Sunday, 21 August 2011

Haven't a cluedo

As a pre-teen I adored board games. No one else in a somewhat dysfunctional family having the slightest interest in them at home, I played them at boarding school and dreaded - for this and many other reasons - the end of term and nobody to play with.

Monopoly, of course, even though it took so long to complete that most games ended up being abandoned, the winner being the person with the most money.

Contraband, a card game a bit like cheat or hearts, where by keeping poker-faced and lying through your teeth you might manage to smuggle the crown jewels and other goodies from the pick-up pile clockwise round the table to the discard pile.

Totopoly, which had a mechanism with a handle that enabled little horses to stagger fitfully to the finishing line, hopefully carrying your shirt on it.

And of course we played chess.

But my favourite was Dover Patrol, perhaps not surprising in a school with strong naval ties. This came out in 1919, and had firm echoes of Jutland and other great World War 1 battles the Royal Navy might have fought if the Kaiser's Hochseeflotte had put out to sea a bit more. It was a sort of naval chess, with the difference that you couldn't see the value of your opponent's pieces. Each player started off with a complete navy of about 30 ships, represented by dramatic drawings of ships of varying firepower on little rectangular cards stuck into tin stands. The back of the card was either blank red or blue, so that your opponent across the board couldn't see how your fleet was disposed.

The object was to manoeuvre yourself, one ship, one square at a time, across the board into your opponent's harbour, capture his flag, and sail back with it in triumph to your own harbour. Each ship had a numerical value, from your Flagship (10) to the lowly Patrol Vessel (1). Naturally your flagship blew everything else of lower value out of the water, but - who doesn't have his or her Achilles' heel? - was vulnerable to mines and submarines. The 3 submarines in your fleet, perhaps reflecting contemporary preoccupations at the Admiralty, had no numerical value but sank everything sinkable except Motor Torpedo Boats (2). Among the named ships were HMS Manchester (6) and HMS Gnat and Hornet (3), presumably Insect-class frigates. The submarines were designated E1, E2 and E3: an echo of then recent history, because low-numbered, un-named submarines (E10, E11, E15) had performed feats of daring in the 1915 Dardanelles campaign.

I never owned my own Dover Patrol set until many years later, when I was about 25. I saw a set in a Southampton toyshop window, nostalgia took over and I bought it. It had been upgraded, taking into account World War 2. The ships were mere silhouettes, no longer greyhounds of the ocean shipping it green among 10-inch shell and depth-charge. There were now flying boats too, like the Sunderland flying boats I used to see as a child taking off from Calshot on the Solent. I kept it jealously and eventually - I think - gave it to my son.


Then when I was about 12 Cluedo came out and caught on at once. Cluedo has survived well, while Dover Patrol and its fellows (L'Attaque, Tri-tactics) haven't been able to withstand the onset of computer-based games and have sunk beneath the wave, as far as I know.

Since mentioning this I've fallen to wondering who among the regulars or indeed irregulars here fit the Cluedo bill? We already have our highly-esteemed Miss Scarlet, of course, but whom would you nominate for the other suspects? And while you're pondering this, here are two other Cluedo observations:

The French version of three of the characters. Pervenche is 'periwinkle', i.e. blue.

Just in case you were wondering, this desperate fatality didn't occur at our house. For one thing, our piano is an upright, and I don't remember a steam-roller being among the Cluedo murder weapons.

Which naturally leads me to this:

'There's been a terrible accident! Your husband's been run over by a steam-roller! They've taken him to hospital...'

'Oh, how dreadful! I must go and see him at once! What room is he in?'

'A5, A6, A7 and A8.'

Please excuse me. Happy Sunday.


Friko said...

Being an only child I never played any games, with anybody, at any time. Which made for a very quiet child, of course, usually bent double over a book, hence my stunted growth.

Hoping to do better for my own children I provided each of them with a sibling of the opposite sex, which didn't work very well either; any game they played soon turned into a bare knuckle fight.

I'm afraid I can't help you much here.

PS: apropos Milton: good for the odd quote, slightly massacred or left intact, otherwise a tad boring?

Rog said...

I bagsee Peacock!

On our Council Estate times were hard and I used to have to make my own copies of other people's games. The eventual costs of the card, sellotape and other bits often came near to the original cost of the game. I've still got my home-made monopoly and when we have guests I can sometimes be persuaded to produce it at the dinner table to admiring glances. The guests do seem to be tailing off mind....

Rog Lovejoy said...

PS There is still time to bag an original 1950's version finishing this evening:

Rosie said...

We used to play Cluedo all the time and a game called "Murder" where you hid around the house in the dark and someone got killed and the detective had to work out who did it. It involved falling down the stairs a lot. And a game called "Beuscepholus" (sp?) which involved feet wrapped in dusters and having to cross the room without touching the floor (hanging on doorframes allowed).

Mike and Ann said...

Hello Christopher. I, too had a game of Totopoly. It was given me by a rather horsy aunt, who followed form regularly. As I remember the game it took a good deal longer to take it from its box, put it together, and generally set it up, than it did to play it; and anyway, whoever could crank the little handle fastest usually won.

