Games and Pastimes of Tamriel, V. 3: Hammerfell


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My journey next took me to Hegathe, an ancient coastal city at the very tip of Hammerfell, and the major trading port with Summerset. The city was quite different from Wayrest, but equal in splendor. It is a city of contrasts: tall, plain stone ramparts and beautiful gold-engraved tents; barren deserts and bountiful vineyards; the ancient shrine of Tava and the busy, modern harbor.

Crown and Forebear

Appropriately enough for a city with such history, the first game I encountered was a group of children playing Crown and Forebear. Children divide themselves into teams. For every Crown there are three Forebears.

Each Crown hides a half dozen or so trinkets in the area while the Forebears stay out of sight. The Forebears try to spy on the Crowns, but also try not to get caught. If any Crown spots a Forebear at this stage, the Forebear is out of the game.

When the trinkets are all hidden, the Crowns announce the start of the game. In addition, each Crown can make up a single rule that all the Forebears must follow, such as “no climbing” or “no touching baskets.” This is usually related to how some of the trinkets are hidden. For instance, if some trinkets are buried, a Crown might provide the rule “No digging.”

The Forebears then begin hunting for the trinkets while the Crowns supervise them. Each Crown can enforce his own rule (and no other). If a Crown catches a Forebear breaking a rule, that Forebear is out and the Crown takes all that Forebear’s trinkets.

A Crown can be out if they try to enforce another Crown’s rule or make a false accusation. The winner is the child with the most trinkets when all (or almost all) of the trinkets have been found.

Empty Throne

Another game I saw children playing several times in the streets of Hegathe was called several things, but most often Empty Throne.

One child is the King. The other children for a semi-circle around him. All players must take ten steps away from the King. Then the King turns away and closes his eyes and counts to three (rapidly). From the first sound of “one” to the end of “three” the other players can move closer to the King. At the count of three, the King spins around and opens his eyes. If any of the other players move, the King can point at them and they are “out.” If the King touches any of the players, they are “out.” If any of the players touches the King while he is counting, that player wins. Once the King opens his eyes, he cannot move his feet, so he can’t see players directly behind him. Although such players are not allowed to move closer, they are apparently allowed to make funny faces and gestures at the King.

Streamers

This is a game of dexterity where children pass weighted streamers to each other. These can be specially made for this game, but most often they are an old sock, stocking, or sack with a rock in it or a braid tied to a couple fishing weights.

Players gather in a large circle and pass the streamers to each other and can only catch it by the tail, not by the weighted part. Players are out when they miss or catch the weighted end. Each time a player is out, the circle gets smaller and the throws get faster. When there are only a few children left, it resembles circus juggling.

Morwha’s Grasp

This is a game that could only be played in Hammerfell as it requires the use of one of the many statues of Morwha. For those who have never seen one, Morwha is a large woman with four outstretched arms. Kids place the statue on a moving surface, such as a potter’s wheel or on a greased plate or rock so that the statue can spin easily.

One kids spins the statue, then runs away. The rest of the kids try to toss various rocks, rings, and so on and try to get Morwha to “catch” them. The first player to get an object in one of the Morwha’s hands or hanging from her arms is the winner. Getting something wrapped around her head does not count.

Apparently the priests of Morwha do not mind this game and even encourage it.

50 Holes

This is similar to 40 Holes as played in Cyrodiil. Incidentally, it was called that because the lines were originally holes. You could only play the top token because the rest were literally underneath it. I’ve seen boards for it that still use holes.

Anyway, instead of 24 lines and black and white tokens, there are 25 lines and four colors, two per player. Instead of rolling two dice to determine how many moves you can make, each player has a hand of cards.

For those who may be unfamiliar with the game, it is played with tokens (in Hammerfell, red and black for one player, blue and white for the other) on a board with 25 lines. Each player has five cards: 1, 2, 5, 7, 8. Players can play their cards to move a single token that many spaces. There is no limit to how many cards can be played in a turn, but only one or two tokens can be moved in a single turn. You can move one token 7 spaces and one token 3 (1+2) spaces. You can move a single token 23 spaces if you use all your cards and nothing blocks you.

Once all players’ hands are empty, all players re-draw their cards. So if you use all your cards in a single turn, you might have to skip four turns while your opponent plays one card at a time.

The objective is to get all your tokens off the board. One player is moving right and one player is moving left (or both players move right relative to their facing). Each line can have four tokens, but they must all be the same color or all be different colors. So if you want to move your black token to a space occupied by one of your red tokens, you can do that. But if you then want to move another red or black token to that line, you cannot. But you opponent could move a white or blue token to that space. As in Cyrodiil, only the ‘top’ token on each line can move.

To move a token off the board, you must have exactly the right number of moves. So if you have a piece on the fourth line from the right, you can move it off the board with your 5 card. If it’s on the third line from the right, you’d have to move it twice as there’s no combination of cards that adds up to 4. The ideal game is one where a player manipulates things such that his last 5 pieces are 1, 2, 5, 7, and 8 spaces from the end of the board. Clever players find ways to block other player’s moves, such as trapping them beneath his own tokens or making several closely-spaced doubles of the same color that requires high cards or multiple cards to move over.

I enjoyed this game, but I had poor luck at it. I lost quite a bit of my savings for the trip.

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