I have always played Trivial Pursuits. It's just one of those things we did as a family (after mum had been coerced into it); like going on holiday and reading books at the table. I always have quite fond memories of it because it was never too competitive and we always played it at Xmas with nice, family-friendly rules. For example: if no-one knew the answer to the question, then you got to have another one, and so on.
Subsequently, I'm a real drag to play with, because I'm either remembering answers from the last time I played or appearing condescending for trying to ask people a different question from the impossible one they've been confronted with. It's a curious game because it either makes you appear more knowledgeable than you are because you can remember which city hosted the 1972 Olympic Games, or makes you feel much dumber than you are because you didn't know which shoe Maxwell Smart used for his Shoe Phone, the left or right.
The game has players moving a piece around a board, landing on different coloured squares and being asked trivial questions from a stack of cards. The questions are related to the six different colours of the squares they land on (blue = geography, yellow = history, etc). When you land on a large square, one for each colour, and answer the question correctly, you are given a little plastic piece of pie which you slot into your piece. When you have collected all six pieces, you make your way to the centre of the board and are then asked a question of the opposition’s choosing from the next question card. Answer correctly, win the game.
Sit back and I’ll tell you a tale of deviousness and wrath.
My dear old grandfather is, like me, competitive. However, I’m competitive for fun and can’t really take the idea of winning all that seriously. This, I believe, is because the all consuming drive to crush and destroy has been diluted through generations. I sometimes wonder what great-grandad would have been like with a table-tennis bat in hand. Or a pistol.
One night Grandad, Grandma, my dad and an old family friend, Brian*, who lectures in psychology were playing Trivial Pursuits. The game went back and forth, wine was drunk, questions were asked and answered. Finally, Grandad collected all of his pies and made it to the centre of the board. Brian plucked a question card from the box and, together with Dad and Grandma, poured over the six choices of question to ask.
“He’ll know that one … he’ll know the one …” So goes the final question decision. Finally, they set upon a question that everyone was sure even Grandad, with his long life experience and passion for working things out, wouldn’t be able to answer. The question went like this (and I’m paraphrasing here, but the gist of the question will be clear):
“What,” asked Brian in a friendly, encouraging manner “did John Smith drive across the
“I can work it out,” said Grandad. The thing that’s worth knowing about Trivial Pursuits is that many of the questions aren’t just random pieces of information plucked from encyclopedias and books of sporting statistics. Sometimes it is possible to make an educated guess and be correct. A question with a seemingly impossible numeric answer, eg. ‘How many kinds of blood platelets does a caterpillar have?’ won’t have any answer higher than 2 because no-one could be expected to be a caterpillar expert and so the obvious, easy answer will often be the actual answer. These questions are designed to be guessed at like this, so that when the guesser (and often the asker) gets over the initial puzzlement brought about by such a strange question, there is a great deal of satisfaction in saying “I dunno … 1?” and being absolutely correct.
Some questions, however, are beyond this kind of reasoning and require you to actually know what Babe Ruth’s real first name was (George) or when the Berlin Wall came down (1989).
“I can work it out,” repeated Grandad, after the other three pointed out that they sincerely doubted that he could and should just give up in the face of such a tricky question.
“No! It must be something like a mode of transport at that time …” and away he went, Brian acting as a sounding board for his musings and calculations.
“Okay, so it could have been a steam train, they had those in 1919 … but he wouldn’t have gotten one all the way across the states …”
“That’s true,” Brian would reply, glancing discreetly at the answer in his palm so as not to put Grandad off.
“Not a car, too obvious … a bike’s too quick … a bicycle too slow …”
“A skateboard?” Brian would suggest.
“No, too early,” mused Grandad.
After a while the booing and calls for time-up grew in volume, but Grandad would not be swayed. He could get this. If everyone would just keep quiet and let him think.
“You’re not gonna get it, Dad,” moaned my father.
“Give it up!” cried Grandma.
He ignored those and many other calls as the evening wore on. Victory was at both hand and stake. Everyone could bloody well keep their mouths shut. Even Brian stopped ‘helping’ after that.
Finally, after a good thirty or so minutes of solid thought, determination and abuse, he had narrowed it down to two things: In 1919, John Smith had driven across America either a) steam-powered car (as a stunt) or b) a hot air balloon (because, with the right wind, 17 days seemed about the correct time).
“Which is it?” asked Brian, encouragingly tapping the real answer on the thin rectangle of cardboard still in his hand.
Grandad furrowed his much-furrowed brow. “It’s not a hot air balloon, because, technically, you don’t drive them.”
“Yep. It’s a steam-powered car!” Victory!
Brian looked at the card. Dad and Grandma watched.
“What? It’s gotta be!”
“Well what is it then?”
“A golf ball.”
And that is why I do enjoy Trivial Pursuits.
GTH - Point to neil for wishful thinking.