The following is an excerpt of a speech I gave at Lord’s, the home of cricket, on a special MCC Members only day which explored the history of board games. Among the speakers was myself as an avid collector of cricket board games, and Dr. Gary Graber, the creator of Minden Playing Card Cricket, which I now publish on mindencricket.com. The day at Lord’s was the culmination of a long exhibition of cricket board games, made up largely of my personal collection now donated to the MCC Museum. The exhibition ran from 2014 through to 2020.
And finally we get to number one. The absolute pinnacle of cricket board games. For any collector, Stumpz is the place to start (and possibly end) ones collection. It is, for me, the high point of cricket board game design, and has never really been surpassed. In fact it has been copied endlessly even today. The detail of the game is something to behold. It is well designed and completely playable. It produces accurate results and is lovingly made with the highest quality of components.
It’s no surprise then to see such platitudes being lumped upon it in the ad from a 1938 copy of Boys Own magazine, which included such praise from Don Bradman as:
“There is nothing to beat a game of Stumpz. I always enjoy it immensely”.1938 advertisement from Boy’s Own magazine.
If you are starting out as a board game collector, it’s reasonably easy to find, and appeared in many different editions to suit most budgets.
The finest is the super deluxe version with a felt playing board, lead figures, a beautifully made scoreboard and some well-designed game tracking devices.
Alternatively, you might also find the STANDARD, economical version of the game where the lead figures are replaced with generic wooden pieces.
And finally, there is a travel edition, with foldable board for those days when Mama and Papa took you for a jaunt to the countryside.
Stumpz was produced by Thomas de la Rue & Co, makers of the English pounds you have in your pocket. The game was made during the 1930s, shortly after de la Rue had bought Charles Goodall and Son, makers of the world’s earliest, if not first playing cards.
One of the Goodall’s – Charles Goodall Jr – was a keen game designer and he created both Stumpz and an equally detailed and playable game based on the race from England to Australia called Round The Horn.
Eventually Charles Jr. moved from de la Rue to Waddingtons and thus ended de La Rue’s foray into game design.
I managed to interview Charles’ son, Stephen Goodall, some years ago. This really helped me understand why a company like de la Rue, which at the time was producing money, plastics and telephone housings, managed to produce two such high quality games.
Stephen and I spoke for about half an hour on the phone as he described himself and his two brothers play testing Stumpz over one summer before the game was released. Prior to the interview I had not been able to accurately work out when Stumpz was published.
Even the de la Rue company archivist was unsure, as the company’s factory was bombed out during the Blitz taking with it many of the company records.
Following the interview with Stephen Goodall I had another piece of luck. Tim Dyke, one of the original players of the game contacted me. He was in search of some spare pieces for the game he bought as a 10 year old in the late 1930s.
This is Tim around the time he bought his copy of Stumpz in 1939.
And this is Tim playing Stumpz at 80.
I spoke to his brother [the week before I gave the speech in 2019] and he let me know that Tim is now 90 not out and looking forward to getting a copy of this speech!