Thursday, February 22, 2018

Amazon Adventures

I lost the Five Crowns championship to Tim last night, and I’m not happy about it.

The only thing different about being in my Third Third is that I’m still a sore loser, but I’m a self-aware sore loser. I know that it was “just a game” and that it was more a matter of chance rather than skill. I know that I still love my husband and that I’ll probably play games with him again. I know that playing games is way more fun than doing dishes, shoveling the driveway, or sitting and moping…

But maybe it’s time to retire Five Crowns for a while and pull out the Rummikub [pronounced rummy-cube] again. I’d never heard of Rummikub, but I read an interview with someone famous, and she said her family played endless games of it. Then I received newsletters with stories about Rummikub and its Jewish origins. Suddenly, Rummikub was everywhere. Rummikub may have been the top-selling U.S. game in 1977 – there are international Rummikub championships! – but I’d never heard of it.

I had to check it out on Amazon.

The thing about Amazon is The Choice. It brings out the worst in my Conscientious Consumer self. I have to read every description for every variety, every review. If I am about to make consider a Purchase, it has to be the Right One. Do I want the Original Version, the Deluxe Version, or the Classic Version???

I am not alone. Rummikub’s Amazon Q&A are filled by people like me. There are more than 3,114 Rummikub customer reviews!

Reading the reviews on Amazon is only a bit like reading the online comments on newspaper articles. No, they’re not evil-spirited – people are trying to help you make the best purchase – but yes, they give you an insight into the reviewer’s personality.

So what would you say about this reviewer:
I’ve been playing Rummikub for 30 years with my grandmother’s (now mother’s) beloved set of what feel like (but isn’t) solid ivory tiles, with engraved numbers, heavy, easy to maneuver and pick up. [This one is] absolute junk. … I was looking for another heirloom set – I am so disappointed every time we play that it is almost ruining the game for me.
And despite what you may think about that reviewer, would you still want to buy that version of the game?

The big deal apparently has to do with the tiles. Are they substantial? Can you distinguish the colors? Do the numbers last? One Rummikub has red and orange numbered tiles and it’s hard to tell them apart. Another has blue and green numbered tiles and it’s hard to tell them apart. One version doesn’t have recessed numbers on the tiles so they rub off, and one makes it hard to tell 6s from 9s.

Oh, no! This is the harbinger of hours and hours of product reviews. If sets become “beloved” and “heirlooms” to pass down to the next generation, it has to have the right numbers!

Or does it? This reviewer won’t let anything ruin the game for her:
My elderly mother and her neighbors couldn’t distinguish the yellow tiles very well so they painted over the yellow with a green magic marker – probably a Sharpie. Lasted for years. If the colors start chipping on yours, just keep painting with Sharpie or magic marker.
When my siblings “ruined” a Scrabble game because someone noticed that one of the Ds was dark (D Dark), we just put all the pieces in a bag and had to draw them blind. That same paper bag has been in the box for 50 years. It’s an heirloom.

Ultimately, I checked out the Rummikub LARGE Numbers Edition. They corrected the orange problem, the flimsy racks problem, the wouldn’t-it-be-smart-to-have-a-tile-bag problem, but it’s the LARGE numbers on LARGE tiles that scored the hit:

“Nice large tiles – you don’t have to search for reading glasses when you play.”

“It’s easy to learn and convenient to handle (unlike cards which many seniors cannot shuffle or deal out).” Who knew?

Baby Boomer market influence! I bought it, I love it! I’ll challenge Tim to a game tonight.


  1. Once again I totally relate. I am a poor looser, but I've learned to express this in a more positive way. I am a really good winner. RE: Rummikub - we no longer play because my husband is color blind and has some other vision problems. I love the game, so may have to invest in the 3rd 3rds edition. Good luck on your game.

    1. I'm curious what makes someone a "good winner"? If the new edition doesn't work for your husband, there's always the Sharpie cure...


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