the first person to get rid of all your cards, and the rules are fairly simple. You need at least three people to play, and to start everyone gets dealt six cards. After you deal the starting hands (it doesn’t matter who deals the first round), you flip over the top card of the deck to reveal its suit. That becomes the trump suit. So, like in Hearts, cards of that suit can beat any card of the other suits. For the purpose of explanation, lets pretend trumps is spades.

Turns are also called ‘attacks’. It doesn’t matter whether you go clockwise or counter-clockwise, but you are always attacking the person who would attack next. To start the attack, you lay down a card. If you lay down a four of hearts, for example, the defending player would have to beat it with a five or higher card (aces are high) or a spade. At this point, the other players can also help attack the defending player by laying down other fours. And if the defender beats one four with a five, anybody can lay down another five to add to the attack. Once a card is laid down, the defender risks more cards attacking him as long as they share a number with a card already out there. It’s kind of a free for all — the only stipulation is that you can’t lay down more cards than the defender has in his or her hand. If the defender successfully beats all the cards thrown at him,  they are all discarded and, starting with the initial attacker and going in the direction of play, everyone draws cards to get back up to six. However, if the defender fails to defend against the attack, he picks up all the cards. Then everyone else draws cards and play skips the defender’s turn to initiate an attack on the next player.

Play tends to get more interesting as the draw pile gets smaller. The last card to get drawn is always the revealed trump card, so if it happens to be a high trump card, there is an added incentive to play cards so you have to draw cards. Once that card is drawn the game starts to end because players don’t need to draw cards to fill out their hands. Remember, the object of the game is to get rid of your cards first. Another unique thing about Pigs is that play doesn’t stop when one person wins — it keeps going until there is a loser. The loser is dubbed the “Pig” and has to deal the next round, and the winner goes first. This often leads to playing more and more rounds because the Pig usually never wants to end it as the Pig. And if you play with the same people consistently, and are really obsessive, the Pig stays the Pig until he or she can redeem themselves… even if the last time you played was weeks ago. (I’m not encouraging this, but it can happen!)

There are lots of strategies in Pigs. For example, the defender can choose to pick up the initial attack and protect himself from further attacks. Picking up cards early in the game isn’t as bad as it might seem. It would be far worse to try and attack and get a massive amount of cards because you were overconfident.Another strategy for successful defense is to try and play the same numbered card to beat the attacking cards if possible. That cuts down on the potential additional attacks a lot. I also try and hold on to all of my trump cards as long as possible. They are far more useful and helpful at the end of the game. On the attacking side, I usually try to attack with multiples if at all possible. It’s easier to defend only one card, plus if you attack with more cards you get to draw more cards… hopefully getting more trumps. I also usually try to help out the person attacking the player who would attack me. If their attack is successful I get to take my turn without defending, which is awesome. You want to decide to help out with an attack as fast as you can because once the cards are picked up/ discarded, no additional attack cards can be played.

As players become more familiar with the rules, play often gets faster and faster. Eventually, Pigs should be a fast-paced, competitive game.

The bottom of my $13 glass of beer. You better believe I documented that!

The bottom of my $13 glass of beer. You better believe I documented that!

I’ve played a lot of Pigs, but perhaps my favorite memory of the game is when my friends and I played an absolutely ridiculous amount or rounds during a trip to Stockholm. We’d discovered that Stockholm is a ridiculously expensive place to visit — I think I paid the equivalent of $13 for a beer at a bar we’d wandered into — and had decided to fall back on cheap pass-times.

We wandered around sight-seeing for a while and then decided to go to a grocery store and get some food and go to a park and play Pigs. We stayed out in the park for hours! It was summertime, too, so it stayed light enough to play past midnight. We didn’t go back to our hostel until after 1 a.m., when it was finally too dark to play. We also spend a good chunk of the next day playing. We’d befriended another guy our age at the hostel and taught him. He was determined to keep playing until he was consistently not the Pig. So when I think about Pigs, I often associate it with Stockholm.

Good luck! I hope you give Pigs a chance — it’s a blast.

All for now,
Bale

Do you have any playing card games you can play over and over? 

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FNM recap: July 26… A triumphant return.

I didn't end up playing my first pick, but I played my second pick! And I got some nifty new sleeves.

I didn’t end up playing my first pick, but I played my second pick! And I got some nifty new sleeves.

When I walked into my LGS on Friday, it felt like I’d been gone forever. In reality, I’d only missed the previous week and the first FNM in July, but still. I haven’t been playing as much Magic this month as I’m used to. It was pick-a-pack, so I decided to buy M13, M14 and Dragon’s Maze to open. I also got some nifty sleeves, coincidentally the same ones Melissa De Tora used during one of the matches featuring her during GP Vegas. Maybe it was the new sleeves, or maybe it was the little break, I don’t know. But I rocked it.

