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Hanging out at The Old Hellfire Club

The Old Hellfire Club
Plays: 2-6
Time: 45- 60mins
Age: 14+
Created by Jamie Frew
What did you do this weekend? I hung out at the Old Hellfire Club with some old braggarts I know. We quaffed gin and they tried to impress me with their tales of derring do. They’re a bunch of penniless reprobates who aren’t to be trusted, constantly interrupting one another with increasingly implausible claims. Honestly, nothing much impresses me anymore… not since that time I cheated death and still made it home in time for tea…
So begins the Old Hellfire Club. A card game with a fun, original twist. Players assume the character of a penniless Victorian sot making outrageous claims using the cards in their hand. When you strip it back the mechanic is simple: –
  • play cards of the same suit as an opponent but with a lower value to prevent them from scoring bonuses
  • play cards valued 7 or more to score bonus pennies if, that is no-one challenges you
  • you can also play patrons to get bonuses or force others to discard cards
  • collect or steal benefactors if you play the highest value of a suit
  • collect the most cards of a suit to be awarded further bonuses
  • The player with the most pennies wins.
But enough about mechanics, top up your gin and draw closer. I intend to tell you about the time I cheated death but still got back in time for tea. I had been suffering from l’ennui for some time so decided to treat myself to some new clothing to lift my spirits. Alas it turned out that the clothing I had purchased was both flammable and poisonous – a near miss with a gas lamp had left me singed and vengeful. I had acquired my dapper suit from non other than David Livingstone – lately back from a sojourn abroad (he did tell me where he’d been but I forget now – he does prattle at length). I resolved to seek my revenge so I took the seditious writings Karl Marx had lent to me and I planted them in Livingstone’s offices along with the near fatal outfit, put in an anonymous call to the metropolitan scuffers and streaked home in time for tea.
Even if you are not a fan of acting or story telling this is still a great game where you can employ strategies and tactics to outwit your opponents. However, I would urge you to give the story telling a try. Assuming characters and telling stories as good as these is a joy – the prompts are all there on the cards to help you. And if you’re looking for inspiration you can play along @oldhellfire over on the Twitter.
One of the things that first drew me to the game was the creator’s twitter feed. I have backed games with entertaining descriptions and well crafted pitches before and been let down by a lack of flavour text so I was so pleased when the cards and rules surpassed my expectations. The game is saturated in its theme and that is both the beauty and genius of it. If your motive is whimsy for instance you are ‘driven by playfulness, fancy or foolish caprice. Like a cat to geography.’
The artwork on the game is fabulous too. A mixture of chocolate box art and period paintings that match the theme perfectly. Often belying the text underneath they add to the humour of the game. Flammable clothing for instance shows children warming themselves by the fire, a wholesome scene if you ignore the text!
The patrons are a fair mix of males and females – all suitably austere portraits. Apart from one of the women who looks quite playful – it must be the massive hat she is wearing that has put her in such a mood! With the notable exception of Mary Seacole I was disappointed that there are no people of colour represented on the cards. I am always a fan of diversity in games even if it is at the cost of historical accuracy.
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The game comes to Kickstarter on the 9th April. One of the stretch goals will be metal coins to keep count of your victorious brags and early backers will receive a monocle. They have also worked closely with Meeple Like Us to create an accessible deck which is really good to see.
The combinations of perils, motives, crimes, places, weapons, people and objects are endlessly entertaining and varied. Added to that the suggested list of 21 possible story threads and the varying order in which cards will be played and you have hours of entertainment here in this one little pack of cards. There are no limits to the tales you can weave and embellish. Pop this velveteen pouch of delights in your bag, set your imagination free and prove yourself the most daring member of this infamous club.
In the meantime come and see us at one of out events and you can try it out.
Check out their Twitter or Facebook
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Get Billy The Kid – first impressions

