Tempest in a Teapot
...or was it Battle for the Bottle?

Text by Tim Richardson
Photographs by Rob Cochran

Coffee, Tea or Norway?

There are cons and there are cons. There are tournaments and there are tournaments. Then there are events -- occasions and happening which really defy explanation and description. These seminal events impact people's lives, change the way they think and leave an indelible mark on the participants and perhaps even on history itself.

The First Annual Tempest in a Teapot, held the third weekend in October in the greater Baltimore-Washington metropolitan area, was... It was...

Well, for starters, it was hosted by the Potomac Tea & Knife Society (PT&KS) or "Pit Kissers" for short. The "Pit Kissers" are a group of Diplomacy gamers and heavy drinkers who give the term "loosely organized" a whole new meaning. Anyway, as the "Pit Kissers" had been attending cons in force up and down the East Coast for the past few years, and as we rarely have trouble putting together a monthly game or two, we decided we were more than up to the challenge of pulling off a "house con."

Actually, even this is not exactly true. Basically, we needed an excuse to get together at bars on weeknights when we should have been home with our significant others who, more often than not, have no interest in Diplomacy. I don't know aout you guys, but my Beth's idea of of "negotiation period" is a hell of a lot different from how I use it. But I digress...

Anyway, over the course of several months we managed to put off doing anything substantive until the last month or so. Then, Ike Porter, Rob Cochran, Steve Mauris and I set about putting together the First Annual Tempest in a Teapot. It was to be a con's con, a tournament's tournament -- an event on par with the impeachment of President Clinton, minus the national humiliation factor.

The Pit Kissers Gather

The First Night

We decided that Friday night would be "open gaming," a nebuolus practice where "other games" are played instead of Diplomacy -- even if you have seven people. Setting the tone for the weekend, our decision was largely ignored and we proceeded to have a friendly game of Gunboat Crowded Diplomacy.

Yes, that's right. GUNBOAT CROWDED DIPLOMACY. Standard board, eleven players, no neutral dots, no negotiation starting at 9 P.M. on Friday night. I'm a little amazed we got through it. Not only did we get through it, but we nearly had a solo victory at around 3 A.M. It seems there was one lone Russian Army in Warsaw who kept vetoing the concession, so Turkey kept slugging it out trying to nab those last two centers. Sorry, guys, I just couldn't vote for a solo...

Congratulations are in order to the weaseling opportunistic Turk -- Grant F. -- who, while attending his first Diplomacy con, is apparently the most Feared Player in the New York City area. To hear him tell it, he regularly knocks Chris Martin around for chuckles. This guy is good.

The Con Begins!

It was clear the next morning (actually, it was decidedly blurry, but that's not important right now) that our little con was going to feature some of the more colorful characters in the Hobby. Chris Martin, former World Champ and honorary "Pit Kisser" was in attendance, along with PrezCon and WBC Diplomacy Champion Tom Pasko. Blue and Laurie Cable added international flavor, while Brian Ecton and Hudson Defoe talked enough trash before, after, and during the con to keep every landfill in New Jersey operating at full capacity. We had our regular "Pit Kisser" contingent and, I am proud to say, a number of very new faces both to the Hobby and to the Face to Face tradition. I just hope we didn't scare them off.

One thing we decided early on was that we "Pit Kissers" were Diplomacy players, not tournament number crunchers. We decided to use a scoring system divised by a fellow "Pit Kisser" earlier in the year, but one which we hadn't implemented at any of our prior games or in our rankings list. But, we elected not to tell any of the players what the scoring system was and urged them to simply play good, hard Diplomacy and not worry about the points. While there was the standard, "How'd you do? How'd he or she do?" you find at every con -- and with three boards per round, it wasn't hard to find out -- without the numbers to crunch, I think jockeying for position on the individual boards took precedence to playing for points in the overall tournament. Now that's Diplomacy. We had a lot of positive feedback from our players -- most of whom had never competed in a tournament before -- and it's a practice I think we're going to continue.

As for the organizers, yeah, we knew the system and played in most of the rounds. All of us finished at the bottom of the stack. Go figure.

I think a recitation of round by round results would be tedious to anyone who wasn't actually there, but you can see them at the Potomac Tea & Knife Society website. Just follow the Tempest in a Teapot link. However, I am happy to report a few of the weekend's highlights:

We're All Winners, But Some Winners Are More Equal Than Others

Well, a brief rundown of the final results, including some awards unique to Tempest in a Teapot.

The Top Board
1) Jason McConney
2) Chris Martin
3) Jeff Simmons
4) Grant F.
5) Rob "Mickey" Jung
6) Rob Link
7) Melissa Marchiano

You'll note that, despite the presence of some "names" of the Hobby in attendance, none made the top board, with the notable exception of Chris Martin. I think this goes to show the truth in the old saying, it takes someone special to soar with the eagles, but weasels don't get sucked into jet engines and they often win Diplomacy tournaments.


