Like many German families, we enjoy playing card games. It’s such a great way to let off steam – beating your partner at Canasta makes up for him forgetting to bring out the bins; my son, unfortunately, seems to enjoy beating me at games far more than I consider to be healthy. I suppose it’s got something to do with him having to go to music school every Saturday morning …
One of our favourite games is Dutch Blitz, which comes with the tag-line ‘a vonderful goot game’. Funnily enough it’s not Dutch but German-American: originating in Pennsylvania, it is apparently popular with Amish and other German-speaking communities. ‘Blitz’ has therefore less to do with the ‘Blitzkrieg’ that affected southern England during World War II but refers to the lightning-speed (‘Blitz’ means lightning) at which the players have to operate.
The game is the opposite of the cooperative Scotland Yard I introduced last week: its every man for himself. Or woman. Each get a deck of cards, 10 of each colour (red, yellow, blue and green), depicting the numbers 1-10. They are mixed and distributed on different piles: a Blitz pile of 10 cards, which has to be emptied to win the game; 5 Post piles, where cards can be stored to free up the Blitz pile, and a Wood pile, where the remaining cards are kept, usually held in a player’s hand.
The first one to have a ‘1’ starts by placing it in the middle of the table – now it’s become a Dutch pile – and everybody with a ‘2’ of the same colour can add to it, then a 3 and so on. Or any other ‘1’. You can theoretically have up to 16 Dutch piles on the table, which explains why this game is so fast-paced: everybody wants to get rid or their cards at the same time! Ideally you want to empty your Blitz pile, which you can do by adding the top card to a Dutch pile; if you can use one of your Post piles to add to a Dutch pile, you can fill the empty space with the next card of your Blitz pile.
The game is a nice mix of luck and tactics: once you get it, you know when to play out a card or not. You can free up your Blitz pile by adding to your Wood piles, thus preventing the other players from playing as you are not feeding the Dutch piles in the middle, where they are waiting for more suitable openings.
It’s easy to pick up and kids as young as 7 or 8 can join in (you just need to nudge them from time to time so they play out their cards …) Once they have mastered it, it can be incredibly fast – we’ve had matches that lasted no more than 3 or 4 minutes!
I was given this deck by an old university friend of mine, a Dutch girl who had first encountered it in Canada. I have since come across its German version, Ligretto, but because none of my friends had ever heard of either game we had to train up friends and neighbours who now have their own decks. And beat us regularly.
Have you come across Dutch Blitz before? Or do you not play any card games at all? I tried my hand at Bridge for a while but had to give up due to unsurmountable memory-loss issues, often referred to as stupidity…