2017-04-01 11.34.35


Just got back from enjoying a fantastic festival atmosphere at Mollyfest. Brilliant bands, mud, flowery headbands and a fabulous atmosphere: everything you need. Molly created a very memorable experience for everyone. And as with any festival I’m wiped out today. So, having stared at the computer screen blankly for an hour last night and to save myself from doing that just now, I am just going to share a couple of videos from the event. Enjoy!
2017-03-08 21.51.40

Top 5 Pub Games and A Comparison Graph.

When I read lists on the internet (an activity I spend more time doing than I care to admit) I often wonder what the criteria was. Maybe it’s the teacher in me. (The eagle eyed among you have already spotted the ‘what went well/ even better if’ feedback model that I used on my feedback forms!). You can’t reward anything without having a clear criteria that you have shared. If there’s a top spot to be awarded, we all want to know how the winner got there.
Which brings me to my criteria for the top 5 pub games. And as with all good success criteria, I may have made some of the words up.

1. Portability
2. Low threshold high ceiling (easy to learn but endless levels of possible challenge)
3. Sociability
4. Quality of components
5. Fun

The upshot of this, of course is (aside from the portability measure) you can apply this to any games, for any event and rate them accordingly. If you wanted you could also give numerical scores and make graphs….

1. Mancala

Mancala is a game I stumbled on by accident. I bought a copy of it solely because I liked the box – I took it to the counter, said ‘Is this a game?’ She said ‘Yes, I think so’ and that was it. Sold. A few weeks of showing it to people and asking ‘What’s this?’ and I had discovered Mancala. (Think Fran in Episode 1 of Black Books.

Mancala is so simple; very easy to learn. And packed into it’s own case it is super portable. For the stores at the ends you can use two glasses or you can buy a version with built in stores. (Just make sure the components are still big enough to use.)
As a game for two it is less sociable than some of the others but it is definitely a fun and addictive game. And the fact only two people are playing doesn’t stop people having an opinion on what you’re doing wrong! I left my copy in the pub at past midnight last games night because people couldn’t tear themselves away from it. It’s a permanent fixture for our Abbey games nights.

The components are satisfyingly tactile. In fact they are so appealing that at a recent wedding fayre, despite the fact they look and feel like antique olives, someone tried to eat one which was an awkward moment, as he dried and replaced it!

2. Skull

Skull is a straightforward game of Bluff. It is easy to play but because if relies on bluff and trying to second guess opponents actions, it feels as though it has endless possibilities. It is fun to play with people you know well, or complete strangers so scores high on sociability.
The cards in the game are well made and beautifully illustrated.

Fun levels can be accurately measured by the spontaneous noise all players make when a Skull is revealed. You can of course win by not bidding, but as a fellow player said on Wednesday – ‘That’s the coward’s way out. The worst sort of winning!’
That depends really – winning is, after all, winning!

3. Exploding Kittens

Exploding Kittens is a very entertaining card game in which you try to avoid being exploded whilst trying to get someone else blown up in your place.

The cards are entertainingly illustrated by the oatmeal and of course – as it’s a card game it is designed to be portable.

It can be learnt in about 15 minutes and while it isn’t the most challenging game in the world, there is enough variation to keep you entertained for many happy hours. It is probably my most played game as it appeals to people of all ages, all gaming aptitudes and preferences. I have endlessly bought it as a gift for others and it is probably the game I have taught most so far.


And, you can always add the Imploding Kittens for more challenge and confusion. Just don’t end up wearing the cone of shame!

4. Obama Llama

Last time I got this out at games night, we had a spontaneous moment while we missed Obama. That in itself was a sociable activity, if somewhat tinged with sadness. Then we got on with the ridiculous task of working out what celebrities rhyme with. You roll the dice to determine whether you have to act out your rhyme, give clues or simply describe your allocated celebrity and their rhyme.

It is very entertaining and certainly easy to learn. It doesn’t score highly on having many possible levels to it: there really isn’t any difficulty at all. But, the components are of a decent quality and it is extremely sociable.

5. Travel Downfall or just Downfall

An MB classic. Both sizes of Downfall are a popular choice. It is easy to learn: simply get your counters through in numerical order. If you want to add challenge you can specify that all of one colour must be first or put your counters in, in a random order but still have them come through in numerical order. There is plenty of challenge available. As for quality of components? Considering the game is about 35 years old I’d say we can confidently score that highly. Fun and socialising is often about banter and lively interactions with friends. Downfall is perfect for this.

We spent many happy minutes shouting at each other and reading the same paragraph of the rules to each other whilst emphasising different words. It all ended happily. Well, I went home so I’m assuming it did. Yet another game I had to abandon at the pub.

