Finding vintage board games in charity shops can be a bit hit and miss. Some days there is nothing at all. Other days you don’t have arms big enough to carry everything you find. The latter was the case when B and I went on a recent trawl round the charity shops of Upminster. We were there to tick off a few District Line stations on our Tube Stop Baby Challenge but decided to use the opportunity to see if there were any vintage board games to be had and I’m so glad we did. Mainly for finding The Cooking Game.
We’d found a variety of games in the charity shops and were feeling very pleased with ourselves when we agreed to just go in one last shop before catching the tube home. That particular shop had one game in that we wanted, but as I walked towards the till I quickly cast my eye over where the jigsaws were as experience has shown me that charity shops often end up confusing the two and there are sometimes games to be found nestling between 1000 pieces scenes of the English countryside.
My mini-detour paid off when I spotted The Cooking Game on sale at a bargain price of just £1.99. Published in 1984 by the The Garden Game Ltd this has the subtitle of “the delicious new family board game” and my interest was immediately piqued. The box shows a variety of outdoor landscape scenes and also a load of food ingredients.
What is The Cooking Game?
Other than a note saying “with recipes by Jane Grigson” the front of the box doesn’t really give away much of what the game is about. Turn it over though and you get a black and white picture of the game board and a bit more information. As a game for 2 – 6 players it is described as “fast-moving, funny and informative” and I can see why.
Aim of the game
The aim of the game is to be the first player to collect all the ingredients for at least two courses of a dinner – a main course (consisting of 12 ingredients) and either a starter or a pudding (each consisting of 6 ingredients). The recipes that you are collecting ingredients for are created by Jane Grigson, at the time one of the country’s best loved cooks. The recipes all come from different parts of the British Isles, and to add an educational angle to the ingredients on the cards are written in several different languages.
An overview of how to play
The game board is a plan layout of a house. Think Cluedo style, but with a kitchen as the centre of the house. All the ingredients you need for your recipes (plus a few other cards that I will come along to later) can be found in six different places on the game board:
- Front Door
- Back Door
- Kitchen Cupboard
You basically go around the board collecting cards when you land on the doorways to these places. You either collect an ingredient, or in the case of the Front Door you find Front Door Arrivals. These are helpful people that can help with some of the chores that you find as you go around the board. This means you could get a fetching you man delivering a Dishwasher, or a Niece who will dry the dishes. The Front Door can also mean the arrival of various extras to enhance your meal. Possibly a bottle of Campari, or some After Eight Mints.
Between the doorways on the board are a variety of chores and hazards which might involve you having to miss a go whilst you sweep the floor, or possibly even climb up on to the kitchen table to avoid scuttling mice!
Going to the loo
This has to be the only board game that I have encountered that involves going to the loo! Yep, you read that right. If you land on the bathroom doorway then you have to miss a turn whilst you “go to the loo”.
Making phone calls
The real twist in the cooking game is the fact that at certain positions on the board a player is able to make a telephone call. You can make a call to ask any other player if they have ingredients that you need for your recipe. It’s not as simple as just asking and getting though. You can only ask if you already hold two ingredients for that recipe yourself. Also, whilst on the phone, if successful with your first request, you might ask for ingredients for a second recipe. If they don’t hold what you need this time round though the person you telephoned may instead ask you for up to two sets of ingredients.
In other words telephoning someone can be risky business as it might actually result in you losing some of the ingredients that you hold. Phone at your own risk.
End of the game and scoring
The Cooking Game ends when one player has all the required ingredients to make one main course and one starter or desert. You then move on to the scoring stage of the game when I think everyone playing hopes that they haven’t consumed so much wine that they can’t do the maths involved.
With points allocated to completed recipes as well as for each ingredient in a complete recipe players can also get additional points for extras they may have picked from the Front Door like After Eights or Flowers.
Things then get really complicated though with points for “impure recipes”. In other words, if you can convince the other players that ingredients you hold can be combined into an acceptable course then it can score you points!This could be something as simple as Strawberries and Cream, or something much more complicated, with no limit on how many ingredients an impure recipe can contain.
It’s therefore quite possible that the person who finishes first isn’t necessarily the winner.
It’s obvious that The Cooking Game wasn’t a big budget production, yet the finished result, although dated, was a quality product. The playing pieces in particular are really weighty and made of metal, rather than the plastic that you might get today.
One of the reasons for this touch of quality is probably the fact that the game had a number of sponsors. The instruction booklet has five pages devoted to them and they also appear throughout the game. I’ve already mentioned cards bearing After Eights and Campari, but all domestic appliances in the game are from Zanussi, the luxury vinyl flooring in the kitchen is from Amtico and the house’s cellar seems to be sponsored by Roberts & Cooper wine merchants.
Even the playing pieces are linked to the sponsors with a bottle of Piat D’Or wine, a tin of Tate and Lyle Golden Syrup and an Oxo cube as playing pieces.
The prize for most obscure sponsor though has to go to the Halifax. At the time proudly still a Building Society, and sponsors of the two spare cards in the game. Random!
Taste of the 80s
We actually had great fun playing The Cooking Game, but it really was like being back in the 80s in so many ways. The style of recipes, the cards and game design, and the whole notion of having elaborate dinner parties. If that weren’t enough the instruction book tries to explain how the telephone call part of the game works by giving examples of two couple playing the game – Charles and Diana, and Paul and Linda!
Play with us on the Podcast
If you want to experience The Cooking Game for yourselves then why not join Bonn and myself as we play on the Hobbies and Interests podcast? Look out for the new episode that will be released very soon.