Monday, July 31, 2006

The Anniversary Tour Kicks Off -- Idaho


Just over a year ago Brian (Koldfoot) emailed me, along with a few others, and suggested the idea of a group blog that covered board gaming from a variety of different perspectives. The idea was the blog would be fresh daily because no one needed to contribute more than once a week.

Now I'm not sure why the others agreed, but I said yes because my fragile ego needs constant stroking. And what better way to build a false sense of emotional stability than bashing the people who I made my living from for 23 years?

Frankly, this is a great group of people and I eagerly await each writer's weekly (or sometimes monthly) contribution. Grogs left us this year to do other things, but now we have Kris Hall filling in along with other guests from time to time. Another thing that makes this group a good one is that we really do all get along. Sometimes I think that's only because we've never actually met each other... but I could be wrong about that. At least one of them might like me in person.

Another unusual thing about this group is that we're all filthy rich and we decided to squander untold amounts of money and foolishly waste a week traveling the world and gaming in the homes of our fellow members. Have fun this week. I know I will.

The Gone Gaming Gang.

That's Fraser floating angelically above us. Then, from left to right, DW, Shannon, Yehuda, Mary and our founder, Koldfoot.

Melissa and Joe disappeared just before this photo was snapped. Koldfoot kept muttering they didn't want to be seen with us, but I can't imagine why.

Monday 8:30 am - The Tour kicks off in a small rural shitehole somewhere in Idaho

I am so frickin' happy that that my Gone Gaming Buddies showed up here on Monday. That's because of religion. Not that I'm unreligious. I'm actually a pretty spiritual guy. In fact, I have even written and had published an article about the metaphysical qualities of dice. I'd think that qualifies me as both a reverent individual... and a gamer.

Nonetheless, being a gamer means you often have to adapt to the various rigors and demands of organized religion. So many of the gamers I have known and enjoyed over the years had to go to church when I'd have preferred they invade Russia with me. Saturday was out for my Jewish friends, Sunday for my Mormon and Catholic friends. No Wednesdays for the Jehovah's Witnesses I've gamed with and Tuesdays and Thursdays can be difficult for many of the more strict Baptists.

I long ago gave up gaming with people who go to church in a tent. I'm not overly fond of snakes and it gets real distracting when their eyes roll back in their heads and they drop onto the floor and start rolling around speaking in tongues.

But Monday seems to be the day God looks the other way and says, "Go ahead, if you must, make the Romans pay, mete out the punishment Rommel deserves, hack up a few Orcs, whip those slaves into gear on the sugar plantation and assassinate a few Italian Princes for good measure."

Of course my big plan was to get a poker tournament going. I figured I could use the money for the trips to Alaska, North Dakota, Connecticut, Israel and Australia. Getting to Shannon's place in California would be the easiest because we all know that Berkeley is more a state of mind than it is a physical location. As the airport van dropped the crowd and thier gear off I was already counting the extra money I could liberate from these cityfied Euro Gamers.

Before I could even get the cards and poker chips out Shannon had spread all sorts of charts and graphs out on my table. Everyone was jabbering about the connections between this German game designer and that French guy and how that American designer was influenced by so-and-so. Nice graphs and charts, Shannon. So we all ended up playing The Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon instead of 7-card stud. Shannon won. Then Mary won. Then Coldfoot won. Then Melissa and Fraser won. Then Joe won. Then Shannon won two in a row and we all agreed the game sucked.

So I suggested a poker tournament. Mary kept trying to pull that idiotic sounding Hoity-Toity garbage out of what I thought was a steamer trunk, and turned out to be her handbag, but I managed to overpower her and shove it back in. During the struggle Koldfoot was setting up Advanced Civilization, having pushed my poker chips and cards aside and so I was drafted to play that mind-numblingly boring game. I lost. I forget who won. I think it was Koldfoot, but it might have been Joe. Or maybe it was Shannon. I know it wasn't Mary because she kept trying to sneak the freakish sounding Hoity-Toity into the "to play" pile. I spent more time hiding that one than I did advancing my civilization. Go figure.

As expected, after what seemed like 11 rounds of Kevin Bacon and a full game of Advanced Civilization, it was lunch time. So I treated. I felt like going for the classy comestibles and so sprung for toaster sandwiches at the local Sonic Burger. My pick-up wouldn't hold everybody so Joe, Mary and Melissa had to ride with me on the Harley.

I insisted Shannon drive the truck. Cruel, I know, because he doesn't drive. But after subjecting us to Kevin Bacon, he needed to be punished. So him, Yehuda, Fraser and Koldfoot got in the truck. What a hoot. Five minutes to get it into reverse, stalling it half a dozen times... Yehuda yelling directions, Koldfoot making seal noises and flapping his arms like flippers all while Fraser sat there looking ill. I kept Joe and the girls amused by doing wheelies on the Harley (pretty easy with them adding extra weight on the back) and then multiple stoppies everytime we circled back around the block and saw that Shannon was still in deep trouble... trying to get out of the driveway.

Somehow Shannon managed to get the truck to our destination without ripping the entire drive train out, but I think he came close. Despite the loud exhaust on my Harley and the joyous shrieks of Joe and the girls on the back, I could still hear Fraser yelling something that sounded like "effing drongo" at Shannon. Hmmm... probably some form of Aussie encouragement or something.

While we were at the Sonic Burger Shannon suggested most of them ought to take a cab back to my place. A great suggestion. Except there are no cabs within 30 miles of my town. Lucky for him I spotted Merle, the hay farmer who lives just past me. He just happened to be cruising by in his stack wagon and was more than happy to let everyone ride in the back. Koldfoot said he'd drive my truck, claiming he was going to do some psychic healing on it after Shannon's abuse.