Plays 4-8
At 4 players it comprises 3 lawmen and Billy The Kid, at 5 you add Martha Garcia – Billy’s accomplice).
Time 20-30 minutes
Age 9+
Get Billy The Kid – affectionately known as ‘The Kid’ finally made it to our table on Friday (…and Saturday… and Sunday). It’s a print and play version and although I finally got round to investing in some decent cardboard I know that the actual game will be much shinier and lovelier. But these pictures will give you a flavour of the game.
The Kid comes from Caper Games – the makers of Get Adler, Vertium and Shooterz. It uses the same game mechanic as Get Adler so if you enjoy that then you will love this too. To be fair if you own Get Adler you probably only need to read to the end of the next sentence. It has real life cowboys and there’s a shootout!
The Kid is divided into two parts. In part one you must try to sniff out the kid and his outlaws using your powers of deduction. To help you do this you can peek at people’s cards, ask questions and of course closely observe as the terrible liars in your group give themselves away. This is where that course I did on spotting shoplifters comes into its own. That stint working on bed linens at Debenhams has proved very useful over the years – what with my extensive knowledge of duvet tog ratings and the ability to spot shifty individuals. Anyway… I digress
Once the first three rounds are over you may begin attempting to unveil and arrest the outlaws. But beware – a wrong accusation will freeze you and your fellow lawman out for a round letting the outlaws gain valuable ground. Once the identities are revealed the pace of the game changes significantly. While the previous rounds required reflection and consideration; the rounds now are all about high speed chases and shoot outs. To win, the outlaw(s) must evade capture over 7 rounds or shoot their pursuers. They must also be in possession of a bag of gold at the end of the game – otherwise all their hard work is meaningless.
The first part has a Guess Who feel but with the added complication that the outlaws may lie. So, more like playing Guess Who with your short sighted slightly deaf Grandma, except in this case if you accuse her of lying she may draw a pistol and shoot you dead.
‘Talk low, talk slow and don’t say too much’ John Wayne
You have seven cards in your hand and you are trying to curate a hand that best aids your character. As in all the best games, it’s all about balance. A lawman with too many arrest cards won’t have enough gun cards to survive a shootout but lose all your arrest cards and you may have to watch the outlaws ride out of town with the gold.
Although the outlaws are together and the lawmen form a team against them you may not confer or discuss strategy. For instance the kid and Martha pass cards to one another which can strengthen each others’ hands or simply be used as a mechanism to suggest which cards you have. Plus you can still look at others’ hands using the rifle card and whereas before you used that to see who your enemies were, you can use it now to see what cards your allies have. Lawmen are on their own in a shoot out but if the kid tries to escape any of the lawmen with a matching card can give chase, bravely mounting a donkey and pursuing the kid into the mountains. So the no speaking rule adds to the tactics and strategy in more imaginative ways than simply ganging up on each other.
The outlaws are always outnumbered but cards like the disguise and TNT re-balance things. The disguise allows outlaws to escape unpursued on that occasion and the TNT which leaves the lawmen frozen out for a round while the ringing in their ears stops.
After identities are revealed there is also the opportunity to buy additional cards – more arrest cards for the lawmen and guns or escape cards for the outlaws.
As a historical game there is a higher number of male characters which is a shame but they have added Martha Garcia to redress the balance somewhat. While there are plenty of female outlaws the lawmen at that time were just that – men. They have used second person in the rule book and while that should not be remarkable, I think it is worth noting and I’m always pleased to see it.
‘It appears my hypocrisy knows no bounds.’ Doc Holliday
One of the nice details is that the outlaws can try to entice Doc Holliday onto their side by using gold cards as bribes. Upon joining the outlaws Doc can discard these cards drawing up more useful cards like guns or escape cards or he can remain true to the law and help bring those felons down. A little light research into Doc Holliday reveals that this behaviour is entirely in character which is brilliant! Extra historical kudos points to Caper Games.
There’s now also a two player variant – High Noon Shootout- included in the game which I am eager to try. As you know despite living with 4 other people, getting 5 of us to the table at once is a challenge so the 2 player game will be very useful.
Raised on ‘cowies’ as my Dad called the Westerns – one of my favourite films is Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid – the theme of this game is right up my street. The two part structure means it is a lot more than just a hidden role or deduction game. And on top of all that, the artwork is lovely – particularly the character cards. I can’t wait to play and share my pictures of the final version. If you remember Young Guns you’ll remember the repeated assertion that Billy the Kid ‘ain’t all there, is he?’ I can assure you that this version of the kid is definitely ‘all there’.
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Games for Weddings and Mental Health Meet Ups

This week I’ve written a guest blog for Lisa Bourne a wedding and naming ceremonies celebrant based in Yeadon Leeds.
I first met Lisa when she booked me to take part in the Men’s Mental Health event in Leeds. The event aimed to reach out to men and offer advice and/ or a safe space to discuss mental health issues. There were groups there who provided opportunities for men to sign up to activities or social groups which promoted inclusion, tackled the feeling of loneliness and isolation and promoted general wellbeing. Since then I have helped out at The Abbey House Museum Time to Change board games events which Lisa runs as a volunteer. Sometimes it’s just me and Lisa and other times a couple of people come. I know that the nature of mental health issues can mean that although I want to do something I can’t always. We’re both more than happy to offer this service and perhaps in time more people will feel able to come and in the meantime I can witter at Lisa about my mental head stuff and play the occasional game!
The other significant part Lisa is about to play in my life (besides listening to my woes and playing games with me at least once a month!) is that I have booked her to be our wedding celebrant. I am so excited and the more I see on her facebook page and website, the more I know that she will make our ceremony unique to us. We will need to visit the registry office to formalise the wedding as unfortunately humanist celebrants don’t have the power to legally marry you yet (- keeping my fingers crossed on this one) but it means that our wedding can be free of patriarchal traditions and rules which is something that means a lot to both of us.
Weddings are all about getting people together. That can mean that friends who never usually meet or relatives that don’t know each other are thrust into a room together, sharing a table, trying to think of things to say. There’s often a twilight zone in the middle of the wedding where day guests and early arrivals for the evening mill about aimlessly trying to work out whether they should go back to their room, eat something or not or whether they will be needed for the photos. The answer to this is board games – of course. Well you didn’t expect anything else from me!
Our next Time to Change event is at The Abbey House Museum on 9th April 10 to 11.30am
Check out my current event listings here.
Guest Blog – click here

A wordless blog.

Just back from Airecon. My happiness and enjoyment are now at the same level as my desire to sit in a dark room and not speak! As I have used up all my words over the weekend this blog is mainly pictures!
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It has been an awesome weekend. I’ve met loads of fabulous, inspiring people in real life who I have only known virtually before.
I have taught games, learnt new games, bought some essential earrings, added to the Cards or Die menu, resolved rules disputes between my children, argued with my children about rules, watched my children be complete charmers with other people who teach them games, met new people and old friends and generally had an awesome Airecon.
And now I’m going for a lie down.
Websites to check out:
Both Sides of My Table (Solo Game Reviews)
Crafting Jones (jewellery and crafts – all manner of loveliness)
Dranda Games – (Makers of Solar Storm)
Games Crusade (your FLGS)
Wren Games (makers of Assembly)
Gamely Games (makers of Randomise and more)
We’re Not Wizards (entertaining podcasts of the non-wizarding variety)
Yog-Shogoth (makers of the Eternal Journal)
and of course keep track of Airecon so we can do it all again next year.

