So what’s this all about, anyway?

What this is all about is a card game called Mau. Or Mao. Or MOW. Or any of a great many other names that it sometimes goes by. As far as I can tell, at least the majority of versions of this game start with the letter M – hence, the title of this project.

If you don’t know the game, you might want to check out the Wikipedia article; in brief, this is a game to which you can never be told the rules, but instead must figure them out as you play. It’s mighty addictive, and has a tendency to inspire a rabid following. Of course, it also seems to have a tendency to morph over time: Each new player generally has their own interpretation of the rules, and many people just invent their own. I myself know or know of a few different versions, and research around the internet has turned up quite a few more.

Anyhow, I got to thinking a while ago: Surely, with a little work, it should be possible to collect a number of versions and, taking a page from linguists, use the comparative method to sort them into families and try to deduce something about their history. That, in short, is what Project Big-M is all about. I want to trace this game as far back as possible, and record the many ways in which it’s morphed. I want to create Big-M Family Tree.

So, let’s say you’re a Big-M player; you maybe learned some version or another from a friend a little while ago and have tortured taught a few friends since. You know your version, you’re proud of it, and you think you’d like to help me out. “But how?” you ask. Well, let me tell you!

  • You can submit your version. Just this would be wonderful. The comparative method can’t work without a lot of data, and I don’t have very much yet. For a quick word on how to do this, head over to the Submit my Version page.
  • You can point me towards prior research. This sort of thing has been attempted on small scales before; I think I’ve done a thorough job of finding past attempts and incorporating their data, but I’m always interested to hear more. Did you type up a family tree for the versions closely related to yours a few years ago? Send it my way!
  • You can tell me your Big-M story. This project isn’t just about cards and the things we do with them – it’s about the people who learned Big-M variants and what those variants meant to them. If you feel like typing up a quick narrative of your experiences with the game, send it my way; if you let me, I might someday publish it on this blog to share with the Big-M community.
  • You can research your own Big-M “heritage”. Go find to the person that taught you to play, and ask them to do the same. Or, reconvene your original Big-M group, and figure out how many people your original “class” has taught. Or a myriad of other little projects. It’ll be fun! And along the way, you can…
  • Spread the word! Link to PBM, talk about PBM, get on a soapbox downtown and rave about PBM. Any publicity is good publicity, more or less.

And like I said above, this project isn’t just about the game, but about the people – there are a lot of us out there who think this crazy little game is a hell of a lot of fun, and I think we’d all like to get to know each other very much. So hang around! Comment every now and again! I want to hear from you.


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