Friday Nights in the California Household

Barring the occasional 4AM Saturday shift, the apartment of one Daniel California is usually a good place to be at every Friday night. At the end of the work week, my fellow comrades and I typically have a 21+ get-together featuring some fantastic games that we have created and refined over the course of the summer. If you’re ever in the area, and between the ages of 21 and 30, feel free to drop me a line and stop by to see what fun is going down on that particular night. We’re generally a safe and responsible crew, with plenty of room to crash so that nobody does anything terribly stupid. The night usually starts out with some form of MLB 2K11, until enough people show up and yell at me to stop being a nerd and only play baseball games. Naturally, we then switch to Oregon Trail II.

Well, actually it’s Oregon Trail 5, but the creators (I think The Learning Company bought out Mecc) made a brilliant plan to basically re-port the best Oregon Trail ever created for newer computers, instead of Windows 3.1 and ’95. Of course, we have managed to somewhat demonize this innocent educational game, and turn it into a competition of sorts, with an optional drinking game as well. Six people can play at a time.

The premise of Oregon Trail is to make it from one town on the eastern part of the midwest (around Indiana, Illinois or MIssouri typically) to some west coast destination by surviving the perils of the trail. To start, you create a “Wagon Party” and elect one player as Wagon Head, with the other five simply becoming characters that are entered into the wagon party. Upon leaving your home city, your party is presented with some major decisions along the way, such as how to cross a river, go up or down a mountain, treat a wound, cure a disease, etc. Going in a circle, we take turns on who makes what decision. If the made decision is incorrect (i.e. wagon tipping, falling into the water, turn for the worse), the person that made that call has to take a sip of their drink (be it an adult beverage or no). This goes on until the end of the game, where either the Wagon Head has perished, everyone else died off, or the destination has been reached. The only other major rule is that each time a person dies, they must take a shot. If they are the first person to die, they must take two, or a double shot. Most games are often marred with side bets and formation of teams trying to kill one another off, and typically we don’t get out of Utah with the amount of team killing going on. Usually hunting and rafting is incorporated in some way as well, but rules on those are not yet concrete. Whenever we tire of this, we’ll move on to one of the following.

oregon trail 5cards against 










Cards Against Humanity is a popular title on Friday nights, and is occasionally played as well. If you’ve never played before, it’s very reminiscent of Apples to Apples, but much more crass and offensive. It’s billed as “A Party Game for Horrible People”, and if you are easily offended by pretty much anything that exists in the world, you shouldn’t play. The rules, as described by their website, are as follows :

To start the game, each player draws ten white “answer” cards. One randomly chosen player begins as the Card Czar, and plays a black “question” card. The Card Czar reads the question out to the group. Each player answers the question by passing one white “answer” card, face down, to the Card Czar. The Card Czar shuffles all of the answers, reads them out loud in a humorous fashion, and picks their favorite. Whoever played that answer gets to keep the Black Card as one Awesome Point. After each round, a new player becomes the Card Czar, and every player draws back up to ten cards.

A (very) PG Example of a Round with seven people playing is shown below

Black Card: What has been making life difficult at the nudist colony?

White Cards: 1. a plunger to the face 2. a passionate Latino lover  3. a beached whale  4. a bloody pacifier  5. a crappy little hand  6. mom

Basically, the “Card Czar”, after collecting and reading all the white cards, picks the answer that he/she thinks is the best (personally, I would pick “a plunger to the face” from the above answers), and the winner is awarded with the black card. The game continues by the next “Card Czar” in a clockwise fashion picking up the next black card, reading it, and so on and so forth, and whoever accumulates the most black cards win. The game includes some alternative methods of playing, but we haven’t investigated them too thoroughly. Our version is pretty straight-forward.

We haven’t associated any kind of beverage consumption with this game, as it is basic in its inherent board-gamey-ness. We play, we laugh hysterically, and eventually some of us will splinter off into some sort of other activity or conversation. Usually though, the last game I’m about to mention is the highlight of the night.

