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In days gone by, about the only thing you could spend your money on in a British Public House was watered down lager or, more likely, pint after pint of strangely brown ale. And then came Amusement With Prizes (AWP), or fruit machines, a.k.a. One-armed Bandits. Coins go in, levers are pulled or buttons are pressed, reels reel, and types of fruit, bells, and bars would align themselves into non-winning combinations. You could hold or nudge reels, but unless you had invested enough time or money into knowing what you were doing, the next stage would be to walk away or put more coins in.

These days, sitting in the corner of any half-decent pub in Britain you'll find alongside the AWPs an SWP (Skill With Prizes), the industry standard term for what a layman would call a pub quiz machine. It's a brilliantly innocuous yet enticing name for these addictive grey boxes of cruelty, which lie in wait for any unsuspecting patrons who think they're a little bit smarter in the loaf than they really are. Given that the pub quiz is a national institution in the UK (where over half the population now take part in quizzes, with the pub quiz the most popular form) the SWP has plentiful prey.

If you're a fool rushing in, the SWP knows how to make the most of your foolsome foolhardiness. For risk-averse angels, however, it can represent a rich seam of entertainment and/or money. So, to help you, the noder, get the most out of your time with an SWP, I present to you the official E2 SWP guide, guaranteed¹ to help you increase your chances of winning prizes with skill, or losing money but enjoying it all the more. Subject to the usual small print, of course. First up, some general tips.

How to win money (and influence people)
  • Do have a couple of drinks, loosen up the mind a bit, and overcome the cruel shyness that could stop you shouting out the crucial right answer when you're not sure of yourself. No sense in losing out on prizes just becuase you think your mates might laugh.
  • Don't get completely lashed. Excessive alcohol and the SWP do not mix well. Drunken stabbing in the dark might be alright for an alcoholic vampire slayer, but this is neither the time nor the place. Unless, that is, you have a Lucky Pissed Mate™ who can magically guess the correct answer every time, even though he can't read the question, or, in extreme cases, see the screen.
  • Do pick a machine that's right for you. Don't play A Question of Sport if you break out into a cold sweat at the mere thought of the football season starting up again, but experiment with a few others. I find Monopoly questions harder than Hangman questions, but that doesn't mean you will too.
  • Do Have a little think about your strategy. Will you stick to your safe subjects in the hope they'll eventually yield a prize, or take a chance on areas you're not so hot on?
  • Do Learn to spell. A-Z category questions will often ask you which word comes first in the alphabet, or which is spelled incorrectly. It's a gimme for any self-respecting spelling bee.
  • Do pick your moment to start playing. If you see someone doing well, back off. Don't kid yourself that you're smarter and therefore will win even more. Remember that the machine is not directly connected to the Bank of England printing presses.
  • Don't panic. You'll get questions wrong by being hasty, or not thinking them through before reaching out for the answer.
  • Don't under any circumstances, stand behind, or near me, or anyone else for that matter, and point out the correct answer after I, or they, have plumped for a game-losing wrong choice.

Know the Game

Ok, you've bought your drinks, gathered a few friends, what would you like to play?. Assume here, if you will, that you've stumbled unwittingly into The World's Best Pub™, where the juke box never plays Sting, a Black Russian is made with Vanilla Stoly (trust me), and over to one side, you can just make out a never-ending row of SWPs.

Do they all look a bit daunting? Or do they just all look the same? If they look the same, it's probably because most SWPs are made by JPM, 30 years old, the industry leader, and owned by Sega. And if it's not JPM, it's probably Mayday. Whereas JPM make grand licensed games (The Weakest Link, Millionaire), Maygay's approach is typified by the itbox, which combines SWP games and multimedia elements.

I've played/paid quite a few SWPs, but by no means all. Here's a starter pack of 10 for you to try out. Check the glossary at the end for the acronyms I couldn't be bothered to write out every time. Good luck!

