Bring the Exciting Winter Olympic Sport of Curling to Your Gaming Table!

Note that the curlers standing by on the cover of International Curling Challenge, idly watching—likely in anticipation of defeat—are USA players. Oh, Canada!

The 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi are just about to start. Between concerns over terrorism, confusion over choosing a site in a rather mild climate, allegations of high-level corruption and Russia President Vladimir Putin’s questionable political motives, it is sure to be an event to watch. And that’s without considering the exciting sporting events that the world-class athletes in attendance will compete in over the course of the games. Sports aren’t a terribly common theme in the world of boardgaming, let alone winter sports. But there are some out there that may give you and your family a tabletop method to enjoy some of the excitement of the Sochi games- especially if you like curling.

The playing pieces for International Curling Challenge. And, quite possibly, the secret origin of the Target store logo.

Curling is by far the most confusing and esoteric sport offered as part of the Olympic canon. It likely makes more sense to Canadians and other nations where it’s more commonplace, but to these American eyes, it just looks odd. The rough idea is that people on ice skates sweep the ice in front of a big stone and slide it along into a target zone for points. Or something like that.

There is actually, quite to my surprise, a curling board game. It’s called International Challenge Curling, and it was published way back in 1970 by a company rather hilariously called Bruce Loray Curling Novelties.

I’ve never seen this game in my life and would venture to guess that it is likely extremely rare, even in Canada. That said, it doesn’t exactly look very exciting other than a magnetic score board and an included standard deck of playing cards that you could use to play other games if the excitement of curling doesn’t catch on like wildfire in your gaming group or family.

But wait, there’s more. When I began preparing this article for my good friends and readers at WorthPoint, my research revealed that the above game is actually not the only curling board game out there, as I initially thought. There’s also Sweep!, published by “Jim’s Game Company,” circa 1971, just one year after International Challenge Curling swept into the marketplace. This one looks mildly more interesting, if only because it came with little plastic brooms and cards with actions such as “Diagonal Take-Out” and “Guarded Chip-and-Roll.”

Again, I’ve never seen Sweep! and I’d have no idea what to expect in terms of pricing, but I’m sure it’s a rarity, given its age and subject matter. And I don’t think “Jim’s Game Company” was doing 20,000-piece print runs with international distribution.

Can curling action be described as “white hot?” Because, if so, this particular curling game looks like it’s on fire with excitement. Or something resembling a kind of slightly elevated sense of interest.

Let’s “curl” forward to 1982 for the next exciting entry into the genre of curling games. It’s inevitable, as someone had to go and call their curling game “The Curling Game.”

At first glance, it’s pretty clear that The Curling Game follows on with a tradition of not making curling games look very appealing or colorful. Based on rough descriptions, it also sounds like it is a similar kind of card-driven game with players playing cards to make “shots” (“sweeps?”) to get those ubiquitous curling stones into scoring positions.

I love this image. Note how the curling stone actually morphs into the pieces of the game. This visual trickery establishes the validity of this title as not just The Curling Game, but THE Curling Game. Also note that “actual curling situations” are proudly advertised in two languages.

Sliding into 1995, things start to get interesting… somewhat. The title is at least exciting, because we’ve reached Curling Knock Out. And it does away with card and dice play—it’s a dexterity game.

This makes more sense to me. In Curling Knock Out, one to eight players are actually sliding ersatz curling stones across a tabletop. This puts the game more in line with common dexterity games that use caroms or other sliding pawns in concert with scoring zones to define the game. Offering “crazy fun for everyone,” this one actually looks like it would be good for a laugh—but that said, any game where you can throw something down a table and knock someone else’s piece off is generally fun to play with the right crowd. As for what the “hogg lines” are—as advertised on the box—I have no idea. A history of curling is included in the rulebook, which I should probably read before the next time I write about the sport.

Rules are in Swedish and English. That’s good news. By the looks of it, the curling stones roll based on a complex mechanical system of a plastic ring containing a ball bearing. It’s a high-tech way to bring the complicated thrill of curling to any dry, flat surface.

Finally, we come to 2012 and a more recent curling game. Hurry Hard (which I am guessing is a curling term) backs off from the dexterity gameplay and takes us back to cardplay and hand management. It at least looks a little more modern, but I can’t say that it looks much more exciting than the previous examples.

Hurry Hard! looks to be the most readily available—and almost definitely best—curling game on the market. As far as I have been able to discover, it’s the only one currently in print and it’s retailing for $29.95 through the publisher’s website (Treasures In Store Games). I also includes a 15-minute video on how to play the Hurry Hard!, for those of you interested enough to invest 15 minutes in a card game about curling.

Ahh, the dreaded “hogged rock.” According to the website, the Hurry Hard! rules also contain lots of information for folks like me who have no idea what all of these curling terms mean.

I did a quick check of retailers stocking the game and only one was located in the U.S. A shop called “On the Button” in Connecticut. It’s a curling gift shop. In addition to Hurry Hard!, they also stock a couple of more dexterity-focused curling games that did not appear in my usual research sources.

Who knew that one of the strangest of the Olympic Games had so much of a tabletop presence?

Michael Barnes is a lifelong game player, collector and enthusiast. He has parlayed his passion for games into several successful ventures, including a retail hobby store, two popular gaming Websites, and 10 years of widely read commentary and criticism about both tabletop and video games.

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