You’ve now – hopefully – read my first part on how to play this game, but that was just the basics. If you want to know more, and particularly if you want to improve your game, then read on, as I impart my accumulated, incredibly valuable wisdom (all 8 year’s worth of it anyway)…
So there you go, I hope those tips will help you in your game play, and I hope they are relatively clear and easy to understand. I will come back to this section from time to time to update it, to share more tips and hints as I discover them. Please now have a look at my third and final section on Belote – playing the online app…
Frequent visitors to my blog may be unaware of the fact that I am part of a Facebook group, one that was created to educate (and entertain) people interested in living in France (or indeed people that already live here). The group’s membership is mainly made up of ex-pats from the UK, Australia, America and other predominantly English-speaking territories. You, my frequent visitor, will be unaware of my membership of this group because, until now, I’ve never mentioned it. So there you go. Boom! Just rocked your world with that news haven’t I?
Anyway, back to the point in hand. I decided to help these poor people out, by trying to teach them how to play Belote – a tricky task as you will soon discover.
Belote, for the uninitiated, is a popular French card game played in groups of four, subdivided into teams of two. It’s a very competitive game played throughout France, in homes among friends, and in halls as part of serious tournaments. The first prize isn’t money, or a car, or a holiday to Benidorm. No, as a rule you win a ham. So any competitive vegetarians can stop reading now.
Oh and even if you come dead last they still give you some meat (chicken).
I’m going to do my best to help them and also you, my frequent visitor, learn how to play this fantastic game. Belote is a tricky beast to master, and that’s coming from someone who’s been playing for years, but hopefully this guide will give you a solid grounding.
I will try to make this as comprehensive and user-friendly as possible, I will also do my best to make it entertaining, but not at the expense of the learning experience and – let’s face it – there really are only so many jokes you can make about a card game (even a French one) before it gets tiresome.
So, as you may or may not be aware, there are two options when it comes to learning how to play Belote:
2. Or you can read a guide like this one…
So I will start this with the view that the person reading it has never played the game before, and wishes to play with friends who are similarly clueless as to the rules. So we will start with a breakdown of the cards, their names in French, what that ‘atout’ business is all about, and follow this with the rules, before wrapping the whole thing up with a breakdown of the scoring system.
THE CARDS, THEIR NAMES AND WHAT ‘ATOUT’ MEANS
So there may well be repetition of some things in this guide, as I will be going over the names of the cards you play with here, and then will reiterate that, again and again, further on. I cannot stress this enough – REPETITION IS A GOOD THING. This is not an easy game to master, so I’m trying to get the message across to you as best I can, by hammering it home, again and again.
Order Of Card Values If Played As Atout
Jack – the most powerful card in the game and called ‘valet’ in French.
Nine – second most powerful called (quelle surprise) ‘neuf’.
Ace – goes by ‘as’ over here (watch the spelling on that one)
Ten – simply ‘dix’.
King – is called ‘roi’
Queen – is called ‘dame’
Eight – You probably know where I’m going with this now but if not this is ‘huit’
Seven – Yes, it’s called ‘sept’.
Example – If opponent plays the 9 and you have the jack – you can take the 9 with your jack
Something to note is that if you have the king and the queen atout then this constitutes ‘Belote’ and will give you extra points (more on that in the points section later). Remember this applies even if YOU HAVE NOT CHOSEN THE ATOUT YOURSELF.
Order Of Card Values If Not Played As Atout
Example – If opponent plays 10 and you have the ace, you can take that ten with your ace – BUT ONLY IF IT IS OF THE SAME SUIT – UNLESS IS IT ATOUT AN ACE OF CLUBS WILL NOT BEAT A TEN OF HEARTS!
The suits themselves go by different names over here too, they are:
Hearts = ‘coeur’
Diamonds = ‘carreau’
Clubs = ‘trefle’
Spades = ‘pique’
YOU KEEP SAYING ‘ATOUT’! WHAT THE HELL DOES ‘ATOUT’ MEAN???
So down to this atout business. As I said above, the cards follow that order only if they have been chosen as atout. Atout is effectively a trump card and can be used to take other players trump cards or – if during gameplay they place a card from a suit that you do not have a card from, then you can take that hand by ‘cutting’ their play. So for instance if someone plays the ace of hearts, and you don’t have any hearts then you can take this hand by playing something as lowly as a seven, as long as it’s atout – that’s how strong the atout is.
Atouts – where possible – must be played in ascending order e.g if the player to your left puts down the ten atout and you have a higher card – say the nine for instance – then you HAVE TO PLAY HIGHER. If you do not have a higher card e.g the player to your left places the ace atout, but all you have are the king and the eight, then you are free to choose which card you put down (this is known as ‘pee pee’ in France) – and always play your weaker hand if it is for the benefit of your opponents – your stronger card may well come in useful later on.