Eeeek It’s nearly time for Airecon.

Last year was my first Airecon. Airecon is an analog gaming convention which takes place in Harrogate next weekend (8,9 &10 March). We had a fab time playing loads of games from the library and we also learnt how to play Quirk!, Azul, Sagrada and had a game of giant Tsuro. I also treated myself to some new games. I’m looking forward to more of the same this year…
1. The Pre Airecon Warm Up!
I’m really excited to be working with Bez at Airecon this year – I’ll be demoing and teaching Wibbell++. We’re starting early though with a pre Airecon warm up night at The Abbey Inn, Bramley – which will include some Wibbell++ tournaments and maybe even some Yogi. It’s particularly special to me as it marks two years since my launch event at The Abbey so it would be great to see lots of you there. I’ve come a long way in two years. I have moved the business from a potentially crazy idea to an actual business. I know I keep banging on about it but I’m delighted to have been nominated for Best Independent Business in the Yorkshire Choice awards, I’ve been in the Yorkshire Evening Post and I’m going to be on BBC Radio Leeds on the 18th from 2 till 3pm with Liz Greene. When I held the launch party I genuinely had no idea whether the business would work or not I was just going to give it a shot. And two years on Cards or Die is moving from strength to strength. So join us and celebrate. We’ll have some prizes and you can get your gaming brains ready for Airecon!
2. New Games
When I say new games I mean of course that I will be scouring every inch of the bring and buy as well as maybe treating myself to a ‘new new’ game. Last year I came away with Spy Ring which is an absolute classic, Orcs Orcs Orcs and Resistance which are great games too. Handily Mother’s Day falls at the end of March so my super organised children also bought me games – my favourite of which was Honshu. So kids – this is your annual reminder: Mother’s Day is coming – buy some games. On a completely unrelated note I still don’t have a copy of this….. just saying…
3. Team Trevor
Some time ago I got myself added to a list on the internet. Don’t worry – it’s a good list. Janice off of Wren Games created a list of people who engaged in conversations and gave feedback on games related chat and then suggested we should name the list. @BSoMT suggested Trevor and a monster was born -the kind of monster that you have a lot of affection for.
@EarthtoGames described us as ‘a group of like minded twitterers within the board game community with hearts of pure gold and helpful minds to match’. The group constantly expands – anyone can join the group and the chat just use #teamtrevor and add to the nonsense/ high quality gaming ideas.
Many of Team Trevor will be at Airecon and I can not wait to meet them in real life. I have been active on Twitter for two years and many of these people regularly support me and the business so I am very excited about meeting them. I am also slightly nervous that they will realise I’m an idiot but I feel like if you’ve followed me on twitter for two years and haven’t figured that out then that’s your own problem.
4. Open Gaming
The greatest thing about Airecon for me is the amount of open gaming space. As I have said many times before board gaming for me is all about getting together with people – connecting with people. I hope to be spending some time with my family playing new games and having fun together and I know that while I’m working that’s what they’ll be doing (as well as the obligatory bickering about rules). Travelling Man is providing the games library this year so there’s going to be an epic selection of games again.
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A week in war time games.

