Tete-a-tete Archives

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Tete-a-tete: Jungle Speed board game can bring out the beast in you

Christmas may have been several weeks ago, but the wounds I sustained during the holiday have yet to heal.

This isn’t an allusion to the emotional issues some people encounter while celebrating Christmas with their families. This is a literal reference to the small chunks of flesh missing from the knuckles of my ring and pinky fingers.

There were no fisticuffs over the last of the roast lamb, no pushing and shoving to be the first to open a present. Just a friendly match of Jungle Speed, a game Oldest Younger Brother and his girlfriend purchased as a gift for the family.

The premise of the game is simple. Each player is dealt a stack of cards, and each takes a turn to flip over the top card of his or her stack.

If the patterns on any of the flipped-over cards match, the players with the matching cards must try to grab the plastic totem from the center of the playing area. Whoever grabs the totem first gives his or her discarded cards to the player who failed to grab the totem.

The first player to get rid of all of his or her cards wins. It’s kind of like a high-speed, full-contact game of Memory.

Matching the patterns on the cards isn’t as easy as it sounds. Some of them are nearly identical, with only subtle differences. For example, one card features a pair of octagons separated by a small circle. Another has a pair of octagons separated by a small square; another, two circles separated by a square.

Having a keen eye is perhaps more important than having speed, as players are penalized for grabbing the totem if they don’t have a match.

Since my pride was still smarting from what we shall call the Rude Monopoly Awakening (documented in a previous column), I was determined to give Jungle Speed my all. Unfortunately, the game’s emphasis on speed put me at a natural disadvantage.

I have mentioned before that I am not the swiftest-moving individual, and it’s a fact that really can’t be exaggerated. Mom once tested her new video camera by filming me as I emptied the dishwasher. Upon watching the footage, I thought there must have been a glitch and she had recorded me in slow motion. She hadn’t.

I was further hampered by the fact that I couldn’t use my dominant hand to grab the totem. My right shoulder had been pulled out of whack the day before, when a recalcitrant kitty decided to throw her weight around in her feline transport module (i.e., carrier) while I was carrying it out of the vet’s office.

I ended up using my left hand to turn over cards and grab the totem. And subsequently astonished everyone involved (myself included) by winning the first game.

Seeing the slowest member of the family clean up so completely lit a fire under the rest of the players, and the games became a bit more intense after that.

Younger Sister’s claws came out – literally – and Mom insisted Younger Sister trim her nails after Mom, Youngest Brother and I each lost little bits of our fingers (but not the totem) to her painful grasp.

Our efforts to match patterns soon devolved into a series of wrestling matches, pitting parent against child, boyfriend against girlfriend and sibling against sibling.

Youngest Brother nearly took a header into a side table as he vied for the totem against Younger Sister, but shifted his odds by shifting his weight and sending Younger Sister flying toward the couch.

I opted for a more calculated approach, bracing my foot against Oldest Younger Brother’s shoulder and pushing until he released his grip on the totem.

Apart from a few nicks and scratches, however, Jungle Speed has had no serious casualties. We even managed to restrain ourselves enough to pause the game when the cat wandered into the circle of play and insisted she be petted by every outstretched hand.

After late nights of making cards and wrapping gifts followed by early mornings of church activities, Jungle Speed was an excellent source of seasonal stress release. Although Dad didn’t play, he certainly got a kick out of the rest of us rolling around on the floor like idiots.

Nothing brings the family closer together – both emotionally and physically – than a fun board game. Based on the way my wounds are healing, I will likely have the scars to prove it.

– Teresa Santoski


Originally published Jan. 9, 2013.

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