MDA & 8 Kinds of Fun: Canadian Fish or Literature

Aesthetics: Challenge, Fellowship

Dynamics: team play, memory/card-counting

Mechanics: turn-based questioning, set-based point collection, set declaration

Canadian Fish is a memory-based card game that can be played with anywhere from 4 to 12 players, but is usually played with either 6 or 8 players on two equal opposing teams. A deck of playing cards is dealt evenly among the players, who can each look at their cards but not others. The goal of the game is for the teams to collect half-suits, which are arranged into lower half-suits (2 through 7 of a suit is a lower half-suit), upper half-suits (9 through ace of a suit is an upper half-suit), and the special suit (which consists of all four 8s, the colored joker and the black joker; otherwise, it is not special in any way). To gain the point, all cards of that half-suit must belong to members of one team, AND one member of the team must make a completely CORRECT formal declaration, in which they state which of their team members has what cards of the half-suit. Incorrect declarations give the point to the other team. Turns proceed in a similar manner to Go Fish: a player begins by asking a player of their choosing from the opposing team for a specific card. They can only ask others players for cards from half-suits they already have a card from. If the player has that card, they must give it up, and the questioner gets to question another player or the same player another time. If the questioned player does not have that card, then the questioner’s turn is over and the questioned player gets to begin their turn. Play proceeds until all sets have been declared, and the team with more points wins. Communication regarding who has what card, even among team members, is prohibited.

What makes this game really fun in my opinion is that no one, not even members of the same team, knows for certain what cards other players have. Each person must keep track of events in their own head and count the cards of all the other players, so that when their turn comes, they can ask for all the cards they can. The prohibition of superfluous communication and the strict declaration mechanic makes for extremely tense moments, whether a team member is declaring incorrectly and losing the point or whether their turn has come and they have an extremely important role to play in getting all the cards back from the other team, and they have forgotten what cards they need to ask for. Since correct asks let you ask again and incorrect asks let the questionee become the questioner, then there are often heated back-and-forths between two players exchanging the same set of cards over and over until one of them cleans the other player out. There can also be times when teams will collectively exile an important player from the other team, refusing to ask them for a card lest they be given the chance to ask an important question. These dynamics generate the desired game aesthetics of challenge, through the card-counting and memory, and fellowship, through the trust and the unspoken teamwork of working together with your teammates.

Overall, this game allows for a lot of really interesting strategies and fun gameplay, and can lead to hours of challenging memory stretching fun!

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