Michael O’Connor takes a break from covering the individual 007 films to talk James Bond games!
By Michael O’Connor // Welcome to our very first Bond Night Intermission! Occasionally, we’ll take a break from the individual film coverage to indulge in some wild detours and random digressions. Pretty much anything and everything we can’t fit in the regular column is fair game for Intermission coverage. This month we’re talking James Bond games. Specifically, how a deck of cards, a board game or a video game system can deliver an RPG-level upgrade to your Bond Night tradition.
Bond: Pro Gamer
Obviously, gaming–or specifically gambling–is a vital component of the Bond series. When 007 first introduces himself with his famous “Bond, James Bond” line in Dr. No, it’s in a smoke-filled casino in London after all. In subsequent films, he plays everything from baccarat to craps, backgammon and poker. There’s even that weird, extremely dated video game sequence in Never Say Never Again.
Since you’re already eating and drinking like Bond, why not game like him as well? The only caveat is that gambling with friends can get a little rough if not everyone’s down to lose their shirt over a game of cards. With that in mind, we’ll be suggesting house rules on a couple casino favorites as well as some great board games and video games you can sub in to freshen up your Bond games repertoire.
Deal Yourself In
The first thing you’ll need if you’re playing casino-like Bond games is a good deck of cards and a ton of poker chips. For the cards, you’ll naturally want to grab a Bond-themed deck. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any cards that represent all twenty-four films, but Deluxe Games’ 007 40th Anniversary Playing Cards come pretty close. They cover the first twenty films from Dr. No through Die Another Day and include two full decks that fit in a collectible tin container. The cards are sturdy, shuffle well, and vividly and colorfully depict great moments from the films.
As for the poker chips, Trademark Poker offers a slick looking suitcase of 500 high quality poker chips partitioned into white, red, green and black varieties. The price is a bargain and the chips have a nice, satisfying weight. They’re fun to shuffle between your fingers and chuck onto a table as you call your buddy’s bluff. And they look suitably intimidating when stacked high in multiple rows.
Depending on your home theater setup, there’s probably at least one seat that’s better than the rest. For our Bond Night sessions, one guy always gets stuck on a barstool while some lucky so-and-so gets a plush leather recliner. But how does one choose who sits where? Well, you could argue about it or you could let the cards decide.
A quick, modified game of blackjack does the trick. And better yet, it happens to play pretty similar to James Bond’s favorite game, baccarat.
Here’s how it works. Deal out two cards to everybody but keep them facedown. Then go around the table and one-by-one see if anyone wants a card. Each player can ask for one card per round. Continue in this fashion until everybody refuses additional cards.
Then everyone reveals their hand. As usual whoever has closest to 21 wins (face cards are worth 10; aces are worth 1 or 11).
Advise everyone to not reveal early if they bust or get an automatic blackjack from the cards they are dealt. Other players will adjust their behavior depending on what they know about their opponent’s cards. We don’t want anyone getting an advantage because of where they’re sitting at the table.
If there’s a tie, the person with the fewest cards wins. Or if both tying players have the same number of cards, the player with the card or cards matching the Bond actor or film you’re watching that night wins. And if that still doesn’t clinch it, the tied players play an additional game.
Pairs Best With: Any and every Bond film.
Poker (Texas Hold ‘Em)
Not everyone is great at poker and not everybody is ready to gamble serious cash to try their luck. I happen to be in both camps, neither particularly skilled nor lucky. Well, and kind of cheap, too. But I found a way to actually enjoy poker during a recent Bond Night.
First, confirm you have plenty of chips. If you’ve got three or four players, the 500 chips I mentioned before should be enough. Second, talk with your friends and decide how much money everyone’s ready to sacrifice.
I recommend a total of $5 per player. In a four-player game, it means someone’s walking home with a solid $20, but it also means nobody’s leaving broke. If you settle on $5, here’s the breakdown into poker chips.
As far as antes, blinds and opening bets, I recommend starting small and then when everyone is comfortable, doubling it. For our first game, we set our opening bet and big blind at 2 white chips and our ante and small blind at 1 white chip. When nobody was knocked out of the game all night long, we wrote down where we had left off. For our next Bond Night we picked it up right there but doubled all bets. It let us ease into the game and figure out the nuances of play without risk of immediately losing everything to more experienced players.
