Cardboard Children – Jumanji

By Robert Florence on August 12th, 2014 at 9:00 pm.

Hello youse.

Today I want to talk to you about an old board game called Jumanji. It’s long out of print, and quite difficult to find these days, but it’s a game that delivers a unique experience. The game fell out of favour in some quarters because of its supernatural qualities, but I’ve never let the destruction of a family home get in the way of a good board game experience.

On the Jumanji board itself it says “A GAME FOR THOSE WHO WANT TO FIND A WAY TO LEAVE THEIR WORLD BEHIND”. And this is what all games are, really. They’re an escape, a brilliant trip to another place. We’re all very lucky to have them.

JUMANJI

Jumanji is a game for 1-4 players. It is, at heart, a roll and move game. Each player is represented by a high-quality wood playing piece carved in the shape of a monkey. The playing time of the game is hugely variable, so be aware of that before you start a game with your family. Interestingly, once players have begun the game there is no alternative but to play it through to a finish. No declaring a winner and wrapping up early for this one.

On a turn, a player rolls two dice and watches his or her playing piece as it moves along one of the board’s trails. It seems as if there might be some magnetic mechanism moving the playing piece, but Jumanji instead leans on the influence of magical forces. It’s a really nice addition to the game, and leads to a real sense of occasion at the table.

Once your playing piece has moved, the huge black glass piece in the middle of the board forms spiritual lettering to explain what event you have introduced into your home, and by extension, your universe. As an example, one message reads: “This will not be an easy mission, monkeys slow the expedition.” This is followed by the appearance of wild monkeys in some room of your house. You can expect these monkeys to throw objects, scream, and pretty much wreck everything in sight.

We talk often on these pages about games that manage to come “off the table”, elevating themselves to more than just the manipulation of components on a board. Jumanji runs with this notion to an extreme, filling your house and streets with giant biting insects, wild animals and the occasional deadly torrent of water.

The game continues in this way, with you trying to survive the onslaught of supernatural and magical forces, until one player reaches the middle of the board and manages to shout the word “JUMANJI!” Neatly, the game then “puts itself away” to some extent, pulling all its otherworldy components back inside by way of a whirlwind.

Now, Jumanji is a wild and incomparable experience, but it’s not a game I can easily recommend. First of all – the game is very messy. It has a very short set-up time, sure. And I just told you how easily it all gets put away. But during play it can be extremely untidy. To put it simply, if you’re not the type of person who can abide an elephant running through the wall of your living room, I wouldn’t recommend you even place this game on your table. It’s also a very noisy game. Be sure to let your neighbours know that you’re planning a game, so that they can make all their necessary arrangements – such as going on holiday for a few months until all the houses in the street are repaired.

In fact – I’d maybe even consider consulting the local police before you settle down to a game of Jumanji, if only to make sure that they are capable of bringing down a giant man-eating lion should it make a public nuisance of itself.

Okay, so much for the negatives. What are the positives?

My experience with Jumanji was made special by the appearance of a wild, funny man who had been trapped inside the game for decades. This man (and I’m unsure if he comes with every copy of the game, or if he was just a lucky encounter in mine) had the most expressive and kind face, and a beautiful twinkle in his eye. His appearance happened just as the game was starting to feel rather difficult and scary, and his power was to regularly lighten the mood of the whole affair by cracking jokes and filling the world with his crackling energy. He was brilliant – a real one-of-a-kind.

I speak about the man in the past tense because that game session is over, and it’s unlikely I’ll ever see him (or anyone like him) ever again. I’ll keep playing the game in the hope that I someday will.

IN CLOSING

Jumanji, the board game, is much like life itself. It starts quietly and finishes in much the same way. But between these two stages it is loud and messy and dark and wild and often frightening. The game just wouldn’t be bearable at all if it didn’t have people like that strange wild man, that force of joy and light, bursting forth every so often to provide us with the life-saving distraction of laughter.

, , , .

