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Sunday, 10 August 2014 15:18

A season so great it almost didn't end

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Perhaps it's fitting that our ninth season of Windy City Weasels Diplomacy didn't end until it had to. Game No. 250, the second of three boards at yesterday's season-ending Weasel Pyle at Castle Brown in bucolic Wayne, went right up to the 9 p.m. hard ending. And it wasn't until that final turn that the Men of the West sealed the 17-center stalemate line to stop David St. John's solo bid.

Nineteen people showed up for our ninth Weasel Pyle, including a British national, Jez Fordham, playing in his first game ever. Three others were playing in their first league games: Kyle Brintnall and Nelson Flynn, who drove down from Madison, played with us for the first time at last month's Weasel Moot, and AJ Roskam played with us there as well as at CODCon. With Tony Prokes and me agreeing to play on two boards, we started all three games within 30 minutes of the appointed start time, probably a first for the Pyle. And let the record note that Christian Kline arrived at Castle Brown two minutes before 11, the first time in his nine years with the club that he's been early for a game.

Here's how the games went down.

Game No. 249
Played in the the dining room, Game No. 249 was a classic Sundstrom game. It ended by draw vote in Spring 1908 in a hefty board-top for Matt's Austria. Starting the game in third place, Sundstrom improved his composite score here but fell 1.41 points short of catching me for second. The final center counts were:
Austria (Matt Sundstrom): 13, 49.706 points.
England (Kevin O'Kelly): 9; 23.824 points.
France (Chris Cantine): 0; 0.000 points.
Germany (Ted McClelland): 9; 23.824 points.
Italy (Eric Brown): 3; 2.647 points.
Russia (AJ Roskam): 0; 0.000 points.
Turkey (Nelson Flynn): 0; 0.000 points.
McClelland, who joined our club in October 2008 and was the Rookie of the Year for Season Four, was playing his last game as a regular. He got married last weekend and will be moving to Boston later this month with his wife, who just took a job with Harvard. He hopes to take what he learned with us to the New England hobby.
"I think I finally figured out how to play this game," he said as he was leaving.
Offered his ally, O'Kelly: "I didn't want to stab him in his last game."
Game No. 250
As noted in the opening, this game didn't want to end. It finally had to when the clock struck 9, the hard deadline for play on the season's final day. We got through 12 game years. The final center counts were:
Austria (Kyle Brintnall): 0; 0.000 points.
England (Jim O'Kelley): 5; 6.345 points.
France (Brad Harrington): 8; 16.244 points.
Germany (Tony Prokes): 4; 4.061 points.
Italy (David St. John): 17; 73.350 points.
Russia (Christian Kline): 0; 0.000 points.
Turkey (John Ritz): 0; 0.000 points.
Our featured game for the day, we played No. 250 in Eric's two-story library on the custom board hand-crafted by Peter Lokken. Play opened with a Sea Lion in the West. By 1903, I had lost Norway and Liverpool.
In the East, meanwhile, the game began with an apparent A/T vs. R. Ritz played a Sundstrom against Kline. In Brintnall, however, Ritz found a cautious, even reluctant ally. Kline managed to pick up Rumania along with Sweden, and in 1902, he turned the tables on Austria and Turkey.
While I put up a determined defense of the home island, Kline was being Kline in the East. He picked up two more in 1902, and another two in 1903. His war machine finally slowed in 1904, as he managed only single centers that year and the next.
Early on, it looked like Kline might solo. He was growing in the North and East, Turkey was actively aiding him, and the Italians were so fed up with the Turks that they talked of throwing the solo as well. But by 1906, France and Germany finally backed off of me, and the three of us counter-attacked in Scandinavia. Italy also started rolling and began picking up Russian-owned centers and threatening Kline's Turkish breadbasket.
St. John tied Kline at 10 centers in 1907. Around then, perhaps a turn or two earlier, we began the seasonal ritual of proposing draws. None was openely vetoed, but every one failed. I thought it was Kline, hoping that the Western alliance would fall apart and give him another chance to solo, or St. John, who needed a large board-top to crack the Royale field.
Each was passionate in his denial, and they pointed fingers at Harrington, who briefly shot up to eight centers in 1909, and me, who was slowly clawing back into the game. Lots of finger pointing, but none at Kyle or Prokes.
By 1909, the tide in the East had turned in favor of St. John, and Kline decided to back up his threat to throw the solo. With Kline's active aid, St. John exploded. To 12 in 1909, 15 in 1910, and grabbing St. Pete for his 16th in 1911.
