Contest Uses Battle of Wits

Eagle Staff Writer

Stupiduel is nothing so straightforward as Colonel Mustard in the parlor with a rope like in the board game Clue.

In the game Stupiduel, where players "schmoose their weapons," you have to convince your opponent he's dead and that you killed him with, for instance, a frigid pickle and a ring.  At the same time, he's trying to convince you it isn't necessarily so because he fought off your attack with, say, too many balloons and a candle.

If opponents can't agree on the outcome after attacker and defender have confabulated at length, then the other players vote - thumbs up or thumbs down.

Created by Hugh Barnes, 36, of Butler, Stupiduel is a battle of wits and words.

Weapons, offensive and defensive, none so blatantly obvious as a gun, come with the luck of the draw, The deck of 120 cards is nothing more than a collection of household words, written and unembellished.  Some are nouns or items, such as "candy" or "shield" - others are adjectives or adverbs and are modifiers such as "gigantic" or "2X".

How you use the items and modifiers you're dealt in a three-card hand is up to you and your imagination.

Stupiduel got its start in Barnes' ninth grade study hall at Butler High School in 1983.

"It was a couple of guys and blank paper," he said.

Drawing stick figures, the teens tried to outdo each other, following rules made up by Barnes, who says he has been designing games "since I was 5."

In college at Penn State, Barnes and his friends still played his game on paper, but "it was complicated and hard to tell who won," he said.

That's when it evolved into a deck of cards, one item or modifier to a card.

"On the first set, I wrote down anything I thought might be fun," said Barnes. As he refined the game, he made lists of words to decide what would and would not work. Some words were limited and others unlimited. In time, he opted for words with the broadest possibilities.

"Ring," for instance, can be on your finger, with or without power vested in it. It can be something a bell does or it can be heard in your ears.

The word can be anything you can convince your opponent it is.

Players begin at about 10 years old. New players catch on quickly enough to hold their own within a few rounds.

"The learning curve is very short," said Barnes.

Experienced players often develop a style to the stupid stories they wield in this "duel to the death."

Players can range in age from children to grandparents.

"Everybody can play at the same table and the game is different each time," said Barnes.

"Sometimes a simple story is easier (to convince your opponent) the more detail, the more complicated to defend. It's all about thinking outside the envelope," said Barnes.

Barnes, who works in computer technical support, said he's always been a gaming person, coming up with a game or two a week.

"My wife said I had to get one published, so I have to thank her for that," he said.

It was Lance Williams of Pittsburgh, Barnes' college roommate and a Stupiduel player from way back when, who brought the card game to the market.

"We talked about it for 15 years," said Williams, who designed the back of the playing cards and prints the Stupiduel decks at his printing company in Pittsburgh.

"He's the entrepreneur of the two of us," said Barnes.

Aside from the shear fun of concocting silly scenarios, Stupiduel has attracted the attention of educators.

"Teachers are using it to teach creativity and the mean ings of words," Williams said.

The faces of the cards bear no pictures, only words.

"We found that pictures limited creativity," Williams said.

Since the game's release, it has spread to nearby states and is making its way around the globe.

"I heard some people have taken Stupiduel to France to teach English," said Williams. "We donated a case of Stupiduel games to soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan."

Andrew Getsay, 16, of Butler plays Stupiduel "every couple of weeks" and came to a Stupiduel tournament March 5 hosted by New Dimension Comics in the Clearview Mall.

"I started playing shortly after the game hit the shelves," Getsay said.

He describes the game as "pointlessly amusing," and recommends everyone put a deck in their game box and play it often.

Lily Greenway, 16, of, Butler came to the tournament.

"I play whenever anyone has a deck," she said.

Eli Stricklin, 13, of Butler said of the game: "I like it a lot. It's entertaining and ironically stupid."

The game is available at selected bookstores such as Borders', and in New Dimension Comics in Clearview Mall and in Cranberry Township.

Fuji Slsca and Max Essig, her son, play Stupiduel during a tournament last Saturday at New Dimension
Comics in Clearview Mall. The card game consists of a collection of everyday words that players must use to tell a story to defeat their opponent.


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