Sunday, October 14, 2007

Game design challenge

Let's be brutally honest here. It's four days till the Essen game fair opens. Three, by the time I post this. And you, gentle Reader, are champing at the bit waiting for reports - or hints - or photos - or ANYTHING really - that give you any information about what is going on with all those New Games.

I know this, because by Tuesday night I too will be compulsively hitting the Refresh key in case anyone has somehow stumbled across a hidden cache of games and managed to play one of them before the Messe actually opened. (Brief pause to gloat: We did manage to play the new Amigo cardgame Ziegen kriegen on Friday night.)

So this week, something different.

I was struck, this week, as I wandered the supermarket listening to Michael Flanders and Donald Swann's classic "Bedstead Men," by how much it sounded like a game.

Oh, when you're walking in the country, Far from villages and towns,
When you're seven miles from nowhere and beyond,
In some dark deserted forest, or a hollow of the downs,
You may come across a lonely pool or pond.

And you'll always find a big, brass broken bedstead by the bank,
There's one in every loch or mere or fen.
Don't think it's there by accident, It's us you have to thank,
The society of British bedstead men.

Oh, the hammer ponds of Sussex, And the dewponds of the west,
Are part of Britain's heritage, The part we love the best.
Every eel and fish and millpond Has a beauty all can share,
But not unless it's got a big brass broken bedstead there.

So, we filch them out of attics, We beg them from our friends,
We buy them up in auction lots with other odds and ends,
Then we drag them 'cross the meadows, When the moon is in the sky,
So watch the wall my darling, While the bedstead men go by.

The league of British bedstead men is marching though the night,
A desperate and dedicated crew,
Under cover of the hedges, Always keeping out of sight,
For the precious load of bedsteads must get through.

The society for putting broken bedsteads into ponds
Has another solemn purpose to fulfil.
For our coastal sands and beaches, All where waving willow wands,
Mark the borders of a river, stream or rill.

You will always find a single laceless, left-hand leather boot.
A bootless British river bank's a shock.
We leave them there at midnight, you can track a member's route,
By the alternating prints of boot and sock.

Oh, the lily ponds of Suffolk, And the millponds of the west,
Are part of Britain's heritage, The part we love the best.
Our riverbanks and seashores Have a beauty all can share,
Provided there's a boot... Provided there's a boot...
Provided there's at least one boot... Three treadless tyres, a half-eaten pork pie, some oildrums, an old felt hat, a lorryload of tar blocks...
And a broken bedstead there.

Can you see it? It's clearly a pick-up and deliver game, possibly with some sort of relative position - each player plays both a British Bedstead Man and an Insomniac Nature-Lover, whose mission is to stop the other players' Bedstead Men from placing their Bedsteads.

Each player starts the game with (or has to collect along the way) a boot, three treadless tyres, a half-eaten pork pie, some oildrums, and old felt hat, a lorryload of tar blocks and of course a broken bedstead. Players must move around the board, leaving them in strategic positions near lily ponds, millponds, rivers, streams and rills.

There could even be an auction component - because you have to collect some of those things (at the least, the tyres, tar blocks and broken bedstead) before you can abandon them in some otherwise picturesque place.

And the board, of course, would show one of those old-fashioned ordnance survey-style maps of part of Britain - with the occasional set of matching sock/boot footprints.

Do you see it?

What obscure and - if we are honest - rather ludicrous - inspiration would you like to one day see as a game?

To those who are lucky enough to be in Germany next weekend, have fun at Spiel. To those with business there, I wish you all the best. If you see an Australian, say hello.

And to any stray people with a company or private jet flying from Melbourne to Germany early next week? Call me!



huzonfirst said...

What I see is someone who may be suffering a bit of insomnia herself! :-)

I've never heard this poem and I like it quite a bit. Forgive my ignorance in this area, but the rhythm and meter sound very much like Kipling's; had you not mentioned the authors, I would have automatically assumed it was written by him. Do you know if Flanders and Swann were imitating him or if that was the standard style in those days?

Melissa said...

Yeah - I suspect I could have just posted the lyrics and left it at that :)

I suspect it was more the standard style, but possibly a bit of both.

Clay B. said...

I'd buy this.

Anonymous said...

I just found Flanders & Swann and hadn't yet begun to decipher Bedstead Men. I'm happy to see their humour remains ever so strange. BTW I'm a Yank anglophile and know nothing of gaming. Thanks for the lyrics.