The first board game I went absolutely crazy about was the Labirynth. Its original German version “Das verrückte Labyrinth” was introduced to me just a year or two after it launched in 1986 by my friends from Austria. Finding your way around the maze, moving from a ghost to a scarab beetle, meeting fairies and dragons, hunting treasure was definitely my type of thing. One move could change your options and your perspective – all you have to do was to see outside the box. I begged to play the game anytime I was around and would trade in an hour of “I-will-play-whatever-you-choose” for a round of the aMAZing maze.I remember the excitement of walking around the huge old mansion – exploring the library, passing through the billard room, sneaking into the conservatory to use the secret passage to the lounge. I imagined I was Little Ms Poirot following the footsteps of the murderer, collecting clues and solving the whodunnit mystery. Is it enough clues to guess the name of the game? The story of Cluedo itself is fascinating as well. It was invented in England during the Second World War to fight boredom and brighten up spirits. It intrigues with the story of Mr Black’s murder. It involves with the step-by-step suspect elimination. It captures imagination with detailed vividly illustrated board and miniature weapons. It is a perfect around-the-table, after-dinner family pastime. I had always wanted to have the game, not only play it at friends’ houses and once I got mine for Christmas we all gathered at the table – me, my husband, my mum with my step-dad, my parents-in-law and one year old Natasha – solving a murder of a British aristocrat, confusing suspects, mixing languages and discovering that spanner is called “French key” is Polish and “English key” in French.
The first time we played Ticket to Ride, we were trying to answer a lot of questions. How do you get from Palermo to Constantinople? Is the shortest route always the best? How do you get the grey trains cards? And how on earth do you build a tunnel? We discovered soon enough that you need at least one locomotive to cross on a ferry, there are no grey trains and going through the tunnel is actually quite easy, all you need is a bit of luck and a spare train just in case. We eagerly boarded on the trains and the game became our regular Sunday feature. Each of us has their own ways to score – Natasha usually aims for the longest route and longest tunnel, Maciek builds as many routes as possible and I detour to score more points on the way. You never know who wins next time. The game is on. The competition is high. The winner takes it all.
It takes a lot to run a farm. You need to tend to the rabbits, breed them well and keep them safe. You need to get enough sheep and pigs to trade them in for a cow or a horse. You need to protect your flock from foxes and wolves that come unexpectedly and snap your animals. It is a great fun to play Super Farmer and I am very proud it is Polish. It was invented during the World War II (isn’t it amazing to observe that despite the destruction the war brings, it also happens to inspire people to create a parallel reality) by a Polish mathematician who after loosing his job at the university struggled to survive in a Nazi occupied Warsaw. He created a game with simple rules, beautiful images of animals and two 12-sided dices. Soon the news of the game spread and it became more and more popular. While the professor’s wife was hand making the sets, he would be answering the phones saying: “Yes, you’ve reached the animal farm.”
Our animal farm was sent by Natasha’s godmother, who has an amazing talent for choosing the right gifts. As soon as we opened the box and saw the dogs figurines, the dices with different animals on their sides and the funny and heartwarming images on the tokens, we started playing. The rules are simple and you do not need to be an expert in probability to enjoy the game or in fact win. You can play it safe. You can take the risk. But don’t count your chickens (or any other livestock) before they hatch.