ezgif.com-webp-to-png (8)

How do you assign value to your time?

Since starting Cards or Die, I have had numerous conversations about the value of time. How do we decide what to charge for our time? Whatever price you set sends out a message to your customers – too low and they may question your quality; too high and they may baulk at the price. And of course, as ever the anxiety monster looms large in my decision making: what am I worth? The monster has a loud answer to that.
18 years ago, I started teaching. I had looked at what the job entailed and the salary and accepted the job. At that time, if I ran a revision class in the holidays or after hours I earned extra money: £15 for an hour; £120 for a full day. My time had a clear price and value. When someone else is setting your pay, it is easy to value your time as the decision is made for you. You decide whether you want to do that job at the rate you have been offered.
Time passed; funding was cut, pressure increased and so the revision classes ran more frequently and became unpaid. Those that refused to teach them were frowned upon, and those that ‘enjoyed’ their holiday put under a cloud of blame for future failures. Increased pressure meant it was often more important to the teacher than to the student that the student achieve their projected grade. In fact it was rare for people to refuse to teach for free in the holidays and after school. It became the accepted norm. I’m convinced that the scant value that my time had has contributed to my current struggle with the question of valuing my time.
For years a proportion of my time has been given for free. And although the value of the hours I have donated to schools and young people is clearly valuable, that time was not financially valued. Which brings me to today and the question;
‘How do I assign value to my time? What am I worth?’
I find this both challenging and complex. Especially as a small business when the received wisdom seems to be that you have to do lots of things free to get your name out there.
How do I value others?
Well, I always buy the same tea bags: Twinings Earl Grey. Once I bought Tesco’s finest own brand and… they were fine. My unsophisticated palate detected no difference at all. I resolved to buy them in future and I did for a while but in the end I drifted back to Twinings. I have never even tried Tesco value tea bags. I am not telling you this because I am setting my fees in order to keep me in Twinings Earl Grey tea. Rather, I have selected my tea bags based on price and assumed value. If our fees are too low people may assume we are the Tesco Value tea bags. Pricing yourself too low is as damaging as setting prices too high. I want to be the Twinings of board gaming: priced so that people see me as quality they can rely on. The other pitfall of low pricing is that it can then be difficult to raise your prices as you expand.
Equally, I don’t want to be Fortnum and Mason tea; (delicious as I’m sure it is) I don’t want to be an occasional treat that not everyone can afford. I want people to book me more than once and recommend me without having to caveat or explain my price.
When valuing others I consider the following:
  • How much can I afford?
  • How much is what they are offering worth? I consider their time, expertise and possible costs.
  • Can I get the same service elsewhere for a better price? The key here is ‘the same’, I don’t want to pay less and get a worse service, especially for important events. This means that I would research other services.
As I said earlier, my biggest struggle with all of this is over self worth. Judging by the conversations I’ve had with people recently – and I have to say it is mainly women that share this concern- I am not alone. When the voice in your head repeatedly tells you how worthless you are, it is hard enough without then having to create a price structure for your worthlessness. External arbiters then contribute to this because everyone is trying to get the best price and so inevitably I must convince people that I am worth it. Add to this the imbalance which exists between what men charge and what women charge and it is trickier still. Somehow I need to start this by convincing myself of my own self worth. I need to get all those techniques I learnt in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy out again and work through them again. Mental health is relentless, it is a constant battle of varying intensity. But I have passion and determination for my business and I will succeed.
Just as in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy when we learnt about ‘Being your own best friend’, in business I am being my own customer; treating myself how I would treat other businesses. I would expect to pay a fair rate for services rendered. This helps me because, for me, the ‘What am I worth?’ question is so anxiety ridden that I struggle with it. So, in addition to the questions above I also ask myself:
  • How much do I need to earn to be happy and keep the business strong?
  • How can I balance charges to ensure that my business is inclusive and accessible?
So, fellow worriers – apart from the mantra ‘Don’t be the tesco value teabags’, I may not have any answers – but perhaps by considering the questions we can move closer to some… ..I’m still working on this, and if like me you worry endlessly about the answers, know that you are not alone. How do we persuade ourselves we are the Twinings or the Tesco Finest of our endeavours?
How do you manage this thorny issue?
I would love to hear from you: advice, tips, experiences and thoughts.
ezgif.com-webp-to-png (9)

Can Sub Terra adequately prepare you for the apocalypse?

