Monday, June 2, 2008

Goat bones come from sheep

Playing the traditional Mongolian game of goat ankle bones last night, I came across a situation I hadn't encountered before: you roll two horses, so you pick each one up one at a time with your left hand. Should everyone ante up with two bones or just one?
If you are not familiar with this game, you ought to go to Mongolia and get yourself a set. The bones, I found out today, are called 'Shagai' and are the cuboid bones from the ankles of sheep (at least according to Wikipedia). My friends David, Marc, and Curtis went to Mongolia two years ago and claimed they were goat bones. It's possible they are interchangeable. That would streamline the goat-manufacturing process.

Wikipedia didn't have the game rules that I was taught, although there were some great ideas for other games you might play with these osteological wonders. The Silver Horde's rules were closer, but omitted the distinctive role that horses play in the game.

I'm beginning to wonder how much wool my three жуулчин friends had pulled over their eyes.

7 comments:

Jenette said...

I feel a little cheated! We haven't been playing by the right rules all of this time? We should try the other rules sometime though...

Word Diva said...

My friend from Mongolia says that they should all ante up.

Kendra said...

Ummm...interchangeable ankle bones? I'm thinking the whole game is made up! I bet your friends came across a skeleton of some animal they thought was a goat and decided to take the ankles as souvenirs. Then they thought it would be funny if they could get their friend Thad to play with them, so they spent the rest of their trip coming up with a game that he would teach all of his other friends. (They are probably laughing hysterically at all of this!) :)

dave said...

Wait, hey now! We taught you as we were taught by the Mongolian orphans! You want to tell people that you are playing by some sterile rules made up by someone boring enough to write them down, or do you want play it how they play it on the streets?!? Take your pick.

Also, to answer your question, my guess is that everyone would ante up 2, because you always ante up the number that was taken up on the last roll. (which, since you rolled 2 horses, would be 2). But I'm definitely open to other interpretations, as long as they're from orphans on the street.

(Also, sheep, goats: eh. The nomads didn't make much of a distinction between sheep and goats. They kept them all in the same herd, and called them khonyamaa, "sheepgoats.")

Bus Gillespie said...

the great modern dilemna: Do you trust wikipedia more than the local experts???

Hosander said...

how do you get this cool comment box?

Kendra said...

Yeah..I would like to know that too. How do you get the comment feed on your blog???