Crimbo Relief Rally 2008
An Insight by Steve Barber
Crimbo Relief Rally 2008 Index

After the Crimbo Relief Table Top Rally, Crow has asked that I take some time to give anyone interested an insight into how I go my way about a Table Top Rally. Please excuse me if this all seems a bit too simplistic and that I may be teaching you to suck eggs but I write this hoping that it might help someone on the road to a more enjoyable table top experience, or just fill in some gaps and inspire your thinking on the next one.


I have the benefit of around 15 years experience in table top rallies, navigating regularly on12-car rallies and scatter events, not so much scatters recently as none seem to happen locally. In the past I have set routes and organised a number of 12-cars, written instructions for a couple of scatters and a road rally. Experience of these types of event, as well as all the table-tops over the years, help in recognising the logic used in the route description very quickly.
It is very important to read and understand all the instructions as well as the regulations.


Before I start, I find it helps to set up comfortably at home with all the right equipment, just as important as it is on the road. Before the Crimbo Table Top I had bought the power converter from The Roamer Company, as currently advertised on the TTR home page. With this, I was able to plug my Potis into the mains to look at the printed maps next to my PC, whereas before I had relied on a table lamp to shine the way on the dining table.

I also now have a room with a desk and my PC. I can shut myself away after the kids have gone to bed. I have an understanding wife who lets me get on with the intense concentration needed to plot a route and study it and answer the questions within the shortest time possible.

Before opening a Route card I make sure I have a stack of sharpened soft (2B easy to rub out) pencils and rubber at the ready, a roamer and a printed copy of the map, then its on with the helmet, a click of the mouse and away I go (no helmet really although it might help shut out any other unwanted noise and save a few bruises when I bash my head against the wall!).


Before opening the route card, if at all possible, I print the map and then photocopy it from A4 onto A3 paper. As soon as I open up a route card I print it off. While printing I try to understand the logic to be applied. It is also important to read and understand any instructions given on the route card and put those in context with the map. This has caught me out in the past, reading instructions quickly and incorrectly cause wrong routes to be taken and usually lost points. The Crimbo, and other recent Table Tops, I believe, have all been designed with the time factor in mind so none of the route cards appear to be too difficult, or maybe I am just very used to them.

Once printed, I apply the logic, translate the instructions if necessary then plot the route on the printed map. I mark the map at the start location and then start by drawing a line adjacent to the road on the left hand side, this gives an indication of the route direction and saves confusion further along the route where there may be a both way use of dual carriageways, staggered junctions, etc.

When I get to the end of part 1, I mark the map in a similar way to the start mark. I find it useful to plot both parts of a Card before attempting to answer the questions as sometimes part 2 can highlight mistakes in part one, for instance where a wrong route has been taken in part 1 that makes part 2 impossible. This occurred in Card 3 where there was a missing instruction towards the end, the instructions still appeared to work but part 2 was more accurate and sent me back up roads already used.

When I have plotted part 2 I again mark the map with at finish location.

Having got to the end of the instructions, I usually go back over the route to check that there were no other possible shorter routes that could have been taken, such as small white roads that cut corners.


Here it is very important to know what answer is required. The Crimbo introduced a number of new types of route check and the marking system is quite strict.

So, once the plotting is done, it’s down to counting the churches, railway bridges, etc. Churches (+) I find particularly difficult to count as the symbol is so small and can easily be covered by my pencil lines. Once I find one I draw a circle round it and count it in, then move on to the next question.

Recording Answers

A trick I have learnt here, when entering answers is to go back and login again first regardless, this way I don’t get a surprise after entering the answers, checking the typing and hit the submit button then getting the message that I am not logged in and have to go through entering lot again. The answer system seems to log you out automatically after about an hour, a number of times I have completed the Card and by the time I get the answer in and hit the submit button, I have been logged out.

The most important bit is to enter the answers correctly. I have lost many points in the past because I have entered an answer incorrectly, that is to say, not the number I had written down, sometimes because my PC had remembered an answer from another time and auto filled in the number for me. So I double check and triple check that the number in the answer field on the submit form is the answer I intended.

Problem Solving

This is a very big subject and recognition of the problem or its similarity to a previously seen problem will cut time immensely. I guess I can go through the route cards of the Crimbo one at a time.

Where do I start. Strategy.

As I started the Crimbo quite late on I had the benefit of seeing how well other people had done in the results. It appeared that almost everyone was having trouble with Card 8 and 9 with low scores and long times recorded. Taking these factors into account it appeared that the other route cards were not so problematic. So I took each card one at a time until I completed the first 7 then continued from 12 and 11. Then I tackled 8 and saw why this was a problem, I felt very lucky that I got the points on this one. I thought I had blown it big time. The Route Card 9 was just tedious web searching and in to 10 which I think I found a novel way to solve, see below.

Route Card 1 CHRISTMAS Code.

This was quite straight forward translation giving the letters in CHRISTMAS a number. Since there are nine letters and ten are needed, then all is not well.