Board gaming for me is all about bringing people together and I’ve done that every day this week at The Royal Armouries in Leeds. There’s still Sunday left to come and see us. A whopping 1095 people have visited Cards or Die and stayed for a game or two (or more), I’ve told stories about the games, taught people how to play and more importantly listened to stories about and inspired by the games. I love listening to people’s tales and games are often the perfect jumping off point for a great story. People handle the boxes and the memories come – trickling at first, then flooding the senses giving brief glimpses of the past. I have enjoyed snippets of conversation overheard – ‘I’ve got a copy of that in my parents’ attic”We had that exact one”My Grandad made us one of those’.
Tiddly Winks
Picking up a box of tiddly winks a lady in a wheelchair laughed and told me that years ago she was being patronised by a group of – as she referred to them – hooray Henrys – who were expressing their sorrow that she would never be able to take part in any sport. She informed them that nothing could be further from the truth. In fact she and her friend were the UK underwater tiddlywinks champions. She explained to them, at length, the excitement and danger of this niche sport – ‘if you get a tiddly wink in your snorkel it can be fatal’; how vital it is that you always ‘tiddle before you wink’ – her friend went to the loo at this point unable to conceal her laughter any longer. The Henrys were gripped by these tales of high energy, dare devil tiddlywinking. I like to think that at some point in the thirty years that followed it has dawned on them.
This MB classic has been one of the most played games of the week – at times all four copies were in use. A child announced – “we’ve played this on your phone – but here it is ‘in real life’!” As a child who was not allowed to own battleship because ‘it’s a waste of money – you just need a piece of paper and a pencil’ I can fully understand the excitement of the real thing!
On Tuesday as they left, a group of people who had played Battleship were promising their children that they would get some games out when they got home. It’s lovely to be able to share something of our childhood with our own children.
One group came in and asked about playing Risk. I said they would need a couple of hours or could play for a while and just see who was in the lead. ‘Oh no,’ they said ‘we’re not staying that long.’ Then they sat and played battleship for two hours! I love that about games – you can get thoroughly lost in a game and have no idea how long you have been playing. Often we rush about and feel like there is never enough time for anything so it is a luxury to be able to lose ourselves in an activity, to be consumed by it and escape reality for a while.
Shut The Box
Another favourite from this week. People of all ages have played – from tiny ones adding up on their fingers and studiously counting each dot on the dice as they didn’t yet recognise the patterns to Grandmas and Grandads playing on their own while they waited for the children and grandchildren to finish on the crossbow range next door.
This ridiculous game is as luck based as it is addictive – you are trapped endlessly rolling the dice in an attempt to get the exact number needed to ‘shut the box’. I taught it to some people who had never played it before – while demonstrating it once I shut the box. As newcomers to the game they did not understand my elation and said how easy it seemed. ‘Ha!’ I said – ‘take it, play it… you will see’. I popped over to see how they were getting on. The youngest child (while continually rolling dice) ‘It’s a stupid game really, I mean I’m just rolling dice and putting numbers down. You don’t need any skill. You just need to roll dice and add up. It’s just luck’
Me: ‘You can’t stop, can you?’
Him: ‘No!’
This- this is the intrinsic genius of Shut The Box.
Hearts Vs Minecraft
Hearts is the oldest game in my collection. From 1914, billed as an ‘exciting letter game’ from Parker Brothers, its delicate paper dice shaker contains 6 red dice with gold letters on. You have three turns to try to roll the word HEARTS. Simple but lovely and very much of its time.
It also contains advice on how to learn games which I think is priceless and still relevant:
A family played it for a while and really enjoyed it. I don’t think it was ‘exciting’ by today’s standards, but their five year old adored it and succeeded in spelling out hearts over and over again. On the way out they said they had all spent a while in the minecraft session and while the children had thoroughly enjoyed it, the adults had felt a bit out of their depth – a bit left out. They were delighted to spend this time all playing together, enjoying each others company.
When I tell people what I do, they often make the assumption that it’s ‘for kids’ but it really isn’t. At least not exclusively. Board games are for everyone. They are for coming together across boundaries of age, experience, knowledge… and having fun. For grown ups it’s a much needed opportunity to play and forget about adulting for a while and for families it can be a lovely opportunity to get off your screens and just be together.
Sum It
Sum It finally made it out of its box and on to the table. A very simple game in theory, I have been unable to get my head round playing it as I have no grasp of adding up in old money. One visitor remembered being whacked whenever he got his sums wrong but he still remembers how to add up in pre-decimalisation currency and could convert it too. I’m not great at Maths and I’m pretty sure hitting me every time I got it wrong wouldn’t have helped me – although it probably would have got me out of the education system and into work a lot sooner!
Possibly the oldest game known to mankind. It is certainly an ancient game and came in very handy for helping with homework this week. Two children are going away with photos, stories and hastily googled details about mancala. It is another simple game in so far as there are few rules to grapple with and yet there is plenty of strategy to consider. Being an ancient game there are always variations on the rules to stumble upon. A couple told me that they had seen it on a holiday in Egypt carved into a wall top in an ancient temple. Google helpfully suggests that it was perhaps Karnak, Luxor or Kurna.
Nine Men’s Morris
Another game that is simple to learn with a decent amount of strategy and also popular in Roman times. One visitor explained that he had seen it carved into sandstone in South Africa. Unlike more sophisticated strategy games evenly matched players or those with enough experience of the game can eventually force a draw. People also speculated on the name – one person asking if it was to do with Morris dancing – something that crossed my mind before I played it. This has since prompted me to look it up and it seems that in Morris Dancing and Nine Men’s Morris the word morris has different origins. The popular theory is that Morris Dancing comes from either ‘Morey’s daunce’ or Morisco (often associated with Moorish traditions from the mid 15th Century). The Morris in nine men’s Morris derives from the latin word merellus meaning game piece.
Over the week a whole range of games have been played by all different people. I expected that a lot of people would enjoy looking at Risk and Escape from Colditz, I didn’t think they’d get played but even they made it on to the table. While playing this I heard the story of a polish man, a friend of someone’s Grandma who had escaped Warsaw by strangling a guard and swimming the river.
A lady who picked up Ludo and asked if I remembered Frustration. Yes, I said and handed her the copy – just as she was telling me that the one she had as a child was a popomatic one. She grinned at me, took it and played it with her son. He loved popping it and she loved being able to play a game from her childhood with her son.
I’ve delighted in the post-its that went home with games written on – Abalone, Shut The Box, Mancala, The Grizzled – to look up and buy. As well as the promise of games once relegated to cupboards, caravans and attics which will now be freed.
The modern games have been a joy too. Being in a room full of laughter and animal noises is bizarre but lovely. Charades was originally a French game which actually involved solving riddles. Later, as a Victorian Parlour game it took on the form we recognise now where people act things out while others guess what they are doing. It has always been a popular game and remains so now. I brought along modern variations on the theme and so people have played Charades, Animal Ailments, all three versions of Quirk!, Obama Llama (1 and 2), Soundiculous and Randomise. These are games that bring joy to people and it has been fantastic to watch and hear them played.
My favourites, of course, are the slightly grumpy teens. I taught them for seventeen years and now I live with some – you’ve got to love them. A father and a young child settled down to a game of Mancala while the teenagers sat staring into the distance looking disgruntled. I had run through some of the games with them when they arrived but they were unimpressed. 10 minutes into Mancala, I noticed they had started watching the game. I took the second copy over and sure enough moments later they were engrossed in a game too. Often to win the war what is needed is a series of small victories.
So this blog or random collection of tales comes to a close. I’ve had a fabulous week and I hope to see lots of you at events soon. Subscribe to our monthly newsletter to make sure you don’t miss out.

War Time Gaming.

