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04/05/2010 Family Board Gamer Article
Guest author: Paul Lister
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With so much gaming culture imported from overseas these days, it's nice to find some experiences that are quintessentially British. Long the bed of invention, there are still a few good men and women creating interesting board games that tackle historic themes from our little island.

Whilst I love a bit of Orc bashing and Galactic Empire expansion, as I get older my gaming tastes have slowly moved towards the prosaic and historical. These themes are the strengths of British board game designers.

The most pre-eminent of these giants is Martin Wallace who has a cult status amongst the board game cognoscenti. He designs highly original (quirky some might say) games around a strong theme. His limited print run Treefrog games sell out rapidly and then appear on eBay for three times their original cost.

Recently though, JKLM announced they will be republishing another of his games, Tinner's Trail. This is one of the most approachable of Wallace's games set in the heyday of the Cornish Mining industry. Three to four players have to face the problems of 19th century mining magnates - mines being flooded, reserves being depleted and the problem of getting the mined materials to market.

The aim of the game is to invest the profits from the ultimately doomed Tin mines. If players are stuck for something to do they can sell Cornish Pasties for a small income. Tinner's Trail takes about an hour and a half to play, is a step-up in complexity from gateway games like Ticket to Ride but repays the effort. All this and it's British through and through.

Even more British than the pasty selling of Tinner's Trail is the Ragnar brothers awarding victory points for a 'Drinking a cup of Tea' in More Back Packs and Blisters. The Ragnars are part time designers whose design staples are rich historical and British themed games - think walking in the Lake District, life in a Medieval Monastery, Gardening or Will disputes.

Of their English set games my favourite is Canal Mania. Set slightly before Tinner's Trail this is about building the arteries of the early industrial revolution. Players build historically accurate canals from contracts awarded by parliament, employing the talents of the great engineers and then shipping goods to towns and cities across you canal network. Canal Mania can be played by two to five players. Like Tinner's Trail this game is step up from a gateway game, of the two is easier to learn and takes slightly longer to play.

Guest review by Paul Lister

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Paul Lister wrote this Board Gamer article under the watchful eye of Ed Stephens.

"In a world of ever advancing technology, where gaming is often synonymous with consoles, I'm here to take a different approach and look at board games."

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