20 December 2020 Still struggling to concentrate on games work, but now held up by a badly repaired flat roof that's been leaking all over the bedroom. Fortunately, the latest lockdown rules have ruled out the usual Christmas interruptions, which as far as I'm concerned is a great relief. We should do it more often. But preferably without leaky roofs.
11 December I've been unable to get on with any games work for the past three weeks owing to disruptions caused by substantial house repairs. When I do eventually manage to get back to being able to concentrate I reckon I'll have to more or less start again at square one.
21 November I'm aware of having neither added to nor amended my website for well over a month, though I'm still enjoying feedback from its visitors. The reason is that I've now started serious work on a new games book - very probably my last - and need to give it my full attention for at least the first quarter of 2021.
15 October Been working on two time-consuming projects - (1) an expansion of my paper on the evolution of formal games from simple playing and (2) further researches into the origins of Patience, in collaboration with Edward Copisarow and Dic Sonneveld. I hope either or both of these will eventually turn into a book - it's about time I added to my list of titles!
I also continue to enjoy writing a monthly column on historic games for the monthly magazine Tabletop Gaming under the general heading 'The Time Machine' (always the final article in each issue). Been doing this since June 2019 and have now covered 20 games. Plenty more where they came from...
22 August I've been taking advantage of the easing of lockdown to revisit favourite haunts such as Storrington (for Arnold Bax memorabilia), the Natural History Museum, and Down House (Charles Darwin's former home in Kent), and associated restaurants (Golden Willow Chinese, Thai Square South Kensington, and Rendezvous Brasserie Westerham, respectively). On the games front I've been revisiting the history of Patience games in collaboration with games historian Edward Copisarow, in the course of which I've had the pleasure of re-establishing contact with Pierre Berloquin, the real inventor of the word 'ludeme'. (See also What's a Ludeme?). My Australian correspondent Douglas Shaw tells me that he's trying to revive Five Hundred, which I've always spoken of as the Australian national card game, and confirms, to my delight, that 63-card packs of 'Queen's Slipper' playing cards are still available. I may get a few more in, as it's an intriguing medium for the invention of new card games.
3 August Visited former home and haunts of composer Arnold Bax at Storrington on a hot day last week. Traffic horrendous round that part of the world owing to new housing development works in progress.
29 July I'm really into Snakes & Ladders! All thanks to Danish games researcher Jacob Schmidt-Madsen, who has kindly sent me a copy of his PhD thesis entitled The Game of Knowledge - Playing at Spiritual Liberation in 18th- and 19th-century Western India. 'Snakes & Ladders is easily one of the most successful children's game of all times', says Schmidt-Madsen, 'and since it was marketed towards the end of the 19th century, it has been played continuously by excited children and patient adults all over the world. How a purely luck-driven game could attain such popularity without involving any element of gambling remains a cause of wonder to game designers and scholars alike'. This monumental tome covers the history and interpretation of the various Hindu and Jain varieties of the game of spiritual progress (vaguely similar to Pilgrim's). It expands considerably on previous studies by Andrew Topsfield and takes all aspects of them many steps further. Related material it has also drawn me into reading include mathematical papers on 'How long is a game of Snakes & Ladders?' and a study of the dramatic elements of the game by Jorge Nuno Silva and others. And it's amazing how much stuff there is about it on the internet!
17 July After sitting on them for years I've suddenly received a spate of requests for a copy of my Oxford Guide to (History of) Card Games, published in hardback in 1990, which I think is the best games book I ever wrote. It took me the best part of an hour to retrieve the box containing them from the depths of my cluttered garage, and I was rather aghast to find that they weigh 1075g each, which makes for expensive shipping. But they are liberally sprinkled with several sets of beautiful colour plates, which had to be omitted from the later paperback version. Can't help wondering what's brought about this revival of interest in card games, which I've always preferred to board games anyway (at least, from the age of about 25).
11 July I'm getting fed up with emails from people telling me what a great website this is and offering to place ads and articles on it that only lead to casino and gambling sites. I am opposed to gambling and will not promote it in any shape or form. So I've just posted an 'ethical website' disclaimer on my front page.
10 July Here's a website that could well perk up my interest in Mah Jong! FreeMahjong.com is the website for true Mahjong Solitaire fans.
