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New board game challenges your ability to rap

My knowledge of rap is about to be put to the test in the Mail’s conference room. Although we are not what you might picture as rapper our little group of journalists can rest assured we are probably pretty safe from the violence that is often associated with the genre breaking out a board game…

It’s called Rhyme. Designed by Andonis Mechanikos, a local lawyer and founder of board game company Mechanical Egg Games, it’s the first of a kind; an invention its author describes as creative, rhythmical, hilarious and an antidote to the pressures of his everyday job. “I do have a pretty stressful job,” he grins, “so I needed something positive to balance that out. A couple of years ago, when I was already looking into ideas for a board game, my wife began writing lyrics for rap songs. And the idea just hit me: why not make a game out of rap?”

The process, of course, was a little more challenging. A project of this size doesn’t happen overnight, and the premise, design and finished product took time. But today, after extensive playtesting on “friends, family and anyone I could get my hands on!” and huge amounts of feedback, Rhyme is ready to undergo its hardest test to date: a group of world-weary wordsmiths with time on their hands…

Having perused the instructions, we’re a little flummoxed. Cards fall into one of 12 categories (some of which are slightly esoteric to say the least: Farm, Sport, and Flora sit alongside Pirate, Spirituality, and Purse!) and potential rappers are challenged to choose three categories at random, opt for one of the three words on each card, and then create a four-line rap containing their designated words. And that’s just the start of the game…

The rules run to several pages and cover everything from how to choose a winner (points for finishing first, and also for creating the group’s favourite verse) to where to access the beat (turns out there’s a special website with three speeds of rap beat for download). But though it sounds complicated, we manage to narrow it down to the basics and realise the premise is simple: each of us will write a ‘rap story’ over four rounds of play, every story consisting of four rhyming lines. In essence, we’re going to end up with a loosely styled quatern: 16 lines of rap in total, each verse building on the tale.

The catch, of course, is the cards; incorporating the three random words into each verse is no mean feat. Our profile writer is already complaining about ending up with the words ‘shorts’, ‘might’, and ‘leather’ for his very first verse… Nevertheless, we all stick with our chosen three, write them down, and set the timer for the allotted three minutes. We’re journalists; it can’t be that hard, can it? But there’s certainly a lot of head scratching and pencil sucking going on…

Turns out that rap is basically poetry, so we’re all okay there. But being able to compose a witty four-line verse doesn’t equate to rapping it out to a beat. As a Winchester-educated girl from Oxfordshire, my accent isn’t doing my rap any favours, and our profiler’s offering is made all the more hysterical by his received pronunciation! Just try rapping the following verse in the Queen’s accent…

I wore my tight leather shorts to the party last night,

A girl asked ‘Shall we dance?’ and I said ‘Yes, I might!’

But the dance got rather lively and I heard an awful tear,

And when I looked down, I could see my underwear!

In the space of an hour, we’ve all built on our first verse and now have a basic ‘rap story’. We’ve had a massive amount of fun, and discovered that Rhyme is based far more on delivery than content, giving everyone a fighting chance: even if you’re not a wordsmith, you might well be a natural rapper! There’s certainly an advantage if you’re musical (the ability to understand cadence and keep to the beat was a challenge for some), and it helps to have a wide-ranging vocabulary, but I can see this catching on with people of all backgrounds and ages, and being played and enjoyed wherever those with a love of innovation and a penchant for alcohol are gathered!

“Everyone who’s tested the game so far has really enjoyed it,” Andonis acknowledges, adding that the game has been a bit of a hit at the three international gaming fairs he’s attended. “The first presentation of Rhyme in May 2016 at the national Greek competition for prototype games. A week on, I took it to the UK Games Expo. And then, in October last year, I took the game to Essen Spiel in Germany where thousands of gamers gather each year to see what’s new on the market.

“Everyone seemed to really enjoy the game,” he reveals. “There was great feedback: a lot of excitement and enthusiasm for the concept, with a number of families noting that the game would be great for educational purposes. It made me realise I had something real on my hands, a game I could take all the way….”

Having ourselves taken the game all the way to its conclusion (and produced some hilariously unprintable rap stories in the process!), our little group of hacks is definitely on board with the idea. More than the seeming sum of its parts, Rhyme is a game which really is less about the winning than the taking part. By the end of our test session we’re still not sure who’s won, but we’ve certainly had a very jolly rhyming time of it. It’s the kind of thing that will have us giggling for days, and referencing our more scandalous rhymes for months to come. Rappers we’re not, but it transpires we can certainly Rhyme! Roll on the launch…

For more information on ‘Rhyme’, visit the Facebook page Rhyme: The Rap Challenge or email Andonis on [email protected] ‘Rhyme’ is set to launch sometime in the next year.

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