When playing non-atout cards these rules do not apply and you can play any cards you want. So if the player to your left plays the king of hearts, even if you have the ace of hearts you can play a lower card if you wish to do so BUT ONLY FROM THE SAME SUIT.
So that’s a bit about the values of the cards and atouts, let’s get down to some actual game-playing now…
First things first, you need the right amount of players – how many’s that? Like so many other card games four is the magic number for Belote. There are variations that can be played with just two people but that’s somewhat advanced, and thus best left for another day, and another guide.
This group of four players is then divided into two teams of two, each member of each team must sit facing their partner, they cannot sit side by side. How you organise who plays with who is entirely up to you. If you play with the same group for quite a while you will begin to see who you play best with – this may not necessarily be the person you get on best with, or sleep with for that matter. I get my best results from playing with my French father-in-law, and yet I wouldn’t kiss him if you paid me.
So assuming you have your foursome, you now need to obtain a pack of cards. From this pack of cards you need to remove the two, three, four, five, and six from every suit. You should then be left with the following cards: ace, jack, king, queen, ten, nine, eight and seven.
Make a mental note that this means there will be EIGHT CARDS FOR EVERY SUIT INCLUDING THE CHOSEN ATOUT’S SUIT. This might sound patronising but keeping this simple detail in your mind can be difficult during play, but is one of the key components to success in Belote.
Shuffle the deck and then have each of the players pick out a card. Whoever has the highest card will then have first choice of whether to pick the atout or not when play commences. Once this is done put the cards back together and then split the pile in two. Pass it to a player – NOT the player who gets first dibs though – and they must then rejoin the pile in the opposite order to the way it was originally split.
You must then deal out the cards – face down so that they are not visible – to each player. There are two ways of doing this, you can either deal out three cards to each player initially, and then two – so that each player is left with a pile of five cards – or you can do the reverse: two cards then three. All players should keep their cards hidden from each other at all times – this is especially applicable to each other’s partners – cheating is frowned upon, and treated quite harshly in France.
The dealer will then place the next card face up on the table so that all players can see it. This is – potentially – the atout card.
Starting with the player who won the card pick at the beginning, and then proceeding anti-clockwise, each player can then decide whether or not they wish to play, take the atout, and get the game rolling. If nobody wishes to take the first card offered play will go back around, starting with the first person who declined the initial card. There is then the opportunity to make any other card in your hand the atout card.
If the initial card is of no interest to any player, and nobody’s hand is deemed to be strong enough to select another suit to be atout, then each player must signal this by saying ‘deux’. If all players say ‘deux’ then the whole process starts again – the cards are split by the last person who dealt and the player sitting to their right then resplits the pack – again in the opposite way to how it was originally split – and deals out the cards. This process will repeat until someone chooses the initial card or decides they have a strong enough contender in their own hand.
So let’s say that you think you have a strong enough hand – and are prepared to take on the card that has been left by all the other players, including yourself – you elect to choose another suit and name it – simply saying hearts, diamonds, spades or clubs aloud (to be correct, and especially if you are playing with the natives, then use the French version of this, it will impress them).
In this case – or in the case of the atout being chosen being the one initially placed – you take the card and the remaining cards are dealt as follows: you (or whoever chooses the atout) receive two cards, while all other players receive three cards each. There should be no cards left in the deck whatsoever – if there are, and it happens more often than you would think, then something has gone wrong and you need to ‘reset’.
But nothing has gone wrong! The atout is selected and play has commenced. The idea now is – generally – to sniff out the other players’ atouts, and thus take out the ‘threat’ they pose to your game. I will go into more detail on the various ways you can do this in a later section, but for now we’ll stick with the basics.
So let’s say you selected the atout and you are in control of the game i.e it’s your turn to play. If you have the jack and the nine in your selection then you should play one of these – it does not matter which one because as noted earlier, these are the two most powerful cards and will ‘defeat’ all other atout. If your opponents have atout THEY MUST PLAY THEM. Ideally this initial play – let’s say of the jack – will bring you three of their atouts. So now you know there are four left – if you deduct your nine that means three. You should then play the nine and, hopefully, you will then take the remaining atouts.
With the table now clear of atouts you are free to carry on playing the game as you would a normal card game. Thus if you play a king of hearts you will lose it if your opponent plays a ten, or an ace of hearts. But don’t forget, normal rules are back in play and so a nine is just back to being a plain old nine and is nothing special at all. Likewise a jack can be defeated by a queen, a king, a ten and an ace and is not the all powerful card it is when it is atout.
