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LOBO - A 90 Year Old Card Game Based on the London Underground

10-March-2022
10-March-2022 16:40
in Games
by Peter Berthoud

Lobo: Box lid

LOBO is the first game I know of based on the London Underground railway system.

Published by Thomas De La Rue & Company Ltd of Bunhill Row, London E.C.1., the first edition was released in 1932 and this was followed by a second edition in 1935, the 72 cards being largely identical.

The game features fifty station cards each of which has a photo of the station itself or of a prominent local landmark. De La Rue naturally decided that their main works and Head Office deserved a card so they included this view for one of the stations.

Some of the fifty station cardsSome of the 50 station cards

Station Cards

Many of the images are predictable but there are many lesser known local landmarks. Researching all the images also helps to firmly date the first pack to 1932, give or take a month or two.

Here is my description of each of the fifty images.

Station Cards

Addison Road - The Olympia Exhibition Centre. The station became Kensington (Olympia) in 1946 and is said to be the least used station on the London Underground network.

Aldgate East - The Port of London Authority Building, now an hotel, The Four Seasons at 10 Trinity Square. 

Aldwych - Looking south along Kingsway towards Bush House before the side wings were added.

Angel - The station has the fourth longest escalators in Western Europe and features a double width southbound platform! The photo shows the original Angel Inn, now offices, a pub that gave its name to the area and thus to the station. Victor Watson of John Waddington is said to have  decided to include Angel as a property in the new British version of Monopoly whilst having tea in the Angel’s tearooms. Incidentally the builders of the incarnation of the Angel pictured were W. H. Lascelles & Co. of Bunhill Row, commercial neighbours of De La Rue.

Arnos Grove - Arnos Grove station, the newest structure pictured in this pack, the station opened to the public in September 1932.

Arsenal - Originally known as Gillespie Road, the original tiled signage is still there. The view is of Arsenal F.C.’s Highbury Ground.
 Station Cards

Baron’s Court - Entrance to The Queens Club, the private sporting club most famous for the other annual Tennis Championships. 

Bond Street - Looking South towards Old Bond Street, Chaumet have their sign to the right, they are still in the same premises today.

Brent - Brent Bridge Hotel, some now derelict sun-houses, similar to the well-kept gazebos of modern day Ware, are all that remain of the hotel’s facilities. The hotel claimed it was the first in the world to have a television. The hotel was demolished in 1935 following a fire in 1934. The footprint and surrounding area have become Brent Park.

Chancery Lane - St Clement Danes church on Strand to the right, with the Royal Courts of Justice to the far left, beyond the courts is the southern end of Chancery Lane. 

Chancery Lane station's escalators are really short. How short? Google can tell you.

Clapham Common - A view of the Common and a body of water. The nearest lake to the station on the common is Cock Pond.

Cockfosters - Cockfosters Station didn’t open until July 1933. Instead we have a view of Christ Church, Cockfosters about 200 yards away.

Station Cards

Covent Garden - The Royal Opera House in Bow Street. 

Edgware - Edgware High Street’s War Memorial stands in front of “Handel’s Smithy”, a former Blacksmith’s, the hammering from which is said to have inspired Handel to write The Harmonious Blacksmith. The pictured smithy was reconstructed in the 1920s,  

Elephant & Castle - The area was named after the pictured pub and this was adopted as the station’s name.

Euston - The famous station arch that was demolished in 1962 to make way for the development of central London’s ugliest station.

Great Portland Street - Broadcasting House, home of the BBC, the first broadcast from here was in March 1932 and the building opened to the public in May of the same year.

Green Park - A view south along the Broad Walk with part of the Queen Victoria Memorial in the distance. 

Station Cards

Hammersmith - Boats on the Thames, downstream of Hammersmith Bridge, probably at Fulham Reach Boat Club or at least close by with the twin peaks of Harrod’s Furniture Depository in the distance. 

Highgate - The domes of St Joseph’s Catholic Church can be seen in this view up Highgate Hill.

