Mulligans, I Miss Them

Mulligans, I Miss Them

Did you have a 'lift the finger' rule at your table, i.e. once your finger is off your game piece, your move is made, live with it?

My table did not have that rule. If we realized that something was misinterpreted, or you just made a simple oversight and discovered it half way through the next player’s turn, we would probably let you fix it.

I’m using past-tense because the pandemic is still on and I haven't sat next to one of my friends at a table in over a year.

We still play plenty of games, either through phone apps or on In a lot of ways it's easier for us all to play together with online formats, having only to get to the computer and not to someone's house across town. We never played games online this way before the pandemic, but even after it’s over, I think we probably still will for a quick game on a random evening.

Mostly though, I can’t wait to get back to a real table. If you've played games for a while you may have heard the term 'magic circle.' It's the distinction between the rules of the outside world and the rules of the game you are about to play. In the game, you and everyone playing with you get to tune out the noise of reality and assume that these weird rules about moving plastic and wooden pieces are all that really matters. Of course, it is all pretend, and if your friend makes a mistake that's going to send them down some twisted, losing path for the rest of the game, maybe you step away from the rules for a moment and say "hey, do you want to do that over?"

I miss that generosity. doesn't have that button. Some of the games on there do have undo functions, but there’s no way for everyone else at the table to contribute to that choice. There’s no moment when you get to sit with the pride of being generous, or, more importantly, the gratitude of receiving generosity, which is always the more difficult task. Board games give us a small, low stakes moment to try on that feeling. Maybe it helps us outside the magic circle, maybe not, but I miss it. Sometime soon I'm going to be at the table again (knock on wood), surrounded by friends, and I'm going to forget to take my coins during the income phase. They'll remind me. When they later forget to take a bonus action, I'll remind them. I'd like to think we'll be better people after that. At the least, it's nice to pretend.