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For those of us spending the majority of our waking hours earning an honest crust, the onset of Yuletide is a time of mixed emotions. You might be gradually winding down as holiday mode gradually takes hold; equally, you may be beset with fervour as you try to get everything finished in time. You may have social events with a whole army of people with whom you wouldn't normally socialise, be buried under an avalanche of hastily scribbled Christmas cards and somehow acquire enough chocolate to make the town of Bournville sink into the Midlands. And more fraught still, you might have a Secret Santa...
I was once given a carnivorous plant as a Secret Santa gift. It died obviously, what with me being about as useful in the garden as soluble decking, but I appreciated the effort. Plus, that present stands out a mile amidst some of the 'witty' detritus for which I've felt obliged to look grateful (or at least vaguely amused) over the years: ten copies of OK! Magazine for instance, or 45 tins of Tesco Value marrowfat peas. And the worst insult of all: a Brotherhood of Man CD. (A slight I repaid the following year by buying the guilty party 'Fandabidozi: Our Amazing True Story' by the Krankies, a book whose mere cover is toxic).
Fear, surprise, ruthless efficiency, an almost fanatical devotion to the Pope...
But this year my anonymous benefactor had been paying attention, and my tearing open the obviously-female-wrapped package revealed 'Trivial Pursuit Genus Edition Bite-size'. For back in the 80s I had been one of those deeply tedious folk for whom the original game had been manna from heaven: as the type of lad who was decent at most competitive/academic things without being truly exceptional at anything, here was something that totally played to my abnormal ability to retain completely useless information. I played it a lot in its various early incarnations, ruining many parties in the process, until it eventually dawned on me that there's a difference between being impressive and being likeable, and that practically nobody likes a smartarse. Competitive quizzing was cast aside, but the reputation as a know-all didn't die, and this Christmas the Ghost of Quizzes Past (but not Quizzes Yet To Come, let me reassure you) paid me a visit in gift form.
The game comes in an easily portable (fits in my hand) box whose exterior promises 600 new questions (which could be added to an original Genus or Genus II box to augment their question stock: satisfyingly, the questions categories are the original ones, rather than the daft nonsense with which the manufacturers attempted to jazz things up later on). Breaking into it reveals a (somewhat annoyingly tightly packed) container in the classic TP wedge shape, resembling a large thick purple chunk of Dairylea. The annoyance extends to the opening of that container: scrabbling fingers struggle to prise off the lid before you discover that said lid is bafflingly attached to the body by means of a length of wire running through a couple of eyelets before looping through the base via two small holes. But once the top has been removed (and the wire wrenched clear and tossed crossly aside) you are confronted with a deck of cards and a die: the former contains 100 question cards (and two more that explain the rules), and the latter has a TP category colour on each face.
There is no board, and the rules are simplistic. The youngest player starts, and the die is rolled to determine the category of question to be asked. If the answer is correct then the card goes to the back of the pack, the die is rolled again and another card is picked for the player's 'Wedge' question. If the player answers this correctly too, they keep the card and put it in front of them: if not, the card goes to the back of the deck. To win another card, the player must answer a question on a new card before they can try to answer the 'Wedge' question on the next card (a little like the 'red-colour' arrangement in snooker). A player keeps their turn until they get a question wrong, and the winner is the first to collect six cards.
* The game is highly portable and tremendously convenient, requiring next to no space in which to play. (It doesn't even need a truly flat surface). As such it's excellent for journeys (if not necessarily for children).
* It's a quiz. Some of us, despite the years we've spent in denial, regardless of the risk of complete social pariahdom (sic), really like quizzes.
* It's good for up to four players...any more would get frustrating. (I can imagine it would be useless played in teams, mind you).
* The packaging is somewhat frustrating.
* It's disconcertingly easy to lose track of whether you're answering a 'Wedge' question or not...at least it proved easy for one person with a decent degree and one person with a Computer Science degree to do that. (The rules cards suggest a 'Speed Game' where you get a card for every question answered correctly...that sounds very much like 'Who Can Answer Six Questions?' rather than 'Trivial Pursuit').
* Maybe it's me, but the questions are easy, too easy, and far easier than I remember them being back in the day. Also, because the objective is just to answer any six 'Wedge' questions correctly rather than one from each category, it's possible to play an entire game without being tested on any dodgy areas of your knowledge.
* And there aren't really enough questions...you'd get through those hundred cards within a few games.
But I'm not going to look a gift horse in the mouth, and Bite-size Trivial Pursuit constituted a fun (if brief) reminder of my youthful indiscretions/inadequacies (and is therefore ahead of that Brotherhood of Man CD, which I refuse to use even as a coaster). Investigation on Amazon seems to imply it's only available used at roughly £24, but seeing as we had a Secret Santa limit of a fiver I'd hope it could be obtained more cheaply elsewhere.
(Previously on Ciao)