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
It is very important to read and understand all the instructions as well as the
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,
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.
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.
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
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.