For its 10th installment, the Weasel Royale club championship moved to John Gramila's home in the city from Dan Burgess' home in Downers Grove, its longtime venue. The change shortened the commute for the seven participants, perhaps, but the game was still the long, dramatic, angst-filled but fun slog that we've all come to expect from the club's most competitive tradition.
After 12 hard-fought years, top seed Brandon Fogel, the two-time Weasel of the Year, claimed the coveted Bull Weasel title, becoming only the second top seed to win the Royale. The final center counts were:
Season 12 was so massive that it couldn't be contained by a mere 12 months. The annual season-ending Weasel Pyle, our club's oldest and happiest tradition, spilled into Labor Day weekend this year, making the 2016-17 year the first to be book-ended by two Septembers.
That wasn't the only first for Season 12. For the first time, the event was held in the city at Founder Jim O'Kelley's home in Little Italy after a memorable 11-year run at Founding Weasel Eric Brown's Castle Brown in bucolic Wayne.
We also set a new record for players at 84 while tying our previous high for games played at 44. Meanwhile, we fell just short of our all-time high for new recruits of 49, set in Season 7. We introduced 47 players to Windy City Weasels Diplomacy this year. Some of them are quick studies who have already elbowed their way into the club's rising Young Guard.
But back to the Pyle, we had four boards on the day, with one being a late-starting second-chance game. A total of 24 players participated in the games. Three of them crashed the Royale party by capturing board-tops: Matt Sundstrom, Christian Kline, and Prime Weasel Brian Shelden. Members of the club's vaunted Old Guard, Sundstrom and Kline advanced to the Royale from the same board at last year's Pyle. This year, they did it from separate boards on different floors.
The mosquitoes were pretty bad last Friday night in the gardens of Lake Point Tower. The Weasels, though, were even worse.
Ray Trotta, the patriarch of the Diplomacy-playing Trotta clan, hosted two boards in the condo building's beautiful wooded space on August 18. Thirteen Weasels spent the evening strolling through the gardens while telling lies and stabbing backs. If you could tune out the bustle of Lake Shore Drive, it was easy to imagine that you were vying for the Iron Throne in the gardens of King's Landing or Pentos.
Speaking of, the two games were as different as ice and fire.
Gus Spelman, one of the many promising new recruits from Seasons 11 and 12, bagged his first board-top last night at the Red Lion in Lincoln Square. We suspect it won't be his last.
Game No. 347 ended by time limit after the Fall 1906 turn in the following center counts:
Over the years, two boards' worth of dedicated, active players have stabbed the club by leaving town. Some are now playing with other clubs, others show up on the tournament circuit now and again. None of them are former Weasels. No, we call them ex-pats, because our club will always be their home.
Last night, we welcomed back Christian MacDonald, who now lives in Vancouver. MacDonald joined the Weasels late in our third season and quickly took the club by storm. In our fourth season, the first one that featured a league with running standings, he finished third. He also ran for and was elected to the charter Sneak that year, tied for second in games played, and won the first tournament he ever attended (the Buckeye Game Fest).
MacDonald is a good guy, a great player, and a visionary. While serving on the Sneak, he drafted a statement that still serves as an excellent guide for what the North American hobby could and should be. So when he moved away in 2011, it stung.
Reigning Weasel of the Year Brandon Fogel knocked a batting-practice fastball out of the park earlier this month on Red Wednesday at the Red Lion in Lincoln Square to snatch the league lead from rival Jake Trotta. Fogel drew a Germany bordered by inexperienced players, and he teed off on them, posting the largest non-solo score in the club's Sum of Squares era, a whopping 82.571. With only two scheduled dates remaining--August 9 at the Red Lion and the Weasel Pyle on September 2--this ballgame appears to be over.
Played July 12, Game No. 345 ended by time limit after the Fall 1906 turn in the following center counts:
We played a hastily arranged game of Diplomacy yesterday at the Red Lion in honor of visiting Weasel ex-pat Peter Lokken. Sporting a Rambo-style headband, Lokken drew Austria and proceeded to organize his fellow Eastern hipsters into a formidable and efficient RAT triple alliance. Ultimately, though, the RAT tilted in favor of Josh Heffernan, who now owns the season's Best Russia.
Game No. 344 ended by time limit after the Fall 1908 turn in the following center counts:
If we've learned anything from 343 games of Windy City Weasels Diplomacy, it's that there is no honor among Weasels and that no good deed goes unpunished. Yet time and time again, those lessons must be relearned the hard way. Wednesday night at the Red Lion, it was the player who hosted the very first Weasels tilt nearly 12 years ago who flunked out of the club's School of Hard Knocks.
We managed seven years in Game No. 343, played at the Red Lion on Flag Day. The game ended by time limit in the following center counts.
Q: How many Trottas does it take to coordinate schedules?
A: Apparently more than three.
Game No. 342, played last night at Seven on the swanky New East Side, started more than 70 minutes late, due largely to miscommunication among the Brothers Trotta. As it turned out, the game got Jake, who had planned to drop by a game in progress after an evening meeting with clients, instead of Ian and their dad, Ray, although Ray did stop by even later to kibitz and watch basketball. (And he seems interested in returning to the table soon. Perhaps at Weasel Moot, June 23-25 at Diversey River Bowl...)
If we were to compare Russian board-tops to Russian state-sponsored hacking groups, then Bryan Pravel's game Wednesday night at the Red Lion was more Cozy Bear than Fancy Bear. Yes, he led wire to wire, and yes, he was nattily dressed in a sharp blue blazer, but he never seemed like he was in control of the game.
When Fancy Bear hacks you, he wants you to know it. For Cozy Bear, hacking you is good enough. Despite losing Rumania and Sevastopol and being under siege in the south for most of the game, Pravel quietly topped Game No. 341, which ended by time limit after the Fall 1906 turn in the following center counts:
It's official: Jake Trotta is dominating our 12th season of Windy City Weasels Diplomacy. Trotta posted another hard-fought board-top in Game No. 340, played yesterday at Bryan Pravel's soon-to-be-former home in River North. Trotta now has 4.5 tops on the year, which means, with three months of play remaining, he's in line to challenge Peter Lokken's all-time record of 7.5 tops, set in Season 6.
Trotta ran his personal league streak to three straight tops, including the last two league games played. No one has ever topped three straight league games. It looks like that drought will continue, as Trotta is not scheduled to play on Red Wednesday this week.
Game No. 340 went nine years. The final center counts were:
Jake Trotta in Turkey rolled a solid final frame to snatch the board-top in Game No. 339, played April 22 at Diversey River Bowl. The game ended in Spring 1909 in a seven-way draw. The final center counts were:
It takes stamina to be a Weasel. The dust hadn't even settled over the bloody fields of Glen Ellyn, and there the Weasels were, gathering at the Red Lion to do battle once more.
April 12 was the second Wednesday of the month, so three days after CODCon or not, Red Wednesday went on. Game No. 338 ended by time limit after the Fall 1906 turn in the following center counts: