Tuesday, 1 August 2017

As I Please: Past Times

Do children still play board games any more? With all the wonderful electronic games, do they play together as we did, around a table, often with our parents?

I have so many memories of games of childhood, and I'll be returning to some of these in a later blog. Here are a few I remember. Past times.... or pastimes.

Snakes and Ladders, which we often used to play, is in fact an ancient Indian board game dating back to the 2nd century, emphasising a Hindu journey through life. Snakes were vices, and landing on a snake’s head would cause a player to slide down the board from the top to the bottom of a snake. Conversely, ladders represented virtuous activities and players who landed at the base of a ladder ascended and missed a number of stairs. As a result it was also very popular in the Victorian nursery.

It is very simple, and provided children can count to six - one die is used - they can enjoy it. A game of chance but no less fun.

Happy families

Happy Families is a traditional card game, usually with a specially made set of picture cards, featuring illustrations of fictional families of four, most often based on occupation types. The object of the game is to collect complete families. It is one of the simplest card games, and the nursery at the Merchant's House in the Jersey Museum has a set of cards.

Games of reaction - Mousie-Mousie

This is a dexterity-type party game created by Spear's Games in 1963. One player gets to be the catcher and all the other players are mice who have to pull the mice away before the cup catches them. The special die is rolled and if it comes up red or blue, he will slam the bowl down while they have to pull their mice away.

Mice players pay one counter to the catcher each time they are caught, or each time they "twitch" and move their mouse away when a colour other than red or blue turns up on the dice. The catcher pays one counter to each mouse player who gets his mouse away.

I think it is rather more fun than reaction times with electronic games, as you never know how fast someone will be.

All these games are social games, they bring people together either round a board, or a central space (for cards) or a rubber circle (for Mousie-Mousie). They were the games of childhood, to be played when it was wet and raining outside (even in summer!), and when you had friends round. They engendered participation into a shared activity, and were amusing ways to while away the hours.

I think that's something that even multiple player electronic games don't have. Holding one joystick or game controller is no substitute for rolling a die, picking up a counter and moving it, dealing out cards (and second guessing other players), or playing reaction times involving the whole hand. What is more, children look at each other as well as the game; they chat, and interact in a way that is becoming a lost art.

And finally....

Happy Families lends itself to variety, humour and modernity. Here are a few modern cards!

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