Your joke about the steamroller victim reminds me of one we had at school, and was told in frosty weather when there were many road accidents. It has to be stold in a hollow Tannoyish railway station announcer's voice :-
"The train now approaching platforms three, four , and five, is coming in sideways ."

Dave said...

I'm always game.

Martin H. said...

Dover Patrol escaped me, but we had the usual range of boxed games, including some from a Southampton toyshop window, would you believe? Did you ever play Go or Risk? They were both pretty awful.

Tim said...

Risk was brilliant. I remember Murder (which is not a board game). Rosie's leaping around the room one, unique I suspect to her household, in mine involved also keeping balloons in the air.

In my teens, a game, again not board, called Hyde Park Corner was best. Details available on application.

Z said...

What a coincidence, Ro and I were having a conversation about board games this afternoon, sparked off by the unfinished game of Monopoly lying there which Pugsley and I started yesterday.

Obviously, Dave is Rev Green.

dinahmow said...

And I'm sure your piano would not be propped up with books.

Ludo, snakes and ladders and monopoly, if I couldn't get away fast enough.

Mike and Ann said...

Hello Christopher, Not really a comment on this blog entry. Just a note to tell you that your idea that ack emma and toc H are connected was quite correct. Crowbard's done some research, and he tells me that they are both from a phonetic alphabet that was first used in 1904.

Christopher said...

Friko: My kids were brought up on Milton, even if it was only stuff you put in the nappy bucket.

Rog: You have the copyright, don't you? And thanks for the Ebay information - I was tempted but then I wondered whom I would play it with, imagined there might be something online like Scrabble or chess, and by the time I'd researched all this the hammer had fallen. And if ever you felt tempted to invite us to dinner, why, we'd be delighted and would even bring our own Seccotine and stamp-sheet selvedges.

Rosie: Thanks. I'm now inspired to write a post about Murder in the Dark. We also (at school) had a contest for getting round a room without touching the floor but when it involved swinging from the lights and fingernailing round the picture rails it was banned. But why dusters on your feet? Didn't this deter use of prehensile toes?

M 'n' A: Yes, I remember, there was a green 'race-course' made of light canvas or similar, and when you cranked the handle it sent a sort of shock wave through the material whereby the 'horses' were shaken forward in an irregular and unpredictable way and as far as I remember they were quite liable to collide or fall over. I expect inertia played a part in it, which is true of every horse I've ever backed (total: about 5).

Dave: I know. It's very much to your credit.

Martin H: I expect it was the same shop, somewhere Above Bar if I remember correctly. Never played Risk, about which opinion appears to be sharply divided here, but then the playing of such games stopped abruptly when I was 13 and really never picked up again.

Tim: Never heard of Hyde Park Corner. (As a game, that is.) Your reticence implies that at some stage clothing has to be removed, which was an occasional happy feature of Murder in the Dark. Please process my application.

Z: Yes, a happy coincidence. Rev. East-Green came to mind at once, but I'm having trouble characterising Z, partly because I've forgotten who the participants were. Wasn't there someone who made irresistible puddings?

MIT: This is very true. In fact I find the entire illustration as tantalising and as difficult to sense of as some of your What Is It? competitions. There are always pencils and erasers (mustn't say rubbers, Americans sometimes come here and I wouldn't want to mislead them) on my piano, however.

M 'n' A (again): Thanks. 'Toc H' just had a certain Services slang ring about it. I don't know if Toc H still exists.

Z said...

I immediately identified with Mrs White, the plumply jovial cook with the homicidal glint in her eye, but Colonel Mustard and Professor Plum have yet to come forward.

Christopher said...

Hmm, yes, not easy. I wonder if Mike had a military backgound at all?

And as for Prof. Plum, a little voice keeps saying 'Vicus...Vicus...Vicus...'

Summer pudding, please, Mrs W. Or queen of puddings would do at a pinch. And go easy on the arsenic.

mig said...

We were quite cluedoless I'm afraid, though I used to play snakes and ladders with the Aunties. And chess with Dad.

broken biro said...

No Scrabble? I didn;t have the full version, but a slightly-smaller travel version (which never actually left the living room) with little holes at each corner of a square and littel pegs at each corner of a tile... particularly useful for keeping the words in place if anyone stomped away in disgust.

My brother and I also had a favourite board game called Colditz in the 70's - one person played the Germans and other player(s) different nationalities of escapees. It was a complicated mix of throwing the right numbers to get to the right places to collect fake passports etc which could then be used when you decided to try any of the various escape routes. I have never met anyone else who has even heard of it!

Christopher said...

BB: Erm...Scrabble hadn't quite arrived in the UK at the time mentioned.

But we all had our copies (Pan Books) of Pat Reid's Escape from Colditz, along with Paul Brickhill's (?) Enemy Coast Ahead and Nicholas Montserrat's The Cruel Sea. This last we got to read in what was called the Cadet Edition, i.e. no sex or swearing, which of course only became apparent when someone smuggled in the adult unbowdlerised edition.