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9 Bizarre But Entertaining Card Games

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When my cousins and I were younger, we would play this card game called "Spit" for hours and hours on end (when we weren't playing Paperboy on the Nintendo or watching Rock 'n' Roll High School Forever with "“ eee!! Corey Feldman!!). Spit is also known as Speed. I won't go into the details, but if you really want to learn how to play you can visit Wikipedia.

I'm not sure if our parents ever got sick of us playing Spit (it could get almost violent), but if they did, they should have been glad that we weren't biding our time with Guillotine instead. I actually think Guillotine sounds fun, but I can see where maybe you don't want your nine-year-old playing it. If it's up your alley, though, here are nine offbeat and interesting card games you might want to try out at your next party.

1. Guillotine

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As you might suspect, Guillotine is set during the French Revolution and was released to commemorate Bastille Day in 1998.

The best part of this game? You get a little cardboard guillotine. There are three rounds to this game which represent three days. Every day, 12 nobles are lined up to be executed. Then each player goes around and plays an action card (if they want to), takes ("kills") the noble from the front of the line and then draws another action card. An action card, for instance, might tell you to move a noble up two places in line. Since nobles are worth different points, this means the player could be taking a noble with a higher point value (Marie Antoinette is worth five points; the 'Piss Boy' is worth one) from the front of the line. Since the goal is to get the most points, this is a good thing.

2. Grave Robbers From Outer Space

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I think I need this game (Paul, take notice). GROS pokes fun at sci-fi and horror movie clichés. You have to make a movie, including a location, characters and props. Each of these card has a defense strength (DS) on it. You need to make a movie that has the highest defense.

You can attack other players' movies as long as you have a creature card. If the number on your creature card is greater than or equal to the sum of all of the cards on the movie you're attacking, then the player attacking gets to "kill off" another player's character by making him/her discard the character.

This game has a sense of humor, which is why I like it. For instance, if you have the "Nymphomaniac Cheerleader" character, any male character that's in your movie gets a bonus point. The game ends when the cards run out or someone draws a "Roll the Credits" card.

The makers of the game have expanded to similar games in different genres, including Cannibal Pygmies in the Jungles of Doom (action/adventure movies), Bell Bottomed Badasses on the Mean Streets of Funk ('70s and Blaxploitation), Berserker Halflings from the Dungeons of Dragons (fantasy) and Kung Fu Samurai on Giant Robot Island (Asian films).

3. 1000 Blank White Cards

This is a game that could be dangerous, depending on how evil your friends are. Basically the players create all of the rules themselves. You start with 80-150 cards "“ it's recommended that if you've never played before and all of the cards are blank, you create at least some of the cards before the game starts. Otherwise you can re-use cards from previous games so you have a mix of already-made cards and totally blank cards.

There are two rules that you have to follow:
1. Everyone draws up to five cards at the end of his/her turn.
2. Cards must target a specific player, unless it says otherwise on the card.

Other than that, the rules of the game are set as cards are drawn. It depends entirely on what your friends decide to write on the card. "Get drunk at football game and karate-chop your way home, lose 20 points." OK. "Fall down the stairs and break toe. Toe bone comes through the bottom of your foot. Cool! +500 points." OK. "The letter C is stupid. Everyone with a letter C in their first or last names loses all points they currently have." OK.

Blank cards can be made into playable cards at any time during the game. All you have to do is draw on them and throw 'em into the pile. A few of my favorites from boardgamegeek.com:

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So how do you win? When there are no cards left in the deck and no one has any cards that can be played in the current situation. The winner is the player with the highest score at the end of the game, although some people consider the winner the person who drew the most favored cards.

4. Killer Bunnies and the Quest for the Magic Carrot

supe.jpgKiller Bunnies seems simple: the point is to get as many carrot cards as possible because one of them will be revealed to be the "magic carrot" at the end of the game, and the person who has that card wins. You're also trying to kill off each other's bunnies while keeping as many of yours alive as possible. You can kill other bunnies off with everything from a kitchen whisk to a nuclear warhead.

OK, it's a lot more complicated than that, but that's the basic idea behind it. It involves a number system like Grave Robbers from Outer Space does and some of the cards you draw will tell you exactly what to do (like the No Supe For You card above).

5. Gother Than Thou

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Gother Than Thou is pretty simple. The deck consists of 55 cards. Within these cards are three types of points: Goth Points, Sickness/Infection and Money. You get 20 Goth Points, you win. Too much Sickness will make you discard everything and not enough Money means you can't draw from the discard pile.

Some of my favorite cards include Crying Yourself to Sleep, Disturbing German Accent, Absinthe Minded, Fun With Eyeliner, Boots!!, and Steady Clove Supply.

6. Chez Geek

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You and your fellow players are apartment roomies. When the game starts, everyone gets a Job card, which includes your amount of free time, your income, your special ability and your Slack Goal. The first person to achieve their Slack Goal wins. You get your Slack Goal by drawing cards "“ describing your tattoo in incredible detail to your roommate, for instance, earns you three Slack Points.

