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Subject: Of rare games and insects.... rss

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Paul Burkhard
United States
Fort Collins
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"Poisson d'Avril," a classic game, yet difficult to get your head (or hands) around. It is clearly a game ahead of its time, yet grounded in the simpler leaf/stick/rock children's games played throughout much of Western Europe throughout the Dark Ages and the Early Renaissance. While some of the bits are rather opaque, the mechanisms are pure genius, but nearly incomprehensible without the use of modern Spreadsheet and Database software, which has obviously been a boon to the game.

While I have not been able to actually play the game in person (more on that later,) I have spent much time going over the rules and FAQs from the excellent website. Although this is a "members only" site, it is well worth the 13 and a half bars of perldatinum for membership, provided one can get an invitation to join and has access to a good source of the precious semi-metal.

For those unfamiliar with the overall importance of the work in the continuum of boardgames, direct descendents of the game read like the top 10 list from BGG. Clearly, one must include "Puerto Rico," with its variable role selection seen first seen in PdA's "Spell Incantation and Familiar Summoning" rounds. You also must concede the influence on "Tigris and Euphrates," with the clever internal/external conflict key to the PdA "Struggles of Consciousness" combat phases, "Settlers of Catan," with its variable board setup, familiar to PdA enthusiasts as "The Dance of the Planes," and The Princes of Florence role and attribute auction system with the seminal "Markets of Orgoron" in PdA.

My copy was inherited when a previously unknown distant relative left me a leatherbound steamer trunk in his will. Interestingly enough, this trunk also contained what appears to be a 1542 edition of the famous "Coppertwaddle" game, possibly from the actual court of Henry VIII, as well as a still sealed copy of the extremely rare 1958 edition of "Howdy Doody" Monopoly. (I have contacted both Sotheby's and Christie's regarding the second two games and may offer them at auction, depending upon their appraisals.) Just so you know, there was a lot of junk in the trunk as well, including an unopened case of "Uncle Wiggly" games and the dice and pawns from at least 200-300 sets of the game "Sorry."

My copy of "Poisson d'Avril" was severely waterstained with excessive moth holes and was very difficult to read. It was in unplayable condition upon its receipt. Indeed, the unknowing may have mistaken the treasure for a watersoaked Ouija board or an antique sewing kit. I have since sent it to The Hagenschulz Museum of Recreational Antiquities for a full restoration. It has been gone now for 2 and 1/2 years, but as soon as it returns, I will be posting a complete review. My rating of the game (3.14159) is based upon the susceptibility of the pages and pieces, inexplicably manufactured from an obsolete linen-based paper product, to insect infestation.
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