Holland Park - Much of Holland Park, apart from the Park itself, looks like this image. Affluent but anonymous tree lined residential streets. Nowadays, behind closed doors, residents rejoice in their lateral apartments.

Holloway Road - “Holloway Castle” HMP Holloway. From 1903-2016 famously a women’s prison, the largest in Europe. The station had the world’s first spiral escalator. It was never used by the public. You can what remains of see it on a tour of London Transport Museum’s Acton Depot

Hyde Park Corner - Decimus Burton’s 1820s/30s screen and entrance to Hyde Park.

Kensal Green - The Upper, Royal or Victoria Gate entrance to Kensal Green Cemetery, just a little east of the station.

Station Cards

Kensington High Street - Kensington Palace before the remodelled drive and without the railings and gates of today, the statue of William III remains in situ.

Kew Gardens -The Lion Gate at The Royal Botanic Gardens Kew

Knightsbridge - Harrod’s, “Omnia Omnibus Ubique – All Things for All People”. Its shelves were no doubt brimming with pins and elephants at the time.

Lambeth North - Lambeth Palace viewed from Lambeth Bridge.

Liverpool Street - An exterior view of the station with the roadway leading down to the platforms. Liverpool Street is one of London’s most architecturally confusing stations.  The most recent rebuilding of much of the station was finished in 1990 but the pastiche of old and new materials and styles employed makes it hard for me to get a sense of, and accurately place, many elements.

Maida Vale - Close to Little Venice. The photographer is looking north-east along the Regent’s Canal as it passes between Blomfield Road to the left and Maida Avenue to the right.

Station Cards

Mansion House - A view of the nearby Bank of England. Much of the old BoE was demolished in 1925, this facade was retained and given seven new figures by Charles Wheeler. The central sculpture in the pediment is “The Old Lady of Threadneedle Street” and the six statues below (architectural supports or Telamons) were all carved in situ by Charles Wheeler in 1930.

Marble Arch - The full-sized version of an 1826 model held by the V&A

Mark Lane - A view of a castle in the foreground. Mark Lane Station was renamed Tower Hill in 1946.

Marylebone - The western corner of Marylebone station viewed from Melcombe Place.

Morden - The clean entrance to Morden Underground station seen here before a cheap and nasty 1960s office block was constructed to clutter the view on each side and above it.

Mornington Crescent - The image is the magnificent Arcadia Cigarette Factory of Carreras which still stands, sadly repurposed,  opposite the station.

Station Cards

Old Street - A view of the De La Rue printing works, they being the publishers of LOBO. The chimney bears their name DE LA RUE. This is where this very pack of cards was made.  This the De La Rue printing works on the west side of Bunhill Row and north of Chequer Street. The works were destroyed in WWII. More on De La Rue and a picture of the works before the chimney was built at World of Playing Cards

Oval - The Oval cricket ground with the famous gas holders serving as a landmark at one end. Oval station got its name from the cricket ground.

Post Office - Became known as St Paul’s Station from 1937, there was quite a shuffling of station names in the vicinity at the time. Named after The General Post Office, pictured. The only non-contemporary image in the pack as the GPO had been demolished in 1909. De La Rue did print a lot of stamps though.

Praed Street - Paddington (Praed Street) opened in 1868 and was one of the early stations on the sub-surface network that became part of London Underground. The building shown is still there, now serving as an entrance to Paddington Underground Station.

Putney Bridge - The view north towards the 15th Century tower of All Saints Fulham with Putney Bridge to the right.

Regent’s Park - The entrance to the London Zoological Gardens in Regent’s Park, the world’s first scientific zoo.  in 1931 the the Zoological Society of London opened another world’s first, Whipsnade Wild Animal Park.

Station Cards

Russell Square - The image is of the British Museum.  British Museum station opened in 1900 and its closure was first proposed in 1913, it finally closed in 1933. Russell Square remains a convenient station for Mummy gogglers and Elgin scowlers.

St John’s Wood - The principal station for the Abbey Road Zebra Crossing, also used from time to time for matches at Lords Cricket Ground, whose Grace Gate is pictured.

