The idea for Stymie started forming totally unexpectedly one night at a Dave and Buster’s in Dallas in 1988. I was working as a bellman at the Marriott Mandalay in Las Colinas Texas, and a group of co-workers was heading there after work one night and a girl I was interested in invited me to join them. I’d never heard of Dave and Buster’s, but the prospect of beers and the company of a pretty girl seemed like a great way to spend a Friday night. How could I possibly say no?
Upon arriving I spotted our group sitting in a section filled with high top tables, and as I joined the them I noticed that the tables doubled as game boards. My curiosity was peaked. Most of the details of that night have faded from my memory, but a couple have remained indelibly etched in my mind. The girl as it turned out was married, and I had the pleasure of meeting her husband while I was drinking my first beer. The tables were Pente boards, and even though I lost the first few games I played to a guy from our sales department, I loved it. I bought a copy the next day. I’ve always been a fan of the 3M and Avalon Hill Bookshelf games, but I thought the Pente Tube was really cool. I still have it all these years later.
I’ve known how to play checkers for as long as I can remember. I learned how to play Chess when I was 6 years old, and I played Stratego for the first time around the same age. I wasn’t a prodigy by any means, but pretty quickly I was good enough to beat the people who taught me how to play. I liked Checkers, really liked Chess a lot, and I loved Stratego! Being able to set my men up however I wanted was awesome too me, and the dynamic between the Spy and the Marshall was fantastic. The fact that the weakest piece could capture the strongest piece, but not anything else added a tremendous element of tension.
Pente was the first game I ever played that started with an empty board. The concept inspired me. Then I read Gary Gabrel’s story (Pente inventor) and I was inspired further. Then I learned of Go-Moku and Renju and Ninuki-Renju and 9 Men Morris, and finally Go. Creating variants of great games has never been a goal of mine, but capturing the essence of what makes these games great and creating something original is always the goal.
If you like any or all of these games, I know you’ll love Stymie. In the coming weeks and months, I will be writing posts about a game that is brand new, but at the same time familiar. Hopefully 1000 years from now Stymie will be the inspiration for someone else’s game and if you’re reading this, you’ll be part of its’ history.
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