So let’s just imagine however, that there’s still an atout in play and, worst of all, your opponents have the best one – the nine. At this early stage in your playing you may not know who has it but, with experience, you will soon know who has what, and how to get it out of them. It’s not magic they use, these wily old French people, who seem to have an uncanny ability to figure you out – no, they just have great memories.
So there’s a rogue atout out there and it isn’t yours – you now have to be wary of losing your ace, or other high value cards to these atout because – say if you play the ace of spades and one of your opponents doesn’t have anything in that suit – they will cut your play with their atout and it’s bye-bye ace of spades!
The reverse is applicable too though, for instance if you start with a decent handful of atouts – let’s say five (always a nice amount) – and you end up with two spare after claiming all the rest. Then you can keep them to cut your opponents with when they play something you don’t have anything in the same suit as (always hope to cut an ace or a ten though – nothing worse than being ‘flushed out’ by a seven).
An additional word on cutting – if your partner plays a card that you do not have something of YOU DO NOT HAVE TO CUT HIM IF HE IS WINNING (see information on ‘maitre’ further on). This is something I can’t urge you enough to remember, unless it’s tactically advantageous to you (e.g: if you have figured out that by cutting your partner’s winning hand you will claim your opponent’s (yet to be played) ace) then DO NOT DO THIS. There is further information on this in the part 2 of this guide.
If your opponent plays a card however, in a suit that you do not have anything in, then YOU HAVE TO CUT. Don’t be surprised either – if you cut the play after your partner and one of your opponents, but before your other opponent – to see your other opponent hastily shuffling his hand and laying down something of much, much lower value than, say, the ace they had originally intended on playing.
You may also hear the French referring to themselves as ‘maitre‘ or their partner or another player may ask if they are ‘maitre‘. This simply means that they are winning the hand, even if they have played something as trivial as a seven of hearts – and even if that is not atout – IF NO OTHER PLAYER HAS A CARD IN THE SAME SUIT, AND ALL ATOUT HAVE BEEN PLAYED, A CARD AS INSIGNIFICANT AS A SEVEN CAN WIN A HAND.
You should really try keep spare atouts as last resorts, once the other atouts have been ‘sniffed out’ and always try to keep one till the very end if you can as this will guarantee you win the last hand, and give you more points (more on this further down).
One final note on atouts regards Belote – or rather if you have the cards that constitute it – the king and queen of the chosen atout suit. If you do, when you play them you must say the word ‘BELOTE!’ when you place it down, it doesn’t matter if you play the king or queen first. When you place the second one of these cards down, again whichever one it doesn’t matter, you must then say ‘RE-BELOTE!’. It’s unlikely that your friends or family will pick you up on this if you play them – and penalising your lack of vocalisation of this by refusing you the points is also highly unlikely – however in competitive environments (should you reach those dizzy heights, and potentially win the first prize of…ham!) they may be more severe. Plus the French will love hearing you say it.
So that’s a general overview of how to play the game, I’m sure you’ve already got questions (and I don’t blame you) but hopefully by playing the game, and reading my other blog posts on the subject, you will be able to get stuck in.
So now one last word on the most puzzling aspect of all for some – which until recently included myself – how to tally the points…
SCORING A GAME OF BELOTE
So the values of cards are:
Jack = 20
Nine = 14
Ace = 11
Ten = 10
King = 4
Queen = 3
Seven = 0
Eight = 0
‘Belote’ – King and Queen atout held TOGETHER by any one player = 20 points
Ace = 11
Ten = 10
King = 4
Queen = 3
Jack = 2
Nine = 0
Eight = 0
Seven = 0
10 points are also awarded for ‘Dix de der‘ which is the winning of the very last hand.
WINNING – AND LOSING – SCORES
You must have 82 points to win a game – minimum.
If you chose the atout and you do not meet the 82 point minimum the other team wins and will receive 162 points (182 if they have the Belote as well). This is known as ‘Dedans‘.
If you do the minimum then the other team gets your points (162) minus yours (e.g 162 – your 82 points means they get 80 points, or if you score 92 points then 162-92 = 70 and so on).
If you/your opponents choose the atout and win every hand then you/they win 252 points (272 with Belote) this is known a ‘Capot‘. This result differs at competitive levels (or where you are playing it with the natives) where the points you are awarded are lowered to 162 points (182 with Belote).
You need 1,000 points to win the game at competitions/playing with French natives (though this can vary).
If you are playing using the online app (more on that in a later blog) then this is lowered to 501.