Jason McConney weilded the dagger that made him winner of the first-ever Tempest in a Teapot. He also took home a pint glass and Chambord's Best France.

The Team Champion honors, for top scores in Round Two, went to Grant F., Chris Martin and (not shown above) Tom Pasko. This deadly trio was favored to win from the outset, but yours truly along with Steve Mauris and Martin Smith, three original founders of the "Pit Kissers," elected to take them on. We finished fourth out of four, with each of us surviving with a center. Now we know what happens when Washingtonians take on New Yorkers. No hard feelings, though, gang. By the way, enjoy Hillary!


Marlin Pierce captured DeKupyers' Best Austria and Tim Richardson's Best Puppet Award. Marlin nabbed a nice pint glass with some schnapps and a cheap marionette. Ironically he received both of these awards from the same game. As a 10 SC Austria, a neighbor asked him for some help in stemming an attack which threatened to destroy him. Marlin was apparently offered some centers for his trouble. His response, "I don't know. You'd better ask Russia. He's The Man." I'm not sure who was more upset, the supplicant for Marlin's help, or Brian Ecton, who spent the entire weekend telling me that it was The Man who was keeping him down...

The Beefeater Gin award for Best England was awarded to Rob "Mickey" Jung. No real extra story here, except to say that Rob's full nickname is "Mickey Mouse" and that, my friends, is a story and a half.

"Newcomer" Jeff Simmons swept up the Jaegermeister Best Germany in a very well played game in Round Two. I know because my one center Russia spent most of the game pleading for mercy. This game, too, was unique because Jeff and Blue (as France) rallied the board against the Russian-Turkey juggernaut, played by myself and Tom Pasko. The thing was, Tom and I spent the first five game years trying to eliminate one another before we finally saw the writing on the wall...

Chris Martin, a weasel's weasel, slithered in to take the Amaretto award for Best Italy. Face it, folks, you don't become World Champ by accident. He earned his pint glass the hard way -- by climbing over the corpses.

The weekend's Smirnoff's Best Russia award went to Grant F. Grant had a terrific weekend in terms of results. I'm not sure which is more noteworthy, though, the fact that he nearly soloed as Turkey in the Crowded Gunboat game or Marlin's referring to him as The Man all the time...


Fittingly enough, our gracious host Steve Mauris was, in fact, the recipient of the Best Turkey award. While we couldn't find a suitable national liquor to represent this most Eastern of Diplomacy nations, we did think a bit of Wild Turkey would suffice the winner. Steve reports that he put it to good use. As luck would have it, Steve also won his own award -- the Steve Mauris Football Bat/Whirling Dervish Award for the Most Fouled Up Order Writing. This award was to go to the person who screwed up relatively simple orders in a spectacular fashion. Steve misordered in Spring 1901 and Spring 1902. Who says experience counts?

I only managed to win one award, for which there was really very little competition. The Rob Cochran Golden Bottle for Outstanding Drinking. Eat your liver out, Toby Harris.

The most coveted award, the Golden Blade, went to Chris Martin, who executed (literally) a brilliant stab netting him five centers (three from his ally and one each from two other powers). Chris has about three Golden Blades on his wall now. I'm amazed he's able to pry them out of his vicitms' backs, he buries them so deep....

And, everyone's favorite award went to a Pit Kisser's Pit Kisser. This guy did such an oustanding job of doing badly that we decided this award will hereafter bear his name: the Bill McHale "Dead Meat" Futility Award! Bill McHale, a man with a plan but no centers, Bill was eliminated in every round, but took home a gift certificate for a free hamburger -- get it, dead meat? Get it?

This Too Shall Pass

Well, like any bad case of the shakes, the weekend eventually ended. A huge thank you to Ike Porter for hosting Friday night's open gaming. Major platitudes to Steve and Suzie Mauris for allowing twenty-some Dippers into their house for a whole weekend. Rob Cochran and Ike should also be saluted for shouldering the major organizing resposnsibilities for making this thing a reality -- from figuring out transporation arrangements to keeping track of the scores -- Ike and Rob were on top of things.

A hearty thanks to everyone who came out and participated, particularly to all you "newcomers" out there. Don't be frightened, I assure you we're the worst of the lot. The rest of the players are actually quite nice. (Though I'd watch out for that David Hood guy if I were you.) If you can make here, you can make it anywhere!

We look forward to hosting this event again next year. Guys, I think we need to start those organizational meetings now. What say we meet for Happy Hour?

Tim Richardson
Potomac Tea & Knife Society

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