Neither a Conqueror Be

November 12, 2010

Posted by Kanga.

At work this week we had an all staff meeting that was actually very enjoyable and enlightening. Here’s how it went. Everyone sat at small tables, four people per table. Each group was given a pack of cards, a sheet of instructions, a blank sheet for score keeping and a pencil. The instructions described a simplified form of Hearts or Spades. We were to pair up across the table and were given a few minutes to practice and make sure we understood the rules of the game. We were not allowed to speak or write to each other during the game. We could make gestures, but no other form of communication. The instruction sheets were then collected from us (big hint here). Then, we played for real until the horn was sounded. The partners who had the winning score then got up and moved to the next table. We played again. As you might have guessed from the big hint earlier, the instructions varied from table to table. We played a total of three sets each time with the winners moving on to another table.

My partner and I didn’t win the first round (actually we tied, so we had to do a quick tie breaker) so we stayed at our table and welcomed new players. We launched right into the game and our newcomers were confused by who was winning each round. My partner and I enforced our set of rules and simply communicated by pointing to the winning card, whether is was a high card or trump. Our new players picked it up quickly, but we still beat them (home court advantage). This, however, meant that we had to move on the next table, where we met our original competitors. I was deeply into the symbolism of this, so I considered the new table to be a new country and my old competitors to be “expats” who had learned the rules of this new country and I expected them to teach it to me. Not so! We reverted to the original set of rules, never mind that we were at a different table.

After the final set, we discussed the experience. There were quite a few tables where the newcomers had acted like conquerors and insisted on their rules. There were some “host” players who were very confused and just surrendered to the newcomers. Others negotiated the rules and came up with a new way altogether.

I thought it was interesting that our reunion with our original competitors involved no assimilation to the new culture at all. We were like expats hanging out with other expats on a compound or base sticking with our home country rules.

I am pleased that I didn’t turn out to be a conqueror and that while in my home country I stuck to the rules and encouraged the newcomers to assimilate. I preserved my cultural heritage, so to speak.



  1. Wow, that sounds great. As I teach kids from all over the world I think about how much they bring and how they learn the new “rules”. Any way you can send me a copy (or close simulation)? Love to see where I could apply it.

  2. What a fabulously novel idea – would love to see that in a tweet up! It would be interesting to see how others in our regular twitter crowd would react.

  3. this is a fun sounding ‘game’. wonder how a ‘regular’ american history class would handle it?

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