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Games we used to play before Play Station made our fingers and thumbs sore

Old school games feed the imagination

When I was a kid, we played outside with the other kids in the neighbourhood for most of our free time. We also made the most of breaks at school. We kept ourselves quite occupied without any of today’s modern technologies.
Most needed very rudimentary equipment – if any at all.
There was Giffie which was essentially an ‘Afrikaans’ game involving the throwing of either a flat stone or iron ring into a series of three holes.
Actually, as my old army sergeant used to say, ‘some things just sound better in Afrikaans’ (like links, regs as opposed to left, right), so here goes:

Wat jy nodig het is drie gate in ‘n reguit lyn, so vyf treë uitmekaar. Dan kry elke ou ‘n lekker swaar plat klip om mee te speel. Aan die begin kry elke ou ‘n beurt om by die gat op die een punt te staan en te kyk of hy sy klip in die heel anderkantste gat kan gooi. Kry jy dit reg, is jy dadelik jack.
Andersins moet jy eers vanwaar jou klip geland het en die ou wat naaste aan die gat gekom het speel eerste hom in daardie gat gooi, dan in die middelste gat en dan in die gat waar jy aan die begin gestaan het voor jy kan jack word.
Gooi jy mis, is jou beurt verby. Nadat jy jack geword het, gaan jy weer terug na die middelste en die anderkantste gat toe om queen te word, weer terug duskant toe om king te word en vir oulaas terug ander kant toe waar jy giffie word. En as jy giffie is en jy gooi ‘n ander ou se klip raak, is hy dood.
As jy jack is, mag jy ‘n ander ou se klip met jou klip padkos op pad van die een gat na die volgende een toe. En as jy hom tot naby die gat gepadkos kry, kan jy net daar giffie word met ‘n giffieslaaid. Dis nou as jy jou klip só gooi dat dit bo-oor syne slaaid tot in die gat.
En dan maak jy hom dood en as jy al die ander ook doodgemaak het,
wen jy. Daar’s nog ‘n klomp ander reëls wat dit lekker maak. Maar ‘n mens kan nie so op papier verduidelik nie. Jy moet by die gate wees waar jy kan beduie en kan wys tot almal verstaan. Sodat jy kan speel en kan stry. Want dis wanneer giffie ‘n stuk lewende kultuur word.

Marbles is a game that has been played for many years. There are lots of different ways to play the game. We’ll describe the rules in one way to play below, but it’s best if you make sure everyone understands the rules before you play, so there aren’t any misunderstandings.

One of the first things to make sure of is if you are playing “keepsies” or not. Most of the time all the marbles are given back to the original owner at the end of the game, but sometimes players keep the marbles they win. You always need to state which way you are playing before a game begins.
Rules to the Game of Marbles
A circle is drawn on the ground, usually with a diameter of 3-6 feet. You can use chalk on the sidewalk or blacktop or use thread or string to make a circle on the carpet.
Marbles are placed inside the circle, usually near the centre and often arranged in an X pattern.
To determine who goes first usually you draw a line around 10 feet away. Players shoot or roll their marble to see who can get the closest. The closest player goes first.

Close-up shot of brightly colored glass marbles of varying designs, including classic cat’s eye, swirling rainbow patterns, and twisting, psychedelic shapes and colours

Taking a Turn
The player uses their shooter marble to take a turn. To shoot the marble typically a player will use their thumb to flick the marble from their hand putting their “knuckles down” onto the ground.
The goal of each shot is to hit one of the marbles in the centre and knock it out of the circle. If the player knocks a marble out, then they get to keep the marble for the rest of the game, they also get to take another turn. If no marble is knocked out of the circle, the other player then gets a turn.
The first shot must be taken from the edge of the circle. If the shooter stays inside the circle, then next shot can be taken from the spot where the shooter landed.
Winning in Marbles
The player with the most marbles at the end of the game is the winner.
Other options/rules:

If a player knocks the other player’s shooter from the circle, then the shooter wins all the player’s marbles they have won so far and that player is out of the game.

