A lot of people ask me "So, what's the Mornington Crescent thing then?"
Rather tragically, I've never been able to come up with a succinct or
even remotely accurate answer.
I can only offer that Mornington Crescent is like philosophy in that it
is something to be done rather than discussed. At least, that's what
Bertrand Russell said before he executed a perfectly awful Gaberdene
straddle across a quadrant diagonal - he never played again.
A Short History Lesson
I do not concern myself here with the origin of the game of Mornington
Crescent. This has been eloquently documented elsewhere (and more
technical information). However, it is worth noting that the
game's popularity (notoriety, even) in latter years stems mainly from
its promotion on the BBC Radio 4 show I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue. I am
more concerned here with MC on the web.
Up until recently, the two main web sites for playing Mornington Crescent were
York and Delphi,
and these two sites fostered very different styles of play and distinct
communities of players. That's not to say that these two communities did not
intermix, just that there was a certain amount of good natured rivalry between
Then Delphi died.
The reasons for this death were never adequately discerned: rumours circulated
that a Podume of Infinite Darkness had been played and had caused havoc, or
that the Croxley potential had been exceeded one too many times. It was even
suggested that the originator of the site had left and the site had simply
atrophied through neglect, although this seems infeasible.
Suffice it to say that there was a sudden influx of dispossessed Delphi
refugees playing at York. Tensions mounted, there was the occasional
unnecessary flame war, but the games did continue. Hardly any blood was spilt.
Thus was established the need for two web servers for Mornington Crescent,
through the apparent immiscibility of York and Delphi personalities. Mr Wild
Pants stands as a heroic figure in championing the Delphi style of play.
There is also an ongoing effort to establish a permanent York-like presence.
The first fruits of this is
Mornington Crescent in Outer Space, but a distributed MC server is being
With all the glory surrounding the Great Game, it still has to be
conceded that the rules (253 volumes, 12 appendices, and innumerable
emendments following the last IMCS convocation) can be a little daunting
for the neophyte player. Fortunately, a rigorous effort is underway to
contruct a more compact ruleset. This effort is known as Mornington Nomic.
I shan't explain the mechanisms of a Nomic here (Kevan's site does a
great deal better at that than I ever could), but there are a couple of
reports I maintain:
- Station Currents - the original
document listing these currents, but Kevan's version is better laid out.
- Reports - various reports generated
with the aid of relational database of station information and a few
randomly crafted Perl scripts.
Places to play are:
- York - erudite, companionable, efficient loading system, and home to the
World Championships. Also savagely unforgiving of spam, but that's to be expected.
- Delphi - this is the place I began playing,
but rather sadly it appears to have died.
I've left the link for old times' sake rather than any real expectation it will work.
- Mr Wild Pants' MC Server - very much in the style of
Delphi, and continuing that server's rumbustuous traditions. Ruttsborough is
not played better anywhere.
- Mornington Crescent in Outer Space - Dan Parslow's home
brew server, following the Yorkist style.
Nomic - see above!
- IMCIT - the
Intermational Mornington Crescent Championships is run through a mailing list.
The moderator maintains this archive of completed games.
- #Mornington_Crescent - MC over IRC, an amazing experience!
Like a Pilgrimage without the walking.
There was a recent seismic event within the Mornington Crescent community as
Place itself reopened after six years of closure. This obviously has
profound effect on the game as tactics such as diagonal furbelows and
Juniper's variation suddenly become relevant once more, and manoeuvres which
have been devastatingly effective in recent games are rendered toothless, if
not entirely invalid.
As someone who has come to the game during the period of closure,
I myself am a victim of this effect: double pegging of Euston has
been one of the mainstays of my play for some time, but if I try
that now there will be a rather muffled titter from my opponents
before they shred my token potentials and revranch through
Kentish Town. Ah well, who said change wasn't interesting?
Of course, this celebratory atmosphere has been slightly marred by the almost
immediate (and hopefully short term) closure of Mornington Crescent station
within two weeks of its reopening. Apparently there was a problem with the
lifts. Since a fault in the lifts is what prompted the closure six years ago,
this seemed ominous... but the Station reopened once more only a couple
of weeks later.
For a preliminary analysis of the effects of the reopening, look
at the April
27th Celebration Game on York.
To play MC well, you need maps:
- undoubtedly the most frequently played, but this map's complexity and
ability to add serendipitous happenstance to any game is without
parallel. Unfortunately, also the most over-analysed...
Melbourne - an interesting layout. Thanks must go to the maintainer
of the map for pointing out that the only busses on the map are those
connecting to the airport.
- Sydney - highly entertaining to play. I particularly enjoy the
high incidence of similarly named stations to the London map, although
as far as I know that is as far as the similarities go. Tactical
quotients in particular are totally dissimilar.
I am the self-appointed archivist of the
Mornington Crescent Pilgrims.
When I were nobbut a lad, I bought myself an I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue book.
I hadn't a clue what it was about, but I enjoyed it tremendously. It looked
like this (at about 168k).
And I truly was fascinated by the weird game called Mornington Crescent played
by the panellists - I spent literally minutes trying to work out the token
progressions, desperately seeking some sense in the straddling ratios other
paraphernalia of the hardened player. But to no avail - I never did find a
tube map, and I forgot all about it.
One day I shall publish all the MC games in that slim tome, but here is at least
Last updated 16-October-1998