Bubkis: Games as Storytelling Devices

Break Out the Dice!

At some point during major family gatherings on my wife’s side someone will eventually pull out the dice. I’ve seen this often enough but still, it seems to happen almost magically. The apperation usually occurs after dinner but before dessert and now that I think of it the haziness of the origins might be traced to the wine. It doesn’t really matter who brings the dice or sets up the scoresheet, the game begins almost through an unspoken consensus and the roles of each family member are well worn as the dice being thrown.

Just for the record here are the rules of Bubkis as played by my family:

Setup

  1. 6 – 6 sided dice are used
  2. No limits on # of players (or teams – sometimes with we let the small kids partner with the older players…)
  3. To begin, each player roles 1 die. Highest role begins.

Scoring

1st role – Role all 6 dice

  • 1=100 and 5=50
  • 3 of a kind = number x 100 (3-3s=300, 3-5s = 500, etc)
  • 3-1s=1000
  • 3 doubles in one role = 750
  • A full straight 1,2,3,4,5,6 = 1500

Gameplay

  1. A player must get 500 points in order to start collecting points. Once on the board, the player needs a minimum of 350 points in the turn to collect the points for that turn.
  2. The turn begins when the player rolls all 6 dice. The player must earn points for the turn to continue. For example, if the player rolls 1, 2, 2, 3, 6, 6 they have earned 100 points (for the 1). The player can keep as many dice as they want and roll the rest. In the previous example the player would keep the 1 and roll the other 5 dice. The keeps rolling until the player has a minimum of 350 and decides to stop OR the player rolls “Bubkis” – when the player rolls and gets no points.

EX.

Roll 1 – Player rolls 1, 1, 2, 2, 5, 6. Player keeps a single “1” and has 100 in the bank

Roll 2 – Player rolls 5 dice – rolls 2,2,2,4,5 – Player keeps the 3 “2”s for 200 points and has 300 in the bank. The player could keep the 5 as well and have 350, but gets greedy and picks up the 4 and 5 for Roll 3.

Roll 3 – Player has to roll the 2 remaining dice because they do not have the minimum score and rolls a 4, 6. This is Bubkis and the player loses all the points in the bank.

3. When the player’s turn is over it moves to the next players turn.

Win Conditions

  • First player to earn 10,000 points wins.
  • When a player reaches 10,000 points each player gets a final turn to beat the score.

The stories are more important

The thing about the game is that, while it is fun, it has become more important as a means of storytelling. I don’t want to tell stories that are not mine to tell, but I will say that I know at least 5 stories that will be told during any given game. One piece of this is the origin story as passed down through the score sheet. The family member that brought the game to the family has since passed away but one tradition she started was having each player create a “game name”. At least one person playing the game will take that family member’s game name (not her given name) and the family will smile. The last time we played I let my 5 year old name me… I was Len… I don’t know where it came from… but next time we play I will be Len and remind Ben that it was his name for me.

Myths and stories are important for telling a group who they are. I am a Historian by training and have thought a lot about the role of Public History in teaching generations the stories of their people. This can have positive and negative consequences; the “Lost Cause” mythology and white supremacy was fostered and supported by Confederate Monuments for example, but the Civil Rights movement was fostered by King’s use of public platforms. The stories that are passed on during our games of Bubkis are performing the same role for the family as monuments and museums play for a cultural group. They are passing on the stories of the family and teaching lessons to each successive generation. It is also a time for bonding and discussion.

We talk a lot about collaboration and team building in our classrooms but I wonder how often we, as teachers, think about the role of storytelling and mythology play in creating a common bond among the students. This semester I created permanent guilds and saw some of these natural connections being made. After playing Bubkis and realizing the power game play can have on creating a cohesive unit I am going to build in more mini games into the creation of the guilds next semester. I think this is a role that competition can play in the classroom. I a safe space a small amount of trash talk, shared victories and defeats, common goal setting, and laughter can create a bond that can go beyond the next test or even the end of the year.

 

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