Thursday, August 03, 2006

The Anniversary Tour--California

I'm not a big fan of travel. Since 1996, I've been working at a company that had a GenCon presence almost every year, and I've only reluctantly been dragged out there three times. Beyond that, I usually enjoy working too much (and feel too responsible for it) to take much time off, so my wife and I don't do a lot of traveling either. Just a trip every year or two.

Which all goes to say that I was happy to have the anniversary tour stopping in my home town, Berkeley, CA. It was a day of home rest before the return to the road.

I think everyone was expecting a bit of a culture shock, but Berkeley's really a pretty normative college town. Sure the student body sometimes goes off sending calculators to Nicaragua, and the City Council occasionally writes up resolutions declaiming this or that national issue, and sure the whole city is a Nuclear-free zone, but that's all pretty far removed from regular life, which is more likely to center around book stores and cafes than protests and smoke-ins. (Heck, I think it's even been more than a decade since the last smoke-in at Berkeley, and I wouldn't even know where to tell you to get pot around here ... not that anyone asked.)

So everyone arrived in the city, and I showed them around the campus. I think they actually wanted to see San Francisco, but I'm stubborn that way. I told them we could see San Francisco tomorrow. (Ha!) But in any case, I love the Berkeley campus, and I know lots about it, so show them I did.

I showed them Sproul Plaza and talked about the Free Speech Movement that split the university asunder in the 1960s. Everyone but Yehuda seemed pretty bored by that, and I think Yehuda was just being the perfect gentleman. I showed them Dwinelle Hall where my campus gaming group met for four years, and told them about the labyrinthine hallways and the two brothers who built the building but couldn't agree how it should connect up. I thought DW might be excited by the idea of sojourning through its dungeon-like corridors, but he instead seemed entirely entranced by the nubile young co-eds who were about and showing generous amounts of skin thanks to one of Berkeley's rare hot days.

I showed them other interesting campus areas too, like Strawberry Creek and California Hall (where, speaking of nubile co-eds, we had some nude-ins last year) and finally, after circling around the campus some more, we ended up at the Campanille. Joe and Yehuda alike seemed intrigued by the ideas of tons of rare and secrets books being housed in the tower.

A passerby was kind enough to take an obligatory picture at the Campanille, and afterward we trekked back to my house, about a mile south of campus.

I think some of the others were a bit disgruntled by the amount of trekking we did. We must have covered 4 or 5 miles heading out to campus, circling around, and back. I scarcely noticed because it's been 17 years since I had a car now (and maybe 15 years since I've driven one, other than this week's debacle in Idaho), but some of my more vehicle-bound guests were feeling the exertion more.

Thursdays is usually my review night. I have a regular group of friends with whom I play one or two new games every Thursday. We talk about each game afterward to compare strengths and weaknesses. I take notes, then I write up reviews, usually the next Monday and Tuesday.

However this week I decided to let that all go, and instead let my Gone Gaming friends play whatever we all decided on. I'd been tempted to invite my normal Thursday-night group over too, but I was already concerned about how I was going to fit eight players into my relatively small dining room, let alone 12 or 13.

We started in on the normal what-should-we-play bit, and Mary said that we should try and play something together. I had visions of Charades filling my head, and once this decade was already enough for me. The black team from South Dakota still thinks that my one-motion Charade for Puerto Rico was brilliant, and I just didn't have the heart to tell them that holding up a single finger to designate the #1 BGG game was about as far as my Charades skills extended.

Fortunately I had an 8-player game in the hole. When Melissa mentioned the word "werewolf", I knew I had to act quickly. I said "hold on a second" and hustled upstairs to the junk room. (We won't tell DW that I store all of my American games from Runebound to Empire Builder in our spare bedroom, out of sight, nor that my wife and I call it the junk room because it tends to accumulate ... junk.)

And so I came back downstairs carrying Arkam Horror with the new Curse of the Dark Pharaoh expansion included.

"How about this one?" I said. It seemed an entirely appropriate offering, since I had a minor hand in its release, and it was previously published by a Bay Area company that I used to work for, Chaosium.

DW, puzzled, said, "That's not a Eurosnoot game!"

And indeed it wasn't.

Everyone gamely agreed, even though I know it wasn't quite some peoples' sort of game. But one of the advantages of American-style games is that they tend to rise or fall based upon the quality of the company, and we had the best.

It took us three and a half long hours, but we defeated Nyarlathotep. Melissa and Mary formed a brilliant one-two pickup team for health and sanity. DW kept wildly diving through gates and surviving against all odds. Yehuda browsed all the stores, collecting artifacts that were of use to us all. Joe worked out teamplay optimizations that were always right and which we sometimes listened to. Brian and Fraser were the big monster busters, while I kept offering up what everyone could do, though they were all doing fine on their own. In the end Joe became the new First Citizen of Arkham. And then we put the game back away into a billion different plastic bags. (I get them for 10 cents each at my local game store. Go ahead and offer up your own punchline there.)

Only afterward did we break up, and play a few more games separately, until the night grew too deep. Joe, Mary, Brian, and I did another Torres game, because it's one of my favorites. Meanwhile DW couldn't talk anyone into anything else from my stash of American games, but that's well enough because I don't think there was time for another. I saw him, Yehuda, Fraser, and Melissa finally settling down to a game of Hoity Toity, which I think was purposeful irony on Melissa's part. There was a bunch of Knizia fillers, since I have a full shelf of them, too and some other short stuff. After Yehuda collapsed on the couch suffering from severe jetlag, we even got in a 7-player game of Citadels despite DW's agonized cries about it being a French game. Mary always acts so nice, but she kept assassinating me, darn it. I'm happy to say that Brian won that one, not our assassin queen.

It was a wonderful day and I wouldn't change a thing. Well, maybe one thing. I think my cat, Cobweb, liked Mary better than she likes me.


Coldfoot said...

And then, since we're all so rich, we hired a limo and hit the San Francisco night life! But don't tell Shannon. ;)

Fraser said...

Yay Shannon for quick thinking that saved us from Werewolf! I am a Werewolf Widower at home, I don't need to take that on the road ;-)

Gerald McD said...

I'd like to see DW with flowers in his hair *snicker*. Oh, maybe they are dandelions or ragweed -- that would make sense.

Another fun stop on the tour. You guys are great. The photos are really cool -- nice work.