This week's Red Wednesday at the Red Lion was one of those rare Dip and Drinks nights when we had exactly the right amount of players for the game. And once again, that wasn't the case the day of.
We were sitting on 10 early Wednesday morning, and I was trying hard to find two others so we could force two boards. One of them, Jason "The Dude" Raynovich, a Founding Weasel, showed up, but instead of 11, he turned out to be No. 7. Two players cancelled and two others didn't show, so for once, I didn't have to sit out. I actually got to play.
And wouldn't you know it, the Blackhawks were playing, too.
Once before in our club history--at the first CODCon back in 2007--we asked three people to play on two boards to make numbers work. Since then, our threshold has been two. Any more than that, and it just gets too disruptive.
So, after a third cancellation on Wednesday night left us with just 11 players, we decided it would be better to sit four and field one solid board than stretch for two and disrupt both. The short straws went to Matt Sundstrom, John Gramila, Sam Bassett and me, although Sam sat in for the first few turns for a late-arriving Nathaniel Olson.
When we last saw Barry Preece (center), he was guiding Turkey to a monster board-top at Ballydoyle Irish Pub in Downers Grove. Remember when we used to do bar games in Downers Grove? Yah, that's how long ago it was--March 2011.
Back then, Barry was playing in only his second game. His first came in a recruiting game that Chris Davis ran for the Chicago Game Lovers Meetup, also in March 2011, I believe. That recruiting game was off the grid--we didn't count it. On his own, Chris arranged to teach the game to seven novices. (Coincidentally, they played that game on the same block where we played the first five games in our club's history.)
Of the seven, only Barry wanted to play again, but one out of seven isn't bad for a recruiting game, and when he topped that next board at Ballydoyle, we figured we had a solid new member for the club. We figured wrong. Despite our best outreach efforts, we couldn't get him back to the table.
For Jeff Lokken, in town from Buffalo to visit his brother, Game No. 268, played Saturday at Peter's home in Logan Square, was the best of times. But for brother Peter, it was the worst of times. Jeff's France finished second with eight centers, while Peter in Germany was eliminated in 1904. Nevertheless, a bad game of Diplomacy is still a pretty good time.
"We all had fun," Peter said afterward. "It didn't go well for me, though. I blame alcohol."
If opera singer and new Weasel Nathaniel Olson had brought a fat lady with him to last night's game at the Red Lion, she would have belted her tune in 1904. That's when Olson's Germany jumped from eight to 11 centers to take control of the game.
Fellow newcomer Korey Enright, our latest playdiplomacy.com recruit, gave Olson a run for his money over the final two game years as Italy but ultimately fell short. David Spanos, the third newcomer on this night, had a tougher go of it in England, finishing with two centers...which were two more than vets Mike Morrison and John Gramila managed to muster
The game ended by time limit after the Fall 1906 turn in the following center counts:
After a down year for recruiting in Season 9 in which only 21 first-time Weasels played with us, we redoubled our recruitment efforts this season. Our work is paying off.
Last night at the Red Lion, two more first-time Weasels played with us, running our total for the year to 24 in just 15 games. But they weren't the only newcomers. Four of the other five players joined our ranks this season. (The fifth played with us way back in Game No. 5 nine years ago but has come out only three times since then.) Game No. 266 was the first board we fielded since October, and only the second of the year, without either me or Matt Sundstrom on it. When we can fill boards without tapping hard-core regulars, that's good news for the club.
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?