If Chez Geek isn't your thing, never fear: there's also Chez Greek, Chez Guevara, Chez Grunt and, yes, Chez Goth.

7. Unxploded Cow

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UC kills two birds with one stone. You've got unexploded landmines in France; you've got Mad Cows roaming around Britain. Solution? Explode the mines with the infected cows! Brilliant. It costs money to buy cows, but you earn lots of money for every mine you explode. The person with the most money at the end of the game wins.

8. Aquarius

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This one's for the hippie in all of us. It looks like Peter Max designed a set of dominoes.

Everyone gets three cards and one goal card that depicts an element: Earth, Air, Fire, Water or Ether. One card is placed face up on the table for others to play off of (like dominoes). The player with the longest hair goes first. You want seven cards with your goal element to be played. The trick is, you don't know everyone else's goal elements, so you'll need to do your best guessing to block their plays. In the picture below, Fire just won (seven cards to Ether's six).

9. Falling

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The premise of this game is that you're falling out of the sky and you'd rather not be (makes sense). The goal isn't to stay alive "“ that's not an option. No, you're definitely going to die. But you want to be the last one to hit the ground (the box says, "It's not much of a goal, but it's all you could think of on the way down.")

One player doesn't really play at all "“ their only job is to consistently pass cards out to everyone who is actively playing. You get cards like Skip, Stop, Hit and Push which delay your inevitable Splat. There are five Ground cards, and when you get one, that's it: game over, you're dead. Last person to hit the Ground is the winner (sort of).

Has anyone played any of these? Are they any fun? Any other bizarre card games I should know about?

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
May 21, 2017
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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva

Jacques Mattheij made a small, but awesome, mistake. He went on eBay one evening and bid on a bunch of bulk LEGO brick auctions, then went to sleep. Upon waking, he discovered that he was the high bidder on many, and was now the proud owner of two tons of LEGO bricks. (This is about 4400 pounds.) He wrote, "[L]esson 1: if you win almost all bids you are bidding too high."

Mattheij had noticed that bulk, unsorted bricks sell for something like €10/kilogram, whereas sets are roughly €40/kg and rare parts go for up to €100/kg. Much of the value of the bricks is in their sorting. If he could reduce the entropy of these bins of unsorted bricks, he could make a tidy profit. While many people do this work by hand, the problem is enormous—just the kind of challenge for a computer. Mattheij writes:

There are 38000+ shapes and there are 100+ possible shades of color (you can roughly tell how old someone is by asking them what lego colors they remember from their youth).

In the following months, Mattheij built a proof-of-concept sorting system using, of course, LEGO. He broke the problem down into a series of sub-problems (including "feeding LEGO reliably from a hopper is surprisingly hard," one of those facts of nature that will stymie even the best system design). After tinkering with the prototype at length, he expanded the system to a surprisingly complex system of conveyer belts (powered by a home treadmill), various pieces of cabinetry, and "copious quantities of crazy glue."

Here's a video showing the current system running at low speed:

The key part of the system was running the bricks past a camera paired with a computer running a neural net-based image classifier. That allows the computer (when sufficiently trained on brick images) to recognize bricks and thus categorize them by color, shape, or other parameters. Remember that as bricks pass by, they can be in any orientation, can be dirty, can even be stuck to other pieces. So having a flexible software system is key to recognizing—in a fraction of a second—what a given brick is, in order to sort it out. When a match is found, a jet of compressed air pops the piece off the conveyer belt and into a waiting bin.

After much experimentation, Mattheij rewrote the software (several times in fact) to accomplish a variety of basic tasks. At its core, the system takes images from a webcam and feeds them to a neural network to do the classification. Of course, the neural net needs to be "trained" by showing it lots of images, and telling it what those images represent. Mattheij's breakthrough was allowing the machine to effectively train itself, with guidance: Running pieces through allows the system to take its own photos, make a guess, and build on that guess. As long as Mattheij corrects the incorrect guesses, he ends up with a decent (and self-reinforcing) corpus of training data. As the machine continues running, it can rack up more training, allowing it to recognize a broad variety of pieces on the fly.

Here's another video, focusing on how the pieces move on conveyer belts (running at slow speed so puny humans can follow). You can also see the air jets in action:

In an email interview, Mattheij told Mental Floss that the system currently sorts LEGO bricks into more than 50 categories. It can also be run in a color-sorting mode to bin the parts across 12 color groups. (Thus at present you'd likely do a two-pass sort on the bricks: once for shape, then a separate pass for color.) He continues to refine the system, with a focus on making its recognition abilities faster. At some point down the line, he plans to make the software portion open source. You're on your own as far as building conveyer belts, bins, and so forth.

