Ah, summer’s approaching. You know what this means? That’s right, a week stuck in a caravan park on the north Wales coastline, drinking warm Kestrel Lager with only the sound of the tinny iPod speaker you picked up from a pound shop and the relentless paradiddle of the never ending rain on the tin roof for company. Oh, and the repeated whining noise of your life partner reminding you how you pissed the holiday money away on a 3D-ready television set, and that this is all you now can afford.
The only one way for two people confined to an ‘intimate’ metal box in bad weather to keep themselves ‘entertained’, if you know what we mean. Eh? Eh?
Now, as a telly blog, we’ve decided to round up a few of the best and brightest board games related to programmes on the gogglebox. As one might expect, the majority of these tie in with existing gameshows. After all, it makes sense to try and encapsulate the glitz and glamour of a pre-watershed ITV non-soap within the confines of a box. What could be easier to adapt than ‘Play Your Cards Right’? All you really need is a pack of cards and Wikipedia mobile really (“the estimated 2009 GDP of Lesotho is USD1.6bn – higher or lower?”), but you can also buy it as a proper boardgame.
BUT… we don’t want to give you that! (See there, a clever reference to that thing that man says on that quiz programme?) Instead we’re going to take a glance as some of the more curious choices of programme for the dice-and-counter treatment. We’re going keep a running score on each aspect of every game we rate, so that you can tell which is the best, and we’re starting with…
BREAD (BBC TV/Paul Lamond Games, 1989)
Yes, with a huge amount of gratitude to Derek Williams of the Erant Splendens blog, Iconochromatic podcast and ResonanceFM’s One Life Left for sending this in, what better way to while away a seemingly never ending caravan holiday than by playing a “family board game” “Based on the No. 1 Comedy Soap”?
See? Whether the antics of the Boswells could really be classified as a “comedy soap”, we’re not sure. And even if it could, surely the number one spot would go to Soap, the marvellous ABC sitcom which ran from 1977 to 1981? Or, if the chart only permits UK comedy soaps, Acorn Antiques? Maybe we’re overthinking it. Either way, the cover of the board game uses the “porcelain hen stuffed with money” motif as seen in the title sequence of the show, which works pretty well. Admittedly, this could be down to Paul Lamond Games not having the rights to any photos of the cast, but in any event we do hope there is a little special plastic hen inside the box, which operates as ‘the bank’. +5 POINTS
In any case, what we’ve really got here is something we’re going to call Jobseekers’ Allowance Monopoly. How many people can play? And at what ages must they be? Will the game be geared more towards the first series of Bread, which aired in a post-watershed slot allowing for Grandad to mutter “piss off!” to whichever unlucky Boswell was delivering his dinner? Or the later primetime series’, where everything was toned down a bit?
So, shall we take a look inside the box? Yes, let’s!
So, what’s the object of the game? Leave home. That’s basically it, fly away from the red terraced nest of Elswick Street, Liverpool. However, in order to do this, you need to fulfil a number of criteria:
Interesting that Jean Boht’s character is referred to throughout the game as “Mrs. Boswell”, which seems awfully formal. Surely “Ma Boswell” would make more sense, but we’re not going to deduct points for that.
Each player must adopt the identity of one member of the Boswell family, which they must play for the duration of the game. Each of these has a number of characteristics, which has an impact on the things they can ‘do’ ‘in-game’. Let’s go through them:
First up, it’s Joey, seen here in his classic Peter Howitt guise +5 POINTS, as opposed to that other bloke who never looked right with his hair like that. Joey hates manual work (much like us), and will NOT visit That Irish Tart Lilo Lil.
Adrian, represented here by a slightly wonky portrait of Jonathon Morris, is the resident sensitive poetic type (much like us), and also refuses to do any manual labouring. Also, he will not defraud the social, again like us, no matter what anyone says or has photographic evidence of.
Aveline, who is a model, never does anything dodgy (much like us), and cannot drive. Here she is in classic ‘Gilly Coman’ mode, which is good, as Melanie Hill never seemed right for the part once she left. +2 POINTS
Youngest brother Billy, who here looks just like actor Nick Conway who played him in the series, save for his portrait here having a really unsettling mouth that grows more terrifying the longer you look at it (much like us), will not benefit from his partner, and never gets free telephone calls.
Finally, there’s estranged patriarch, council sanitation operative and right scruffy old get (much like us) Freddie Boswell. Not only can’t he drive a car and be unable to do manual work on account of his dodgy ticker, his name was also used as a derogatory nickname for similarly unkempt former chairman of Liverpool FC, David Moores, which was quite funny. +2 POINTS
So, with such a wide range of characters to choose from, hopefully the actual ‘in play’ counters will look splendid, maybe being little action cut-out figures of the characters, or maybe even little Monopoly-type figures representing each Boswell? A little plastic dust-cart for Dad, or a little van with a rainbow painted on the side for Jack?
Oh. –6 POINTS
Anyway, what of the board?
Yes, it’s all quite involved, with the splendid addition of the family dinner table in the middle of the board. Sadly though, NO plastic hen to put the money into. –5 POINTS. As you can tell from the layout the bulk of the action hinges on the use of DHSS cards, and Mrs. Boswell cards. These take a similar form to ‘Chance’ and ‘Community Chest’ cards in Monopoly, and help of hinder each player accordingly.
They seem nicely professionally made from the backs of the cards, which is a nice touch. +5 POINTS.
But the instructions on the cards themselves aren’t very professionally printed. We don’t even get little comic illustrations of someone getting kicked up the arse, like Mr Moneybags does in Monopoly. Boo. –3 POINTS
The cards themselves are where the character of the show comes into play, albeit in the same way as a ZX Spectrum text adventure based on the show might have done. The Mrs Boswell cards look at your relationship, family and personal life, and include finds like “you buy a Turbo Charged Reliant Robin (Cost £240, Resale value £120)”, or the punctuationally inelegant “Your partner walks out on you! (can’t compete with mum), taking half of your money. Return half of all your ready cash and return your partner card”. They also contain some fairly nonsensical comments, such as “TELEPHONE – A CILLA SPECIAL LORA LORA MONEY. Cost £120, Resale value £80”, or “SHOULD-A DROVE MORE CAREFUL LIKE – Car written off in crash”, that second one presumably being delivered by an Italian-Scouser. –5 POINTS
The DHSS cards offer you benefits, jobs and accommodation, many of which are dipped a faux-humorous sauce, meaning you might find your character becoming a “Ducks Trotter Chicken Packer”, or “Cuta Da Finga Kitchen Gadgets Sales Demonstrator”. Hoo, our sides. –2 POINTS Luckily, the other cards don’t try to tweak our comedy nipples, meaning the choices of accommodation are along the lines of ‘terraced house’ or ‘high rise’, and the furniture cards merely say “Furniture”. Fair enough. +2 POINTS
All in all, it’s a bit of a longwinded affair, and we’re not quite sure how many families opened this box on Christmas evening only to baulk at just how complicated it all is. A good board game should only need about two minutes of instruction, such as Trivial Pursuit or Hungry Hippos. With Bread, you pretty much need to be passing around the rules along with the dice –6 POINTS
Sorry Carla Lane. Sorry Boswells.