this thing's incredible

This Card Game Threatens to Tear My Family Apart — But We Can’t Stop Playing It

Photo: Laura Guidry

Other than a single night of Catan in college and a few throwaway bouts of Bananagrams, I haven’t played board games as an adult. But last Christmas, my sister-in-law introduced me to Dutch Blitz, a card game she’d learned about on a backpacking trip and liked so much that she persuaded her parents to buy a deck. When my husband and I arrived for the holidays, it took only a few hands for me to get sucked in.

Dutch Blitz is essentially a simultaneous-play version of what the manufacturer describes as “very energetic solitaire.” It was invented by a German optometrist to teach his children numbers and colors, so it’s incredibly simple. Each player selects one of four decks denoted by a pump, carriage, pail, or plow. They then lay out three groups of cards referred to as post, blitz, or wood piles. The main objective is to use your blitz pile to build as many cards in ascending order (one through ten) in the same respective colors as the center Dutch pile that everyone plays into. You can help clear your blitz pile by moving cards into your post pile, where you stack them in descending order — but they have to alternate between the Pennsylvania Dutch boy and girl drawings on each card, as you would red and black in solitaire. The game ends when a player has gotten rid of their blitz pile and shouts, “Blitz!”

A few quick rounds of Dutch Blitz soon turned into hours, and on day two of three, I suggested we toss some money on the table to heighten the stakes. “That will tear our family apart,” my sister-in-law said. There were already signs of Dutch Blitz–induced discord: That morning, my husband had brought a tape measure out, insisting that my sister-in-law and I had an unfair advantage by playing cards closer to ourselves. Now, after the cash was introduced and tensions rose even higher, we begrudgingly allowed a cutting board to become the official Dutch pile.

A mid-hike game of Dutch Blitz. Photo: Laura Guidry

I’ve since introduced the game to at least ten people. I’ve bought it to bars and on hikes. I’ve ordered packs to give to friends going through tough times that involve waiting. I’ll persuade my husband to play a few hands between meetings as we both work from home and are slugging through the day — the dopamine hit from a two-minute game gives me a euphoric separation from the stress of my Outlook inbox.

I recently scrolled Instagram looking for #dutchblitz enthusiasts, wondering if I could find people nearby who played. I ended up chatting with a fellow devotee in Nebraska, nowhere close enough for a game, but she did give me some clarity on why Dutch Blitz had become my new cure for the woes of the world. There are gateway games that get you hooked, she said. But no matter which ones I tried, I was always chasing the high Dutch Blitz gave me. I don’t know if I’d call it an addiction, but I do know it’s the perfect rush.

Some other card games we’ve written about

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I Can’t Stop Telling Everyone About This Chaotic Card Game