The ultimate bullying game

Mens Erger Je Niet is one of the most classic Dutch games, together with ganzenborden. Translated in English the title means something similar to “Man, don’t annoy yourself”.

This setting of the game is portrayed on many of the various game boxes: a man looks very agitated, possibly going with his one hand through his hair while his other hand slams the game board, with the game pieces flying through the room. This annoyance is caused by the essence of the game: one can be sent back to the start at almost every stage of the game.

It was the German Josef Friedrich Schmidt who invented the game around 1917, possibly inspired by the rules of Parcheesi, the national game of India. Many publishers have issued the game in the Netherlands since, but also in other European countries it allegedly gained reasonable popularity. Sweden granted it the Game of the Year award in 1999. Publisher Jumbo estimated that in the Benelux, Mens Erger Je Niet has been sold in four million copies since World War II. Similar games are called Ludo, Nyout, Cross and Circle, Ucker and, clearly, Parcheesi.

Mens Erger Je Niet used to be a game for adults, but nowadays it’s mainly children who annoy each other. The two to four players get four pawns each in their own distinct colour. They each have their own starting point, a circle in each of the corners of the game board. The players throw one die in their turn. Only a six gives a game piece entrance to the board. After that you can move the token according to the numbers on the die. So if it takes very long for you to throw a six, it can be very annoying because there’s nothing else to do but wait and watch the others go ‘round the board: nuisance 1.

The goal is to bring your pawns home around the board (which is 40 squares). Once they’re home, the game pieces are safe. But before that, on the long road to safety, the players can send each other back to the beginning by landing their own game piece on the same square: nuisance 2. This means all game pieces are very vulnerable towards pieces coming from the back. Of course, to send a token to the start circle you have to land on the exact same square. If your throw is too high, you pass the token with the likely risk of getting punished yourself: nuisance 3.

The safe home base consists of four squares. The player has to throw exactly the required number of squares left to get there safely. Otherwise the token stays on its place, so near home but yet very exposed to the wrath of the other players. This might be the ultimate frustration in the game (nuisance 4). Especially in the end, when there’ s only one free spot left in the home area, since the other three tokens have already grabbed the first available squares.

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