I’m a huge fan of the SVH game. In fact, it’s what brought me back to SVH as an adult.
Before joining 1bruce1, the majority of my knowledge of the SVH ‘verse came from the game, since I can’t remember much from the books even though I read them voraciously as a kid (perhaps this is because they’re trite and full of hollow-cardboard characters?).
My best friend last_empress and I discovered the game in the guest room at my mom’s house and started playing it back in 2002 or so. We’re always Lila and Jessica, because we’re BFFs and also total bitches. Since then, we’ve forced a number of our other friends to play with us, most notably gregoricka who is Enid (when guys play, they’re always Enid. When our friend Elizabeth plays, we let her be Elizabeth).
The game always starts out on the right foot, because according to the official rules, whoever is Jessica gets to go first (and I’m always Jessica cuz it’s my game). This is true to the books, because Jessica is kicking and pushing and cutting bitches and doing whatever it takes to go first. After that, the non-Jessica players take turns going clockwise or something.
The gameboard consists of classrooms named for subjects (biology, French), and the offices of the Vice Principal; Principal (who so strongly resembles Adolph Hitler that gregoricka drew a swastika beanie on his bald little head, prompting last_empress and I to laugh so hard our stomachs hurt); and Nurse (an angry looking man in drag we affectionately call “Murse”). There’s also detention which is where you go when you loose a turn.
Naturally, the game is about dating. You have to gather all of the items for your big date in order to win. Because isn’t that what life’s really about? Getting a man? Little tiles are placed faced down in each "room" on the board, and you have to go around and collect all of your tiles, which are listed on your player card. As you can see from the cards, each of the characters has a different date. Judging from her dress, Jessica’s big date takes place during the Civil War (if the Civil War were pinker). Elizabeth is going on a bike trek in her high-wasted coolots, ‘Nid is going to a surfing party. I wouldn’t have guessed that Enid had the force of character of surf or party, so I’m sure she’s sitting under a dock reading a book while the others surf. And Lila’s having a Sweet 16 party, an event which factors in to a couple of the cards you can draw throughout the game. One of the cards tells us that "Lila's boyfriend Ken Matthews" throws her the party. What? Also, who invites teachers to their sweet sixteen party? Especially given that Mr. Fellows looks a bit pedophiley.
I find the illustrations very realistic. Jessica is charming, but still knows she’s better than you. Elizabeth is sweet and caring, yet better than you. Enid looks kind of like Gina Davis with a bad 80’s perm. And Lila is exactly the way I’d picture her... nose in the air, superior gaze... the look of a cat who just devoured a caged bird for sport. Bruce is looking at you like he’s got your number AND your panties in his back pocket. Ken Matthews is making a face that seems to say “shut up, you queen” (as gregoricka so eloquently put it). Mr. Collins is Robert Redford; that is clearly an illustration of Robert Redford. Too bad the picture just shows his head because you know he’s wearing some ass tight bike shorts. The illustrators are clearly fond of the chin cleft. They got Todd about right, but Winston looks about forty. Note that Ms. Taylor and Winston Eggbert go to the same optometrist.
As you travel around the board, you may land on a “Draw a Card” square. The cards are super fun. They relate an event that happens to a character and an often unrelated or inconsistent reward or penalty to go along with it. The harshest penalty is when a character has to give up a boyfriend piece. It’s put back on the board by other players and then you have to go try to retrieve it. Everyone wants to draw a “peek take” card- which is where you can look at any tile on the board & if it’s yours you get to take it.
There’s an eerie disconnect between the events on the cards and the consequences to the characters- just like in the books! Sometimes Jessica is rewarded for being a manipulative bitch: “Jessica schemes to get the last ticket to rock concert. Jessica may roll the die out of turn.” Sometimes other people are punished: “Enid believes a story Jessica has spread. Enid must put back one item.” Meanwhile, “Elizabeth helps everyone study for finals. Elizabeth may roll the die out of turn.” Everyone? She helped everyone in the school study for finals? Of course she did, because she’s Saint Elizabeth. Enid's life is also touched by Saint Liz: “Elizabeth gives Enid some good advice which Enid uses. Enid may move to any space on the board.” Enid may get to move, but Liz has the satisfaction of knowing it was her advice. Hilariously, Enid has to put back her boyfriend card because “Winston is attracted to another girl.” An interesting twist, given that the two never actually dated. Also, it’s okay to be attracted to other people. That’s natural. Not natural is this card: “ Enid and Lila have a fight over boyfriends and Enid wins. Enid may roll the die out of turn.” HA! Not bloody likely!
But just when you think the game designers never read the books, they throw a touch of Sweet Valley-realism in the game. The characters are all swingers, swapping boyfriends whenever you land on a “trade boyfriend” square. It can get confusing with the boyfriends traveling from card to card, and you have to have yours back to win. Many a win has been thwarted when a player has a full card and is about to land on “home” when someone else lands on a “trade boyfriend” square. Much like in the books, things get really bitchy when you start passing boys around. I haven’t had a game come to Toddpunches... YET.
If you have the chance to play this game, I highly recommend it. It’s actually kind of fun, and all the more diverting if you go into it with a heightened sense of irony and loving distain for the characters. Which you know describes you, or you wouldn’t be here.