My thinking was that I could easily get back to the house and get the poker tournament set up before anyone else brought out something European... or worse, something French. What I didn't know was that Merle had just picked his stack wagon up from the performance shop where he'd installed a fuel management chip, piped the damned thing and thrown in a turbo charger for good measure. I figured I was in trouble when he popped the clutch and the whole rig lifted off the front tires, belched a cloud of black diesel smoke into the sky and burnt rubber all the way down highway 52.

Merle runs a New Holland model 1037, similar to this beast. Only Merle's is flat black, has flames painted on it and is further adorned with little chrome skulls glittering along the frame and the cab doors.

Koldfoot made some comment about how he didn't know human eyes could get that big around or look that horrifed as we watched the Gone Gaming crowd disappear at warp speed, clutching the rails of the wagon and screaming in almost perfect harmony.

By the time I got there they had set up Citadels and I suffered through several games of that stinker. I was assassinated. I had my money stolen. The warlord tore down my town. The architect outbuilt me. The magician took all my good cards. Yehuda was King. Then he was King. Then Yehuda was King. I finally asked him if we should just start calling him Your Highness Yehuda. Needless to say. I didn't win a single game. But Poker was still in the plans.

Unfortunately, I had to take a leak.

When I got done and walked out into the gaming area Fraser had set up Formula De. Finally! A game I like.

Melissa crashed me out. Joe cut me off at every crucial corner. Koldfoot's pit stops were better. Mary just smiled smugly and got in my way. Yehuda and Shannon were terrible drivers but they always seemed to be ahead of me. Fraser won. Then he won again. Then mercifully, Joe suggested we play poker... but first he had a game that was a favorite. Okay I figured, no big deal. He'll want to play Amun-Re or some other bleached-out and bland Euro thing and then we can get to the real gaming. So instead he pulls out Tower of Babel.

As he's explaining it I started feeling like I had played this game before. So I say, "Wait up a sec Joe. We already built wonders of the world in Civ. And this seems like just another tile-laying, VP scoring rehash of every other tile-laying, VP scoring game with language independent cards I've ever seen."

"Not so DW", Joe replied. " This one is better. I have the Hans im Gluck version."

Whereupon he proceeded to thrash everyone at the table by virtue of not only being the only one who actually understood the hideous mess, but also because he had wisely not eaten any of the tater tots at Sonic Burger. The rest of us were intermittently absent several times each. Taking care of business, as it were.

Once our stomachs settled down everyone (but me) wanted to play again. Shannon won this time but truthfully, I think Joe let him win because Shannon was the only other person who could pronounce the publisher of the game correctly without sounding like Colonel Klink.

Yehuda immediately suggested we try some Victorian Era parlor games and so grudgingly I trooped into the living room with the group. The two Aussies seemed to excel at the games and I think Fraser won most of them. I suspect they cheated, signaling secretly in a distinctly Aussie married couple manner, but I could never prove it. As for me, I didn't have a clue what we were playing but I did my best and thought I was actually going to win some of the word games but Shannon sat there with a huge dictionary he'd pulled out of Mary's Steamer Trunk and proved, with charts and graphs, that I was never quite on the money. Thankfully, I had been sipping scotch all afternoon so I am reasonably certain I had a good time anyway.

The afternoon was wearing on into evening so I abandoned all hope of a poker tournament and treated the Gone Gaming crowd to a pit BBQ of roasted goat, corn-on-the-cob and wild asparagus. The only tense moment was when Mary and Melissa finally understood why I had a live goat tied up outside. Joe, Shannon and Yehuda saved the day by suggesting they and the girls go back inside and play a few rounds of Yahtzee, leaving me and Koldfoot to handle the goat. Koldie is pretty good with a knife.

There's nothing like a tender roasted goat after a long day of gaming. Plus, you can make warm little booties for the children from their hide.

So, having gamed all day, enjoyed two good meals and savored the sunshine and ambience of Idaho, the Potato State, I called Merle up and asked him if he could help me get the group to their rooms. Since the only motel in my town was full up - due to a statewide bovine artificial insemination convention - I had booked them into the local upscale Bed & Breakfast... Frozen Dog Digs.

Mary and Melissa looked at me like I was a madman when I mentioned the name but I assured them that the original frozen dog dated back over 100 years and they most likely had disposed of the carcass some time ago. By that time the house was shaking to the tune of Merle's souped-up stack wagon and we all loaded their luggage onto the bed, along with Mary's handbag. I followed them to the Digs and helped them settle in for a nice, peaceful Idaho evening of listening to the locusts eat green stuff, slapping at mosquitos and watching the irrigation ditches overflow.

It's what we do best out here in the sticks.

I wish I could tell you more about how totally cool the first day of the tour was but I have to get up early. We're all going to Yehuda's place next and he lives in Jerusalum. Which I think is somewhere east of Kansas City.


Anonymous said...

Heh heh, nice!

Yehuda Berlinger said...

DW forgets that I also didn't eat anything at Sonic Burger. I was just feeling sympathy pains.


Fraser said...

Ah I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't been there myself.

Anonymous said...

Hoity Toity? You don't love Hoity Toity???

Why it's just like rock, paper and scissors... with artifacts and antiques! In a mansion!

Now if that's not a recipe for fun, I don't know what is.... Other than chicks, guns and firetrucks.

Coldfoot said...

You promise that was goat we ate? Because I don't remember seeing your dog anywhere afterwards.

BTW, I live in *South* Dakota. That's south of North Dakota and north of...uh...a whole lotta prairie.

Gerald McD said...

What a great start to this tour. I can't wait to hear the rest of it................

Anonymous said...

My Aunt raises goats. I've eaten goat. Doesn't taste like chicken, more like Rabbit or Racoon.