6 July I've started on the Eric Solomon legacy pages on my website, to compensate for the disappearance of his own site at ericsolomon.co.uk, and will be adding more to it in due course. It's a good thing his old friend Alan Martin had copied much of it for posterity - I ought to have done so myself but left it too late.
20 June Looks as if lockdown is on the way to easing but I'm taking no chances and intend to remain safe for the foreseeable future - though I may take up my son Ed's suggestion of forming a large enough 'bubble' to play Skat with close family.
More or less finished transferring my non-games web pages to a new site at ParlettPages.uk, though the HTML coding is a bit kludgy in places.
I've also come up with what I think is a promising new mechanism for a race game, but at the moment it's too abstract and much in need of a theme and variations to make it more fun.
The only other person at Eric Solomon's funeral (though it was also webcast, which I don't approve of) was Eric's old croquet-playing friend Alan Martin, who has been able to fill me in on a lot of Eric's biography. My obituary of him appeared in the Guardian last week, and I intend to add a memorial page to him on this website in the near future.
27 May Heard yesterday that the funeral of games inventor Eric Solomon will be on Monday 1 June and my offer to be the celebrant has been accepted. Eric was completely anti-religious but I'll do things the Quaker way and trust it won't be out of place. I've been in contact with his brother Bob, whom I never met but have found very congenial, and far from non-religious. In fact he describes himself as a 'Christian Neoplatonist', which I can easily relate to. On another front, www.parlettpages.uk is now up and, running, but I still want to do a thorough redesign and tighten up the coding while I'm at it. It's interesting to reflect that it was Eric who developed my first website for me way back in 2001.
14 May It's an ill wind... This lockdown, apparently coming slowly to an end, has given me more time to attend to my website. I've now opened to which I hope to spend the next few weeks transferring my non-games pages from my old site at davpar.eu.
9 May Still enjoying self-isolation! I've continued making technical improvements to my games website - a highly time-consuming job, but still learning as I go along. Any day on which I fail to learn something new I've always regarded as a day wasted.
1 May I've been self-isolating for almost seven weeks now, though I'm fortunate (or far-sighted!) enough to have a wife for company and also to do the shopping. I drive Barbara to and from Sainsbury's every Wednesday but hardly need to get out of the car except for loading up. It's amazing how quickly so many of us seem to have caught up almost overnight with video-calling and conferencing, including Quaker meetings for worship as well as committee meetings. On the games front I've been repairing and updating my website, and have this morning added some new games (Kings Cross and North West Passage) to my Katarenga collection. I've also tidied up my non-games pages at davpar.eu. However, I've now given up any hope of being able to retain my .eu domains once we get past the Brexit disaster so have decided to open the non-games pages on a new website registered as www.parlettpages.uk (but not yet operative). So that should keep me busy and out of mischief for a while longer.
18 April Heard yesterday of the death of
Eric Solomon, who
had become a great friend since we met
Eric and I at BGS Colloquium, Oxford, 2005 on the games testing panel of Games & Puzzles magazine in 1972. He was 85 and had been well looked after in a care home for the past two or three years. He will be missed by many. His neighbour Doug Carter wrote: "You're receiving this email because, sadly, Eric Solomon died a few days ago, and you are on the list of people he asked us to contact. I'm very sorry to have to bring you this news. My family and I lived next door to Eric for some years and came to love him very much. [...] He died after an illness, but we don't have any details other than that. [...] I honestly don't know any of the people on this contact list, and I expect that a lot of the addresses he gave us will be out of date. Please reply to this message if you receive it, so I know it reached you. You may also be able to help me contact others who have changed addresses. With love to you all, and fond memories of a remarkable man. - Doug Carter
14 April I've spent much of the past week repairing my website and sorting out technical problems like full-up mailboxes. Too many of them were stuffed to the gills with attachments. I do wish people would leant to reduce the size of images before they send them!
8 April Week four of self-isolation! At least it's given me some time to catch up with making technical repairs to my website. Original card games, original patiences, historic card games, and essays & articles should now all render correctly (thanks to some welcome checking by Phil Winkelman), and I hope to start on the Skat pages soon. As soon as I stop being so busy on other things, that is. I've had an unusual amount of Quaker work to do (newsletters and admin) but it has been nice to meet join in 'virtual' Quaker meetings thanks to the wonders of Zoom. I'm in rather strict lockdown, not only because of my age (80) but also having 'underlying health conditions'. Very appreciative of Barbara for doing the foraging and most of the cooking. (It's my turn today!)