So there you have it. I hope you have enjoyed reading my initial guide, and didn’t find it too tasking or wearying. You may now feel free to read my other Belote guides, where I will be delving a bit deeper into Belote tips, hints, good and bad hands and how to use the online app.
When I was a young whipper-snapper I used to play with marbles all the time. I loved them. Oilies, ball-bearings, clear ones, ones with bubbles inside – pretty much what you can see in the pic above, they really rocked my world. Because I was 7, and it was a much, much simpler world. There were no Gameboys*, no iPhones, nothing really electronic to distract you at all. We had fun and it was very, very simple fun; all you needed were a few kids (easily done) some marbles (easily won) and a grate/manhole cover (easily found). Then it was a simple case of playing the game against your opponent, whoever touched the other one, or managed to get their marble in the ‘goal’ (generally one of the small indentations in the grate) was the winner and claimed the other player’s marble as their prize.
Skip forward 30-odd years and the world is vastly different, there are many, many distractions available for kids – inside and outside of the playground – and yet marbles (or billes as they are known in France) are making a massive comeback.
For us it started as a reward system, if the kids behaved we would give them treats. The kids soon got wise to this though, and so were being good and then immediately coming to collect their prize. I had started out with Kinder Eggs: big mistake – have you seen the prices of these things? If you think they are bad in the UK, come and buy some in France, if you buy more than four a week your mortgage-repayments may suffer. So I looked at other, cheaper ways of keeping them on the ‘straight and narrow’. My son had expressed an interest in marbles, but in a collector’s way, not for any kind of game-playing reason. He’s a bit of a hoarder is my son, and he likes pretty, shiny things – a bit like Gollum but with a more annoying voice (love you son xxx).
So, off daddy went to look on Amazon and eBay to price up some marbles – and back daddy swiftly came, after seeing the prices + postage and packaging, and then checking his bank balance. No that wouldn’t do, that wouldn’t do at all.
Then the answer presented itself: brocantes. Yes the people at brocantes don’t charge extortionate prices for marbles, and they can be haggled with. I can’t haggle with Amazon – he doesn’t want to know. So when you roll up and eagerly eye a big sack (or tin, sometimes they are in pretty tins which your children will immediately purloin from you) and ask them how much, they may say ’50 centimes, pour dix’ (50 cents for 10) to which you can then reply ‘Combien pour tous?’ (how much for them all?) and you will then generally be able to walk away with twice as many billes as you would get on Amazon/eBay for a tenth of the price (and that’s not an exaggeration). You see the brocanteurs haven’t cottoned on to the fact that France has gone mad for marbles yet, but when they do…well expect to see the prices start jumping up, particularly among the more savvy ones (i.e the ones who aren’t just clearing out their recently deceased granddad’s house, and actually do it for a living).
So with this stock of marbles I was able to effectively, and very economically, reward good behaviour. As well as using them as leverage if there was any bad behaviour too – a double whammy a carrot AND a stick. This went on for quite a few weeks, and the kids amassed quite a collection of marbles, so much so that repeat trips were required, more for variety than anything; but that was OK, there’s always a brocante when you need one.
Then a funny thing started happening – my son started taking his marbles to school with him. Nothing new here, he often (read: every day) takes something in to show the kids. But then he’d start showing me his collection and mentioning how cool they were, and I didn’t recognise all the billes, these were different billes. Where were these billes coming from?
‘I won them from Yohanna’ he told me one day. ‘We play them together, me Yohanna, Alice and the other kids, and I’m good at it’. He then went on to play a game of marbles with me, a bit different from when I used to play, but essentially the same game. However I think I should amend my son’s phrasing as I think he meant to say ‘I’m good at cheating at it’. Unless of course it’s only with me that he plays marbles by guiding his marble towards mine, with his hand maintaining contact with his marble at all times. I don’t mind though. I’m not bitter.
Plus I’ve still got more marbles upstairs than he has (literally, as in upstairs in the house, not metaphorically, the kids have seen to that).
It wasn’t isolated to his group of friends either, as I first thought. We started to pass harried looking parents arguing with their kids. ‘He’s moaning to his daddy’ my partner translated on one such occasion ‘Because daddy forgot to put his marbles in his school-bag’. You can see them every day as well, in the playground, huddled in their groups playing away. It’s so refreshing. Here’s a past-time, from the past, which I had long thought to be firmly in the rear-view mirror enjoying a new lease of life. I can’t comment if it’s the same the world over, I haven’t researched it intensively; but it’s great to see here. No screens, all outdoors, a communal atmosphere – just good, clean, wholesome fun.
