Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Newtonmore Part 4: Board Games!

Well, folks, when I was staying in that freezing cold hostel in Newtonmore and Travel Buddy found the most amazing treasure trove of board games in a closet, who did I think of? I thought of you. And I took pictures. I just knew you'd want to see this.

The first game we played was based on the Chronicles of Narnia miniseries that the BBC released in 1988. I'm sure you've all seen the new movies and are terribly attached to them and watch them every day after school, but let me tell you, they're crap. You heard me. The 1988 version is magisterial! They made that series on a budget of, I'm just guessing, five hundred bucks. They didn't have CGI. They didn't have Jim Henson. They didn't have children who could act. They didn't have James McAvoy, possibly their most severe disadvantage. And yet, it was powerful enough that I didn't dare eat Turkish Delight for the next fifteen years.

So you must imagine my joy when I discovered there was a game! And my horror when I discovered that it was the worst game ever devised.

You can see here that there are two interlocking wheels on the board. You are supposed to put little cards in those blank spaces around the wheels, and then you roll a number (or if you don't have any dice, you and your Travel Buddy take turns churning out random numbers for each other) and hope that turning the witch wheel to that number makes the corresponding number on the lion wheel land on something useful. Most of the time it doesn't because only half of the lion wheel even has numbers, but if it does, you get to pick up the card if it's a match for any of the cards you were dealt before the game. When you get a full set, it makes up a screenshot from the series, like this:

Now, it's unfortunate that the game makes no sense, takes forever, and isn't fun. But it's downright tragic that all the scenes look like a frat party gone bad. Those fauns are all screaming for a new keg, I'm sure of it. What was I thinking? This is not the mysterious and dignified production that I remember, but then again, there's no accounting for a six-year-old's taste in film.

The next game we played was Escape from Colditz.

Colditz is a German castle that was used as a high-security prisoner-of-war camp during World War II. It was the place they put all the guys who escaped from everywhere else. The game was made up by one of the few people who managed to, you guessed it, escape from Colditz. It took us an hour and a half to get through the instructions. That is not an exaggeration. Escaping from Colditz is hard.

I forgot to take pictures with pieces on the board because by that point I had grown very concerned with trying not to get shot. The instructions are much too complex to go into here, but I will just say that the game is easier for all the potential escapees when there are lots of players (each player gets a troop of eight pieces of some particular nationality) and lots of things going on at the same time. Otherwise the guards just sit around and watch you and you can't do anything. (I imagine this was less distressing for me than for the actual POWs who would have faced the same dilemma.) Travel Buddy and I finally decided that if just one of my guys escaped, we would consider the game over, but even that didn't help. Fortunately one of Travel Buddy's guards developed narcolepsy at the very moment my one lucky Briton emerged from the secret passage, climbed over the wall, and escaped. And we could finally go to bed.

Trivial Pursuit, too, required some alteration of the rules because it was not only the Baby Boomers edition, but the British Baby Boomers edition. It quickly became clear that we were going to die of old age before either of us won if we continued to follow the rules. So we would go through five or six cards trying to find one with an answer the other person had some hope of getting, and that answer was almost always, "Star Trek," "John F. Kennedy," or the name of a character from The Lord of the Rings. Because that's the only cultural overlap we have in common with British Baby Boomers.

We also found a copy of Cluedo in the closet, which we did not play, because there was obviously something wrong with it. Someone should tell the British that they spelled "clue" wrong.

It turns out that Clue was first published in the UK, where it was based on a traditional British board game called ludo, which is essentially pachisi (which is slightly different from Parcheesi, which is trademarked, in case you wondered). Ludo is so named because it translates in Latin as "I play." So Cluedo has a stupid name because ludo has a stupid name. Thank goodness they changed it back for North America or it would be too humiliating to play.

P.S. If someone could please publish a guide to the correct usage regarding the italicization and capitalization of the names of board games, I would be forever indebted.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the board game photos - just what I was wondering about.

Cluedo - indeed.

It occurs to me that the photo of the bearded, young warriors needs a destrier in the picture. That would complete the war-like image perfectly.

Simon said...

Ah, nicely done! And it's true. With a destrier it would look a lot less like a frat party.