The last few years have been a strange time for us all. From door-step clapping to a somewhat international obsession with banana bread, most of us seem to have nurtured or developed new and strange interests, surrounding ourselves with a web of abandoned crochet projects and promises to write that great novel we all, supposedly, have in us.
Following the incident of the ship blocking the Suez Canal, I was re-introduced to an old familiar face of yesteryear, Uri Geller. Uri claimed that by using telekinesis, we could psychically bend the ship. The ship moved in time and ol’ Uri was vindicated. A bit.
In my childhood, it seemed as though you couldn’t move for bent spoons, tv appearances, and newspaper supplements all featuring Uri’s furrowed brow, but somewhere along the line, he fell out of favour. Relocating from the UK to Tel Aviv, Uri was constantly working on one project or another – most recently his museum in Jaffa – or appearing on QVC, selling jewellery to punters in need of spiritual realignment. But his glory days of front-page news and widespread popular cultural relevance seemed to be behind him. However, after a few curious internet searches into what Uri was doing nowadays, I soon entered an internet auction wormhole; Uri books, vases, magazines, a Daredevil comic appearance and…games.
Once I set my eyes on a copy of ‘Uri Geller’s Strike!’ I knew I had to have the game. Strike was released in 1986 by Matchbox and cashed in on the growing wave of interest in the supernatural and unseen with some of the most ridiculous and baffling gameplay known to man. Matchbox are commonly known for having produced die-cast toys, mainly cars, for generations of British children, keen to stage races and pile-ups in their bedrooms. Therefore, I found Matchbox’s foray into board games a curious and unexpected decision. Made in English, French, Spanish and German versions, Strike! was a money spinner for the cutlery-bending generation and featured some truly unsettling box art.
The game is, in theory, played as such:
Players move their pieces, called ‘Sensotrons’ (definitely not a sexy robot) around a grid map of Europe, searching for the secret location of concealed shipwrecks, treasure and minerals. This hunt is aided by magnets, both in the board, and suspended within the hanging arrows of the Sensotrons. The magnets within the game shift with each opening of the board, so there’s little chance of repetition in gameplay.
To play, you roll the dice, move across the board and answer a question from the book. If you answer correctly, you can move again. When your Sensotron finds treasure, you have to answer another question to obtain gold bars. Answer incorrectly and you are presented with a bent spoon. The questions, of varying levels of difficulty, are contained within three rather dense pamphlets.
The player with the most gold bars at the end of the game, wins! The player with the most bent spoons gets melted down and reformed as low-cost dinnerware. I imagine.
Considering that at any one time, there appears to be a mint condition copy of Strike! available for less than £10, it seems as though Geller’s game was not beloved by too many families; opened at Christmas, interrupted by arguments about hard questions and how little Jimmy’s Sensotron is better than mine, then shoved to the back of the cupboard for the next thirty-something years. So, Strike! may not be a classic, but who has actually given the game a fair chance in the last thirty years? No-one with any sense? Correct.
After the initial excitement of Strike’s arrival at my house, I set about contacting and bribing family members to play it with me. And, as the replies of ‘stop contacting me’, ‘I’m busy looking at some paving’ and ‘It’s 3am, leave me alone’ came in, I knew a fantastic evening of entertainment awaited us.
After months of pleading and questionable excuses, game night was set. Joining me for a hearty game of Strike! was my 76-year-old Stepdad (after being promised of a bottle of red wine) and my 18-month-old dog and sidekick, Vaffles (who has no choice in the matter as she’s the size of a toaster). Vaffles mainly slept and farted throughout, but her presence is worth noting.
Excited to begin play, I unfold the board and realise the entre thing is printed in French. I top up my wine and pretend to have listened in school.
The player who rolls the highest number goes first and moves their Sensotron (teehee) the appropriate number of spaces. One dice has lumps on it, signalling the question number to be asked, the other the number of spaces moved. This already feels needlessly complicated. Together, the dice lead us to a grid reference and I am already bored as this is a bit too much like school geography lessons. Vaffles begins to nibble on the corner of the question book. She’s never been on board with my psychic obsession.
Stepdad faces his first question from the tooth-marked, entry-level book of questions.
‘What would you do with a poncho?’
I am wearing one. This feels like an unfair advantage for him. Stepdad moves through Spain.
I move through Russia with a hefty glass of sauvignon in hand. The questions are relatively easy, with a considerable amount relating to now-outdated currency. Quite pleasantly, wherever you find yourself on the map, the questions are related to that country. This was a pleasant novelty until I linger in Russia for a little too long and face several questions about defunct Soviet news agencies.
After a few more turns, snaking our way across the map, my sensotron makes it into Romania. There has been no sign of minerals yet as my free-hanging magnetic arrow swings limply.
Stepdad’s questions have been frustratingly easy, when he celebrates having correctly answered the function of a cork in a wine bottle, I can’t help but top up my own glass.
I get asked what sea plant iodine is extracted from. This is sexism in action, Uri. I’m watching you.
Stepdad generously opens the harder question book, with the crack of the spine indicating that Strike!’s previous owner was not so dedicated as we are.
My Sensotron goes wild at last – minerals! ‘In what area did Dracula live?’ ‘Transylvania!’
I await my victory gold bars – three whole plastic little bars, all for me!
A few more places along and another mineral hit awaits me as my Sensotron arrow points downwards. Finally, my run of triumph begins.
Stepdad cannot remember Toulouse-Lautrec’s name and gains a spoon of failure. I sip my wine and gloat over my growing hoard of gold bars.
The game is a little frustrating with two players (Vaffles is in more of an umpire role) as the board itself is a vast space to cover in search of shifting magnets.
We continue moving across Europe, marking mineral sites with a black spot and take a moment to notice a few spelling mistakes in the question books.
As I move through Italy, I consider flipping the table when I learn that I only gain one gold bar for knowing who painted the Birth of Venus. (Botticelli, thank you).
Working methodically across the board, I find that I’m rather good at Strike! Truly, this is sod’s law that I’ve found my greatest gaming ability lies in Uri Geller’s past. It can’t be bloody chess can it?
By this point, I’ve had half a bottle of wine and am offering to buy Stepdad’s house with my tiny plastic gold mountain.
None of the minerals appear to be around the UK. This is Brexit in action. I make an impassioned speech about those who voted ‘leave’ taking away our ability to move our Sensotrons freely. Stepdad leaves to get some crisps while I find more minerals in Sweden.
When traveling through Spain, a question about El Dorado leads me on another tangent about 90s soap operas and I find myself promising to learn Esperanto as my New Year’s Resolution.
I find the last minerals in France and not a minute too soon, this has taken an age. My mind, and liver, have taken a hammering.Once we got into the swing of things and Vaffles stopped trying to swallow the Sensotrons, I really rather enjoyed Strike! It’s a fun, novel game and very much of its time. For someone such as myself who finds immense joy in quizzes and charity shop gubbins, it makes for the ideal evening. It could be argued that it has little relevance in today’s climate, and judging by questions of currencies and news agencies, that could be a viable point. But Uri himself is as constant as the rise and fall of the sun. When not trying to psychically shift tankers from the Suez Canal or healing David Beckham’s broken foot, he’s cropping up in tabloids as a harbinger of UFO contact, bringing a steady stream of esoteric premonitions to our papers. If Strike! is anything to go by, Uri remains a cultural icon, reminding everyone that there’s still a certain curious joy to be found in the world’s most beloved spoon bender.
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