As usual during pick-a-pack, I wasn’t that confident during draft. I tend to feel a little overwhelmed; I have to read the majority of the cards because the only set I’m really familiar with is the RTR block. At my table there was some RTR stuff, but a lot of older sets and M14 as well. But my card judgement is strong, and I tried to keep in mind the “BREAD” draft strategy. (BREAD stands for bombs, removal, evasion, aggressive/ card advantage and duds. The idea is to draft those types of cards in order.)

I opened Dragon’s Maze first and got a really crappy rare (Plasm Capture), so I first picked a Warped Physique. I figured quality removal is always good. I second-picked a Teleportal because it shared a color with it and can straight up win games. My third pick was a blue flip card called Ludevic’s Test Subject. It’s a 0/3 defender that you pay to put counters on and when you remove five, it flips and becomes a 13/13 creature with trample. It seemed like it could be fairly strong, even though I had never seen it before. From there I focused on getting a solid blue base, and noticed some really strong red coming my way. Since I had Teleportal, I ended up going the Izzet route, instead of Dimir. I don’t actually remember what my second and third first picks were, but neither of them was the rare in the pack. One was double black, so I knew I wouldn’t play it… but I don’t remember anything about the other. That said, I picked some really strong cards that were awesome all night: Turn// Burn, Archaeomancer, Shock, Claustrophobia, Hands of Binding, Crimson Mage and several fliers. I picked the Archaeomancer over an Awaken the Ancient, choosing the double blue casting cost over the triple red. The Ancient ended up coming back to me, and I did end up running it in my deck with some really good results. A 7/7 on turn five is pretty good, if it works out. As I was building my deck I felt pretty good, but wasn’t sure how it would hold up. I had several double blue or double red casting costs and the triple red card. I decided to run 10 mountains and only seven islands, which ended up working most of the time. I didn’t get color screwed all night. I also had a couple bombs… not crazy ones, but really strong cards nonetheless and some really good removal. I even had evasion creatures! I followed the BREAD strategy pretty successfully, and it paid off.

The tournament was five rounds, and I ended up 4-1 and in second place. Top eight played it out for the foil, but split the packs so I walked away with five packs. I lost my last match, so I didn’t get the foil… but even after playing it out I was in third or fourth. It was a good night.

My matches were fun. I started off actually losing my first game. I seriously misplayed my Teleportal because I forgot one of my creatures had been detained by my opponent playing Azorius Arrester. He offered to let me take it back, but I didn’t. If I want to get better I have to feel my mistakes… and that one cost me the game. He killed me the next turn. The next two games were much better — I didn’t even drop below 20 life. They were over fairly quickly. I felt kind of bad because my opponent had to mulligan to five game three and never had a chance to get back in it.

My second match was my loss. I played Steve, and got seriously mana screwed the first game. The second game I got kind of mana screwed, and might have been able to get back in it, but he’d completely locked down the board with some ridiculous creatures. He had Soratami Rainshaper, Galvanic Alchemist and Soul Seizer equipped with No-Dachi all on board. The Rainshaper could make any of his creatures hexproof, so my removal was pointless. He’d soulbonded the Alchemist and the Seizer, so he could untap them at any time, making my Claustrophobia useless as well. It was incredibly frustrating because I couldn’t attack, I couldn’t really block and none of my spells mattered. Talk about controlling the board state. Steve didn’t lose a game all night, and drew into the top 8, so I technically finished higher than him, but he had a really strong deck. Also Izzet, I might add. (And I beat him in the one casual match we’ve had since FNM… so far.)

My next match was against a fairly new player. His deck seemed pretty good, but he was running three colors with no mana fixing, which made it hard on him. I successfully play my Ancient against him the first game, and he had an answer to it — a card that sent target permanent back to its owners hand — but he played it on my other creature, not the enchanted land. I explained after the game that that would have been the better move, but I didn’t mention anything at the time. I felt slightly guilty because the game ended fairly quickly after that, but I wanted to win! The second game was over pretty fast as well, but we had a good chat after, and I think he’s going to keep coming. So that’s good! It’s exciting playing newer players than me (weird, though). It’s cool to see them excited about the game. He said later he took out the third color and he did better after that. Yay!

I also got my next match 2-0. The first game I got lucky with Molten Birth and won the coin flip twice, so I got to cast it three times. So by turn six I had six 1/1 creatures on board, along with another 2/1 creature (my Crimson Mage) I’d hit him with along with my tokens to get him down to 12. Then I cast Teleportal to win me the game. The second game I successfully got my Ancient out again and he didn’t really have an answer to it, so it won me that game as well. I also had my Mage out again, so I was able to give my other creatures haste… a very handy ability.

