We're six months into our 14th season, and for those of us who have been here since the beginning, it can be difficult to recall which wave of players the current surge represents. We've had many over the years.
Last Wednesday at the Red Lion in the Lincoln Square, the club played its 382nd game, a contest pitting players from three distinct waves: Don Glass and Ted McClelland, vets who joined the club in our fourth season; Brandon Fogel and David Spanos, the vanguard of the New Guard, who joined in Season 10, along with Bryan Pravel, who started playing with us the next year; and two members of the current wave, Brian MacWilliams, playing in his second club game--and second game ever--and Braden Lenz, who joined us in Season 13.
For most of the evening, it was the newcomers' night. MacWilliams was holding his own in the East, and Lenz led everyone as Germany--no easy feat considering that one of his Western neighbors was three-time defending Weasel of the Year Brandon Fogel.
The holidays can be dark days for the Poultry of Europe, what with all the feasting and leftovers and general overeating. But the New Year promised a fresh start for Turkey, and guided by the stern hand and steely resolve of #Season14 newcomer Eber Condrell, the yellow pieces splattered the clean slate with the blood of their enemies.
After a two-month holiday hiatus, the Weasels were back in action last week for Red Wednesday at the Red Lion in Lincoln Square. It was just the fifth the game of the season and first since November 14, and a few of the players played as if they were still sleeping off a family gorging. But not Condrell. When Italy employed the Byrne Opening--Venice to Tyrolia, Rome to Venice, named for the postal hobby's fiercest practitioner, the late Kathy Byrne Caruso--and a Western Triple swamped Russia and the Mediterranean, Condrell seized these opportunities to ruthlessly gobble every lightly defended dot he could reach. He finished eating all three of his neighbors in 1904, and belched his way into a 14th dot by game's end. It was an impressive blitzing of three of the club's veteran players.
Game No. 381 ended by time limit after the Fall 1906 turn in the following center counts:
You keep lyin' when you oughta be truthin'
You keep losing when you oughta not bet
You keep samin' when you oughta be a'changin'
Now what's right is right but you ain't been right yet
In addition to being a catchy jingle, Nancy Sinatra's classic song is filled with great advice for Diplomacy players of all stripes. The song also comes to mind while reviewing the Spring 1901 moves from last Wednesday's game at the Red Lion in Lincoln Square. Specifically, these orders:
At the 11th hour* of the 11th day of the 11th month, seven Weasels gathered at club founder Jim O'Kelley's home in Little Italy to relitigate the rivalries that sparked a war that failed to end all wars. This latest effort, the club's 379th attempt to make sense of that tragic and futile conflict, started badly for Austria and England.
In the East, the Austrian (Jorge Zhang) stuffed an Italian (Pete McNamara) bid for Trieste, but the Turks (David Spanos) bounced him out of Serbia while the Russians (Christian Kline) marched into Galicia in the Fall. The Austrian position collapsed in 1902, as he lost centers to each of his tormentors, with Turkey picking up Serbia to boot. In fact, had in not been for a timely German (Jim O'Kelley) tap on Tyrolia that prevented Italy from capturing Vienna, Jorge would have been knocked out of the game.
Game No. 378, played last night at the Red Lion in Lincoln Square, nearly didn't happen. One player, en route from afar, dropped after seeing that we had a seventh without him. But that seventh had never played before and was intent on merely spectating. Meanwhile, reliable standby Christian Kline was stuck at work and uncertain of his status.
"Maybe 50 percent," he told me at 4:35.
Fortunately, he got out in time to salvage the game, which was another tight match.
Playing Austria, Kline jumped out to eight centers in 1902 but was knocked back to six the following year. Bryan Pravel in Turkey grabbed the lead at eight in 1904, the penultimate year, but Ali Adib in England and Mick Johnson in France were on his tail with seven, and Kline still had six. That set up a classic final year, with all four players scrambling for the top.
The game ended by time limit after the Fall 1905 turn in the following center counts:
Fresh off his win last month in the Bar Room Brawl Championship Game (not to mention a top-board finish at Weasel Moot), Christian "The Scorpion" Kline kept rolling last night at the Red Lion in Lincoln Square, topping on Opening Night for the second straight year. This top was much more modest than the whopper he pulled off in the Season 13 opener, but it was harder fought. In fact, rather than relying on his deadly sting, Kline showed off other elements of his game. He eked out the board-top with stolid defensive play and a charm offensive.
The game ended by time limit after the Fall 1905 turn in the following center counts:
"All decisions made involving 12-packs work out."--Chris Glassburn
The 12th installment of our Weasel Moot, played September 1-2 in the meeting room at 400 East Randolph, Prime Weasel Brian Shelden's condo building, was like a party pack from your favorite brewer. There was enough variety to please every taste, including one game that only ended after the players were serenaded into submission at a Karaoke bar.
When the fog machine cleared, Eric Grinnell, on the strength of monster board-tops in the first two rounds, including a near solo as Austria in Round 2, was holding the brass ring. Grinnell was playing in his seventh Chicago tournament, and the win was the first of his long and colorful career. All hail the Alpha Weasel mu!
