I take up my pen now to relate to you one of the most intricate and challenging pursuits ever to grace the billiard rooms of the Strand. It first came to my attention in 189- when my dear friend Christopher S. of Portsmouth invited me to his chambers with the utmost excitement. When I arrived it took me several minutes to calm him sufficiently that he could relate to me the reason for his new-found energy; but eventually we pulled up a chair in front of the fire and he began to explain himself.
S. had just returned from an expedition to southern climes, during which his path had crossed many wonders. What he would tell me, though, was the greatest of them; the most amazing discovery ever to grace the field of gentlemanly sportsmanship since the dawn of the cricketing age.
“A game?” I enquired, leaning forwards in my armchair and lighting a cigarillo.
“No, old friend,” said S., meeting my gaze. “A Game.”
I shall attempt here to relay to you the rules, confounding and complex though they may be. I hope I can guide you well, for what you read now will stay with you for the remainder of your days.
The first and most important rule, that from which all the others follow on, is simple. Indeed, its humble clarity is such that everything presented below merely clarifies, refines and ramifies it. This game is easy to understand but it takes a lifetime to truly comprehend. Indeed, because it was devised so recently, it will be left to future players to truly plumb the depths of its complexity.
A master of the Game is cunning. He is wily and his mind is that of a fox slinking through the darkness towards his unsuspecting prey. He will exercise strategy and tactics with the ease of a warlord commanding his armies from afar; he will scheme and plot and in the end he will pull off his coup de grace with the utmost style.
The Rule is this: “If you pass someone something, you get a point.”
Most of the complexity lies in the meaning of “pass.” Passing someone something requires cooperation on the part of both the passer and the passee. The passer must make a conscious effort to transfer the object, and the passee must in some way signal his assent, either verbally or by making a motion to accept the object.
This precludes one of the plays that is most often made by amateurs of the Game. Simply placing an object upon someone without their knowledge does not and has never qualified as passing; this action is against the spirit of the Game, for it allows points to be garnered without any element of subterfuge or cunning on the part of the passer.
The depth of the Game, the delight and the frustration it causes, stem from the difficulty of convincing someone who knows exactly what is happening, to accept an object from you. Some elegant and impressive strategies to this effect have been devised by the Executive Rules Board and the worthy opponents they have had the honour to face across the smoking room table of their club, but I must not set them down here, for that would deprive future students of the challenge of invention.
We must place further constraints on the objects which may be passed. First of all, they must be physical; they must exist in the real world. The passing of intangible concepts like love, hate and fear is forbidden (though in the author’s experience the playing field is often tautly charged with the latter two).
Secondly, the operation of passing can only gain the passer one point. A box of cigars handed to an old friend will only garner the player one point, not twelve (or fewer, if the comrade in question is an aficionado of the splendid Cubans of 1865). If, however, two objects are passed in two hands or recieved in two hands, two points may be had. It is only if the objects reman together during the entirety of their journey that a unique point is scored.
The last major clarification concerns timing. A point may not be gained for an object which was transferred several weeks ago, or even yesterday. Once the passing has been accomplished, the point must be claimed within a short period of time. Even a minute is usually regarded as too long, for this leaves too much opportunity for passing objects without the game in mind, then realising one’s missed opportunity and profiting from the accident. A time limit has not been officially determined, but has been unoficially set at the exact duration of around ten seconds or so. It is rare that points are contested because of timing issues.
There is one exception to what may be passed, one class of objects which a person may accept without allowing his opponent to gain a point. This class contains objects required to immediately enable the consumption of intoxicating liqueurs or preparations, such as a glass of fine cognac, a slipper or a quantity of the seven percent solution. Nothing else is exempt.
Finally, I must add that points may not be gained by persons who are unaware of the rules or existence of the Game. However, players may gain points by passing objects to such persons. The only exception to this concerns those who are unable to understand the meaning of the Game, such as infants, animals or the insane. Points may not be gained by passing them objects.
There are no formal rules as yet governing when the Game begins or ends. The Game can always be played, in the living room or on the battlefield, by the young and the old, by the cunning and the daft. It is eternal and unending. Counts of points, however, are usually reset when the Game has not been played for a few days, or when a new evening of play commences.
I have attempted here to relay to you with the best of faith the rules of the Game. I do not purport to master them, and neither does S. This game is young in England, and it is in the coming years that champions will be made and hopes will be cast down to the floor. Though I am old and my cunning is fading like a September twlight, I will watch while the battle lines are drawn, while alliances and enmities are forged.
We live in interesting times.
Dr. John Blotson, M.D., F.R.C.S.