Winter Quarters: Sunday After-Action Report

And so we come to the end of the magical misery tour that was Geekend Winter Quarters. Of course it wasn’t as bad as all that, but by Sunday my body had well and truly broken down. Lost sleep and too much meat had taken its toll to a degree I hadn’t experienced in Geekends past, and I was well and truly among the walking dead for the balance of Sunday.

After our all-night Friedrich game I jumped on email long enough to wave everyone off on Sunday — rather than host another day of open gaming I figured it would be all I could handle to do some two-player wargaming with Chris D. And I was right. We finished up our second For The People game, but we were kind of going in slow motion, and given our late start and the usual delays for eating, reminiscences, and micro-seizures, it was five or six in the evening before FtP was wrapped and we found ourselves wondering about what was next.

Geekends are all about excess and insanity, but I must tell you, my fur-clad brothers, that I was ready for the boneyard at this point. If Chris hadn’t been down here from Seattle I would have unfurled my white flag and stumbled off to bed. It was probably just an Old Man moment but fifty is closer than I like to admit and I was past my limit at that hour. But in honor of my long distance traveler and in the spirit of the Geekend, we soldiered on. I let Chris pick the game (I doubt I could have picked my nose without assistance anyway), and it was with dread that I saw him deploy a new card-driven GMT wargame with which I hadn’t the slightest familiarity: Labyrinth.

Maybe I do have so very slight familiarity, as I have several times played the UR-game of this particular genre, the brilliant Twilight Struggle, but I still despaired of biting this one off at the end of a long gaming marathon. I knew that the underlying systems would be simple (as these things go), but in my bleary state the game just looked like a mess of boxes and sticks, with incomprehensible tracks running every which-way and a flow of play made more difficult to grasp due to the asymmetrical options available to the U.S. and Jihadist sides. I took in about half of what Chris said in his rules briefing, and found myself looking at a bunch of terror cells in Afghanistan and the Middle East ready to seriously consider Fundamentalist Revolution as an alternative to the Wal-Mart Century.

I figured I couldn’t be any more clueless than was “W” so I just plunged in and did stuff, conducting myself from a high-level strategy point of view and letting Chris be my aide-de-camp in guiding my actions through the rules. Here I must compliment Mr. Donovan, who was certainly just as fatigued as I, but he ran the game effortlessly, fighting both his side and patiently conducting me through the game. In truth, my memories of the game are hazy … Chris did all the things you would expect, securing WMDs and making a run at detonating them in the United States. He had some early setbacks and his funding went in the toilet. For my part I decided to ignore Afghanistan and treat Pakistan as the most important player in the theater; I think I ended up in Iraq, too, kind of by accident, and kind of out of opportunity (art imitates life!). The game ended in U.S. victory when I’d managed to buy off enough oil-rich states to my point of view that a spike in oil prices made everyone so filthy rich that this whole beards-and-rage-in-desert-caves business just seemed so 6th century. Game over and winner — American Century, Part 2.

A funny thing happened while playing Labyrinth it lit my brain up. My body was falling apart but I found my brain coming back to life as I engaged with this game. After a few moves I was no more familiar with the rules but I was somehow deeply engaged with the situation and my moves; against all odds I found this to be a deeply intriguing, entertaining, and though-provoking game. If we didn’t have to be at the airport early Monday I might even have courted further madness and asked for a second game when we wrapped up around 9:30 (but my next game of Labyrinth would have to wait a week, when I’d get together with Andrew for a “Dawn Patrol.”)

Anyway, check out that link if you want to read more about the game, which along with Warhammer: Invasion emerged from the unlikeliest of situations to become my favorite new-to-me game of 2010.

And so the gaming weekend came to a close. I think we did the Geekend tradition proud, and I’m enthused to try to run these things a couple times a year. I do need to take steps to make the garage a bit more comfortable for gaming — those plastic chairs are murder when you get to day two or three. I think the game library needs some tweaking, as I am scandalously short of 2-3 hour wargames for 3-5 players. Maybe my next Geekend should be anchored by a big miniatures game as they scale well and fit that niche better than a Fantasy Flight Games big box o’ plastic.

My thanks to all the many geeks who came together to make this weekend a success, particularly my long-distance travelers Chris D. for flying down from Seattle, and HRH What If? for driving down from Los Angeles to squeeze in some gaming during his daughter’s birthday weekend. This weekend came at the end of a hard march of work and it was good for me to totally focus on cardboard, plastic, wood, and abstract glory for a time. For all that my body broke down (I would twice sleep 12-plus hours in the week that followed) this was a rewarding and worthwhile pursuit and I thank you all for indulging my love of gaming excess.

What’s next? Well, I don’t have any further Geekend plans right at this hour, but come the Spring that will likely change. In the near term, my gaming will shift back toward role-playing, as I have a Dungeons & Dragons campaign to wrap up, and prospects look good that we will go forward with a second campaign next year (check out Goblin Soup if you want to read up on my RPG adventures). For the later half of January or early February I have an idea to run a “Dads & Lads” day of Memoir ’44, setting up several games in the garage for a mini-con of gaming for the kids in our group.

Watch this space. And keep gaming to keep the Geekend spirit alive!





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