There are three things which I feel summarise my excitement about Sub Terra which was recently brought to life through KickStarter:
1. After two play throughs I ordered ultra violet lights.
2. After the first game I’ve had requests that next games night we build a blanket fort in The Abbey Inn and play in there with the new lights and the soundtrack (Another stretch goal that was unlocked.)
3. I keep making people feel the cards and tiles. (2mm punch board, black core boards and matt finish, black core card; all bonus stretch goal features which make this game a delight to hold). You think I’m weird. I’m not weird. Once you’ve stroked the cards you’ll see that this is a normal reaction.
Such is the excitement and joy Sub Terra generates. I could leave it at that really; it tells you everything you need to know. But why use 240 characters when 8 pages will do?
You are trapped in an underground network of caves and tunnels. You must work together to find the exit and escape before your torch lights run out or the horrors get you. There are other threats too: cave ins, gas leaks, floods and the dodgy background of one of your fellow cavers. One of the pure joys of this game for me is the fact that the cavers are a diverse mix of race and gender. Finally, a games designer who has got it so right. So right that when I play with my family, I don’t have to be a boy character because all the girls have gone. And, in the immortal words of Lotto from 8 mile “This shit is a horror flick, but the black guy doesn’t die in this movie …” Now Louis may die but as the medic it’s very, very unlikely.
You can outrun the horrors – a pack of vague, shadowy figures who pursue you through the darkness. Hiding from the horrors is another option but it takes up precious time. There is no place for cowardice, as to me this is the equivalent of hiding in a wardrobe: if they don’t spot you, you are still trapped, you still have to get past them and get out. Also you’ve been holding your breath because it was really loud and now you have a headache.
But don’t worry, there’s always Jai – our dodgy but hench bodyguard – who can fight them off. The interplay of characters special abilities is finely balanced which makes it all the more important that you DON’T SPLIT UP!
This, my friends is a horror film basic. Our complete disregard for this on our first game made me question the years spent watching horror films in the firm belief that I will be ready if/ when the apocalypse comes. I had plenty of time for contemplation while I lay drifting in and out of consciousness for hours, surrounded by the scratching, scurrying sounds of the horrors.
Your turn has two or three phases. On your turn you can choose between exploring – where you reveal and leap into the next section of cave with reckless abandon – or just revealing which allows you to peak cautiously into the next chamber, perhaps using a mirror so the horrors don’t see you. Being over cautious means you won’t find the exit in time but be too daring and you find yourself gasping for breath in a gas leak or plunged into icy waters where you must drift unconscious until the medic arrives. Provided the medic hasn’t chosen this moment to get a round in.
We found that exploring on our first phase and revealing in the second worked best as on our second phase sometimes we could mitigate the effects of our earlier recklessness, but ultimately to escape you must take risks.
The optional third phase of your go is exertion. Of course, in these dangerous surroundings, it can exhaust you, draining your health. Or, you can be lucky and exert yourself with no ill effects. Just as in life, fate is capricious and is decided on the throw of a die.
The caverns and tracks you reveal have challenges like ledges, slides and rough terrain as well as the more obvious dangers noted above.
So, what have we learnt:
1. Don’t split up
2. Use your strength wisely
3. Hiding is futile
4. Be friends with the medic
5. Be lucky.
It is a challenging game, which if played well (by which I mean in a blanket fort with UV lights and the sound track on) definitely might completely partially equip you with the skills you need to survive the apocalypse.
Come along and have a game at a Cards or Die event.
ezgif.com-webp-to-png (10)

