Win, Lose, Banana - The Game of Kings
Game Type - Social Card Game
Number of Players - 3
Mechanics - Action Selection, Hidden Goals, Negotiation, Bluffing
Difficulty to Learn - Easy, but very difficult to master
Release - Thousands of years ago
MSRP - $1
Publisher - Originally the circle of ancients, currently Asmadi Games
Recommended for fans of - Chess, Go, Eat Poop You Cat
In the annals of history there have been many games that have survived through the ages because of their great ability to make man think. Chess was long considered the game of kings. The ultimate thinking man’s game, it was best represented in Ingmar Bergman's classic masterpiece, The Seventh Seal, in which a disillusioned crusader challenges Death to a game of it for his life.
Across the world, there was an even older game: the game of Go. Played by many, but mastered by few, Go was considered one of the four essential arts practiced by the most cultured of ancient Chinese scholars.
Neither of these games, however, contain an ounce of the gravitas or historical importance that belong to the classic Win, Lose, Banana.
Thought to be originally created by the ancient Sumerians, Win, Lose, Banana is a game of bluffing as old as the concept of truth itself. Indeed, this game asks us to question the very ideas of truth, identity, and loyalty. As Socrates once said, "Who can know what truth means except the banana?".
In its oldest form, Win, Lose, Banana was played with three stone slabs*, carved into which were the words “WIN,” “LOSE,” and “BANANA.” A council of elders would randomly assign a slab to each contender. The knowledge contained on the slabs stating “LOSE” and “BANANA” would be kept secret to everyone one save the recipient of the slab. Whoever received the slab stating “WIN” would proudly declare this knowledge and would then proceed to do the customary ritual dance**.
After the introductory part of the game is completed, the real game begins. The winning player must use all of their intuition to pick one of the two other contenders. If the “Banana” is picked, both the Winner and Banana win. The other loses. If the “Lose” is picked, that player alone wins and the Winner and Banana lose. During this round, both the Loser and Banana nay freely and passionately plead their case. The Banana will rely on the power of honesty and earnestness, reaching out to the collective consciousness to project their truth towards the Winner. The Loser, on the other hand, must devote to trickery and deceit to plead their case, harnessing the darker side of the human experience.
It is within this part of the game that we get a clear window into the duality of man. It shows us that while man strives to be honest, they must sometimes betray their identity and embrace the darkness within to overcome great adversity. In Fredrick Nietzsche's seminal work, Peering into the Soul of Darkness, a Treatise on Win, Lose, Banana, he states as thus, "Man strives to be good, but merely wears the mask of the Banana. For underneath all men lies the face of the Loser".
After the final choice was made, the ancient Sumerians would rejoice if the Banana was picked. This signaled a good harvest in the year to come, and a great feast would be thrown***. The Winner and Banana would be seated at the head of the table, and would receive much honor during the coming year. The Loser would be seated at the foot of the table, and would endure playful taunting while wearing the mask of the deceiver banana. If the Loser was picked, however, the consequences were dark indeed. This signaled displeasure from the gods and would surely result in a failed harvest unless a sacrifice was made. The offerings in this sacrifice were commonly the Winner and Banana, and the ritual was often performed by the Loser****.
To anyone living today, it's clear to see how much of an impact Win, Lose, Banana has had on society over the ages. From a quasi-religious ritual to a game played by philosophers, kings, then, eventually, played by even the peasants, we've seen Win, Lose, Banana played everywhere from the Olympics to the living room. Gary Kaspaov, Lance Armstrong, and even Michael Jordon have all tried their hand at this great game of kings.
The question remains, though: is it fun? This is a powerful and multifaceted question. To ask if Win, Lose, Banana is fun is akin to asking if the human experience is fun. What this game represents is the true evolution of man's personality: a psychological mountain that only when conquered can one truly see the full depth of the world in which they live. Win, Lose, Banana is a game that, when played, will reveal one's true nature--a revelation that may shatter one's identity. To say this game is "fun" is to understate its grand importance in the world around us. Win, Lose, Banana is a masterpiece and one of the great cultural treasures that has been passed down to us from our ancestors.
Either that or it's just a dumb bluffing game.
*It is worth noting that the game is commonly played in modern times on three index cards.
**In modern time, the ritual dance is often left out as it is a bygone archaic religious relic of previous times.
***During modern "game nights," it is common to feast during the game; the preferred feast consisting of Doritos and Mountain Dew.
****Over time, the sacrifice was changed to only a variant, but may still be practiced in certain areas. (Local laws apply.)