Look at that picture. Really sit there for a bit and stare at it. I went away for a weekend with a big bunch of friends. A weekend of drinking and dancing and swimming and being sports entertained, surrounded by my best friends and thousands of like-minded wrestling fans. But I wasn't interested. My entire world, my whole life was in a game of Subterfuge. In fact, in a big, week-long, six-man game of Subterfuge, my entire weekend revolved around that tiny little exchange between two bases.
Friday afternoon, before leaving for Butlins, I started a game of Subterfuge with my dad, my brother and Gintendo's own Muss, Jay and Andy. A tense, if uneventful, opening saw us arrange borders and tentatively eke out our land. Early on, I acquired Adria.
Shortly thereafter, my brother took Samet. Let me tell you a little about my brother Jake, or as he was known here, Rodknee007. My brother is 16 years old and plays almost nothing but strategy games. He relishes the idea of slaughtering me or dad in a LAN game of Starcraft, a week-long excercise in Civ frustration or a family round of Smallworld. He's a little tiny Napoleon and I knew if anyone in this game was going to start something, it would be him.
True to form, he starts shipping units and specialists to my border in droves. I'm not looking for a fight at this early point in the game, and I know better than to be the guy who attacks first in this scenario. But I'll be god damned if I'm gonna sit there and look week when Jake starts sticking his grubby little digits into all kinds of pies. Naturally, I reinforced and, true to form, he continued to do the same. Before long, it was starting to look less like naturally defended borders and more like a Mexican standoff.
Among the units I sent to Adria was a martyr, that little stick of dynamite you see travelling by submarine there. The martyr explodes when engaged in combat will explode and kill everything in that red circle. Launched at Samet, it would wipe out Jake's force. For all intents and purposes, the martyr is Subterfuge's nuclear deterrent.
Satisfied I had enough men on my border to discourage Jake attacking me that night, I went to the pub (not to mention three seperate nightclubs and the hedge into which I jumped for an ill-advised phoenix splash on a friend which cut a huge gash in my arm and face) with Subterfuge the last thing on my mind.
The next morning, Muss awoke me to tell me about a message he'd received from Jake in the night. The cheeky bugger had realised that if he launches a single sub to arrive at my base after the martyr, the martyr will explode and kill all my men.
Cheeky fucker. Now obviously, that's an act of war. I immediately started messaging others who'd been worried about Jake as well and had agreed to an alliance. It was time to retaliate, and although they weren't all eager to get overly involved, my fellow Gintendudes were inclined to agree. But before any of that mattered, I had to try and save Adria. I moved the pirate, another specialist which can target subs at double-speed, to attack and scheduled it to take out each of my brother's assaults. For now, I was safe from a martyr explosion, but from that point on I was forced to return again and again to Subterfuge to check on my brother's assaults and schedule defences. Simultaneously, I queued up development of another pirate to ensure I had enough protection even if my martyr were moving towards the source of attack.
That was it. Forget about Butlins, forget about my friends, forget about eating or drinking or anything that wasn't Subterfuge. I rushed to get out of the swimming pool and check the game in the changing rooms. I stared at the screen all through lunch. Even when I went to watch the wrestling itself, I whipped the 'Fuge out during the interval.
Finally, I launched the martyr towards Jake. I had sufficient pirates to ensure it wouldn't explode too close to me. I stared at the screen for ages before I was satisfied enough that my brother wouldn't be able to get to the martyr while it was still in range of me. Eventually I felt comfortable going to bed.
By the next morning, my brother had managed to get a pirate of his own. When a pirate targets another submarine, it moves at double the speed of one travelling between bases. This meant he had time to hit my martyr before my pirate could intercept him. It would explode harmlessly between my base and his, killing nobody but a couple of pirates.
To some, that might seem like the ideal result, but not to me. I'd spent all my money on Trident and I was damn well gonna blow something up with it. Before I'd even gotten out of bed and put pants on, a brainwave struck me.
I yelped with joy at my little eureka moment and shook with anticipation as I explained my plan to the recently awoken Muss. First of all, I would convert my martyr to a "gift", meaning it would return with Jake's submarine without exploding. It would keep travelling to Jake's base, and he couldn't stop it because it wouldn't be an enemy attack but a returning ally.
Next, I would perfectly time one of my pirates to attack the martyr, now one of his submarines, right as it arrived at Samet. It would explode, heading towards his units at the same speed they could move. His units would be unable to flee; including his queen. I'd be completely eliminating him from the game at the cost of one measly pirate.
There are no two ways about it, I felt pretty bloody smug. With a big smile and a spring in my step, I logged out of the game and went to the pool in a very different mood to the day before. Not even one of the flumes simultaneously clobbering my elbow and giving me a nutshot as I breached the water could kill my mood.
As I swam, I even began in my head to draft the message I would send to the remaining players in the public group chat after Jake was eliminated and I'd acquired a new martyr.
I've taken Jake out of the game. I have no intention of fighting anyone else, but I have another martyr and I've proven I know how to use them if provoked.
I felt like the president at the height of the cold war, issuing a blanket statement. Ordinarily, I couldn't be more opposed to nucelar deterrance. Even forgetting about the inherent horror of mutually assured destruction, and that they're about as relevant to modern warfare as the cavalry charge, I don't believe I could ever push the button and kill millions of innocent people. Here, though, in the world of Subterfuge, I was becoming everything I hate. The idea of Jake being miserable was insignificant compared to the reward of definitely not coming in last place.
When I finally got out of the pool, I had another peek and came to a terrible realisation.
I notice that there's the sligthest chance, because of a quirk in the way units return after a battle, that Jake's pirate might make it back to base and turn around in time to stop my pirate. Later that night, he turns out to be able to do it. In a game where orders can take more than a day to be completed, my brother saved himself from annihilation inside a window of minutes.
This wasn't the end, obviously. How could it be? By now, the whole game had erupted into war. Suddenly, Jake had the martyr sat in his base and I was launching sub after sub at him to cause an explosion. With Jay backing me up, and Jake only having one pirate rather than two, it was inevitable it would work.
In a way, it was poetic. In the same way my brother had tried to attack me, I was now going to kill him. Though victory was assured, my brother decided to go down fighting, launching everything he had every which way.
By now, I knew it wouldn't be the swift, clean win I'd hoped for but instead a real battle. By fighting Jake, I'd weakened myself for the rest of the game. Like anyone who might press the big red button and launched the two-edged weapon of mixed metaphors, I had long since stopped caring about anything but revenge. He fired the first shot, but I was going to fire the last one.
At the end of the weekend, after Subterfuge had already ruined my life, I took Jake out. I still went on to play the game, now able to appreciate the whole map instead of that tiny section. My weekend wasn't a total bust; I saw amazing slams, I danced my nights away, I spent quality time with my friends. But however much my body, or even at times my mind, was in Minehead, my soul was in that empty stretch of ocean between Adria and Samet.
You like fucking, and drinking, and singing. But killing, killing's the thing you love.