Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Are You Cheating?

Being an article in which Ephraim Gadsby finds out that even the comforting environs of the Smoking Room at his club are but scant protection when faced with some uncomfortable home truths....
Cover dated February 2009

Catch Ephraim in jovial mood and I'll tell you that a Cheat is a pretty poor specimen who ranks quite a long way down the list of wines and spirits. Catch a Cheat at the Club and one is at the front of the pack baying for the fellow's Club tie to be severed just below the old half Windsor. Either that or a jolly spectacular de-bagging at the very least.
But one is caught now in a mood of fretful contemplation. In the past one has always felt 'without sin' in re the cheating business and so has felt neither hesitation nor hypocrisy in 'casting the first stone,' so to speak. But last night, during another routing at the hands of Club Treasurer, one feels that one may have, albeit unwittingly, stepped beyond the pale and into the gloom, into the world of lies and deceit , into the world of the Cheat. It happened when, faced with a particularly crucial leadership test, one reached for the Bright Red Dice. After all, I thought, they'd passed a similar crucial test the previous week. And that, chums, is cheating.
Most wargames make free use of the random element, usually provided by the ubiquitous dice. There are, of course, a number of wargames that use cards, either the standard 52 card pack that one can readily borrow from the Parlour Games Room or a game specific set, like, say the damage decks in Wings Of War. Now if one was playing a card based game, one wouldn't seek to rig the results by removing all the hearts from the deck. That we can all agree would be cheating. Yet how many of us try to influence what should be the totally random generation of a set of numbers by rolling dice one believes are more likely to roll low, or high, or what have you?
How many chaps do you know who have their favourite lucky dice? What about players who get iffy if one reaches for their dice, scared that one might roll out all the sixes? Surely it's all just superstition, all nonsense.
Tricky empirical tests by learned chaps in white coats have shown that typical, commercially available dice by and large hold no truck with delivering hoped-for results and will wilfully roll random all evening until laid to rest or ground vengefully under foot. It's a situation that no amount of blowing on can reasonably be expected to change.
Well yes. But that doesn't distract from the fact that when ones indulges in a bit of pre-roll blowing or indeed when one reaches for the Bright Red Dice, part of one's brain, the part containing all one's irrational optimism (you know, the part that normally occupies itself with looking forward to an English Ashes win, snow at Christmas and honey for tea,) believes that the odds are swung in one's favour. And that wanting, that belief, is enough. We're all cheats and that's that.
If truth be told, and it must, I'm beginning to have doubts about one's lucky Batman pants too. Although said under-garments can in no way affect the roll of the dice, they do seem to have a effect on the way one plays. They seem to lend a sense of resolve and determination; they certainly gee one's play along. One has a tendency to procrastinate when faced with a tough in-game decision but with Batman in his supporting role, indecision is banished, replaced with strong, affirmative action. I've lost count of the charges declared under the influence of the Caped Crusader bloomers.

So should they go?
Probably not. The effects, such that they are, are purely psychological. But more than that, they are purely internal; their influence is on the wearer and the wearer only. There is no element of seeking to interfere with the rules or the randomness element of the table-top. In fact, one rather fondly sees them as modelling the moral conviction and belief in one's cause that most surely spurred on history's more successful generals. Furthermore, Batman remains a hidden boost, unbeknown to one's opponent. They needn't know he's there. I did once have cause to show them to Club Treasurer. He was impressed, but that's another story.