How A Story Became A Board Game

I was delighted to discover that Jacqson Diego Story Emporium, a lovely independent children’s bookshop in Westcliff on Sea, Essex, chose to read The Mysterious Misadventures… with their Story Bites book club in October. Then they tweeted a picture of a work in progress – Clemency Wrigglesworth: The Game – which they were making over a couple of sessions.

The game invites players in with the banner: ‘Frightening Miss Claw is coming your way so roll high to get away’. ‘Make one step back if you meet a bad person.’ Yes, there are plenty of baddies to get in the way! I can see the ship at the start which Clemency has to board to come to England, the sweet shop where Gully learns something important, and The Great Hall where Clemency and her enemies – and friends – finally tangle up.

I can’t seem to include the picture but you can see it here – pic.twitter.com/qReWZ9XwUj

In the classic board game set-up, you progress along a path from start to finish, step-by-step, helped by bursts of good fortune and thwarted by setbacks just lurking in wait. Up the Ladder – hurrah! – but suddenly down a Snake. You might be ahead of your competitors with the end in sight, but suddenly you’re back far behind them. In games like Monopoly you even choose a ‘character’ to be – the top hat, the boot, the racing car. You come into money, then have to blow it all to Get Out of Jail. Something familiar here, isn’t there?…it’s just like a story.

This brilliant idea for making a children’s book come even more alive made me think that so many adventure stories, from Famous Five to His Dark Materials, are structured like a board game. A journey to be undertaken, a goal to be reached or someone to be rescued, snags and setbacks encountered on the way, enemies met, but also helpers. No matter how clever and brave the protagonists try to be, a sudden twist of fate can turn everything on its head. Two steps forward, one step back. Or more like ten steps back and down a dark chasm with no apparent route out. Now I’m wondering about my favourite stories and how they might be transformed into games.  This would be such a wonderful rainy-day activity for children, with drawing and cutting and sticking, and remembering what came when and deciding what the key settings are. I feel like getting the colouring pens out right now!

Thanks to Jacqson Diego and their Story Biters for a great idea. I haven’t visited (yet) but it sounds like the perfect inspiring children’s bookshop, with so much going on to bring stories and children together and instil a lifelong love of books.

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3 thoughts on “How A Story Became A Board Game

  1. Games — stories — real life — they indeed are all very similar! This was such a lovely idea, to create a boardgame from your book. Reminds me of the Fighting Fantasy role-play books of the 80s by Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fighting_Fantasy) where you become the hero of the story, choosing what to do next from a selection of options. Not quite a boardgame but in the same vein.

    • I remember my son having books where you could choose options at certain stages and turn to page 20 or page 79 and read on depending on what you chose, but not as complicated as the ones you mention – I did look up the link. They were part-way to a computer game in a very mild way. He liked them for that reason but I didn’t, because I still love going with the author’s narrative which takes you where you are meant to go. A board-game based on a book – yes. A book based on a board-game – that’s a throw of the dice too far for me.

      • Like you, I prefer going with the author’s narrative — the Jackson & Livingstone books were a very short-lived phase for me and I passed them on to my son who was an age to really enjoy them.

        I also briefly played Dungeons & Dragons with some friends (that was scary fun, danger lived vicariously) but, again, a short-lived phase. Life is much more complex and potentially satisfying than role-playing games. My grandsons enjoy playing Warhammer online, but I find it seriously boring.

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