Updated: Dec 27, 2022
Captain W.E. Johns' Biggles, A Pepys Game
First Published: 1955, A Pepys Game by Castell Brothers, St Cross Street, London
Illustrator or Designer: Stead
Contents: 44 Cards + Rules Booklet
There are two "packs" of cards in the game, 22 cards with Blue backs and 22 with Red backs.
The Blue backed cards have 14 with Black numbers, 2 identical cards for each of the numbers 1-7, these cards "picture incidents which helped Biggles in his JUNGLE adventures". There are also 7 cards with Red numbers and these "picture setbacks which befell Biggles in his DESERT adventures". There is also an unnumbered card with a portrait of Biggles.
The Red backed cards also have 14 with Black numbers, 2 identical cards for each of the numbers 1-7, these "picture incidents which helped Biggles in his DESERT adventures". There are also 7 cards with Red numbers "picturing setbacks to Biggles in his JUNGLE adventures". There is again an unnumbered card with a portrait of Biggles.
James Bigglesworth, nicknamed "Biggles" was a fictional flying ace and adventurer and the hero of almost 100 books. His creator was W.E. Johns (1893-1968), who often used the title "Captain" when publishing his books aimed at younger readers. There is a lively community of Biggles and W.E.John collectors and enthusiasts and they are very well served by two extraordinarily detailed websites www.biggles.com & www.wejohns.com . The creator of both sites, Roger Harris, even drives a car with the number plate "WE 70HNS"!
The illustrator for almost all the Biggles books from 1943-1967 was Leslie Stead (1899-1966) or one of his "Stead" studio members. The card illustrations for the game had all been previously used to illustrate various Biggles books. Roger Harris discovered that Stead repainted many of these illustrations specifically for the Pepys' game and he has kindly given me permission to reproduce his personal photos of 14 original Stead paintings here, 9 of which were used as card designs.
Roger Harris notes that "Some were repainted but not all. Some are the original artwork [for the books]. It’s a case of comparing with the originals". In most of the images are clear circular marks in the top left corner where numbers for the game were attached prior to reproduction. Click on any image in the gallery to scroll through larger versions.
These nine illustrations were used for the Pepys cards. Top left, is a repainted version of the cover art for "Biggles Sweeps the Desert", used for Black 6 with a Red back. Bottom left, is a repainted version of the cover art for "Biggles in the Orient" this was used for Red 7 with the Red back. Middle left is believed by Roger Harris, after detailed examination, to be the original artwork used for an illustration in "Biggles and the Black Raider" and also used as a card, Red 1 with a Red back.
Above are 5 other Biggles artworks by Stead that weren't used in the game, the first bears the signature "Stead". To explore all the illustrations used in all the Biggles books visit www.biggles.com.
In another site, also created by Roger Harris, is more information on Stead, including the correct pronunciation of his name, it is "Stead" to rhyme with "Bed".
Roger Harris presented Michael Palin with a framed "full collection" of an image used as the Black 3 in the Red-Backed cards. This framed collection included the preparatory sketch, the final painting and the card from the Pepys game. It also features a reworked version used in an affectionate spoof of a Biggles story from the Brand New Monty Python Bok of 1973 and Papperbok of 1974. You can see an image of the presentation and read the transcript of a conversation between Roger Harris and Michael Palin here.
Biggles is Extremely Silly (1938) in the style of Stead by an unknown artist, from the Monty Python Bok.
Inside the game's rulebook are two pages promoting "Biggles" books. "Watch for them. Read them all" it says. There is also a list of the books on which the game's illustrations are based.
Game & Version Details
Biggles - Card Back Red
Biggles - Card Back Blue
Biggles - Rules Front
Biggles - Rules Back
Pepys Party Games
Biggles - Box Back
Biggles - Box Top
Biggles - Box Side Left
Biggles - Box Base
Biggles - Box Side Right
Biggles - Box Back With Flap