People & Business: Eureka! makes a game of disentangling the EMU

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The Independent Online
Forget Monopoly. There's a board game that I prophesy is about to sweep the Continent called Eureka!, a game that will enlighten you on the whys and wherefores of European Monetary Union (EMU).

Cap Gemini, the computer consultancy, tells me it has just invented the game to help business clients understand the many changes they will need to make in the light of EMU.

"It's a game of two halves," my contact tells me. The first half leads up to the moment of union itself - January 1999. (You have to take this date on trust, as well as the idea that EMU will happen at all.) In this part of the game you have to design a strategy for your company which will deal with EMU, including stuff on pricing, IT systems and the like.

The players chase around the board by throwing dice, and in a similar way to Monopoly there are "Eurorisk" cards, representing events outside your control (although not, I'm assured, including "Go to Jail").

In the second half you turn the board over and "cash in on various Euro opportunities" following monetary union. Wunderbar! The winner is the company that ends up with the most money and the most tenders for contracts. Should be a stocking filler for Europhiles everywhere.

Still with an eye on the Continent, I hear that Poland is planning to float three state-owned vodka distilleries on the Warsaw stock exchange.

Polish vodka, produced by Polmos, the state liquor monopoly, has an excellent reputation, although some of the exotic varieties, flavoured by additives such as bison grass or pepper, are for specialised palates only.

The Polish Treasury minister, Miroslaw Pietrewicz, is expected to decide in the next few weeks whether to inject the assets into an industrial holding company, privatise them separately, or invite bids from overseas buyers for a controlling interest.

If he chooses the last option perhaps Anthony Greener, John McGrath and Bernard Arnault could sink their differences and make an offer.

Undeterred by going to a discount since floating on AIM last week, Gremlin Group has struck licensing deals for two new computer games, involving Judge Dredd and Olympic ice hockey.

A spokeswoman for the Sheffield company, formed by husband and wife team Ian Stewart and Jennifer Richards-Stewart in 1984, shrugged off the lacklustre share price. The shares closed down 2p at 132.5p yesterday against the 159p placing price. The spokeswoman said they were not concerned, considering the state of the market: "In the last couple of weeks 13 floats have been pulled. Gremlin has been consistently profitable since 1990."

The company makes and markets computer games such as Actua Soccer, an improved version of which goes on sale in October and features Alan Shearer.

Yesterday's licensing deals cover the aforementioned Judge Dredd and "the official game based on the showpiece ice hockey tournament for the Nagano 98 Winter Olympics in Japan".

Gremlin, which distributes games to more than 60 countries, will have both games ready for the Christmas market. I hope Shearer's ankle will have recovered by then.

Let's face it, the vast majority of business books are the literary equivalent of a wet Monday evening in Bognor Regis. James Dyson, the maverick inventor, has come up with an amusing autobiography, however, James Dyson: Against the Odds, in which he describes his business philosophy and how he designed his famous vacuum cleaner.

Mr Dyson vents his spleen on numerous City institutions that have turned to him for investment over the years.

With City types in mind, he describes his own company's canteen, a Terence Conran-inspired cafe full of fashionable Italian fodder.

He adds: "I am not the sort of swollen-gutted, eructating business-luncher that sets off in the limo for four hours of beef and claret every day at noon, and comes back to do little more than gurgle and fart all afternoon." Crikey.

And if you were wondering, eructating means belching. Pass the port.