"I'm just going to buy some new contact lens' and stuff, and then when I get back we'll go and pick Evil Boring Quiding up and then we'll go to the airport."
I pry my eyes open as he walks out the front door, get up and go and have a shower and get dressed. Then I look at my watch. It's 7.42am!!!! Our flight to Sydney is due to take off at 1.30pm. The first stab of the weekend has been executed swiftly and cleanly by "Too Many Nicknames Black".
So I read the paper. All of it. Including most of the classifieds... and Pox gets up, has a shower, has breakfast, reads some of the paper, goes to work... [Information note for readers: There is a chemist over the BACK FENCE of Pox and William's place... the way he said it I thought he was going to buy some disposable contacts and would be back in a jiffy...]
So I wait...
At around 9.45am Will ambles back in... turns out his optometrist in somewhere in outer Albany... Albany is a suburb of Auckland in much the same way that Wollongong is a suburb of Sydney... well not quite that bad, but almost.
That's two stabs to Will, and we haven't even left for the airport yet!
So we ring Evil Boring Quiding, and he's gone to work...and he thinks the flight is at 3pm... and he's not answering his phone at work... or responding to emails... but we finally get hold of him, drive over and pick him up and head off for the airport, narrowly missing rear-ending a car that just plain stopped in front of us all of a sudden.
A couple of minutes later we sedately pull up at the lights in row two on the grid. In the lane next to us a car stops on the front row and then in a screeching cloud of smoke a courier driver somehow manages to go from 140km/h to stopped in 2.37 metres. This car came flying up from the back of the field and must have missed rear-ending the car in front of it by all of 3mm. The courier driver looked a bit pale, and actually had to get out of his car and have a bit of a walk around to calm himself down.
We resolved to just make sure we made it to the airport in one piece. There seemed to be a LOT of crazy drivers on the road!
So we check in. Together. Like you do.... and we end up separated in two rows 10 rows apart.
Stabbed again... that's three times, and we're not even off the ground!
Luckily the semi literate buffoon who was sharing a row with Evil Boring Quiding and I was indifferent as to which pod he was put in and Evil Boring Quiding managed to play charades with him and explain we'd like to swap his seat with Too Many Nickname's Black's one... so the touring party is reunited.
Suddenly we're in the middle of the movie Mars Attacks.
Flight attendants in obscenely brightly coloured frocks begin giving a safety demonstration that I guess was in Thai (We flew Thai Airlines) but I swear it sounded just like when the Martians speak in Mars Attacks.. .Mwaaark, Nut, Baaaaak Maaaaak Taaaak. We come in peace.... Zzzzzzzzzztttttt!!!!!!
So that was a useful safety demonstration. Especially since after the Thai language version had informed the hundreds of Thai nationals on board how to get out of the plane in event of Martian Attack the Chief Purser thought it would be a good idea to turn the volume down to a low murmur for the English version.
Diplomacy never stops, and it appears the hobby is in good health with complete strangers taking up the spirit of the game left right and centre.
Good flight... always have the chicken on Thai airways. The veal is actually recycled tramping boot leather. Spiller Sedgwick picks us up at the airport and we drive to his brand new den of iniquity in Maroubra. Too Many Nicknames Black and Evil Boring Quiding are staying at the Coogee Backpackers, so Craig drops me off at his apartment and takes them down there. I buzz Craig's apartment and Sepmeneon stabs ruthlessly before we've even spoken a word! He buzzes the door open, and then just as I reach for it, he takes his finger off the button... I pull my hand back and he buzzes it open again... I reach for it... and he takes his finger off the button... this goes on for some time with Sepmeneon finding it all very very amusing... Spiller has a giggle too... ['kin Strayins!!!!]
Make it in the door and realise that Spiller has stabbed me too. He told me it was apartment 20, but not which floor it's on... guess level two.... wrong... so try level three and walk in to familiar friendly faces (Sepmeneon, Ugly Rohan, and Arianwen).
So we have a drink. All is good. Sepmeneon is all excited. For one he's vertical, which is apparently a BIG improvement on large parts of the day. As Spiller Sedgwick told me, Sepmeneon and Ugly Rohan had entered in to a drinking to the death duel match the night before. Apparently for much of Friday Sepmeneon was unable to venture further than four large steps away from the porcelain altar. Craig's got a kick arse home theatre system, and Rob tells me that they discovered the launch scene in Apollo 13 the night before. They got it up to one third volume he said, but since Craig wasn't there at the time he thought we ought to go for another viewing at half volume this time. [The launching of a Saturn 5 rocket is the loudest noise mankind has ever made...] So we had three runs through of that, and it was clear I was going to have to play the entire weekend relying on lip reading to figure out what anyone was saying...
