board gamesposin' with the biscuitssleeve organsnapoleon: the sexy dictator
[Introducing friend of SU&SD and games journalist Leigh Alexander.]
Quinns: So here’s what happened.
Quinns: A while back some SU&SD readers joked that we should review Tease: The Liberating Game for Couples and Groups. I got in touch with the PR
Leigh: Oh, I’ll bet you did.
Quinns: I GOT IN TOUCH WITH THE PR, who said she wasn’t sure they should send a game to a site that would probably just make fun of it. Which was a fair cop. I just wanted to do a video where four men play Tease and are forced to give one another massages.
Except then they sent me the game anyway! And… it’s… pretty good!
Leigh: It’s okay. You don’t have to couch your desire for physical intimacy in funny jokes, Quinns. Just admit you wanted to try the game.
Quinns: I… do and I don’t.
Players roll dice and move around the board, landing on spaces that are - let’s see - take a drink, give a massage, remove an item of clothing, take a “Reward” card, take a “Forfeit” card, and Napoleon.
No hang on. I see now. Napoleon is the “Dictator” space. Where you can make other players do sexy things. Like take a drink, give massages or remove clothing.
But here’s the thing. It’s actually well thought-out. The manual states that men must begin wearing 7 items of clothing, and women 8. Then the entire game is about escalation. As you move around the board, orbiting SEX like some kind of filth satellite, the kiss spaces move from “Cheek”, to “Lips”, to “Neck”, to “Passionate”. And all the Reward and Forfeit cards are numbered in increasing order of sexiness.
Leigh: Okay. I have so many questions. Is this “swinging”. ARE YOU SWINGING
Quinns: I’m not finished! At the end of the game are different Fantasy cards you’re racing towards. Whoever gets there first gets the first pick of the Fantasy. Get there first, you might have to do a sexy job interview. Get there last and you might just get spanked by everybody. Literally.
Leigh: Sexy job interview? What kind of fantasy is that?!
Quinns: I had a sexy job interview, once. Actually it was kind of a mundane. It might have been a normal interview.
Leigh: Did you ask the interviewer to call you “Napoleon?”
Quinns: Would that have got me the job? I don’t think I got the job.
Leigh: God, I… I don’t even know. This is really challenging my previously-held misconceptions about what “sexiness” is.
Quinns: Sexiness involves rules, obviously. Everybody knows that.
Leigh: Having the women wear more clothes presumes that there is more of a desire to see women naked than men naked. That’s a weird rule.
Quinns: Mainly I’m baffled as a games critic as to what the parameters of this are. Leigh, you’re a sexy person. What would you look for in a sexy game? Or a game designed to disseminate sexiness like a kind of airborne virus.
Leigh: Oh, thank you Quinns. Give me a minute. I’m still trying to work out how you tested this. Did you passionately kiss Brendan? I’m sorry I wasn’t there to see that.
Quinns: Mostly I tested it by reading the cards as my eyebrows advanced into my hairline. One of the Fantasy cards involves you crawling under a bed, and two players of your choice enter the room and do “Whatever they’re comfortable with” with you beneath them like a startled burglar. It’s already been pointed out to me on our Twitter that these players should jump up and down on the bed while shouting absurdly.
Leigh: If we play this, I’m going to end up lying under the bed while you and Brendan read manuals for some other game.
Quinns: Judging by the number of drink squares on the board I think you might fall asleep under there. I’m going to go ahead and read more of these cards. “You get to take a very erotic photo, the kind that could be found in any hard-core porn magazine. This should involve as many of the players as you would like.”
That might be OK, if it was one of the advertising pages in the magazine. Brendan smiling at a packet of biscuits.
Leigh: Mmm. Yeah. Okay. I’m with you now. Also, I’m thinking I’d hate to be that one person at the table who everyone uses their “Forfeit” cards on, who is left out of the photo. Harsh. I mean, it wouldn’t be me, but poor whoever.
Quinns: No. You’d be posing with all the biscuits. But this is where it gets well thought out again! There are balance squares where players who are dragging behind get pulled forward, or the most-dressed player has to strip, or the least drunk player has to drink. As a Liberating Game for Couples and Groups, it has the will to liberate of an invading army.
It even encourages you to customise which cards you play with! So if none of you have rhythm you don’t have to give lapdances, or whatever.
Leigh: Lucky for you. Board gaming: Where you can’t even do sex without bringing up invading armies and Napoleon.
Quinns: I am entirely serious. What would you look for in a sexy game. We have to get to the bottoms of this.
Leigh: Oh, a bottoms pun. You’re quite on-form today, with the jokes and such. Um. Okay. Well, when you are talking about liberated couples and groups, all I can think about is the time we watched the Louis Theroux documentary on swingers, and how those people, virtually laying down plastic sheeting in order to get naked with vacant cheer, would probably be the target audience for this game. That was basically the least-sexy documentary I’ve ever seen.
