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Laurence Inman’s Blog

BOARD TEENAGERS

06-01-2009

Never mind the Playstations and Nintendos enjoyed by teenagers …when laurence Inman were a lad, it was board games that caught his imagination. Anyone for “War”?

Kings Heath is not just a slab of suburban houses, shops, dodgy pubs and a park where dogs may defecate to their hearts’ content.

It has a history. I thought I knew quite a lot about it, but two new facts have emerged in the last few weeks which have made me go ‘Well!!!’

The first was the demise of Adams, the children’s clothes shop. It turns out that Adams, on the corner of the High Street and Heathfield Road, is the Adams, where it all started. It was a Kings Heath woman, Mrs Amy Adams, who set it up in her front room in 1933.

I have very fond memories of that shop. I think all the kids clothes we’ve ever bought came from there. When my second son was born we brought him home to discover that none of the stuff we’d got was quite big enough. I ran round there and even though they had been closed for half an hour they took pity on me and opened up.

But all this pales beside another discovery – Cluedo was invented by a bloke from Kings Heath!

Yes! Anthony Pratt, a solicitor’s clerk, dreamt the whole thing up in 1943, when he was forty. He dies on 1994 and is buried in Bromsgrove.

The original game was not quite as it has come down to us. There were, for a start, nine weapons, including a big round black fizzing bomb, the kind of thing one used to see in The Beano every week, and a bottle of poison. There were ten rooms and ten characters.

Mr Pratt and his wife Elva made enough money to retire. He spent a fair bit of time with his near-neighbour, Mr Bull, the inventor of Buccaneer, trying to come up with another winner, but it never happened. So, two great board games emerged from the ordinary suburban roads of Kings Heath.

A third might still come out of the rather duller suburb of Longbridge.

In the early sixties, me and my mates Tez and Nobsy used to play these games incessantly. Then we thought we’d have a go at inventing one ourselves.

We came up with War. Or it might have been War! Or WAR!!!!!

The board consisted of a map of a disputed terrain, with rivers, lakes, roads and things. It was divided into squares. Each side had different coloured counters. (Stay awake!) You moved the counters by throwing a die.

When two opposing counters came into contact, you decided who won by.....yes!....throwing a die. You could have two, or even three, counters against one, in which case you added up the scores for each counter against the one of your opponent. But, this still didn’t mean that you would automatically win that battle, because you might throw three 1’s and your single-counter opponent a 6!

We thought this was the clincher. We thought we’d be able to retire from the first year at bloody Bournville Tech and live in the Bahamas. However, Chad Valley wrote back, saying it ‘lacked originality.’

If I could track down Tez and Nobsy we might try to re-brand it. We could call it Local Territorial Dispute! or Conflict Over Globally Required Resources! or Post-Colonial Knee-Jerk Reaction Which Incidentally Helps To Win An Election!!!!

You never know. Like all 58-year-old I believe that kids today have the attention-span of an underwater gnat. They might lap it up. I might be a millionaire by this time next year.

Oh no! Next year!

Next Year!

Now that would make an interesting board-game.

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