Christian Kline walked into his first Weasels game--No. 3 way back in January 2006--like a gunslinger. Later that year, in August, the player known as The Scorpion soloed at the first Weasel Pyle to claim the very first Weasel of the Year title. (In its first installment, the Pyle was known as Weasel Moot; we wouldn't attach that name to our premier tournament until the following summer.)
In 12 seasons since then, Kline hasn't stopped shooting. But while he has finished on the podium in our tournaments, topped more than 23 percent of his league games, and won Best Country awards, a second major title eluded him. In fact, the drought dragged on for so long that some wondered whether The Scorpion was trying to fashion his Dip career into a more natural habitat.
And then Tuesday's Bar Room Brawl Championship Game at the Red Lion in Lincoln Square happened.
The drought is now over. Let it rain.
Brandon Fogel entered Season 13's final day of play with a tenuous hold on an unprecedented third straight Weasel of the Year title. His three closest pursuers also were playing at the Weasel Pyle, and any one of them could unseat him with a strong result. A poor showing by Fogel, thus hurting his sparkling leftover average, would make their jobs even easier. So the stakes were high.
But one does not win a Weasel of the Year title, let alone two in a row and a Royale championship to boot, by blanching in the face of high stakes.
Like so many other games in our thrilling 13th season, No. 372 went down to the wire last night at the Red Lion in Lincoln Square.
We drew nine folks for the final tilt in the 2018 Bar Room Brawl Series, including observer Ben DiPaola--the reluctant Diplomat, former Sneak member, and father of the Red Wednesday tradition--and safeties Chris Kelly and Brian Shelden. The presence of the safeties was fortunate, as we had to tap Kelly (France) to make seven. Shelden promptly skulked home for some much-needed sleep, but DiPaola stuck around to watch the game, advise newcomer Joyce Merkel (Germany) as needed, and sneak in some professional development reading. DiPaola slipped out at around 9:30 to buy some cigars for the post-game discussion...so he wasn't present when we needed him to conduct a dramatic draw vote on the penultimate turn.
With all seven players in the game and our impartial observer in search of tobacco, we turned to Founding Weasel Dan Burgess' custom draw cards to resolve the vote. Mike Morrison (Austria) shuffled the votes and then revealed them one at a time, planning to stop on the first green "Continue Playing" card to shroud the vote count in at least a bit of mystery. Alas, the first green card was the last one revealed, so as we played the final year, with Jim O'Kelley (England) and Kelly tied at eight and Christian Kline (Turkey) at seven, we knew someone thought he or she could improve his or her score but could only guess as to whom. (After the game, Christian Kline copped to the green card.)
As 1905 wended to conclusion, it looked like all three contenders would improve their scores. In fact, the odds kept shifting among all three, various combinations of two, and different sprinters alone finishing with nine centers. But Merkel--who had declined the novice privilege of selecting from France and Turkey, and channeled namesake Angela throughout the evening--and the three minor powers had other ideas. The game ended by time limit after the Fall 1905 turn in the following center counts:
Using webDiplomacy.net as our platform and armed with laptops, tablets and cell phones, seven of us gathered at Ali Adib's tastefully decorated apartment in Avondale today for his third boardless game experiment. Despite making the effort to play an online game in the same room, Game No. 371 was a quiet affair as we spent much of our negotiating time staring at our screens.
Paradoxically, the high-tech game was something of a throwback. It ended during the Spring 1907 turn in an old-school four-way draw. The final center counts were:
There was a Jake problem at the Red Lion last Wednesday: Two on the board but only one could top.
Game No. 370 was a nail-biter right down to the final turn. Jakes Langenfeld and Trotta were neck and neck at eight centers through 1906. On the penultimate turn, Langenfeld grabbed the inside track.
"Everyone on the board assumed I had the board-top," he says.
Well, everyone but Trotta ... and, if he can still remember last fall's Bar Room Brawl Championship Game, maybe Brian Shelden.
As newcomer and transplanted Brit Matilda Bathurst gained some traction Wednesday night at the Red Lion in Lincoln Square, observer Chris Kelly turned to me and said, "If she waltzes to this board-top, the title writes itself."
Chris and I fancy ourselves to be geniuses when it comes to titling these game summaries, and normally, we can appreciate each other's references. This one had me stumped, though. I'm not well versed in Australian folk music, and "Walk on the Wild Side" is as deep into the Lou Reed weeds as I can go.
As both her neighbor on the board and a history major who specialized in Medieval civilization, I was thinking instead of the central figure in an English civil war. While victorious, that Matilda was never crowned, though, so Chris gets the nod.
Game No. 369, played June 13 at the Red Lion, ended by draw vote in Spring 1905 in the following center counts:
With his second board-top in as many outings, Kevin O'Kelly proved yet again that you only need one "e" to spell evil. Big Kevin played masterfully, pitting his neighbors against one another, always offering just enough help to keep them blowing into his sails without ever sending a favorable wind their way. By 1906, he had navigated his way to a dominant position in the middle of the board. Tired of fighting the choppy sea, the other players yielded in Spring 1907.
Game No. 368, played yesterday at Jim O'Kelley's home in Little Italy, ended by draw vote in the following center counts: