Tag Archives: board games

The Lost Game Of Pank-A-Squith

It is a curious thing but the leading lights of the Women’s Social and Political Union not only found the time to prosecute a campaign to win the vote for women but also turned their minds to inventing board games as a means of raising funds. We have already looked at Suffragetto which was produced in 1908. It was followed a year later by Pank-A-Squith, an ungainly name conjured out of the surnames of the two principal proponents in the suffrage struggle, Emmeline Pankhurst and the then Prime Minister, Herbert Asquith.

First advertised in Votes for Women on October 22, 1909, the game was designed to teach people about the issues around the struggle for women’s suffrage but also to raise much needed funds as well as brightening up a dull evening. The set consisted of a board, a die, six suffragette figurines made from lead, and a set of instructions. Each of the figurines holds a rolled petition and wears a sash prominently displaying the green, white, and purple colours of the movement. The board also displays the suffragette colours and has “printed in Germany” stamped on the back.

The board contains 50 squares in a circular spiral pattern leading to the middle one which marks the Houses of Parliament, the arrival at which was the pinnacle of achievement for the movement. The object of the game, suitable for two to six players, was to move from the outer edge of the board to the centre and was rather like snakes and ladders. A throw of the die determined how many squares the player could move. The pictures on the board vividly illustrate some of the perils a determined suffragette could anticipate encountering.

The sixth square showed a group of women throwing rocks at the windows of the Home office, landing on square 16 required the player to send a penny to Suffragette funds, and square 18 had a picture of the Bow Street magistrate’s court. On square 25 there was an illustration of Emmeline Pankhurst being arrested after striking a police officer and squares 32 and 43 showed Holloway Prison and the practice of force-feeding, respectively.

Although there was a vein of humour running through the game, it also shed light on the darker side of the campaign with its images of police brutality against women protestors and the force-feeding of imprisoned hunger strikers. It was a novel and innovative way of popularising the cause and the movement’s colours as well as raising funds for the cause. A complete set was sold recently for just under £5,000.

The Lost Game Of Suffragetto

These days you can engage in political activism from the comfort of your own armchair by pounding away at social media. A century or so ago the only way was to go out on to the streets and run the risk of arrest or a bump on the head from a policeman’s truncheon. The fight for women’s suffrage was heating up in the first decade of the 20th century and whilst there many women prepared to risk liberty and limb to carry their fight in orthodox ways to the authorities, many others were precluded either by their nature, geographic distance or pressure from their families from following suit. One way to experience the thrills and spills of demonstrating your support for suffragism (or, indeed, your opposition to it) was to play a board game.

One that would suit a budding suffragette was one produced by Sargeant Brother Limited for the Women’s Social and Political Union in 1908 as a novel way to raise funds for the cause. Called Suffragetto, it came in a plain box with red borders, with the game’s name emblazoned in red and the enticing slogans of “the very latest craze” and “an interesting and original game of skill between suffragettes and policemen, for two players” in an olive script.

The game came with a board which represented the streets of Edwardian London around the Houses of Parliament and the Albert Hall, which was the suffragettes’ base. The player representing the suffragettes, you can imagine that this honour was keenly fought over, played with sixteen green (representing the rank and file) and five purple (the leaders) markers while the other player was armed with 16 blue (constables) and 5 white (inspectors) markers representing the forces of male oppression aka the police. Suffragettes start the game on squares marked “S” and

The objective of the game for the suffragettes was to evade the police lines and break through into the Houses of Parliament whilst preventing the police from disrupting their rally at the Albert Hall. The winner was the first to get six of their markers into their opponent’s building. Players took it in turns to reposition a marker, either by moving one square horizontally or diagonally or by hopping over another marker into an unoccupied space.

If the marker you hopped over belonged to your opponent, they were either arrested, if a suffragette, and sent to the prison or injured, if a policeman, and taken to hospital. An inspector or leader could arrest or injure any of their opponent’s markers, but the constables could only arrest the rank and file and vice versa. If, at any point, there were twelve or more inmates in the prison or hospital, then either player could insist on an exchange of six of fewer. Each prisoner or police officer exchanged had to be of equal value, a leader for an Inspector or a member of the rank and file for a constable.

And that seemed to be it. It was a game of strategy with a twist, enabling the players to re-enact the battle of wits that was being played out on the streets. The only known surviving copy of the game is held in the Bodleian Library in Oxford. If you have a complete set lying about in the attic it will be worth a small fortune. A curious period piece, indeed.

The Lost Game Of Career Girls

There are some games which have fallen into ill-deserved obscurity but others which have long been discarded into the dustbin of social history. Career Girls or to give it its full title, “What Shall I Be? The Exciting Game of Career Girls”, falls into the latter category. It was sexist, even by the standards of the mid-1960s, although perhaps it is surprising that the old fogies behind the game even considered that a girl should pursue a career.

Launched in 1966 by the manufacturers of Scrabble, Selchow & Righter Company (SRC), it was positioned as an “educational” game suitable for girls aged six or over. Obviously, no self-respecting boy would be seen dead playing it, a curious marketing move which at a stroke eliminated half of SRC’s potential market. The winner was the first player to become a Career Girl. The careers on choice reflected the underlying sexist vibe of the game, model, air hostess, ballet dancer, actress, nurse, and teacher. I’m surprised that hairdresser didn’t feature amongst the jobs that a girl could aspire to.

