This won't be a long one, and I'll tell you why. Friday was my birthday. I am 34 years old. I am older than Jesus, and considerably more powerful. Did Jesus have a column on Rock, Paper, Shotgun and his own telly show? No. He didn't. He did have that Jesus of Nazareth I suppose, that was a telly thing. But he wasn't even in it! IT WAS ROBERT POWELL! That's like me getting some actor, like James Purefoy or something, to do my column!
Which is what I've done.
JAMES PUREFOY'S CARDBOARD CHILDREN
Hi, my name's James Purefoy. I'm an actor. You might know me from the HBO series “Rome” or from my wonderful performance as Solomon Kane in the fantastic film “Solomon Kane” from the Solomon Kane stories featuring Robert E. Howard's greatest character Solomon Kane.
Robert asked me to do his column today because he's my biggest fan. In fact, Robert regularly gets drunk in pubs in Glasgow's West End, and shouts things like “JAMES FUCKING PUREFOY SHOULD BE ROLAND DESCHAIN!!” at bemused women. I will be upfront with you – I know nothing about board games. Sure, I've played Monopoly in the past, and played some Poker and things like that. But I'm a bit busy with my acting these days (and when not acting, preparing for roles by eating well and exercising!) so I maybe game a little bit less than Robert does.
Here's the thing. It was Robert's birthday yesterday (I got him a £10 voucher for Woolworths. How was I to know the chain had gone bankrupt?!) and he tells me that he has a full £125 of what he calls “birthday money”. That's why, today, he's going out to buy some games.
Now, he's on his way into Glasgow city centre as I type this, and he wants me to talk to you about the games that he should buy. With £125 he tells me he can buy maybe three full price games. But he hasn't decided what to buy yet! If I was as indecisive as he is, I would never have been able to dispatch with all those demons in the fantastic film Solomon Kane, available to buy on BluRay now.
So, here's what he's been thinking – I'll just type up our phone conversations.
ARKHAM HORROR: MISKATONIC HORROR
ROBERT: Hi James. Loved you in Ironclad too, by the way. Don't forget to tell them all about Ironclad. Anyway, this is an expansion for the expansions of Arkham Horror.
JAMES: An expansion for expansions? What?
ROBERT: Well, Arkham Horror has lots of expansions. So they decided to do a big box of stuff that expands everything, including the expansions.
JAMES: That's insane. That's like me doing another ten minutes of Solomon Kane stuff, but not a sequel. And then doing another three minutes of Solomon Kane stuff to add onto that ten. But still no sequel!
ROBERT: I like Arkham Horror. The problem is that no-one I know likes it as much as I do.
JAMES: It's like Bizarro Solomon Kane. Everybody likes Solomon Kane equally!
ROBERT: Exactly. And so, I can barely get Arkham Horror onto the table. Do I really need more stuff? Or is this just a product that feeds into that “collect 'em all” thing that some of us suffer from?
JAMES: I don't suffer from that. What are you talking about?
ROBERT: No. You're right. I won't buy Miskatonic Horror.
WAR OF HONOR
ROBERT: The other thing I'm thinking of is the War of Honor game.
JAMES: What's that?
ROBERT: There's this card game called Legend of the Five Rings. It's been going for years. It's a proven system. A great game. And this is like a multiplayer version of it, in a box. They've made multiplayer work, with the addition of some elements to the card-
JAMES: Wait. A card game? What do you mean?
ROBERT: I mean card game in the sense that Magic: The Gathering is a card game. I don't mean-
JAMES: You don't mean Poker.
ROBERT: No, I don't mean Poker. It's still a very-
JAMES: You don't mean Blackjack.
ROBERT: Exactly. It's more of a-
JAMES: You don't mean Scabby Queen.
ROBERT: No. I-- No.
JAMES: So don't buy it. Poker is great! You want to play cards, get some buddies round and play Poker!
ROBERT: Yes, but this has a Samurai theme. It's got this cool honour system thing too, where-
JAMES: There's honour in Poker. Believe me.
JAMES: Have you ever covered Poker in your column?
ROBERT: No. Because everyone knows about Poker.
JAMES: Exactly. Because it's a great game.
ROBERT: No, because it's--
JAMES: (In my best Solomon Kane voice) “Damn ye to hell then!”
ROBERT: Haha! Okay. War of Honor is off the list.
ROBERT: The next thing I like the look of is 7 Wonders.
JAMES: Sounds really boring.
ROBERT: Well, wait a minute. Apparently it's a drafting game, with the setting being the 7 wonders of the world or something. I don't know. It's a card development game, like Dominion, but with you drafting the cards you need.
JAMES: That's what you're saying. That's what it sounds like to my ears. A-babbery-blabbery-drafting-blabbery-Dominion.
ROBERT: It's a good game, it's just-
JAMES: It sounds so mechanical, Rab! It sounds like you're describing the inside of a train engine to me. It doesn't sound like a game!
ROBERT: But it IS a game. In an abstract sense, you're trying to build a-
ROBERT: James, calm-
JAMES: Abstract! If you sat down to watch Solomon Kane and found out that we'd decided to just ABSTRACT me chopping demons' heads off, would that be to your liking?
ROBERT: No, but-
JAMES: If, when you sat in the cinema watching Ironclad, you found that we'd merely abstracted that incredible siege on the castle, we'd merely abstracted sending those fucking pigs under the castle and BURNING THE PIGS-
ROBERT: James, alright!
JAMES: Merely abstracted a man getting CUT COMPLETELY IN HALF--
ROBERT: Jesus! It's off the list!
JAMES: Hahahahahaha! Hahahahahahahahaha! Purefoy's the Pure BOY!
JAB: REALTIME BOXING
ROBERT: So, this might be more to your taste. This is a card game that simulates being in the boxing ring. It-
JAMES: Sorry. Sorry, man. Carry on. That was rude. Carry on. What were you saying?
ROBERT: It's a real-time strategy card game that simulates a boxing match.
ROBERT: (coughs) You have to worry about playing counters to your opponent's moves – in fact, you need to keep track of about six different things at once. Plays really fast and-
JAMES: Just fight a guy.
JAMES: Just fight a guy. If you want to fight a guy, just fight a guy. At the end of Solomon Kane, did you see me say to the bad guy “Hey, instead of settling this like men, why don't we try to find a card game that simulates this struggle between good and evil?” No, you saw me just fight a guy.
ROBERT: But that was a film, James. To be fair.
JAMES: A good film.
ROBERT: A fantastic film. I bought the Blu-Ray last week!
JAMES: It is available to buy on Blu-Ray now.
Well, after all that chatter, Robert's phone ran out of charge. I have no idea what games he bought with his birthday money. He tells me that he'll be here to talk about them next Saturday, so that should be fun for you all. Me, I'll probably be working out or reading some new scripts.
Accepting Robert's three grand fee for doing this column got me thinking about games, and what it means to play them. Playing a game is really no different from being an actor in a film like the wonderful Solomon Kane, or the fun Ironclad. You're playing a part, I suppose, or something. You're immersing yourself in a setting, and for a couple of hours you become a part of that world, or something like that.
And, in a sense, being a gamer is like being James Purefoy. You're handsome, successful, you make great, underappreciated films and women want to make love to you.
“A card game that simulates being in the boxing ring.” HAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHA!
Honestly, no, sorry, honestly, live and let live. That's what I say. Live and let live.
Are people actually reading this? HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!
SOLOMON KANE and IRONCLAD are available NOW on Blu-Ray!