It's been a slow week for video games (almost as slow as last week, in fact), so I've taken it upon myself to review the Parker Brothers' new entertainment, The Mansion of Happiness: An Instructive Moral and Entertaining Amusement. Designed by a clergyman's daughter, Miss. Anne Abbott, this game seeks to amuse and teach Puritan virtues at once! Yes, Puritan. Marvellous...
First, I shall announce that I am currently engaged in talks with a dour and aged sea-captain to learn if we can come into the possession of foreign games sooner. Perhaps some day we'll be able to present our reviews to you within the year! I am sorry, I shall stop with these flights of fancy. Mother always said I was a dreamer.
"The first board game ever published in America," cries the box of The Mansion of Happiness. Is this true? Perhaps we should not investigate the point, and simply let them have it. What item could possibly benefit from an American heritage? They might as well write "The first board game to ever give you dropsy."
Being of fine constitution and immune to disease, I opened the box, and I am glad that I did! The board of The Mansion of Happiness is a marvel, hand-coloured by assembly line. I was bemused at first to find a numbered spinning top as opposed to dice, before the "penny dropped", as it were. Dice are associated with sin and gambling! Oh, Miss. Abbott, you must calm down a bit!
Here is what the instruction manual says.
"WHOEVER possesses PIETY, HONESTY, TEMPERANCE, GRATITUDE, PRUDENCE, TRUTH, CHASTITY, SINCERITY...is entitled to Advance six numbers toward the Mansion of Happiness. WHOEVER gets into a PASSION must be taken to the water and have a ducking to cool him... WHOEVER possesses AUDACITY, CRUELTY, IMMODESTY, or INGRATITUDE, must return to his former situation till his turn comes to spin again, and not even think of HAPPINESS, much less partake of it."
There you have it, sirs. You are not even to think of happiness. I daresay us English will have little trouble with that! Ha! I am saying that we are a miserable people.
What we have here is a roll-and-move game in the adored style of Indian game Paramapada Sopaanam, or "Snakes & Ladders", with specific gaols for each sin. If you are Idle, your playing piece is moved back to Poverty. Committing Crimes sends you to the Prison, and being active on the Sabbath sends you to the Whipping Post!
It is here that I must admit to an error. I did not realise that there were spaces on the board referring to each of these sins, and instead thought that your piece was moved when you committed these sins yourself, as a player! A strikingly inventive idea. And so it was that I had my manservant, Albumen, send invitations to four of the most notorious reprobates in my address-book for an evening of brandy and gameing.
It proved to be an excellent evening! Not ten minutes after we had begun Mr. Buchanan thought it would be a good idea to accuse Giuseppe Garibaldi, the Italian artist, of immodesty. Giuseppe, being a go-getting gentleman, immediately leapt clean across the table to deliver a slap to Buchanan's cheek that silenced the room. I tried to restore order to the situation by playfully accusing Garibaldi of cruelty, only for him to turn his murderous Mediterranean gaze on me! Cooly, I reminded myself that he was an artist and shot him. Everybody agreed that it was a good shot, and a polite round of applause followed.
What did I learn from playing The Mansion of Happiness? Perhaps I should read the rules more closely next-time!
That is all.
The Mansion of Happiness: An Instructive Moral and Entertaining Amusement is available from The Parker Brothers' Entertainments' Overseas Office for 2s 9d.