House Of Games: The Saddle Club Show Jumping Game

June 8, 2009

John continues to explore what happens when you take popular culture and throw dice at it…


I love horses. But I can never eat a whole one. It’s an old joke, yet it’s true. Spooky, no?

horse crazy

The source material: The Saddle Club began life as a series of tween-skewing book published by Bantam between 1986 and 2001. Presumably intended as a Sweet Valley High-type series for lonely girls named Jacinta, they were ostensibly written by Bonnie Brayant, but were reportedly churned out by a number of ghostwriters. There were 101 titles in the main series, plus spin-off series of Super Editions, Inside Stories, Pony Tales (get it!?!) and Pine Hollow.

The books are set in the fictional town of Willow Creek, Virginia, and follow the adventures of Carole Hanson, Stevie Lake and Lisa Atwood who all ride together at Pine Hollow Stables. The first book is entitled Horse Crazy, which gives some idea of what’s to come. The girls are 12 years old at the beginning of the series, and they remain that way for the next fifteen years. Perhaps Willow Creek is one of those vampire towns.

The books were made into a highly successful television series in 2001 (and by “highly successful” I mean “highly merchandised” – the show spawned an alarming amount of tie-in product, including a surprising number of half-arsed singles, such as Hello World and Hey Hey, What You Say). The series was an Australian/Canadian co-production – surely a phrase that instills fear in most people – and 52 episodes were produced over two seasons, with a third season reviving the franchise last year (while the third season is considered a continuation, it has been entirely recast due to the original stars unprofessionally refusing to stay 12-years-old for the last seven years –  it’s not surprising women can’t get decent roles on Australian television if they insist on ageing).


The Wikipedia page for the TV show claims the characters were brought together through “recognizing their love for horse riding“, which makes it sound a bit like Brokeback Mountain. Only with horses. The article goes on to say “Throughout the series, The Saddle Club has to deal with Veronica, dressage training, and competitions, as well as the troubles of their friends and staff in the fictional Pine Hollow Stables. Through perseverance and friendship, The Saddle Club always comes through. The Saddle Club also has a mission set before them: get Veronica to take care of Garnet. The Saddle Club wasn’t successful in their attempts to get Veronica to take care of Cobalt, Veronica’s earlier gorgeous horse, due to him being put down because of a jumping accident“. No wonder this article may require cleanup to meet Wikipedia’s quality standards.

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House Of Games: Thunderbirds International Rescue Game

November 28, 2008

House Of Games is a series in which John explores what happens when you take popular culture and throw dice at it. This week’s board game is…


So here’s the thing – I never saw Thunderbirds when I was a kid. In fact, I think the first time I saw Thunderbirds I was in my mid-20s and that’s really not the time to be discovering Supermarionation.

I grew up in country WA and we only had one commercial television channel – GWN, or the Golden West Network. Their programming was a mish-mash of the major commercial networks but obviously there was only room for a third of the content of the big-smoke – so I grew up with no knowledge of Thunderbirds, or Bill Collins, but did get to see Crusader Rabbit and that mid-60s Beatles cartoon series. The other channel available was the ABC, which was the only choice in some rural areas – which is why country people know so much about opera simulcasts.

As it turned out, the Evil Doctor Chris was the only member of our House Of Games test group who knew Thunderbirds well. While helpful, this would lead to outbursts of his famed violent temper – “For god’s sake, only Thunderbird 3 can go into space!” he would bellow while upending the coffee table. But I’m getting ahead of myself…

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House Of Games: The James Bond Secret Agent Game

November 12, 2008

In the first of our new series, John will be exploring what happens when you take popular culture and throw dice at it.


I grew up in a house full of board games. I also grew up with both my older brothers roughly 200 kilometres away at a Boarding School, so I didn’t get a chance to play those games very often. School holidays, mostly. Since I was quite a bit younger, I always lost. An eight-year-old will usually not beat a 16-year-old when playing Poleconomy.

So to this day I see board games as the ultimate representation of loneliness and defeat. Only kidding! I love ’em. The sight of a large rectangular box can still bring on nostalgic flashbacks, as can the smell of certain chipboards and solvents. We had a cupboard full of games, mostly strategic, grown-up games – things like Battleship, Mastermind, Risk… Intelligent, adult, worthy games.

As a child, however, I sometimes yearned for those other games – the ones based on trashy, mindless American entertainment, with lurid artwork and novelty playing pieces – I wanted to play Six Million Dollar Man – Bionic Crisis, or The Love Boat World Cruise Game. I dreamt that one day the Murder She Wrote Game would be mine.


But when I became a man, I put away childish things. No longer did I dream of moving a small cardboard picture of Lee Majors around a piece of reinforced cardboard. And by that time, the board game was on the way out, man – everyone knew grunge-based CGI virtual-reality porn was the entertainment of the future. There was no room for poorly-designed games based on Are You Being Served?

Pop-culture-based board games were something I never thought of again.

Until now.

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