Pussers Ludo - Uckers
Ludo is one of the most well known games played anywhere in the world, perhaps second only to the ‘Snakes and Ladders’ in popularity. Simple in rules and easy to understand, it has been wrongly considered to be a western game. On the contrary, the game is believed to have had its origins in India, better-called ‘Parcheesi’. So much so, that it is also referred to as the royal game of India.
Putting to sea in an RAN warship expanded one's horizons enormously - so much to see, so much to do and so much to learn! Not the least of which was the ability to be proficient in the many games sailors played during the often monotonous routines of keeping the sea lanes open.
A host of table and board games were played by sailors at sea, these included, Mah Jongg, Bridge, Crib, Pontoon, Hearts, Poker, Euchre and 500, but possibly the most popular and enduring of all was UCKERS, or what civilians in the West generally refer to as LUDO. The famous adage and proverb, citing that "A Family That Plays Together, Stays Together" may well be discarded should you ever decide to enter the world of Pussers Uckers.
Pussers Uckers can only be played effectively if the competitors have, what is known colloquially in Australia as, "A bit of mongrel in you", for you need to be ruthless, cunning and downright spiteful if you are to receive any enjoyment at all from playing.
I can remember when working Part Of Ship at sea, watching the clock intensely, waiting for Stand Easy to roll around where it would be a race to get down the mess first and secure a seat on the 4.5" Magazine Hatch, underneath the ladder (prime position), where in front of you the Uckers Board would be already set up ready to go on the fold away card table. The Mess would quickly fill as the mess members and specatators gathered around joining in on the excitement of the game.
Anyway we shall get into all that a little later, first I guess we should take a look at a brief history of Uckers.
How many sailors today know that the game in its original form emanated from the East and it is called Parcheesi.
(Also spelt Parcheesi, Pachisi, Parchisi, Parchesi; also known as Twenty-Five) is the National Game of India. The name comes from the Indian word "pacis" which means twenty five, the highest score that could be thrown with the cowry shells.
Pachisi is, in fact, the younger sister of Chaupar (or Chausar or Chaupad), a more venerable, complex and skilful game that is still played in India.
The traditional "chance" device used in the game were cowrie shells.
The Indian Emperor Akbar I of the 16th century Mogul Empire, apparently played Chaupar on great courts constructed of inlaid marble. He would sit on a Dias four feet high in the centre of the court and throw the cowry shells. On the red and white squares around him, 16 beautiful women from the harem, appropriately coloured, would move around according to his directions. Remains of these boards can be seen today in Agra and Allahabad.
The origins of Pachisi and Chaupar are lost in time but uncertain evidence indicates that forms of the game were in existence in the Indian region from at least the 4th century AD. Both have hardly changed since Emperor Akbar played although the game is not as widely played in India as it once was. Pachisi boards are typically constructed of cloth, 6 cowry shells are thrown to determine the moves and the counters are made of wood in a beehive shape.
Pachisi is a 'Cross and Circle' game, variations of which appear all over the world e.g. Nyout from Korea which probably dates back at least as far as 300AD, Pancha Keliya from Ceylon and the elaborate 'Edris A Jin' from Syria. The Americas are supposed to have been colonised from North East Asia and this evidence is supported by the fact that Cross and Circle games have been found across North and South America. Mayan games have been found from around 800 AD cut into ruins in Mexico and when Europeans conquered the Aztecs in 1521 they discovered a game similar to Pachisi being played by Montezuma's subjects. American Indians still play Cross and Circle race games today.
Throughout India and southeast Asia, boards for Pachisi and the related game of Chaupar can be found at a number of archeological sites.
The golden age of Chaupar coincided with the Mogul dynasty (1526-1857), as apparent from the large boards marked out with inlaid marble on palace courtyards at Agra and Allahabad. The Emperor Akbar (1542-1605) played the game on this scale, directing from a central dais the movements of sixteen slave-girls from the harem dressed in the traditional four colours of the various pieces.