In order of personal preference:

  1. Cluedo
    Cost:
    50p/£1
    Based on:
    The board game, Cluedo, by Waddingtons.
    How to play:
    WYWRTEOTB, CC. To start winning money, you need to have three had three guesses at the suspect, location, and murder weapon. To have a guess at each, you'll need to land in one of the rooms in the corners and edge-centres of the board. In theory, guessing correctly helps, since you win the jackpot by solving the murder. In practice, however, try as you might, you could just find the dice starting to feel a bit loaded by this stage. Landing on all six squares occupied by the suspects and answering questions there will win you a mini Jackpot of five or ten pounds, depending on how much you are playing for.
    Questions:
    TUS, CC
    Ker-ching!:
    Eliminate a few suspects, Win a few pounds, cast aside your crime-solving ethics and take the money and run. Quiet accumulation is the name of the game here. Alternatively, the set of six suspects squares pays out £5, but it could take a while to land on all of them. Chance cards pay out occasional spot prizes.

  2. Treasure Quest
    Cost:
    25p
    Based on:
    Who knows? There's a chance that someone in the SWP world actually had an original idea, a novel thought, and Treasure Quest was born. Its originality, and complete lack of license, or franchise, is its charm.
    How to play:
    WYWRTEOTB. Collect sets of symbols to win prizes. The higher prize value symbols are rarer, but you have to collect fewer of each. Low value symbols are more prevalent round the board, but you have to collect more. Landing on a skull and crossbones costs a life, and to complicate matters, once you've landed on a square and collected your symbol, that square becomes a scull and crossbones square, too. For each turn you will be offered three choices of how many squares round the board to move.
    Questions:
    Utterly freaky, favouring inspired guesswork, logical assessment, and a mathematical mind. I urge you to play this game if you ever come across it. I can't remember any specific questions, but it would go a bit like this. Given four options, you have to say which is the furthest, longest, highest, shortest, last alphabetically, highest scoring in scrabble, and so on and so forth. Trickier questions might include; which of the four options is the second nearest to the circumference of the earth, or the furthest from the distance between Pluto and Saturn.
    Ker-ching!:
    Which is the greater distance? Flying once from London to Tokyo, or three times from Los Angeles to Toronto?² If you got that confidently right, you'll find Treasure Quest is usually a good money spinner. You don't need to answer that many questions to collect sets, and you can usually stay out of trouble and pick up bonuses. And it's more fun than the TUS, by far.

  3. Monopoly
    Cost:
    50p/£1
    Based on:
    The board game, Monopoly, by Waddingtons
    How to play:
    WYWRTEOTB. Collect sets of properties around the board to win Cheap properties win smaller prizes than Park Lane and Mayfair, which, together, are Mr and Mrs Jackpot. Collecting both utilities, or all four stations on the board also yields prizes. Starting with 1500 points, you get points for getting a question right, according to the value of the property you are on, but lose 800 for a wrong answer This penalty increases as you progress through the game.
    Questions:
    TUS, CC (N.B.: There are two types of Monopoly machine, one more generous than the other. Land on Community Chest or Chance Cards and choose one of four cards. On Monopoly 10 Machines, the cards will move places 10 times, 11 times for Monopoly 11 machines. The one extra makes all the difference (see Ker-ching! below). Bonus points, free properties, Get out of Jail free, move forward or back spaces, are all available.
    Ker-ching!:
    I ploughed I don't know how much money into Monopoly machines at University, usually breaking even after a hard day's work, or ending slightly up. If I'd had the back door key life would have been much easier. On Monopoly 10 machines, if conditions are right, you can pick up big bucks by buying Park Lane, landing on the Community Chest just after 'Go', choosing the 'Go Back 3 spaces' card, thereby landing on Mayfair, and answering the question correctly to complete the set. Alternatively, you could buy the utilities. If the SWP is feeling generous, you'll find spot prizes (up to £4) in among the Chance Cards and Community Chest.

