The Game of Tiger

Walking around the Magic Square tonight, I witnessed scores of kids playing a game called Manhunt in the deepening evening out on West Lawn.  (Essentially, it’s a land-based version of the swimming game Sharks and Minnows.) I was reminded of the game of Tiger, that I and my siblings invented around 50 years ago (really??) to play in our grandmother’s back yard.

We played it endlessly, from summer dusk until deep night, and it never paled.  Even now, I think I would enjoy a good game if I could keep up with the young.

I came up with the idea after watching some television program about some explorer/adventurer—Lowell Thomas, perhaps?—who was “hunting” tigers in India.  What struck me dumb was the fact that the narrator adventurer was safely ensconced atop an elephant while native beaters went ahead in the waist-high grass, wherein a tiger might very well be lurking.  It might have been a man-eating tiger terrorizing the village, even.  It was damned creepy.

Anyway, the vacant lot down on the corner of Winfield and Dixon had at the time a small field of tall, dry grass, and so we played at the experience.  It was fun, and we soon codified it into a game.

The rules are simple:

  • There is a Home base.  Everyone gathers at Home.
  • One person is the Tiger.  The Tiger goes and hides somewhere on the grounds.  (Strict boundaries must be set, of course.)
  • After a decent amount of time, the rest of us call out, “READY?”
    • If the Tiger is not ready, he simply yells, “NO!” and we wait a little while longer.
    • But if he is ready, there is silence… deadly, deadly silence.
  • Then we all go hunt the Tiger.
  • If you find the Tiger, you yell, “TIGER!”; the tiger springs out with a roar; and you sprint for Home.  So does everyone else, needless to say.
  • The Tiger attempts to tag as many people as he can before they reach Home.
  • The last person tagged becomes the next Tiger.

That’s it, just a simple little reverse Hide and Seek.  But oh, the variations!

The Tiger, for example, is under no obligation to pop out upon being discovered, forcing the hunters to come closer to verify his hiding place.  (Any person who touches Home before the Tiger actually pops out is tagged.)

Nor is the Tiger obligated to remain hidden until someone discovers him, perhaps waiting until all the hunters have passed him by and then springing out between them and Home.  A particularly crafty Tiger might not even hide to begin with, just sneaking around in the gloom until he can spring out behind all the hunters.

As a hunter, you have options.  Sacrificing a little sister is one, for example.  Another is forcing the Tiger to chase you all the way around the house, staying just close enough to make it not effective for him to double back, so that you can dash for Home.  You could, if the Tiger is already guarding home, hide yourself and force him to come looking for you. (Standoffs at Home which dragged on too long could be terminated by majority vote and a subsequent countdown.)

There were five of us, plus any friends we had along for the trip, and so we always had enough to make the game interesting and complex.  Some of us were eager to be the Tiger, mainly because they had evil evil souls.  Others were as scared of hiding in the azaleas as they were of the Tiger itself.  Some hunted in groups, others headed off alone.  Was the location of a “NO!” a clue as to where the Tiger might be, or (remembering the evil evil souls) a deliberate deception?  You can see  how it might be addictive.

All in all, a game worthy of promulgation and preservation.

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