David Parlett's

Blog & Updates

(No, it's not a firm of solicitors.)

21 April A very bitty year so far. I continue to write historic games articles for Tabletop Gaming and for that purpose had fun revisiting Bantu, Patience, Tâb, Crown & Anchor, and Astronomical Chess.

In March I accepted an invitation to write a 3000-word history of card games and am now 'just polishing' (as Robert Redford memorably said to Jason Robards in All the President's Men). I also visited the 'Fantasy' exhibition at the British Library, which was surprisingly enjoyable, seeing as I have no patience with contemporary fantasy games. On a very rainy day in March we visited Ockley and got stuck in the mud, but it was a relief than to get dry at the Inn on the Green - one of the few remaining pubs to still keep a Bar Billiards table in good repair. (Note to Bruce Whitehill: I can take you there any time you're in England and it's not raining.)

Also in March I accompanied Frances Touch to an NHS event celebrating blood donors, where she received an award for having made 100 donations. Ironically, within a few days I was diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), which means my bone marrow doesn't create healthy blood and explains why I tire so easily. In retrospect, I wish I'd been a blood donor myself when young enough to produce a pint or two of the good stuff.

Last week I went to Bristol to meet Richard Adams, founder and maintainer of the Arnold Bax website. On Wednesday we met composer George Owen, who has undertaken to complete some orchestrations begun by my late brother Graham, and on Thursday we joined John Pickard, Professor of Composition & Applied Musicology at the University. It was a great pleasure to see Graham's bound collection of Bax scores in the Department of Music library. I think he would have been proud of that, despite the fact that pride was way down on his list of virtues.

15 February January's been fairly hectic on all fronts. On the personal front I spent the usual few days worrying about how to complete my annual tax return, only to find, as always, that it wasn't as difficult to do so online as I expected. The sad loss of my friend and accountant Derek Mitchell, who died in 2021, has been mitigated by the help of my friend Frances Touch, who knows more about money management (and Excel sheets) than I'm ever likely to. This end of the year also sees me involved in a lot of Quaker meetings and admin, so I'm not able to concentrate on inventing games. That's a bit of a shame, though I must admit to feeling out of ideas. At least, I still have them, but can't manage to develop them.

The games front has, nevertheless, been quite busy. I spent two sessions in the west country (good fee and all expenses paid) teaching a bevy of actresses (I still can't think of them as 'actors') to play, or at least look as if they were playing, the old English game of Gleek for a forthcoming TV drama. I'm not allowed to name it, but if you know Gleek you can probably guess. The game is more fascinating than I remembered from just reading about it - basically it feels like Piquet adapted for three players - and I need to make some adjustments to my Gleek page as a result. In fact, I need to spend more time on my website altogether.

1 January 2024 Discovered some technical oddities in doing the annual clean-up of my games website and am trying to even them out.

21 December Merry Christmas to both my readers. I've been concentrating more on board games than card games this year, but two occasions have prompted a return to my original preference. One is that I have a film consultancy job to do early in the new year. I can't say what or for whom, having signed a non-disclosure agreement, but suffice to say I've enjoyed mugging up a famous historic card game for the purpose. The other is an invitation from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation to be interviewed about currently popular card games. I've done a number of contributions for the ABC over the years over what's being increasingly called The Festive Season, and always enjoy them. I've never visited Australia but I like everything I know about it, and if I'd emigrated anywhere at an earlier age it would have headed my list of preferences. I probably have relatives in Alice Springs, as one of my mother's brothers emigrated there in the 1920s. Besides its landscapes and wildlife I'd enjoy the heat, or at least the greater warmth than we get in this bedraggled little island.

As usual around this time of year I've started doing some repairs on my website.

25 November A kind reader has pointed out that I haven't update this page for three months, which must be the longest gap ever. I was wondering whether anyone read it, so it's good to know it's been missed.

In October we went to Spiel Essen, which I hadn't attended since 2019 - that's before Covid. I was anxious not to miss it in case this would be my last time. At 84, I find travelling increasingly tiring, especially as we now eschew flying, for the sake of the planet, and prefer to go by train. Which is fine, so long as you don't book for the wrong Essen and land up at the one near Antwerp. Having arrived at the right one, we simplified the inevitable accommodation problem by staying at the Premier Inn, which has the advantage of being situated right next to the Bahnhof. Gamers at Premier Inn
Gamers at Premier Inn
It was full of Spiel Essen fans, who, when not in their rooms, spent most of their time playing games in the lounge and dining-room areas.