So we all had a drink. All is good.
Spiller returns and at various stages Sean Colman, Stephen Muzzatti, Too Many Nicknames Black, Evil Boring Quiding, Darth Lee, Geoff Kerr, Frankie, Shane Cubis, Russell Dovey, Edi Birsan and Goffy join me, Sepmeneon, Spiller, Ugly Rohan and Arianwen in a lounge that seats four comfortably, and we watch a movie and play several games of Ra and Settlers... oh and we have a drink. All is good.
Ugly Rohan, apparently still smarting from events when Sonic the Hedgehog got renamed Spiller Sedgwick the weekend of the Sepmeneon wedding last July, decides that if it's good enough for Craig to get so drunk that he immerses Rohan's parents dining room slate floor in a couple of millimetres of Wild Turkey, then it's okay for Rohan to get so drunk that he completely drenches Craig's tilled deck in beer, and bourbon, and coke, and vodka, and all manner of toxic chemicals. I think Craig's deck used to be a terracotta colour, but it now has streaks of aquamarine and mother of pearl in it in places if you look hard enough. Pizza arrived and more was drunk and somehow or other the lights went out at about 4am and I fell into a fitful sleep...
Eventually... after Arianwen told us she was a good girl.
...and we're up again at 7.30 because Edi figures going out for breakfast is a good idea. Being a veteran at this 7.30am rising thing now after Too Many Nicknames Black's great coaching the day before I bound out of bed only to find Sepmeneon not responding to physical stimulus and Ugly Rohan and Arianwen entwined in a grotesque lovers embrace that doesn't bare further description.
So Edi and I go for a walk and are directed to a good spot by a delightful "young lady" (as Edi later described a woman old enough to possibly be my mother). We both opt for a pot of English breakfast tea and French toast, and I give Edi the oxford abridged player profiles of the leading contenders at the tournament. We chat about tales of Diplomacy tournaments past, both here and from Edi's sordid past in the northern hemisphere, and then decide to head back to the Den of Iniquity. Edi says breakfast will be his shout...
...huh? No stab? The worm has turned... All is good. I thank Edi for his kindness and after a brief stop back at the Den of Iniquity we head off venuewards.
Tristan walks in and announces "I just came."
It was good to see Darth lee again... *grin* I knew it was him, partly because of his BRIGHT yellow baseball cap, but then again that could have been Frankie... but then he opened his McDonalds bag, and there's only one person who has made eating McDonalds hotcakes such a ritualistic art form... it had to be Darth Lee himself!
Round 1, and Muzz draws England, leaving only the French army in the box for me to draw.
"Hmmmm, that's a bit of luck!" I say. I beginning to think I know how to play France...
Spiller Sedgwick had done a great job of attracting hobby past names along to the tournament. Miguel Taliana - Australian Diplomacy Champion 1991 was there, Neil Ashworth - Sepmeneon's teacher was there, and Clive Lane (That's the Clive of "Clivism" fame... THE Anti-Don himself) was there, and Craig Brown was also there.
Peter Jameson, a new recruit from the Diplomatic Corps mailing list Edi Birsan provided me and Rob Sepmeneon a couple of months ago, was Germany. I opened quite conservatively, hoping not to have to make the choice of an anti-English game plan or and anti-German one. It didn't work. Muzz was a little nervous with me as France, and was pushing hard for the two of us to attack Germany. Meanwhile, in a 'nother part of town'.... Shane Cubis was Italy. I'd agreed with him that neither of us would ever violate Piedmont, Gulf of Lyon, Western Med., or North Africa, which would free me to wage war on either England or Germany, while he could lay into Austria or Turkey. He didn't like the concept of French fleets in Marseilles, and I desperately wanted to keep him onside and contributing to the "keep the VERY dangerous looking Russia-Turkey potential alliance in the bag effort"... Neil Ashworth, hobby legend at large had reappeared to play Russia for us while Edi "35 years of experience and inventor of the Lepanto" Birsan was gracing us with an enigmatic performance as Turkey...
So with F MAR off the menu I figured an attack on England wasn't going to be quite so effective. As I said Muzz was a little jumpy... so I said to him "If I build two armies will that relax tensions between us a little bit... I can't attack you very effectively with 4 armies and 1 fleet now can I?"