With the 9 p.m. deadline approaching, the Westerners scrambled to retake St. Pete and lock down the stalemate line. St. John took Moscow and Warsaw in 1912 to eliminate Kline, but we made the right moves in Scandinavia to capture St. Pete and seal the board.
St. John settled for a huge board-top that vaulted him past Prokes into fourth place. Turns out that was fitting justice. Fitting because on the last turn of the game, while Prokes, Harrington and I coordinated our last desparate moves in the dining room, Prokes started chuckling.
"I have a confession to make," he said. "I voted down every draw."
I like to call him Evil Tony because of his goatee. Turns out he's Evil Tony because he's a sadist.
Game No. 251
The third board, played in the family room, was the last to start but first to finish. It was also the only board that wasn't seeded by the Diplomacy Tournament Manager software. Instead, we put Dan Burgess on the board, as he was the second to last car to arrive, along with Peter Lokken and his passengers John Gramila and Jez Fordham, the last car to arrive. With them, we placed me and Prokes, as we were each playing on two boards. The final seat went to a volunteer who agreed to wait to play until the missing players arrived. That volunteer was Kevin O'Kelley.
As it turned out, both cars arrived before the other games started. In fact, in Game 250, we were just starting to set up our board, so we quickly scrapped that and commandeered Lokken's handmade board. We were, after all, the featured game.
Playing on a run-of-the-mill board didn't seem to bother the players. They played briskly and agreed to a draw in Spring 1906, the turn after cleansing the East of Dan Burgess' Austrians. The final center counts were:
Austria (Dan Burgess): 0; 0.000 points.
England (Kevin O'Kelley): 7; 24.020 points.
France (Jim O'Kelley): 6; 17.647 points.
Germany (Peter Lokken): 5; 12.255 points.
Italy (Tony Prokes): 7; 24.020 points.
Russia (John Gramila): 3; 4.412 points.
Turkey (Jez Fordham): 6; 17.647 points.
"So you killed me and called the game?" Dan moaned afterward.
"The result just seemed right," several of us retorted.
Once Game 250 finally ended, host Eric donned his pith helmet and we began the awards ceremony, starting with the Weasel Pyle awards, handsome rosewood pens provided by Eric.
The Pyle's best country pens, for best performance on the day, went to:
  • Austria: Matt Sundstrom in Game 249. (Matt bucked the day's trend by not just surviving with Austria but thriving.)
  • England: Kevin O'Kelley in Game 251. (All three Englands were manned by O'Kell(e)ys, and if you told me at the outset that I would have finished third best among them, well, I would have had some choice words for you.)
  • France: Brad Harrington in Game 250. (It was not a banner day for the French.)
  • Germany: Ted McClelland in Game 249. (A parting gift.)
  • Italy: David St. John in Game 250. (In a landslide.)
  • Russia: John Gramila in Game 251. (And you thought the French had it rough.)
  • Turkey: Jez Fordham in Game 251. (See previous comment.)
In addition to the best country pens, Eric always provides five special pens. They were awarded as follows.
  • Kit of the Litter, for best newcomer: Jez Fordham. (Had AJ Roskam stuck around, we likely would have given the pen to him. After playing with us at CODCon, he showed up again at Weasel Moot, this time bringing two friends along, and he coaxed one of them into joining him for the Pyle. We always appreciate a good recruiter.)
  • Tenacious Stoat, for stubborn defense: Chris Cantine. (Chris was jumped by all three neighbors in Game 249, but he held out until 1906. The Tenacious Stoat his a bittersweet pen to earn because it usually means that you had a rough game. And wouldn't you know it, the pen disappeared before we could present it to Chris. Talk about tough luck.
  • Mercurial Mink, for being, well mercurial: Tony Prokes. (Christian Kline also made a run at this award, but Kline's performance in Game 250 would not have been possible if Prokes hadn't dragged out the game by secretly voting down every draw for no apparent on-board reason.)
  • Ruthless Ferret, for giving Weasels a bad name: Matt Sundstrom. (Evidence that this was a good call: The players in Game 249 can't agree whether Matt won the award for crushing newcomer Nelson Flynn--who drove three hours from Madison to play with us--or for stabbing his ally, Eric Brown.)
  • Dominant Polecat, for dominating Pyle play. David St. John. (His solo bid fell short, but he still racked up a whopping 73 points in Game 250.)
We then presented the Weasels and announced the Royale bids. And finally, at just about 10 p.m., we struck the Regimental Choir and closed another season of Windy City Weasels Diplomacy with the singing of our battle hymn, Come Now Weasels.
Fifty-nine players, 31 boards, and another fantastic Weasel Pyle. Thanks, All, for making Season Nine such a great one. See you in September!
Supply center charts are here.
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