Every day over half term (16-24th February) Cards or Die will be joining the Royal Armouries Leeds in their War Games exhibition. I’m choosing a selection of war themed games and war time games from our collection for you to play or just have a look at. There will be loads of activities on throughout the week – you can see weaponry commonly found in video games, take part in historical and sci-fi scale model gaming, take part in a cyber mission and see war gaming demos.
Here are some of the games Cards or Die will be bringing along:
Blow Football
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Touring England_edited
Playing Cards
Playing cards have been around for centuries and were certainly in both sets of trenches, on all sides of the wars, in homes and in kit bags. By carrying a deck of cards you are carrying an endless selection of games: games of skill, strategy, bluff, luck, push your luck – all the key game mechanics are here. Many of those classic games are still played today – Rummy, Whist, Pontoon, Old Maid, Bridge, Cribbage … the list is endless. Even simple childhood games like snap and Happy Families or Go Fish provide the basis for some great modern card games. Dobble, Twin It, Anomia, Who Did It? all use Snap as their basic premise.
As well as providing a pastime in the trenches, cards provided opportunities for propoganda – the Germans produced decks which depicted German heroes or caricatures of the enemy. Decks of cards were also used to educate – some decks were used to teach basic French vocabulary, while others showed the colours of the allies to help with recognition. Of course just as we do now, people would come together over the games – sharing their experiences and memories, teaching their favourites from home. At a time of shortages cards were the perfect game – cheap to produce and most households would have a couple of old packs of cards they could hand down to bored children.
Word Games
Word Games like Lexicon from 1932 and Kan-U-Go also from the 1930s remained popular for years. I remember Kan-U-Go from our caravan holidays as a child (and I’m not *that* old). Later this penchant for word games led to the development of scrabble.
Family board games.
  • Snakes and Ladders actually dates back to the late 1800s and has always been loved by children. I don’t still have my childhood copy but I do have the wooden shaker that came with it; I still like the sound and feel of it. A simple game that doesn’t take too long and I remember really loving the pictures on mine. Now I have a lovely cloth bag version from M&S. Side note I did a Women’s Institute booking and one of the ladies said it was her favourite game – I expressed surprise and she explained that every time you go down a snake you drink a gin! We won’t be playing this version at The Royal Armouries but I thought I’d share the suggestion!
  • Sorry 1929 – like so many traditional family games this is sure to end in tears. It is very similar in principle to Frustration, Headache, Ludo and its German sibling ‘Mensch ärgere dich nicht’ which literally translates as ‘don’t get angry, mate’. You move around the board landing on people and sending them back to their original base to start again.
  • Cluedo and Monopoly from the 1940s have remained international family favourites and have been treated to many specialised editions. I’ve even seen a Big Bang Theory Cluedo. Many people start with these classics and then move on to bigger and (many would argue better) board games. Monopoly had a very special role in the second world war as Waddingtons manufactured editions with maps, real money and fake documents to be sent to prisoners of war. While I will still happily play Cluedo, I’m not so keen on Monopoly. You can read my further thoughts on that here.
A friend whose brother was in the Navy told me about this one. The rules can vary depending on who you ask -so before you settle down to a game it’s always best to check which house rules you’ll be adopting. Based on Ludo it can be played on a Ludo board but an Uckers board is actually a mirror image. Often Ludo boards were used or hand made boards.
Just as in Ludo you must get all four pieces home before your opponents, if you land on an opponent they are ‘ucked off’ back to the starting point. Once you reach home referred to as ‘the tube’ or ‘pipe’ your pieces are usually safe (although some versions have rules allowing ‘suckback’ or ‘blowback’). Rules vary on whether you need to roll the exact number required to get home.
If your dice goes off the board three times (a ‘bum’ roll) it is declared “off the IPS” (International Playing Surface), you incur a punishment such as losing a turn. Rolls that knock other people’s counters out of place are also considered ‘bum’ or ‘cocky’ rolls and incur penalties.
To start moving round the board you must roll a 6 and place a piece on to the ‘doorstep’ (the first space). A roll of snake eyes triggers ‘out all bits’ which means all of your pieces, and in some versions your opponents too, come out on to your doorstep. Each dice may be used to move a different piece or you use the sum of the dice to move one piece.
Landing on your own piece creates a blob (like a barrier in Frustration or Headache) which prevents opponents from passing but your own pieces can move past. Blobs can be destroyed by landing on them with another blob or ‘sixed’ by rolling a 6 plus the number of pieces making up the blob. Destroyed blobs are sent back to the start. In a two player game, where players have two colours you may end up with a ‘mixi blob’ of two of your own colours – this works as a barrier but can be sent back by landing on it with a single piece. Blobs may be moved around the board but you need to roll doubles.
People who argue over the rules are encouraged to check the underside of the board where the rules are said to be recorded. In fact all they will find are the names of previous sore losers who have ‘upboarded’ either deliberately or in a fit of pique thereby forfeiting the game.
These are just the basic rules but there are advanced adaptations too. I don’t have an actual Uckers board but I’ll have the Ludo board so feel free to have a go at Uckers on it!
We’ll also bring a selection of War Themed Games from Battleships to Homelands.
What will you play first?
Read more here – World War 1 Remembered
Play these and other awesome games at a Cards or Die event.

This Valentine’s find your perfect game set and match.