  4. Who wants to be a Millionaire?
    Cost:
    50p, or £1 for three games.
    Based on:
    The quiz show. I'm going to assume you're alive, and therefore know the plot.
    How to play:
    The quiz show. Word for word. Answer the fastest finger first question to secure your lifelines, then climb as high up that ladder as you can. If Chris Tarrant's punchable mug appears after you choose your answer, and the answers appear again, don't worry, he's only being Chrissy - "is that your final answer?".
    Questions:
    Like the show, make a noise, any noise, to win one hundred pounds, give Pi to 200 decimal places to pick up the Million pound jackpot.
    Ker-ching!:
    In a good mood, this SWP will start to pay out at the £8,000 question, but you might have to wait till £32,000 if times are hard. When you've answered a prize money question, you can have a look at the next one, and bank the money if you don't think you can answer it. Just like on the telly. You don't get many questions per game, but it's pretty good fun. After all, who hasn't watched the show and wondered if they could do better?

  5. Hangman
    Cost:
    50p/£1
    Based on:
    The age-old pencil and paper game of the same name.
    How to play:
    You are offered three clues, worth from 25 to 250 points. The answer will be a one to three word phrase (Wheel of Fortune, anyone?). To fill in the letters in the answer, select one of the three categories offered. Each category also has a letter with it. Choose a letter that's in the phrase, get the question right, and the letter is filled in. Choose a letter that isn't in the answer, and your little stick man will become a little bit more hanged. Get all the letters, and win the point value of the phrase.
    Questions:
    TUS, CC
    Ker-ching!:
    Show me the money! Over any period of time, this should be a money spinner. You need 250 points to start winning money, which could only take 10 questions or so. You start with two lives, but can get more from the CC, as well as bonus letters.

  6. A Question of Sport
    Cost:
    50p
    Based on:
    BBC Sports quiz with the same name, formerly hosted by David Vine, then David Coleman, now fronted by former tennis star Sue Barker.
    How to play:
    R&J. The format is the same as the Top of the Pops and Telly Addicts formats for the rounds, but this time there's a sensible, defeatable last round. In this money round, you have a question, and twelve possible answers. Choose the six correct answers to win the jackpot; a bit like Wipeout.
    Questions:
    Various sporting categories.
    Ker-ching!:
    And why not? With a couple of mates you should be able to cover most of the categories, buying yourselves enough seconds for the final round. If you get lucky, you'll get a good choice of questions for it.

  7. Top of the Pops
    Cost:
    50p
    Based on:
    TOTP is the UK Chart TV show, and the longest running pop music show on British Television.
    How to play:
    R&J. You play six rounds of questions, with four questions in each round, followed by the jackpot round. You can choose one of four categories for each round. Each correct answer gets you 1 second to play that Big Boss last round. Occasional questions carry bonuses that get turned into lifelines in the jackpot round.
    Questions:
    Music, music, music. Categories include Number 1s, 80s, 90s, One Hit Wonders, Divas, plus famous groups, including ABBA, The Beatles, Queen etc. Every now and then you'll get treated to an Indie music round.
    Ker-ching!:
    I consider myself to be pretty savvy pops-wise. I usually get nearly all of the questions right, including bonus questions, but I have never, ever, ever, won money from one of these, that I can remember. The final round is utterly unplayable. To win the jackpot, you have to get to number 1 in the time you won in the earlier rounds, moving up one place in the chart every time you get a question right. Once you choose your category, eg "Beatles & Stones", you are given a song title, and have to say whether it's by one or the other, or neither. The killer is that you move down one place every time you get a question wrong. One right, one wrong, and you're back to square one. The lifelines stop wrong answers moving you down, but if you can answer 15 questions right in about 20 seconds, please, please, please tell me how you do it.

  8. Trivial Pursuit
    Cost:
    50p/£1
    Based on:
    Some board game or other my Dad always used to win.
    How to play:
    WYWRTEOTB. Answer questions correctly on the wedge squares to build up the prize pot. To collect the pot, head to the centre of the board and answer a question correctly while there. The more wedges you've collected, the bigger the pot. Answering questions on non-wedge squares fills the bonus wedge holder of the appropriate colour. Fill one of these for, er, bonuses.
    Questions:
    Trivial Pursuit stylee (Geography, Entertainment, Art & Literature, History, Science & Nature, Sport & Leisure)
    Ker-ching!:
    My Dad could retire and live comfortably off this machine. Normal mortals should do OK.