72 Comments »

Sponsored links by Taboola
  1. Metalhead9806 says:

    Careful… Its dangerous.

  2. Kaeoschassis says:

    <3

  3. Tiax says:

    Really nice article, Rab.

    RIP

  4. Shieldmaiden says:

    Rab, I really don’t have the words to describe how wonderful this piece is in both concept and execution. Williams’ passing has hit me hard as I’m at a low point with my own struggle with depression and this is a really powerful tribute to him. Bravo.

  5. Premium User Badge

    RedViv says:

    It’s only been two months since fate made you use your words to pay tribute to a grand late one, and it’s equally beautiful this time. Thanks, Rab.

  6. derbefrier says:

    This was awesome and unexpected.

  7. Premium User Badge

    J. Cosmo Cohen says:

    What an amazing way to write about him. I don’t normally become affected by the passing of celebrities, but he was truly special, inhabiting some of my favorite films, and I still have a hard time believing he’s gone.

    “What year is it?”

  8. Shadow says:

    A beautiful homage, Rab.

    Rest in peace, Robin.

  9. Ravenshaw says:

    Such a lovely article…

  10. Poirots Progeny says:

    Robin Williams was a colossal talent; he lit up the screen and the characters he created will live on. How tragic that one, who could make so many others happy, was so unhappy himself.

    I think I share the sentiment here when I say that I do not usually get moved by the passing of a performer – but then I remember watching Mork & Mindy as a child, sat by my Father. So many other memories we shared. My Father passed, a while back, and now this. I feel something has left me. Or perhaps changed. But then such is the way of things as we live our lives and grow.

    I must say that I never expected to be moved in such a manner, on a game blog of all places. That is a testament to your writing, Robert Florence. That was a remarkable piece. And I say that with all sincerity. I have been reading RockPaperShotgun for years – this is the first time I felt compelled to create an account and comment. Thank you.

    And thank you for all the wonderful memories Robin Williams.

    You will be missed.

    Nanoo Nanoo.

  11. Mintcake says:

    Thank you.

  12. Premium User Badge

    X_kot says:

    A touching tribute to a Pagliacci who made us laugh in spite of his heavy heart.

  13. MadTinkerer says:

    I was not expecting Cardboard Children to bring a tear to my eye.

    Thanks, Rab.

  14. Sp4rkR4t says:

    You magnificent bastard. That is all.

  15. Premium User Badge

    Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

    Bravo. Now there was a game that made you roll sixes.

  16. frenz0rz says:

    Don’t ever stop writing here, Rab.

  17. Giftmacher says:

    This article made me believe in the internet again.

  18. Premium User Badge

    mpk says:

    Unexpected, poignant and true.

    Good words.

  19. elwood_p says:

    Well said Rab.

  20. sax6romeo says:

    salute

  21. PopeRatzo says:

    Why is everyone so sad that Robbie Williams died?

    • Premium User Badge

      Rikard Peterson says:

      Because he was a great actor / comedian that did touch many people by his work, and it was a sad way to die.

      • toxic avenger says:

        You missed the joke, mate. See: Robbie Williams, Brit pop singer vs. Robin Williams, American comedian.

        • Ayasano says:

          To be fair, it wasn’t a very good joke.

          • PopeRatzo says:

            To be fair, Robbie Williams isn’t a very good…whatever.

        • Moraven says:

          Login and see that his comments are blocked…Yah he never really brings anything good here.

          • PopeRatzo says:

            You’re right, Robin Williams would have been outraged that someone tried to make a joke, albeit bad, at a memorial for him.

            He just hated the idea that anyone would try to make humor out of death.
            http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1262981/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1

            And I bet he especially liked it when someone with high self-regard appointed himself arbiter of acceptable discourse.

    • Kaeoschassis says:

      If you have to ask why people are sad that somebody died, regardless of the person, then I really don’t think you can have it explained to you anyway.

