This is a story about how a board game got me through a difficult day, but also challenged every fibre of my moral being before I’d even picked it up off the shelf.
It starts a (not so long) while ago, on the day that I got the results for my university degree.
I lived in a house with a very enthusiastic, if sometimes ill-informed, attitude to anything related to being left wing.
As well as a felt-tip drawn poster of Margaret Thatcher looking menacing in front of a fiery inferno, we had cartoon version of Marx tacked to the kitchen cupboard spouting various mashed together quotes from the Communist Manifesto alongside a “Proletariat points” sheet that got you a tick every time you did something for the greater good of the house.
It was more of a method to get our lazy housemate to do the dishwasher every now and again than an attempt to create a microcosm in which communism really worked for the good of everyone, but nevertheless it worked and it made us feel like we were doing a good job of applying our Sociology degrees to real life.
Other than applauding each other for getting a first in an assignment or cleaning the bathroom now and again and adding to the points sheet, we also had an idol. His name was Owen Jones and his book “Chavs: The demonisation of the working class” was like our Bible.
The term “chav” was not a word that was used in the house without disapproving side glances at whatever insensitive bigot used it, and topics related to his book, articles, interviews or face inspired lively conversation in the house.
Fast forward now to results day. It was just me, my boyfriend and my most leftie housemate remaining as the others had cleared off for the summer and we decided to do something with our day instead of ordering Dominos and pacing the floor awaiting the dreaded email.
We hit the town in search of, yes I admit it, Monopoly – a game that takes hours and distracts you from anything that’s important in the world. Despite searching every charity shop on the high street there was no sign of a copy and we were about to give up when we spotted something.
The box, which proudly claims that someone tried to ban the game, also features some hooded young men and a sample card exclaiming “Twins! That’s double the child benefit!”
Initially we picked up the box in horror. Then we realised that it was basically Monopoly, just with a horribly offensive theme.
It took us a long time to discuss whether we should even consider buying the game but, with the justification that we would be taking it out of the eyesight of children and satisfying our craving for Monopoly, we handed over a pound each and were on our way.
We got in and, through gritted teeth and guilty laughter enjoyed our first game of CHAV. Much like Monopoly there’s a jail and the opportunity to own property, though “chance” and “community chest” cards are replaced by “minted” and “minging” cards. The banker is called “the Gov” and hands out £50 when you pass the Benefits Office.
Each player takes the role of a hooded young man (literally the same person printed on little cardboard figurines, just differentiated by different coloured tracksuits) with the goal of “living it large”. Available property includes pot noodles, belly rings, alcopops and a “well phat car stereo” that are purchased and lent out to other players when they land on the spot. You also have the opportunity to Happy Slap other players and have to “cough up for those bleedin’ kids” at the cost of £5 for landing on the Child Support spot.
If you can put your morals aside it’s definitely a giggle. We played two games in a row since going bankrupt seemed incredibly easy. You can buy a boob job for £50 but landing on it when it’s not yours costs you £100. With only £50 coming in from the Gov when you’ve made it around the board, cash is tight. Games lasted about half the time Monopoly usually does, and “da’ rules” consisted of just two columns on the inside of the box so there wasn’t much faffing about getting accustomed to our new well bling game.
I like the idea that this copy of CHAV is a one off, created in someone’s basement and donated to charity after they died sad and alone. But if I could bring myself to Google it I’d find that you can still buy it for about £20 and that there’s a long string of disapproving comments about it on Mumsnet. One product review read “It’s great fun in a Jeremy Kyle sort of way!”
It might be a pretty minging concept but for the £2.99 we paid it certainly gave us a good distraction from our stressful results day.