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Nan o’ War CH14: Dealer is Busted

By Rutskarn
on Wednesday Jun 14, 2017
Filed under:
Lets Play


My horse racing career has been one of the most thrilling afternoons of my life, but I think it’s time to hang up the stirrups. I’ll always have the memories slash two character levels slash undisputed championship, even as my racehorse trots bemusedly back into its stall and my former competitors whittle themselves prosthetic wooden spleens.

All this for six thousand piastres—less than one solid Spishy Mishy. Either horse racing’s a dying art or dressing like a nun and decapitating people is a going concern.

This is a problem. You see, I’d like more money. I’d like really quite a lot more. I’m pretty sure the game opens up once you get a little money tucked away, and after two very busy days I’m starting to get annoyed that I’m not a millionaire yet.

Goods are the obvious way to turn a profit, but margins are slim buying and selling them even if you only hit the most lucrative trade deals. It’s like the only way to get rich is by stealing cargo from other ships. Who has time for that?

Screw it. Let’s try gambling.

In half the taverns are named characters sitting awkwardly opposite Suspicious Corner, waiting for a wager to drop into their laps. Because professional gamblers have a notorious sense of sportsmanship, most will not take the money of an unproven player and demand you make a name for yourself elsewhere before they accept your challenge. Let’s poke around until we come across someone willing to scrap with a scrub.

“Deal me some” indeed, Wilkins. And what game shall we have?

Blackjack, naturally. I balked, but honestly this is probably the most recognizable game of chance you can plausibly date to the late 17th century. We know a game basically indistinguishable from Blackjack was played in Europe because Cervantes is pretty specific about the rules in one of his stories, Rinconcete y Cortadillo, published more than half a century before this game takes place. The story also makes it clear that it was played in essentially this context: a couple dumb sketchy strangers with more money than sense (and not a lot of money) squaring off in a fleabitten pub.

Rinconcete y Cortadillo is the only work of Cervantes I’ve read, so if Don Quixote has a chapter where the protagonist rides past a stripper to hit a jump with his racehorse let me know and I’ll draft my apologies.

Yeah, there’s not a lot of strategy to Blackjack. Intractable 100-piastre bets shuffle back and forth across the table as neither of us score much of a victory. It’s clear I’m not going to get rich gambling anytime soon. Finally, a few hundred in the hole, I get frustrated and quit out.

Lost in the background noise of the tavern, a sound effect doesn’t play. The echo of silence catches up to me before I reach the tavern door—and I hesitate. My hackles have caught on to something good and they’re giddily waiting for the front office to catch up.

What didn’t just happen? I was gambling. I exited. And…

There was no jingle of coin. There’s always a jingle of coin when money changes hands in a Mount and Blade game. So why didn’t I just hear one?

I start a round of gambling, lose some money, hit “End playing.”


I start a new hand, lose on purpose, and hit Escape. It brings me to the main menu, and I hit Escape again to return to the tavern. No jingle.

I’ve still got all my money.

Now–the distinction between the cheat and the bug exploit is subtle and chiefly philosophical. Feel free to argue the finer points in the comments. My own perspective is this:

I can only play the game they made. If a glitch gets my horse stuck in a wall, that horse is well and truly stuck. If bad design makes me run five minutes across town because there’s no easy way to quit a mission, I get to lose five minutes. If alt-tabbing crashes the whole thing to desktop, then that’s a fat bit of developer logs and loading screens I get to sit through just because I had to adjust my Fraps binding. And if pressing the wrong key makes the game forget that I owe it money?

Call it cheating if you’d like. I call it fair game. Besides, this guy’s only got like a thousand piastres. Barely enough to resupply.

Same with all these guys. So I’ll make enough for some new grenades. Where’s the harm in that?

And so this one guy takes ten thousand piastre bets. Big deal. He probably won’t even play with me unless I go and beat all those other guys first.

You know what, okay, this is getting a bit out of hand. I’ll find one more guy to gamble with and then call it quits.

He’ll do.

Am I ever!

I have now been in the Caribbean(!) one week.


Comments (49)

  1. Ivan says:

    Wow. Excellent article. Hilarious, and well paced to boot.

  2. Grudgeal says:

    Seeing how the gamblers will never get the better of you, it fills you with determination.

  3. Da Mage says:

    Is it still gambling if you cannot lose?

  4. KarmaTheAlligator says:

    Well, that was fun, seeing you work your way from bets of 100 to 100k. Your gambling skill is as high as your wallet now, right?

  5. Graham Mitchell says:

    “fat bit of developer logs and loading screens”


  6. Zaxares says:

    See, this is why in RPGs, I have absolutely no compunctions about just firing up the developer console and giving myself enough gold to buy the Kingdom of Heaven itself. Often, making money in RPGs is just a matter of finding out what’s profitable and/or grinding enough random monster encounters until you do have enough gold. I just see this as saving myself a boatload of time past artificial padding to lengthen a game’s experience. :P

    • Ander says:

      When I was younger I had more patience. In my mind, grinding through padding was the experience–if it wasn’t, why would there be so much of it? I’ve since been persused otherwise.

    • I do this too–in fact, in some games I find it much more fun.

      It is not inherently good gameplay to start you out as a beggar with a stick and make you slog through the game to upgrade to get some dang pants.

      Most games don’t even really start to get to be fun until you get to the point where you can start to make some build decisions and choices, and a lot of them hold this off for a shockingly long time.

      • Echo Tango says:

        It’s a tricky balancing act, to get the money and choices for the player balanced. Two common problems are 1) what you described, where the player has insufficient money to make any choices, and 2) the player has enough money to make choices irrelevant. The best way to handle it, is to have tough choices about what to spend money on, at all levels of wealth, and to have some way of removing the grind[1] for previously-thoughtful purchases that are now so easily afforded by the player.

