On Farkle, Mathematics, and Ruling the World (or, the sinister side effects of childhood games)


The root of tyranny, I’ve discovered, can be traced to the toyboxes and game shelves of six-year-old children. Inside every evil overlord is a little kid winning at Candyland or Crazy Eights or Sorry.

(Risk and Mastermind, obviously, go without saying)

I taught my son to play the game Farkle last night (and for those of you who haven’t ever played that game, I simply must insist that you learn it instantly. It beats the pants off that stinkin’ Yatzee, I’ll tell you what), and the child is some kind of Farkle supergenius. He’s a Farkle wizard. He memorized the point structure, weighed options, assessed risk, and soundly kicked my sorry butt.

He was thrilled.

What amazed me was the fact that, though the points assessed for different rolls are valued in the hundreds and thousands, he did all the addition in his head and kept track of how many points he had and I had at any given moment. The kid is six years old and he adds quicker and faster than his mom. (Granted, this is not hard to do. I am math-deficient.)

But what was most amazing was simply watching my son – my wild man, my aspiring juvenile delinquent, my budding evil genius – as he became calm, sober and focused in his attention to his dice and the points he was receiving from his dice. His voice quieted; his movements gentled and slowed. He was wide-eyed, cherubic, lovely.

And then he beat me by 11,000 points.

At the end of the game he reached over to shake my hand.

“Good game,” he said seriously.

“I appreciate you shaking my hand,” I said.

He nodded. “My teacher says that you can only be a good sport if you’re showing someone else how to be a good sport.”

“Your teacher is very smart,” I said.

“But she doesn’t say that it’s more fun to be a good sport if you win.” His face was intense, as though the need to do a touchdown dance was knocking at the backs of his eyeballs and exploding his brain. “But it is. It’s way more fun.”

“I know, honey,” I said. “Thanks for being such a good sport. And for showing me how to be a good sport.”

“I like this game,” he said. “I like that it has math. Math is fun because it makes me win.”

“How so?”

“I add up my points,” he said. “And then I win. Math is the best. I’m going to do more math so I can keep winning.”

“Interesting plan,” I said.

“And then I’ll win so much that I’ll win the whole world. The. Whole. World.” His eyes were bright, wild, ferocious. He kept his hands at his sides, but they were balled into fists.  He wasn’t kidding.

He got up, and went to find a calculator and his sister’s math book. He can’t do it, mind (it’s Algebra), but he liked turning the pages and pretending to know what was going on in the book. He sat there for over an hour.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how tyrants are born. Those who aspire to a life bent towards world domination begin the early inklings of their master plans in their six-year-old bedrooms (painted to look like the surface of Mars. What were we thinking? My husband and I are fools! Fools, I say! We should have painted his room to look like a dentist’s office! Or a courtroom! Or even a construction site!). It begins with a simple game of Farkle, and it’s only logical end is the status of Overlord.

All I can say, folks, is brace yourselves.

3 thoughts on “On Farkle, Mathematics, and Ruling the World (or, the sinister side effects of childhood games)

  1. Math is the best. I’m going to do more math so I can … win the whole world.

    Please have your son report to the math overlord authorities immediately (website is on the back of any box of Lego). These things are not supposed to be revealed to civilians.

    Great blog, by the way. 😉

  2. “Math is the best. I’m going to do more math so I can keep winning.”

    This is a good life strategy, whether or not it leads to world domination. Maybe we should have Leo writing our shools’ math curriculum.

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