Schwarzer Peter (Old Maid) – A Card Game

5 - 5

Number of Players: 2-6

Year of Publication: 1874

Creator(s): Hans-Joachim Behrendt, Beatrice Braun-Fock, Dick Bruna and Wilhelm Busch (artists)

Who’s got the lucky black cat?

Schwarzer Peter is the German version of Old Maid. As I was unable to find accurate dates for Schwarzer Peter, I have here included the details for Old Maid instead.

What’s In The Box:

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One deck of cards!

Playing The Game:

Objective: To have the most pairs at the end of the game, and not be holding the black cat card.

To begin the game the deck is thoroughly shuffled and the entire deck is dealt out to the players. Players then find all pairs that they have in their hand and place them on the table like this:

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Each player has laid down the pairs they had to start with.

Once every player has finished laying down their pairs they take it in turns to take one card at random from one other player. When playing with two this means you will always (unless you draw the Black Peter card) manage to make a pair.

Winning The Game!

Once all the pairs have been made the player left with the Black Peter card is the loser, and the player with the most pairs is the winner. In the event that the player with the most pairs is also holding the Black Peter card, the player with the next highest number of pairs is announced the winner.

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In this game I have clearly won, as my opponent was left with the Black Peter card, despite having quite a lot of pairs.

Strategy:

There’s little to be said for strategy in this game. It’s generally chance as to whether or not you will be dealt the Black Peter at the beginning or will draw it from another player. When playing with two players you both know from the beginning which of you has the Black Peter, but this doesn’t actually make much difference, in that the second player can still accidentally draw it on their turn. You just have to hope to get lucky.

History and Interesting Things:

  1. Although there are many different published decks of cards with nice illustrations on them for playing this game it can also easily be played with a regular deck of cards.
  2. The name Schwarzer Peter is thought to be reminiscent of a comrade of Schinderhannesthe robber Johann Peter Petriwho was also known as Black Peter. It’s thought that the game originated in his prison years, from 1811 onward, however, the true origin is probably older.
  3. Old Maid is a Victorian card game, for 2+ players, believed to have been derived from a drinking game, in which the loser buys the next round/pays for the drinks.
  4. It is known by many different names; Schwarzer Peter in Germany, Svarte Petter in Sweden, Svarteper in Norway, Sorteper in Denmark, Fekete Péter in Hungary, Musta Pekka in Finland, Asino in Italy, Le Pouilleux in France and Babnuki  in Japan.
  5. There is an English variation of the game, known as Scabby Queen which is played with a standard 52-card deck in which the loser has an additional punishment, on top of losing the game. When played with a standard deck of cards the odd card is usually a queen and the punishment inflicted in this game is this:

When the loser (the player with the single remaining queen) is found, the deck of cards, including the remaining queen but not the jokers, is shuffled and the loser cuts the deck. The card on the bottom of the pile they picked up then decides their “punishment”. If a red card (heart or diamond) is chosen, then the player is rapped on the back of the hand with the deck. If a black card (spades or clubs) is chosen, then he has the entire deck scraped across his knuckles (known as snipes. A skilled player can draw blood with the opening ‘snipe’). The number of times this is performed is decided by the value of the card. Cards 2-10 carry face value, jacks and kings have a value of 10, aces are 11 and queens are 21. Be aware that this can rip the skin of your hands, and can be extremely painful, hence the name Scabby Queen. It is also better to use old or cheap cards, as the cards can also be damaged (cheap and older cards also tend to be softer and more bendable, so the “punishment” is less severe). However, today the game is often played without this punishment, especially where the pain inflicted is not considered appropriate by the players (such as when parents are playing with their children), though the game is still called scabby queen. As with all playground games, the rules are often lost in translation and regional variations are common (school-specific rule-sets are not unusual). Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Please note that this variation of the game is rarely played now.

To Conclude:

It’s a good game for families, it teaches kids to identify matching pairs, as well as providing a learning opportunity if you’re using an animal deck. You can get the children to identify different types of animal in their masculine and feminine forms (if they have them) and also what the babies are called. On top of that the game is very straightforward, so it’s hard to get confused when playing it. I rated this 5 because there’s nothing I would change about it.