And a beautiful alliance was born. My first 6 builds were armies, and I STILL had too many fleets. I couldn't put the damn thing anywhere that didn't make either Shane Cubis or Muzz nervous. Thankfully Muzz agreed to the temporary positioning of it in the English Channel to help force Belgium, and I was away laughing. After Belgium fell I retreat the fleet back to MAO and left it there on the basis that it was no bloody good to me in POR and in SPA/SC or WME it would spook Italy... Muzz asked why I didn't put it in SPA/NC, and I just laughed and said he'd have to get used to it holding in MAO. Everything was moving along to nice comfortable 12 when after one turn Muzz says to me:
"Man! Last turn I was so scared you were going to stab me! You could have moved to IRI and Liverpool would have been undefendable, and you could have taken Holland and Kiel off me too... I was panicking... I really thought you were going to do it."
I hadn't actually thought of stabbing him until then, but his plan for me stabbing him was indeed a very good one, so I used it... and got LVP and HOL, and KIE. understandably Muzz was a bit miffed at this, but we were still on speaking terms. He was down to six units and moved back to a position where after I trusted he'd keep fighting the good fight one turn and he didn't (Stabbed again...can you believe it!!!???) he was able to take two centres back off me. Muzz takes me aside and says
"Well as I've been saying since you stabbed me, I'm still happy to work with you, but instead of me just sitting on six while you get all the gains, I felt I had to get myself some more leverage... now I have it so how about we split the builds evenly from here."
I agree, and immediately moved back to regain the leverage I'd lost. Muzz moved to the front again to continue the good fight and I took two centres back off him. The natural order of things was restored. I went and had a chat with him and said:
"I want to keep working with you... but I felt I had to get myself a little bit more leverage..."
We were both having a great time. I was on 12 and he was on 6.
Neil Ashworth's Russia blossomed early but I managed to whisper some crucial lies in his ear at a couple of points and he fell back to 5 SC's. I asked him if he wanted to talk. He says "No." to which I ask him if he's serious, and he smiles and says "Absolutely...everytime I talk to you you convince me to do something that's not in my best interest. I think it's better if I don't let you lead me astray."
That's kind of a highlight of my career - when someone as renowned as Neil says something like that...
Shane Cubis and I have had lots of fun negotiating and keeping our game long agreement not to hassle each other. He shoots up to 7 with a couple of good stabs in Chad's Austria, and Neil Ashworth falls to 3 as I rise to 14 ... he began talking to me again you see... and a draw passes with me on 14, Shane Cubis as Italy on 7, Muzz as England on 6, and Edi Birsan and Neil Ashworth as Turkey and Russia on 4 and 3 respectively.
After the game during a few post match drinks at the bar downstairs the new science of Cubisology was born. Shane comments:
"What I've noticed from my five games I've finished... is that the winner always has their units like that..." [Hand gesture indicating a large expanding bubble curve...]
All: Well, Duh!!!!
Shane: *Laughter* It's true!!!!
Darth Lee and Frankie have rolled their board with a 16 - 15 France - England alliance, so no best France for my performance, but I'm not to displeased with that. Having just won Wellington and as the holder of the Bismark Cup I figure the red concentric circles on my back are visible enough without finishing round one leading the tournament too.
So it's back to the Den of Iniquity. We have a drink. All is good. And another. All is still good. After this process is repeated a couple of dozen times things start to become less definitively good. In the middle of one of the games at the games table Dugal (who'd flown in Saturday morning and missed the revelry the night before, but who had been matching Goffy and mine's Vodka and oranges with Johnny Walker Red Labels) suddenly announced:
"If I was intelligent right now I'd cane you with my intelligence, but I'm not, so you can F*** right off!"
Half an hour later he opened his mouth again to share this gem with us:
"There's levels of disgustingness, and when Rohan Keane is disgusted by it... THAT'S the highest level."
Shortly thereafter Goffy commented: "I haven't spilt a drink all night!" And within 30 seconds the table was awash in the wake of an expansive arm gesture from Goffy....
Long periods were spent on Spiller's deck with the binoculars scouting the adjacent high-rise apartment buildings for neighbours of note. Nothing much turned up...
I think we slept that night. We definitely ran out of Vodka at about 1am, and the next thing I knew I was in a bed and it was 5.41am.
Sepmeneon was once again not responsive to physical stimulus the next morning, and we thought about calling for medical help until he farted, and we all knew he was okay again. A bit of breakfast and we left the Den of Iniquity and headed venuewards again.
The first thing I heard when I got to the venue was Geoff Kerr announcing "I need a sheep." Still reeling from the implications of that one Someone then asked Sean Colman why he wears a brace on his right wrist...
"It's because I keep spraining it when I tie up things."
So we got on with the games then... well sort off...
I drew England with Sean Colman as France and Not So Rough (Chris Smoother) as Germany. Not So Rough asks me if I'd like to have a chat...