I did worry at first when I learned that they were playing this game, as my son can get quite (read: very) attached to things. Particularly shiny, small things (again, like Gollum). But he doesn’t seem phased at all by his very, very gradually dwindling pile of marbles. He’s just happy playing. Plus he knows if he’s good daddy will restock his collection – effectively making me the backer to his gambler (well, it is a form of childish gambling if you think about it). So that’s been a weight off my mind.
The real concern is when his sister starts playing…
…because she loves shiny, precious things even more than her brother – like Gollum, but more aggressively protective – (love you daughter xxx) there may well be blood on the playground floor if she loses her marbles…
*Yes, yes, it’s a dated reference but you get what I mean
December 2011, I’m flicking my WiiMote around in order to make my onscreen character – Link – defeat Ganon. The game I’m playing is Skyward Sword the swansong for the Wii console, and a fitting game for me to play to completion. The game concerns Link’s ongoing efforts to save the land of Hyrule from the main bad-guy, the aforementioned Ganon.
My almost-one-year-old son has been avidly watching me play it, which is fine as it’s a fairly cartoony, non-violent game (well, there are monsters to kill, but they aren’t gruesome kills, and there’s no blood). His big eyes follow my every move and, when I nip for a cup of tea, or to the toilet, I often return to find him waving the WiiMote at the screen. It’s a great moment when I finally defeat Ganon and give my son a cuddle, knowing I’ll never forget this moment.
Jump forward to 2017, my son is now 6-and-a-half and has his own gaming system, the Wii’s successor, the Nintendo WiiU. I say it’s his, but I bought it for myself, so he’s effectively stolen it from me, in that way that kids do. I don’t mind though, because I’ve bought myself a Nintendo Switch (which he will inevitably steal from me one day down the line). The one thing these two systems have in common? Zelda: Breath Of The Wild.
In a move that apes Nintendo’s previous one, this game is the swansong for the WiiU, but also a launch title for the Switch. It’s also an incredibly bonding experience for me and my son. He’s now of an age where he can play these games and understand most – if not all – of the game mechanics. Some of it is lost on him – the reams and reams of text detailing the various quests clearly go over his head. But that’s where daddy comes in.
As I am playing the game at the same time as he is – and am further ahead too – I’m always on hand to offer him guidance when he gets stuck. He talks about it nonstop, from the moment he wakes up, till the moment he goes to bed. I personally have no problem whatsoever with this, but it can wear on his mother’s nerves, as he is effectively speaking a different language to her when he talks about the game.
It’s incredible how far he’s come since those days back in 2011, when he was merely an observer. Indeed he’s even teaching me a few tricks; it’s like having a mini co-pilot. These games aren’t released very often, so I’m savouring it, trying to make it last. I can see he wants to rush through though, but thankfully his lack of grasping the finer details means that I can slow the pace down.
His time on the game is monitored (I fully believe that he would play it from sun-up to sun-down if he could) and it’s taken away if he misbehaves. I’m a parent who believes that gaming, in reasonable doses, is not only a positive thing for kids but beneficial too. Gaming is much more interactive than just watching a film, or a TV series. It also enhances hand-eye coordination and improves fine-motor skills.
I love the discussions we have, the thousand-and-one questions he hurls at me every day, the many, many drawings he does, of the many, many characters in the game. He’s even created pictorial books – yes, books! – detailing the adventures he’s undertaken in the game. When he himself runs out of steam, or finds a certain character a bit too difficult to draw, then he calls on me to aid him (I’m OK at tracing but have no real natural talent, my son does though, he has a certain style that I think is fantastic).
It’s a fantastic thing to see, his big eyes shining with awe as he talks about his latest run-in with one of the game’s baddies. The many fist-bumps we share with each other when one, or the other, solves a riddle, or defeats a particularly troublesome baddie. He’s got a lot of patience too, for a six-year-old, I’ve yet to see him get angry. Whenever he gets defeated – even if it’s for the 20th time – he simply dusts himself off (metaphorically speaking) and gets stuck right back in.
It won’t be long though before we meet Ganon, and defeat him, bringing this fantastic game to an end. This time however we won’t only do it together, but also together: he on his system and me on mine.
Then it will just be a case of waiting another 5 years or so for the next instalment…then I’m fairly sure he will be the master, and I the apprentice…
I invested in a Nintendo Switch at launch – yes I actually managed to get one! – as the only way I can play games these days is in a portable form. This is mainly due to the TV being used for family viewing – shows, films etc. Playing games has to fit around my other duties – and never the other way around.
It was supposed to just be my domain – mine alone. However my children soon persuaded me into letting them have a go. One thing that I love about Nintendo is that, by and large, their games are wholesome, I don’t have to worry about my children seeing or hearing anything they shouldn’t. This even extends to their online gaming, players are not allowed to speak to each other, just select from a set of pleasant phrases.