The world of online dating is fraught with cliches. Fortunately for you, I have found a practical use for them. Simply choose the cliche which best summarises you and I’ve matched you with your soul mate. Sad news, it turns out your soul mate is a board game. Read on to find your perfect match. All you need now is someone to play with….
1. I like going out and staying in.
Which makes me a match with everyone on here – I can’t believe I’m still single (that’s how my dating profile opened!). You are all things to all people, easy going and laid back, I’m starting with you first because you’re the most difficult to accommodate. You will love Sushi Go.
Sushi Go is a lovely portable game so you can pop it in your bag and take it to the pub – or play it at home! It’s a quick, fun game. Collect a high scoring combination of sushi by choosing cards carefully before you pass them on. Strike a balance between blocking your opponents, collecting cards that score now and puddings that will score at the end of the game.
2. Cosy nights snuggling up in front of a roaring fire are my favourites.
You’re all about hugs and holding hands – you need a tactile game. Azul fits the bill. In Azul you are creating a beautiful mosaic with these gorgeous tiles. You score for placing tiles in the correct place and bonuses for sets of colour, columns and rows. The mechanic is straight forward but you need to plan carefully to ensure you maximise your points. You also need to keep an eye on what others are doing to make sure your plan can’t be scuppered! Each round you get to dig deep in the drawstring bag and replenish the tile stock – a very satisfying task!
3. GSOH – I don’t care about looks, I just want someone who I can have a laugh with.
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Twin It: visually noisy, this is loads of fast paced fun. A variation on snap – you need to keep your wits about you as you have to be the first to spot a pair of matching patterns from 8 different piles (in a 4 player game). For added challenge, play on my chintzy tablecloth!
4. Honestly, though, you do care about looks.
Be honest now, if you had to choose between looks and personality – you choose looks every time. High Society is your game. Beautiful images adorn these cards which each represent elements of high society living that you can bid for. Attaining Joie de Vivre will double your points but watch out some cards half the value of your stash or make you discard a card. When these appear you bid NOT to end up with the card. The other nice twist in this game is that the person with the least money at the end of the game is disqualified. So make sure you don’t run out of money or it won’t matter how pretty your cards are – you’ve still lost. I think there’s another cynical dating reference in here somewhere….
5. Looking for fun – no strings attached.
No deck builders or legacies for you!
Yogi is a physical card game – it has been likened to Twister but with cards. I can see why, but it’s much more inventive than Twister. You must follow the instructions on the cards as you turn them over, each turn it becomes harder and harder as you add more cards to the mix. You might be battling to keep your lower teeth hidden, hold a card on your eyebrow, hold another card between your fingers and keep both arms touching!! Then you still need to be able to pick up another card and follow the instruction. Whenever we play it ends in chaos and laughter. Also if you get the right combination it can transform you into a rock star!
6. I’m new to this. My friends said I should try it… I’m not sure what to put but here goes…
Everyone loves Carcassonne, it is one of my most played games. My copy has been played at all sorts of bookings cafes, pubs, weddings… And with good reason -it’s a lovely game, great if you want to try something a bit more complex than Monopoly or Cluedo. Because of the different possibilities when placing your meeples and claiming land or roads you can just layer up the complexity as you go along. I’ve only recently mastered farmers and for some reason I still sometimes struggle to explain it clearly. So if you’re new to it I would advise you to come back to farmer later…
In its simplest terms, all you do on your turn is place the next tile from the pile adding to the map image – continuing roads, fields or cities. Each turn you can place one meeple, thereby claiming that stretch of road, city or fields surrounding an Abbey. You try to get the biggest cities or longest roads to get high scores. It’s a very satisfying game as you watch your lands grow, your score increase and your cities sprawl out. The more you play the more strategic you become.
7. Looking for my partner in crime.
If you have written this it is more than likely you are romanticising criminals – picturing stylish gangsters and their molls, spies and espionage, car chases and adventure. Get Adler will allow you to either take on the hidden role of Adler or play detective and is from just the right era to match the film playing in your head!
Agent Adler has done a runner with Top-Secret documents. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to track down and eliminate Adler and retrieve the stolen dossier. You have seven hours… The game is played in two halves – in the first part you must identify Adler and in the second you must apprehend them using the cards you have collected. Have you got enough pistol cards to outshoot Adler or will you be shot down?
8. I enjoy long walks… to the pub.
What you need is a game that you can slip in your bag and it won’t weigh you down on your long hikes. Travel Hive is a lightweight but lovely game which comes in a drawstring bag so it will fit easily into any backpack. Win by ensuring that your opponent’s Queen Bee is surrounded by tiles. Each insect in the hive has a different movement ability, making it highly strategic. It is reminiscent of chess but a much quicker game.
9. I’m laid back and easy going.
You’re not are you? In fact, you are super competitive. Your perfect game allows you to grind your opponents into the dust where they belong while you tactlessly celebrate. You need an old school classic – the insincerely named, Sorry! The kind of game siblings have played for decades, the kind of game that usually ends in tears!
10. I love travelling.
Ticket to Ride allows you to wistfully recall your travels round Europe and rant about the inadequacies of British transport whilst enjoying a tactical game of route planning and claiming. Best of all it comes with little trains!!
11. Don’t message me if you can’t differentiate between ‘your’ and ‘you’re’.
You’re lack of patience (d’ye see what I did their?!!- ooh and there. Are you twitching? What about know?) and love of language lends itself to Speedy Words. Be the first to shout out a word which matches the symbol and the letter shown. In the picture that would be a food beginning with P. If you win, you take the card and the person with the most cards at the end is the overall winner -the supreme word master, vocabulary overlord. You can come up with your own grammatically accurate title – you love doing that.
12. I don’t need any more drama in my life.
Oooh you big fibber, you thrive on it – otherwise you wouldn’t have mentioned it. Bucket of Doom for you! There are just three easy steps – choose 1 from 8 random items you could use to escape the terrifying scenario; convince the group that your plan is the best; vote for a winner each round. You definitely need a very fertile imagination for this one – you don’t have to be dramatic but it helps.
13. I’m normal.
Only people who are not normal claim to be normal. You’re not only lying, you are missing out on an opportunity to embrace your lack of normality. I can help you with that. In Quirk! you need to collect the most sets of three cards. Sounds normal so far. The twist is that in order to collect the sets you need to become the creature you’re collecting. In Quirk! Legends for instance to complete your set of Unicorns cards you must impersonate a Unicorn. You can also play tactic cards which allow you to block, distract others and tell people to Quirk Off which is immensely satisfying. It’s hilarious and noisy and anything but normal. Just like you.
14. I love my family.
The fact that you feel the need to announce this fills me with suspicion that your beloved family are under the patio. You can reminisce about their gruesome ends with a good game of Gloom. In Gloom your aim is to make your family as miserable as possible before killing them off, you can also try to lift the spirits of other people’s families (see – you’re not all bad.) The cards are see-through so that you can stack them up, obscuring or replacing some or all of the existing scores and categories. Event cards intensify the gloom of your family and outline a mishap or terrible event: ‘disappeared in the night’ or ‘was part of a feast’ for example. As these stack up you tell the horrifying story of that character. Storytelling is outlined in the rules as ‘half the fun’: you are encouraged to flesh out (if you will) how these chilling events came to pass – perhaps you could draw on past experience.
15. I give up. I’m deleting my profile.
I feel you. You don’t need anyone; you are a rock; you are an island and what you need is Tiny Epic Galaxies: a solid solo game. Take over galaxies, farm resources, beat the rogue galaxy – all in a small (ish) box. Perfect for while you are waiting for late friends (or dates).
Happy Valentine’s Y’all.
I hope you all get to play a game you love and that loves you.
2019-01-06 15.23.20