According to Whitehill, the game of Parcheesi was first copyrighted in the United States by E.G. Selchow & Co. (NYC) in 1869. When Selchow merged with Righter a few years later to become Selchow & Righter Co. (NYC) the game was again copyrighted in 1874, 1929, 1942. Subsequent edition were issued - probably under one of these copyrights. A few years ago, the Selchow & Righter Company was bought by Hasbro, Inc. - who now owns the U.S. license for the game and produces the game of Parcheesi for the North American market. There has been little change in the gameboard design with each edition, however, the box has been somewhat changed to keep up with changing public tastes.
Woolson Spice Co. (Toledo, OH) published a game called "Pachesi" sometime around 1894. Whitman Publishing Co. (Racine, WI) published the game of Parchesi - A Game of India in 1939. The National Games Co. (Portland, OR) published Pachisi - The Game of India about 1940
Modern Western Variants
Ludo (The Western Politically correct version of Uckers)
You will need a dice, a Ludo board and 16 counters/tokens.
Your aim is to move your FOUR TOKENS tokens out of their start box, around the board and into your home triangle. As shown by the Red Player in the example below:
You and your partner play red and yellow tokens and your opponent and his partner plays blue and green.
A token needs a six to be thrown to leave the start box.
On your turn, roll the dice and move a token of your choice as many spaces as the number shpwn on the dice.
Roll a six and you may roll again on the same turn.
Roll three sixes in a row and you lose your turn.
If a token lands on a white square occupied by an opponent token, the opponent token is "eaten" and sent back to its start box.
A token may not land on, or pass, a white square with more than one opponent token on it.
Tokens on safe (non-white) squares cannot be eaten, nor can they block opponent tokens.
Two tokens may be moved as a pair on even rolls of the dice.
All opponent tokens on a white square that a pair of tokens lands on are eaten.
Tokens moved as a pair are never blocked.
In 1896, a westernised version of Pachisi was published in England under the name Ludo (Latin for "I play")
In America, there is evidence for home-made boards and boards without a clear origin from the 1850s. A dubious story credits the invention of Parcheesi to Sam Loyd who supposedly sold the rights to the game for $10 at one point but since Sam Loyd was a notorious self-publicist and deceiver, it is probably best to ignore this account. The earliest definite record is that John Hamilton of the Hudson River Valley claimed copyright to the game in 1867. Rights were apparently sold to an Albert Swift who then sold them on to Selchow and Righter in 1870 and this famous company trademarked the game in 1874. Parcheesi went on to become the bestselling game for Selchow & Richter Co. for decades.
In Germany, the game is known as "Mensch-ärgere-dich-nicht" ("Don't-be-angry,-man") which was published in 1910.
In Spain, there is "Parchis" and in France, "Le Jeu de Dada" or "Petits Chevaux". Italy has "Non t'arrabbiare" meaning "Don't get angry!" or "Don't lose your temper!".
All of these versions are simplified childrens versions like Ludo. Stylised versions on a travel theme are played in Switzerland ("Eile mit Weile" - a game originally published in the late 1800s in Germany) and Italy ("Chi va Piano va Sano!").
Uckers, is a traditional navy game and is a very advanced form of Ludo, played with two dice instead of one. The following is a well tried set of rules of the game which are known as Basic Rules. Some variations are listed at the end. It is recommended that competitors vote on the variations to be in force before any competition begins. Picture Above: 'Boing Boing' (left) and 'Sheepshead' (right) in a head to head two player game in the Aft Petty Officer's mess, HMAS BRISBANE, NWIO Deployment, 1981.
What You Need To Play
First Off, you will need to be onside with a few people onboard, such as the Chief Chippie, The Ship's Painter, the Stokers in the Engineer's Workshop and the Leading Hand Of the Gunner's Party.
It is very easy to produce the required hardware for a game of Messdeck Uckers. All you will need is, a piece of wood (marine ply from the Chippies Shop works fine) measuring 24 Inches by 24 Inches (approx), 16 X EXPENDED (the game is explosive enough) .50 Calibre Heavy Machine Gun projectile casings. An assortment of coloured paint. Look at the image of the Uckers Board below for an example of how to design and paint one yourself.
Paint up your Uckers Board in accordance with the Layout and Colour Scheme below.
