Jan 29, 2014

Game Theory: Mille Trous d'Ariège


I've talked about Ticket to Ride, a board game about trains around Europe. But that's just the tip of it. We're big into family game time, especially on cold, rainy winter weekends, and we especially love games that tie in thematically with our lives here.

Memoire de France is a memory-match game with special places around France. We've noticed that the game gets easier as we're here longer and actually know the sights on the cards. Of the 36 pairs, the only ones we haven't seen are Le chateau des Appert, Chateau Yquem, and La Maison Pfister.

There are the Paris spots we know and love -- one of which we can see from our window, and exactly half of which we can walk to in five minutes or less:

There are specific sights outside of Paris we've visited:

 And there are more general places where we've basically seen the equivalent:

Spy Alley is another board game currently in favor. It's not as educational, but the kids love it. The game goes much more smoothly now that Pippa has learned to keep a poker face when assigned her spy. Originally, she would refuse to play when dealt the German or Russian spy, would get all excited if she were assigned American or French, and would hem and haw about whether she should play if assigned Spanish or Italian.

But the Frenchest games we play (and I don't care if "Frenchest" is not a word) are Carcassonne, Mille Bornes, Sept Familles, and the hysterically-named Guillotine.

Carcassonne is not just one of the great games in the game world (an expandable, ever-changing game like Settlers of Catane), it's also very nostalgic for us, since we have actually been to Carcassonne -- an incredible, medieval, walled city. Here are some of the versions and expansions of the game seen in a toy-store window in...where else?...Carcassonne.

And let's not forget about the classic French board game Milles Bornes, which essentially translates as One Thousand Milemarkers. It's km, perhaps, nowadays, but is Kilometermarkers a word? This game is nostalgic for Anthony, who remembers playing it with his family in his childhood. But we play in French. In our long-running family game, the girls are absolutely creaming the grown-ups.

Our most authentically French game is called Sept Familles (Seven Families), which is an extremely popular, common, classic French card game. You can buy Sept Familles on just about any theme -- the Simpsons, Asterix, Famous Artists, Flower & Plants, Philosophers, you name it. Ours is about French historical periods, to make this French game that much Frencher.

But perhaps the one we find the funniest is Guillotine, whose tagline is "The revolutionary card game where you win by getting a head." Honestly, how can you not love a game with a double-pun tagline? Our friend Daniela gave it to us as a gift and brought it from the States, ironically making it one of our Frenchest games, yet the only one with English-language instructions. You earn the most points for decapitating King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, naturally.

Guillotine is marked for Ages 12+, but we can tell you from experience that it works even for Pippa, at age 8. Of course, she is a highly skilled game player: Good Lord, don't try to play Memoire de France against her because you will lose. Embarrassingly.

THE CHEESE: Mille Trous d'Ariège

Mille Trous d'Ariège, which translates as "A Thousand Holes of Ariège" is certainly well named, from the look of it. It's a hole-riddled, pasteurized cheese made from half cow's milk, half goat's milk. It's made in the Ariège, which is in the Midi-Pyrénées and, frankly, more known for being sheep territory. Go figure.

I feel like any half-cow, half-goat cheese should excite me. But the taste of this one doesn't thrill me. According to official sources, it's supposed to have aromas and character of the territory. But I find it rubbery and bland. Could the pasteurized milk be the reason for the lack of stinky, herby, grassy, earthy oomph I expect and hope for? I don't know, but in the end this cheese feels mostly good for adding moisture to a sandwich.


Mille bornes, mille trous. There are a thousand holes in this cheese, our game theory, and in this connection. The cheese, in my mind, is not a game-changer, nor a winner; it's like the cheese that tried in vain to beat Pippa at the memory match game.


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