Dec 2019 - Apr 2020 An editing error lost me the updates between December and March. In January I went to the BTHA fair at Olympia and did the tour with the charming Ellie Dix. In February, at her suggestion, I joined a prototype-games testing group that theoretically meets every Friday at the RFH, except that after two sessions (one of them interrupted by a false fire alarm> we were hit by the lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic. In March, in my capacity as a Visiting Professor at Suffolk University's Ipswich campus, I gave a public lecture about Lizzie Magie, the inventor of Monopoly (originally called The Landlords Game). Gratified by an audience of about 70.
1 December Have just about recovered from my fourth visit to the DAU Barcelona games festival. This year's special award for a lifetime's contribution to the culture of games went to Phil Orbanes, known to many for his definitive books on Monopoly. As family matters prevented last year's recipient Irving Finkel from joining us, the eulogy and award were presented by Dan Glimne, who received it in 2017. (The picture shows Phil evidently enjoying a TV interview.)
We couldn't find this year's Botifarra tournament - that's the Catalan national card game - so here's one I took earlier (left). But what we could and did find, for the first time, was Barcelona's excellent Natural History Museum.
It was not all plain sailing, however. This year we decided to go by train "to help save the planet", but the planet, unfortunately, managed to hinder us by being subject to floods, forcing us to take a bus replacement journey from Montpellier to Béziers. The train we picked up there got in some four hours later than originally scheduled. If that was bearable, the journey home was less so. The bus replacement section meant we didn't, as originally hoped, have 90 minutes in Paris to have lunch and get from Gare de Lyon to Gare du Nord, which we reached just 10 minutes too late for the Eurostar back to London. We rebooked on the 19.43, but were then delayed by yet another 90 minutes. It turned out that some passengers on the train scheduled for an hour earlier had been allowed through security without adequate checking. So all 2000-odd of them had to get off again, with their luggage, and undergo a proper check while staff swept through the emptied train to ensure no bombs had been left on board. Home by midnight!
By an unhappy coincidence, Phil and Anna themselves were similarly hindered. Their plane was held up from leaving Barcelona airport by two and a half hours. They arrived too late for their scheduled flight from Heathrow and were eventually put on the last flight of the night.
7 October If Britain leaves the EU I'll have to close down my .eu domains, so I've decided to leave my non-games website (davpar.eu) in abeyance and am transferring its contents to a branch of this one. Update: I did that, but have since opened a new website at www.parlettpages.uk, where it now resides.
3 October Having recently got rid of my Windows 7 desktop computer I'm now still in the process of getting used to Windows 10 and MS Office 365. Not so much a learning curve as a learning helter-skelter. I recently took part in a panel at the Tabletop Gaming exhibition at Alexandra Palace and was pleased to make some new acquaintances. Now it's all systems Go for Spiel Essen in few weeks' time and it's about time I updated some pages of my website.
24 August The 2019 Mind Sports Olympiad took place again at JW3 in London from August 18 to 26 and the Hare & Tortoise World Championship on Wednesday 21st. Gold went to Kunik Kolk (Estonia), Silver to George Romet-Topkin (Estonia), Bronze to Matt Hathrell (England). There were 21 entrants but only four sets available, necessitating one table of five. The tournament rule for hare squares was not universally liked and resulted in one player's running out of carrots on the point of reaching home, necessitating his return to the start. But he should have foreseen the obvious danger of landing on the very last hare square. Turnaround between sessions was much quicker this year - barely a minute or two - thanks to results and pairings being computerised by Mike Dixon and operated by Matt Hathrell. So we finished by 10pm for the first time ever.
16 August Getting ready for this year's Hare & Tortoise world championship in London on the 21st. Not playing - just supervising. And it's now 45 years since the game was first published!
5 August It was a great pleasure to receive the following message from Kris Allsop: "I am just back from holiday with my wife and 9 year old son. In the airport when flying out I picked up a deck of cards and googled for good 3 player card games which lead me to your site. I was already very interested in card games and own multiple editions of your penguin book, and it just struck me that my son would be good age to introduce of some of the games.