Connect 4!

5 - 5 - Strike Thro

4.5 - 5

Number of Players: 2

Year of Publication: 1974

Creator(s): Milton Bradley designers, artists etc are uncredited.

The simplest and yet often the most frustrating of games!

Connect 4 is a popular game played most often by children of primary school age (7-11). It has a very simple your-turn-my-turn game play and can be quite frustrating if your opponent keeps winning.

What’s In The Box:

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  1. 1 Fold-out game grid
  2. 21 yellow and red counters

Playing The Game:

Objective: To create a line of four of your counters either horizontally, vertically or diagonally, before your opponent.

This game is incredibly simple in its original form. The yellow player takes the first turn, and places one of their counters into the top of any column on the grid, this then falls to the bottom, taking a position on the lowest line on the grid. The red player then follows suit.

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This is what a game that is about halfway through might look like.

The game continues in this manner, with players each dropping counters into whichever column they like, until either one player has succeeded in creating a line of four, or both players have run out of counters.

Winning The Game!

Winning the game is simple, and would look like this:

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Yellow player (me) has successfully created a diagonal line through the red players attempt to create a line of four!

Strategy:

This game is one of a group of games that can always be won by the first player, provided they play correctly. Strategically the best starting position for the first player is the central column, as from there they can choose to play on either side of grid whilst knowing that they’ll be connected to their other counters. I generally play to block off my opponent at every turn, whilst simultaneously trying to create a position in which I can create two lines of four, meaning that my opponent, at that point, cannot stop me from winning.

History and Interesting Things:

  1. The game was first sold under this name by Milton Bradley in February of 1974, but is also known by these names: Captain’s Mistress, Four Up, Plot Four, Find Four, Four in a Row, Four in a Line and Gravitaps (Soviet Union)
  2. The game is a Solved game, meaning that its outcome can be correctly predicted from any position, assuming that both player play perfectly.
  3. The game has been mathematically solved by several different people, the first of whom was James Dow Allen on October 1st, 1988.
  4. There are several different variations of the game; Pop Out, Pop 10, 5-in-a-Row and Power Up. They can be read about in more detail here.
  5. Hasbro produces various sized outdoor versions of the game, the largest of which is built from weather-resistant wood, and measures 120cm in width and height.
  6. A rumor that the game was created by David Bowie was started by NME broadcaster and reporter Stuart Maconie which then became an urban myth.
  7. Another version of the game, Connect 4 Twist & Turn was published by Winning Moves in 2015. This version features a game tower instead of a grid, with five rings that twist independently. The objective, to create a row of four of your colour disc, is the same, however as a player can choose to twist a ring after they’ve played a disc a new level of strategy is added to the game.

Look at that! I managed to find quite a few interesting things about this game!

To Conclude:

This game is great, as a child I loved it (and am still good at it). I rated it 4.5 instead of 5 because of the problem where the first player can always win. Although there’s not much that can be done about it in the original form of the game it doesn’t still make the game technically unfair. Aside from that though, I have nothing to complain about, the game is great for kids as it makes them think a little tactically, plus, it’s simple enough that it can be learnt in a few minutes. I’d say that this a game to have in the house if you’ve got children, especially as it’s easy to tidy up due to not having lots of tiny pieces.

Tempo, Kleine Schnecke! (or Snail’s Pace Race)

3 - 5

Number of Players: 2-6

Year of Publication: 1985

Creator(s): Alex Randolph (designer) and Dick Bruna, Hans-Günther Döring, Horst Laupheimer and Wolfgang Scheit (artists)

You’re going slower than the speed of a snail, could you hurry up!?

My parents and siblings all use this phrase when one of us is doing something stupidly slowly and they’re running out of patience. Fortunately for us the snails in this game are much speedier; like this racing snail:

neverending-story-racing-snail
The racing snail and his rider, Gluckuk from The Neverending Story, a popular fantasy story written by Michael Ende. This image is a screenshot taken from the 1984 movie adaptation.

What’s In The Box:

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  1. Game Board
  2. 6 Coloured Snails
  3. 2 6-Sided Dice
  4. Rules printed on the back of the box (technically not in the box, but still important)

Playing The Game:

Objective: To guess correctly which two snails will win and lose the race!