The game required between two and four players who took it in turn to move around the board. Depending upon where you landed on the board, you were invited to collect a rectangular School Card, a circular Subject Card or a heart-shaped (natch) Personality Card. The winner was the first to collect four School Cards pertaining to one of the six professions, together with two Subject Cards and two Personality Cards which were in tune with the specific career.

As you went round the board collecting Subject and Personality Cards you would quickly find that those with negative characteristics narrowed down your career options considerably. One Personality Card told the recipient that they got too excited and, as a consequence, they were not suited to be an airline hostess or a nurse. Picking up the Personality Card bearing the legend “You are overweight” immediately ruled out a life on the catwalk, the stage or the flying the skies. Being accused of slow thinking was enough to rule out a career as an air hostess or nurse.

Sloppy make-up meant that airline hostess and actress were out of the question but a Subject Card teaching you fashion or hairdressing opened up the possibilities of being an air hostess or model. Some of the cards, though, gave a more positive and even, dare I say it, empowering message. Along with the patronising and sexist “pretty”, “neat”, “friendly”, “graceful” and possessing “a nice smile”, the attributes included “strong”, “quick thinker” and “hard working”.   

It is hard to imagine that this game would survive more than one play, although, as far as the manufacturer was concerned, as long as the purchaser had paid their money, they couldn’t care less whether they had bought a turkey or something designed to further ingrain a woman’s low career aspirations and expectations.

Surprisingly, though, the game was viable enough to warrant a second edition, released in 1976 at the height of the feminist movement. The career options reflected, to a degree, the winds of change.  Now the options were surgeon, jockey, astronaut, news commentator, theatre director, and lawyer. An odd and disparate bunch of careers, to be sure, but at least weight and/or looks and make up were not a serious bar to any. Talking of bars, even some of the characters representing the careers came from a diverse background.   

The game did not survive into the 1980s. Small girls and their parents were no longer prepared to tolerate this sort of nonsense. A good thing too.

Wallis’ Locomotive Game of Railroad Adventure

From this time perspective it is difficult to appreciate just how transformative the introduction of the railways. As well as allowing people to travel at previously unimagined speeds, it heralded in social travelling, the weekend as well as opening up the economy and requiring the need for uniformity in time. Inevitably, games’ manufacturers sought to cash in on this railway boom and Edward Wallis was one such. His game, romantically entitled Locomotive Game of Railroad Adventure, was developed and first produced in 1835.

It sought to capture the thrills and spills of a railway journey by way of a game consisting of 49 squares on a beautifully printed board, illustrating stations and locations along the putative route. Dice rather than a teetotum was used, there were now no such concerns about the morality of using something associated with sinful gambling, and as the players navigated their way around the board there were, rather akin to snakes and ladders, hazards which could impede the journey, forfeits had to be paid and, to even things up, the opportunity to gain an extra go..

Reflecting the infancy of the national rail network, the game took the players on a circular journey from and back to London in two geographic loops, although represented as a continuum on the board, taking in Birmingham, Liverpool, Leeds, Southampton, Birmingham once more, and York. The winner was the first to get round the course, although I have not been able to establish conclusively whether they had to land exactly on the winning square. Players also seem to have been provided with a certain amount of money to fund the consequences of some of the hazards that lay in store for them or to make their journey more comfortable. Quite how much and what the consequence of running out of money is unclear.

Depending upon the square you landed, you would be required to pay a fare appropriate for the class of accommodation, there were three classes, as well as the Cattle Carriage and assorted carriages for livestock and goods. Then there were squares which might be described as representing the experience of travel. If you landed on a square with a tunnel you received a token from each of the other players “to cheer you when you are travelling in the dark”. Failure to observe the railway companies’ rules and regulations. One square was labelled “Intoxicated” and the player who landed there was ticked off for travelling in such a state. The smoking of a cigar in a carriage labelled “No Smoking” incurred a fine of four. Squares labelled “Refreshment Room” and “Private Carriage” meant the player incurred extra expense while the square entitled “Lazy Lay-a-bed” meant missing a turn as your indolence had caused you to miss the train.

Railway journeys were not without their incidents and the game sought to replicate the real-life experience. Delays caused by the inclemency of the weather – snow, ice, flooding – would hold the player back as well as a stop to replenish coke and water. There were also accidents to navigate. One square was labelled “Pig run over” and if you were unfortunate enough to land there you would be fined one “for letting them stray on the line, one for the poor fellow you have made into pork, and two for that one begun to be converted into sausage meat, by taking off his snout”. Another square had the train hitting a horse. There was no mention of any human fatalities or derailments or boiler explosions which were part and parcel of the real train experience at the time. Swift progress, though, got you to the market first, in time to make a killing. The game, though, did suggest that any profits made should go to charitable causes, a mix of the well-meaning philanthropy that infiltrated some parts of Victorian capitalism.

The game also had its moments of humour, intentional or otherwise. One square pictured a bridegroom, distraught at the sight of the train moving off carrying with it his bride. For this misfortune you missed a turn.

The game shed an interesting insight into the attitudes towards train travel at the time, but in time would prove no substitute for the delights of a model railway.