Tooting Broadway - The boating lake at Tooting Bec Common, electric boats were introduced in 1930, they aren’t there anymore.

Trafalgar Square - Famous for John Noakes' ascent of its focal column in 1977.

Uxbridge Road - Closed in 1940 and since demolished. The image shows the Wood Lane entrance to the Franco British Exhibition of 1908 held at White City, also demolished. 

Victoria - Victoria Station, a terminus for mainline rail and an entrance for Underground services.

Station Cards

Waterloo - Waterloo is the busiest station in the UK and is a destination on the busiest of all of LOBO’s Junction cards. The picture is of the main entrance, The Victory Arch, which also serves as a WWI memorial.

Westminster - The Palace of Westminster, viewed from Lambeth Bridge. The photographer needed to take just a few steps from the vista of Lambeth Palace, we saw earlier, to capture this image. I hope they were paid by the shot and not by the hour.

Gameplay

The idea of the game is to complete sets of cards by collecting stations for arrival and departure together with a Junction Card that makes each journey possible, along with season tickets that can be substituted for stations.

The Beck map below is later than the game but includes all the relevant junctions so you can see that the routes specified in the game are all possible. For the famous 1931 Harry Beck map and the first publicly available version of this in 1933 see this article - The History of The Tube Map on Londonist.

Underground Map from the 1940sUnderground Map from the 1940s

Season TicketsSeason Tickets

Season Tickets (Third Class)

The six Season Tickets act as wildcards and can be used to replace any Station Cards but not not any Junction Cards.

There are many real examples of contemporary Season Tickets at the London Transport Museum. By the time LOBO was published Underground services had changed to “classless” tickets. 

Junction CardsJunction Cards

Junction Cards

There are 16 Junction Cards in total; 1 each, Earl’s Court, Bank & Monument, Baker Street, King’s Cross, Oxford Circus,Tottenham Court Road, 2 each of Leicester Square, Piccadilly, Holborn and 4 of Charing Cross.

Problem Junction Card:

There was a long running problem with the junction card for Bank & Monument. The first person to notice and record this was the late Rex Pitts in his article for World of Playing Cards. His article inspired me to buy my first pack of LOBO.

Problems with Bank and Monument Junction CardProblems with Bank and Monument Junction Card 

In the First Edition (top row of the image above) the initial print runs had destinations: 

Broadway

Old Street

Tooting

(Broadway and Tooting are not names of stations on the Underground)

Later printings have:

Old Street

Tooting -

Broadway

These have a very crude hyphen after “Tooting” it varies in width from pack to pack, almost as if someone was employed to put it in by hand in red ink.

It seems that only by the later printings of the First Edition and all of the Second Edition are the cards printed correctly (bottom row of the image) with Broadway a little indented to finally show the correct station name “Tooting Broadway”.

I have compared six packs of first and second edition cards here. There are probably other printing and production errors I haven’t spotted, if you know of any please get in touch and I’ll update this post.

Problem Box

Bank and Monument Junction Card wasn’t the only problem encountered in producing the first edition. The box for the first edition was extraordinary. It stands freely with a white paper collar.

Box Edition One ClosedBox Edition One Closed

As the collar is pulled down the pack two “wings” open to reveal the cards. Almost every set you see for sale today has a broken collar section, many of the collars have been discarded altogether.

Box Edition One Open

Box Edition One Open

The Second Edition was issued in a more conventional flat two-part box with a ribbon beneath the cards.

Box Edition One ClosedBox Edition Two Closed

Box Edition Two OpenBox Edition Two Open

Rules

Rules for the two editionsRules for the two editions

The Name

The thing that most puzzles me about the game is the name - LOBO. It is always capitalised in the rules. Was it a telegraphic code, four transposed telephone numbers, a code, a postal pigeon hole, an in-joke, a slang term, an angel number in Tarot?

I have spent enough of my eyesight trying to work this out, if you know why "LOBO" please tell me!

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