I have to say I’m quite pleased that I actually managed to get up the Mysteriumpost last month (even if I was cutting it a little fine in terms of date!). Summer is always a difficult time when one is busy playing in the sun and having holidays, so I feel like maybe I’m off to a good start.
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:
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:
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.
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:
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.
The name Schwarzer Peter is thought to be reminiscent of a comrade of Schinderhannes, the robber Johann Peter Petri, who 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.
Old Maidis 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.
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.
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.
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.
So since my last update post I’ve successfully posted…. 1 game.
This is a little underwhelming I know. But I have been formulating a plan in the time since then, and I promise it doesn’t involve every second post being an update! The first part of the plan involves my sister, Bex, blogging about books over at anarmchairbythesea, and Terry Pratchett, well-known author of the Discworld series of books, among other things.
The second part of the plan involves Christmas!
A little explanation is in order? Perhaps.
I don’t want to say too much in case of two things;
I fail epically at making any of this happen, OR,
I fail at making you (the reader) excited about it, and therefore unlikely to return to read the fruit of these plans.
A basic sum-up of the plan can, however, be given. The part involving Bex goes like this: she’s organizing and partially hosting a Discworld Readathon or ‘Discworldathon’ (as she’s taken to calling it) on her blog, starting in January and continuing for one full year with each month having a Discworld-novel theme.
Since Terry Pratchett also authorized the creation of several board games based on the books, which we have already reviewed on this blog (the reviews can be read here) we thought it could be a nice idea to tie in the Discworldathon with some kind of replay or re-enjoyment of the related games. As of now we’re not 100% sure what the best way to work this out is, but we’re theorizing and planning and scheming and such, and we’ll undoubtedly come up with something.
This is the part of the plan involving Christmas. As some avid and dedicated readers may remember we did a series of posts entitled “Twelve Games of Christmas” in 2013. These, based on the statistics of the site, were quite popular. So I intend to bring them back this year. I’m hoping to be organized enough to make this possible, and I’ve already compiled a list of potential games to use for this.
That about sums up everything that’s in the works at the moment, and my hope is that even if posting is sporadic there should be a decent amount of posts going up around Christmas and some definite ones happening in the New Year in connection to Bex’s Discworldathon.
That’s everything for now, and I sincerely hope that my next post is not an update!
That Time I almost Lost at Chess…To a GIRL!…Who’s Younger than Me!
Luckily for me she backed herself into a stalemate and my pride was slightly less destroyed than it could have been. Like our Cripple Mr. Onion post this post is a bit of a bonus this month. Being a game invented by Terry Pratchett(well, more an adaptation of a classic game) we decided it needed a mention.
Being Stealthy at Chess:
Stealth Chess is much like normal Chess in the sense that all the regular rules of Chess apply and all the normal pieces are present and used. The game is altered by the widening of the board by one row on each side; these rows are called Slurks, and the addition of two pieces to each side which are Assassins. The Assassins start in the Slurks next to the Rooks, and only the Assassins can move in the Slurks. Unfortunately we did not have a Stealth Chess board lying around so we had to make do with a normal Chess board and imagine the additional rows, additionally the pieces that look very different to the others are pieces we borrowed from a different set to act as the Assassins.
Like in normal Chess all normal rules apply with the addition of the rules concerning the Assassins and Slurks. Assassins move one space in any direction but can move two to capture. Only they can move in the Slurks, and now you get the complicated bit; the Assassin can move as many spaces out of the Slurks as he has in the Slurks. To clarify, if over the course of 6 moves the Assassin has moved six spaces in the Slurks (including just backwards and forwards) the Assassin may move up to six space out of the Slurks, when exiting it, in one move and then an additional space to capture. So:
This white Assassin has moved three spaces in the Slurks:
So on exiting the Slurks it can capture the Queen like so:
Now the only point of ambiguity we have in this is “can the Assassin move through other pieces in this way?” Our answer was yes as, if you read the rules as laid out on Wikipediahere or the Discworld Wikihere, it describes the Slurks as another board under the existing board. So rather than moving down the side of the board it represents a space under the board which the Assassins move through and pop up to capture things. Additionally to all of this Assassins cannot take each other, out of professional courtesy.
