Gosh, look! Another letter arrives – a real one this time – from anagrammatic reader Carlo Randle, who says:
A few weeks ago, I spent a grim evening playing some kind of Lovecraft-based collaborative boardgame with friends.
Tiny plastic figures moving about on a dark board overprinted in near-black ink; the prolix and apparently arbitrary rules, printed not in a handy booklet but on large, flappy sheets tacked to the inside of the presentation box lid; the various stacks of darkly-printed hazard cards, menace cards, threat cards, jeopardy cards and so on; the strange anomaly of the ‘taxis’ by which one’s avatar might whisk about the region’s gloomy mapscape; the massiveness of the dice and their propensity to scatter the scrawny, lightweight playing pieces from their assigned places; the confusing indistinguishability of those playing pieces, which meant one frequently expended all one’s half-understood strategic nous on moving the wrong character, frustrating some ultimately crucial aspect of our glacially-paced campaign to resist or repel the Old Ones; the swiftly-escalating despair that (a) the game could not be won by the human players, because the resources of The Game (our opponent) were so lavishly stacked against us and (b) that it would nevertheless take a Troublingly Long Time before our inevitable, crushing defeat was confirmed. In that respect, I suppose, it was a truly Lovecraftian experience.
I remember my avatar’s being obliged to sidle down a kind of sewer pipe from Arkham to Dunwich, or similar, to forestall some inexpressible catastrophe which was about to be visited on the region by a tiny plastic ‘monster’ which, had it tumbled from one’s Cornflakes packet in childhood, would have been flicked desultorily into the pedal-bin without a second glance.
We lost … the game itself was declared the winner. But I don’t want to give the impression that nobody enjoyed it. Our host was cooing with delight all evening.
Carlo Randle (anag.)
I trust the boardgame was obtained from a supplier called H.P. Source…
Seems to me that a Hooting Yard game – in which randomly-chosen words from the Fortean Times dictate the fate of wooden orphans as they teeter weakly round the board, from hovel to chalet to ruinous dandruff-works, collecting Bat-God icons to protect them from walrus-moustached psychopaths, gaseous manifestations of Yoko Ono and tsunamis of drool – would be an infinitely preferable recreation.
The game you are referring to can actually be played by 1 player – as I have done several times in the past. But if the host in question had acquired the official figurine set, I would suggest he is probably a bit sad.
The game is ripe for ‘re-theming’ to the Hooting Yard ‘universe’: e.g. Ruby Standish becomes Tiny Enid, Rivertown becomes the Blister Lane Bypass and the Necronomicon (obviously) becomes an eldritch and out-of-print pamphlet by the celebrated pamphleteer.