I have another game in progress, and it’s called “Any Other Name”. This is, of course a reference to the often-quoted paraphrase of a Shakespearean quote, “a rose, by any other name, would smell as sweet”. It is extracted from a scene in Romeo and Juliet, where Juliet argues that their family names (and feud) should be no obstacle to their love. She is, of course, utterly mistaken, but we won’t dwell on that!
The game originally arose from a little joke. In our family, we often tease each other by deliberately making errors, as we are all pretty rule-focused. So my grandfather would drive me nuts by talking about “when he was a little girl”, or when my mother was a little boy. As a young child, this got me very worked up. As an adult, I can see that it was a great way of making me challenge my pre-conceptions about gender, even though that wasn’t how it was intended.
One of my favourite things to do, especially when shopping in a garden centre with my mother, is to deliberately use the wrong term for small, decorative flowers that are commonly sold as “potted colour”: polyanthus, primrose, violets, violas, petunias… I usually call them pansies. This is a form of self-mockery – I often can’t recall the word that I want, or say a different word aloud from what I thought I was saying. But it’s also a form of family bonding.
Another way we used to bond as a family, back in the mists of time, was play board games. I grew up between New Zealand and Europe, and in Europe, the variety of board games was huge, as were the range of people who played them – contrary to most of the English-speaking world, continental Europeans view “social games” as a perfectly normal adult pass-time.
The opportunity of combining the two, board games and annoying my mother, was obviously too good to pass by, so for laughs, I banged out a description of a game one day, after sending my Mum this picture of some “pansies” that I spotted while walking in a park.
Pansies (aka By Any Other Name)
A trolling game in honour of my Mum
Players have cards with a variety of flowering plants and a list of attributes in their hand. The attributes of a pansy, the only flower not in the deck, are listed centrally.
In a question and answer format, players must convey a description of their “pansy” without using any words on their own card or on the pansy card in such a way that other players can eventually guess what is in their hand. Everything is permitted, from interpretive dance to charades, as long as the forbidden words are not spoken, spelt out, written down, or otherwise communicated.
Players score for guessing, getting their “pansy” guessed, and they also receive points for clue creativity, awarded by other players.
Each “pansy” has a difficulty score for giving clues and guessing, and a difficulty level for words that are permitted, so young players can use more words. Creativity scores are awarded out of 10 by the other players after each guessing session.
There is a “guide to pansies” that players can use for a “fee” (loss of points) in standard mode. The guide has all the different types of pansy and their “alternative” (real botanical and common) names listed, and allows players who don’t know flowers to have some help. Younger players, new players, or players with less knowledge of pansies can play in easy mode, which includes the full guide in their play area (probably on a player screen that only they can see).
The guidebook is a grid of tiles laid out 6×6. Players in standard mode can choose to roll to reveal one coordinate from the guidebook grid, revealing one type of pansy (showing its image, “alternative” names, and description), which then becomes available to all. Each tile also includes a forfeit cost on the back, charged in lost points to whoever turned it over. If they guess that pansy, the forfeit goes to the person giving the clue instead.
How to play a round:
Each player selects one “pansy” to present. In player order, they may give one clue. Once the other players have attempted to guess: If the card is solved, move to scoring. If the card is unsolved, move to the next player. Players may take notes to remember the clues.
Easy mode: allow multiple guesses until the card is solved. No points lost.
Standard mode: 3 rounds of guessing, then discard the wilted pansy into the compost.
Pansies wilt a little each time the guess is incorrect, so they lose one point in value with each additional clue. Composted pansies can be shuffled back into a new deck if the drawing pile runs out.
Backstory: based on my actively calling every flowering plant of a similar size a pansy (pictured) because being trolled for 20 years is my mum’s favourite way to live.
Probably the most interesting part of this is how little the core concept has changed as the game has developed. It’s still there, if refined. I wonder how similar the final rulebook will be to this initial joke post?