“German tile game” should be enough, but let us lay out the colors. Red and pink are a little too close for comfort but the rest pretty much glow on these night mode clackers. The type coasts along in a sans serif elegance with dots to distinguish the nines from their Geminian enemy the sixes. Columns are the primary method of arrangement, in numerical order, with as few gaps as possible.
This all depends on the draw of course. Hand in bag gives you all there is to work with. The game is called No Return because the one thing you must always remember is that there is no returning any pieces to the bag. You can discard, but your rejected pieces fly into a pit, never to be seen again. This tarnishes every players sense of what remains, which is key for the second phase.
Person by person a choice is made: “I believe that my scoring potential has been maximized, and now, it’s time to try and capitalize on the potential I have assembled.” Here again, there is no return—bets have been made on the columns arranged so assiduously before us, but we must pay to reap this bounty, and the remaining tiles in the bag are our currency.
Maybe we didn’t flutter our fingers sensuously enough when drawing earlier, so we have no real sense of how many little chunks remain. Does our table allow a side-peek house rule? The stacks of our opponents are open information as well. The interpersonal contact in No Return is indirect. The best kind of human-to-human exchange of information.
What we’re asking is, did your hungry eyes write checks that the dregs in the bag can’t cash? Unclaimed columns after the well goes dry count against your final score, which we presume was sussed out by this point. Ideally we didn’t choke out early with too little to make a challenge, but that’s what one learns to finagle from game to game.
We love a softly social game like No Return. A contemplative stoicism abounds from turn to turn. Gander at our colleague’s setup, intentionally toss a few of their preferred colors to skew the graph. Unless a few bits went for a walk the numbers are standard from shade to shade. Beyond that it’s a quiet simmer, with space to sprinkle that friendly sodium about the runner.
But who knows, might only be in German.
// Levi Rubeck is a critic and poet currently living in the Boston area. Check his links at levirubeck.com.