Are we communicating too much? Sub Terra vs. The World

As the new assistant manager of a small hotel many moons ago, I was taught a lesson that has stuck with me. I can’t remember the exact words the owner used but she told me that basically people will put up with all manner of blunders and inconvenience as long as you are honest and you communicate with them. Communication was at the core of their 14 bedroomed empire.
I still stand by that advice. For me, things can be pretty rubbish but if the person I am dealing with takes responsibility (I never want to hear the words ‘It’s not my fault’), is honest and polite and is going to rectify matters then I’ll put up with most things. A stint in housing benefits consolidated this for me. Dealing with people who were about to become homeless due to government or council errors or cruel reforms is a real test of your skills. I would always take responsibility; say sorry and mean it. I clearly had not reformed housing law but I represented those who had. I would acknowledge that the situation was indeed awful and then I would set to work rectifying it as best I could. In the hotel and at Benefits the majority of concerns or complaints were resolved face to face. By far the most effective way of communicating with your fellow human.
But what of today? We are surrounded by communication; surely that makes communicating easier. You can ring me, text me, facebook me both publicly or by messenger, tweet me, dm me, contact me on LinkedIn, Instagram, kickstarter, board game geek mail, via my website or even – god forbid – write to me. On paper. With a pen.
Do we really expect someone to use all of these methods? No. That would be completely unrealistic. We know that… and yet… when someone chooses one or two of these methods and we don’t see the message immediately, we are offended. They have communicated poorly or worse still chosen to prioritise other customers over me. As a consumer this can seem like a headache but for a small business, it’s a nightmare.
Of course customers can and do use all of these methods to contact you – some of them publicly. Leaving you trawling through endless messages, sometimes duplicated – the facebook post that says ‘I’ve emailed them twice and not had an answer…’ then proceeds to voice the same concern there. Answering publicly is important – it may stem more emails and vitally it shows others that you do care, you respond, you value feedback. But what of the email they’ve sent you twice? You are busy responding publicly leaving that customer irritated. Like I said, nightmare!
In The Box Games – a small business- launched Sub Terra on kickstarter. It was a phenomenal success with 6626 backers providing £368,256 of funding. They hit stretch goal after stretch goal meaning that even the basic game at the lower pledge was incredible quality with lovely components. Due to the stretch goals we have access to a free soundtrack and app. The email updates were regular and well crafted, which made them fun to read. They created an amazing buzz around Sub Terra and all the backers were excited to get their hands on the game. We eagerly devoured the news that the game would be out early and for some, it was.
At this point, it is worth bearing a few things in mind.
This is kickstarter: you are promising to fund a product that doesn’t yet exist. You are not pre-ordering a game. You are not shopping at Argos or Amazon or even your friendly local games store. Kickstarter is a place to support enterprise, encourage daring and bring dreams to fruition. Things can and will go wrong. Secondly, as we said before, we need to think realistically. Are all of the games going to be dispatched at the same time? Really? No. No they are not.
The creation of the facebook page was a key factor in increasing buzz around the product. I duly clicked like and looked forward to updates from other gamers. I didn’t particularly expect In The Box to respond to all the comments as they send emails through kickstarter.
And how did people react? Well let’s take a look at the kinds of things people posted:
  • where’s my game? Crying face emoji. Eleventy billion of these comments
  • my box is too big (update: this backer managed to re-arrange his shelves and it fitted on. Phew)
  • the box lid doesn’t have printing on the inside (this was a stretch goal)
  • a board game cafe is selling copies and I don’t have mine yet
  • this free card dispenser you gave me doesn’t fit back in the box unless I fold it down
  • I just don’t like the (free) tile holder
  • these three tokens that you upgraded don’t have stickers on them
  • ITB have gone to Essen – how dare they? They should be here answering facebook messages!
  • they shouldn’t be trying to sell more games (for this I read make a living) when I haven’t got my game yet
  • I’m upset that another game I ordered from a different company has arrived first
  • I have a tile missing plus an extra tile of a different type
  • my box is damaged
Some of these are legitimate issues, but what is the best way to ensure the issue is resolved for you? The company had chosen email to communicate with me in the past so I was intending to email them. Public shaming has to be a last ditch solution to a communication issue. In the end I did not email. I chose to wait. And what happened? Just as they had been doing at every stage of the kickstarter campaign, they emailed me. They emailed all of us. They have painstakingly read all of the comments on facebook and kickstarter and responded with a comprehensive list of solutions they have put in place.
Thankfully the facebook page is now swamped in positivity as people have received the game and everyone is enjoying playing it. Short memoried as we are, no-one has apologised for all the pathetic bitching that took place, although some good souls have posted support for the company and distanced themselves from the negativity. And, as it should do, the quality and ingenuousness of the game now dominates the feed.
As a small business myself, what lesson can I take from this? I think there are two things
1. You can’t please all of the people all of the time. This is just not possible. As an anxiety ridden people-pleaser it is one I struggle with regularly and am working on daily.
2. Perhaps limiting communication methods is a good thing. You can’t be active on every forum in the world. Focus instead on communicating in a limited and manageable number of methods.
And finally, patience, it turns out, is all that is required. In this age of instant communication it seems that patience is deserting even the best of us.
ezgif.com-webp-to-png (11)

World War 1 Remembered.

