Bringing people together over a meal is usually a straightforward activity. In dinner parties the world over the host and/or hostess choose people who will "go together" with no covert intentions. However, it was inevitable that one major area of development in AOB should be centred on such a universal and popular activity.
Examples of AOB in that context abound. In a recent visit to the Chateau at Valençay, in the Loire Valley, visitors are told of the intelligence-gathering activities of Talleyrand. Apparently in 1804 Talleyrand, with a large financial contribution from the Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, bought the magnificent Chateau as an estate for receiving foreign diplomats and Princes. Among those so ‘entertained' were King Ferdinand VII of Spain and his family.
At its simplest, Talleyrand arranged the seating of his own people among the foreign diners at banquets to gain information useful to the running of the State. It was also the custom for Talleyrand to spend an hour each morning in the kitchen quizzing those who had waited at table on what they had heard. The picture portrayed is of the covert extraction of information from the unsuspecting guests.
It is but a short step from the extraction of information to turning the communication process around so that Talleyrand's minions "sow the seeds of praise or seduction", drop hints and make carefully worked out suggestions with a view to influencing ‘target' guests. Moreover, guests realising what was taking place could adopt the same practices in reverse.
These were clearly top level practices but how far down the social scale did they extend? Also, were the practices in France exported to or imported from other countries?
There are many other varieties of Table Games which are of an AOB nature e.g.
bringing two or more people together in fulfilment of some plan which neither or none of them know about
indicating present favour or disapproval in an organisation by position at table
indicating present or future status or function in an organisation by position at table
the demonstration of power and influence by inviting as a guest a person of whom the ‘target' guest has expressed approval or disapproval.Table Games can be very ingenious. A Case Study is available, based on actual events described in the AOB section.