Grumpy Br(u)no: Don’t Tell Me to Not Get Angry!

Člověče, nezlob se! looks so very innocent at the beginning, but it always leads to pain and suffering. Photo credit: Bruno Zalubil.

Board games are a good way to teach your children to follow the rules, use a bit of strategy and practice counting. They love to roll the dice. They love to move the pieces around the board.  

And the little shits love to dance around to rub it in when they win.  

Člověčenezlob se! is a game that I am sure you have played. It translates directly to something like “Person, don’t be mad” or “Don’t get angry, guy”. Neither captures the true essence. It should be something like, “No worries, man” or “Dude, don’t sweat it” or “Hey, don’t bug out” or “Chill Out, Bro”.  In America, the game is known as “Sorry!” 

It is a nice metaphor for the coronavirus pandemic. You start with four game pieces in Quarantine No. 1. The object is to avoid the other players’ game pieces — their respiratory droplets? — as you circumnavigate the board to get to the safety of Quarantine No. 2. You roll a die each turn and move the appropriate number of spaces. It’s best to maintain a social distance because when another player lands on you, your game piece is sent back to Quarantine No. 1, where you need to roll a six in order to get back into the game.  

The elimination of a game piece is a violent act, especially if you have invested many turns in moving it around the board. Hence, the name: Sorry!  

It is my wife’s favorite game. I’m not exactly sure what that means.  

(As with anything, the game has a long history and an interesting background. According to Wikipedia, it is based on a medieval Indian game named Pachisi. Some versions include cards instead of dice, which adds more strategy. And “Sorry! Not Sorry!” is an adult-themed version. Who knew?)  

* * *  

In my family, we’ve played Člověče, nezlob se! many times. Initial games were difficult because both of my kids are younger than the 6 & up suggested age. It was the early days of counting for the boy and the girl had trouble with the elimination of her game pieces, which often ended in tears and wails of disbelief. Pretty quickly, though, the kids caught on. They now want to play every day.  

They especially enjoy eliminating a parent’s game piece. I’m not exactly sure what that means.  

At first we never got close to finishing a game. Now, there is a winner — usually the girl — more often.  

Last week, while we were all cooped up inside and mom was on a conference call for work, the kids set up the board. The girl is always purple. The boy is blue. And, since my favorite color is green, I am always green.  

In the past we made sure to limit the chaos by rolling the dice into an overturned box lid. This time it was clearly important for the boy to use the entire room for his rolls. Somehow it worked and nothing was damaged.  

Counting is still somewhat new to both of my children. With my wife, they count in Czech. With me they use English. They are getting better every game. My daughter has started to count in her head and we are now introducing simple mathematics into the mix.  

Somehow, despite the fact that Člověčenezlob se! is a board game, the kids are in constant motion, which is their default state the entire day. They roll around on the ground between turns, kick things and people, comb a doll’s hair, sing, recite poems and, of course, celebrate eliminating dad’s game pieces with ecstatic dances.  

Near the end of a recent game, the girl paused to put all of the unused game pieces into a nice pattern on the floor. The boy destroyed it before she was done rolling the die and moving her game piece. So it goes.  

A few turns later, the girl got her fourth piece into the Quarantine No. 2. Both kids celebrated with a victory dance.  

In all honesty, I have never won against my children. They constantly get the perfect roll at the perfect time. I rarely even get the opportunity to be magnanimous with a white-lie cheat. They legitimately beat me. 

So, we’ll continue playing Člověčenezlob se! and we’ll practice taking turns, using strategy and counting, but: Don’t tell me to not be angry, you stupid game!  

Please share your ideas for living in quarantine. Especially if you have active toddlers. Please!  

Be safe. Be well. 

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