The Board Room

While I was in central New York for David Blaine's show a couple weeks ago, I stayed with my friend AC who is someone who has helped this site in numerous ways since its inception. He handles the audio and visual elements of the blog and the magazine, he helps with the mailing and the paypal aspects of the site, and he created the best presentation for the ambitious card ever which is in the JAMM #3. And, in general, he has just had a big influence on my thinking regarding magic because I've known him for 20+ years.

He recently moved into a new apartment and this was my first opportunity to see his version of the Wonder-Room concept. And I liked it so much that I thought it deserved its own post here.

Here it is...

There are a couple things going on here.

First, every unwrapped deck on that shelf is stacked for a particular trick. So when people come over and they check out the decks he can ask them to grab any one they like and he's prepared to go into something that has an elaborate set-up. While I think people understand the idea that you can stack a deck for a particular trick, I think they're less likely to believe you stacked 50 decks for different tricks. So when they freely select a deck, I think there's less heat on it being pre-arranged. In addition, this makes it a little easier to keep those stack-heavy tricks in your repertoire because you don't have to continually build them up from scratch to practice them, you just rotate in the correct deck.

But the more interesting thing to me are the games he has stacked up on the shelf.

These are all 40-50 year old vintage games, so they're intrinsically more interesting than perhaps a stack of modern board games.

But there's something special about these games beyond just their age. AC (who is one of the "Andys" mentioned early on in this board game related post) has chosen each game for a very specific reason.

Each game is:

  1. Easy to learn if you've never played it before.
  2. A kind of "lightweight" social game. That is to say, these aren't heavy Dungeons and Dragons type games where you are immersed in the gameplay the whole time. These are just casual games you play while enjoying people's company and conversation.
  3. Chosen to give him the opportunity to seamlessly transition into all sorts of magic effects.

The most obvious examples of the last point are the two Kreskin "games" in the stack.

First there is Kreskin's ESP game (with the dope-ass ESP font which really looks like it's vibrating with psychic energy).

It's one of the few games even a true sad-sack like you can enjoy, as it's made for "1 or more players."

It comes with a pendulum, cards with all sorts of different shapes and colors, a testing screen and more. You don't even need to transition from a game into a trick with this one. It's all there for you. 

Then you have Kreskin's Krystal. I think that second K isn't just for alliteration. I think it's there because it's probably illegal to sell a block of plastic as a "crystal."

This is just a big hunk of plastic with "yes" and "no" on it and a pendulum you swing over it. (Or you can flip it over where it says "buy" and "sell," in case you're fucking insane enough to make financial decisions based on "Kreskin's Krystal.")

Both of these games can be used themselves as props for a performance, or just as a way to get people to bring up the topic of ESP or mind control or whatever allowing you to steer the conversation towards some other demonstration of these ideas.

The other games in the stack are these...

Besides the fact they're all old, these games have something else in common.

Probe is a game that uses cards with letters on them.

Racko is a game that uses cards with numbers on them.

Clue uses cards with different objects on them. Cards that are put in an envelope and kept secret which you are supposed to discern over the course of the game.

Yahtzee is a game that uses dice.

Password is a game where you're trying to transmit a word to your partner.

You see? Everything uses props that are used in magic, or concepts that are used in magic, but it's all in a completely different context. So he can transition from any of these games into numerous effects in a way that is naturally congruent for him.

AC enjoys these types of games and his apartment contains numerous nods to mid-century style and entertainment so this set-up makes complete sense for him. It might not for you or me if that's not our style (although if it is, he said he picked up all of this off ebay for probably $100 total). 

The point of this was not to say that you should create something identical to this, but to give what I consider to be a really good example of a variation on the Wonder-Room concept. Initially I imagined it as a room (or a shelf somewhere) devoted to weird objects that could lead into magic tricks. In this variation it's a display of normal (but still interesting) objects that can allow you to transition into all sorts of different effects. Board games may be the perfect "normal" objects because there is so much overlap in props and presentations. But I also think it's possible, with some thought, to build a series of effects into anything you have on display.