Kuvaannollisen hauskaal for all the family
William Hartston approaches some games with unaccustomed gravity
Saturday 22 February 1997
Before we are weighed down by gravitational games, however, we must mention Pictionary from MB Games. As the instructions say: "Pictionary on joukkuepeli. Kun on joukkueesi vuoro piitaa, valitkaa keskuudestanne yksi piirtaja." Yes, this is Pictionary in Finnish, the game in which you have to illustrate concepts such as "ilmaisjakelulehti" by drawing a picture of it.
We are not sure why we have been sent the Finnish version, unless it is being offered as the ultimate intellectual challenge in board games. Anyway, as it says on the packet "Kuvaannollisen hauskaa! - Tata on Pictionary!" and who are we to disagree?
To return to matters of gravity, the downwards trend may have started with Connect-4, the popular, vertical, four-in-a-row noughts-and-crosses game. Yet while gravity helps in executing your moves (you drop counters into columns to occupy the lowest available slots), the game can be played equally well in zero gravity with pencil and paper. A new development on the theme, however, would not work under such conditions.
Deflect 5 (from Peter Pan, price about pounds 8.99) uses a similar-looking frame to that of Connect-4 with the important difference that the horizontal rows are on sliding bars that may be moved one notch at a time in order to align holes and allow counters to fall through to a lower level. The winner is the first player to free all his counters. It's an excellent idea, but there is one major defect in this particular design: once a piece occupies any of four crucial points in the frame a simple blocking strategy can ensure that it never gets free and the game ends in a futile, repetitive to-and-fro-ing. The designers believe that games players are basically not spoilsports, and will try to win rather than playing negatively. Such faith in human nature, however, is misplaced. Games players like winning, but not as much as they hate losing. Salvaging a daw from a rotten position is a temptation few can resist. As it stands, Deflect 5 is a fine idea with a big flaw that could have been eliminated with a change in the rules or a more thoughtful design of the frame.
A slightly more devious version of the same basic idea may be found in Downfall from MB Games (price about pounds 5.99). Small and portable, it comes in their Travel Games series and is best plaed against an opponent seated opposite in a train with a table between you. Each player starts with ten small counters which have to be manoeuvred, by turning a series of cogs, from top to bottom of a frame. While the two players share the same cogs, their ratchet holes are in different places, so your moves may assist your opponent. Only you don't know how much, because you can't see what he's doing.
The game may thus be played at various levels of ingenuity and deviousness. At the one extreme, one may simply concentrate on freeing one's own men. On the other, one may make strenuous efforts to deduce the opponent's precise configuration of cogs and do everything possible to frustrate his intentions. The only problem is that the small counters are very losable and they don't provide spares.
Finally, we come to Jenga (MB Games, around pounds 8.75) Britain's best-selling game of 1996. Pile up the wooden blocks, then take it in turns to nudge them gently out of the pile and replace them at the top. It's a variation on an old, established theme, of course, but these particular blocks seem perfectly designed to give children's small fingers an advantage against adult's podgy digits. The perfect way to teach patience, balance and basic mechanics to clumsy people of all ages.
Life & Style blogs
Replica cars: The 'new classics' roaring back into the lead
What is ALS and the Ice Bucket Challenge?
iPhone 6 vs iPhone 6 Plus: which is the best?
Jennifer Lawrence nude pictures leaked: Reddit removes 'The Fappening' board dedicated to sharing naked pictures of celebrities
Headaches, fry ups, and hair of the dog - why do we get hangovers, and is there such thing as a 'cure'?
Daniele Watts: Django Unchained actress detained by Los Angeles police after being mistaken for a prostitute
George Galloway on Scottish independence: The political class is doing what Hitler couldn’t – destroying Britain
Scottish independence: Nationalist leader Jim Sillars threatens pro-union companies with 'day of reckoning' after independence
Scottish independence: Yes campaign feels the heat as Alex Salmond's NHS claims come under furious attack
Scottish independence: Britain faces 'constitutional crisis' at next election
£23m Birmingham cycle scheme is attacked by Tory councillor for not catering to the elderly
- 1 Lego breaks out of the toy box and heads for the gallery
- 2 A bottle of wine a day is not bad for you and abstaining is worse than drinking, scientist claims
- 3 Piers Morgan attempts to save the Union by promising to go back to the US if Scotland votes 'No' to independence
- 4 Tyler, The Creator says having new U2 album automatically downloaded on his iPhone was 'like waking up with herpes'
- 5 Grandmas keep accidentally tagging themselves as Grandmaster Flash on Facebook
Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Job opportunity for an Early years ...
£300 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Cent...
£70 - £100 per day: Randstad Education Bristol: Experienced bursar or business...
Competitive & Flexible: Randstad Education Cambridge: Randstad Education are l...