At this point in the night I was 3-1 and in 10th so I had to win my match to make top 8. The first game went well for me — I got Stealer of Secrets out on turn three and was able to cast Claustrophobia on the wall he’d cast in response. He was kind of mana screwed, so that was a quality move — my Stealer got through several times and gave me serious card advantage. My opponent didn’t even hit me all game. I wasn’t so lucky the next game, though. It was pretty close, and even though I was successfully locking down his board somewhat with Hands of Binding, I missed two points of life he gained from a Verdant Haven and attacked for what I thought was lethal using an overloaded Weapon Surge, but only hit him for six, not seven because I thought he was at five. I had a lot of mana out, though and Steve, who was watching, said I could have won by playing the Weapon Surge mainphase, then casting Archeaomancer to get it back and recasting it. I didn’t think I needed to, though, and I lost the next turn. (I was actually at five.) Game three was stressful just because we were running out of time. We went to time, and I ended up winning it by successfully flipping my Test Subject and Turn// Burning his 5/4 regenerate creature when he was tapped out. There was a little more to it than that, but I was running on adrenaline at that point and it’s kind of a blur. Winning that match meant I was going to top 8 for the second time, and I was really anxious. But it all worked out, and I ended up in second place!! I got my five packs and decided to try to play for the foil.

I actually did dominate my first match for the foil… I flipped my test subject and won even though I kind of misplayed. Instead of casting my Hands of Binding on my 13/13 and ciphering to lock down his flier, I cast a weenie 1/1 flier to block instead. It worked out, but since I was at four if he’d had one removal spell I would have died. But I won anyway! And the second game I got my Ancient out and got to cast Molten Birth twice. It was pretty fun. The match I lost for the foil was frustrating because I would be ahead, and then all of a sudden he’d take over the game and I wouldn’t draw any of my late game cards. Oh well, I didn’t really want the foil Rakdos Cackler… I swear…

Next week I think I might go to FNM at a different LGS. I’ll be two hours away, so I might drive back, but I’ve found a store I am planning on going to if I don’t. It sounds similar to my LGS, and it could be fun to play some different people. We’ll see, though.

All for now,
Bale

Did you go to FNM? How’d you do?

Some recaps, thoughts and other tidbits.

Me and Astro at the music festival -- we saw David Byrne & St. Vincent and Yeasayer, among others.

Me and Astro at the music festival — we saw David Byrne & St. Vincent and Yeasayer, among others.

Whoa. Where the heck has July gone? And where the heck did June go? It seems like I was covering GP Vegas last week, and now that’s been over for a month! I’ve seriously dropped the ball on posting, too. It’s due partly to the fact that I missed two FNMs this month. One for a music festival with Astro, and the other for a visit from my parents. Both were amazing. I even dragged my parents to my LGS, so they saw where I spend a large proportion of my time and met a couple of players. They went so far as to buy me a board game (Dominion!), but didn’t get me any Magic stuff, saying ‘that’s your deal’. Fair enough.

So here I am, several days after my parents left, two weeks after my last FNM and almost a month after my last post, realizing that after a brief summer hiatus, “Nerd Maids” needs to get back on its feet. It’s not that I haven’t had ideas for posts — I actually had lots. It’s that I never took the time to write them out.

Some of them are too dated to actually make full blown posts, though, so I thought I’d compile some of my thoughts from the past month all in one post. It’s the most efficient way I came up with to catch my readers up to where I am. (Shout out to those who commented and started following me during July! I promise I do actually post.)

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FNM recap: June 28

Pick-a-pack is definitely not my strong suit. I don’t know the best way to draft it, other than to pick two colors early and stick to them. That night, however, I ended up picking up more in my third color than was probably smart. I also ended up with barely enough playable creatures… it was kind of a mess.

As I was building my deck, I got rather discouraged. I convinced myself that I’d totally screwed up the draft — I hardly had any removal and I only ended up with like 14 playable creatures. And I had to splash white to get there. (Can you guess what colors I was? If you guess R/G, you’d be right.) I did have Mugging, Madcap Skills, a couple Riot Pikers and a cool equipment called Tormentor’s Trident.

I don’t remember my matches in very much detail, but I do remember that if I got the aggro part of my deck working I’d have a good game. My mana wasn’t very reliable, though, and often I would just not draw what I needed to. I ended up going 3-3, which wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t amazing either. My streak of getting packs had ended.

Standard Proxies!

Cutting up my Godless Shrine proxies... YEAH.

Cutting up my Godless Shrine proxies… YEAH.