"So long story short we played Ninety-Nine and Trigami most nights. We started with Ninety-Nine and both my son and my wife loved it and started to pick up the tactics and we played it in the evenings for 3 to 4 nights. I did notice my son wasn't quite as good at the bidding (e.g. I can only win 4 tricks but am bidding 5 as i wont throw out x card) so decided to introduce another game in case there was a loss of interest. I am not complaining about Ninety-Nine though as obviously the heart of Ninety-Nine is trying to balance the bid cards with the trump suit, with the rest of your hand etc).
"We decided to give Trigami a go as I thought bidding by picking bug suit was a little simpler and take a little less deliberation. We loved it as well and played that the rest of the holiday. Its popularity was secured when my son scored a famous victory in one game by bidding turnip and getting multiple tricks with no bug cards to take him over 500. Anyhow i just thought you might like to know that your games are being appreciated and enjoyed."
21 July This year's Paris est Ludique was the hottest I've been to, at 36C on the Saturday.
First picture is a general view, second shows two of my opponents playing my Autour du Monde en 80 Jours. (I came second of four!) Third, also in Paris, is one of many examples of wall art, one of my favourite photographic subjects. (I must get round to putting more of them on my Picasa web album.)
14 June I've now done two historic games articles for Tabletop Gaming magazine (Jungle Chess and Chase the Girls) and am just finishing a third one on Patolli, for which I've just discovered an interesting new source of information. I've got my Eurostar and hotel booked for this year's Paris est Ludique games festival, which is one of my favourites as it's en plein air and (hitherto) it's always been sunny and warm. And I've been asked to consult on a card-playing sequence for an episode in the upcoming fourth series of Outlander, which "continues the story of time-travel 1960's Claire Fraser and her 18th century husband Jamie Fraser as they try to make a home for themselves in the rough and dangerous 'New World' of America". (Specifically, North Carolina in the 1880s.) The downside is that I seem to have run out of ideas for new games, so perhaps it's just as well that I'm not going to this year's games designers fair at Göttingen.
12 May Just back from the 22nd Board Game Studies Colloquium at
the University of Bologna, where my paper on Lizzie Magie, the true inventor of Monopoly, was well received. It was a
very tiring but enjoyable gathering, with over 50 papers being presented. Italy is not my
favourite country to visit, as I don't speak any Italian (I left all that to my brother Graham),
and I don't like either pizza or pasta. However, I did find a few edible meals,
and the ice cream was well worth walking for. We heard that next year's colloquium will be in
Paris, one of my favourite places. I'll be going there again in June for the Paris est Ludique
A couple of weeks ago I went to the Estonian Consulate in London, near the Natural History Museum (another of my favourite places), to pick up my e-resident's identity card, which I hope will enable me to keep my .eu domains if and when the dreaded Brexit happens.
15 April Just back from Digital Ludeme Project conference at Schloss Dagstuhl, organised by DLP founder Cameron Brown of Maastricht University. Informative and inspiring on several fronts. More on this ERC-funded project at www.ludeme.eu. Now I have to continue putting together my talk on Lizzie Magie for the Board Game Studies colloquium in Bologna next month...
26 March 2019 For some reason I've been totally devoid of ideas for new games for the past year and won't be going to this year's games designers fair at Göttingen in July. But I have been asked to take over Phil Robinson's column on historic and traditional games in Tabletop Gaming magazine, which should be fun - quite like my old days at Games & Puzzles! I'm also preparing a paper on Lizzie Magie for this year's Board Game Studies Colloquium in Bologna. And I'm now officially an e-citizen of Estonia (see below)!
26 February 2019 OK, I've taken the plunge and applied for e-citizenship of Estonia, primarily in order (I hope) to retain my .eu domains by re-registering them direct through EURid (the European Registry for Internet Domains).
20 February 2019
Grandson Alex's 19th birthday - many happy returns!
Delighted to report that he's applying to do a degree course in computer games programming.
Just received copies of Ravensburger's latest presentation of Hase und Igel, the equivalent of Hare & Tortoise, in their new "Ravensburger Classic" series. Artwork is much the same, but the new format is more compact - i.e. smaller. This version includes the new optional hare square rule for tournament play (see htjughare.html.
Still in the process of upgrading my website. It's taking time!
