(The Board) Games People Play: #8, Skirrid

How a Welsh mountain inspired a numeric strategy game

Saturday 01 January 1983

Happy New Year to you all, a bit of a shorter entry as I’m tired from last night. Right, this year’s New Year Resolutions:

  1. I shall find a decent pub to go to whilst my Mum and Dad are watching The Little and Large Show;
  2. I shall get a paper round;
  3. I shall renew my Mossley AFC season ticket, thanks to point 2;
  4. I shall try my best to get on Top of the Pops before this decade is out;
  5. I shall improve my knowledge of Welsh mountains for my ‘O’ Level in Geography.

Here’s one that inspired a board game in 1976, invented by the same fellow as Kensington (see yesterday’s Advent Calendar window).

Skirrid

Back in 1977, Brian Taylor (of Kensington fame) and Mark Eliot gave us a mathematical cousin to Scrabble. Known as Skirrid, it takes the name from a mountain on the Brecon Beacons. It is also known as Ysgyryd Fawr.

The aim of the game is to get the most points by covering as much as the board as possible. Instead of Scrabble tiles, you choose from 36 pentominos. Like Scrabble, players start from the centre of the board. Play begins inside a white diamond till one player reaches the 75 point mark. Once you get 75 points or more, you can start adding pieces outside the diamond (coloured black or blue depending on your edition).

The winner of the game has the highest score. It is designed for two players though can be played as a four player or six player game. Like his next game [Kensington], the early editions had the same LP style packaging. Design-wise the box would sit well next to your cherished Supertramp albums.

Life after Skirrid

Years after Brian Taylor’s first game was published, Skirrid clones have appeared in computerised form. On the Amiga, Numerix offered a choice of four backgrounds. For iOS and Android devices, there is one in Blokus.

S.V., 08 December 2017.

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