Playing Dominoes on camp is a tradition

The setting
Here at camp at Bergriver, we fill our nights with games such as dominoes – better known as “Dumminoes or Dummies” on the Cape Flats where this game is well loved. There is something mysterious about the game of dominoes which reminds me of the shipwrecked boys of the novel, “Lord of the flies” by William Golding. While these rectangular blocks of pipped ivory lay in their box, their regal appearance appeals. However, when these dominoes are placed on the game board or table, all hell breaks loose, just like the innocent boys who transform into wild animals in Golding’s novel.  Chilled campers morph into game ragers. You see the pent up aggression in their taut bodies, their alert, darting eyes and the incessant war talk that emerge. Teams huddle and the air is filled with excitement. There is only one agenda: outsmart your opponents by whatever means, strike and clinch the champion title for the night.
On your marks... set...
The game begins. The dominoes are shuffled by deft hands and players select their tiles. Each player cups the set of dominoes chosen, hiding them from prying eyes. Those of us who are not playing, become spectators and commentators. We position ourselves behind our hero or heroine – the one we see as the winning striker. There are five games in each set. As the games unfold, you hear a range of sounds. A brilliant move is met with ecstatic shouts while a bad decision is drowned by expletives or deep grunts and icy frowns. We egg on the players, enjoying the competitive spirit. Even chips and sweets are declined by our warriors who are hypnotized by the snaking dominoes on the board. Only drinks and dangling cigarettes seem to pacify them. The final game of the set is tight – each team has four points. It is “sudden death” time.
The players use various tricks to get their opponents to drop their guard. Much aloud thinking, furtive glances, teasing comments and deliberate slowing down of the game are par for the course. No one is prepared to yield until – without warning – a deadlock is staring them in the face. The victorious player reclines in her seat and eggs them on: “Play if you can, put down your domino” much to her partner’s delight. The other team is furious and lets rip with stinging words to mask their frustration. The winning team is in no hurry to ease their pain. She half-stands, takes the critical domino and slams it on the end of the snaking line, shouting: Milo!  The laughter erupts, the champions jump up and start a clumsy hugging dance while trying to toast to their win. Finally, after their victory dance, they announce their readiness for the next lot of losers.  We all celebrate the victory and dare the next team to dethrone the winners of the night at the next round of dominoes.
The finale
Such is the power of a simple game of dominoes. There are thrills and spills and a wonderful spirit of comraderie at the end of it all.


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