Friday, March 19, 2010

LOST: backgammon, anyone...?


When Locke introduces Walt to the game of backgammon early on in the series, he describes it as being about two sides, one light, one dark. He also shares with Walt that backgammon is the most ancient of human games, citing discoveries of the game in some ancient tombs or ruins. The framing of his backgammon lesson is pretty iconic, with Locke looking directly at the camera (as Walt) while delivering this info.

Are there any visitors/readers out there who really PLAY the game? I'm convinced that someone familiar with both the game play and the series thus far could draw a lot more comparisons and maybe even suss out some predictions and fun insights. I don't think the game and its rules are The Answer To The Show, some kind of single overarching driver of everything unfolding in the show, but I do think that it works as a kind of model or framework for how things look from Jacob and Esau's vantage points.

Just look at this, an excerpt from the top of the Wikipedia article...?
Although luck plays an important role, there is a large scope for strategy. With each roll of the dice players must choose from numerous options for moving their checkers and anticipate possible counter-moves by the opponent. Players may raise the stakes during the game. There is an established repertoire of common tactics and occurrences.
As GOB would say... COME ON!

We've seen the black and white game pieces, or stones, throughout the series. Locke holds one of each up when describing the game to Walt. Jack discovers one of each in the D&D dice pouch he finds on the bodies of Adam and Eve in the caves. Walt gets very good at it very quickly, whuppin Hurley in a match on the beach. Hurley, who once took 17th place in a tournament! A little thin and punny, but there IS the ship as well—the Black Rock. Is there a counterpart to that? A White Rock somewhere? Longshot—the Pearl station? Most recently, Esau picks up the white rock from the scale in the cave and chucks it into the sea. "Inside joke," he says.

I haven't played backgammon since I was a kid, and I had to look up backgammon rules online. Each player wants to move all its pieces from the far side of the board—the other's home board—around the board—thru the other's outer board, the player's outer board, and then the player's home—and then off the board completely (called bearing a piece off) to win. Each player rolls two dice to determine how many spaces to move his pieces. The outcomes of each die can be applied together to one piece or to two different pieces. A piece can only be moved to a space that has at most only one of the other's pieces. Landing on a space with the other's piece sends that piece off the board to start again far from home. Only when all fifteen of a player's pieces are in the home board can bearing off begin. Each space is designated by a number, and die rolls determine the space from which a piece can be moved.

The stakes of each game, in points, is determined by a doubling cube. A die with powers of 2 on its faces—2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64. Depending on the agreed-upon variations in rules, a player can offer to double the stakes at certain points in the game.

If the dark and light elements, the ancient origin of the game, the pun of the "BEARing off" of pieces, the process and goal of moving one's pieces from one home to another mirror-image of the first, and then off the board completely, the game stakes encoded in a (alas, geometric) series of numbers, isn't enough LOSTastic fun for you, how about a gen-u-ine JACOBy Rule?

I doubt that my description is sufficient enough to get a game of your own going, so check out a decent summary of the game and rules here for more.

Keep on keepin on~

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