This is a game for 2-10 Phish fans, designed to be played on tour – whether passing hours in the lot or in line, meeting new friends at a forum meetup, or post-show fun at a hotel or campground. It’s ideally suited for relaxed banter among casual fans, and could be a great way to help share your particular interests in Phishtory. It’s also well suited for cut-throat “I know this band sooooooooo much better than you” gauntlet throwdowns (once you’re sick of arguing about whether the most recent show was historically uberepic or only subprime millennial epic), if your crew swings that way.
You’ll need some sort of tokens – coins, poker chips, pencils, Pepperidge Farm baked snack crackers… or maybe Phanart pins, if you want to put your artwork where your mouth is. (Put ‘em in the game, and let ‘em fight it out.) Each player starts with five. These are your “goldfish” and, unlike Jimmy (RIP Poster Nutbag), you do want a goldfish. Every single one of them.
Each player also needs a container – a cup, dish, or, uh, bowl – for your goldfish. You could just make piles on a table (or a tarmac), but then you wouldn’t be able to shake it and make other players hear the clamor of your aggregated (and aggravating, bwahahaha) success. Plus, again, bowl.
Finally, you need a bible, an arbiter for disputes. We, of course, recommend The Phish Companion, if you have one. (Any edition will do.) Perhaps you’ll agree on some other book, or to refer to Phish.net or some other website. You might even pick the Internet at large, or whoever happens to be in the game or nearby… but then you’re opening yourself to a potential storm. Seek clarity. Try phi.sh. (Look, Jimmy – the storm is gone!)
Figure out who goes first. We recommend whoever has the next upcoming birthday, because that’s a nice random selection method that you probably hadn’t known, and this was an opportunity to teach it to you. (I’m a professor, and appreciate any such opportunity. Yes, it’s on the midterm.) You might instead choose whoever has the longest middle name, first met Trey backstage, or has seen the most Phish shows. (Side project shows count, but not Pork Tornado, because Pork Tornado.) Or, whoever first screams, “Oom pa pa!” – which, by the by, is a good way to attract players from neighboring parking spaces, tents, or apartment buildings. And if it instead annoys them, you can play this game to settle the beef.
Players take turns each asking a Phish-related trivia question of the other players. It could be about a song title or character, a venue, special guest, or setlist, or some deep statistic that, seriously, no one but ZZYZX fully understands. The questioner may refer to the identified bible to find something to ask about, or may attempt to impress us all with a long-forgotten nugget from their vast store of knowledge so deep that none of the rest of us will ever truly understand “Golgi” the way Trey intended.
Players wanting to answer should raise their hand and wait to be called by the questioner, in the order they raised their hands, until a correct answer is given or everyone willing to guess does so. (You haven’t been called yet, bulldog. Sit back down.)
By raising their hand, a player chooses to wager one goldfish on an answer. A player who answers a question correctly, keeps their wager and takes one goldfish from the person who asked it – your goal, every round. But a player who answers incorrectly, must give their wagered goldfish to the questioner – so avoid wild guesses, and ask questions that invite wrong answers.
And here’s the leveler: If either no one raises their hand, or everyone misses the question, the questioner must give every other player one goldfish. That discourages impossible questions (you know who you are; cut it out), keeps things encouraging for even the n00biest among us, and lets the game flow a bit more casually, at least until some players run out of goldfish and things heat up.
When there are only two players left, that last rule switches: The other player has to answer correctly, or loses a goldfish to the questioner – either from missing it or from not answering. Oh, yeah. It’s on, baby.
You’re among the phirst to play! Post pics of your games with the hastag #playingharpua tags on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
Maybe someday we’ll see a Mockingbird Harpua Tournament. For now, I hope to see you at golf in Denver.
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