Tag Archive | magic the gathering cards

Black Friday in the Arnhem Game Store

Typically, I dont enter commercial establishments on Black Friday. For perhaps a decade now “Buy Nothing Day” has been on what is the largest shopping day in the US – the day after Thanksgiving.

Escape Captivity – Buy Nothing Day – graphics credit Adbusters

But I am not in the US today, and Willow’s half brother Fabian wants to play in the Magic tournament and I want to see this exported cultural phenomenon close up. So we spent most of the day in the game store playing friendly games in the afternoon and the tournament in the evening. Actually Willow and Fabian played in the tournament, I just hung out and observed what was happening – especially the cultural similarities and differences between the US and the Netherlands.

The best card in the current tournament play

Femke came from several towns over to play in game store. She has a Frisian name which means “girl”, she is studying chemistry and hopes to work in a lab. With magenta colored hair, she is playing a vampire deck, has a pagan star necklace and is into other games more than Magic, but this is where the group play is happening, so this is where she comes. When I asked if she if identified as pagan, she said “no, but I like the symbol. I do believe in reincarnation, though”.

While we are playing a friendly game she had her creature attack me, I blocked it and destroyed it until she pulled out an instant and destroyed my creature, her having fooled me into blocking her. She smiled at me and said in perfect English “i am not stupid.” What she did not say, but was clearly implied was “don’t underestimate me.” I played more cautiously the rest of the game, but she and Fabian together still beat the team of Willow and I.

Femke circa 2012

And as is my experience in the US, she is one of the very few women who plays these types of games. Of the 25 players who came to this evenings match she is one of only three women. I might be the only person over 30 in the room. For a fairly complex game, much of the play is in silence. And the room is not quiet. There is laughing, swearing and animated discussion of the rules. While Magic cards are printed in many languages, these dutch players are mostly using cards printed in English.

One of the nicer aspects of this evenings tournament play was how helpful other players are.  After Willow got completely run over by another more experienced player in the first round, another player named Joost asked if he could look at Willows deck and make suggestions.  He explained that while he was not a great player, he had studied the great players decks and had learned a number of things.  He pulled cards otu of Willow’s deck and helped him improve it.  Willow won the next round 2-1, in part because of Joost’s improvements.  This was something of a breakthru for me with Willow, who likes to design decks intuitively and because i can’t consistently beat Willow anymore, he has been unwilling to step away from his intuitive approach for a more analytical one.  Joost helped shift this.

what it looks like playing Magic

One of the interesting cultural differences between the cultures is that in the little Magic subculture that we play in at Twin Oaks and Acorn, the signal for “my turn is over” is to rap on the table (it is often unclear when someones turn is over in Magic). Here in the Netherlands, many players use a open palm up hand gesture at the end of their turn, which I find both less aggressive and more inviting.

In a way this basement game room could be anywhere in the affluent parts of the world, with players matching wits in this complicated, dynamic and evolving fantasy card game.

Donor not Father

Fabian and his parents are away.  They visited for a bit over two weeks and almost everyone in the commune was happy to have them, especially the crowd at Nashoba where they were a big hit, unlike some of my other guests.

Moments before Fabian left on the train

As  we find with some regularity the English language is weak in describing these unconventional relationships.  i am Fabian’s donor, but what is he to me?  Certainly not my son, and “biological son” is a bit too clinical sounding.  We shall have to craft new words.

Can you see the resemblance?

I also learned some things i did not know of this visit.  Fabian has dyspraxia which gives him trouble with writing and some other motor skills.  I had always assumed that this was a genetically transmitted trait and held guilt about this.  Micha informed me that it was almost certainly induced by the hospital which gave Fabian anti-biotics the day after he was born, without consulting the parents.  This does not reduce my sadness about it, but i dont feel responsible.

We never completed the chess tournament that i started for him, and instead played a bunch of magic together.  Fabians English improved dramatically since his last visit, in part i believe because he is reading all the English magic cards and in part perhaps because Twin Oaks is a very special place for him and he wants to be able to connect here.

Perhaps he can convince his parents to come back from the Netherlands next summer.  By then i will have crafted a better word to describe our relationship.








Instant Draft – Tournament in a day

My cell phone is a bit dangerous.  It has lots of numbers in it of people who can make all manners of magic happen.  I called Kenric on the Cville trip today and he bought a pricy box of magic cards.  I called Gpaul and he agreed to come over from Acorn to play.  Then there was Tim’s food processing shift that needed to get covered so he could be involved and on it goes.

But after a large number of calls, i did actually pull off a draft magic tournament this evening with Willow and Fabian and Jonah and Rowan and Tim and GPaul and Abe and myself.

Willow’s favorite new card

There were a lot of other things which i might have done today, but when i realized that this was the last chance to get it organized with Willow and Fabian both playing, other stuff seemed less significant.

Thanks to all thos folx who went out of their way to make this be possible.  It was both fun and significant for the kids.  And even though it was only the second deck i ever made, i managed to win all 8 of my games and the tournament.