Miss Scarlet in the Dining Room with the Dagger…


Cluedo (Photo credit: Chez Pitch)

I think it was Miss Scarlet in the dining room with the dagger.  Sound familiar?  Cluedo, of course.  It’s school holidays again (claps hands with glee) and in a fit of good mothering I have been teaching my boys to play Cluedo.

They have adapted well to the novel concept of a board game (heavy sarcasm) – no buttons to press, no electronic scoring, no “sick” graphics.  But Cluedo 2013 is very different to Cluedo c1979.  The principles are the same – amazingly “Health & Safety” has not outlawed the basic tenet of someone getting murdered in a gruesome manner in favour of someone being slightly hurt which wasn’t their fault at all of course.

The board has changed – I swear the corridors and hallways between rooms are half the length/size – presumably not to appear too overwhelming for the exercise-shy younger generation of today. We no longer have Miss Scarlet, Professor Plum, Colonel Mustard et al – much less gender specific nowadays – Plum, White, Scarlet etc. The weapons are the same – although dagger seems a little outdated – perhaps “pistol” and “dagger” are used intentionally so as not to be seen to be promoting guns and knives.  Of course, the rope is no longer a real little piece of rope, it is a plastic version – almost certainly my old friends “Health & Safety” at work again although what a small child could possible do with one inch of string is beyond me.

Perhaps the biggest reflection of the changing times is in the rooms.  Gone is the Billiards Room, in is the Games Room sporting giant TV screen (showing football of course) and among other things somewhat intriguingly a wine bottle lying abandoned on the floor (an interrupted game of “spin the bottle” perhaps?). Gone is the Ballroom (no surprises there, it seemed rather outdated to the average Joe in 1979 too), in is the double Garage and Courtyard complete with faux Greek pillars and gargoyles. Most fascinating of all are the details: in the kitchen, the pre-requisite of a modern kitchen, the island; in the study, the computer with wireless keyboard; in the living room, the corner leather sofa and floor-standing giant sound system speakers and my favourite, in the bathroom, a corner jacuzzi bath and “his” and”hers” side-by-side basins.  All very 21st century.

Actually, thank goodness for the details because they gave me something to focus on throughout the somewhat excruciating experience of teaching the boys to play the game.  Of course, I have won every game despite my best efforts to lose.  It has not proved easy to lose: partly because one son seems totally incapable of not showing me his hand (a rather crucial element in this particular game) and the other son has shown thus far absolutely no understanding of the technique required in order to bluff your opponents; partly, and I am not proud to admit this, I have won every game because I want to win – I know, pathetic to be competitive against your own children.

On a serious note, I am actually very pleased that the boys are enjoying playing a board game.  After all so much of my own childhood was taken up with endless rounds of Boggle, Yahtzee, Monopoly, Scrabble and the interminably boring Snakes & Ladders (which I will only  now play under extreme duress or with a pre-determined conclusion time).  Most gratifyingly, one son actually wants to play Cluedo in preference to watching the drivel that seems to be permanently pouring from the TV screen – in fact, he chose it over The Simpsons – Mother :1, Bart: 0.

Despite my gentle ribbing, I know that the 2013 Cluedo board is much more attractive to my boys than the one of my childhood would be – reassuringly familiar in its details – and that probably goes in part towards their desire to play. Even though by playing the game they are parted temporarily from their beloved screens, the screens are still subliminally playing their part accessorising various rooms in the Cluedo mansion.

Not all changes to board games are a success. Take the version of Monopoly that I saw this afternoon at a friend’s house.  All looked pretty familiar but something was missing – the money: no orange £100s, no pink £500s…all replaced by a single “debit  card” and a debit card machine.  Wrong, very wrong.

If I was to be all worthy about it, I could bang on about how this cashless version teaches children nothing about value, nothing about counting out money, nothing about actually physically handing over money. Of course this is all true but for me a cashless version is an utterly pointless version. How satisfying was it to demand £1000s in rent for your “hotel complex” on “Mayfair” and then watch your siblings/friends hand over a fistful of hard cash?  How gratifying to charge an extortionate amount to your already financially troubled opponent for your “Get Out of Jail Free” card?  How much did you enjoy seeing your mountain of cash building up on your side of the board whilst your opponent fell on hard times with a measly £500 to his name? Perhaps I am sounding like a rather unpleasant “loadsamoney” relic from the ’80s but come on, that’s what the fun was, wasn’t it?  Where’s the fun in a debit card, tell me that?