Two boards. Two John Gramilas. Two hours into our Opening Night for the 10th season of Windy City Weasels Diplomacy, and I was seeing double. And by the time play ended at around 10:45 p.m., there were just two of my German pieces left on the board.
Ah well, while the game didn't go so well for me, the night was a great success for the Weasels. We welcomed six new Weasels, four of whom were playing for the first time. We put the two experienced players on a board with five or our vets, and got that game started at around 6:45 while I sat down to explain the rules to the novices.
Once I got through our five-minute teaching guide (which curiously usually takes about 15 minutes) and answered various questions about the rules and the hobby, we started the second game with me, Ben DiPaola and Gramila pulling double duty rounding out the board.
Playing in just his third league game of the season and in the comfortable environs of Logan Square, Hipster John Gramila attacked yesterday's board as if it were an all-you-can-eat vegan buffet, a keg of ice cold Pabst Blue Ribbon, or a communal shower at an Arcade Fire concert. The hip son of a gun went after it. His Turkey rolled to a 13-center board top, launching Gramila into fourth place on the season.
Pictured: A four-peat was in the cards for the Italians early on. Here's a look at the board in 1904. What went wrong?
One of the great things about the Weasels is that regardless of how frequently you play with us, when you're ready for a game, you can usually find one. (Especially true during March Madness. Yesterday, we played our third game in three weekends!) Guys like Nate Cockerill and Don Glass and Matt Kade--while he lived here--deserve much of the credit for that.
Cockerill has played in 13 of 20 games this year. Glass has played in 11. Kade played in 10 before defecting to Berkeley.
The more guys we have like them who want to play Dip every chance they can, the easier it is to fill boards when guys like Craig Reges want to play.
Every hero needs a wing man. The Lone Ranger had Tonto. Batman had Robin. Michael Jordan had Scottie Pippen. The Cisco Kid had Pancho. And now Nate Cockerill has young Kevin O'Kelley.
Early on in Game No. 239, played Saturday at the Concentric game convention at the Holiday Inn Itasca (which wouldn't be a terrible location for a future Moot, by the way), it looked like Kevin was on his way to a monster score. His Turkey was at seven by 1903, and Russia--due to newcomer Chris Cantine's Norwegian obsession--was a vacuum. (After the game, Cantine acknolwedged that he might have been "too persistent" in his campaign for Norway, a failed cause to which he devoted four of his six units in 1902 and 1903.)
When Peter Lokken joined our hobby, he was like a meteor lighting up the sky. Lokken played his first game with us in May 2010. By October, he had topped his first board.
Many more would follow. In fact during that 2010-11 season, his first full season with the club, Lokken compiled a record 7.5 board tops. That record still stands. He did it while playing in 25 games, a single-season total eclipsed only by Nate Cockerill's 27 the same year.
In my endgame statement for Game No. 9--played way back in August 2006 and also the Windy City Weasels debut for club stalwarts Matt Sundstrom, Kevin O'Kelly and Paul Pignotti--I wrote that "Every man has his price, and three centers is mine." I wrote it for the comedic value, but the statement did serve as a guiding principle for my approach to alliance play. When I committed to an ally, I was in...unless I saw a three-center stab.
A game I played in the third round at the 2012 WACCon changed my philosophy. In that one, I three-dotted our own Tony Prokes. If you look at the final count, you may wonder why that result would change my philosophy. It looks like the stab worked out pretty well for me. It actually didn't.
Roland Cooke told us last weekend at WACCon in Seattle that he'd be in Chicago for the week, so Nate and I resolved to organize a game in his honor. Ater work Monday night, Nate posted the game on Meetup. For its title, he turned to Medieval literature: "The Song of Roland." The name worked. Within 12 hours--a club record--Game No. 234 was full.
"The Song of Roland" is an epic poem about one of Charlemagne's knights whose rearguard was ambused by a Muslim army. Vastly outnumbered, the knight, Roland, leads a valiant defense, all the while refusing to blow his powerful horn to summon Charlemagne's main host. Finally--and here's a spoiler alert--with his men dead and he the last Frank standing, Roland blows the horn with such great force that his temples burst.
Our run of eight games in eight weeks came to end yesterday with our first ever game in Hyde Park. Fortunately, the run ended after the game. Earlier in the day, it looked like there wouldn't be one.
The trouble started at around 9:30 a.m. when Kevin O'Kelly texted to say he was delayed at work and wouldn't be able to make it till noon. By 11:40, he had pushed his arrival back to 12:30.
To compound matters, at that point, 40 minutes after the scheduled game start, we still hadn't heard from one of the other players. And since that player had bailed on a bar game earlier in the season, we scrambled to find a replacement.
Everything went Matt Sundstrom's way in Spring 1901, as evidenced by the look on his face.
When the Germans opened to Holland instead of Denmark, the right side of Matt's mouth curled slightly upward. As the Turk moved Ankara to Constantinople and Smyrna to Ankara, the other side joined in, forming a full-fledged smile. And when the Austrians ordered his Home Guard in Vienna to Trieste instead of Galicia, I swear you could see Matt's teeth. Throw in Italy's moves to Tyrolia and Venice, and Matt had to fight back the evil laughter.
Your average Russian player would feel pretty good about an opening like that. Matt is no average player.
Tony Prokes topped his second board of the season Saturday at Matt Sundstrom's home in Glenview, making it two for two. He's now in fifth place.
Three players made their Season Nine debuts in Game No. 231: Royale contestant Brad Harrington, and Season One vets Paul Pignotti and Andy Lischett. For Lischett, the longtime publisher of the postal Diplomacy zine Cheesecake, the game was his first league outing since March 2010. He also played at Weasel Moot VII in June.
Game No. 231 ended in Spring 1909 in the following center counts:
O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.
Last week at the Lion, Nate Cockerill suggested that we organize a holiday party for the Weasels. Josh Heffernan, always the voice of reason and still basking in his triumphant return to the table, pointed out that it was a little late in the season to throw a party together. So instead, we settled on another bar game.
Josh Heffernan, the self-proclaimed People's Champion, showed us why the moniker fits last night at the Red Lion in Lincoln Square.
Playing Italy, Heffernan spent the first two years in a boxer's stance, ready to strike at any opportunity. When he finally threw a punch at France in Spring 1903, the stab was so perfectly timed that he was able to walk into Marseilles and Spain unopposed in the Fall. By game's end in 1906, players were lining up to help him take centers.
On our drive up to WolfCon last weekend, Matt Kade talked about the robustness of our club, both in terms of the quantity of the games and quality of the play.
"I tell my friends about the club, and they don't get what a big deal it is to pull off two or three games a month," he said. "It's not easy to find seven players."
Then he paused to reflect on his performance with the Weasels since joining the club at CODCon last April. "I'd like to top a board," he said. "I don't think I've finished with more than six centers."