Risk. Why is it so loved?

I finally got round to playing Risk for the first time last weekend. When I tell people what I do for a living, there’s a list of games that always come up and Risk is one of them. People have fond memories of playing Risk for hours and I think perversely that has always put me off.
Often the games that trigger fond reminiscences just don’t stand up to scrutiny.
‘Have you got Sorry?’
‘Yes’, I say, handing them a vintage copy.
‘Wow, I remember this. This is the exact one we had.’ they reply, handling the box in awe. Then they carefully put it back and play something else.
‘Have you got Mousetrap?’
‘I loved that when I was a kid. You should get it.’
‘Did you? Or, did you love the idea of it but in reality it took loads of turns to build only to discover you’d forgotten to put the spring in the helping hand. Or the diver veered slightly to the left of the bath tub?’
And then they remember. Blind nostalgia falls away and they remember how bloody irritating it was.
When they ask for Risk I say I have it. In fact I have two copies – a retro version and a modern ‘speed play’ version. Yet few people actually play it, because – they say – because of the time it takes. This has just made me sceptical. Is it the serious gamer’s Mousetrap? Will I be Sorry?
The length of time a game takes has also become a factor. If I’m donating hours of my time, it had better be good. My favourite games are usually shorter. I’d rather play 2 or 3 games than devote an entire evening or day to one game. There are exceptions of course – The Harry Potter Battle Game, Arkham Horror, Forbidden Desert…Not that Forbidden Desert is itself a long game – it’s just that if you won’t stop until you’ve won, you need to set aside a decent amount of time. Pausing between games only to say ‘right’ in a suitably determined tone of voice.
So if you’ve never played Risk or you haven’t played for years and years, there are two questions we need to consider:
Is it really that great?
Why is it so loved?
These are my musings after my first game, a discussion with an enthusiast and some ideas from a twitter conversation.
What’s it all about?
To win the game you must either take over the world. (Bonus points to me for not inserting the Pinky and the Brain gif – again). Or, you can fulfil a special mission for instance kill all the yellow troops, occupy 24 territories or conquer certain continents. The mission cards are optional – they limit the game, making it shorter and more achievable.
Plays 2-6
Age 10+
Time – the rest of your life. Not really – we played for three hours but now that I get it I imagine it would stretch out more. Strategising rather than invading other countries with no plan always takes longer and is a surer way to win!
Official Hasbro timing 1- 8 hours
What you said.
A few people agreed it relied too much on luck while others felt that there was balance between strategy and luck. Broadly, people agreed that they enjoyed it when they were younger or first introduced to more complex games. It can teach strategic game play, the importance of the placement of resources or people and many other games were certainly influenced by it which positions it as a good introductory game for war games or games in general.
Its status as a classic seems unanimously agreed – but then does that mean you should play it or like many ‘classics’ just that it retains a special place in your affections and memories never to emerge from its box again?
The balance of strategy and luck.
The strategy begins right from the off – the placement of your troops should be informed by a longer term plan. Grouping your weeny soldiers together strengthens their claim to a territory. Straightaway you are balancing up the taking of smaller (low value) continents which are potentially easier to take and maintain with higher risk targets that are worth more. Countries with more borders are worth more but are also easier to attack and harder to retain control of.
While I enjoy strategy games, I often prefer a game which has an element of luck to it. I feel like it removes too much predictability – which is important to me (especially when the predictable factor is me getting beaten again!!). I am a big fan of push your luck games, I enjoy the risk and the thrill. It is wholly appropriate that Risk has some push your luck elements. ‘Sod it, I might be totally outnumbered but I reckon I can roll higher dice than you. Yes I’m sure I’ll attack’.
The dice throws add a welcome luck based element to Risk – they decide the winners and losers of battles over territory. The dice are stacked in the defenders favour. So even here there are decisions to make – the number of troops you attack with governs how many dice you can roll and you must weigh that against the fact the odds are not in your favour. You can redress this imbalance by building up troops here but that relies on the person you intend to attack being busy elsewhere and not attacking you!
As the game progresses you are rewarded for your victories with increased reinforcements. Everyone gets reinforcements but this increases with the number of territories you control. This means that for novice players it can be frustrating as you watch others consolidate their powers while you just slip further and further back. It doesn’t mean that the game is over by any means it just makes it harder once you get behind. I felt I was almost waiting for someone to miss something or make a mistake. As I said I’m not a massive fan of super long games and I could see myself becoming disheartened with this set up. A more determined person, perhaps more of a long term strategist would, I’m sure rise to the challenge here and enjoy it.
I can also see that with more players and more experience of the game there is also room to make alliances and pacts to prevent one player becoming too powerful. But these alliances are temporary and will end in betrayal which gives the game an edge that many (but not me) would enjoy.
What have we learnt?
We have learnt that you can’t just invade countries with no strategy – you will lose. You also can’t invade a country and then just abandon your territory – you must leave at least one ‘troop’ behind to defend the country. The better you do, the better you will do – your gains accumulate.
While I may not play Risk again for a while, I’m glad I’ve played it. If you enjoyed it years ago or if you’ve never played it I would definitely recommend having a game. It’s enjoyable, it gets your brain working and above all it teaches you vital skills for if you ever fancy taking over the world.
Cards or Die will be at The Royal Armouries with War Games and war time games including Risk from February 16th until February 24th.