My children’s choice for gaming tonight? Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. I must admit to initially dismissing this as a lazy port from the WiiU, Nintendo’s ‘failed’ system (though I’d argue against that, we have one in the house and my son loves it). However I have grown to love it over the last week or so, a love that quickly spread to my kids.
How did they get on? Well see for yourselves as I give a brief description of their playing styles:
(shooting anything and everything as often as possible)
‘Shoot it! Shoot it!Shoot it!Shoot it!Shoot it!Shoot it!Shoot it!Shoot it! It’s coming at me! I’m getting the sea!!! Shoot it!Shoot it!Shoot it!Shoot it!Shoot it!Shoot it! Look at that guy!!! Daddy Look at that guy!!! Shoot it!Shoot it!Shoot it!Shoot it!Shoot it!Shoot it! I’m winning Daddy!!! Shoot it!Shoot it!Shoot it!Shoot it!Shoot it!Shoot it!Shoot it!’
This goes on throughout the match, he does not close his mouth at all – except for a ten minute break where his tooth falls out (due to natural causes I might add, it’s been wobbling for a while).
(reverses slowly in a circle, holding one solitary banana skin)
Stays absolutely silent throughout and, I think, the other players take pity on her, as she still has four of her five balloons left at the end of the battle.
We had a great time playing it together, it’s a top system and I can see it becoming more integrated into family life. Not just now though, the Switch is a somewhat ‘fragile’ system and so not one that can be left alone with a very active 3 and 6 year-old. For now it will just be the odd supervised bit of fun…and the rest of the time? It will be mine..(does best Bowser impersonation) ALL MINE! BWA HA HA!!
I buy game on eBay.
I see same game listed later on eBay bundled with other game for a great price.
I buy this bundle and decide to sell original game to lower overall cost.
I find photo of game.
I copy-and-paste French description of game.
I start to input details in listing.
Listing tells me I have address in France and yet country of residence is UK.
I understand this.
I correct this.
Listing wants to know what method of postage I will provide.
I understand this.
It will be free.
After three attempts I locate ‘free postage’ option.
There are still red words everywhere.
Something is wrong.
I want to put my game on a buy-it-now.
I am a busy man*.
I want it off my hands.
I want to sell it for 40 Euros.
OK, I’ll try 42.
I input the price: 42.00 Euros.
There is red writing everywhere.
Something is wrong with the price.
Maybe I should try 40.00 Euros.
There is red writing everywhere still.
This goes on for some time.
I get up.
I leave the room.
I pick up hammer and go back in room and look at lap-top.
I put hammer back.
I try again.
42.00 is not the answer to life, the universe and everything.
There is still red writing everywhere.
Then it hits me.
I input 42,00.
There is now no more red writing.
The game is listed.
I send a message to my partner regarding the lack of decimal points.
‘Welcome to France’ she texts back.
*No, I just can’t be bothered with waiting
‘Can we have a dog? can we have a dog? can we have a dog? can we have a dog? can we have a dog?’ is what I hear in my memory when I think back to my childhood. Yes, I really, really wanted a dog. One that would sleep at the foot of my bed, curled up snoring away, and then waking me up with a slobbery lick of its tongue in the morning.
Now? I want a dog. A bald one.
We’ve spent the day at the French father-in-law’s. It’s miserable and wet* and so we have spent the majority (read: all) of our time indoors. They have a dog. Its hair is everywhere. We (read: his mum) bought my son a new dressing gown, it’s black and white and has the Star Wars logo splashed all over it. At least it did. Now it’s pretty much white all over.
Plus I think it now constitutes a fire-hazard.
This is due to the lovely, cuddly, hairy dog-in-residence – Fleur. She’s a beautiful Labrador, huge soulful eyes, friendly demeanor. Complete lack of control of her follicles.
The dressing gown I can cope with, and the slippers, and the coats, and the jumpers, and and and…
But due to the confined nature of our visit the kids have pulled out all the toys – who can blame them? – to occupy themselves with. My daughter has a lot of fun with this, another pet-hate (no pun intended) of mine:
Yes, it’s a Play-doh activity set, specifically designed to allow kids to have minutes of fun creating items that vaguely resemble burgers, chips, biscuits etc. etc.
It also enables parents to enjoy hours of free cardio-vascular exercise, as they struggle to get the stuff out of carpets, hair, clothes, teeth, toenails etc. etc. When we first moved into our new home in France I made a mistake, I left my daughter alone with some Play-doh for a period of time in excess of 90 seconds.
I’m still finding bits of the stuff around the house to this day…
I love the smell of Play-doh, takes me right back to when I was six. I also hate Play-doh.
