When East Lothian-based games developer, Tony Mitchell, announced he was launching a new family board game with a quirky Scottish twist, most folk asked if there was going to be a digital version. However, market research told him there was still a steady market for ‘traditional’ board games, and people still loved the idea of sitting at a table and playing together.
The ‘eureka’ moment came after Tony played a version of an ancient Parcheesi game developed by a friend’s uncle which had very few rules, but an infinite combination of strategic, indeed ‘sleekit’, moves. With a background in sports marketing, the game reminded him of many on field skirmishes, and Stramash, the Scottish Board Game, was born.
According to Tony, the game is simple, but requires a certain degree of sleekitness. “It’s a classic chase game but has been described as being like ‘Ludo on whisky’, he says. “It uses interlocking board pieces called Mashies and coloured marbles or Laddies. The key difference is that Stramash is played with playing cards instead of dice, so players must depend on their strategic skills and not simply luck to win the game. As the name suggests, it can become quite feisty. But it’s simply good old-fashioned fun.”
As most Scots will know, the word ‘stramash’ has its origins in Scotland and has come to mean a ‘disorderly gathering’ or ‘ruckus’. It was most famously used by sports broadcaster Arthur Montford when describing a goalmouth rumpus in the 1960s.
Tony has enhanced the Stramash myth by introducing a number of spoof back stories to the game, claiming that Queen Victoria was a big fan and that John Knox banned the game when he became first head of the Church of Scotland as it caused too much aggravation (see below).
“The back-stories are a nod to the myths of the Loch Ness Monster and ‘haggis hunters’,” says Tony. “These are stories that people have talked about for years and often taken with a big pinch of salt, but are testimony to the affection people have for Scotland and the inventiveness of its people.”
With its high production values, Stramash is now attracting a lot of attention and already has a distributor in the USA and Sweden.. The game Stramash can be played by 2 – 6 players and is suitable for ages eight upwards. It costs £39.95 (including UK post and packaging) and can be ordered either direct from the company or from the Amazon website
Stramash: “History and Heritage”
At the end of 2008, a cache of documents came to light in strange and mysterious circumstances in Edinburgh. This strange collection of documents purported to be from a wide variety of sources, the earliest from around 1707. Some looked genuinely old and some more modern. Some were scraps, torn from letters and manuscripts. Some were printed material of greater length. The only things they had in common was their subject matter, a board game called Stramash and they all seemed to have been written in Scotland.
There have been many theories throughout the centuries about Stramash. Here are just a few – believe them if you will:
Rob Roy MacGregor rejected the normal glass marbles when playing Stramash, and instead used discoloured musket balls which he said were “The Dukes’ Balls”, gouged from the wounds he received at the hands of the Dukes of Atholl and Montrose while on the run on Rannoch Moor.
In the 1800s, Scottish regiments were not allowed, according to King’s Regulations, to carry “items of entertainment” in their packs. However, many soldiers kept their dirk down one sock and their Stramash ’Mashie’ (board piece) down the other. Many officers turned a blind eye to this for the sake of morale.
In 1759, Benjamin Franklin visited Edinburgh, drawn by the hotbed of genius at that time. He was introduced to the delights of Stramash by David Hume who brought him to a game at Allan Ramsay’s house.
An anonymous research graduate was working in the National Library and found some references to Stramash in Sir Walter Scott’s draft notes for “Waverley”. According to these documentary notes the source he was using was the weekly Edinburgh paper “The Brig’ o’ Dean Blether*”. (* “The Brig O’ Dean Blether” was literally a weekly newspaper as it would appear to have only been published for one week in May 1807).