Quinns: DODGING THE QUESTION. Look! They even included cards for you to write your own fantasies on.
Leigh: No, see, the thing is, I think putting it all out there isn’t super sexy. What I am into, about what you’ve described, is the concept of escalating disclosure.
Quinns: Ah. Now. See, lots of the low-level cards are just talking about sharing stories of your first crush. What you find most attractive about your partner. This is what I’m talking about! There are even a ton of tweaks in the back of the manual for if you’re playing with just you and your partner, or with no couples, etc.
Leigh: Well, I’d say I’d find my partner most attractive when they are not being made to drink and get groped by other people. You’d agree with that, right? But you can play this just with one other person?
Quinns: Yeah. Maybe that’s the thing to make a big deal out of. The drinking, massages, kissing. The fantasy cards. “Stroke a player’s hair for 30 seconds, saying ‘Poor kitty, poor kitty cat.’ If you laugh, you must drink.” “Explain what your favourite genre of porn is.” This could… this could work for two people.
Leigh: I AM, I admit, intrigued by the idea of systemizing and balancing intimacy as a concept. But there’s a line, you know? If you start commodifying intimacy, it has the potential to get cheesy really fast. Again, I’m just picturing that documentary guy’s house, a room full of sheet-protected floral mattresses and his exciting vinyl collection (not meaning records, of course). Shit, am I boring? I just like tension and secrecy. Tension and secrecy! When are they going to make Resistance: Sex House?
Quinns: Yeah, that’s a thing. Sex is secret. It’s quiet. Arguably a really accessible, liberating sex game would deal with discussing fantasies and then encourage a lot of behind-closed-doors stuff. This is really a game for people who are already liberated. Even if you play with the tame cards, it could still end up with you sat next to your friends in your pants. AND BEYOND.
Leigh: I wonder if your roommates would agree with your statement that “[sex is] quiet.” Or if Brendan wants to sit next to you in his pants. And yeah. You’ve got down to my issue, here: This is a game that already appeals to a conventional definition of “liberation”. I’m thinking of the games we used to play when we were teenagers.
Like, if you wanted to escalate Spin The Bottle you’d do Seven Minutes in Heaven or whatever, where you’re supposed to go in the closet with someone else. And if you didn’t want to make out, you’d sit in the dark, laughing awkwardly, talking, wondering what everyone else is thinking about what you’re doing in there. At that age you’re still too uncomfortable with yourself to really get much out of that kind of interaction, but there really are a lot of mysterious and complex social dynamics at work there. If you could put a system behind that, and then give it to adults, I’d be interested in that kind of thing. Lying under a bed eating biscuits in my pants, not so much.
Quinns: Are you saying that sex is ALREADY A GAME? That’s good. Someone should just make the rulebook for that.
Gross. I just found a forfeit reading “The player to your right must lick your lips.”
Leigh: “Must.” Yeah. I’m not saying pushing boundaries and having fun with them is bad, or anything, but you’ve got it: Sexuality is hot precisely because of the unspoken rules, the sort of primal way we navigate flirtation. I think there has to be a way that a card game could explore that more naturalistically. I mean, card games can be pretty sexy on their own, when you think about it: The intimacy of gathering around tactile objects, heads together, possessing the private calculations in your own head, wondering at those of others. You think so?
Quinns: Yeah. Right now I’m trying to actually make The Resistance: Sex House in my head. Something to do with locating your team-mates by getting a hand of fantasies and crushes, written out before by everybody, then sliding them to people in secret. “Is this right? yes/no?” Then it’s something you’re sharing with that player alone.
Leigh: Even in this conversation, you’ve been playing with me, in a sense, because you want me to talk about sex, and I’ve made allusions to things I like and don’t like, some serious and some less so. This is probably a more sensual interaction than if you’d whipped out a card that made me spank Brendan or take my top off at your kitchen table.
Quinns: I think I’ll make the conclusion of this pseudo-review “You should know this game exists. And for what it is, it’s a… quality product?” Like, even the cardstock is good. The dares are thoughtful. The rules are ruley.
So, doing anything later?
Leigh: Hmm, wouldn’t you like to know? But yeah — I don’t want to seem like I’m judging other lifestyles. This seems like it could be totally fun, or at least funny, for couples that are into swinging, or for the kind of people who attend a party in a PVC suit that screams “hey! I wear my sex organs on my sleeve!”
Quinnd: EW. I had an uncle that did that once.
Leigh: Runs in the family? But yeah, I just ask people out there that if you play this game, film yourselves. And please invite Louis Theroux. It’d be hilarious.
[Tease: The Liberating Game for Couples and Groups is available direct from the publishers here.]