Measure and cut the bases off 16 x .50Cal BHMG Casings, grind and file edges until smooth. You will need to paint the 16 pieces as follows..
4 X Red
The pieces may be filled with resin or Araldite prior to painting to add more stability in heavy seas.
Reference: Royal Navy BR 4006
1. The game is played with a Ludo Board, 16 Pieces and two dice instead of one.
2. There are four players with diagonally opposite players partnering each other. (Two teams of two).
All four players in turn throw both dice and the highest score plays first.
4. To Get Out Of Base or Start Box
One six is required to get a piece out on the doorstep. The score on the second dice can be used to advance the piece in accordance with Rule 5. A double six can be used to get 2 pieces out.
(a) Pieces move in a clockwise direction, the number of squares equivalent to the value shown on both dice. The object is to get all ones own, and ones partners pieces around the board and to the center 'home' triangle before the opponents do likewise.
(b) If a player has only one piece on the board he must move it the full value of both dice; intermediate squares cannot be used to knock off an opponents pieces. Rule 5 (d) however, may allow this.
(c) If a player has two pieces on the board he may use the value of one dice for each piece, or the value of both dice for one.
(d) If the players movements are blocked by a barrier (blob) Rule 8 (a), or because a piece is near home Rule 10 (b), he is to take the highest value of one dice if possible or if not possible to move with either dice, he does not move at all. He can however have extra throws in accordance with Rule 6.
6. Extra Throws
A player receives one extra throw for a six, except as in Rule 8 (c) when removing a barrier, and only ONE extra is allowed for a double six.
7. Knocking Off An Opponents Piece
When a players piece lands on the same square of that of an opponents piece, the opponents piece is returned to the base and has to start again.
8. Barriers (or Blobs)
(a) When a player has two or more pieces on the same square, they form a barrier which blocks the opponents movements, but not that of his partner's.
(b) To remove a Barrier (or Blob) an opponent has to land a piece on the square immediately behind it, throw one six and shout "Challenge!", throw a second and third six to remove a double barrier, a fourth six to remove a triple barrier and a fifth six to remove a quadruple barrier. The challenging piece then moves forward and occupies the square formerly occupied by the barrier, and the barrier pieces are returned to their bases in accordance with Rule 7. (See also Rule 9.)
(c) Having challenged a barrier, the value of any dice subsequently thrown cannot be used to advance any other piece, and having successfully challenged a barrier the players turn is ended no matter how many sixes he has thrown.. When a six is used to indicate a challenge the second dice, even if it is a six, cannot be used in any way. If a second or subsequent throw is a double six, both sixes count towards the removal of the barrier.
(d) A player cannot move into position and 'Challenge' in the same throw.
e) To knockoff a barrier on the doorstep with a piece in base requires one extra six in addition to those in (b). The first six counts as a challenge then Rule 8 (c) applies.
(f) If a player is unable to move another piece he must break his barriers.
9. Mixed Barriers (Mixie Blobs)
If a player lands on the same square as one or more of his partners pieces, the result is what is known as a mixed barrier or mixie blob. This loses any value as a block and all pieces are to be knocked off in the same way as a single piece (Rule 7.) A player cannot challenge from a mixed barrier behind an opponents barrier.
10. Getting Home
(a) A piece in the home coloured lane cannot be reached by an opponents piece and hence is safe.
(b) A player must throw an exact score to get a piece home, except that with his last piece he may get the exact score with one dice only. See rule 5 (d).
11. Throwing For One's Partner
Having got all his pieces home a player waits for his next turn and tries to throw a six. Having thrown a six, a player again waits for his next turn when he can then throw for his partner's pieces.
12. Winning Team
The winning team is the pair who get all their eight pieces home first.
A. A player may split a throw with one piece, e.g. if he throws aS and a 4, he can advance 5 squares, knock-off a piece then move a further 4 squares with the same piece.
B. If players form a mixed barrier behind an opponent’s barrier, they can challenge—Rule 9. This variation greatly decreases the value of a barrier
C. If a player forms a barrier behind an opponent’s barrier and throws a double, he can either knock-off the opponent’s barrier if the pieces would land on the same square, or jumps over the opponent’s barrier if the score is sufficiently high.