Pairs Best With: The gambling-centric Bond films or any of the more serious, grounded entries in the series.
Examples: Dr. No, Diamonds Are Forever, Licence to Kill, Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace.
It’s a sad fact that there are no licensed James Bond board games currently in print. Unless you count James Bond Monopoly. And for the record, you really shouldn’t.
Here are a couple of terrific alternative Bond games that go great with your favorite 007 adventure.
Agents of SMERSH
As secret agents, you and your friends travel the world to prevent Dr. Lobo and his evil henchmen from carrying out their nefarious schemes. At each location you visit, you’ll have a thematic storytelling experience and roll dice corresponding to your particular talents. The ultimate goal is to collect enough intelligence to stop Dr. Lobo’s plans from reaching fruition before the clock runs out.
I’m not going to lie. I have an unhealthy obsession with Agents of SMERSH. It’s absolutely dripping with theme and great storytelling, it’s got a ton of variety, customization and replayability, and it’s frequently an edge-of-your-seat experience. The last game I played probably ranks in the top five gaming experiences of my life. We managed to clutch victory from the salivating jaws of defeat; at any moment, a single bad roll could have dashed our hopes, but a lot of luck and a little strategy got us through intact.
Fair warning, though: this game isn’t for everybody. The set-up time is fairly extensive, the game can take up to three or four hours to play, and while I wouldn’t necessarily call the game complex, there’s certainly a lot to digest. As one friend of mine put it, “This is a game where no idea was thrown out.”
Just when you think you’ve got a handle on it, SMERSH will throw you a curveball and force you into a random gambling encounter, a sparring match with a master assassin or an alien abduction scenario. And while there is certainly strategy to consider and implement, bad luck will undo even the best strategy, leaving you with a frustrating experience and a game that will kick you when you’re down.
That said, if you have the temperament for it, you and your friends are going to have a great time. When things get rough, you’ll be rooting for each other to roll the right dice, delivering high-fives and laughing hysterically at some of the absurd scenarios you’ll be forced into. I’d highly recommend getting a version of the game that includes the Kickstarter extras. The bonus agents, henchmen and game add-ons are absolutely worth it. If you end up really enjoying it, you may also want to pick up the expansion Swagman’s Hope and Showdown, which adds an amazing campaign experience.
Pairs Best With: The tongue-in-cheek campy humor, style and attitude of the Connery and Moore eras.
Examples: Goldfinger, Thunderball, You Only Live Twice, Live and Let Die, The Spy Who Loved Me, Moonraker, Octopussy, A View To A Kill
Far less campy and silly than Agents of SMERSH, Redacted is all about the confusing nature of the espionage business and the uncertainty inherent in intelligence gathering.
As a spy in a foreign embassy, you must steal the enemy’s plans and escape; the only problem is that there are other enemy spies looking to do the same thing with your plans. And even though you have an ally in the embassy, you don’t know who it is. Anyone is a potential friend or foe and you’ll need to figure it out before the enemy gets their team together and escapes with your plans.
The real fun of this game is being in the dark as to who is on whose side. With four players, you only know that you have one unknown ally and two unknown enemies. You’ll sneak around the embassy, acquiring weapons and gear and encountering other players. You’ll have to decide whether to pass them information, attack or just leave them be. Once you’ve got the plans, you’ll call a helicopter to escape, but will other players help or hinder you?
Redacted is quick to set up and the game takes about an hour once everybody’s clear on the rules. It works best with 4-6 players, but there are also modes for 2, 3 and 5 players.
Pairs Best With: The more espionage-themed Bond films.
Examples: From Russia With Love, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, For Your Eyes Only, The Living Daylights, Skyfall, Spectre.
While James Bond hasn’t had a proper board game since the mid-80s he’s had a slew of video games. Some of these Bond games have been okay, most of them have been pretty terrible, and a few of them have been great. But even the great ones are all chasing the high of 1997’s GoldenEye.
GoldenEye & GoldenEye: Reloaded
By today’s gaming standards, GoldenEye is a bit of a dinosaur. First person shooters may owe just about everything to the seminal Nintendo 64 game, but they have since surpassed it in terms of tighter controls, map design and player adaptability, to say nothing of graphics. I certainly wouldn’t begrudge anyone from pulling out their dusty N64 and running through deathmatch rounds or Golden Gun mode, but for the rest of us there’s GoldenEye: Reloaded.