An evening of World War 1 memories: music, food and games.
I have been working on providing games for our upcoming event at the Abbey Inn. We want to mark the centenary of World War 1 with ‘a bit of a do’ on the 11th of November, to raise money for the Royal British Legion and the Bramley War Memorial Fund.
Taking retro to it’s logical conclusion. No, don’t worry I haven’t gone all Mighty Boosh on you.
In fact, I didn’t even realise how retro I was going until I looked at my games shelf. Games I had thought were old were just not old enough; Kan-U Go for instance is from the 1930s not as early as I had thought.
My search was made more challenging by the fact that casein and bakelite were not developed until 1909, so with plastic still in the early stages of development, cardboard, paper and wood were used to make games and their components. This explains why many of the games of that period are no longer intact.
I started by searching through my own games menu which I diligently/ obsessively/ geekily (delete as applicable) fill in each time I add a game to my collection. I was pleased to realise I had forgotten how old Pit was.
Pit dates from 1903. An American trading game, it is fast paced and fun. The object is to be the first to collect a complete set of crops by swapping cards with others. It is always a popular game at events due to its fast pace, the fact it plays up to seven and I think, in no small part, because it allows you to shout at your friends!
Mensch ärgere dich nicht!
By chance I recently picked up a copy of Headache. It looked similar to frustration and looked like it was from the 70s. In fact my version is, but the game it is based on is far older. As soon as I searched Headache to find it’s exact date, this game came up: ‘Mensch ärgere dich nicht’. It literally translates as ‘don’t get angry, mate’ which is a challenge when someone keeps removing your pieces from the game! It ends when one player has ‘taken’ all their opponents. Made in 1914 it was widely played in Germany during World War 1 and is still a popular game today.
Jacks (also known as Five Stones and Knucklebones)
was originally played with the ‘knucklebones’ of sheep (actually it was part of their ankle). The bones were thrown in the air and then caught in various formations. You’ll be pleased to hear we aren’t being that strictly traditional! Instead I’ll be bringing my 70s set because I am vintage.
Hearts, made in 1914 by Parker Brothers, is a delightfully simple game. You roll the dice and win points for spelling out all or part of the word ‘Hearts’. The letters must be rolled in the order they occur in the word to gain points. If you find Shut the Box addictive, you will love this.
I was relieved to find that the suffragette movement was active during the first world war too. Mainly because I can wear part of my Morris kit as a costume. Dressing up is optional of course but I don’t need much of an excuse!
Join us on the 11th when, along with era-appropriate food and music, Tiddley Winks (1890s), Blow Football (1900s) and lots of card games will also be making an appearance.
Please get in touch and suggest any other games you know that were around in 1914- 1918.
ezgif.com-webp-to-png (12)

Get Adler: A Game of Two Halves

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…
First half
Before you can stop to reflect on your success over an orange segment you must discover who Adler is. The game kicks off with each of you assuming an identity, and in the style of Guess Who ascertain who is who by asking a series of cunning questions: do you wear a blue hat? Is your coat brown? The card reference sheet is excellent here, providing a summary of differences and similarities between characters. Like in Guess Who, you can opt for questions which move you closer by halving your odds or take a gamble e.g. 3 characters each have blue or black hats whereas Kate Collins is the only character to opt for the less practical, white hat. ‘Are you wearing a white hat’ is either a genius question or you have wasted a turn allowing Adler to slip further from your grasp.
Unless of course you are Adler, in which case you must avoid detection by lying and scheming. But be careful, be inconsistent in your lies and we will sniff you out; assume another identity and the player with that role will spot you!
During the first half, not only are you hard at work making deductions and listening to the questions of others; you must also collect the cards that will help you in the second half. Again, the reference card is invaluable here.
Time is marked by clock faces (colour coded to indicate the phase of the game – a nice detail). As time dwindles, the pressure mounts.
In a sense you are working together to make deductions, using the questions of others to move you closer to conclusions. However, the rules explicitly state that you may not communicate ‘by words or gestures’ to help each other. This is a neat rule which allows balance to be maintained. We were also very entertained by the ‘some banter is allowed!’ note. We quickly assigned someone the role of banter police to ensure that banter stayed strictly off topic!
Time ticks away, advantages are gained and the half time whistle is blown.
Second Half
The second half kicks off with revealed identities and the chase to catch Adler commences. This is where the cards you began to collect in the first half come into their own. Have you got enough pistol cards to outshoot Adler or will you be shot down? Have you got the right mode of transport to pursue Adler or will you be left standing in his dust? At this point the game speeds up; cards are slapped down decisively with various exclamations (all within the limits of the banter rule obviously). The bomb card caught us out with its destructive capabilities – it’s a very powerful card and fatal if played at just the right time.
You career towards a conclusion where either Adler is eliminated and order is restored or Adler escapes and you must slink back to MI6 with your pathetic excuses at the ready. Either way, you’ll want to play again. Crime is addictive whichever side you’re on.
We found the five player game, while still enjoyable, a little imbalanced – it seemed disproportionately difficult to catch Adler – but the four player game felt like it had the right balance. I would assume when we play with six that the balance would be restored. It’s so great to find a good game that plays up to 8 or 9.
To add more depth, you can play by the advanced rules using heroes’ special abilities. There is also an expert rule which makes the game more challenging. We aren’t there yet but we know that extra level is there. Having a built in expansion seems to me incredibly good value not to mention expert planning on behalf of the designers.
Get Adler is more than a game of two halves. It’s more like a Kinder Egg with two very different elements which work together in a satisfying way: a toy and chocolate; careful deduction and a high speed chase. Like Poirot meets Duel or Cumberbatch meets Rathbone. If the mixed metaphors are upsetting you, just pick one and go with that. I can see some of you twitching but I felt ‘It’s fab, I love it!’ didn’t really do it justice.
In fact – it’s the bomb

