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  • You have to have lived your life in closed barrel if you are Finnish and don’t know the board game African Star. 19 year old Kari Mannerla designed it in 1949 in his longing for travels and adventures, he didn’t have then afford to go even over the border to visit neighbouring Sweden. The game sold 3,5 million copies during next fifty years (only 5 million people living in Finland) and you can nowadays find it practically in every home and summer cottage in Finland.

    Mannerla designed dozens of games during his 76 year long life but he could never repeat the miracle of African Star. It’s birth was a touch of angel. The game found echo in innermost depths of every Finnish child and adult, it answered their yearning for wealthier, more adventurous life.

    Rules of the game are simple. You are looking all over Africa for African Star (Cullinan), biggest diamond ever. Each player gets 300 pounds to start with. They travel by throwing a dice, by land, by sea or by air. Travelling by air is most expensive, it costs 300 pounds for a short trip between two red circles. So mostly you have to walk. Walking in desert or in jungle is free, and slow.

    When you reach a red circle you may turn the piece of round cardboard on that circle for hundred pounds. If you don’t have money you can try to open it by throwing a dice, but you have to get 4, 5 or 6. On the other side of cardboards you can find blanks (nothings), different jewels (you get money from the bank for them), horseshoes or gangsters (who rob you of all your money). Under one special piece of cardboard there lies hidden the African Star.

    The winner of the game is the one who finds the African Star and succeeds in getting it to Cairo or Tangier. After the Big Find you can still win if you miraculously find a horseshoe and succeed in getting it to either of those two cities before the player travelling with the African Star.

    The map of Africa is filled with exotic sounding places young designer dreamed of visiting. Whalefish Bay, Cape Guardafui, Dragon Mountain, Ocomba, Gold Coast, Tripoli, Bahr El Ghasal, Kandjama, Ain-Galaka. The most dangerous place is the island of Saint Helena. It is surrounded by pirates and if you turn a piece of cardboard there and get a gangster, you are doomed to stay broke there to the rest of your life (a.k.a. round of game) like Napoleon Bonaparte.

    I still remember how I turned around a piece of cardboard with gangster on St. Helena when I was about 7 years old. I cried so desperately that my mother ran from the other side of the house, robbed all the other players of their money and thrusted a thick bundle to me. After that she shooed angrily other players out of the house and wished them as long as where pepper bush grows.

    There I was sitting, cheeks soaked with tears, thousands of pounds wrinkled inside my fists. The supreme winner of dangerous journey of exploration to Africa! Feeling miserable in the middle of all my limitless wealth.
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