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.
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.