Whenever Asata traveled to a new place, she included in her weight allowance a proper set of Chatha pieces. The board was woven cloth, the tokens polymer scrimshaw, and the cards tissue-thin, but she had yet to find a place where it did not pass muster as a Chatha set.
It lived nestled in her always-on bag, next to the first-aid kit, the wrinkle-free change of clothing, the emergency rations, and the treesilk towel-slash-sarong-slash-hijab. And she’d found that, of every item in the little bag, she’d gotten the most use out of the Chatha set.
The game in its core was simple, but nobody – except people like Asata, interstellar anthropological diplomats – played it in its core format. Every town, every colony, every station had their own variation, and every variation told you something about the people playing the game.
In Hosier and Calbranta, none of the pieces were female, and the female cards were replaced – with trees on Hosier and with animals on Calbranta. Landri and Tolmecha did the opposite, replacing male cards with minerals in one case and more females in the other case. Asata’s deck had new cards for every variation she encountered, and her notes on the culture began, each time, with at least four games of Chatha.
And now she was landing on a new colony, a Lost Colony that the Federated Empire was only now re-contacting with. They were not first down, but her team would be the second contact the colony had with the greater space-faring humanity.
And it would begin with a game of Chatha. Asata studied the first-down team’s notes, and got ready to play.
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