Nelson Flynn's road back to the Diplomacy hobby has been a rocky one. It started last year when he stumbled upon the infamous Grantland article. That read rekindled fond memories from the 1970s of playing the game at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey and then at Field Station Berlin.
"We used to love talking about the game in Berlin," Flynn says. "'I'm moving an army to Ruhr.' We knew the Russians and the East Germans were listening."
A few years later, while studying law at Northwestern in Chicago, he dabbled in the postal hobby. But then came a career as a bond lawyer in Wisconsin, and the Dip hobby was largely forgotten...until the Grantland article.
This game report from last month's Red Wednesday at the Red Lion is long overdue, so for my title, I've chosen a minor detail that I found interesting. Only six players showed up on February 11 for our club's 264th game, so for only the third time in club history, we played with fewer than the standard seven. And for the first time, we used the Italian Roulette variant to deal with that problem.
For those who aren't familiar with the method, Italian Roulette is when each of the six other players submits orders for Italy and one set is drawn at random. So each player's Italian set becomes another point of negotiation.
Last night's game at the Red Lion featured four newcomers, and one of them, late-arriving British national Edwin Kite, topped the board. Where do you go from there?
On a board bristling with three of this year's Royale contestants, including the Bull Weasel; a former Bull Weasel; and one of the club's rising young guns, cagey vet and Founding Weasel Eric Brown showed what he can do for you, and to you, when he decides to play.
It's official: When it comes to apples, they don't fall far from the tree. And when the tree is a scourge, that portends calamity for the club.
Our true love was kind to us last night at the Red Lion. She gave us two walk-ups, running the count to 13 players, enough for our first two-board session since Opening Night. Now our allies, on the other hand, holiday season or not, they were being bitches.
Bull Weasel Matt Sundstrom hosted a Black Friday game of Diplomacy at his home in Glenview on Friday. And on that day, the 2014 club champion took a backseat to his son Jack.
The game ended by draw vote in Spring 1912 in the following center counts:
World champion Thomas Haver was in town last weekend to play in a Rummikub tournament at the Chicago Toy and Game Fair at Navy Pier. After the tournament on Saturday night, we hosted a Diplomacy game at the Red Lion for him and road-trip companion Grant Maki. The game ended by time limit after the Fall 1906 turn in the following center counts:
No need for a lengthy write-up of last night's game. Instead, just take a moment to watch this video clip on YouTube and picture Matt Sundstrom as Dudley Moore and me as Bo Derek. (Or the other way 'round; whatever strikes your fancy. Either way, the clip sums up the game.)
Our second Red Wednesday, fifth game of the season, and 256th in club history, was another fun one at the Red Lion. It ended by time limit after the Fall 1906 turn in the following center counts:
We debuted our freshly minted Red Wednesdays last night at the Red Lion, and the new brand was a hit. We had seven for the game, plus onlooker Chris Kelly. The numbers included another new recruit from the Chicago Game Lovers Meetup, and once again, we batted .500 from that site. Two signed up, one showed.
And as the saying goes, showing up is half the battle. Playing his first game in more than 20 years, Mike Esposito was understandably rusty. On the first turn, he held in both Marseilles and Paris. But he recovered, weathered the Platoon-like battle for his soul between me and Ben DiPaola (I was Sgt. Elias), and ultimately fragged us both to top the board.
Thursday night used to be reserved for must-see TV viewing. Shows like Seinfeld and Friends demanded our attention. But those shows are gone, and other great ones (the Big Bang Theory, Survivor) have moved to different nights. The hole they left was filled last night by a Diplomacy game in Logan Square, and it turns out that it's much more entertaining to watch friends stab each other in the back around a custom board than trade quips around a coffee table.
Last night's game, the one where we introduced two more players to the Weasels, was our first week-night house game, and according to host Peter Lokken, it was a rousing success. It ended by time limit (we used standard bar timing) after the Fall 1905 turn in the following center counts:
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.