While in York Castle Museum, I was surprised to come across Black-Out, a 'skilful card game -- full of interest'. It's one of the British war games I mentioned in a previous post. At that time I only had a low-res photo from the BBC website to go on, so I was glad of the chance for a closer look.
So here's what I can make out of the gameplay. There are up to four players who driving a car or lorry across a blacked-out London. Each player starts in a corner of the map corresponding to the colour of their vehicle, and presumably wins by getting to the opposite corner. (The corners are Hyde Park Corner, Marble Arch, Holborn, Charing Cross.) The board is a map of London which bears some relation to the actual geography of the city (as Monopoly does not). But it's not marked into squares or numbers or anything, so it's a bit unclear how movement works.
One clue is the arrows drawn across the streets at intervals, each with a symbol beside it. These symbols seem to relate to various civil defence organisations or objects: Air Raid Precautions, Auxiliary Fire Service London, Metropolitan Police (?), fire hose, fire helmet, buckets of sand, fire extinguishers (?), a siren (?), a kerbside pillar of some sort (?), a red cross, a yellow cross, a blue and white ribbon (?). Presumably they are obstacles of some sort (and maybe opportunities too), and it's the successful navigation through these hazards which determines success or failure.
Another clue is that there seem to be three different directions a player can go in from each corner, so from Hyde Park Corner they could go down Park Lane, Piccadilly or Constitution Hill. It's a 'skilful game', so I think the player gets to choose which direction to go in, which way to turn at corners. Since it doesn't seem that the players could interact with each other (i.e. to slow each other down somehow), there's probably some random element too, or else there wouldn't be much replayability once the fastest routes have been figured out. It's also a 'card game', but unfortunately none of the cards are shown, so I can only guess at what they might do. One possibility is that they dictate movement (e.g. 'move to the nearest AFS post'). Another is they are random events (e.g. 'you fail to stop at a sentry point and the Home Guard shoots you dead').
That's about all I can say from the information to hand, except to add that it must date to between 1938 and 1941 (the years the AFS operated). It looks like it could be an amusing game for children, with more possibilities for skill than Snakes and Ladders type games, and with the added bonus of teaching a bit of London geography. But it's also a reflection of life in a city made strange and unfamiliar by the hazards of the blackout.
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