You can choose to play where the shooter marble is removed from the circle at the end of each turn.
Marble terminology
Taw – shooter marble. It’s usually a heavier marble than the ones in the centre so it can knock them out of the circle.
Mibs or Kimmies – the marbles in the centre of the circle.
Friendlies – games where the marbles are returned to the original owner at the end.
Bombing – when marbles are dropped onto other marbles rather than shot.
Lagging – shooting or rolling the marble to a line to determine who gets to go first.

Indoor games

If it was a rainy day – indoor games there were aplenty. Cards were a favourite. Like Pest, which is the forerunner to the now popular built-for-purpose, card packs called Uno.
Pest could also be tweaked – for instance instead of the following player ‘eating’ five cards when a joker is played, this could be changed to ‘eating’ ten cards or in Extreme Pest, ‘take the rest of the pack’. This could be devastating to the ‘eater’ who sometimes would have to resort to lying his cards out before him as he is unable to hold his over-inflated pack. Extreme Pest was sometimes played with two packs, which would mean even bigger packs for the poor eaters! Remember the player to use up all his cards wins!

Then, of course, before PS there were board games: Monopoly, Risk, Careers, Cluedo and Totopoly.
Monopoly in South Africa included the cities of Durban, Bloemfontein (Durbanites hated the fact that their city was worth less than Bloem), Cape Town and Johannesburg.
This could be tweaked into something called Nigert where players did not have to wait until they had a ‘whole suit of colours’ before building houses but could build on individual sites and even start straight with a hotel instead of building patiently with houses. Nigert also had an inflation figure attached to it which wreaked havoc with the value of your money (South Africans have always associated well with this). 

Sometimes Careers money – which has bigger denominations than Monopoly – was roped in to assist – a bit like an IMF loan.

Risk was all about taking over the world – there was also a derivative called World Game where countries were also allocated minerals – such as gold, oil, coal – and were worth more than others. You had to have a certain amount of mineral wealth to survive and have the money to attack other countries to annex their minerals. To make it more interesting, the map of World Game did not match the real thing, meaning that Ecuador could end up next to France!
Cluedo is the much-loved detective game and Totopoly is the horse racing game where you have to buy and train horses for the big day.
Chess, of course, was standard and became more interesting with the advent of computer chess games.
Hide and Seek
This is a child’s game and not the strange one, one sees on the Internet these days. It is fun to involve more than one person…. Hide someplace where you think your opponent won’t find you. Once you are convinced he/she has passed you, run as quickly as you can to the designated ‘base’ to ensure your safety. Remember your opponent will shout out, counting to ten before yelling ‘coming read or not.
If you are fed up go inside and read a book – your opponents will battle to find you and you will have a peaceful afternoon…
Cowboys and crooks
This was a favourite sparked by a plethora of Terence Hill, Clint Eastwood, and other home movies (watched on the wall using an old-fashioned projector, hired from the film shop, long before video and video machines..)

Toy guns are not a necessity, wooden sticks, imagination and a keenness to die slowly and dramatically are all needed. The crooks do not always lose. However, sometimes you get a bad loser, who despite taking a barrage of rapid-fire, does not die. When this happens, the opponents can resort to a rugby tackle – a kind an Italian footballer tackle that puts the refusing-to-die fellow down for good.

Bicycle races
You can even race against yourself. Use a watch to time yourself. You can even pretend you are a famous Formula One racer and award yourself and your favourite driver points according to your lap times. This is handy if you don’t particular like Lewis Hamilton and you can make him lose to a rank outsider from Ecuador just by riding your own bicycle slower on the lap where you pretend to be Hamilton!

Cricket using a dice

Epic test matches can be played and don’t even have to lift a bat or bowl or ball.

Write down your two test match teams and the names of your batsmen on a piece of paper = – you can have South Africa versus England for instance.

Roll a dice – six is six runs, four, four  runs, three runs, two runs, one run… a five means you to go under review. If you throw a three you are safe, any other number on the dice and you are out and the next batsman is in.
And then there is music to listen to… some old South African favourites to remind you of LM Radio, John Berks, John Novik, Springbok Radio, Squad Cars and Gruesome Gresh.

Related story:

What happened to the good old days when we used to write letters …


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