I’ve always wanted to invent my own board game. As a kid, I was the mastermind behind several new games, including Cops and Robbers II—an elaborate affair involving a three-strikes-you’re-out-via-electric-chair rule (the strikes cleverly tracked by attaching clothespins to the unlucky robbers’ T-shirts)—and Orphans, which was exactly what it sounds like and always starred a resourceful eldest orphan child who thrived in her new pseudo-maternal role (played by me, every time). These games were a hit in my neighborhood (or at least in my own head), but a decent board game was always beyond my reach. Turns out, it’s hard to invent a board game. You need a head for logistics, design skills, and, above all, I felt, an imaginative concept.
Then again, if you pay attention to the board games market, you begin to see that innovative concepts are few and far between. I swear, every board or card game introduced in the past ten years has been a remake of an older game that required no special equipment, a mash-up of several previously published games, or yet another addition to the -Opoly family. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from my extensive research, it’s this: forget innovation and just rip someone off.
With this rule in mind, I’ve come up with a new board game called Sorry!—The Celiac Edition.
For this game, you’ll need a board, pieces, and numbered cards from the game Sorry! (which is, by the way, itself a ripoff of Parcheesi).
Although it could be said that for 3 million Americans, this is already the Game of Life, the game is for 3 to 4 players. Every player except one represents a celiac patient and, unlike in the standard version, receives just one of the 16 pawns.
The remaining player represents Gluten. Assigned based on highest cruelty level as determined by popular vote, this player gets all the remaining pawns.
As in Sorry!, the object is to get your pawn from Start to Home, here known as Health. The players all have their own Start and Health spaces, because every road to health is unique.
Play proceeds clockwise, beginning with the sickliest player—again, determined by popular vote. Players draw one card per turn and move their pawns according to the numbers on the pawn. To move his/her pawn off of Start, a player must draw either a 1 or 2 (or, for added realism, 1 only). Gluten is not bound by this rule and may proceed from Start as soon as at least one other player has a pawn in play.
If Gluten moves one of his/her pawns onto a space already occupied by another player’s pawn, that pawn must be returned to Start and the player begins again. Sorry!
If a player draws a card directing him/her to move his/her pawn onto a space already occupied by one of Gluten’s pawns, the player’s pawn must still be returned to Start, because gluten is gluten, no matter how you come by it. Sorry!
Because Gluten has many more pawns in play than anyone else (it’s everywhere!), most players will likely return to Start many times over. Sorry!
If a player besides Gluten moves his/her pawn onto a space already occupied by another player’s pawn, a card is drawn. If even, the players advance each other’s knowledge of the gluten-free lifestyle and are both allowed to remain on the spot. If odd, they confuse each other with misinformation they learned on the internet and must both return to Start. Sorry!
When any player besides Gluten reaches the midway point on the board, Gluten must take one pawn out of play permanently. This signifies the players’ improved ability to manage a gluten-free lifestyle and increases the likelihood that they will eventually make it to Health.
As in the standard game, when a player’s pawn occupies one of his/her own “safe” spaces, he/she is safe from Gluten but may still draw a negative numbered card and be forced to leave the safe space of his/her own little gluten-free counter in his/her own little gluten-free kitchen.
Also as in the standard game, at various designated “slides,” players may skip their pawns forward a few extra spots toward Health. However, if a pawn encounters Gluten at any point along the slide, it must be returned to Start. Once again—sorry!
An accepted—and encouraged—variant calls for beginning the game with all players (except for Gluten) blindfolded. Players must keep their blindfolds on until they reach the midway point; until this time, Gluten reads their cards and implements their moves for them. Depending on personal preference, the player representing Gluten may choose to disclose information about other players’ progress toward Health and say “Sorry!” when sending their pawn back to Start, or leave the players completely in the dark until they have progressed far enough to take their blindfolds off. (I often feel this is the way I’m playing: unsure of how far I’ve come, what mistakes I’ve made, or whether I’ve even moved from Start.)
The first player to reach Health wins—unless that player is Gluten. When one of Gluten’s pawns arrives at Health, it is returned to Start and remains in play. Gluten will never go away, but provided the other players persevere, Gluten never wins.
Tell me about your favorite board game (with a gluten- or allergen-free twist, if you like) in the comments…as long as it’s not Monopoly, because seriously? No one really likes that game.