Good games are the source of a lot of fun and laughter at camp. Pick any games you like, but keep in mind that this is about separating electronics, everyday life, and connecting with games that really matter. So “Batteries Not Included” is not only a favorite, it’s an express priority. Here’s a look at five games that have been a mainstay in a couple of camps I’ve been fortunate to be a part of for many years now.
If you’re not from Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, or anywhere near, you probably haven’t heard of Usher. It’s a hard game to explain and the best way to learn it is by playing practice rounds.
My Euchre education came at a young age. Usher is a second language in my family. Each gathering entails multiple tables of euchre and catching up. Where Usher really lay for me, he would gather around a table listening to what my father saw that day in the woods as we called him Trump and tricks were played. As I got a little older, I started adding my stories of today’s encounters and talking strategies for the next, complaining that farmers’ hands fit three times over, and they were fighting.
To learn how to play, do some research and watch some videos. When you sit down to play, pay attention. Cards and suits change as quickly as conversations change. Watch out for this uncle who has taken too many trips to the radiator and keeps falling back because he forgot about Trump. It’s fast-paced and explosive that will surely cause you to scream, finger point, and laugh. The best part is that all you need for this cheap entertainment is a deck of cards and four people.
Tripoli / Michigan Rome
Tripoley is a game that has evolved with multiple versions. The version I grew up playing with family and friends at gatherings and all fall is more specifically called Michigan Rummy. We’re still playing with the original board that my parents came back to in the late ’80s.
Like Usher, this is a great team game. It’s a fast-paced game, but if the conversations and jokes are flowing, it can be stopped and easily started on bathroom breaks, refilling snacks, and taking the cooler rounds.
All you need is a rummy board, a deck of cards, and a stack of pennies for your advance balance and offers. It is great for all ages. All you have to do is work by playing your hand in order from duets to aces. Once you reach the hearts, the game begins! You can collect any pennies in the drawers for flip cards hearts. So keep the deer talk flowing and be on the lookout for that queen king and 8-9-10 runs.
Rummikub is one of the first games I learned when I was young. Great for all ages and a perfect game if you’re after hunting camp friends you don’t see often. You can play as fast or as slow as you like with as many breaks as needed.
It is a matching and sequencing game, similar to the shape of dominoes, the idea is to group groups of numbers and groups of numbers together based on color. We’ve been playing this game for hours every fall while using my grandmother’s old farm as a weekend deer camp. He left the table covered with tiles for days at a time while everyone turned their face down so no one else could see what they had.
Watch out for the little peg legs on the boards, though. If you’re not careful, the leg can pop out, the board fall off, and everyone else is looking at what you have. And from my experience, my grandfather would never get rid of the tiles he’s holding which means nothing to him but prevents you from winning.
The game can be stopped and started at any time. So when you see taillights supporting the barn from the kitchen window, you can break them down and head to the barn for some great stories and get all hands on deck to help hang the deer after a successful hunt.
Often called the “elderly” person’s game, cribbage holds a special place in my heart. When I was a kid learning how to fish in the swamps of southern Michigan, I would stay with my grandparents every weekend to hunt in the swamp and woodland behind their small farm.
Many evenings we would play Rummikub or Cribbage. Once I understood the points system and how to connect the dots, correctly hold the correct cards and discard them, I really enjoyed the game. It’s fun strategizing all the ways to reach fifteen, beak counting, and patience to get the right cards to make the moves. It keeps your mind while you can still brainstorm what the deer are doing and where it would be the best preparation for the next day.
Poker suits hunting camp as well as vintage woven furniture from the 70s and mixed bowls. It just works. Whether you play Texas Hold ’em or the Five Card Draw, everyone knows how to play or play with passion. If they don’t, they will hunt very quickly.
You can play for money or for fun, in large or small groups. There is a game and form suitable for any camp conditions. I was at a turkey camp in the south where we played Hold ’em looking for the best places to hunt the next day – you could tell it was high stakes.
No matter what games you choose for your camp, keep the fun and laughter until you tear up, and enjoy the moments. They don’t come often enough and go too fast. When all is said and done, these light game memories with family and friends at hunting camp can be some of the best you’ll ever make.
Main image courtesy of Captured Creative.