But here’s the real cherry on the cake, pictures which despite none of the materials being edible still turned my stomach. So of course I had to share them with you (read: no I didn’t).
Can you see those whispy bits sticking out of the machine? Do you now know why I felt so sick when the tub of ‘spaghetti’ was being shoved in my face? I told you the dog’s hair got everywhere didn’t I? Bleurgh.
I’m particularly proud of this next photo:
I should enter it for the Turner prize, I can call it ‘Spoiled childhood’ or ‘Hair of the dog’ or simply ‘It’s not real – honest!’. It does look real though, doesn’t it? My kids have done what all kids do with Play-doh (is that how you spell it? can’t be bothered to Google it) whereby they get several pots, all the colours of the rainbow, and then they just turn it into a brown mush.
A brown mush that is now infested, infested with white dog hairs.
You see now why I want a bald dog?
But it’s ok, turns out they want a cat.
Cats are fine.
They just make me nearly die from having a near fatal asthmatic reaction to them. Hmmm, dog hairs or asthma..choices, choices…
*I’m thinking of asking for a refund, I knew it wouldn’t be the Tropics when I moved over here to France, but if this weather keeps up I’m in danger of evolving/mutating gills. Hey, but then I can have lots of watery adventures, and maybe hook up with Jeanne Tripplehorn, just like Kevin Costner did in Waterworld (nah, if I evolve I know/hope I’ll just develop my own vacuum cleaner-like appendage).
My son is now 5-and-a-half, and so he has discovered the joys of video games. However in a bid to keep him entertained, as well as educated, we keep an eye on what games he plays. We allow him to access a game site called Free4school, which is full of games suitable for his age level.
Nothing he’s played on there has caused me to worry too much, or even raise an eyebrow in worry, till the other day.
I walked past him as he was glued to the laptop, beavering away at a game on a rainy afternoon (it’s a treat, and one that we don’t allow him to indulge in too much). It looked like good, clean harmless fun. Till I noticed the title of the game.
Look how cute (or should that be ‘Kute’?) it looks:
For the uninitiated ‘Seppuku’ means the ritual suicide by disembowelment carried out by samurai. It literally means “stomach cutting.” The samurai committing seppuku would shove a dagger such as a tanto into their stomach while another samurai acted as their second by lopping off their head.
So how do you, as a game designer go from this:
To a fluffy animal based puzzle platformer like this?:
Here’s the game designer himself chiming in: ‘Hi Guys, here it is, my latest major project is a puzzle platformer with a twist – it actively encourages to kill yourself to solve some levels! And if you’re going to be killing yourself often, wouldn’t you rather be playing as suicidal cute animals? I know I would!’
Ok so I played Lemmings when I was a kid, but that only occasionally required you to killed the little green guys. It wasn’t the entire basis of the game. Maybe I’m not as bloodthirsty as some people out there though. Here are a few reactions from people who have played the game (not my son, I might add).
And this one is my personal favourite:
After not very much internal debate, I have decided not to let my son play this game again. He will just have to wait till he’s 9, then he can play GTA 7, like all the other kids*.
*This is a joke on my part, but a scary reality for far too many people that I know.
I watch in horror as the heavy piece of rubber hurtles skyward, completely off course and heading straight for a family of four. There’s a mum, a dad a toddler and a baby in a pram. Thankfully – and I use that term in the loosest possible sense – dad feels the full force of the welly. This gloriously sunny Sunday is not going well, I think to myself. And this is only the first 30 minutes. I’m manning the stall for three hours. Three hours. But surely that’s the worst thing that can happen on the welly-wanging stall isn’t it?
I do a lot of volunteering in my village, partly to keep myself active, partly to feel part of the community and partly to keep my CV looking relatively healthy (some people don’t see ‘stay-at-home-dad’ as a worthwhile usage of time – they think we sit around all day playing PS4, when in actual fact we spend all our time writing articles that overuse the word ‘partly’ for our world-famous blogs *cough cough*). One of the groups I help out with is the local PTA.
I helped them run a Minion-themed night a few weeks back. There were over a hundred kids. Then we put minions in the room. Then we gave the kids pop and sweets.
I’m still having nightmares about that one
Kind-heartedly – or foolishly, you decide – I offered to help them out again at the summer fair. A yearly event involving inflatable castles, face painting, tombolas and lots of confusing games. They all cost either 50p or £1. That’s generally the upper limit for a school gala. Anything costing more than that is frowned upon.
I’m asked to man the ‘welly-wanging’ stall, and nod my head in agreement. ‘That’ll be a doddle’ I think to myself. ‘After all they do it every year’.
