As regular readers will know I love a charity shop. I spend quite a bit of time in them, and at car boot sales, looking out for vintage board games and toys. What you might not also know is that I’m a huge fan of the London Underground. I always keep my eyes open for tube memorabilia, although that’s never as plentiful as vintage games. Sometimes though the two passions come together and I go home very happy. That’s exactly what happened when I came across a small brown box in the middle of a pile of bric-a-brac that had the magical word “Underground” on it.
What are the games and how do you play
Gibson released the original set containing parlour games The Underground Game and What’s the Letter in 1977. They’re both relatively simple games that can be played with between 4 and 12 players. In The Underground Game there are 32 clues where the answer to each one is the name of a station on the London Underground. For those players that don’t have an encyclopaedic knowledge of the Underground the game was supplied with maps of the network so that all players had an equal chance. More on those maps later.
What’s the Letter follows a similar format with 23 questions where the answer to each one is just one of two letters.
The thing that strikes me with both of these games is that once you’ve played them once you’re likely to remember the answers, making any subsequent games a bit pointless. Or am I over thinking it?
Whatever your views, both these simple games are quite good fun to play at any large gathering, or to use in some sort of a quiz or similar.
London Underground Pocket Maps
As an Underground fan I always love anything that related to the Underground, but the inclusion of vintage tube maps in the game took it from something I was just quite interested in, to something I simply had to buy. These aren’t maps designed just for the game, but instead the ones that passengers could pick up for free at tube stations.
The version of the game that I picked up isn’t the original 1977 one (you can tell by the fact that the original version apparently didn’t have anything in white written on the box). I’m not exactly sure when it does date from though. The tube maps I have are dated 1985, but looking online I’ve seen similar versions with the white writing being sold with 1978 tube maps. I’m left wondering quite how this all worked when the game was first released. Did they have some arrangement with London Underground where they sent them a load of maps that were then put into boxes? Or was a member of staff dispatched to the nearest station to H P Gibson and Son’s London office and instructed to bring home as many maps as they could? Which different versions of the map were included in different versions of the game? Does anyone know?