In this game it doesn’t matter how many people are playing, all six snails are still used. To begin the game line up the snails on their respective colours. Then each player has to place a bet on which snail they think will come first, and which will come last in the race. Players then take it in turns to roll the two dice, whichever colour is rolled, that snail is moved forward one space on the racetrack and if both dice show the same colour then that snail is moved forward two spaces. Every player does this until all the snails have crossed the finish line. The winner is then the person who guessed most accurately which snails would win and lose.

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Starting Line-Up

The game begins like this: say I bet that the Orange Snail will win, and the Blue Snail will lose and my opponent bets that the Blue Snail will win, and the Yellow Snail will lose, we then roll the dice and move the snails like this:

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No Orange Snail, why are aren’t you moving!?!?

So far the Pink Snail is in the lead and both Blue and Orange Snails are having a nap or something. But due to the erratic and unpredictable way in which each snail is allowed to move the game can also change reasonably quickly, like this:

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Please excuse the fuzzy quality of this photo…

Okay, so Orange Snail hasn’t won here, but he’s caught up pretty well after a slow start! At this point Pink Snail has won, and as no one bet on her we have to see which snail loses the race to know if anyone’s managed to win the game.

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Orange Snail loses the race. 😦

Because Orange Snail is the last to cross the line you could argue one of two things:

  1. That I lose because the Snail I bet on to be first actually lost the race, or,
  2. That no one won the race because neither of us guess winner or loser correctly.

I’m going with option number 2 on this one.

Strategy:

This is a guessing game, so I really can’t write anything about strategy except that you’ve probably got as much chance of winning the game as any of the other players.

History and Interesting Things:

  1. This game is excellent for teaching colour recognition in children, as they have to identify each snail by its colour to be able to play the game.
  2. It promotes sharing and because technically the snail wins the race, and not the player, it’s a good game for children who have issues with not coming first.
  3. The game was originally published in German – hence my dual-language title for the post (also as the version of the game I’m playing is German).

That’s about all I can get for this section, so we’ll proceed now to the conclusion!

Conclusion:

I like this game a lot, I think it’s great for children, particularly those that are very young and can’t grasp a game with lots of rules. I’ve rated it only at a three for a few reasons. The first of which is the box. All the pieces are just loose in the box. We’ve said this on a lot of posts, but it’s still true, there are very few things more satisfying than a board game with a well-designed box. For a game with this few pieces it wouldn’t have been difficult to make a plastic insert that could hold the snails and dice, would it? As it is, everything rattles around inside the box, and whilst the snails are wooden, and so quite durable, they also get scratched, and bash up the dice if the game is moved around a lot. My second reason for not rating it higher is that it’s a betting game, and although you don’t bet anything on the snails, there are some children that would insist that they get given something by the other players if their snail wins, and I could foresee this becoming an argument-starter.

That said, it’s a good, simple game that can be played in five-ten minutes. The time each player needs to take their turn is maybe 10 seconds, so the pace of the game is also good as it doesn’t allow time for the children to get bored. All in all, I would recommend it!

 

Christmas Update!

The Twelve Games of Christmas Are Go!

First thing’s first. It’s the start of December and I am now going to officially announce that the Twelve Games of Christmas are going to happen again this year. We didn’t really have a theme to the games last time we did this, but this year I found myself surrounded by games that were great for kids. So an obvious theme appeared almost immediately. If you aren’t even slightly into kids games then I apologize and hope that you’ll find what I’ve got planned for the New Year more interesting!

Those plans are going to remain secret for the time being though, as they shall all be revealed in the January update post. All I’ll say is that I’m hoping for a pretty interesting/exciting board game year!

In other news avid readers (if they exist) may have noticed that we’ve changed the day and time that we post at. Statistically we realized that Sunday was the most popular day for people to view this blog. So instead of posting on Monday evenings at 8pm we’ve decided to try out posting on Sunday mornings at 10am so see if it makes any kind of a difference. Aside from that not much else has changed.

Enjoy Christmas, and the posts that go up in the interim!

Over and out,

Miriam