Come along to a Cards or Die event.
2018-07-12 14.11.43

Board Games are for life not just for Christmas.

My 11 year old announced this morning that one of the great things about not going to a childminder any more is that we eat together as a family now. Don’t get me wrong, some nights we have TV dinners on trays and most nights someone moans: ‘we always eat at the table, why can’t we have a change?’ or, ‘we never eat at the table, why have we got to tonight?’ Sometimes, infuriatingly, both these complaints are made at once. Never let the truth get in the way of a good moan.
The point is – kids moan. Or at least mine do. Getting them to come off screens and interact with others is a challenge that I don’t always have the energy for. Especially given that one of mine has Autism – for him, hell truly is other people. Instead I often reserve my energy for getting them to school, making them eat something other than toast and making sure I get the last word in arguments. I’m very mature like that.
But when I do invest some of my precious energy ‘making’ them play board games as a family, we have a blast. During school holidays, particularly Christmas, when we are trapped in the house or trapped in someone else’s house visiting (if hell is other people surely visiting them in their own home is in one of the seven circles).
For so many of us board games are inextricably linked to Christmas. It’s easy to see why: –
They make great presents.
When you buy someone a game (whether child or adult) you are also giving them your time. This is more obvious when we buy for children – they unwrap the new game and a variety of adults get down on the floor and are immediately immersed – setting up, reading instructions, dealing cards, choosing a colour…And why should it be different for adults. We deserve fun and silliness or time spent strategising. When we give someone a game there is an unspoken gift of the time we spent choosing it specially for them and the time we will spend playing it together. In our busy lives, the gift of time is the most generous and vital one we can give.
We’re all bored.
Apart from some isolated incidents of great TV over the Christmas period, Christmas is often a time when we tire of the TV. Even our favourite childminder deserves at least one day off a year. We are all looking for a distraction, a fun activity to do together indoors – it’s too cold to spend long outdoors. For generations Board Games have been the answer and now there is such a range of games available that there really is something for everyone. You are not limited to parlour games. There’s kittens to explode, cities to build, deserts to escape from, zombies to kill, train rides to take across Europe, stories to tell and pandemics to cure. Board games are the antidote to boredom and this has never been more true.
The Board Games Renaissance.
There has never been a more exciting time for board games. They are everywhere:- from your friendly local games store to Waterstones to the Works. There are always retro classics to be rediscovered in our attics or charity shops – not everything has to be new. There are games for every budget from print and play to collection games like Magic the Gathering. Every interest is covered – from pie stealing foxes to Star Wars to stupid deaths. When you are looking for a personal or quirky present a well chosen card or board game often has the answer (there’s even a game called Quirk! – what could be quirkier than that?!)
Christmas is a time of traditions and many households have Christmas board gaming traditions – whether it’s the purchase of a new game or an old favourite that comes out every year. Tradition is a powerful thing, often followed unwaveringly and unquestioningly. Those who dare to suggest change are shot down in flames or mocked for a lack of understanding. I know. Trust me – I’m a Morris Dancer. (Sentences you never thought you’d type #203)
So many of us unfalteringly return to board games for that one celebration per year. Sadly, when the decorations are packed away for another year so too are the games -left to acquire dust and one more year’s separation from the original rule book.
I’m not a fan of defending tradition for the sake of it. Some traditions need updating, amending or cutting into three, burying in far flung corners of the earth and eternally guarded. So what about board games?
If you enjoyed your Christmas games then why shelve them? If you enjoyed the idea of it, the family time spent together until someone went off in a huff because you bought Pall Mall then why not explore some different games?
There are so many benefits to board gaming. You can be exercising your brain- strategising, observing, planning; testing your reflexes, vocabulary or memory; laughing till your face hurts; preparing for a zombie apocalypse – life skills that should not be underestimated; you could be escaping, exploring imaginary worlds, fighting dragons, curing diseases; you can be spending time with old friends, playing with strangers, making new friends without worrying about conversation drying up or awkward moments. For me and Cards or Die this is what it’s all about – not winning or playing the latest big hit but bringing people together. That’s why I’m urging you to make a little space on your shelves so those Christmas games stay visible all year and make a little space for them in your day to day life. A little regular space where you can recapture that Christmas spirit, turn off the screens and be together.
You are always welcome to come along to a Cards or Die event too – come on your own or bring friends or family. Come and see us.