Come and play at a Cards or Die event.

ezgif.com-webp-to-png (13)

Let them win: why you should let children win at games.

I want to begin by clarifying: I am not an advocate of mollycoddling children. Mollycuddling? Yes Coddling? No. When under pressure and outnumbered by whingy teens and moany toddlers, I have uttered the words ‘tough’, ‘life is hard’ and ‘get over it’. Often in the same sentence.
And, I still maintain you must let them win. More specifically they have to start by winning a higher proportion of games than they lose.
Losing at games is valuable and character building. We use it to foster resilience, but as adults competing against our peers we forget all too quickly what it’s like to play an imbalanced game. As the youngest in a family of four I remember well the people who always beat me and those who let me win. Much as losing is lauded as a necessary and useful experience, how many of us – hand on heart- enjoy a game if we know there is no chance of winning? If you have a game on the shelf which you never, ever win, the odds are it’s not your most played game. The building of resilience alone is not enough to motivate us to play. So, if you want someone to play with in the future, letting them win is essential.
By allowing children to win you are doing two things: showing them that they can win and modelling what good losing looks like (hopefully). Showing them that they can win keeps them motivated. It allows them to experience the joy of winning and allows you to reinforce the behaviour of a gracious winner. (Again, hopefully).
I am determined to instill these skills in my children. Losing can be disappointing enough but sitting there, nursing your bruised ego as someone victoriously dances around you thrusting a winning hand towards you with the words ‘In your face!’ is the last thing you need. No-one wants that gamer at their table. And for me, I want my children to be inclusive and included.
When you allow them to win, it also allows you to be a gracious loser. Congratulate them. Share their joy. Discuss how they won; let them give you tips, regardless of the fact you helped them win. Reset the board , shuffle the cards and show them that defeat can make you more determined than ever.
Of course, everything in balance. Don’t let them win every time. I have always viewed it as a sliding scale – as toddlers I made sure they won a good bit more than they lost. They had the best memory in pairs, the keenest observation skills in Dobble and were just generally luckier.
As they get older and more proficient, they win less. They don’t notice. They generally take losing in their stride because they know winning is something they can do. By the time they’ve reached the ripe old age of 12, I go for the win every time. With them being steeped in games since birth and having young, agile brains means I get more chances to model being a gracious loser than I might like. I might have been told off by a 10 year old for dropping my final card with the words ‘In your face’. That might have happened. I am only a person after all. But as long as we strive for perfection that’s alright, I think.
So, what happens at your table – are you hard-arsed winners, limp losers or somewhere in between? What balance of wins and losses have you “arranged” with your children over the years? Leave a comment below.

Come along and play some games at a Cards or Die event. I won’t let you win! Unless I lose in which case it was definitely to shield your delicate ego.

Monopoly: why do we hate it so much?

