The Gam

The first part of any turn is The Gam, a time when the player may attempt to augment or refine his crew and/or strategy. Melville’s definition is this:

GAM. Noun—A social meeting of two (or more) Whale-ships, generally on a cruising-ground; when, after exchanging hails, they exchange visits by boats’ crews: the two captains remaining, for the time, on board of one ship, and the two chief mates on the other.

The Gam is at the root of gameplay for us. It is the necessary part of a turn in which a player may better his or her position to prepare for coming occurrences, hunts, and metaphysical exploration. Though certain gams are represented in the Sea deck (The Rachel, The Albatross), the concept at large is adapted to suit deeper game structure, and offered as a broad title for the reinforcement of a given player’s crew.

In Chapter 53: The Gam, Melville introduces a key narrative strategy that can expand the scope of his shipbound characters. The Pequod speaks to many other whaling ships throughout the narrative, always with Ahab asking only one question: Hast seen the White Whale? If a whaleship has seen the dreaded whale, even done battle with him, Ahab’s interest is piqued and the stranger’s story is heard in full. When a ship answers Ahab’s probing question in the negative, Ahab steers the Pequod on, toward his self-wrought destiny. The Gam is always followed by the draw of a Sea card, since this voyage the players have embarked upon must achieve its resolution.

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