The Angry Corrie 13: Jun-Jul 1993

Review 1: MunroMania -
The Game of the Scottish Munros

Regular TAC readers will know at least two things by now. Firstly, this isn't a magazine much given to genuine reviews of genuine articles: the last was probably Muriel's Munro Show way back in TAC2.And secondly, your editor is disinclined to sing the praises of the activity known as Munrobagging and the joys contained therein.

The more discerning reader - unless she is currently away on holiday - will, however, be aware that your Ed is fond of games of most varieties - such that during the few weeks a year or so ago when Sky Sports was erroneously piped into his house, he was a relatively happy man.

What will probably not be known is that he also has a Games Theory, most often discoursed upon when he's had a few drinks. The Theory runs roughly as follows: in the same way as there are reckoned only to be six or seven basic jokes in the world, so there are similarly few games/sports. Eg, rugby is a debased form of football, baseball of cricket, draughts and most board games of chess, snooker (extreme precision + balls in holes) of golf. Etc etc.

So the arrival on the scene of a Munrobagging boardgame was ever likely to fill your Ed with an odd conflict of interests. Which it does - although in an endeavour to get the cart out of the way before the horse comes galloping in, let it be said he quite likes it.

Where to start? Nomenclature probably. The game is entitled MunroMania, and retails at 8.95 from the address given below.This is home to a bagging couple called Sal and Dave Chaffey, who market themselves as having climbed 145 and 230 you-know-whats respectively. Presumably this means they've had as many as 85 rows in their lives together. The fact of their home address mentioning cricket would flash warning signs and alarums in the mind of most TACites (most notably that of your coeditor), but immediately endears itself to the maverick C-in-C.

A question immediately sits up and begs: why the hell isn't the game called Munropoly instead? Surely this cries out for usage? Maybe there is a problem with copyright, with Waddingtons being every bit as litigious as DC Thomson.

The layout of the game is easily assimilated. If we're talking of one game being a debased form of another, then MunroMania is by Trivial Pursuit out of Snakes and Ladders. (Actually, it would be more apposite to call it a dbased, rather than a debased, form of these, as the manufacturers, WildWare, also produce a computer database for noting down ascents, companions, no. of jobbies and the like.)

Players move counters along a contorted snailtrail of peaks (either singular or in groups - although "The Buckles" grates somewhat), by throwing a pair of differently-designed dice. One is your standard 1-6 ludo job, the second contains four weather symbols either boosting or delaying progress - plus a sheep picture and a questionmark.The latter refer players to two sets of cards, A la Community Chest and Chance, which allow for further bagging progress. The queston cards link with a booklet containing 360 diligently compiled posers (plus a further 60 for kiddies or the pigtrack-ignorant). Rather oddly, these give a choice of two questions, presumably the idea being that either the questioner or the questonee has a choice. On one of the TAC test runs, however, this did provide a handy handicapping system: the two hill baggers were made to answer both correctly while the two festerers had to merely score 50%.

Questions range from fairly easy anagrams, through obscure bits of baggerphernalia and awkward multichoices, to near-impossible flotsam and jetsam of trivia. These, on the whole, provide the highpoints of the game - although, while thankfully not lapsing into hellish Trivial Pursuit syntax ("What does a polyorchid man have more than two of?"), there are occasional vagaries of interpretation and out-and-out mistakes. John o'Groats is not the most northerly point on the British mainland, while some would say there are nine, not seven, Munros on the South Kintail Ridge. Various rules appear in need of clarificaton - eg, do you still move five bonus munros forward for getting a question correct if you are on a Fester or benighted? And then the compilers side with almost half the letterwriters to TAC in misspelling the second highest Skye peak as the "Inn Pinn"!

Sheep cards also prove quite entertaining - although both these and the questions could probably do with greater frequency. Sheep provide ways of avoiding technical problems and bad weather, plus, very occasionally, leading to Pictionary-type drawing problems and the like. One highlight of the TAC test came when your Ed was asked to pinpoint blindfold (or without his specs - it's the same thing really) his most recent Munro, ie the Wee Buachaille (or Small Buckle). A degree of merriment ensued overwhether either he or the board should first be taken to some distant part of the room so as to make this more onerous.

Both these card categories tend to speed northward progress. Delays are achieved by benightments on remote hills, technical footerings on such as the Aggy Ridge, tearoom-and-craftshop behaviour in several "Festers" (Kyle, Oban, Pitlochry etc), and - most entertainingly - by simply throwing a combination of dice, eg a 2 plus the snow symbol which equates to minus 3, leading to regress. Technically it is possible for no-one ever to finish the game, or even to make it beyond Ben Lomond, but then it's also technically possible for a monkey to get beyond The Quality of Mercy is not Strenggg...

Opinion amongst our testers was basically favourable. One, never having climbed a Munro in her life, found it less boring than anticipated. Two, who have or are about to have tomes on tomeshop shelves, enjoyed the chance it gave to wade through trivia as deep as touristpath glaur. And your ed was immediately pleased to learn something new. Faced with choosing the fastest ever traverse of the Cuillin Ridge - Eric Beard, Andy Hyslop, Martin Moran - who would you go for? Some folk felt the inherent bitiness of the game - board, booklet, dice, cards - made for confusion, while others liked this. Certainly it would have been good to have questions and answers on the cards together, although presumably this would have made for more expense. The board itself was also thought to be somewhat confusing, with bootprints, summits, ferries and festers all weaving tortuously to and fro. A splash of colour - rather than uniform black on mustard-yellow - would go a long way toward remedying this. The biggest disappointment, hardwarewise, has to be the specialist die: its symbols, whilst initially clear, give the impression of having been crayoned or felttipped on. Certainly after a few playings by sweatyfingered enthusiasts, detail was starting to smudge quite badly. But all-in-all, a reasonable buy. Certainly a good - if not entirely unique idea (your Ed will need to add a footnote to the paragraph of his upcoming book, originally drafted in '87, devoted to precisely this topic), and one showing all the signs of a labour of love.

But at the end of the day, the main issue is of course an ovine one: how do MunroMania sheep shape up against TAC sheep (see Murdo Munro passim)? We have our own verdict on this, but leave the reader/player to make her/his own assessment.

MunroMania available from:

WildWare, 32 Cricket Rd, Oxford. OX4 3DG. (Cheques for 8.95 payable to Sal Chaffey).

TAC 13 Index