‘We’ve never done this before’ says the head of the PTA to me, on the aforementioned gloriously sunny Sunday, as he ambles past. ‘Good luck’. I set up my stall and mark out the ‘target area’, thinking as I do that it’s rather close – some might say dangerously so – to the football stall next to it. After I’ve marked out the target zone I set out my wellies, or wellington boots, there’s three different sizes, for the three different age-ranges we have. So small ones for the 3-7 year-old bracket, medium for the 7-11-year-old bracket, and really heavy ones for the ‘adult’ bracket.
I then look at the prizes. The youngsters get a toy tractor, the middle kids get a box of chocolates, and the 11 and over category get a bottle of wine. I point out that this means in theory we can have a 12-year-old walking away from a school fair with the top prize of alcohol in their hands.
The PTA hastily agrees that we should ‘Contact the parent of the winning thrower, and make sure they accept it’.
Before I continue I should probably give you some information about the wild and crazy world of wellies, and indeed welly wanging.
Here’s a welly:
Want to know what welly-wanging actually is? Here’s some info from Wikipedia:
Welly wanging is a sport that originated in Britain in Upperthong, Holmfirth. Competitors are required to hurl a Wellington boot as far as possible within boundary lines, from a standing or running start. A variation requires participants to launch the welly from the end of their foot as if they were kicking off a pair of shoes. The high level of competition has led to precise, highly regulated rules for the sport. The sport is regulated and administered by the World Welly Wanging Association, based in Upperthong
They must have been really, really bored one day to have come up with this ‘sport’.
I open for business at 1pm prompt and, at first, think I’m in for a quiet day. People stroll up, look at me, look at my wellies, smile somewhat pityingly and then carry on to the hook-a-duck stall instead.
But things soon pick up. I’ve got an assistant you see, a ten-year=old lad from the school who loves drumming up business. ‘COME AND WANG A WELLY’ he shouts. And when that doesn’t work he effectively encourages/bullies his school friends into having a go. We soon start cashing in, especially with our attractive price – 50p a go.
Things go wrong when the adults get involved.
The kids, in either category, are limited by their development. The adults have no such limitations. Some truly monstrous looking men begin having a go at hurling the wellies as far as they can, and any fears I had of a 12-year-old walking away with the wine are soon put to rest. No 12-year-old has a hope against some of these man mountains.
It’s one of these behemoths who hits the daddy and his family. But daddy’s ok, he laughs it off. But I’m worried, more for the kid in the pram than anything. ‘This wasn’t on the risk assessment’, I think to myself. ‘These people are too close to the stall, it’s a health and safety nightmare’.
The headmaster passes me by and stops for a chat. ‘Everything ok?’ he asks me. ‘Not really’ I say to him, ‘These people are too close to the stall, it’s a health and safety nightmare’. He nods his head, ‘Yeah, we should have covered that on the risk assessment’, then he ambles off.
The next victim is a young chap, he’s chilled out, enjoying the sun with his friends. This enjoyment soon ends when a size 10 welly smacks him straight in the face. We’re lucky though, he’s 13 and brushes it off, saving the bragging rights for later.
Another adult strolls up, he’s not muscly, but you can tell he’s got power. He’s just got that ‘coiled spring’ look about him. He takes a run up, winds his arm back ‘This one’s a winner’ I think to myself. Then the welly disappears. Backwards. He’s thrown it 20-feet behind him, nearly taking out the entire dance class that’s scheduled to perform within the next hour. ‘It can’t get worse than this can it’ I say, to no-one in particular, looking off into the middle distance, wondering if I could just walk off and leave my stall….
The worst thing then happens.
A mum and her three kids roll up at the stall, they look like they’re having fun, and they’ve clearly made the effort for the fancy dress competition. Mummy is dressed as one of the Pink ladies from Grease, son is Buzz Lightyear and daughter is generic Disney Princess. They look like they want to ‘have a wang’. So does the 11-year-old next to them. But he’s already paid so he has first dibs. He takes a run up and, WANG!
The welly doesn’t even get over the starting line. No, it promptly takes a 90-degree left-turn straight into little miss generic Disney Princess’ face. The tears are immediate and the cries are loud. Mum looks at me, I apologise profusely. ‘It’s alright’ she says to me, ‘I think she’s just a bit tired’. I look at the little girl, who now has the imprint of a size 8 wellington boot on her face and think to myself ‘Yes, it’s definitely fatigue, not concussion’.
It’s late, I’ve had enough and so I pack up the stall and head off towards the exit, pausing as I do to drop the money off with one of the PTA ladies. ‘Same time next year?’ she says to me jovially. ‘Next year’ I say to her ‘I’m doing the hook-a-duck stall’.