Thursday, September 13, 2007

Game of the Week: Sorry!

A game must have something going for it to be in print for more than 7 decades, so the success of Sorry! since its 1934 debut deserves some consideration.
The game's best attribute is its family-friendly nature. I have fond memories of playing Sorry! when I was a kid back in the 1960s and I know that my youngsters now love to play whenever we get the chance.
Unlike Snakes & Ladders, Sorry! is not a game of pure luck. Players have some control over the outcome, although perhaps not as much as they perceive they do. I say this because it's been my experience that no matter who is playing and what they do, it always seems like at least 3 out of the 4 players always have a shot of winning the game. In many games this would be a flaw, but in Sorry! it's a virtue. It's important that the young players have a shot of winning, even though they're far from being able to engage in strategic play. Yet the older children and adults can have some fun making what seem to be strategic choices that might help them win in the end.
What you end up with is one of the few games that you can literally play with a group ranging from 8 to 80. Actually, precocious 4- and 5-year-olds can play. It's a good game for teaching such beginning level game playing skills such as counting spaces and playing habits such as waiting your turn.
The genius behind the design is the card mix and even the use of cards at all. While a Parcheesi-style game, unlike most of that genre Sorry! does not use dice. The use of cards just about guarantees evening out the luck factor. A typical game will see the players going through the deck several times, so everybody will get every card many times. The requirement for landing on home by exact count provides a lot of scope for come-from-behind victories as the guy in the lead can wait a long time for the exact card needed to get that last piece in.
Another key part of the game is the Sorry! card, which means no one is ever really out of the running. As a matter of fact, the more behind you are, the more you can use a Sorry! card. The leading player may very well have no pawns left in their start, so any Sorry! cards drawn are just a wasted move. Meanwhile, the unlucky player who's been landed on by everybody and anybody can get right back into things. There are 13 cards that can get a pawn out of Start (five 1's, four 2's and four Sorry!'s) so no player should despair about being behind. This, also, proves to be a good game-playing and life lesson that will be handy later on in life.
Like some of the other classic "family" games Sorry! doesn't get too much respect from the "serious" gamer, but it may deserve more respect than it gets. Sorry! lays the groundwork for more serious gaming later on, while being a lot of fun.

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