A journey to Zurich – travelling with games

Gabriel Perelle, Travelers Approaching a Bridge, French, 1603 - 1677, , etching on laid paper, Gift of the Estate of Leo Steinberg

Kalmfist gives me a nudge, I look up from my magazine. I am sat on a train travelling to Manchester Airport. I take the DS from him, click continue and am faced with a collection of tanks and men arranged on a small island. I can only see half of the island, the rest is obscured in fog. I move my units and contemplate what to buy, finally deciding to hoard my money for greater delights next turn. All done, I pass the DS back to Kalmfist, take a drink of beer and return to the article I was reading. Travelling doesn’t get much better than this.

All told we are on the road for nine hours, much of this time is spent doing not much and truthfully much of it is spent drinking. We are on our way to Zurich to see an old friend, Jev. In an inspired moment of clarity I decided to bring the DS with me, I charged it up specially before I left.

We arrive at the airport with plenty of time (I hate rushing when I travel) and join the security queue. Passing the DS back and forth as we shuffle our way forward. When not playing I am stood in the airport’s security lounge, slowly moving forward in the long snaking line. Then I am passed the DS and drop into another place – a world of cartoon tanks, grinding wars of attrition and subtle power plays. Click, move, click, click; I play to the rhythm of the game again and again until my turn is done. Passing the DS to Kalmfist I am suddenly back in the airport, inching forward in the security line.

Until, unexpectedly, a security guard tells us to turn it off. Why is never explained, although I suspect it is more to do with creating an air of authority than any security risk. Still best not to talk back to a guy with a machinegun.

As we move from the holding zone to the departure lounge, we find a bar, order drinks and start up the DS again. It is sunny outside and I can see the old hanger I used to work in (fascinating places, boring horrible job). I’ve got a beer in my hand and Kalmfist looks like he is about to finish his go – life is good.

Then what seems like seconds later we hear a final call for our flight, oh crap, off we rush. But when we finally get to the gate nothing is actually happening. In fact I am not even sure the plane has turned up yet. Air travel is like the old army saying, ‘hurry up and wait’. Still, at least it’s my turn on the DS. We are playing Advance Wars: Days of Ruin; I have played this one a bit, Kalmfist has never seen it before. But lack of knowledge isn’t a problem because all the Advance Wars titles are basically the same and we have both played them a lot over the years.

Finally, we board, sat next to each other I grab the window seat and Kalmfist boots up the DS again, completing his turn he passes it to me. We play for the whole of the flight, getting odd looks from the lady next to us. I guess she was either wondering why two middle-aged men were passing a DS back and forth between themselves or she was trying to figure out what we were playing. Still, she never asked.

As we were waiting in the passport control line the DS gave up the ghost – no power. Oh – no charger means no more Advance Wars. Still we got through passport control, caught the bus to the train station and had enough time before the train to get more beer. Sat on the train to Zurich we notice power points everywhere, but we have no charger. Still, the DS got us through the bulk of the journey doing what we have spent many a night doing, playing games. The rest of the journey is fine, we drink some beers and chat and then we are there – Zurich.

While we are visiting Jev we happen, on the last day of the trip, to find a games shop. I wander in and enquire whether they sell DS chargers, yes £20, done, a bargain at half the price. As we get on our train to start our homeward journey concern rises, there are no charging sockets, looking at the carriages we realise how old they are, this is not good. In a rash moment I suggest we get off the train and catch the next one. Kalmfist agrees and we get on the next one a few minutes later, but this one doesn’t have any chargers either. I offer to look around and see if any of the other carriages have them, after all its quite a new train. Three carriages later I give up, the whole train is crammed with people trying to find seats and I haven’t found a single socket. Bugger.

I struggle back to where Kalmfist is sat and explain my lack of success, he just smiles and lifts the arm rest up, to reveal a socket. You can’t beat playing games while travelling.

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