We’re in the middle of a Kickstarter for our Tiny Games App (BACK US, IT WILL BE AMAZING), and it’s Easter weekend, so we were going to design some Tiny Games for Easter – but when we began coming up with ideas, we kept getting distracted by all the quick, fun, silly, gorgeous Easter games that already exist. So instead, here’s some Easter games in the spirit of the Tiny Games project, but with a lineage that’s sometimes hundreds of years old – and a lot more eggs.
Last year, we spent July travelling around London. We stood outside libraries and council chambers and bandstands, in the middle of bandstands and parks and public squares, on the side of little streets and big railway stations and bandstands, and went: hrrrrm. What looks like fun?
A “transformation deck” is a pack of cards where the front of each card has been transformed: where an illustrator has taken the standard front – four diamonds, or three spades, or whatever else – and drawn a picture around it: turning hearts into tulips, say, or clubs into faces.
It sounds like a nice but slightly arcane thing to do, but it turns out, people have done it a lot, starting in 1803 and never stopping since.
In 1913, H.G. Wells wrote a book called Little Wars. It’s a set of rules for a toy-soldier game, and it sounds like it’s probably pretty good fun; but the main appeal of the book lies in two areas:
1. There are lots of pictures of moustache-wearing Edwardian men looking puzzled by little paper houses.
2. And Chapter 2, “The Beginnings of Modern Little Warfare”, is an incredibly detailed 4000-word essay on how the game was designed: the rules Wells started off with, what worked, what didn’t, how it changed, basically the entirety of his design process. Anyone who’s designed a game may find some of it eerily familiar.
There’s the inspiration, with a throwaway observation:
The beginning of the game of Little War, as we know it, became possible with the invention of the spring breechloader gun. This priceless gift to boyhood appeared somewhen towards the end of the last century, a gun capable of hitting a toy soldier nine times out of ten at a distance of nine yards.
Technological impetus to innovation, there. Then some airy declarations about how there’s “definitely a game in that”, and a vague attempt at trying it out with whatever they had to hand:
In the run-up to Christmas, we would like to heartily recommend that you do not, repeat do not, cast aside your usual pastimes for some Victorian Christmas games. We’ve just spent an hour poking around, and it turns out that in the nineteenth century, the most popular British Christmas games were those that involved grave risk of injury. There’s “Shoe the Wild Mare”, in which you balance a plank between two chairs, stand on top of it, and try to hit its underside with a hammer ten times without falling off. There’s “Hot Cockles”, in which one player shuts their eyes and everyone else takes it in turn to hit them on the back, until the eyes-shut player guesses which blow belonged to who. And there’s Snapdragon, which combines the cheery warm let’s-all-gather-round-a-table traditions of Christmas with (a) alcohol, and (b) fire.