Sunday in our house: all three children have independently settled down to a board game. All of my Enid Blyton fantasies are coming true. But before I can don my frilly apron and serve up lashings of ginger beer, I hear snatches of angry conversation:
‘No. We NEVER play that rule’
‘Well, it is the rule’
Then, an adult voice. My partner shouting above the melee of three indignant children:
‘I don’t even know why you’ve chosen this game!’
And then I know. I realise what has happened. Blyton has been ousted by Orwell, or worse still Darwin, as I realise my delightful offspring have embarked on a game of Monopoly: where only the richest, the most ruthless survive in a kind of dystopian hell.
Monopoly causes all the strops. It’s true – search Monopoly gifs and there’s Daniel Craig having a strop.
The Auction Rule
We always argue about whether we play this particular rule, and how. It allows you to land on a property you don’t want and sell it to your sister at a hugely inflated price. Because despite the fact you landed on it last turn too and could have just bought it, you waited and bid for it in an auction against two younger siblings before tactically dropping out of the bidding, inflating the price, leaving one younger sister with hardly any money. This is as true in our house now as it was for me about 35 years ago.
Losing Money
This is where my 10 year old struggles. When others run out of money, she offers to lend them some (interest free of course). When she runs out of money, she is gleefully declared bankrupt by the others. The combination of glee and defeat generally culminate in the sort of eruption Mount Vesuvius would be proud of.
The Free Parking Issue
Yet another rule row before we even start. Aunty Marie does pool the taxes, fines, etc and if you are lucky enough to land on free parking then you win the money. Again, it is the eldest who protests most loudly that it ‘isn’t even a proper rule’ and furthermore he objects because landing on free parking and scooping the loot is just down to luck. He, like many other gamers objects to games that rely on luck. He doesn’t need luck; he has a ruthless devotion to the rules and a fanatical loyalty to Capitalist principles which is frankly terrifying.
There’s the rub. A lot of people object to games which rely heavily or solely on luck. There seems to be some shame attached to enjoying something ‘light’. I understand to an extent. Just look at Shut The Box… where’s the joy in repeatedly rolling dice on the off-chance that you roll the right combination, several times, that shuts the box? But… succeed in shutting the box and the joy! The sheer sense of accomplishment! I defy you to stop playing this game when you have just lost by being one single, solitary, soul crushing roll away from shutting the box!
Luck based games can be just as fun and compelling as strategy games and I have no time to feel ashamed of enjoying something.
Besides, is Monopoly all luck? Not really. You can be as lucky as you like but play against my son and he will ruin you. He’s12.
So if it’s not luck, why do we hate it?
Profit at the cost of others?
This definitely causes the bitterest arguments. Yet, in other games it is accepted. I can deduce and then block or steal your route in Ticket to Ride, and deliberately so. In Coup we gleefully all claim to be the Duke as we save up to assassinate each other. It’s bloody annoying. But no-one cries, storms off and declares they are ‘NEVER playing that again’.
In all games, other than cooperative ones, a basic principle is I win therefore you lose. Strategy is twofold: how do I maximise my advantage and how can I do most damage to my opponents?
Lack of Rule Clarity?
There are plenty of games where there is fluidity with the rules. Before we start we often establish house rules – perhaps adapted for who is playing or how long we have to play. Sometimes my partner and eldest son will read the rule book anyway but then bow to my superior wisdom* and embrace the house rules.
Boggle, for instance, is a game I have for a long time adapted. It is only recently that I have introduced the rule that you cross out and don’t score any word that someone else also has. I have avoided that rule because, as a child, playing against adults and losing is one thing – but scoring zero and having all of your answers invalidated is demoralising in the extreme.
For every other game rule adaptation is fine. Yet, in Monopoly, even before we start we are combative.
So what is it then? What is our beef with Monopoly?
I don’t know for sure but every time it comes out, I hang up my apron, pack away the vintage tea service and don my body armour. Where does Monopoly live in your house- pride of place on the games shelf or shoved in a cupboard hidden under a deluge of ‘useful’ things you bought from the middle aisle in Lidl?
Comtemdrs Rdy?
Sorry, let me remove the mouthguard…
Contenders Ready? Let’s play….
Monopoly Facts
  • Originally named The Landlord’s Game, it was invented by Elizabeth J Magie in 1904 to illustrate the dangers of capitalism and promote socialism – there were two versions, one collaborative, and one competitive.
  • Charles Darrow copied and patented it in 1935
  • Parker Bros. rejected it as it was too complicated
  • In 1936 Waddingtons, Leeds produced Monopoly
  • During the second world war special editions containing silk maps and currency were produced by Waddingtons, Leeds and sent to PoWs.
You can come along to a Cards or Die event and play it or you can play one of my other more popular/ less fighty games.
ezgif.com-webp-to-png (14)

Gobblin’ Goblins and the importance of biscuits.