D. If a player near home throws too high a score his piece moves to home and then backwards, and continues moving backwards until his turn is completed (or he arrives back at his own doorstep when he starts moving forward again). He moves forward again on his next turn. Barrier rules apply in reverse. With his last piece he may obtain the exact number with one dice. This variation greatly prolongs the game.
E. One less six is required to knock-off a barrier to those required in Rule 8(b) and (e).
F. With a double six, two extra throws are allowed.
G. (“Suck Back”, “Blow Back” Rule) A piece in the home coloured lane can be reached by an opponent’s piece under the following circumstances:
(1) The opponent’s piece must so land that it is directly in Line with the coloured lane.
(2) On his next throw the opponent can call “Suck Back” (the number being the squares between his piece and the one in the home coloured lane). If either of the dice he then throws is that number, or if their sum is that number, the piece in the home lane is returned to base. If he throws a six he is entitled to another throw to try and achieve his “Suck Back” number.
(3) An opponent is allowed a maximum of two attempts to “Suck Back” before he must move on.
(4) If a “Suck Back” is achieved the challenger’s piece moves on one square.
(5) A player whose piece is in the home coloured lane and who is under threat of “Suck Back” by an opponent, can reciprocate by saying “Blow Back” when his turn comes. (6) If he is successful his opponent’s piece is returned to base.
(7) A maximum of two attempts can be made to “Blow Back” an op- ponent’s piece.
(8) A player cannot move his own piece whilst “Sucking Back” or ‘Blowing Back”.
(9) If either the player or his opponent has a “Blob” which is under challenge, it requires a double to remove it, e.g. “Suck Back Double” or “Blow Back Double”.
It is important in playing this version that players must throw an exact number to get a piece home. Rule 10(b), subject, however, to Rule 5(d).
HINTS & TIPS
When Knocking Off or 'Ucking' an opponents pieces off the board it is quite acceptable to smash them with as much force as possible, hurtling them across the other side of the mess is indeed a 'Class Act', whilst screaming "Uckers Come ****ers!!!!" Although your actions should be proportionate with what you achieve on the board. For instance, smashing your opponents pieces across the mess should be reserved for ucking double mixing blobs etc, for ucking just one piece, knocking it off the table only is considered an appropriate measured response. Ucking an opponent as he lines up for a run home is considered worthy of excess jubilation, I am sure you get the picture.
Also, one thing worth considering when playing short games - i.e. Stand Easy etc that Ucking Opponents pieces under bunks and lockers will deprive you of valuable playing time whilst mess members search for it. Normal playing behaviour should be moderated in these instances and 'symbolic' Ucking is permitted.
During short games it is also permitted for Non Playing Mess members and Spectators to retrieve the Ucked piece on behalf of the Ucked player/s. Normal Etiquette usually demands that a Ucked player retrieve his own piece - this adds to the humiliation.
It is a No-No to Uck pieces overboard.
It is also appropriate to get into your opponents face shouting expletives when you Uck him or perform an intricate blocking move etc..
Sailors who make apologies when Ucking opponents should be watched closely. Any sign of weakness or political correctness from any player should warrant a caution. Any subsequent breaches should see the player suspended and sent forward to the Sonar Control Room to attend Christian Fellowship Meetings whilst games are in progress.
When being Ucked, try to remain calm and in control as an outpouring of your emotions will only lead to further aggressive goading by both your opponents and spectators alike.
Uckers is not a game for the weak, lily livered or soft hearted. It should be played with as much venom, underhandedness and spite as indeed is possible. Personnel with heart conditions should seek advice from their doctor before playing. The sensitive, introverted and 'touchy-feely' type should avoid it at all costs.
Remember - No game is over until it is over - The game can turn around from an unbeatable position to an unwinable one in the space of just a few rolls of the dice.
Fleet Champions like Boing Boing and Sheeps Head (above) are on record for making remarkable comebacks against all odds.
GET OUT THERE - EXPAND YOUR HORIZONS!
Who Do You Want To Uck Today?