The End and Other Things:
Normally I destroy my sister at Chess and our game of Stealth Chess was going the same way until I made one massive error and then it nearly all ended in tears. Except after a long time she managed to fight me into this position:
Which of course is Stalemate. However I think by the fifty-move rule it may have already been stalemate but that’s neither here nor there.
Anyway that’s the last time I lose concentration.
So a few last comments about Stealth Chess:
It’s given me an awesome idea for a two tiered version of Chess… Literally building two Chess boards that sit over each other.
Also to build an actual Stealth Chess board with the Slurks and proper Assassin pieces.
A couple of interesting “facts” about the game are:
On the Discworld it’s thought to actually be the original version of the game – “this belief is corroborated by the in-world discovery, in a tomb in Muntab, of a preserved corpse with an 8×10 board embedded in its skull and a pawn hammered up each nostril”
All in all it’s an interesting adaptation of Chess and a bit difficult to get your head around if you’re so used to thinking about Chess in the standard way. It’s well worth a play, and you don’t even have to buy anything if you already have a Chess set and a bit of imagination!
We’re all aware that it’s Terry Pratchett month, and that the last official post for this month has now gone up – The Witches. So now we’ve played all four officially produced Discworld games we wanted to have a look at the slightly more unofficial games. The most well known of these is Cripple Mr Onion. This is a fictitious card game that Terry Pratchett invented that’s played all over the Disc. It features in Wyrd Sisters, Reaper Man, Witches Abroadand Lords and Ladies. A game called “Shibo Yancong-San” (Cripple Mr Onion in Chinese) also appears in Interesting Times.
The game is played with an 8-suited deck of cards, the Discworld has its own deck of cards, called the caroc deck. However, for the purposes of playing in our universe a deck with the following eight suits and suit-pairs is acceptable: Spades and Axes, Clubs and Tridents, Hearts and Roses and Diamonds and Doves.
With the intention of learning the game, I acquired one such deck from the Fat Pack Playing Card Company, which has made learning the game easier, as the other alternative is to shuffle two normal decks together, but this presents the problem of having then two of each suit, and could get very confusing.
The game is a little like Poker in two respects, the first of which is that you must make the highest scoring hand to win the round, and the second of which is that, if you don’t play it often, the rules are such that’s it’s easy to forget them and end up both confused and annoyed. There’s a dealer for each round, which changes at the end of every round. The game starts by each player being dealt five cards face down, which they are immediately allowed to look at and can then discard up to four of them, being given replacement cards by the dealer. Once everyone’s done this a further five cards are dealt face up onto the table in front of each player – except the dealer, who receives theirs face down.
The first player then begins by trying to assemble a high-scoring hand (I’ll list the different hand in point order in a minute), once they’ve done this, the player to their left must assemble a higher-scoring hand, or fold. If they succeed in creating a higher scoring hand the first player is then allowed to try to rearrange their cards to score even higher, or fold. Once on player has been forced to fold play continues to the left until one player remains. This player wins the hand and becomes the dealer for the next round.
Scoring – lowest to highest hands:
Bagel – two cards with values totalling 20.
Two-card Onion – two cards with values totalling 21.
Broken Flush – three or more cards totalling between 16 and 21 inclusive with all but onein the same suit-pair.
Three-card Onion – three cards with values totalling 21.
Flush – like a Broken Flush but with all cards in the same suit-pair.
Four-card Onion – see other Onions.
Broken Royal – combination of 678 of any suit.
Five-card Onion – same-same, see above.
Royal – combination of 777 of any suit.
Six-card Onion – you get the idea by now.
Wild Royal – combination of 888 in a hand when eights are wild. (Wild eights’ll be explained a bit further down)
Double Onion – two picture cards and two aces.
Triple Onion – three picture cards and three aces.
Lesser Onion – four picture cards and four aces.
Great Onion – five picture cards and five aces.
