At about five minutes till 6 on Wednesday night, exactly six of the players were seated around the table at the Red Lion in Lincoln Square, ready to start. That was the first sign that this bar game would be different than the 82 others we had played since March 2007.
Indeed, this game was the championship of our inaugural Bar Room Brawl Series, a subset of the league where we tracked each player’s best three bar games over the course of Season Eight. And at five till 6, only our War Weasel, Nate Cockerill, the game’s second seed, was missing.
Beefy finally oozed in at about 6:20, and we promptly selected powers using the French method that we’ve used at the Royale the past four years. Briefly, in reverse seed order, the players establish the power-selection order. The sixth seed decides whether to choose before or after the seventh seed; then the fifth seed chooses whether to go before, after or between them; etc.
Only two players broke order. The first was the most shocking. Don Glass, at No. 4, dropped down to last in the order. He later explained that he wanted to avoid playing next to me, but rather than placing his name card right after mine, guaranteeing that he’d have at least two choices, he placed it at the end of the line of cards, a miscalculation that made his choice ours.
Less dramatically, Cockerill dropped from second to fourth. These changes elevated me from fifth to third, ensuring the availability of a plum corner power if I wanted one.
With the first choice, Matt Sundstrom took France, as he did with the top choice in the first three Royales. Josh Heffernan grabbed England with the second choice. England, as we recently learned, has topped 24 percent of our bar games, more than any other power. France is second at 19.1 percent. That number might have influcenced Heffernan’s decision, but he also posted his best game of the year as England.
I waffled briefly at No. 3 before taking Turkey. I grabbed it in the first Royale and promptly got stuffed by my neighbors. Turkey can be a lightning rod, especially when manned by someone who is perceived to be a strong player. Fortunately for me, I had been anything but in Season Eight.
Cockerill grabbed Germany at No. 4, closing the West. Sundstrom would later say, "I figured I’d grab France, and everyone would run from me."
Cockerill’s choice may have been a bit unexpected, especially since he prefers Austria and Russia, both of which were available. However, I thought it was a strong choice for him. All year long, he and Sundstrom battled for the top two spots in the Brawl Series and the league standings. In this championship game, he wasn’t about to leave his adversary’s fate in the hands of other players.
Phillips took Russia at the fifth spot, and Kline grabbed Italy. That left Austria for Glass. Worse, he was right next to me, the player he wanted to avoid. On the bright side, in four games as Austria in Season Eight, Glass had topped two boards and shared a second. He’s not afraid to play the Dual Monarchy.
The game that followed was even more intriguing than the selection. Hopefully the players will contribute some commentary. I know it’s not always easy to write lucidly about a bar game, especially a few days after the fact. Nevertheless, I’d like to hear thoughts from the other guys and our two spectators, Ben DiPaola and Matt Kade.
I’ll contribute my thoughts below. But first, the game ended by time limit after the Fall 1907 turn in the following center counts:
Austria (Don Glass, 4th Seed): 0; 0.000 points.
England (Josh Heffernan, 3rd Seed): 10; 34.014 points.
France (Matt Sundstrom, 1st Seed): 3; 3.061 points.
Germany (Nate Cockerill, 2nd Seed): 5; 8.503 points.
Italy (Christian Kline, 7th Seed): 4; 5.442 points.
Russia (Ted Phillips, 6th Seed): 0; 0.000 points.
Turkey (Jim O’Kelley, 5th Seed): 12; 48.980 points.
The supply center chart and opening moves are here.
We now turn our attention to Season Nine. Opening Night has been rescheduled for Sept. 13 at my home in Little Italy. Two seats remain.
Once again, we’ll run a Bar Room Brawl Series as a subset of this year’s league. We’ll schedule some games soon.