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Mornington Crescent is an internationally renowned game of skill that is now played in over 2 million countries worldwide. Suitable for players of all ages (except age 54), the aim of the game is to alternate between various London Underground stations until the eponymous 'Mornington Crescent’ is reached. The player who reaches Mornington Crescent first is declared the winner and is entitled to a year's supply of coal.
The rules of the game are extremely simple, but may seem complex or even made-up to the untrained outsider. The majority of the rules can be found in the International Mornington Crescent Rules & Regulations Handbook, 1993 edition. New rules may be added, but only if approved by both local and national Mornington Crescent committees following an intensive yearlong trial period.
The game presents many traps and pitfalls throughout (as well as many pits and trapfalls). Players must do everything they can to avoid being in 'Nidd' or in 'Spoon'. Experienced players will avoid these dangerous scenarios by using techniques such as the Brixton Shuffle, the Hammersmith Side-Shunt or the Huff. However, these manoeuvres often require years of practice and dedication before they can be perfected.
Mornington Crescent was first played in 1517 by King Henry VIII of Great Britain, England. Of course back then the only underground stations in existence were Mornington Crescent and Westminster and so play was very limited. The king, then in his twenties, enjoyed the game regularly alongside other sports such as tennis, jousting and ice hockey. However, his Mornington Crescent-playing days ended suddenly one fateful day in 1531 when, playing against his friend and associate the Second Earl of Durham, he injured his knee whilst attempting a tri-lateral Piccadilly bypass at Morden.
By the middle of the 19th century, over a hundred new stations had been added to London’s underground network and new lines such as the Metropolitan, the Neapolitan, the Hammersmith & City, the Circle, the Triangle, the District and the Havant & Waterlooville had been built. This led to a huge rise in the game’s popularity throughout Britain and indeed the rest of the world. Under the rule of the British Empire, the game was introduced to many of its countries and has since become the national sport of India, following the death of cricket in 1923.
The rapid expansion of the game during this time led to the inaugural Mornington Crescent League in 1895, which pitted the best players of the day against one another. The first ever league winner was Mr Raymond Luxury-Yacht of Hemel Hempstead who won by defeating Swedish number one Anders Berg Nils Bjorn Nilsson Johansson Andersson in the final game of the season in straight sets, with a north-eastern diagonal approach via Latimer Road proving the decisive final move to Mornington Crescent.
During the wartime years the game was abandoned apart from one solitary match that was played in Nomad’s Land on Christmas Eve 1914. English and German soldiers put down their weapons for one night, came up out of the trenches and began a five-hour game of Mornington Crescent. Neither side managed to reach Mornington Crescent in this time, however, and the match was declared a stalemate.
The game was popularised further during the 20th century after the invention of BBC Radio 4 panel show I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue, which brought the game into the living rooms and indeed the garden sheds of every family in Britain. Fathers, mothers and children alike would sit around the dinner table for literally minutes playing Mornington Crescent until someone found something more worthwhile to do like taking out the bins or cleaning the potatoes.
The basic rules are as follows:
- Play always begins clockwise, except on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays.
- Any person wearing a hat must forfeit their turn until a Central Line station is reached. If all players are wearing hats they must swap with the person to their left.
- The Circle Line can only be used in an anti-clockwise direction, except in the rare case whereby both Paddington and Edgware have been declared wild.
- Any player that selects an underground station outside the M25 shall incur a 30-point deduction and must split said station equally between all other players.
- A standard 13-sided dice shall be used on all moves that require a 13-sided dice in order to be played, such as a Bakerloo Expansion or Trumpington’s Fourth Gambit via Hainault.
- Canada Water is out of bounds, for reasons that are not known. Any player that passes through Canada Water must immediately forfeit the clothes that they are wearing.
- If a player ends up in ‘Nidd’ they must relinquish any Piccadilly Line stations previously captured and store them in a sealed container marked ‘Nidd Stations’. Once safely out of Nidd, by at least 500 yards, the player may be given back their stations from the container.
- A move to Charing Cross must be preceeded by one or all of; Clapham North, North Acton or Finsbury Park and must be immediately followed by a side-facing lateral inversion to either Barking or Bow Road, providing that Finsbury Park has not previously been declared wild and only if the Victoria Line is in half-spoon. If the Victoria Line is in maximum or minimum spoon, Brixton must be destroyed and replaced with a cardboard replica one tenth the size of the original.
edit Points System
Points may be added, taken away or not given at all depending on the type of move being played. A player may exchange their accumulated points for Yen, which in turn may be exchanged for certain more valuable stations, via Bank of course. For example, 100 points would be enough to purchase 200,000 JPY, which could be used to buy a medium station such as Westbourne Park. Highly sought-after stations such as Kings Cross St Pancras or Heathrow Terminal 5 can fetch anything up to 100,000,000 JPY in today’s market. It is a common misconception that the more points a player has, the better he is doing in the game. In reality, no points at all are needed to reach Mornington Crescent if the correct strategy is used.
edit Game Variations
edit Welsh Sunday League Rules
- All moves are to be said in a Welsh accent. For players who are already Welsh, moves must be said in a drunken Glaswegian accent instead.
- Woolwich Arsenal, Lambeth North and Shepherd’s Bush are all worth double points, for obvious reasons.
edit Scottish National League Rules
- All moves are to be said in a drunken Glaswegian accent. For players who are already drunk and Glaswegian, moves must be abandoned until the following morning.
- All items of tartan worn by a player must be removed if any Northern Line station south of the river is reached.
- Points awarded for a standard lateral progression between any two District Line stations are doubled if the player is able to toss a caber more than five metres.
edit Indian Super League Rules
- All moves are to be served with Pilau Rice, Poppadum or Peshwari Naan. If none of these are available to the player, they must go into a state of quasi-Spoon until a local Indian takeaway can be contacted.
edit Australian A-League Rules
- The game board (i.e. the London Tube Map) is to be placed upside-down on the table. Then, all players must swap seats with the player sitting immediately opposite them before play can resume, thus giving the appearance of no difference at all compared to a standard game.
- If an odd number of players are involved, this is obviously impossible. In this scenario a beer-drinking competition shall ensue, the loser of which must leave the game.