It's First Contact time. A Gamma Quadrant species known as the Wadi are due aboard DS9. And when they arrive... they immediately ask where the games are.The Wadi love them some games. In fact, it's all they seem interested in doing; and much to Quark's (and Sisko's) annoyance, they learn quickly and like playing for really long stretches. Sisko heads for bed after six hours of the Wadi playing Dabo, and Quark is left to deal with loitering winners.Naturally, Quark decides to end their winning streak the Ferengi way: Cheating. And when the Wadi find out, they aren't happy. They bear down on Quark, and force him to play a fair game: Chula.After the board is deployed, Sisko, Bashir, Kira and Jadzia find themselves in some mysterious maze-like structure. Turns out they're the game pieces for Quark's game of Chula, only he doesn't know it yet, and simply sees this as another gambling man's game.The absence of the senior staff eventually reaches Odo, who goes snooping aboard the Wadi ship. After discovering a blinding light behind a door, he leaps in... and lands at Quark's.Quark finally realizes his pieces are the missing officers, and has a suitable Oh, Crap! reaction. He starts playing it safe, but Bashir is still lost. And a later move means he's forced to choose a piece to sacrifice. Realizing his choice would mean killing a crew member, Quark breaks down and grovels, begging not to be forced to sacrifice them.The Wadi oblige... and have the game choose a piece to sacrifice at random.Nearing the end of the game, Jadzia is injured, and Sisko and Kira refuse to leave her behind. As the cave they're in falls apart around them, they tumble into a deep crevice... and pop back at Quark's bar, along with Julian, no worse for the wear.It really was just a game. Sisko and crew were never in any real danger. Sisko is bitterly angry, but the Wadi just laugh him off and leave DS9.
This episode provides examples of:
- Ain't Too Proud to Beg: Quark grovels on the ground for the Wadi to spare the crew.
- And You Thought It Was a Game: Subverted. Turns out it is just a game after all.
- Ass in Ambassador: All these guys want to do is play games. It's not even clear why the crew thinks they are ambassadors, they seem to be just some random people.
- Blue and Orange Morality: The Wadi can't quite figure out why anyone would be annoyed at being shanghaied into their game. This is not so much a case of them not understanding the crew's aversion to mortal peril, but their surprise that anyone would think they were in peril. After all, "It's only a game!"
- That said, the whole scenario is explicitly just to mess with Quark after they caught him cheating them.
- Character Development: In this early episode, Quark is already shown not wanting to put innocent people at risk, not even for profit. While he does later choose the risker road, it is only to get his people out of danger faster.
- It's Only A Game: Said verbatim by Falow with a laugh at the end, when Sisko, Kira, Dax, and Bashir are returned to the station, surprised to still be alive. It's a bit of a Wham Line, as despite how seriously the Wadi seem to take their games, it turns out they have the exact same aphorism as humans.
- I Will Only Slow You Down: Jadzia tries convincing Sisko and Kira to leave her when her leg is injured. They don't listen.
- Idiot Ball: Lieutenant Primmin, which very likely got him fired. None of the senior staff show up in Ops the next day, and what does he do? Laugh it off, telling Odo they're probably hungover from the Wadi party. He doesn't even bother to confirm this by asking the computer. It should be no surprise that he is never seen or mentioned again.
- Planet of Hats: If the Wadi delegation is any indication, their people are all about games.
- Poor Communication Kills: The Wadi never mention whether their game is really life-or-death for the "pieces", nor does anyone ask. Both sides take their own assumptions for granted.
- Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies: How the game ends, even though they don't actually die.
- Sadistic Choice: "Pick one to save two!" Subverted in that no one actually gets hurt.
- Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: At one point, Sisko orders Kira to keep going. Kira refuses, and tells Sisko if he doesn't like it, he can court-martial her. Sisko fires back that he can't since she's not in Starfleet. Dax then chimes in that if she could, she'd court-martial both of them.
- Songs in the Key of Lock: One of the game's puzzles to unlock a door requires the players to mimic a young child's hopping while reciting the lyric she is singing. (This is also the Title Drop, as her song instructs them to "move along home," i.e. to finish the game.)
- Stock Lateral Thinking Puzzle: Another puzzle places the players in a room filled with partygoers, but also filling up with a toxic gas. As they're choking, Bashir realizes that all of the unaffected party-goers are drinking something. So he takes a glass and downs it, then convinces the others to do so. It proves to be an instant antidote to the gas.
- Title Drop: In addition to the aforementioned girl, Falow gives an enthusiastic one to Sisko when he first appears in the game.