Until procrastination on instagram led me to watching Jen Campbell‘s story one day, I had no knowledge of the existence of The Great Penguin Bookchase game. But the minute I saw it there was an impression of it on my mind that resulted in me scouring the internet to find a copy of it.
Unlike Jen’s friend that was lucky enough to find this copy in a charity shop, almost certainly not having to part with more than a £10 note for it, I had to settle for getting change from £20 (including P&P) but managed to snag a copy that had never been opened or played; all the little book cover stickers needed to be attached to the plastic tokens and the cards needed a good shuffle to help them not be crisply freshly stuck together. The great thing about being able to do the stickers meant I was able to create my own personal bookcase as they give you more stickers than tokens and each sticker is a different book cover from a variety of Penguin categories.
At a glance the game looks a little bit like Trivial Pursuit but the rules are so much better, it’s more fun and you can complete this game pretty quickly. There’s also an easy and harder version, ways to make it more accessible for younger players and a number of cards, a bit like chance cards in Monopoly, that can see somebody’s bad luck crashing on their knowledge dominance parade.
A harder version of the game means that if you land on a category you already have you have to answer another question and if you get it wrong then the book you proudly claimed moments ago is back off your bookcase. The questions themselves are generally multiple choice but you could just ask the questions and give no options to add another level of complexity to it. Easier versions for under 18’s include them being able to use a card at the library that allows them to pick up two books rather than one. This flexibility, even for different players within the same game, makes this really flexible and inviting for a family instead of something like Trivial Pursuit where younger people are generally at a pretty hefty disadvantage unless they have the junior cards and it is a very up to date version.
Having a number of books through the book covers mentioned also makes me want to read the books that are mentioned on the board, simply to save that I have, but I can see how this could also open people up to reading other books of a category that they particularly enjoy. As a lot of the books are older/more classical books I cannot imagine this particularly being a way to inspire younger people to pick up more books as they are usually quite daunting to look at but if they find themselves getting a number of answers right they could become inspired to read more in the hopes of betting Grandma at the next family get together.
This is just a really fun game to play, as a book reader and lover, and it is one of the few knowledge based games where my partner and I are pretty level with (I know things he doesn’t and vice versa with the occasional overlap). It certainly wouldn’t be everybody’s cup of tea but it makes for a great evening game or a way to spend some time on a rainy weekend afternoon. If you happen to spot it in a charity shop, at a car boot or for a good price online and you love books then this is something that I would certainly recommend!