Check out Mattheij's writeup in two parts for more information. It starts with an overview of the story, followed up with a deep dive on the software. He's also tweeting about the project (among other things). And if you look around a bit, you'll find bulk LEGO brick auctions online—it's definitely a thing!

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8 Common Dog Behaviors, Decoded
May 25, 2017
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Dogs are a lot more complicated than we give them credit for. As a result, sometimes things get lost in translation. We’ve yet to invent a dog-to-English translator, but there are certain behaviors you can learn to read in order to better understand what your dog is trying to tell you. The more tuned-in you are to your dog’s emotions, the better you’ll be able to respond—whether that means giving her some space or welcoming a wet, slobbery kiss. 

1. What you’ll see: Your dog is standing with his legs and body relaxed and tail low. His ears are up, but not pointed forward. His mouth is slightly open, he’s panting lightly, and his tongue is loose. His eyes? Soft or maybe slightly squinty from getting his smile on.

What it means: “Hey there, friend!” Your pup is in a calm, relaxed state. He’s open to mingling, which means you can feel comfortable letting friends say hi.

2. What you’ll see: Your dog is standing with her body leaning forward. Her ears are erect and angled forward—or have at least perked up if they’re floppy—and her mouth is closed. Her tail might be sticking out horizontally or sticking straight up and wagging slightly.

What it means: “Hark! Who goes there?!” Something caught your pup’s attention and now she’s on high alert, trying to discern whether or not the person, animal, or situation is a threat. She’ll likely stay on guard until she feels safe or becomes distracted.

3. What you’ll see: Your dog is standing, leaning slightly forward. His body and legs are tense, and his hackles—those hairs along his back and neck—are raised. His tail is stiff and twitching, not swooping playfully. His mouth is open, teeth are exposed, and he may be snarling, snapping, or barking excessively.

What it means: “Don’t mess with me!” This dog is asserting his social dominance and letting others know that he might attack if they don’t defer accordingly. A dog in this stance could be either offensively aggressive or defensively aggressive. If you encounter a dog in this state, play it safe and back away slowly without making eye contact.

4. What you’ll see: As another dog approaches, your dog lies down on his back with his tail tucked in between his legs. His paws are tucked in too, his ears are flat, and he isn’t making direct eye contact with the other dog standing over him.

What it means: “I come in peace!” Your pooch is displaying signs of submission to a more dominant dog, conveying total surrender to avoid physical confrontation. Other, less obvious, signs of submission include ears that are flattened back against the head, an avoidance of eye contact, a tongue flick, and bared teeth. Yup—a dog might bare his teeth while still being submissive, but they’ll likely be clenched together, the lips opened horizontally rather than curled up to show the front canines. A submissive dog will also slink backward or inward rather than forward, which would indicate more aggressive behavior.

5. What you’ll see: Your dog is crouching with her back hunched, tail tucked, and the corner of her mouth pulled back with lips slightly curled. Her shoulders, or hackles, are raised and her ears are flattened. She’s avoiding eye contact.

What it means: “I’m scared, but will fight you if I have to.” This dog’s fight or flight instincts have been activated. It’s best to keep your distance from a dog in this emotional state because she could attack if she feels cornered.

6. What you’ll see: You’re staring at your dog, holding eye contact. Your dog looks away from you, tentatively looks back, then looks away again. After some time, he licks his chops and yawns.

What it means: “I don’t know what’s going on and it’s weirding me out.” Your dog doesn’t know what to make of the situation, but rather than nipping or barking, he’ll stick to behaviors he knows are OK, like yawning, licking his chops, or shaking as if he’s wet. You’ll want to intervene by removing whatever it is causing him discomfort—such as an overly grabby child—and giving him some space to relax.

7. What you’ll see: Your dog has her front paws bent and lowered onto the ground with her rear in the air. Her body is relaxed, loose, and wiggly, and her tail is up and wagging from side to side. She might also let out a high-pitched or impatient bark.

What it means: “What’s the hold up? Let’s play!” This classic stance, known to dog trainers and behaviorists as “the play bow,” is a sign she’s ready to let the good times roll. Get ready for a round of fetch or tug of war, or for a good long outing at the dog park.

8. What you’ll see: You’ve just gotten home from work and your dog rushes over. He can’t stop wiggling his backside, and he may even lower himself into a giant stretch, like he’s doing yoga.

What it means: “OhmygoshImsohappytoseeyou I love you so much you’re my best friend foreverandeverandever!!!!” This one’s easy: Your pup is overjoyed his BFF is back. That big stretch is something dogs don’t pull out for just anyone; they save that for the people they truly love. Show him you feel the same way with a good belly rub and a handful of his favorite treats.

The best way to say “I love you” in dog? A monthly subscription to BarkBox. Your favorite pup will get a package filled with treats, toys, and other good stuff (and in return, you’ll probably get lots of sloppy kisses). Visit BarkBox to learn more.

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