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:
Game No. 367, played last night at the Red Lion in Lincoln Square, started late thanks to Bandon Fogel's extended teaching session with an interested beginner. The real lesson soon followed as the two-time defending Weasel of the Year and reigning Bull Weasel gave the other players a master course in taking what the board offers. The lesson ended by time limit after the Fall 1906 turn in the following center counts:
The club squeezed in a final tune-up before this weekend's CODCon Open last night at the Red Lion in Lincoln Square. Christian "The Scorpion" Kline's zero-sum brand of Diplomacy was in mid-season form, and thanks to a solid position atop the map and a defeatist neighbor with long-term memory issues, he topped the board with a big final year.
Game No. 366 ended by time limit after the Fall 1906 turn in the following center counts:
Ali Adib hosted another boardless game at his place in Avondale last Saturday (April 7). Game No. 365 went five game-years, with old vet Matt Sundstrom, the club's most decorated player, proving that he's got the right stuff in any reality.
The final center counts were:
Normally the pitchers are ahead of the hitters at this time of year. Try telling that to Chicago's mighty offenses.
The Cubs officially opened baseball's marathon in Miami, spoiling the home team's opener by putting eight runs on the board. The Sox, who opened in Kansas City, started poorly, giving up four runs in the first. But they exploded the second time through the lineup. The good guys belted six home runs and scored the game's next 14 runs.
Both offenses looked really good...until Kevin O'Kelly told them to hold his beer.
Late in Game No. 363, played last night at the Red Lion in Lincoln Square, newcomer Dan Kolen stood at the board, his hand on his forehead. Since 2011, he had played about a dozen games online with old friends now scattered around the country, but this was his first foray into face-to-face Diplomacy.
"I'm looking for an ally," he implored, as he assessed his crumbling Austrian empire, now completely encircled by barbarians. "I'm looking for a friend!"
"Well," replied one of the guys he had met earlier that evening, "you've come to the wrong place."
Bryan Pravel posted one of his prototypical board-tops yesterday in Game No. 362, played at Mick Johnson's place in Uptown: not big, but big enough.
The game, which featured three new players, ended by time limit after the Fall 1906 turn in the following center counts:
Paul Pignotti was one of the great characters of the club's early days. The Hammer of the Old Guard burst onto the Windy City Weasels Diplomacy scene at Season 1's Weasel Pyle.
He was brash, intense, and seething with testosterone and menace. In fact, he once grew a full beard over the course of a house game.
To know him was to love him, but getting to know him was like an organic chemistry class--the process weeded out a lot of hopefuls.
And then he had kids.
Fatherhood mellowed Paul and also cut into his hobby time. The frequency of his trips down from Wisconsin diminished. When he did show up, his play style and general demeanor were more relaxed, even happy-go-lucky. Occasionally, his eyes would flicker with rage, but for the most part, Paul the father treated the hobby as a getaway, not a battleground.
But every now and then, the Hammer will pounce on a board and cripple it for life. Such was the case in Game No. 361, played February 11 at Pete McNamara's home in Evanston. The game ended by time limit after the Fall 1908 turn in the following center counts: