The Betrayer’s Banquet

Cooperate, or betray?

Cooperate, or betray?

The Betrayer’s Banquet is a fascinating social experiment. A dinner party becomes an iterated prisoner’s dilemma: each conversational partner has the potential to cooperate or betray. Who do you trust?

The Jack of Spades, my starting card

The Jack of Spades, my starting card

I was lucky to begin towards the head of the table, where we started with a delicious artichoke salad. The masters of ceremony prioritize game play at the lower end of the table, as the people least satisfied by their food need to be given the opportunity to move up as quickly as possible. Conversely, those at the top were in no particular hurry to take their chances. However, relatively quickly we were being bumped down the table by ambitious parvenus overtaking us. Taking my first opportunity to play the game, we both cooperated, and moved five places back up the table, regaining lost ground. Having established trust, I would happily have cooperated again, but my first partner was displaced by another reshuffle. With little time to assess my new opponent, I decided to take a gamble and betray – it paid off, and I leaped to the head of the table!

Who's queenie? Oh, *I'm* queenie.

Who’s queenie? Oh, *I’m* queenie.

There I enjoyed sirloin steak, veal and barley stew, and other tasty morsels. The only downside for the King and Queen is that they don’t get to play the game – instead, they simply wait to be deposed by their cut-throat court. (Yes, it’s lonely at the top, kids.) My French consort had been exploring the paupers’ end, where he discovered a strong sense of camaraderie forged over the chicken’s feet soup. Comparing notes at the end of the night, the conclusion was overwhelmingly favorable. Win or lose, it’s definitely an experience!

Tickets for the October event can be booked now.

Other, better, write ups are available: New Scientist, Planet Ivy and Thrillist.

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3 responses to “The Betrayer’s Banquet

  1. Thanks for sharing – this is an amazing and very seductive idea: meet strangers and immediately double cross them for the tasty spoils! I rue my overly fussy dietary requirements 😦

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