On reflection, I should add that to my criteria: leavability?
Anyway – just for you. I done a graph.
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I can help you be more ‘hip’.

(Or do the kids still say ‘peng’? Either way I can definitely be your guide on the route to hip living.)
‘But how can I be cooler?’ ‘Please, help me be more ‘with it” I hear you clamour. Here’s how: play more games. Simple. At the moment board and card games are where it’s at: just check out the number of amazing board game cafes springing up. I’ve accidentally become in vogue! This places me in a unique position to help you. You too can be debonair like me.*
*any photographic evidence you may stumble upon that suggests I am uncool is ironic and therefore uber cool.
If, like some poor unfortunate souls I have met recently, you don’t like games I have a simple solution – a flow chart (what could be cooler than that? I ask you. Again, if you feel flowcharts are deeply uncool I call irony.)
Simply identify the reason you hate/ mildly dislike games from the list then read on to find out which game you definitely will enjoy.
Next, play the game. Easy. You’re well on your way to achieving ultimate hipness without having to resort to a hipster hair bun.
Finally, take pictures of your game and tweet them to @cardsordie where we will validate your cool status. You’re there: you are the coolest kid on the block. You’re welcome.
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Launch Party Update

I was going to write a long detailed blog with delicious recipes, life hacks and insights into life, the universe… you get the idea. Then I thought I’ll ‘just’ do my flyer for the launch first. Hahaha ‘just’. Hours later, and with a partner who now regrets asking me ‘would it be better if you tilted that line up slightly?’ it is done. And this is the blog. There are no insights. No recipes. No surprising revelation or amazing thing I did every day for a month and it changed my life. Just this: drawing with a chalk pen isn’t as fun as it sounds.
Feel free to offer constructive criticism or suggestions about this week’s blog- my partner did and he’s just dandy.
A big pile of frustration:
I got there in the end and the flyers are now ordered, thanks to my fearless partner, paint and Vistaprint. Next I need to go on a smarm offensive and convince people to wander the streets of Horsforth flyering. (Yes that’s still a verb).


And then we’re onto the fun bit which is where you come in – choosing which games to bring.
Have a look on my menu and tweet me or comment here about the games you would like to play. If there’s one you want that isn’t there, let me know and I’ll look out for a copy.
Robert Redford asked me to remind you to like, share and subscribe…
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The social media mirror: shameless self promotion meets self deprecation.

Recently, I have been spending more and more time shamelessly promoting myself. I have attended Networking events, shared potentially tedious moments from my life on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook and spent time in the pub. And spent more time than that reflecting on what a knob I probably am. To persuade you (and me) that I’m not, I’ve organised us a very special night out… read on….
The perils and joys of Networking or Blowing your own trumpet:
Networking has been a peculiar but positive experience. For someone with anxiety it is a very particular torture. I have met some lovely, friendly people and, as with most things I have anxiety dreams about, it turned out I didn’t lose my job and I was wearing all my clothes.
The first event I attended was mercifully under-attended. Now, I assume some of the attendees were disappointed but that was a good number for me. I could talk to people and felt quite comfortable. (There was also free wine. I’m pretty sure there is no correlation between that and my relaxed state). I left feeling more confident and ready to attend other networking thingys.
The second networking event was more difficult on many levels. Firstly, I had to get up at 5.45 a.m. Now, I don’t mind getting up at 5.45 a.m. but I expect there to be a beach or Paris at the other end of my journey not a room full of businessmen. (Some women did arrive which was a relief). The next level of anxiety was that we all needed to stand up and introduce our business. Those who know me will know that when I am anxious, one of my defense mechanisms is a fairly convincing devil may care attitude and attempts at humour. Not useful if you want to be taken seriously. But, I did it. I said a sensible thing. I didn’t cry and no-one lost their job and people were friendly. Me: 1 Anxiety: 0. By the time I scarpered to the safety of home and a reassuring cup of tea, I had actually made some contacts.
I have another one coming up. It’s in a bar so that’s promising. Hopefully I can stave off the anxiety dreams until then. (See psychoville for an impression of my anxiety dreams)
Maybe there’ll even be freebies..

