Deborah Yaffe

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Jane Austen, trumped

By Deborah Yaffe, Mar 27 2017 01:00PM

For an American, a British spouse confers certain advantages. Your tea will always be expertly brewed. Your friends will find the accent irresistible. And your children will learn to play Top Trumps.


Top Trumps is an extremely simple card game for two or more players. The only required equipment is a pack of special themed cards available at a price well within the reach of your average school-age child – at least in 1970s and 1980s Britain, where the game originated.


Initially, the themes of Top Trumps packs included such traditionally boy-friendly topics as cars and weaponry. By the early 2000s, when my British husband was inducting our young son into the Top Trumps fraternity, the line had expanded to include animals, sports, movies and books. Our house overflowed with Top Trumps packs covering Manchester United soccer stars and Harry Potter characters.


Today, my son has outgrown Top Trumps. And truth be told, even had it been available way back when, I’m not sure he’d ever have wanted the newest addition to the genre: Jane Austen Top Trumps, specially commissioned by the Jane Austen Centre in Bath, England.


Top Trumps game play is straightforward: You peel a card off your stack, read out one of the numerical data points assigned to the character on that card, and – if your number tops everyone else’s – capture your opponent’s card. (Yes, it’s basically a fancy version of War.) Arcane arguments over whether the Top Trumps company has correctly assessed the relative Cunning or Courage rankings of, say, Draco Malfoy and Hermione Granger are, of course, part of the fun.


The Jane Austen version, which includes cards for major characters in all six novels, illustrated with photographs of actors who played those characters, will lend itself to such arguments with a vengeance. Fanny Price gets more Wit points than Marianne Dashwood? Emma Woodhouse ranks lower on Attraction than Anne Elliot? Says who? And who decided to illustrate the Frank Churchill card with a picture of Ewan McGregor in the world’s least flattering haircut?


Let the games begin. . .


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