The rules of engagement

From time to time, Tower Project cataloguers come across games which the Library received on legal deposit. This is less exciting than it sounds: their appeal can be somewhat … impenetrable, and their rules are often fiendishly complicated (or just baffling). I was thrilled, therefore, when I discovered Maricourt, a board game which suffers from none of these problems. A kind of snakes-and-ladders of courtship and engagement, it’s straightforward to play, and provides an insight into how a romance might have progressed – or, at least, might have been expected to progress – at the turn of the century.

The game, which consists of a 100-square board and cards, is played in teams: a lady and a gentleman pair up against another couple, and they take it in turns to throw the dice and move their counters forward. Some of the squares describe states of being (“approval”, “contempt”, “ill will”), and others describe the process by which they are reached: so, if you land on “wealth leads to admiration” (how very cynical!) you can advance to “admiration”; but if you land on “jealousy leads to despair”, you have to go back to “despair” (and take to drink, apparently). Woe betide anyone who indulges in flirtation: if you land on that square, you have to go back to the start of the board. There are also squares which reward you with a card if you land on them (“carriages: take card”, “Papa’s consent: take card”), which can be redeemed if you land on the corresponding “carriages required”; if you land on it without the card, you have to return to “carriages: take card”. The first team to reach square 100, and the church, wins.

Alas, the counters and cards have not survived with the board, so I’ve been thwarted in my desire to play the game. Curses. I’ll have to content myself with admiring the pictures …


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1 Response to The rules of engagement

  1. Philip O'Meara says:

    Hi Rebecca I too have the board game Maricourt without the pieces and have been looking for them quite a long time. I visited England in 2009 and after doing some research found that the V&A Museum of Childhood at Bethnal Green has the Maricourt pieces, cards and rules but not the board. I was fortunate to be able to view and photograph them, the curator was extremely obliging. It is a great game which my wife and our friends have played on a number of occasions, i am a collector of old board games and i hope one day i will be able to obtain the complete set of Maricourt. enjoyed your sight kind regards Phil

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