Austenland, a Game for Janeites

Abeni, Jacob, Izzy, Mairin & Sharon play Austenland

Abeni, Jacob, Izzy, Mairin & Sharon play Austenland

At the end of each fall semester, we have a “fall festival” where the first year seminar students present a project to the community that shares some of what they have learned. This year my Jane Austen class invented a board game for the occasion, which they are calling Austenland.

In the past, my Austen seminars have constructed a conduct manual (What Would Jane Do), a Facebook page involving all the characters in Sense and Sensibility, and a psychological questionnaire in which you can determine which Austen hero and/or heroine you most resemble. Links to these projects, including the questionnaire, are provided at the end of today’s post.

Modeled on Candyland, Austenland involves a trip to “Happily Ever After,” also know as Pemberly. To get there, players must draw cards that either send them forward or back. You can take a shortcut if you land on one of three bridges (“garden walk,” “shortcut to Bath,” and “gift of good fortune”). Along the way players pass Northanger Abbey, Mansfield Park, and Bath.

Up to six players can play at a time, choosing from amongst the heroines of the novels. (The token piece for Sense and Sensibility has Elinor on one side and Marianne on the other.) The players are also issued cards informing them of their fate depending on their placement. The game ends once one player wins, with the other players receiving a ranking depending on their positioning.

The stakes for finishing poorly at dire. Here, for instance, is what awaits Elizabeth Bennet:

First place – Marriage to Mr. Darcy
Second place – Marriage to Colonel Fitzwilliam
Third place – Live with her parents for the rest of her life
Fourth place – Marriage to Mr. Collins
Fifth place – Marriage to Wickham
Sixth place – Death from consumption

A class had a vigorous debate on whether death from consumption was worse than being married to either Collins or Wickham.

Here are some of the cards that players draw to advance their pieces. Can you name the novels?

–The love of your life, whom you turned down, has been just as successful as he said he would be and is now comfortably rich and still unmarried. Move back three but add six to your next turn.
–Edmund returns your horse. Move forward five spaces.
–Sir Thomas sends you to live with your poor family. Skip a turn.
–You listen to Lady Russell’s advice. Go back to start.
–You refuse to participate in a play. Draw again.
–You misread Harriet’s love preference. Go back two.
–You get stuck talking to Lady Middleton about her children. Lose a turn.
–Lady Bertram promises you one of her pugs. Go forward one.
–Edmund realizes that Mary is not a good person. Move forward ten spaces.
–Fanny Dashwood moves into your home. Move back five spaces.
–You are entranced by Henry Crawford’s performance of Shakespeare. Go back one.
–Willoughby leaves you and writes you a harsh rejection letter to boot. Go back to start.
–An admirer sends you a piano. People raise their eyebrows. Draw another card.
–You miss an engagement with the Tilneys. Go back five spaces.
–Your family acts up at a neighborhood ball. Go back five spaces.
–Your bright eyes catch Darcy’s attention. For forward three spaces.
–You turn down Darcy’s marriage proposal. Go back three spaces but then move forward an extra four spaces for each of the next three turns.
–You become deathly ill but then you see the light of reason upon your recovery. Lose a turn but draw two cards on your following turn.
–Jane Fairfax accepts your desire to make amends. Move ahead five spaces.
–Willoughby comes to your rescue after you twist your ankle. Move forward three but then move back five on your next turn.
–Sir Walter reads the Baronetage to you three times in a row. Miss your next turn.
–You suspect General Tilney of having murdered his wife. Move back two spaces.
–You heroically sacrifice the love of your life to atone for your past sins to Harriet. Move forward ten spaces.
–You resist pressure to visit Blaise Castle in order to honor a commitment. Move forward five spaces.
–You see something wrong with Mr. Elliot even before you know the facts about him. Move forward seven spaces.
–You stand up to Sir Thomas’s pressure to marry Crawford. Go back five spaces but, on your next turn, go forward fifteen.

Creating and then playing the game did more than prompt the class to revisit all of the novels. It also made us keenly aware how Austen structures her marriage plot.


Previous Jane Austen Seminar Projects:

Which Jane Austen Character Are You? 

Ask Jane: Expert Relationship Advice

If Jane Austen Used Facebook… 

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  • Literature is as vital to our lives as food and shelter. Stories and poems help us work through the challenges we face, from everyday irritations to loneliness, heartache, and death. Literature is meant to mix it up with life. This website explores how it does so.

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