I just got in from iglab 7, or thereabouts, trying out the first go on Cargo, simon & simon‘s new game. I’m a bit sore from running, and my feet are wet, but I think it’s a winner – some sort of impossible mix of noir, paranoia and mission impossible films starring Tintin.
We started in a pub, as did other teams, with the location given to us by text message (“they know who you are and want you dead”), in which we had to find an envelope to get started. Our host was pretty into the whole thing despite knowing less than we thought she did: she was acting like she was playing us the whole time, though we found out later she was pretty much improvising and hadn’t been asked to do most of what she did. Watching us look behind pictures and barrels behind the bar must have pretty amusing for someone who’d been asked just to look after an envelope and hand it over when asked. But I’m ahead of myself.
The game started with a call to a specific member of the group telling them where the cargo we had to safeguard was, and where we had to take it: the envelope had more information. Specifically, there was a boat waiting for us at Castle Park, at 8.45, that would take us to safety if we had a florin each for passage, plus one more for the cargo with some ID. We had to earn the florins for the journey by scavenging them from various locations (hinted at by location-specific photographs) or by busking on Corn Street. Some of us went busking, hiring instruments from Mother’s Ruin with the tokens included, while the rest went scavenging or up to Stoke’s Croft to see about some fake ID.
Long story short, running down St Nicks Market playing your own chase music is pretty much good times, even if hanging out with an assassin wearing a Homburg called the Moose and trying to pass yourself off as some other people can get a bit nervy. After calling it a day busking, and taking a rain-soaked detour up to Trenchard Street to hang around the car park in a fruitless search for fake coins, we regrouped ready to storm the ferry point with our cargo protected by our sacrificial flanks. The thrill of being ambushed by the Moose, the diversionary conversations about Florence and shoes and who you can really trust, the sense of achievement when we finally reached the boat with our cargo in one piece – these were things left untouched by the constant rain. Good game, and tightly planned, though there were the usual first-run glitches. Nothing major, though, and it finished with a Watershed full of wet happy people talking about how much fun it had been.
What always amazes me about these sorts of games is how well they reveal the willingness of people to pretend and join in with make-believe: how ready everyone is to down tools and play as if they were in charge of themselves again. There was a real sense of jeopardy within the teams, a fear in those marked for death that’s hard to say is pretend. But more important than the thrills was the way it bent the line between what was real and what was not. Our landlady had handed us a coin we assumed was a game florin but was actually a florin from elsewhere that had found its way into the till. Boundaries between real and pretend are pretty fragile when you test them, and the ways coincidence or happenstance take on new meanings when you give them a new context are pretty unsettling.
Good times, as always from iglab and simon, and if you get a chance to play in February I’ll see you there.