Self aggrandizement via the medium of social media

Thanks to the magic (possibly operated by actual witchcraft) of ‘if this then that’:
I am able to simultaneously share updates from my life in triplicate. I highly recommend it as a tool for reaching/ boring a wider audience. And if you have anxiety this is yet another opportunity to scrutinise whether you are actually adding any value to other people’s lives. Joyous.
But, my favourite moment of self marketing wankery was in an e.mail conversation with a friend who casually asked about my business plan to which I replied: ‘I still need to formalise my business plan’. At this point I had no business plan. At all. Now, with a little help from my friends @KerryMG and @Zebra_Marketing I actually have a business plan. Although I have to say Zebra’s contribution was more practical than this Kerry-
To the pub
And, in more positive news, I have been spending some quality time with my local – The Abbey Inn, Horsforth (follow them on twitter @thabbeyinn)
This has been my favourite marketing activity to date. (And anxiety free – there’s a booze link again… maybe I can come off the meds and just drink loads of wine??…) And anyway the exciting result of all this hard work and my relentless pr drive is a LAUNCH PARTY!!!!
We are bringing you the opportunity of a lifetime: play games, drink good beer and help a small, local business just starting out on the rocky road to success. Look out for the event on twitter, instagram and facebook. I’ll be all over those naturally.
In other words: on Wednesday 8th March 7pm onwards, join us at The Abbey or I’ll set my cat on you.
My complete brain_edited_edited

In which I think about gaming with my elders and review Cortex.

I’ve said it before and I’m saying it again – playing games is good for you; for your social skills and keeping your brain active. In the coming weeks I will be demonstrating the health and social benefits of games in a local retirement home. (By that I mean hanging out and playing games but it’s totally justified and worthy). I’m also hoping to re-learn all those card games I used to know and love but have since forgotten.
This excerpt from a report on Bradfield Residential Home which was rated outstanding by The Care Quality Commission (CQC) spells out the importance of activities in Care Homes:
“A wide range of activities were available, based on people’s suggestions and requests, which people’s family and friends were invited to take part in. Spontaneous activities took place and entertainment was provided… People were supported to do what they wanted when they wanted. People led a fulfilled and meaningful life. Staff spent quality time with people to give them emotional support and comfort. Staff reminisced with people about their life and discussed what was happening in the world.”
Board games fill me with a warm sense of nostalgia, the sight of a vintage MB box takes me straight back to my childhood. Who better to reminisce with than the generation who, after much careful deliberation, chose those very games and played them with their own children and grandchildren?
What could be more sociable than sitting round a board working out how to thrash your opponents? And for a generation who don’t while away their days watching cat videos on facebook, (I’ve included a short one just for you though) board and card games are a perfect way of forgetting about worldly troubles. And let’s face it there’s a lot of those about.
Described as ‘a brain-busting card game’ by its creators, Cortex is definitely coming with me on my visits. The aim of the game is to build a brain by collecting sets of challenge cards. The cards test you on memory, co-ordination, perception, observation, reasoning and touch.
Pictured here, my fragmented brain (before) and my complete brain (after the restorative effects of Cortex).
The touch challenge is ingenious and one that I thought was going to be easy. Turns out that distinguishing a zebra from a teddy bear using only touch is quite tricky.
Spotting the same image repeated and memorising the images on the card are my easiest challenges and these are the cards I find most visually pleasing. I love the retro style prints so maybe that makes it easier for me.
But my nemesis is this chirpy looking guy:
He expects me to label my hands (left is blue, right is red) and number my fingers 1-5. His demands don’t end there though- next I have to match the fingers as shown on his annoyingly cheerful face. I can sometimes co-ordinate myself before my opponent. Rarely, I can put the correctly numbered fingers on the correct part of my face – but never with my tongue still in my mouth. And always in painful slow motion. Most often I just sit staring at my hands in a kind of stupefied panic.
It takes about 15 minutes or less to play a game and up to 6 people can play. Looking forward to sharing my love for this game and possibly even mastering my co-ordination. I’ll let you know how that goes…

In which I reminisce about halogen days. Or something.