Part 1 plotted well. I saw the solution slightly differently to the way Crow has explained it in that I counted the C of Code as the 0 to complete all the numbers and using all those in upper case, however the second C is never used.

In part 2, I didn’t spot that the number 3 is skipped but this does explain the logic. When I plotted it, I used the same translation as in part 1 but it very soon went wrong, so I applied some more logic, that 1 should be subtracted when going over a GL ending in 0, this gives the first 61(TC) becomes 60 etc. Towards the end, the 81(AC) becomes 80 and so on. I think it worked because the numbers of grid lines crossed didn’t actually reach one ending in a three. On reflection this was a bit hit or miss but there where too few options available to go far wrong.

Route Card 2 Christmas Tulips.

Again, quite straight forward, the clue in the part 2 was that there were two types of tulip missing. Looking at the route instructions it was fairly easy to see that the two missing tulips were “Straight On at Left” and “Straight On at Right”, or “Miss Left” and “Miss Right” if you prefer.

Route Card 3 – Sounds.

It took a while to get used to the voice and accent and speed. Slow first part, fast second part. Missing instruction at end of first part caused roads to be reused at start of part 2 so back to part 1 and find where it went wrong. A number of alternative routes at the end of part 2 to take in “944 977 944“ but the shortest route was fairly obvious. “stop to make a phone call” will be ringing in my ears for some time to come, the phrase seems to have got stuck in my head now.

Route Card 4 – LCD

Interesting, most 7-segment LCD displays I had seen had an extra segment lit for the tails of the 6 and 9 so this threw me for a bit but the penny dropped having read the instructions over and over and realising that the least number of segments were required to define each number. I guess I have been used to hex calculators which use letters a-f and where b and 6 look very similar.

Route Card 5 – Road Blocks

Although there were missing items in the instructions, as Iain Tullie said it still worked and there was only one way to go. Speed was needed to find the start anagram, and then to understand what the letters meant. Was there an inconsistency in the use of the C and +, e.g. the second yellow C before the red p. Part 2 was a little tricky as it should be but it seemed to flow well.

Route Card 6 – Square Junctions.

This was a new idea but straight forward, each junction lead to the next instruction. Part 2 near the end went a bit wobbly with a missing instruction. Was there something missing? Anyway it wasn’t too difficult to pick up the intended route again.

Route Card 7 – 1 by 1s

Part 1 again was straight forward with the occasional “?” to confirm that you were on the right route. Part 2 a little less straight forward. Completing this one was a drag race to the finish line.

Route Card 8 – Please Get This White

This card I did not like. The route was not a well defined route so could not be done at great speed. Once a route was plotted, I had to go over and over the map to see if there was a better way or if I had missed any whites that could be reached.

I think that the answers were flexible enough to allow several combinations. I was unsure for a while if the road at the bottom of the map should have been used as the instructions said it was a through road or if the instructions were trying to misguide you. Having looked at the route checks, one stood out, GL54?, why was this special? I found very quickly found another small white loop at the bottom of the map that added another two crossings of GL54, a quick reroute meant that I took in the yellow road at the bottom of the map after all.

When I submitted my results for this one I was not at all confident as you may have been able to tell from my comment, but I got a big surprise, even more rewarding as this was the 10th card I had tackled. Something here to learn is that sometimes the route checks can give a clue to the route.

Route Card 9 – Interneting

This was quite tedious internet searching for answers. A pattern started to emerge and the numbers matched the grid lines in the area. Had a bit of trouble with the roman numerals and working out what was required of the numbers but there was only one pair of SHs the same so I could apply the maths to an actual number and got the result. I hadn’t realised straight away that there was a link in the route card to a web site with the answers so wasted a lot of time Googling for the right answers. I generally print the instructions of first and work from them.

Route Card 10 - Insect the Morse.

Part 1 Start by finding the morse code translation on the internet via Google. Each character delimited with a “/” was fairly straight forward to translate into numbers and then put into context with the map. Part 2 little tricky but numbers are always a combination of 5 dots or dashes and when the sequence is totally reversed, the printed page can be turned up-side-down and the code read normally cutting out the middle step of the official explanation.

Route Card 11 – Size Matters

Part 1 simply spot heights visited in order. Part 2 not too difficult to work out that the size of the squares somehow represented the magnitude of SHs on the route. I measured the size of one side of each printed square in mm with a ruler. I then found that no spot height actually corresponded to these values, unsurprisingly, nor were they close. I needed a way to convert or scale up, or down, the numbers. Looking at the map, there were not many SHs on green roads and there were 3 green squares, progressively getting smaller in the instructions. I realised that the only three SHs on the map that were descending where at the top of the map going south. This gave me a reference point, or three, to scale all of the other measurements.

Route Card 12 – Alphabet Soup

Again very straight forward, easy to miss the shorter route using a white near the end otherwise the number of GL44s would have been higher. Part 2 was a little trickier again but when used with the map all works well. The partially obscured gradient could easily have been missed.