26 January Besides working on my website I've submitted my proposal for a paper to be given at the Board Game Studies Colloquium in Bologna (7-11 May), and have just been asked to do podcast in early February on the early history of Poker.
5 January My website now seems to be working properly, but if you spot any display issues please let me know. I haven't had time to double-check all 130 pages individually.
3 January It's a bit of a slog going through the process of changing my web host, with all sorts of unforeseen repercussions taking effect. I hope to get it done soon, but first I have to spend a lot of time preparing my income tax return for 2017-18. (Boring. I don't earn enough to make it interesting.) To cheer me up, however, I've just received final production copies of the new Chinese and Japanese editions of Hare & Tortoise. Broadway Games have made a beautiful job of it!
31 December Just received advance copies of Chinese and Japanese editions of Hare & Tortoise, by Broadway Games (Hong Kong). Really pleased with the production values!
25 December It's only 8.30am and already I'm suffering from Santaclaustrophobia.
28 November Just returned from the 7th Festival del Joc - the "Dau Barcelona" games fair. Pictures to follow...
16 November At last, my revised History of Board Games is published and available from Echo Point Books. I completed it in July 2017 but it's taken so long to reach this stage that it must be inching towards out of date already. Now getting ready for the 7th Festival del Joc - the "Dau Barcelona" games fair. Time to brush up on my Catalan. (Alan? Silly name for a cat.)
31 October Just back from Essen, where I met (amongst others) Robin Bond of Broadway Games. I already knew about the Chinese edition of Hare & Tortoise, but now I learn that a Japanese version will be out even sooner - hopefully before Christmas. Getting to Essen from Düsseldorf Airport train station was even more of a nightmare than usual, thanks to rail works the wrong side of Duisberg and a long, cramped ride in a bus replacement service. But we were shown an easier way of getting back by taking the U-Bahn to Altenessen and going direct from there. More to follow when I've written my review of the fair.
20 October Almost finished upgrading my website to accord better with current html practice, especially as regards display on hand-held devices. Now concentrating on Spiel Essen, whither I travel next Wednesday (24 October). Thought of an idea for a game which I must discuss with my agent Anita before I start developing it. Met Dan Glimne and Irving Finkel at the British Museum a couple of days ago; dined Indian at the nearby Malabar Junction.
9 October Sorry to see that Cameron Brown has laid down Game & Puzzle Design now that his new post at Maastricht University limits his availability for working on it. Cameron adds "I plan to release the journal’s six issues as a single Game & Puzzle Design Compendium, to mark the end of this first phase, which should make a nice 500 page volume that covers a range of game/puzzle design topics". It'll be a valued addition to my bookshelves.
Just finished upgrading all my Original Card Games pages to make them view better on hand-held devices. What a slog! Trouble is, I enjoy practising and (hopefully) improving my HTML skills.
1 October Spent last day of September at the Tabletop Gaming event at Alexandra Palace. I was on a panel talking about and answering questions on board games in history, together with presenter James Wallis and two ladies conveniently sharing the same forename, so I was never in danger of addressing the wrong one. Holly Gramazio is half of Matheson Marcault, an agency that creates bespoke games for arts and cultural organisations, and Holly Nielsen researches the social history of games, particularly of the late-19th and early-20th century. Holly N spoke about the medieval game of Rithmomachy and Holly M about an early 20th-century game about suffragettes. James described an early 19th-century race game, and I went further back in time and talked about the Royal Game of Ur. The game stands and displays were mostly about the sort of things I'm not interested in (elaborate war, fantasy and role-playing extravaganzas), but I was impressed by a couple of abstracts by a relative newcomer, Merlin Games, whom I shall look out for at Essen - or, if not there, at the BTHA Toy Fair in January. The hour-long drive south to north across an almost deserted London for a 10 a.m. start proved unexpectedly enjoyable.
15 September Received proofs of artwork and rulebook for a Chinese-language edition of Hare & Tortoise to be published by Broadway Games (Hong Kong) in December 2018. The Disneyesque designs, by Spanish artist Pedro Alberto, cast a whole new light on the game, shifting the scene from Mitteleuropa Ravensburger), via London (Gibsons), to an unspecified jungle setting, in which the race between the two protagonists is being watched by (inter alia) an elephant, a crocodile, and a giraffe wearing a skimpy blue scarf.