Thus ends how to make points in this game. But now you begin to wonder “Isn’t the game called Cripple Mr Onion? We’ve had a lot of onions so far, but no crippling…” and you’d be right to present this question. Crippling Mr Onion comes into play when we get to the modifiers for the game. This is the bit that confused me the most, simply because there’s a lot to remember. So what I’m going to do, for the purposes of keeping this post fairly short, is simply list all the possible modifiers that can be played, and link you to a proper explanation of them. Except Wild Eights, which I said I’d explain, Crippling Mr Onion, because it’s the whole point of this post and The Fool, because that one’s funny. So here we go:
These can be played through the game to increase the value of a hand and, with the exception of the crippling rule, are all optional extras to the game. I’ll list the ones I’m not explaining first, and finish with the most interesting ones.
The Sender of Eights
Now, on to the others! We’ll start by explaining how to Cripple Mr Onion:
In the event that a player displays a Great Onion as their hand for a round, another player may immediately display a nine-card running flush and thereby instantly win the hand. If a player’s displayed a Great or Lesser Onion another player may display a ten-card running flush to Cripple Mr Onion, they may also use this to steal a win from a player who’s just Crippled an Onion using only a nine-card running flush. This is the only non-optional modifier.
Once your onion’s been crippled, you may find it looks a little like this:
This modifier’s actually called Null Eights but it makes eights wild. So, in a normal hand, where eights are not wild, an eight may be played as if its value were zero or eight, to increase the size of a hand in order to score higher. Because of this you can include them in an Onion to improve its size. However, in the round following the one in which this took place, eights become wild for the duration of that round and this modifier cannot be used again until the following round.
This is the last thing I’m going to explain. If a player holds the Jack of Clubs, they may declare it before the first player’s played their first group of cards. If they do this, Onions and Bagels switch places in scoring so a Double Bagel or Triple Bagel etc, become the most valuable hands with the single exception that a Great Onion will still beat a Great Bagel. It also then becomes possible for another player to Cripple Mr Bagel.Which is the only reason I wanted to specifically explain this one. I just like the concept of crippling a bagel.
There you have an explanation of how to play Cripple Mr Onion, I promise it’s only complicated for the first few hands, after that it begins to get easier as you begin to be able to spot the most useful combinations of cards! It can be a really quick game too, so it’s good for if you’ve only got a few minutes (provided you don’t have to learn the rules first) and you can play with up to seven people, so play it with all you friends!
All the info I got for this post was got from here, plus there’s extra stuff to read there if you want it, and a full explanation of all the modifiers.
This is by far the game with the most individual pieces we’ve played so far.
Playing The Game:
Objective: To return five of the eight Great Spells marked on your Guild card to the Unseen University before anyone else.
Now, this game is very complicated and also not very all at the same time. It has a LOT of rules, and took us a good hour to read through them all, but once you get the hang of it it’s actually all quite simple and is effectively just a slightly complicated race. So because of the complexity of the rules I will only outline in rough what happens.
You set up the board like this:
Each player starts at their start marker in the relevant guild quadrant, the board is divided into for quadrants, Assassins, Thieves, Fools and Alchemists quadrants. You start the game by picking a guild, for which you get a guild card for which has stats on it for Charm, Magic and Guild. You can increase these stats throughout the game by various methods and you blocks go up as shown bellow.
Your stats are mostly increased by the recruitment of volunteers which is done by charming or bribing. To bribe a volunteer you simply pay the amount marked in the bribe section on the card, to charm it you must roll the dice and achieve a number higher than its charm value, for this you also add you charm value from your stats to that number.
These cards also determine the movement of the coolest function of the game…THE LUGGAGE! At the top of each card it says “Luggage Moves” and then a number or instruction. The player who drew the card then has to move the luggage around the set track marked on the board, at splits in the track they get to chose which way it goes. If it collides with a player, even if it’s the piece of the person moving it, the player is sent straight to the nearest hospital, as shown bellow:
All of this is with the aim of returning spells to the Unseen University; you do this by getting to a spell you require and starting a spell run. This is where the volunteers you have collected are needed; you send them with the spell back to the University where you have to complete different levels of the wizards challenge to get the spells back in. I won’t go into the full mechanics of this as that would make this post very long. But as you return more and more spells the wizards challenges get harder and harder and you add more gold cylinders to you section of the Unseen University to mark the spells you have returned:
These spell runs can be sabotaged and you can use your volunteers to fight with each other, there are also items and scrolls that can be very helpful but I won’t go into these as, again, we would be here forever.