I need to start this review by coming clean. People have understandable reservations about trusting the veracity of some reviews, especially when the reviewer got a free copy of the game. It is true, I did get a free copy but it’s worse than that. I won. I actually won. I even won the first game! All I can say is – bear that in mind as you read the review. My victory doesn’t invalidate the review but it may make it insufferably smug.
I’ve won all the badges!
This raises an interesting philosophical question which probably needs exploring in greater depth (lying on a couch maybe). Am I a naturally smug winner or if I won more often would I be less of a ** when I won?
** insert expletive of choice here.
Mmmm, scabs….
The first game was such a good first game with so much variety that at no point was the phrase ‘Who shuffled these?’ uttered. I think that’s a pretty good start.
Best Bits.
As we know by now, I’m all about the art and I love the art work on these cards. Not only are the Goblin characters beautifully illustrated – hang on, ‘strikingly’ illustrated- but the details on the cards are lovely. Erm… not lovely… brilliant. To quote Mark as he picked up White Dog Poo, “These are disgustingly specific”. Much as though many people reflect nostalgically about the demise of white dog poo, no-one wants it in their hand.
The descriptions of the food add to the entertainment of the game – especially if you read them in your best M&S* voice.
*careful with the letter order there – that’s a different kind of voice altogether.
All of the description is well crafted. Having banged on at kids for 17 years about ‘making every word count’ in their writing, I can say that every word on these cards has earned it’s place and I appreciate both the craft and the graft of that.
Sharks? With lazers? Deal me in. Show me where to click.
How do you win?
Well, as an accomplished winner I am uniquely placed to explain this. To win (as I did) your Goblin has to gobble the most cards but watch out; gobble the wrong colour or foods your goblin hates and you will lose points. Gobbling fave foods and biscuits, on the other hand, will gain you bonus points. Try to nom the extra tasty biscuit (like I did) to secure your victory.
A good, simple premise. However… your opponents will try to force you to eat foods you are allergic to, will snatch foods from your plate or even make you vomit up part digested foods. Goblins are not only gross, they’re also quite rude.
Action cards add enough strategy to make it fun and the interplay of the characters’ special abilities adds depth.
I also love that it plays up to 12 people which makes it great for parties. It is already getting lots of love at home and my son took it to his after school games club where it had an equally positive response. I can’t wait to take it to my upcoming events.
N.B. I am happy to offer tutorials but unfortunately, I can not guarantee that you, like me, will be a winner. I assume it’s still fun if you lose. Back it and find out!
It’s just about to be dished up on Kickstarter – and it’s already ready to serve as far as we’re concerned. Update it smashed the Kickstarter and is available for purchase.
You might also enjoy Arkosa.
Check out their website for more grossness:
Come along and play this at a Cards or Die event.

Blog the 27th*: in which I review Chronology and justify why I need all these games.

