Sunday, August 06, 2006
The Anniversary Tour—Connecticut
At 2:15 PM on Sunday the eight of us staggered off the plane from Australia, unwashed, unshaved, pale as lab rats, and, frankly, somewhat delirious from lack of sleep. Ordinarily Danbury Airport does not receive international flights, but, because of the high-profile nature of the Gone Gaming Goodwill Tour, Connecticut Governor Jodi Rell (R) insisted on our touching down in CT for a formal greeting by her cabinet and the various local chambers of commerce. Pro that she is, she did not bat an eye at the dazed and blinking group that literally fell down the stairs onto the tarmac (with mid-air Yehuda inexplicably screaming "It's under a big doubleya!!!"), but instead smiled and greeted each with a gift of a golden nutmeg, the highest honor that the state can afford to bestow. It was a touching ceremony, right up to the point when a wild-eyed Brian bit one of the Governor's staffers on the hand, and then we had to hightail it into our taxis.
I had originally planned to bring the group to Mystic Seaport and Mystic Aquarium, but on Thursday my wife Charlene sent me a telegram indicating that the ships on exhibit at the seaport had all been commandeered by Admiral Mullen and the Commander-in-Chief for a blockade of Tierra del Fuego, and moreover that Pebbles the Beluga whale was experiencing a bout of violent enteritis which was causing the entire aquarium to smell like the ass end of a porpoise. Undaunted, we did the next best thing and went to the Sycamore in Bethel, a 50's-themed diner which serves food so heavy and incapacitating that it was very nearly classified as a Schedule I narcotic in the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. A round of Dagwoods and some homemade root beer mellowed out my guests in a hurry, and by the time the check had come a glassy-eyed Mary had slouched her way under the table and then quietly informed the group that she was building a fort. Yehuda was unable to partake in the meal, sadly, but luckily we had some kosher goat leftovers from Monday and we were able to make him a sandwich.
At 4:30 we were back at my place, and Charlene met us at the door under a red, white and blue banner reading "Welcome International Visitors and the Gone Gaming Goodwill Tour." My seven guests brushed past her without a word and went directly to the game shelves.
"Typical euro-poop," drawled D.W., shaking his head. "I've dug more flavorful stuff out of my ear."
"No Trias, no Magna Grecia, no Torres...kind of a let-down, really," said Mary.
Shannon stifled a yawn.
"I came all the way back to America for this?" muttered Yehuda.
"Did you remember to feed the wallaby before we left?" Melissa asked Fraser.
"How about Puerto Rico?" asked Brian.
"Veto!" growled D.W.
"How about El Grande?" asked Shannon.
"We just played that on Friday," groaned Yehuda.
"El Caballero?" Proposed Fraser.
"I'm sick of area influence," said Mary. "Let's play something different."
"What? That game sucks."
"Clash of the Gladiators?"
"How is that any better?"
"Tower of Babel?"
"More Knizia euro-poop. Bzzzt! Next!"
"What about Struggle of Empires?"
"And have to wade through a Warfrog rulebook? No thank you."
"Oh, they're not that bad..."
"Auctions again? Puh-leeeze."
"We can't have any auctions? Well that rules out Merchants of Amsterdam, High Society, Princes of the Renaissance, Amun-Re, Palazzo and Fifth Avenue."
"How about Taj Mahal?"
"If you'd read my article last week, you would have learned that Taj Mahal is actually a rolling Stansky auction with half-stops."
"I think you mean a modified double blind auction."
"I know perfectly well what I mean. It's a Stansky auction."
"Say, is that the Hans im Glück edition?"
Is Royal Turf open or closed betting?"
"Depends on the variant you use."
"Which one plays better?"
"Depends on how many are playing."
"We could split into two groups."
"Stansky, you insufferable buffoon!"
"Let's do that. I want to be on a different game from Fraser. He keeps kicking me under the table."
"Double blind, you pompous orangutan!"
"What? I do not!"
"Stansky, you stinking planarian!"
"Do too! Look at my ankles! They're covered in bruises!"
"Double blind, you festering gobbet of guttersnot!"
"Maybe if you kept your crummy ankles on your side of the table we wouldn't have this problem!"
"Yeah, really, quit being an under-the-table hog!"
