Sunday, 2 October 2016


The game is rather battered, which is not to say unloved. It arrived in the world battered, the photos on the box slightly misjudged, the instructions printed in type that was almost too small, blotchy and close-set to read. It’s been played a lot. It was your most expensive purchase at the jumble sale, even eclipsing the Grange Hill paperbacks and Gladys Knight and the Pips gatefold LP, and there was a look in the owner’s eyes that almost made you think she would snatch it from your hands at the last minute. But no.
Now you’re home, and it’s time to play. First select your counter. Don’t argue for too long about this. Not everyone can be Dayna; somebody will have to be Vila. One of the pieces is missing – presumed eaten by cat – but you never know, it could come back at the end of the series. You will probably choose to play as Vila.
Roll the dice. Move two spaces. You have landed on an ‘ally’ square. This activates the ‘ally’ player. The person who plays the ‘ally’ card must wear either the funny beard, the funny wig or the funny tabard, or forfeit a round. This time they are wearing the funny beard. (N.B. The ally, by default, is not allowed to finish the game.)
Now you need to know what sort of an expert you will attempt to liberate in this game. This time around it’s Belkov. He’s an expert on mining, electronics, and smug expressions. That means the object of the game will be getting the felcron crystals. Tip them out of their little bag.
Roll the dice. Move five spaces. You have landed on a ‘villain’ square. Get out the ‘villain’ cards, shuffle thoroughly and turn the top one face up. If the ‘villain’ deck has gone missing from your copy of the game, don’t worry: it’s usually Servalan.
Roll the dice. Move one space. You’ve landed on a teleport square. Players elect to teleport or not, except for whoever is playing as Vila who has to move his piece wherever the others tell them. Strategic: Avon normally only teleports down at this stage if there’s someone involved who he wants to kill. (The exception being when Blake is the ally.)
Gameplay continues in a vaguely dramatic but generally pedestrian sort of way. This is the perfect sort of game to enjoy with friends after a few drinks. If you were lucky, you’ll have seen the Blake’s 7 Sodastream kit at a jumble sale, and you can knock back a bright blue Servalan Special whilst awaiting your turn. Now and again, you will land on a square adjacent to the crystals, but you will never land on the square with the crystals on it, or whatever the objective is of the game. The game, after all, is all about strategy and out-thinking your opponent: another reason it’s good to play with friends who are as drunk and uninvolved as you are.
Play passes in order of seniority from Avon down to Dayna. Vila doesn’t get a turn, but the person playing as Vila is sometimes allowed to hold the dice and rattle it around in his or her hands.
You have rolled a four, and landed on a ‘Scorpio’ card. This means the Scorpio is in jeopardy. Pick from the ‘jeopardy’ deck to see whether your solution means that contact is broken off with the other players. Don’t worry if the ‘jeopardy’ deck has gone missing in this board game’s long life: whatever you choose, you will always break off contact with the other players.
At this point, the people playing as Dayna and Avon should look at one another meaningfully and take a drink. It’s in the rules if you can bear to look.
You have rolled a six! That means that you gain a second ‘ally’ card. It must be a computer of some sort. If it’s Orac, Servalan comes into play again. If it’s Slave, the person playing as Tarrant must say something testy and Avon must roll his eyes. If it’s any other computer, you can advance around the board.
To reach the final square, you must sacrifice your ally. If your ally is a traitor, Servalan comes into play. In this round, you sacrifice your computer ally and advance to the final square. You must roll a six for every character before you can win, at which point you put the Servalan card back in the pack and the crystals back in their little bag. If you get the crystals, you lose. You now kick the board over in a drunken rage, saying, what’s the point of games anyway, it’s all just a contrived way of getting people to spend time together who have nothing in common and hate each other’s guts but are united by the desire to gain some meaningless victory as a symbol of defiance against a cruel, meaningless universe. That’s what it says on the back of the box, in fact.
Before entering another round of Blake’s 7, don’t forget to take another drink…

You'll find 'Blake's Space Race' in the 1979 Blake's 7 Annual

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