  9. Telly Addicts
    Cost:
    50p
    Based on:
    Cardigan-based telly quiz hosted by Santa Claus wannabe Noel Edmonds, in which families who don't get out much answer questions on TV shows you wish you were watching instead of Telly Addicts.
    How to play:
    R&J. Same format as the Top of the Pops machine.
    Questions:
    Telly, goggle-box, Ned Kelly questions from start to finish. Jackpot round questions will be something in the order of knowing whether a programme airs on BBC1, ITV, or neither.
    Ker-ching!:
    You might as well play Top of the Pops.

  10. The Weakest Link
    Cost:
    50p
    Based on:
    Pseudo Kangaroo Court quiz show of the same name, in which people at the low end of the IQ spectrum act confused, and, at the end of each round, vote off from the show the player most likely to spell their own name wrong. Anne Robinson hosts, firing insults at the hapless contestants and the Welsh.
    How to play:
    In order to progress, you need to answer questions of ascending value, and bank enough money in each round to make it through to the next one. After the first round, you start to eliminate subjects. When one subject remains, you have to answer five questions on that subject to take the jackpot. It's a pretty unimaginative licensed game, relying on a database of questions, a couple of clips of Anne Robinson, and little guile on the part of JPM.
    Questions:
    All sorts of categories.
    Ker-ching!:
    Not likely. This is not a machine to win money from. In order to bank enough money in each round, you have to be pretty sharp with your answers. You'll need to bank 2000 to 4000 to make it through to the next round (which means correctly answering 7-10 consecutive questions, or about 4 lots of 5. In around 30 seconds.) One wrong answer will set you back a long way in this game. But since you lose pretty quickly you can head straight to the bar to get over wasting money on such a sorry experience.


Others:

I haven't played the machines in this list, but if anyone has any info they can pass on (especially locations of machines...) please do.


Glossary

CC

Chance cards. Most games will give you the occasional breather from the questions, and offer bonuses up. In Monopoly you need to land on Chance or Community Chest. In most other games, a question mark appears instead of a question category, or a square on the board will act in the same way as the chacne cards - throw again spaces in Trivial Pursuit, for instance. A number of cards, usually four, appear face up on the screen, giving you enough time to spot the best one, before they flip over, and start shuffling round the screen, swapping places with each other. Mostly they just go left to right, up and down or diagonally, in straight, easy to follow lines. Trivial Pursuit machine cards move in an elegant arc, however, but are still very trackable. In the later stages of some games (Cluedo springs to mind), the cards may move quicker. Bonuses range from spot prizes at the top end, through extra lives, free properties (Monopoly), Clues (Cluedo), to 'lose a life', or even the dread 'Game Over'.

R&J

Rounds and Jackpot. Some machines pay out if you make enough progress, i.e. collect the right cards, score enough points, and are more fun to play if you're happy to pick up a few pounds here and there and keep playing. R&J games let you play through to the end every time, so you're always guaranteed a certain number of questions, but you'll either win the Jackpot, or sweet FA at the end of it all.

TUS

The Usual Suspects. Most machines offering categories rely on broadly similar question categories, inspired by the Trivial Pursuit selection:

WYWRTEOTB

Work your way round the edge of the board. The machine typically offers you three questions on different categories, each question advancing you a different number of spaces round the board. Squares will either offer you the chance to play bonus cards, answer another question, or make progress towards the jackpot (buying a property in Monopoly, or making a guess at the suspect in Cluedo, for instance.) Any SWP based on a board game is likely to be WYWRTEOTB.


Notes

1. Not really.

2. This is entirely my term, not an industry standard.

3. As the crow flies (so not exact air flight figures, granted), London to Tokyo is 5956 miles, LA to Toronto three times is 6552.

Please /msg me if you spot any errors or omissions.

Further reading
http://www.llg.co.uk/about/TheLink/link9.pdf - press release detailing Maygay's itbox
http://www.jpm.co.uk - JPM International's Homepage
http://www.thegambler.org/ - for a few hints and tips on some SWPs

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