  22. Premium User Badge

    Solgarmr says:

    There’s a twinkle in my eye right now, that was . . . I have no words

  23. Belsameth says:

    Right in the feels…

    <3

  24. Sleepymatt says:

    . What a shitty way for the game to be over though :(. Goodbye Mr Williams, you are already missed.

  25. Asherie says:

    Best boardgame ever. I had so much fun I totally forgot about the two friends that died along the way. Best 18 years of my life. Would play again.

  26. newguy2012 says:

    Sad day.

  27. jonfitt says:

    He was also into the video games:
    http://www.empireonline.com/interviews/interview.asp?IID=1408
    He used to play BF2 online back in the early 00s:
    http://thearchies.blogspot.com/2005/12/mork-me.html

  28. Optimaximal says:

    *applause*

  29. Hmm-Hmm. says:

    Nicely done.

    Mr. Williams, you’ll be missed.

  30. Phoibos Delphi says:

    I read quite a lot of good pieces on the topic today, but this one is simply the most beautiful and most saddening one. Another victim of depression, another fellow gaming nerd and another great actor is gone forever.

    He’ll always be the King of the Moon to me.

    Thanks Rab.

  31. Comrade Roe says:

    That was one amazing way to right about that wonderful glorious comedian’s sad depressing death.

  32. Viper50BMG says:

    Well played, Rab.

  33. zytos says:

    I can’t put my finger on what it is about this piece that has moved me so much. I’m 31. And I feel 12 again after reading this. The author somehow brought me back to the best years of my life–before the pressure and worries that all adults experience begin to weigh. To a time when I was sitting on my parents’ living room floor, in front of my dad, watching this film, and Robin. Long-time lurker and I just wanted to post this.

    Thanks.

  34. Skabooga says:

    Thank you, Rab.

  35. trjp says:

    Rab you fucking BEAUTY you…

  36. Synesthesia says:

    thanks rab, that was beautiful.

    .

  37. spr00se says:

    Very well said mate.

  38. Scurra says:

    Just joining the crowd to say thank you. It’s a shame you won’t be able to write a similar piece about the equally peerless Lauren Bacall, but I guess we can’t have everything.

  39. Geewhizbatman says:

    The board game that was made to tie into the movie wasn’t very good, despite its amazing use of “hidden” effects using that red screen filter trick that was so popular before all this electronic tie in malarkey. That and nothing is as magical without Mr. Williams.

    I am sure he and his daughter Zelda would find this article and this website a beautiful place to honor him:

  40. Premium User Badge

    Deckard97 says:

    Just a great article. Thanks for this.

  41. DRoseDARs says:

    This would be the 3rd time today I’ve cried. May he find peace in death that he could not find in Jumanji or in life. Sleep well, Genie. You are free…

    • Premium User Badge

      Jalan says:

      I’d prefer to think of him getting an opportunity at endless second chances a la What Dreams May Come.

  42. nzmccorm says:

    God damn it, internet, that’s not fair. Fuck.

  43. Tiltowait says:

    Cheers here is on for you and you.

  44. Lukasz says:

    What a brilliant piece. Thank you.

  45. Premium User Badge

    thedosbox says:

    Damnit, right in the feels. This was a great tribute, thank you.

  46. AngryAnt says:

    Like many others I don’t generally feel anything when celebs pass, but this one has really hurt me and this article has probably been the best tribute I’ve seen.

    Thank you for writing it!

  47. craigdolphin says:

    Very well played, Sir. Beautiful job.

    RIP RW.

  48. Saarlaender39 says:

    At first I thought:”Wtf? – there is a real “Jumanji” – boardgame?”

    Followed by:”Wtf? – Rab’s just kidding over the movie’s plot?”

    And then – after reading on – I shed a tear in remembrance of this wonderful, strange wild man.

    Well done, Mr. Florence…very well done. Wonderfully written.

  49. zentropy says:

    Well done <3

  50. RARARA says:

    Poignant. Thanks a lot, Rab.