Most of us have a junk drawer. When I was shopping for a desk for my home office, I specifically looked for one that didn’t have any drawers to prevent myself from starting another junk drawer. Junk drawers are the enemy and you must take them out before they even have a chance to sprout.
I haven’t been entirely successful in eradicating junk drawers from my life, though. I still have a giant junk drawer in my garage. It’s full of screws, weird extra bolts from Ikea furniture (I think everything is put together correctly?), and cast off washers I’ve found lying around (our garage door is, like, molting or something).
Sometimes you put too much in a junk drawer and it comes back to bite you. Have you ever been rummaging through your junk drawer, searching for a highlighter or a rubber band or a tiny tube of super glue, only to be stuck by a random fish hook you threw in there five years ago?
Are you tired of board games about ridiculous things like zombie apocalypses, spaceships with laser guns, and Lovecraftian abominations? Do you yearn for games that bring to mind everyday household dilemmas?
What if the sweat and trepidation of rummaging in that junk drawer, trying to pull things out without getting stuck by that fish hook, could be turned into a card game?
Well, don’t worry, because it has.
Grommets and Hooks
Grommets and Hooks is a card game for two to four players from OniiChan Games. Each player gets one turn. On your turn, you draw as many cards as you want from the deck, one at a time. If every card you draw is a grommet, you are safe. However, if you draw a hook, you are out of the game. Among the players who were not eliminated, the winner is the player who drew the most grommet cards.
I was expecting to hate this game but, I can’t lie, I actually had a bit of fun. There’s something absurdly delightful about flipping over a card and seeing a macro shot of a tiny piece of rubber—a nonsensical gamification of the experience of browsing a plumbing supplies catalog. You’ll find yourself recoiling as if you’ve been pricked whenever you draw a hook-exclamation-point. My new Pavlovian response is relief whenever I see a grommet.
I mean, a cynic would probably say that there’s not much of a game here. And there’s some truth to that. You only have one choice to make: how many cards to draw (and, if you’re the last player, you don’t even really have that—you have to either keep drawing until you have the most grommets or lose). But, you know, from a decisional perspective, that’s infinitely more of a game than some extremely popular games like Candy Land or the card game War. Those require literally zero exercise of free thought: you just go through the motions and see what happens.
This left me sitting and thinking for a quite a while. What’s more fun: a stripped-down, minimalist game like Grommets and Hooks where there are still decisions to make, or a dolled-up game with all the trimmings like Candy Land where there are no decisions at all? Is a game still a game if you can’t actually change anything? Are actions meaningful without consequences? Why wasn’t Captain Kirk happy living in the Nexus? Is Westworld fun if the robots can’t shoot back? Are rollercoasters exciting or are they just perfectly safe little trains with a lot of hype?
The cards in Grommets and Hooks consist of pictures of grommets and hooks (plus words indicating which are which—in case you don’t know a rolled rim from a wacky worm). As far as I can tell, all of the cards are unique, so you get a bit of an education in the wide, wide world of grommets.
Grommets and Hooks did not come in a box. It was simply a pack of shrinkwrapped cards. However, the cellophane wrapping appeared to be very high quality. It was brittle and there was a hole in the end, making it easy to tear off.
The cards feel kind of papery, but they are thick, resilient, and shuffled easily.
There are some weird things going with the scoring. You get one point for winning the game. Presumably, you can play multiple times in a row and keep a running total of all the points to see who is the ultimate winner.
In the event of a tie, however, the rules specify that you get a partial point. For example, you get one third of a point if you are one of three players tied for a win. Calculating this out could quickly become difficult if you played multiple times in a row and different numbers of players tied each time. You could end up with a really weird score, like seven twelfths of a point. That’s an overly complex scoring system, but it does prove your math teacher right: you do need to know how to add fractions with different denominators.
What does it all mean
I’m still grappling with the idea behind Grommets and Hooks. The rule card doesn’t contain any background information, so there’s nothing to explain why you’re doing what you’re doing. Rummaging in a junk drawer was the only thing I could think of to explain the actions you take and the workings of the grommet and hook cards.
I think maybe this is something very rare: a Surrealist card game. Grommets and Hooks asks us to accept a world where grommets are good and hooks are bad for no logical reason. If we search for meaning in it, what we find only reflects our own desire for understanding.
Do you have a passion for photographs of perforated plastic protective parts? If so, this is probably going to be game of the year for you.
For the rest of us? A big part of me is like, is there some sort of joke I’m missing here? Grommets and hooks? Why grommets and hooks?
This is the kind of card game that I would expect to see appear in a David Lynch movie. This is probably what they play inside The Black Lodge. There are alternating layers of simplicity, layers of familiarity, and layers that make no sense. The juxtaposition isn’t unpleasant, but it’s not going to hang everyone’s shower curtain, either.
Note: A review copy of this game was provided by OniiChan Games.