4 September Discovered Vale Games, a very friendly and lively games club just a short walk away from my front door! Also just received first copies of my new book Card Games: for fun, family, friends & keeping you sharp published by Flametree Publishing (ISBN 978 178664794 8.) Thanks to Edward Copisarow, renowned games collector and Member of the Worshipful Company of Makers of Playing Cards, for the Foreword.
21 August A record 20 players took part in the Hare & Tortoise tournament at this year's Mind Sports Olympiad, including the usual proportion of newbies and old hands. Gold, silver and bronze went respectively to Mike Hornung (England), Georg-Romet Topkin (Estonia), and Andres Kuusk (Estonia). The Junior equivalents went to Georg-Romet Topkin (Estonia), Markus Ikla (Estonia), and Edmund Smith (England). Only one of them, Dale Lythgoe, came on Monday to try Katarenga, leaving the usual experienced players (Frances Touch, Graham Parlett, John Power, John McLeod and the inventor) to play amongst themselves before retiring to the JW3 cafe for well-deserved cups of caffeine-rich restoratives.
15 August Nearly finished tidying up this website and now concentrating on the MSO Schedule starting on Saturday. The Hare & Tortoise tournament is scheduled for 18.45 on Sunday the 19th. On Monday 20th at 1pm I will be demonstrating my new game Katarenga and would welcome visitors to try it out and review it.
29 July Sad at death of Roger Duce, one of my oldest friends (68 years! ),
who was an invaluable tester of some of my best games including Hare & Tortoise,
Ninety-Nine and Concerto. That was before he and wife Penny moved to Edinburgh some time
in the 1980s. Much missed.
Finished (I hope!) correcting proofs of Parlett's History of Board Games (formerly the Oxford History of...) and shortly expecting copies of my book of card games for Flametree Publishing.
Visited games collector Edward Copisarow at Shardeloes country mansion to teach him, Tessa and Frances how to play Bézique. "Have you got a Bézique table?" I carelessly asked. "Yes," he replied, "I've got three". Why am I not surprised?
Continued upgrading parts of my website. It's a slog, but I like learning more about HTML.
20 July For the past two weeks I've been busy upgrading my website, trying to get it to conform to current HTML and CSS standards. It's quite a job and I've done about half so far.
29 June Had a great weekend at the 5th annual 'Paris est Ludique' event, in sunny weather with temperatures up to 30C. This is accurately described as a day of fun for fans and families of all ages, and well lived up to the claim. It's full of helpers clearly identified by their orange shirts (left), and at the PurpleBrain/Asmodée stand I came across these players engrossed in Around the World in 80 Days. In the ensuing four-player game I came second, which is better than I usually do at its earlier incarnation as Hare & Tortoise.
18 June Way behind with updates because I've been busy correecting proofs of my revised History of Board Games, which I hope will be out this year. I've also been to Athens for this year's Board Game Studies Colloquium and to Göttingen, as always, for the games inventors fair. Here I was presented with the "Göttinger Spatz" award (pictured - it's supposed to be a sparrow) for my general contribution to games. At least, I think that's what it was for - it seemed to be more for Hare & Tortoise than anything else. But it was very pleasing to learn that a previous recipient was the great Alex Randolph.
1 April Spent a couple of days in Vienna in March visiting my agent Anita Landgraf at White Castle Games. Now getting ready to correct proofs of my new book of card games for Flame Tree Publishing and of my updated History of Board Games for Echo Point Books. I'm also revising my talk on Strutt's Sports and Pastimes of the People of England to be presented at the forthcoming Board Game Studies Colloquium at Athens later this month. And I've been asked to consider revising, or at least correcting, my History of Card Games for translation into French, and will be visiting Paris Est Ludique in June to meet the publisher. I've also had a nice legal consultancy job in respect of Cards Against Humanity, which is more of a party game than a card game.
13 February Players' ratings for Katarenga on BoardGameGeek now average 7.6 out of 10, which is very pleasing. One reviewer describes it as "A weird chess variant" and another as "Chess on stilts", so I suppose I'd better acknowledge it as a chess variant. It lacks the defining feature of king-capture, though, so I think it's more accurately classified as a race game. Especially as I'm preparing to do my race game workshop again at the University of Sussex (Ipswich) next week.