Like most people of my age, I was raised on board games. The sight of the MB logo makes me feel nostalgic and casts me back to an era when playing a game didn’t involve any electricity but did require other people, (unless your brother had tricked you into playing 52 card pick up again -a trick you’d think would only work once), when you could watch the news at the cinema and leave your back door open. Actually, I’m not *that* old. We were the proud owners of this piece of modernity:
I have been cataloguing all of my games.
What could have been a dull admin task has actually been a sojourn into my childhood.
Boggle was a family favourite: portable and quick to play. I remember playing Boggle with all my family – we all loved a word game. But what I hadn’t realised until I started working my way through my games again is that they had adapted the rules for me, as I was the youngest. And for all this time I never knew that you have to cross out the words that everyone got. My memory of playing with my siblings is that it was much more cut-throat. They were obviously nicer than I thought!
Although I do remember playing Escape From Altlantis with my eldest Sister who insisted that we ‘play nicely’. Escape from Atlantis is a game of survival. Each player tries to save their own Atlanteans whilst feeding their opponents to Sharks and Sea Monsters while Octopi lie in wait to destroy their boats leaving swimmers thrashing about in the freezing sea hoping that a friendly dolphin will protect them. ‘Playing Nicely’ pretty much destroys the whole game. Nowadays I’m a fan of a co-operative game but then, not so much.
Even friends of my siblings were not exempt from my demands. While Chris waited for my brother to douse himself in Old Spice or Brut and be ready to head to the pub, he would often sit on the floor and play a game of something. Chris once told me that if you open a golf ball acid shoots out and blinds you. He also once accidentally shaved his eyebrows off whilst trying to ‘even them up’. These odd tales and his willingness to play Perfection endlessly made him a favourite visitor. I remember the first time I played against him and when the timer ended he screamed in a very high pitched manner and clutched his chest. Excellent adulting.
Bank Holidays were for whole family games of Monopoly which lasted days and were played out lying on the flowery carpet in front of the gas fire with it’s coloured glass stones and swirling light effect. Age was a boon here, with the eldest always being banker and the youngest (me) being the first to declare bankruptcy or spent attention span.
My Aunty and my Mum liked to play card games and they taught me Gin Rummy, Pontoon, New Market and others I’ve since forgotten. We would sit in my Aunty’s caravan in North Wales drinking tea, listening to the rain beat on the caravan roof while we bet pennies on the cards. Aunty Terry always played to me, much to the annoyance of my Uncle. She would always promise to stop it and then wink at me conspiratorially. I learnt kindness from her, the fulfilment of victory but luckily didn’t develop a gambling problem.
So for me board and card games are comforting: a warm nostalgic glow like watching slow turning light through fire coloured glass; like watching the butter melt into a crumpet as I patiently wait for Pebble Mill at One to end; like marvelling at the fact that flowery wallpaper and a flowery carpet don’t necessarily match; the comfort of family with all the rivalry and love that comes with it.
Escape From Colditz

Escaping from Colditz and the Exclusion Illusion

There is nothing more enticing to a child than something forbidden. For my year 9s it was a poem. It was a lesson I taught many times. I would distribute anthologies from the AQA exam board and ask them to turn to page 37. In some anthologies they would find ‘Education for Leisure’ by Carol Ann Duffy, but in some – judiciously placed, post 2008 anthologies they would read ‘This page has been intentionally left blank.’
Some kids: “How come mine’s blank?” “I haven’t got a poem” “Why has she got a poem and I haven’t?” “Let’s see”…. and much generic fussing culminating in a general consensus that it was ‘tight’ that they couldn’t all have a poem.
My response was to explain that some of them were blank because the government and the exam board don’t want you to read it. This consolidated the vague and shared sense of injustice into a tangible outrage that ‘they’ would ‘even dare stop me reading that poem’.
I did my best as a responsible adult to assuage their anger by explaining that if I read it to them then they would probably segue from hanging round in hoodies intimidating old folks to actually murdering people. But in the end I gave in and read it to my hushed, conspiratorial audience. Awesome.
For me, it was not a poem but a board game that I was denied access to. And it was my brother’s insistence on playing Escape From Colditz alone, rather than let me ‘ruin it’ that found me in an e.bay bidding war for a copy of the forbidden game. Surely I am big enough now to master its complexities.
Somewhat daunted by the suggested 2.5 hour time limit, my son and I bravely commenced. At the end of 2 days, he had sprung only one PoW and we crowned him the winner. We carefully packed it away in its box and waited for a rainy weekend.
Colditz is complex. One of you assumes the role of German guard and thwarts your opponents every escape attempt. Gleefully calling ‘Appels’ at key moments rendering all their previous moves futile. The thought of adopting multiple roles is a kind of intelligent lunacy. It has made me look at my daft big brother in a whole new respectful light. (But don’t let on I’ve said that though).
And what about you? Don’t worry I have something that you’re not allowed to play. Well, you are allowed but it’s probably too difficult for you: Enigma.
It’s impossible: a combination of maze, riddles and pits of ignorance. I’ve said this to visitors aged 9 and up, always with the same response: ‘Let me have a look then.’ In fairness both Carrie and Brigid got at least one question right. (O.K. it was one but I thought I’d big them up.)
In fact, here’s 2 riddles – solve one (just post your answer in the comments section or tweet me #cardsordie) and you win the ‘smug git of the week’ award plus a much sought after Cards or Die badge. I mean you won’t get it so I’d stop reading here if I were you…
The game is on…Good Luck!