"Oh! I will slap your face, you witch!"
"Oooh! How about Durch die Wüste?"
"GODDAMMIT NO MORE EURO-POOP!!!!"
At this point the argument began to take on a wheezy, gasping character as various hands closed around various windpipes, but it was just at that moment my six-year-old son walked into the room holding a cardboard box.
"Do you want to play Candyland?"
Melissa let go of the fistful of Mary's hair that she had been clutching. "Oh, what an adorable little boy!"
Coughing as Brain grudgingly relinquished his throat, Fraser muttered "well, it does have a strong theme, D.W."
"Actually," announced Yehuda as he loosened the strings to the tile bag that Shannon had knotted around his neck, "I've been working on an advanced variant." He took the box from my son and walked it over to the table.
"With the advancement track and the special power selection you were talking about?" said Mary. "Oh, I'd like to try that."
"Interestingly, if you overlay a hex grid onto the board, you will actually get a fairly good 18xx map," said Shannon.
"Hey, that sounds pretty cool," said Brian. "Can you work that into the design, Yehuda?"
"Candyland 18xx...why that's genius."
"Look, minis!" said D.W. as he picked up one of my son's Thomas the Tank Engine trains. "Cool!"
"You know," said Brian, if we pull the little bazookas off these army guys and glue them to the trains...."
"Holy goat shit. This just might work."
"Okay, everyone, gather 'round. The start player takes Skarloey, nineteen shares of stock, two face down bonus cards and one from the display, a mounted howitzer and twelve influence cubes..."
So we played Advanced MechaCandyland 18xx. I started out with Percy and was able to upgrade to Salty, but Melissa blocked off my route to the Sugar Plum Forest and I had to make a long, circuitous detour through the Molasses Swamp. Yehuda and D.W. got into a pissing match and ultimately Sir Topham Hatt led the fourth battalion deep into Berlinger territory to liberate the Gum Drop People. With the tide turning, Melissa and Mary signed a trade agreement which effectively destroyed the market for Fraser's toffee, basically putting him out of the running and generating a certain amount of huffy Australian sulking. Shannon executed a perfect builder strategy but neglected to gain majority shareholder status of Sodor Railways, allowing Brain to swing Cranky the Crane two extra steps along the peanut brittle action rondelle. My son was flying under the radar nicely and was only two lollipops away from winning the game when the phone rang. I got up and answered it.
The voice on the other end was strange; it had a kind of stop-and-go quality to it, like a car with a bad timing belt; it was sort of like if Thurston Howell III and Snagglepuss had a baby that grew up to use a lot of rabbit-ear air quotes. "Hey, euro snoots and 'snoot-"ettes,"' what's going in the realm of on? That is, iff'n you can 'catcherate' the drift of my wood, ell-oh-ell!"
"...riverrun, past Eve and Adam's, from swerve of shore to bend of bay...."
"Um, can I help you, sir? For whom are you calling?"
"'Eh wot?' Only for the lords and ladieez of 'blogtirpation' and all things gonegamery, you erf, and I think you know for what 'moi' am 'driving' at here in this rumble seat (wink!)! Knock on 'wood' (for those that are the 'creem' of weak) unless you don't have the 'hammers' for such an endeavor, and in that case you'd better just 'insinuate' your head in the sand and hope that someone 'builds' a castle around it! You savvy?"
"What? Is this about the car for sale? Well, it's a '99 Ford Escort, fair condition, but the tires are practically new. Would you like to come by later this week, maybe after five?"
"Crrrrrretin!!" At that point I was subjected to nearly twenty minutes of bafflingly incoherent invective which finally ended with a screamed shout of "Your head a-splode!!" and an angry click.
There was silence when I returned to the living room. The game had disappeared from the table and was replaced by a loudly snoring Brian. Passed out nearby on two of the chairs were Shannon and Yehuda, tidy piles of annotated rules on their laps. Mary was curled up on one end of the couch, while on the other Fraser and Melissa were leaning against each other, fast asleep, each holding half-finished postcards to Biggie and Otto. The only ones left awake were my six-year-old son and a grizzled old coot from Texas, both sitting on the floor and playing with toy motorcycles.
"Mine's a Harley! Brrrrrm!"
No wallabies were harmed in the writing of this post.