Reloaded came out in 2010 as an updated version of the classic shooter for then-current gen systems. Although it certainly made some strange choices along the way, not the least of which was inserting Daniel Craig into Pierce Brosnan’s shoes. They also redesigned the characters from the original GoldenEye film to look absolutely nothing like the film actors playing them. Fortunately, everything else is pretty loyal to the original version, from the game modes to the split-screen option and even the ability to play as various baddies from the rest of the film canon.
Running around as Oddjob and getting a kill with his bowler hat or arming Jaws with a Moonraker laser gun is awesome, but even the less visually iconic Bond baddies are fun to embody. I mean, who wouldn’t want to be From Russia With Love‘s Red Grant or A View to A Kill‘s Max Zorin? Oh, it’s only me? Well, okay then.
If there’s one downside to the multiplayer maps, it’s the dearth of good film accurate sets. There are a few representative of scenes in GoldenEye, but for the most part it’s forgettable industrial sites and construction zones. For a franchise known for incredible sets, Goldfinger‘s Fort Knox, the volcano base from You Only Live Twice, or the Moonraker space station are perplexing omissions.
I’m still convinced better Bond games are possible that really embrace the series’ bevy of awesome characters, scenarios, gadgets, vehicles and sets. But in the meantime, a used copy of GoldenEye Reloaded is a worthy consolation prize for anyone with an Xbox 360 or Playstation 3. I have to admit a certain fondness for screaming my favorite 007 quotes while engaged in a Mexican standoff with rocket launchers.
Pairs Best With: Any Brosnan film plus The Man With the Golden Gun for Golden Gun mode.
Examples: The Man With The Golden Gun, GoldenEye, Tomorrow Never Dies, The World Is Not Enough, Die Another Day
Alternative Bond Games: 007 Nightfire & Everything or Nothing
You only need one James Bond video game, and that game is currently GoldenEye Reloaded, but let’s say you can’t get enough 007 or you only own older game systems. In either of those cases, here are a couple of classic Bond games that still keep the British end up.
If you have an original Xbox, Gamecube or Playstation 2, 007 Nightfire has killer multiplayer maps and the ability to add bots for further mayhem. Sure, it may not be as polished as GoldenEye: Reloaded, but it’s a significant upgrade from the original GoldenEye. And the multiplayer adaptability options are arguably superior to Reloaded. Plus any game that gives me the ability to run and gun around The Spy Who Loved Me‘s submarine set is a winner in my book.
Nightfire’s sequel Everything or Nothing (also for PS2, Xbox and Game Cube) joins the ranks of other great Bond games. Unfortunately it’s a poor choice for Bond Night. While there is a 2 player co-op mode, there’s no multiplayer death match. The real highlight here is the single player mode anyway. Not only can players gun down enemies on foot; they can also race around in various high-speed vehicles. The story is pretty solid and the action and pyrotechnics are on par with the Brosnan films. By which I mean definitely over-the-top and satisfyingly ridiculous.
Part of the appeal of the Bond Night experience is embodying James Bond for an evening. While a good meal, a strong drink and an awesome film certainly deliver some of those vicarious thrills, there’s nothing like super-spy themed Bond games to make you actually feel like Bond.
Whether it’s staring down your friend over a tense game of poker, testing your seduction prowess against one of Dr. Lobo’s sexy minions in Agents of SMERSH, or gunning down your buddy’s Baron Samedi avatar in a raucous round of GoldenEye Reloaded, great Bond games are guaranteed to take your night to the next level.
Disclaimer: The preceding article is for entertainment and informational purposes only. Know and abide any and all all gaming laws that pertain to your local governing area.
About Bond Night
Bond Night is a tradition started between myself, a bonafide Bondian, and friends whose exposure to the James Bond film franchise was limited. We paired one film a month with a region-appropriate cuisine and cocktail and spirited discourse about each film’s merits and shortcomings. The column’s goal is to translate that experience here. By walking newbies and Bond-experts alike through fifty years of the British super-spy’s cinematic history (from Dr. No through today), we’ll declassify all the secret intel necessary for you to host your own Bond Night with friends and family.