The exhibition itself had been taken over by new owners, with mostly excellent results. In particular, the entrance halls were considerably larger than usual, meaning people queueing to get in (note correct British spelling with two Es) didn't get wet when it rained, as it usually does. Less satisfactory was the east Press Room, which wasn't as well equipped as the west one to which I'd become comfortably accustomed. It was good to catch up with old friends, notably Bruce and Sybille Whitehill, Dan Glimne, Tom Werneck, Tom Werneck & David Parlett
Tom Werneck & David Parlett
my agent Anita Landgraf, and, at the Spiel des Jahres party, Reiner Knizia.

We were pleased to see more abstract games than usual. Two in particular took our fancy: Mandamina, by Peter Peter Jürgensen, and by Philippe Deweys - though I see from BoardGameGeek that it was actually first published in 1996. I was also pleased to pick up a copy of Hokito, which we enjoyed at ParisEstLudique in the summer.

We were also attracted to a Polish company called Ludiversum, which doesn't seem to have a website of its own (I'm certainly not signing up to Etsy to find out more). They seem to specialise in jokes and cartoons about games under the heading "Facts about Games", masterminded by Łukasz Piechaczek. I couldn't resist buying one of their canvas bags, covered with samples of their wit. It doesn't photograph well, but it shows a block of shelving with games classified under such headings as "Abandoned because the rules were too complex", "The ones I didn't like but no one wants to buy", and "I would gladly get rid of if only my spouse wanted to play something else".

We finished, Dahlias, Gruga Park
Dahlias and friends in the Gruga Park
as always, walking around the beautiful Gruga Park surrounding the exhibition complex, which compensates for the rest of highly industrial Essen. It's a pity that, under new management, we were no longer able to exit directly from the Galeria side entrance into the Park and get back in through it later.

Spent most of October/November writing an article for a special issue of Mirabilia devoted to games. Other contributors include Ulrich Schädler, Adrian Seville, and Marco Tibaldini - all rather daunting company. Under the title "Faces in Pieces" my essay looks at the ways in which historic board-game pieces, though visually abstract, tended by their players to be mostly perceived as representations of real characters, creatures, imaginary beings, and suchlike.

22 August GamesExpo seems a long time ago! Since then I went to Paris for the latest open-air ParisEstLudique! event, which was as much fun as always despite disappointing weather. It's usually a sunny 30-35C when we go, but this year was much cooler and spoilt by rain. As always, we particularly enjoyed the display by Cosmoludo, and were introduced to their game Hokito, by Claude LeRoy. I'm determined to get a game of mine published by them one of these days.

Later, it was great to meet my friend Gwenael Beuchet, of the Playing-Card Museum at Issy-les-Moulineaux, who was responsible for translating some of my Original Card Games into French. La Tireuse
The Cartomancer (c.1508-1510),
after Lucas van Leyden (c1494-1533)
The museum's painting entitled La Tireuse (The Cartomancer) is controversially so called - fortune-telling with cards was not common at so early a period and the central figure is more likely playing a game.

We also visited the Hotel de la Marine for an exhibition called Medieval Treasures of the V&A. This felt like a bit of a busman's holiday, as I can get to the Victoria & Albert Museum any day of the week in little more than half an hour, but it was good to see these particular gems all gathered together in one room. As luck would have it, we bumped into James Robinson, Keeper of Decorative Art and Sculpture, who co-curated it. He well remembered my late brother Graham, who had been a curator in the Indian Department.

18 June 2023 Went to GamesExpo UK 2023 and found it busy and thriving. And as tiring as I should have expected. In some respects it was an experiment to see if I can cope with Spiel Essen later in the year. Probably can, but I'm not getting any younger, an it's beginning to show. The worst bit was afterwards, trying to find my car in the gigantic NEC car park - took me 20 minutes or more, even though I'd taken a photograph of it in situ when I left it. Fortunately a kind fellow parker helped me work out from the picture whereabouts it was. It was a good long drive, which I haven't had for a long time, and I had the benefit of James Wallis's company on the way there.

