We know what you're going to say: how can anything be nerdier than Magic: The Gathering or Dungeons and Dragons? We humbly suggest that, being chock full of wizards, battles, and high adventure, those classic games include plenty of features that can broadly be defined as "fun," wrapped up though they may be in a geeky package. It's far nerdier, we think, to spend your free time obsessively playing simple, pedantic memory games like Authors.
What's Authors? You must not have been born in the 19th century. First appearing in 1861, the game inexplicably became a full-fledged phenomenon: according to the Museum of Play, "Authors found such popularity that nearly all of the other game manufacturers eventually published a version during the 19th and throughout most of the 20th centuries." The point? Matching famous authors with their oeuvres. As an online exhibit hosted by Indiana University's Lilly Library explains,
The game is best played with three to five players. The dealer shuffles and deals the entire deck, one card at a time, to each player, even if this means that some players receive more cards than others. Players should arrange the cards in their hands according to author so that they may better see which remaining cards are needed to complete a 'book.' As is typical with most card games, the player to the left of the dealer begins the game. That player may ask any other player for a card which is needed for a 'book.' If they have the necessary card, the first player continues to ask for another card until one cannot be found, and so on. Once all of the 'books' are complete, the player with the most sets of four wins the game.
Later decks included additional authors, but the authors represented in the original deck were:
- Louisa May Alcott
- James Fenimore Cooper
- Charles Dickens
- Nathaniel Hawthorne
- Washington Irving
- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
- Sir Walter Scott
- William Shakespeare
- Robert Louis Stevenson
- Alfred, Lord Tennyson
- Mark Twain
- John Greenleaf Whittier
Due to the immense popularity of the game in the 19th and early 20th centuries, you can pick up your very own copy of Authors surprisingly cheap on eBay. We have to admit, even though we don't really want to play it, we're kind of tempted by the graphic design on the above set from the 1930s, which is currently going for $7.99.
Feature image via American Antiquarian Society