Yesterday, Starman and I joined an established group of dedicated gamers who meet monthly to play the latest games, or just old favorites. (In this case, gaming seems to be anything you need several people to play. No money involved, of course, and really it was all quite social.)
Starman's and my rebuses started off the event. Apart from the group's not knowing who Tina Brown and Kate Moss are, the rebuses seemed to do well as an ice breaker. Someone had brought Bang!, a card game that Starman and I have played with his niece & nephew in England. The rules are very complicated, though, and there's no good way (that I know of!) to cut them short and get playing. Later, we saw that these people take their rules very seriously, and seem to understand that you can't "just get started" with any new game.
Also on the agenda was supper (cooked for a motley crew indeed -- we had someone who couldn't eat gluten, yeast or dairy, someone who won't eat vegetables, someone who's not doing sugar, and a bunch of omnivores) and the script of a dinner theater murder mystery production our host had been in. I played Mama Scarpelli, the cleaver-wielding cook who held the purse strings. Starman played Lawrence "Larry" Lombardo, the band leader -- and was very good! When he died spouting every hepcat cliche about "buying the farm," etc., it was quite funny. As he had previously identified public performance as the scariest thing he could imagine actually doing, he was very brave even to volunteer. (I asked him about this on the way home, and he said that he hadn't realized what he was volunteering for.)
In addition to the murder mystery, we played Colisseum, a game for would-be Roman impressarios, Bang!, and a trivia/gambling game called Wits & Wagers. The way that one works is, everyone has a miniature white board onto which they write their estimate of the right answer. Answers are always numerical -- dates, speeds, weights, etc. -- and usually involve some sort of guessing. Everyone's guesstimates are then turned up and sorted from largest to smallest. The winning answer is the closest without going over. (Example: What was the average annual salary of people working in the metropolitan New York City area in January 2005? I guessed $48,000; the answer was something like $51,000, and the next highest guess was $72,000, so my guess was good.) But the fun starts when you have to bid on which guess you think is right -- using poker chips and a green baize betting cloth. We had seven people (the max allowed), so the middle of the seven guesses pays off at 1:1; the two on either side of the middle at 2:1, and so forth.
Of course, there are aways going to be some questions to which someone knows the right answer. Everyone assumed that Starman, being British, would know things like the year the Chunnel was opened, and how wide the English Channel is at its narrowest point. Hah! I (alone) know how bad his memory is. And with a table full of card players (the two non-bridge players had already left by that time), when the question was the number of different poker hands you can make with a 52-card deck, the game's M.C. had to caution us that she wasn't taking any back talk on that one! I jokingly suggested that it was a good thing the game didn't expect us to show all work, the way math exams used to -- half the company would be off scribbling equations involving exclamation points, like 5!, for factorials. I just guessed. (The answer is 2.5 million.) Similarly, when the question was the speed of sound at sea level in miles per hour, at least two people were trying to calculate in their heads from feet per second to miles per hour. I just guessed. Hey, I'd already warned them I had been a philosophy major in college! (I knew two things precisely: the number of Jack Nicklaus's major championships  and the year The Wizard of Oz was released . I wasn't the only one, either.)
All in all, a wonderful fun day. Starman and I hope to be invited back!