        [1] e.g. Early on a player has to decide constantly if they want to purchase a health potion for 100 gold, or enough food for the week’s travel. Later when they’re moderately wealthy, they can afford a magic ring, which constantly heals them, or an amulet which removes hunger.

        • I generally prefer it if they make most of the upgrades in the game not based on cash–and then leave it up to you which ones you prefer to pursue FIRST.

          Bethesda often does this pretty well (or they DID) in that there will be, say, a couple of unique weapons in the game that work really well for certain playstyles. So I’ll want to go get those early on–and I CAN, because they don’t gate the content behind a “you must be this high to ride the ride” wall.

          Of course, in Skyrim and Fallout 4, the uniques are generally pretty crap compared to what you can craft or (in Fallout 4) find as legendary drops.

          I think it also helps if they have several threshholds for what you spend your money ON. At first, you’re just trying to make your SELF combat effective. Then maybe you branch out to start upgrading your party. Then you’re working on upgrading your base.

          Fallout 4 came close to having these transitions, but the problem is that you upgrade the settlements the same way you upgrade yourself–by looting coffee cups, pencils, and duct tape. It needed to reach a point where you had trade set up and you were largely just BUYING the upgrades with CASH. Because then, you really only have an impetus to pick up the most VALUABLE stuff instead of every bit of junk you can find. So you can go longer and longer between times when you had to stop and offload stuff. So that the automated processes (trade, recruiting, etc.) would have bigger payoffs and also require more work/decisions from you each time you came back.

          That, and the state of your settlements needed to have some kind of impact on the rest of the game. Heck, just being able to reach a point where you could be confident in not needing to pick up and run to the settlement to defend it when you got the “we’re under attack!” warning would have been nice. :P

      • FelBlood says:

        I’m currently playing a game with the opposite problem.

        In the early game, everything is cheap, and you can change up your build to suit the situation.

        However, to do anything useful in the mid-game, you need start investing ridiculous amounts of resources in upgrading your tools. So if you don’t want to grind for eternity, you’ll have to pick your favorites and focus on them.

        Stuck on a tricky boss encounter? Wishing you could go back in time and level the benched sidekick that stuns healers, instead of the one that debuffs the armor of tanks? Too bad. Go grind the resources to upgrade your neglected ally. The boss will still be here next week,

    • Droid says:

      Also, who cares about cheating in a singleplayer game? A few years back nearly the whole internet was convinced that that was horrible, because cheating leads to an unfun game. I have since found out that it is the unfun game that leads to cheating, which might not succeed in making the game fun again (so the misinterpretation is somewhat understandable).

      In this case, I think, it was more that Rutskarn felt obliged to explain why this would lead to a better story than to explain why he was not a worse gamer, or less legit, or whatever.

    • Echo Tango says:

      In the original Fallout[1], I didn’t have a dev console / cheat codes. I did, however, have the ability to choose gambling bet sizes and bet-placing from the keyboard. If I recall correctly, the trick was to get a bit of luck and/or gambling skill in the game, then go to the one casino in the game, and hold down 1 and 5 on the keyboard with tape / coins / pencil erasers. Then you go off and do something else for a couple hours or go to sleep, and when you come back, you’ve got enough money for the game. :)

      [1] Please drink responsibly.

  7. Abnaxis says:

    It’s funny, because the game actually has a *mechanic* for cheating that you gleefully passed up…

  8. Daemian Lucifer says:

    That video is pure gold.Catchy music too.

  9. John says:

    The thing that I like about games with gambling mini-games is that they’re very rarely sophisticated and in the right circumstances you can make a lot of money without cheats, exploits, or even save-scumming. When I was playing a lot of Majesty, I used to go to the elven gambling hall–because Majesty elves are decadent bastards–and use the double-your-bet strategy. That is, I started with the minimum bet, doubled my bet every time I lost, and stopped gambling as soon as I won. It’s not a foolproof strategy, but it does give you an advantage over the house. It doesn’t work in real casinos for various reasons. Casinos often have table limits, for example. Also, casinos are aware of the strategy and will ask you to stop playing if they figure out that you’re doing it. But stupid little gambling mini-games are, well, stupid.

  10. Nimrandir says:

    I love the verisimilitude of a true pirate’s life here. The Dutch and the English have finally laid down their arms and embraced the path of peace?

    Who cares? I’m about to bilk this doofus for everything he’s worth!

  11. Syal says:

    “Party, hold this position!”

    I can only imagine the entire crew is gathered in this tavern, forming ranks around this table to listen to this guy’s mission-critical info on where you can gamble.

    • Nimrandir says:

      “I have witnessed your uphill struggle at the gambling table, Madame. You are in dire peril of penury if you continue. I, Vanhouten, swear my blade to your service until such time as you ‘git gud,’ as the young miscreants say.”

  12. Mr Compassionate says:

    The first elderly person to actually get rich gambling

    Between this and the infinite horse grenades Lackbeard is practically noclipping through the Caribbean.

  13. Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

    In re: Don Quixote: “Gets drunk, rides past a stripper, and takes a jump on a beat-up horse” is not that far off a description of the actual plot.

    Don Quixote is supposed to be insane.
    Dulcinea is the idealized vision of a woman who -in at least some translations -is actually a prostitute.
    And of course Rocinante is a repurposed cart-horse.

  14. Mousazz says:

    Did they really put in Old Man Henderson as one of the gamblers?

    …I think I’m in love with this game!

  15. Jarenth says:

    Goddamnit, I almost spit out my coffee.

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