Birmingham is a landmark for board gamers, with lots of regular events for people to pit their wits against each other.
One of the biggest games of all – Cluedo – was invented here, by Kings Heath’s Anthony Pratt, who even has a pavement plaque dedicated to him in B14.
Apparently the enterprising man thought up the board game idea while working in a wartime tank factory in Balsall Heath.
Unfortunately it never made him a millionaire because although he had it patented in 1945, Waddingtons bought the overseas rights nine years later, paying Pratt £5,000.
The city is a mecca for board game enthusiasts, with the UK’s largest annual hobby games convention, the UK Games Expo, moving from the Hilton Birmingham Metropole to the NEC in 2016 as a result of increasing visitor numbers.
“It all began a few years ago with a monthly event called Afternoon Play run by the Urban Coffee Company in Birmingham,” says Andy Hopwood, a board game maker from Erdington.
“Within no time it was attracting 50 to 60 people, mostly in their 20s, and 30 per cent were women.
“Before then when you thought of board gamers you thought of bald middle-aged men with beards.
“Today people in their 20s don’t recognise that stereotype. It’s moved a long way from people thinking board gamers are sad to thinking they are cool.”
Now, there are many more board gaming events in Birmingham, such as Bread and Games in Digbeth, Verdo Lounge in Wylde Green and Curry & Games at Hastingwood Café, Erdington.
Andy’s racing game Zoom Zoom Kaboom won the 2012 Best Board Game at the UK Games Expo.
“My philosophy when I’m designing a game is if it’s going to make people laugh, think and shout then it’s a winner for me,” explains Andy, whose most famous game Mijnlieff won Best Abstract Game at the expo in 2010 and is also available as a free app. He’s hosting a Mijnlieff Tournament at the Wellington pub in Birmingham on May 3.
“A lot of games take around five minutes to think of then a year to write the rules.
“My ideal would be a game that gives people something afterwards regardless of whether they win or lose.
“Whether I’m walking or driving, I’m always looking at things and wondering how to convert them into a game.
“I think anything that makes people sit down and engage with each other is a good thing.”
Andy’s view on games we used to play as kids – how many do you remember?
Snakes and Ladders
It was originally a Hindu teaching aid with four squares in the middle that represented limbo. Once you were in there, you never got out. Many board games started off as teaching aids but were dumbed down for children in England.
I had a horrible experience once when I had definitely said C4 and the person I was playing misheard me and thought I’d said E4. It meant we carried on playing for ages even though I’d won.
Draughts and Ludo
These are much more complicated in other countries. Here, kids were given board games to keep them quiet whereas in places like Germany it’s the complete reverse as families choose games they will play together.
This is a game about social climbing where you have to get married and buy three social symbols but there’s also a really good race track you go around.
I have friends who play ‘psychological profiling Guess Who’ where they ask questions like ‘would your character kill a puppy?’ or ‘does your character like knitting?’ It’s amazing how often they come out with the right person in the end! Click here to find out what happened when we entered a Guess Who competition at Alfie Birds.
Here you have to hide information from your opponents. It’s like Scissors, Paper, Stone as you can’t see what’s going to attack you.
This was a funny game about management where you had to hire an assistant manager – imagine trying to market this game now? I think it was so called because of the stress managers are under, causing stomach ulcers!
Neighbours, EastEnders, Blockbuster, Knight Rider Game
Games endorsed by programmes were often brought out at Christmas and they generally weren’t great to play. It’s a bit lazy to say it’s got EastEnders on the box so you don’t need to bother about what’s inside. Ivor the Engine Game was an exception to that rule as the artwork was done by creator Peter Firmin himself.
There was a tendency to amass troops, break out and take over. If you had two to three nuclear bombs there was an increased risk you could lose your army. And if a player goes out early on, what were they meant to do for the next three hours?
I used to love it but it’s a broken game, a bit like Noughts and Crosses where, if you know what you’re doing, you can play and never lose. I played it for 10 hours on my birthday once to raise money for the Centre for Conductive Education. I only lost five times out of 56 games.
I did play this but is it really a game or a toy? It did have rules so I guess you could argue that anything with rules is a game. For me it’s about choices, that’s what defines a game.
Not so much a game as an excuse for teenagers to get bodily contact with each other.
It was created by a lady who wanted to teach people how bad corporate greed was. In a way she was right, you do get the feeling you don’t like people so much once you’ve played with them! It’s a linear game, with a minimal number of choices so, in my opinion, you spend 10 minutes buying property then get fed up for the next three hours.
Awful Green Things from Outer Space
This was a great game and very silly. Definitely one to look up.
This was a good game because it had an element of strategy.
This game is as old as the hills – I remember playing it with my dad.
This is a classic game because you’re not only lining up your best words but seeing if you can get in your opponents’ way. There’s another good game called Bananagrams that’s like Scrabble but without the board. I met the American lady who invented it.
This was a great game although it took a while to set up as you had to build the castle walls. If I remember rightly, there were monsters who could move round the board the other way round and a vampire that could move faster than everyone else.
This was quite ground-breaking as it got adults playing games whereas before that it had generally been just kids. I prefer Wits and Wagers because you don’t have to know the answers to win the game. You bet on other people’s answers instead but they could be tricking you.
This is more of a puzzle than a game, where it’s simply a question of can I answer this? Yes or no?
Do you remember these other games we used to play?
Bob’s Full House game
Saint and Greavsie football trivia quiz game
Game of Life
Mike Read’s Pop Quiz
Dungeons and Dragons