Lincoln Square is known for its German heritage. Even at the Red Lion, a quaint British pub, we occasionally have to share the space with German cultural groups wearing customary garb, drinking dark beer, and chanting ritualistically.
There were no odd German clubs at the Lion on Wednesday. Nevertheless, the krauts and their close kin in Austria were goose-stepping all over the place.
Someone on Facebook suggested that we wear togas to last night's Ides of March game at the Red Lion. In keeping with the spirit of the day, if not the style, we chose to do the talking with our knives rather than our knees. (Most will agree that the choice was wise.)
Old Julius was stabbed 23 times that day in 44 B.C. No one got it quite that bad last night--possibly because the game ended by a rare bar-game draw vote in Spring 1905 with more than an hour of play left on the clock--but there were plenty of wild stabbings to go around. Game No. 298 was a short, brutish affair. The final center counts were:
Last night at the Red Lion, on a board stocked with guys who have joined the club in the past two years, cagey vet Christian Kline turned in a vintage performance, the kind where he goes from three to board-top in a cloud of dust.
Kline has been playing with the Weasels since our third game, way back in January 2006, so most of the vets have experienced whiplash from watching him accelerate to one of his monster board-tops. For the five guys who weren't me, however, it was a new experience, as it had been nearly three years to the day since he burned rubber in a league game.
In the past 3 1/2 years, less than 10 percent of our league games have ended in four-way draws. That's probably due to a combination of our Sum of Squares scoring system and short games. However, today at Josh Heffernan's home in Logan Square, we had two short games that both ended in four-way draws. Special guests Chris Martin, the former world champ and three-time Alpha Weasel who was in town from D.C., and Ted McClelland, the longtime Weasel who moved to Boston a year and a half ago, factored in both.
With two annual winner-take-all league championship games in the Weasel Royale and the Bar Room Brawl, not to mention this summer's top board that will bestow a world championship, it's good that we get so many opportunities to play in tight games with fixed endings. Our bar games, always fun and often light hearted, still offer valuable training for future games where the stakes will be much higher.
Granted, the Royale is open ended, so the endgame is usually different, and the top board at WDC, while in a timed round, should be a much longer game than our typical bar game. And in no way am I suggesting that the level of play in our typical bar game rises to the level of play on a WDC top board. Indeed, on Wednesday night, there were enough botched moves, non-moves and rusty tactics to keep a Diplomacy advice columnist busy for weeks. Still, the conclusion to Game No. 294, played Wednesday night at the Red Lion in Lincoln Square, was exactly what you'd want in a top board--taut, exciting, and unresolved until the final order was read.
Season 11 continues to heat up. January was our busiest months of the year with four games. February could be even busier. We started the month off with a short-notice, weeknight event at Peter Lokken's home in Logan Square. We posted the game last Saturday, and it filled in six hours. Encouraged by that response, Peter decided to shoot for two. And we got six more players.
David Spanos pulled double duty. That's never an easy feat, but it was even more challenging on Wednesday night, with one board in Peter's condo and the other in the vacant garden apartment that Peter recently remodeled. The setup required David to brave the cold each time he switched boards.
Jim displays his dot count, circa Fall 1905.
In Fall 1902, while the other players were writing their orders, I walked down the hall at John Gramila's new pad in Logan Square (more on that in a moment) and fired off a pithy text to Jake Trotta: You suck at Diplomacy.
A moment later, I heard him laugh. And a couple of minutes after that, he laughed even harder.
It's a good thing we got in on the ground floor over at the Red Lion. On a typical weeknight when we started playing there four-plus years ago, it was usually just us and a handful of regulars. Not any more. Last night was particularly busy, and if we didn't have Most Favored Customer status (thanks mostly to old pal Nate Cockerill but also to an exemplary track record), we might have had to play one of last night's boards out in the cold.
Hard to say which is more rare, a Dan Burgess board-top or a game with three family members in it. For the title of this game report, I went with the latter. (The similarity to a movie title that takes its name from the Japanese code word for the Pearl Harbor attack is just a bonus.)
The club rang in the New Year with a short game at Matt Sundstrom's home in Glenview on January 2. The game ended after the Fall 1904 turn in the following center counts:
On Tuesday of last week, the outlook for our bonus bar game was good. We had eight players, and if we've learned anything from eight plus years of running bar games, it's that it's always good to have a safety. Alas, inclement weather stranded David Spanos in New Jersey, and then Patrick McReady, a new recruit from earlier in the month, failed to show up.
And just like that, instead of one too many, we were one too few.
For the first time in the three-year history of the Bar Room Brawl, we were able to field an Undercard game during the championship on Wednesday night. For the players in that game, it meant an opportunity to swim in water that wasn't quite as infested with sharks as the typical Weasels board. In other words, it meant an opportunity for those players to be the shark.
When plague and work thundered through the Trotta household, flattening Jake's two recruits for Game No. 285 at the Red Lion last night, organizer Matt Sundstrom was all set to settle for a six-player teaching game. Cancelling wasn't an option, as we still had two new recruits, including one playing her first game ever. A six-player game was better than turning them away.
But then a mysterious stranger named Mike darkened the doorway at the Red Lion. Instead of a good piece of hickory, he was carrying a pen. We let that slide because the game was saved.