On Saturday 10th I went (by train) to Sheffield for a concert of British music, including Bax's magnificent Third Symphony, which I first heard in 1954 and never tire of. My review is on the Arnold Bax website.

30 May 2023 Looking forward to driving up to Birmingham with James Wallis for GamesExpo UK 2023 on Thursday, which I haven't visited for several years. I'm hoping it will help get the creative juices flowing.

11 April 2023 At last my late brother Graham's flat has been sold and my other brother Andy and I have closed down the executors' account, so I hope to get back into games for a change. To that end I've arranged to visit this year's Paris est Ludique!, which I wouldn't miss for the world, and Spiel Essen for the first time in four years.

14 March 2023 I seem to be doing a whole bunch of interviews these days. Today I'm on BBC Coventry and Warwickshire radio answering a listener's question about why there's a Joker in a pack of cards. Then I'll soon be doing a podcast on card games popular in Shakespeare's day, such as Maw and Laugh and Lie Down. It's with Cassidy Cash, host of That Shakespeare Life. You can hear current episodes of the show and hear a sample at www.cassidycash.com. I've also had a request from Juan Agustíen Maiolino, a hobbyist board game designer, founder of the company Raviol Games and co-host of the weekly radio and podcast show "Las Cartas sobre la Mesa", aired in Argentina since last year. It will be good to re-establish my Argentine connections since the death in 2011 of my good friend Jaime Poniachik, mathematician and founder of the games magazine La Revista del Snark. He it was who translated my book of original card games under the title Anarquía y Otros Juegos Sociales de Cartas in 1993.

22 February 2023 In case anyone who used to follow me on Twitter can no longer find me, please note the new handle on my home page. For some unaccountable reason Twitter has made my original account inaccessible to me.

21 February 2023 Spent most of the last 10 days cleaning up my Hare & Tortoise pages, which to my eye were beginning to look cramped and top-heavy. Some links may have got broken in the process, so if you spot any please let me know.

10 February 2023 January was such a busy month on many fronts, not least in ensuring I got my tax return filed without the aid of my accountant, who died last year, that I was unable to continue repairing and updating my web pages. I had just started on improving my Hare & Tortoise pages when I went down with something very much like Covid. All tests proved negative, but for over a week I was unable to concentrate on anything. Am now hoping to get back into the swing of things.

10 January 2023 Happy to report that Duke of York works very well since I made one or two tweaks to it.

26 December 2022 After fiddling about with another arithmetical card game for a couple of weeks I gave it up as unworkable and on Christmas morning suddenly thought of a completely new one. It's very quick and deceptively simple, and I'm looking forward to playing it with a live player. (Certainly better than trying it with a dead one.) Perhaps Barbara will oblige, though at Christmas we usually play word games. The new game is called Duke of York and by some British players may be considered vaguely topical.

19 December 2022 Busy week again; I suppose that's what comes of being in the games business at this time of year. My games talk with Toronto Quakers didn't go as well as I'd hoped as the organiser hadn't sent links round to prospective participants, so four of the eight present were all British. Then I was interviewed for two games-related, voice-only podcasts, one of them with Ian Livingstone and James Wallis; the other with TV presenter Dallas Campbell on the role of Lizzie Magie in the story of Monopoly.
   On Thursday evening I was at the book launch of Wallis's Everybody Wins, which took place at the Ludoquist board games café in Croydon. All you need to know about this beautifully-produced book is contained in its subtitle "Four Decades of the Greatest Board Games Ever Made". It's actually a detailed run-down of all the Spiel des Jahres winners from 1979 to 2019.
   Received a welcome email from Joe Wergin's daughter Ginny with more background info on the history of Skat, which I've been playing since my student days. Finished off the week by finalising a card game I'd been thinking about for several weeks  - see Toucan. Funny how I always seem to invent a card game at Christmas.

5 December 2022 With Christmas approaching I haven't had time to continue with technical improvements to my website. Everything seems to be happening at once, which I suppose is inevitable at this time of year if you're in this kind of business. At the moment I'm preparing a Zoom presentation about Quakers and games at the request of Toronto Quaker meeting, scheduled for 11 December.