In about May of this year, I hit 150 games. I had aimed to amass this amount because after all I am a travelling games lady. I know there has been some discussion online recently about the gaming community and the pressure people feel to build a large collection of games. Collecting games is not necessary and I want the gaming community to be as inclusive as possible. Gaming can be expensive which is why I focus on offering events than are free to visitors because venues pay me. If it wasn’t for Cards or Die, I would have significantly less games. Instead I would be hanging out at events like mine or games clubs and sharing games with others. I look at it this way, I have loads of games so that you don’t need to.
I picture myself as the Dick Van Dyke of gaming – if I can carry it to the event, you can play it. I was never supposed to have the games repertoire of a games cafe – as a mobile operation it’s just not necessary. 150 is plenty. But, I just can’t stop. I’m at just over 190 and this week I’ve realised I need some more vintage games for a First World War event I’ve got coming up.
The more I learn about games, the more I come across that I want. This, despite the fact that increasingly, I pick up games and say “Oh this is just a version of <insert retro game here>“. Sometimes I get it anyway – you might want to play it and who am I to stand in your way?
But some versions I have not bought. Despite the alluring art work and temptingly different categories, I have resisted the Timeline* Games. Mainly because I have and love its retro twin: Chronology. It’s a lovely, simple to learn and much overlooked game from the 1980s.
How to Play
  • Each player starts with a card which details a historical event.
  • Players take turns to draw a card and read it to an opponent who must identify whether it comes before or after the event in front of them.
  • If they are correct, the card is added to their timeline. If not, it goes onto a discard pile.
  • When future cards are drawn players must identify whereabouts in their timeline it is to be played.
  • The first player to build an accurate timeline of 10 cards wins.
Like I said: simple.
The range of dates covered by the cards and the variety of historical events makes this an excellent game. Some events are close together; some you’ve never heard of and some just didn’t happen when you think they did.
It lacks the prettiness of Timeline (and if you’ve read previous blogs, you know how important prettiness is!) But I still love it and I think says a lot about a game!
Your turn!
Have a go at putting these 5 events in order… answers on a postcard, by carrier pigeon or social media me @cardsordie. One of my exclusive new badges for winners!
*I can’t count – I made this number up.
*please feel free to correct me if I’m wrong – if you think I need a game in my life, I’m always happy to hear suggestions and requests.
Come along to a Cards or Die event to try it out.
ezgif.com-webp-to-png (15)

Ready for something a little more piratey? Tortuga 1667.

Ahoy Landlubbers, settle ye down while I tell ye about Tortugaaarrrhhh. What better day be there for reviewing a pirate game. Why? It’s only talk like a pirate day! Arrrhh-where’s me rum?
Don’t worry I’m packing it in now. There will be no more pirate talk. (Well, maybe a bit).
It would be criminal if I did not start with the box. To say it is beautifully presented sells it short. The box is a fake antique book with a distressed leather bound look. Inside there is more than adequate room for the gorgeous play mat, pieces and cards. It couldn’t be any more beautiful. It even closes with a satisfyingly secure thunk. No elastic bands holding this lid on!
Another lovely feature of the game is how well it adheres to the theme. The cards are well designed and beautifully illustrated but just as important is the text: clear instructions with appropriate vocabulary – cards like Cabin Fever, Crow’s Nest all add to the atmosphere of the game which at the end of the day is quite piratey!
All ‘brethren of the coast’ (character) cards are based on real pirates which is interesting to read about in the Instruction Booklet. But… once again I find myself faced with two token girl characters. Small mercies – they aren’t busty or simpering. But two?? There are 5 people in my household – 3 girls, 2 boys. To play this game as with so many others one of us will have to be a boy. Maybe it’s deliberate, some sort of cynical preparation for girls, readying them for a future where what’s in the front of your pants decides how much you earn. But more likely it’s just thoughtless, a kind of casual acceptance of everyday sexism. But, as with so many other games we move on from that and enjoy the game.
Roight then landlubbers enough of all this parlez. Let’s gerron with the game…
The object of the game is to grab (and keep the other team’s mucky paws off) the treasure. One of the first nice twists is that everyone has loyalty; either French, British or in a nine player game – Dutch. But this loyalty is hidden from all other players. Even your crewmates.
In fact there are lots of murky depths* to this game. There are a good variety of actions available to you each turn. You can view events, reveal and resolve events or having viewed events on a previous turn force another player to resolve an event. All complicated by the fact that you want the most treasure for your team but who is really on your side? Loyalties are only revealed once the game is over.
*I only said I would try not to be piratey. No-one said anything about crap puns.
Amongst the actions you might catch scurvy and miss a turn, be marooned or maroon other players or blow up a rowing boat (there are only 2!). The roles of Captain, First Mate and Cabin Boy are all up for grabs and can be gained through mutiny or action cards.
Vote cards allow players to support an attack, brawl or mutiny. Vote cards can be used judiciously to further your strategy but strategies can be scuppered by backing the wrong crewmate: tricksy.
When the Spanish Armada arrives the game ends and the team with the most booty wins.
The Facts:
20-40 minutes
2-9 players (we played one 2 player game but it is much better with more players.)
Age: 13+ (It is a reasonably complex game but I’m sure as with all games, familiarity makes it more accessible. I like the fact that you can look through the discard pile. The instructions explicitly state that this is not a memory game which is refreshing to read.)
Albatross. Bloody albatross.
Come along and try it at a Cards or Die event.
If you’re looking for some background music for your seafaring games you should check out She Shanties – a fabulous rousing shanty crew.