The final game and one that we always play is Beer Pong Baseball. We clear the kitchen table, draw it out, and put a cover on it to help prevent wood damage from spillage. The only real similarities to regular beer pong that this game has is the use of teams, plastic cups (I refuse to call them Solo Cups after that idiotically moronic song became popular), and pong balls in its play. To start, there are teams of four formed by all in attendance (team size could vary, but you generally don’t want them less than three or greater than five), with the amount of innings and games to play determined. Usually we have formed only two teams, playing a best of three set with each game being three, six, and nine innings each, the last game only being necessary for tiebreaking purposes. Everyone gets their own drink to start, with a communal beer and two cups in the middle for purposes that I’ll explain later. Amongst yourselves, you decide which team is home and which is away.

Both sides have four cups vertically arranged in a line filled about halfway with water, like a four blinker traffic light. The home team then assigns a pitcher to go to the center of the table. The idea of the pitcher is that when the opposing team gets a runner on base, the lead runner can engage the pitcher in a game of flip-cup using a few ounces of the communal beer in the middle of the table. If the runner wins, he has stolen up to the next base. If the pitcher wins, the runner is out, and the out is recorded for the defense.

In order to get on base, though, the offense plays a variation of pong. In an assigned “batting order”, the batter that is up throws the pong ball at the arrayed cups in an attempt to make it in one of them. If he makes it into the cup closest to the center of the table, it’s a single. The next one back is a double, then a triple, then the cup closest to the defense and table edge is a home run. The defense gets outs by working as a unit to catch the ball before it hits the ground once it clears the cups. If the ball hits the floor, it is a strike, which the batter is allowed three of before being recorded as an out. Interference on a ball that has not cleared the cups is deemed an automatic single for the offense. Runners can move up in forces and steals only, no first to thirds on singles or anything like that. Whenever a run is scored on the defense, each member of the defense must take a swig of their beverage. Upon three outs being recorded, you switch offense and defense until you reach the predetermined amount of innings set at the start. The pitcher for the defense must change every half inning, in a rotation similar to the batting order.

Other than the rules stated above, everything else that occurs during the game is subject to House Rules. Things that may arise include the eligibility of balls that bounce off the wall, double steals, and penalties for certain party fouls that may occur. My best strategy has consisted of not being on the same team as my one friend, who I’ll dub for all intents and purposes as Henry Kissinger.

I consider myself an above average pong player. My hand eye coordination is sufficient enough to be competitive in the majority of games I play, and given a competent partner I have the ability to be part of a good team. I don’t consider The Secretary to be a very good pong player, at best he’s average. But when it comes to baseball, it’s simply unfair. He has the uncanny ability to just snipe home runs at will. Recently I was playing against his team in a series, and after getting absolutely trampled in the first game, we held a four run lead going into the top of the last inning with us as the home team. We get the first out, and were well on our way to shoving the victory in their faces when he hits a solo homer. No harm done, we still maintained a three run lead and there were no baserunners. That home run was the snowflake that started the avalanche however. Before the inning is over, he had homered two more times and they had put eight runs on the board in a ridiculous comeback of epic proportions. Demoralized, we got two back in the bottom half of the inning, but that wasn’t enough to stem the tide. I swore off playing that evil game for the rest of the night, and have almost never had smack talk blow up in my face as much as then.

Starting around 8, we usually hang out and play games and whatnot until around midnight, when we walk down the street to the (good) local bar. It’s a good social atmosphere after competing against one another all night, and the deck is nice to be out on in the summer night air. Those that we feel can’t safely drive or operate heavy machinery are made to stay at my place either overnight or until deemed fit to leave. I’m open to suggestions on how to improve existing games, or new ones that I haven’t even touched on yet. So whether you happen to be looking for something to do on a Friday night with a group of friends, or you’re one of the lucky few to personally know me, I hope a few of these ideas might (responsibly) inspire you to, as Long John Silver’s proclaims, “Throw boring overboard”.


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