This video has nothing whatever to do with the Futurians or their games, but it’s a great ghostly animation from 1933. (Sorry, it was the best we could do. —the blog team)
As mentioned earlier, when the Futurians held a party they were limited in program. There was music sometimes, borrowed from somebody’s record collection, but no dancing, because few of us males knew how. There was much drinking (but only of non-alcoholic beverages; the hard stuff came later) and quite a lot of eating, the materials for which were provided by the surplus from Roz Cohen’s mother’s business.
But what we mostly did was play games. And, although we did sometimes play board games like “Monopoly,” then just becoming a smash hit, we had other preferences. Since a majority of us were ambitious to spend our lives working with words — as writers, editors, crossword-puzzle creators, whatever — our favorite games were word games, mostly offshoots of that good old game of “Ghost.”
You know what that is, although you might have played it under a different name. Players form a circle. First player says a letter. Next player also says a letter, and you keep on doing that until the letters have formed a word. At that point the player the word ended on is out of the game and the one after him starts a letter of a new word.
There are very few rules, in fact really only one. After you have said a letter any other player can challenge you to name a word that begins with the string of letters so far in play. If you can’t produce such a word, you’re out of the game. If you can, he is.
It is tempting to form an additional rule defining what is an acceptable word, but I think it’s more fun to battle it out when a challenge has occurred.
That’s the classical “Ghost.”
Of course we quickly tired of playing what everyone else was playing, and began inventing improvements. The first of these was “Le Spectre,” which is the same as “Ghost,” except that it is played in French, This made the game particularly challenging, since at the time none of us spoke French.
The success of that game inspired us to try translating the game into German, Italian, Swedish and other tongues. Those however were not successful, due largely to the fact that we couldn’t even get started, as none of us knew what the word for ghosts was in any other language.
Clearly we had to try a different tack.
Our next success, then, was “Stsohg,” which is to say “Ghosts” played backward. “Stsohg” turned out to be complex enough to challenge us all. However, the Futurian motto was “Onward and Onward (Until You Fall Off the Edge),” so we persevered. I think it was Don Wollheim who came up with the ultimate word game. We called it “Djugashvili.”
It has been my custom to explain the rules of the games, but with Djugashvili that’s not possible. Some observers have concluded that this because the game itself lacked playing rules. But this is untrue.
Each player has a complete set of rules and playing instructions that cover almost every problem that can be encountered in play. However, the feature that sets Djugashvili apart from all others is that each player is required to generate his own set of rules, and forbidden to reveal them to anyone else.