14 November 2022 I've been concentrating on getting my website to work better on mobile phones but encountered a few problems. Still working on it. Don't be surprised if you log into one of my pages and find something out of date or unintelligible.

29 October 2022 Changed card game called Rumpole to Tantrum, since one of my correspondents pointed out an unintended double entendre.

13 October 2022 Recently completed and uploaded another original card game, namely Rumpole. As the title probably suggests, it's a member of the Rummy family.

28 September 2022 Received plaudits for my card game Duck Soup and a request for clarification on the rules of the partnership version Doubleduck, which I have since revised. Thanks to Fred Dougal and family for playtesting it.

28 August 2022 I enjoyed this year's Mind Sports Olympiad all the more for its return after a hiatus of two pandemic years, and for not having to be responsible for doing all the scoring for the Hare & Tortoise tournament - a welcome relief. I've posted the results at the H &T tournaments page.

20 August 2022 Looking forward to the 26th Mind Sports Olympiad (21-29 August), which returns in person this summer to JW3 (341 Finchley Road, NW3 6ET). Too busy to spend much time there, but I'll certainly go and watch the Hare & Tortoise tournament on the evening of Thursday 25th, from 6.45pm.
   I've recently opened up all the files I've collected over the years relating to my proposed expansion of an article enquiring into the origin of games that I wrote over a decade ago and have been enquiring into ever since. My games work has been forcibly held in abeyance over the past year since the death of my brother Graham, but as we are now, at long last, close to getting his empty flat in Streatham on the market I should be able to return to my primary interest in life.

23 July 2022 Spent much of last week trying to catch up with my website, which is getting a bit raggedy in places. But while re-reading the novels of Thomas Love Peacock I was reminded of a delightful section on social aspects of the classic card game Quadrille, which I have now added under the title Quadrille chez Gryll, together with the whole of the Congreve ballad quoted in part in that extract.

7 July 2022 Apart from the BGS Colloquium, Sign to more games the one other games event I'll most miss when I'm too old to travel will be Paris est ludique - "Le festival de jeux où l'on joue!". This open-air festival takes place in a pleasant area of the capital on the outskirts of the Bois de Vincennes, and always seems to be held on the warmest and sunniest weekend of the year, when it's as much as I can do to keep sufficiently hydrated. It's attended by people of all ages, shapes and sizes (and probably genders in this day and age), and is brilliantly organised. Playing Yoxii
Yoxii (by Cosmoludo) is a great two-player
abstract. (In which I came second.)
The French have a great way of being serious but with a piquant sense of humour, and can match anyone when it comes to puns. I particularly liked the signs on the refuse boxes, such as 'Jetez ici les dé(chet)s' and, my favourite, 'Mois, je suis la poubelle' (shades of Snow White?). One company I shall be keeping an eye on is Cosmoludo, who specialise in beautifully produced abstract games. We also spent a lot of time playing my card game Chicken Out! after quite a long absence, and it turned out to be even more fun than I had remembered. I actually think it's one of my best games ever. (The equivalent with standard playing cards is Bravado.)

18 June 2022Thoroughly enjoyed the XXIVth Board Game At the colloquium
Either I'm concentrating on the presentation
or I'm straining my ears because of deafness
Studies Colloquium last month, though I was still a bit under the weather from the flu I developed a few weeks earlier. Leeuwarden is a beautiful little city in Friesland and we found excellent accommodation there. After the two-year hiatus of the pandemic it was particularly good to see old friends again - a little older, of course, but just as friendly. New friends too. There was a contingent of younger games scholars and researchers who I think will be of great benefit to the continued existence of the BGS and its future colloquia.

I'm now looking forward to going again, after an absence of two years, to the open-air games event Paris est ludique - "Le festival de jeux où l'on joue!", staying, as always, at Bercy.

My late brother's flat is at last clear and awaiting a professional deep clean before it goes on the market. What a relief!

27 May The XXIVth Colloquium of the International Board Games Studies Association too place last week - the first in-person gathering since 2020. It was a real pleasure to renew old friends and acquaintances after such a long gap, a pleasure compounded by its location in the beautiful Friesian city of Leeuwarden. For those of us getting on in years (I celebrated my 83rd birthday in the middle of the week) it might well be the last Colloquium I will be fit enough to attend - the XXVth in the series will be held next year at Ephesus, to whose inhabitants the apostle Paul addressed his famous epistle. In addition to all the old faces there was a new contingent of young games scholars whose work bodes well for the continued existence of the Board Game Studies Colloquium.