Blog the second – In which my Imposter Syndrome is cured and I apologise for over-sharing ‘the m

It started with an innocuous event: I drove past a hairdresser’s window with a sign which proudly began
‘With over 10 years experience…’
My automatic negative thoughts responded instantly:
‘Oh my God, I’ve just started a business, I can’t put that. I have no experience AT ALL. I’m an idiot…’
Then, before the internal verbal abuse took hold, ‘something very strange’ happened: I answered. From deep within me, a different voice spoke, a voice I have tried (with varied success) to reach through countless CBT* strategies. And that strange but very welcome voice responded:
‘With over 40 years experience of board gaming…’
And there it was. Gone.
Now, I’m not an idiot (contrary to what some people – including part of me- may think) and I know it will take more than this. But it is still a massive step in the right direction for me.
My Imposter Syndrome and the general state of my mental health is perhaps best summarised by one of my inktober creations:
I have been plagued by self doubt for as long as I can remember. My own self doubt, and the part of me that actively hates me, gleefully seized onto the idea of Imposter Syndrome, then worked closely with they-who-shall-not-be-named (OFSTED) and Michael Gove, to systematically destroy me and to reduce a job I loved to a set of sticks to beat myself with.
Even in the dark times, this usually made me smile.
It is hard living with a person who you hate with a desperate sincerity. Don’t get me wrong, I have tried not to give in to ‘her’ -that nasty part of me who is so unforgiving- and I would never let her speak to other people the way she speaks to me. I have battled the air drawn monsters of my mind with varying levels of success and exhaustion. But that day, that moment, felt like victory. I had dealt a fatal blow. Surely she can’t have many life points left.
For the first time ever, the response was heartfelt, not the rehearsed mantras or stock CBT responses, which all work but sometimes even the edges of these seem a little frayed.
So, it is with untold pleasure and pride that I present my response to you:
‘With over 40 years experience of board gaming (including a dark period of being ‘too young to play Colditz, you’ll just ruin it), Cards or Die has all the gaming nerdery you’ll ever need.’
p.s. I take it back, I’m not sorry I shared this.
*cognitive behavioural therapy
2017-01-01 18.09.25

My New Year’s Resolutions. You won’t believe number 492!!*

(*I actually only made 5 but it’s worked for everything I’ve clicked on ever).

This year I don’t want there to be a grey area when he’s making his list (and checking it twice) so in a bid to remain firmly on the good list, I am making resolutions. Now this is not something I usually do. Previous resolutions have been largely modelled on my current lifestyle. (swear more, eat more chocolate, sit still more, continue to tread that difficult border of acceptable levels of personal hygiene etc…) But this year it’s different – everything is different. In December I finished teaching; my career and mental health nemesis for the last 16 years. I don’t normally make resolutions but change is good… which brings me to…

1. Embrace Change.
I have an exciting year ahead and I can’t wait to get stuck into it. I want to enjoy it all, even the crazy hectic times. (Not so much the accounts, maybe I should have a separate resolution about that one…) I’m determined to enjoy it all even if it’s not what I *normally* do.
I’m currently planning the Launch Event for Cards or Die so look out for details soon…

2. Beat my son.

At any game. Even if it involves no strategic thinking. I am past caring.

I believe that when you play against children, you have to let them win around 50% of the time. Otherwise they just become demotivated and refuse to play. I’m now at that tipping point. If I don’t win soon I’m taking my ball home.

He taught me Magic and beat me which was fair enough as he was obviously ahead of me. I could come to terms with that. We worked out Boss Monster together, sussing out the rules, playing a trial round before he thrashed me. Again. And again.

Still, I thought I’ll get better, with practice (I’m all about the growth mindset). Then I taught him Mancala, patiently and clearly explaining possible strategies as we played a trial run through. But again, he is victorious. So my resolution for this year is to learn a game which I can definitely beat him at. Every time. Well, I’ll settle for most of the time. Alright. Just once. I just want to win once.

3. Keep Calm and….

Vistaprint always has a special offer on. Just for me. I know it’s specially for me because my logo is on everything on the website. I resolve to not buy everything just because there’s a mock-up of it with my logo on. But it’s hard dammit Vistaprint. It’s practically impossible. Especially the stickers… oooh I could put stickers on the games… But NO I will be strong. I don’t want to Keep Calm and brand everything in the world. Although, I wonder if they do tattoos…… and family discounts….

4. Keep learning
Play lots of Skull (now Shut Up and Sit Down have de-mystified it for me)

5. And finally… aim high.
Be preposterously ambitious.
This time next year who knows where we’ll be.