Totopoly, Game Night Of Kings!

Long before George Costanza's dad decreed that December 23 was Festivus, my oldest friends and I have observed a different December 23 tradition. While we may air grievances, we eschew the feats of strength to play a British board game from the 1930's called Totopoly.  We don't know how the tradition started, but it has been observed for decades. And the rivalries are fierce and entirely luck based.

Totopoly is a horse racing game.  It's unique feature is that it is a double sided board.  On the first board you acquire horses and "train" them, which consists of moving them around the board and picking up cards. Some are tiny little squares.  Sometimes the cards help and sometimes they hinder.  Sometimes your horse can get heel bug.  I do not know what heel bug is, but it is most unwelcome. Some cards are disadvantages or advantages that you use in the second half of the game.

 

 Understand this. Jerome Fandor is a terrible horse.

Understand this. Jerome Fandor is a terrible horse.

On this first side of the board, you also have professions.  He who is the forage merchant can make a lot of money! And there's a lot of fussing with money. You buy feed for your horses, you pay for training, and you even join an owners' club and host dinners. 

It bears noting at this time that most, if not all, of the pieces to this game have been damaged for years. I think all the jockeys appear to have been decapitated at this point. Ichabod Crane would be sore afraid of this game.

Once training is complete on side one, the board is flipped over, and you race.  You try to get rid of your disadvantages, and try to avoid the spot on the board WHICH CAN KILL YOUR HORSE!  There is also an elaborate betting system that you can use.

 See! Your horse can actually burst a blood vessel and die. Why PETA doesn't show up to protest this game is a mystery.

See! Your horse can actually burst a blood vessel and die. Why PETA doesn't show up to protest this game is a mystery.

But here's the thing, at the end of the race, the winner is the owner of the horse that finished first.  THE MONEY IS ENTIRELY MEANINGLESS.  I suspect that this was actually a disguised way to gamble real money, but can't prove it.

The point is, 1930's British game designers were insane. And that's okay, because my friends are magnificent lunatics, and I cherish this annual tradition which is one of the rare times my childhood friends and I get to connect in person these days, since we have all been scattered to the four winds and have lives and kids and jobs and all that adult stuff that makes it impossible to act like we did when we were young pups who had all the time in the world.

 

But one magical night a year, the starting trumpet sounds and the horses round the track. We don't gamble on the races. We play for glory and love of the game. And the physical prize we receive each year is a ceremonial coupon for Krispy Kreme donuts that expired in 2004. Before 2004, it was just the glory and love of the game thing.

 

 To the victor goes the spoils!

To the victor goes the spoils!

 

Totopoly night is a tradition I look forward to each and every year. Trips are planned around it and family obligations are cast aside for this mighty battle. It is a magical time, and I love getting a chance to act like a kid again with my oldest group of friends. Even if I hope that each and every one of them develops heel bug.