The other cool thing is that dragons can be summoned onto the board if three members of the Brotherhood, when called, are in play:
When this happens a dragon is summoned like this:
The dragon mechanics are complicated and in many respects kind of irrelevant, as once the dragon is summon and the threat initially met it’s very easy to just ignore it and carry on with the game regardless. However, one fun aspect is that if all four dragons come into play the game ends and nobody wins, this is a bit of a reoccurring theme in Terry Pratchett’s game as there is a similar mechanic in the Ankh-Morpork (read our post on it here) game as well as The Witches. Although this can have the downside of being rather anti-climactic and making you feel like you just wasted a few hours.
The game is won by the first person to return all the spells:
There are plenty of other rules about playing the game and other things and if you want you can read the revised rules here. We were following the unrevised rules, having an original edition of the game, so there was some ambiguity at points as to whether you actually could sabotage like that, amongst other things, but we worked through it.
Having only played this game twice I have a limited idea of the best strategy. But one thing I did notice was that the person who collects as many volunteers as possible rather than going straight for the spells seems to have an advantage. Also NEVER forget about the scrolls and items as they can get you out of some tight binds, the first time we played I basically ignored them, to my own peril. Also PLACE SABOTEURS! It is the difference between winning and losing, if you can sabotage the other persons spell run you have the edge!
History and Interesting Facts:
Although the board game was published in 2011 it was originally conceived in 1991.
Leonard Boyd Originally conceived the idea and played it with friends until in 1995 he showed it to Terry Pratchett.
Terry Pratchett liked the game but said they needed the backing of a major games company to make it all happen.
In 1999 Colin Smythe(currently Terry Pratchett’s agent) suggest that the game never be published…I’m quite happy that he was wrong and they didn’t give up on it.
In 2006 Gary Wyatt (of the Green Games Company) advised that they tried again with the publication of it as the board games market had picked up significantly since 1995.
So in Junes 2008 it was taken to the Speil Toy fair in Essen, Germany where it was shown to many companies, a couple of companies requested copies for play testing.
In 2008 Wolfgang Ludtke of TM-Spiele/Kosmos Games in Germany asked about developing a game based on the books of Terry Pratchett so they go sent a prototype too.
All three companies that had play tested the game felt that it needed a redesign to be aimed more at the hobby market.
So after FIVE redesigns it was sent for testing by the same three companies, it was also test played by Terry Pratchett fans, it got the backing of Z-Man Games and a license from Terry Pratchett.
The game was finally published in September of 2011! Showing that the road to getting a board game published can be long and very hard but if you end up with a great game its worth it in the end. Also while Thud is the oldest of the Terry Pratchett board games by publication date this one is probably the oldest in concept.
To read the full history of the game go to the official website here.
Guards! Guards! is a good game however it has it’s flaws, for example it took us over an hour to read the rules…We’re patient but there’s a limit. Also for all its rules it manages still to be quite simple in the sense that it’s a race and the person with the best luck tends to win. However it is a fun way to spend a couple of hours with some friends and the artwork and layout of the game are well conceived. I would recommend it, especially if you are a fan of the Discworld universe as each volunteer card has a unique quote on it that is taken from one of the books and are mostly quite amusing, as well as passages in the rule book being quoted and funny. For another overview of the game watch this video review here:
We decided, in our infinite genius, to get all the game we have together for a photo…we under estimated a bit how many game we actually had. This is what happened after A LOT of arranging:
A Tad Excessive?
Don’t be ridiculous, of course it’s not. There’s no such thing as too many games! Now not all of them are ours. The ones on the left at the top are mine and the ones on the left at the bottom are my sister’s, but the rest are communal family games… Our love of games had to come from somewhere!
A Bit of a Thought:
So from this picture of the collection of our games we decided we were going to make a “Games We Have” page as well the the “Games We Want” page to keep a catalogue of all the games we have and to mark the ones we’ve played, the ones we’ve reviewed, and how we rate them. So up the top now you should see “Games We Have” and “Games We Want“. Check them out and feel free to recommend games by commenting on the “Games We Want” page and see what our favourite games are on the games we have page and how many of these 100+ games we still have to play!