Recently I’ve been debating actually making a standard deck that I could take to the standard FNM. I want to expand my Magic skills and I think that’s the logical next step. Unfortunately, to build a competitive deck you need dual lands and other pricy cards. (I’m kicking myself for trading away some dual lands back at the start of Gatecrash… I was so green, and had no clue how effectively trade.)

I’d used proxies before, but they were hastily made by writing the card name and cost on some extra land laying about.  I knew basically what they did, but if I forgot I didn’t have the text to remind me.

Luckily, Steve found a neat site that allows you to print color proxies with the full art and text of the card. You just select the cards and it puts them in a file you can print… it’s really nifty. It’s just a pain to cut out all the cards. But once they’re in sleeves (with another card at the back) it’s almost like you really have the cards!

I built a B/U/W deck with Sphinx’s Revelations, Jace and Obzedat. I wanted to pick something I at least had a few cards I needed… Unfortunately it’s still 90 percent proxies. But I’ve played with it a couple times, and it’s very different than my normal aggro draft deck. It’s definitely helping me improve my Magic skills, just due to the fact it’s out of my comfort zone.

Once I play with M14, I think I’ll try to build another deck without any cards that will rotate out once Theros is released. I don’t want to invest in singles that I won’t be able to play after September! Plus, playing with proxies is a good way to figure out which decks fit your play style, and whether you would actually enjoy playing it. Or even just be able to play it well. The deck I have proxied now is pretty easy to misplay, so that’s another reason it’s been really good practice playing.

FNM recap: July 12… the last RTR block draft!

I wish I could tell you I went out on a high note. Unfortunately, I can’t. I went 2-3, and I definitely made some mistakes in draft. I didn’t pick a Lavinia that got passed to me for the sole reason that the two people that didn’t pick it have been playing a lot longer than me, so I thought there was some good reason they were avoiding the pick. Steve was one of those people, and when I told him why I didn’t take the card, he explained he didn’t take her because he’d opened a Watery Grave. Oops. The other guy took an Unflinching Courage over it because he’d first picked another Unflinching Courage. Lesson: never assume a card is bad because somebody didn’t take it.

Unfortunately, I had also first picked an Unflinching Courage. I got a fair amount of good green and white cards in Dragon’s Maze, so I didn’t really pick up on the fact I should have switched. I passed a lot of blue, so at the end of the draft — when it was clear that I’d been cut out of G/W pretty hard — I realized I should have gone G/U/W (Naya, I think?). Oh well, I still had some good combos with Holy Mantel, Rubbleback Rhino, several Kraul Warriors and I actually did splash blue for the Azorious guildmage. So I was really kicking myself I didn’t pick up the Lavinia.

My matches were OK, but I mulliganed down to five THREE times that night. My mana was a mess. If I didn’t get my enchantments out successfully, I had a hard time winning. And it was hard to have my enchantments last for any length of time with all the removal and bounce in the set. Oh well, not every week can be your best week ever.

The upside: I opened a Sacred Foundry for myself and a Blood Crypt for Steve (I’d used one of his RTR packs). So not a total loss… I made back my entry fee!

M14 — my first core set.

I missed the prerelease and the official release draft, but that doesn’t mean I’m not excited. I’ve been reading articles and looking at the spoilers, and I think it could be really fun. Many people have pointed out that core sets are simpler than blocks, since they are more geared toward new players. I hope this means drafting it will help my card judgement and general drafting skills. The RTR block was really, really fun and I’m glad I started with it, but I learned how to draft within those conditions, which had complicated strategies and specific mechanics and interactions to keep in mind while drafting. I think getting back to the basics will really help me.

I haven’t played with the cards at all, and tonight’s FNM is pick-a-pack. There might be some M14 floating around, but it will still be pick-a-pack: awkward and… interesting. I’m hoping for a better showing than last time, but I’m feeling a bit rusty. Wish me luck!

On that note, I’m going to wrap up this massive post. But before I do, I want to let you guys know that I’m planning some really fun things for “Nerd Maids”. I’ve done lots of brainstorming and post planning, so I have a good handle on things moving forward. For one, I’m going to start “Non-magic Wednesdays” for all my fans that aren’t necessarily Magic players, but enjoy other nerdy things. (And the Magic fans that also enjoy other nerdy things.) I’m also planning on posting a non-recap magic post on Fridays, and the recap on Sundays. I have lots of ideas (all written down!) so I’m making it a priority to make sure they come to fruition.

I’m really excited, and I hope you all are too! And, as always, suggestions are more than welcome! Want me to write more about book/ movies/ TV shows? Have a game you think I’d like? Tell me! 😀

All for now,
Bale

David Byrne & St. Vincent. Check them out if you can -- they have a great sound. I'm in love with the brass section.

David Byrne & St. Vincent. Check them out if you can — they have a great sound. I’m in love with the brass section.