24 April I was delighted to be invited to an Open Day at Gibsons Games last week. After 102 years of existence Gibsons is the oldest British games company still in business and I'm proud that two of my games remain on its books. It was a pleasure to meet so many British games inventors and designers with whom I was not previously acquainted, not to mention the young and lively team that runs the company so ethically, sustainably and imaginatively.

24 March We still haven't finished clearing my late brother's flat, but the end is almost in sight. I have at last been able to get back to some work on the games front, especially on my Word games pages, partly inspired by my recent study of the Wordle phenomenon. I've also registered for the 24th Board Games Study Colloquium, to be held at Leeuwarden in Frisia. My friend Frances and I will be going by train as part of our contribution towards saving the planet (by not flying).

17 March Much to my surprise, I've invented another card game. Whether or not it works remains to be seen, as I'm finding it increasingly difficult to find a fourth player, not to mention a third and a second. Let me know if you get a chance to try it out. It's called Arm's Length.

1 March St David's Day! - and it's now three years since I last revisited y coedydd lle treuliais fy ieuanc flynyddoedd. This year I do hope to get to Porthkerry Park, Ogmore-by-Sea, and Rhayader, if only for an hour or two (each). Meanwhile, I've just uploaded a revised version of my How to win Wordle page.

26 February I've now revised and completed my Wordle article and posted it under the title How to win Wordle.

12 February About the only thing I've been doing on the games front is falling victim to the craze for Wordle, which is right up my street (see my word game pages. Whether it's a game of chance or of skill depends very much on each individual target word, but I normally expect to get it in three to four moves. I've taken some time off from clearing my brother's flat to write an essay on my approach to solving it

Glad to report that Hare & Tortoise is (are?) stirring again. Gibsons Games is talking about a reprint, and Broadway Games is preparing new Chinese and Japanese editions for later this year.

1 January 2022 As you will see from the entries below, 2021 has not been great for my games activities. But over the Christmas and New Year period I've temporarily paused from clearing my late brother's dwelling and contents and have been able to work up a few formerly back-burner ideas on the card games front. On Boxing Day I uploaded King Priam, yet another variation on a theme of prime numbers, and today I've added Sockjaw, just to keep my hand in. I hope during the course of 2022 to improve the look of my website, if I can still remember how to do HTML.

It's been a pleasing year for publicity and recognition. Covid restrictions prevented me from attending an exhibition at the Musée Français de la Carte at Issy-les-Moulineux, Paris, at which half a dozen of my original card games were prominently featured, and an appreciative thread about my original card games appeared on BoardGameGeek. Even more pleasingly, there was an enthusiastic review of Katarenga on BGG, which ended 'A fabulously easy game to pick up, and a joy to master'. That's a line I must make more use of in publicity!

25 December Celebrated Christmas by adding another Original Card Game - for details see Dupe.

15 December The Graham Parlett house clearance team has made further progress in disposing of contents though not yet of any of the furniture. My hope is that we can get the flat on the market before the anniversary of my brother's death at the end of May. I have at least been able to think about games again and even managed to invent a new card game last week, though it needs improvement before being added to my web pages at Original Card Games. I was too busy to get away for the 10th 'Dau' festival of games at Barcelona in November, but haven't given up all hope of getting there again some time. My games business is being hampered by ongoing Covid restrictions that prevent me from networking satisfactorily.

21 October This job goes on an on, but at least we're in sight of sustainably disposing of Graham's 1500 books, and several people are interested in adopting a large quantity of printed scores and sheet music. Meanwhile, I grabbed a few spare moments recently in which to work on an unpublished game that I collaborated on with the late Eric Solomon. I even managed to get down to the Quaker meeting at Lewes (lovely town!) to talk about the Nontheist Friends Network.

1 September Dealing with my late brother Graham's estate has been occupying most of my time during August. Some of the friends to whom he left certain books and antiquities have now collected them, together with one of the bookcases, but this has not made a significant dent in the collection. And how am I going to get rid of some 5000 CDs and an equal number of DVDs? Few people need them these days with everything they may want to watch or listen to permanently on tap online. It seems such a shame to throw them away. Same goes for his multiplicity of framed pictures and artworks. Many of them I'd like to have myself, but I just haven't got the room.

