Robert Hampton

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25th December 2007

Dicing with death
Posted by at 11.02am | No responses | Fun

So, you’re spending Christmas with your family and at first it seems like a good time is going to be had by all: a shedload of presents, her Maj telling us what’s on her mind, the cheery prospect of Christmas dinner to come, and special episodes of Doctor Who and TV Burp to look forward to. But what happens after that, when things start to flag slightly and the prospect of Twelfth Night is actually starting to look appealing?

Obviously, it’s time to pull out that great family get-together standby; a game! Obviously the game has to be chosen carefully, lest an unholy Christmas-ruining family row break out. With that in mind, here’s my handy guide to the best games on the market today. Not literally today, of course, because the shops are shut. Oh, you know what I mean…

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Can be a rum affair indeed if, like us, you have a chronically out of date version which, among other things, refers to the 1988 Olympics in the future tense. This game combines all the excitement of answering trivia questions with the fun of spending half an hour rolling the die trying to land on the final wedge square you need. Anyone calling this game “Trivial Pursuits” is common and should be avoided. Trivial Pursuit was made into a game show on the Family Channel (remember that?) in 1993 with Tony Slattery (remember him?) as host. There are now approximately 492 different versions of this game available, including a Lord of the Rings Edition. This variant is unusual in that everyone is a loser before the game even begins.

SCRABBLE: If you watch Countdown in the afternoons with a mug of hot cocoa and feel all smug when you get a longer word than the smartarse bloke with glasses who clearly hasn’t been exposed to natural light recently, then this is the game for you. I rarely outclass Simon Sad, so Scrabble is probably not my favourite game. I get even more downhearted when I read of Scrabble records where players have scored over 350 points, and then compare it with my own scores which rarely get into three figures.

Whenever I play with my family, the game always starts off well with 5 or 6-letter words, but after about 10 minutes it becomes slightly desperate and words like CAT and MA are being played, we have used about 30% of the squares on the board, and I have Q, X and Z in my rack. After that we really run out of ideas, and we’re suffixing like there’s no tomorrow (CATS and MAT). Then it’s all ruined when someone walks past and knocks the table, just enough to push all the letters off their squares slightly.

MONOPOLY: There are three guarantees with this game. First, someone will say: “don’t you wish it was real money?”. Second, nobody will bother to read the rules (which resemble a Leo Tolstoy novel in both length and impenetrability) and will just make them up as they go along, including that variation, which everyone seems to use, where taxes and fines go in the middle of the board and get picked up by the lucky person who lands on Free Parking.

Third, the game will go on for SEVENTEEN HOURS. Recent issues of the game even boast on the lid “try the short game version!” presumably in an attempt to convince put-upon family patriarchs that they can play this game without creating the illusion of time going backwards. Excellently, there has recently been a new Mega version introduced, with the promise of more squares, more cash and new buildings, so the game goes on even longer! And no-one ever answers the crucial question: how can an iron be a landlord?

DVD QUIZZES: Really good fun, these. Nothing could be better than answering multiple choice trivia questions using a DVD remote control, before very sloowly moving on to the next one, while Chris Tarrant or Anthony Cotton or some other unbearable ITV personality’s face stares at you (often frozen in an unpleasant grimace while the DVD player moves on to the next chapter). Bonus points if the DVD crashes halfway through due to bad authoring (not that these things are rushed on to the market to capitalise on the Christmas rush or anything, oh no).

PICTIONARY: Always causes confusion because you DON’T roll the die to start — you draw a picture first and only move on if you get it right. I have to explain this rule to a sceptical crowd every time we play. However, that minor inconvenience is cancelled out by the fact that I always, and I mean always, kick everyone else’s arse at this. ‘Nuff said.

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