7 August At last I've managed to scrape together a few hours in which to make some improvements to my website. In particular, I've changed the overall appearance of my Katarenga pages which I think now benefit from reversion to a sans-serif font ('Bahnschrift'). However, too much of my time is still being taken up by domestic problems and general 'life admin'.

11 June I'm still unable to work on the games front since the death of my beloved brother Graham on 30 May (see also https://www.parlettpages.uk/graham/). As his immediate next of kin I'll be involved in consequent administrative matters for some time to come.

23 May I've been unable to work on the games front for a few weeks now because of my brother Graham's ill health. He was diagnosed with motor neurone disease in January and within a few months has gone downhill so rapidly that he can no longer look after himself and is currently being cared for in St George's hospital. I'm visiting his flat regularly to respond to his post and emails, and our younger brother Andrew and I will be seeking power of attorney so we can cope with his affairs. Eventually he will need to go into a specialist care home and we will have to see about selling his flat.

3 May This time last year I didn't think I'd ever manage to invent another card game. This time this year I find I've already invented seven more in the past couple of months! Latest ones are Go for it!, Paved with Gold, and Dividend, in addition to the four mentioned below. I also have two old ones on the stocks that need some improvement before I get round to uploading them, and will be experimenting with something new today. I never cease to be amazed at how much imaginative material is contained in the humble pack of 52 cards.

21 April Repaired some broken links to card games mentioned below (5 April), with thanks to Michael Amundsen for pointing them out. I've also added a new one called Same Difference.

5 April Inspired by references to my card games on BoardGameGeek and by the enthusiasm with which Diethart Bischof and Gwenael Beuchet have been translating some of them into German and French, respectively, I've got back to inventing, or at least polishing up, some more Original Card Games, including Copyright, Crescendo and Equator, all of which, I have to admit, are variations on variations of some of my others. But at least it keeps me out of mischief.

15 March At last I've been able to do some work on my games website. In particular, I've added French and German translations of some of my Original Card Games, the German thanks to my old friend Diethart Bischof, whom I first met (and played Skat with, rather badly) when I went to Nürnberg in 1981 shortly after the inaugural Game of the Year Award. Diethart and his group have played nearly all my games over the years and he remains one of my best publicists. The French translations are by courtesy of Gwenael Beuchet, of the Musée Français de la Carte à Jouer, who are planning to hold an event featuring five of my best card games later in the year.

24 February Where does the time all go? Well in my case a lot of it is taken up with Quaker work (admin), and the roofing problem is still causing us grief. However, I'm starting the process of posting some of my original card games in French and German (thanks, respectively, to Gwenael Beuchet and Diethart Bischof). Interestingly, both languages have problems distinguishing between couleur/Farbe meaning suit and couleur/Farbe meaning colour - i.e. red/black. More anon, if I can get some time to myself. And I'm not even using any of it up on going out museums, art galleries and restaurants.

21 January To my delight, someone I'm not acquainted with (John Owen) has posted an appreciative thread about my original card games on BoardGameGeek. (Thanks, John!) It includes comments by others on several of the individual games and I've now posted them on their respective pages. P.S. Our bedroom roof is still leaking...

3 January As soon as Brexit happened all my eu domains became inoperative. Great nuisance, though I had already registered several alternative domains and email addresses. If you were accustomed to games@parlett.eu please now replace it with david@parlettgames.uk. Glad to say that on the uk address I had received the following message from Gwenael Beuchet of the Musée Français de la Carte at Issy-les-Moulineux (see also Wikipedia. He writes: "Times are sad; the museum is still closed but we still do believe that we could open in a few weeks and we go on to prepare enjoying events... Among them there is the Ludissyme festival (27-28 of March) where people will be invited to discover the five of your favourite games we have talked about."

1 January 2021 As far as I'm concerned it's just another date on the calendar. Glad I slept through last night's idiotic 'celebrations'. I'll spend today finishing off my 2019-20 tax return and updating all my pages from 2020 to 2021. What larks!

Link to previous blog and updates (2019-2020).