I nodded, and walked off to the toilet and threw up. Not So Rough took a while to adjust to this reaction to his overtures for an alliance, but we sorted it out. We decided to head into France so I opened to the English Channel, Wales and the North Sea. Sean bounced Not So Rough in Burgundy... so I was the only ,miscreant with units bordering Belgium...well that was a bit of luck wasn't it!?
Chad "YoucantellI'mlying - itiswhenevermymouthismoving" Nimmagadda was
Italy and had conveniently moved to Tyrolia. There's only two things you
can count on at Diplomacy tournaments in my opinion. Number 1: Chad will
lie to you. Number 2: Chad is ALWAYS greedy. I KNEW without even asking
that he'd have a go at Munich. Not So Rough suggested that with the success
of my move to the Channel we should go hard against France, to which I
agreed, urged him to have a punt at Burgundy (best to get it now while
Sean is mopping up Spain and Portugal and covering Brest from my treachery...)
I then went and spoke to Sean and said I thought Germany
would probably be looking a bit stretched after this turn, and if Sean built two armies I'd guarantee him an solid alliance... and further more two armies would be needed for an effective defence against me and Germany if I was lying. Sean agreed.
Shane Cubis was Russia this game and he had committed south, so Norway
was guaranteed. Yippee! Two builds in 1901!!! As predicted Chad took Munich
and Not So Rough was looking a very juicy target. Sean built two armies
and it was on... I urged Not so rough to move A HOL - Kie and A BUR - PAR
( to cut the only available support for A PIC) so I could convoy A LON
- PIC, and when he was dislodged from BUR (as he surely would be) he could
retreat to RUH (where he wanted to move to anyway...)
giving him 3 armies to try and retake Munich with. Instead I ordered
A BEL - HOL
A LON - ENG - BEL
F ENG C A LON - BEL
F EDI - NTS
F NWY - SKA
And Denmark and Holland were unstoppably mine for 1902... two more builds...and the stabs were just flowing out very easily... The game rolled on reasonably uneventfully, well except for several more trips to purge my body of the poisons inflicted upon it the night before... I think the three noisy vomits might have been a really good cover for just how well I was seeing the game... maybe they all underestimated me but I cruised to an 11 and that was stunningly good news in the context of the tournament because Darth Lee and Frankie had both had crap results in round two. Miguel Taliana might have been a problem after scoring 14 as Austria in round 2, but he couldn't play on Monday...so that was a bit of luck.
Highlight of the game was another little gem from the Cubismeister... He looks at the board and sees his Russian units F RUM, A SEV, A MOS, A STP, F GOB and exclaims.. ."I've got my curvature all wrong... my units should be like this [hand gesture of an ever expanding bubble curve] but instead they're all backwards like this!!! [reverse cup hand gesture].
Essendon never looked in doubt against the Swans, and are now 14 and 0...
Excellent BBQ lunch at the venue after which I was sitting chatting with Shane Cubis and Sean Colman and Darth lee about the proposed split draw system to be trialled at this year's New Zealand Diplomacy Champs in October when Not So Rough comes and says to me...
"You better go and put your orders in... the deadline is approaching."
"I reckon I'm okay - we've drawn already."
To which Not So Rough asks: "How much did Miguel end up on?"
"He's still playing..."
"How's he still playing if you've drawn already?"
(considerable pause from yours truly...) "Ummm, I wasn't in his game...?"
No wonder I stabbed you Not So Rough... you weren't at your most perceptive on Saturday were you?
...and then back to the Den of Iniquity for some games... and ... well you know the plot by now. I'm sitting there getting a little jittery at this stage - the prospect of becoming only the second person to win two tournaments in a row is looming large, and I'm seeing the ball like a pumpkin right now with my last four rounds in tournament play having been 14, 15, 14, 11...
So we stay up till 3 in the morning watching movies. The Cubismeister tells us he spent the money he was going to spend on his girlfriend's birthday present to come to the tournament. We all agree that he has his priorities straight.
Sleep beckons... Ugly Rohan decides it's not such a good idea and talks and talks and talks until I get a bit pissed off... never mind.
Monday dawns, and Goffy tells us "I'm a little anal". Good. Good way to start the day.... very good. At the venue the Shane Cubis tells us "Today I'm not even going to worry about a strategy..." Oh the confidence that a couple of good results brings...
Before the play for the day starts we decide we're going to produce
a movie. "Diplomacy: The Movie." We start casting. Here's the Directors
Jim Carey as Goffy
Harvey Keitel as Spiller Sedgwick
Harrison Ford as Sepmeneon
Jack Nicholson as Harry Kolotas
Greg Luganis as Darth Lee
Arnold Swartzenegger as John Cain (TD)
Cartman as That Bastard Clarke
One of the ZZ Top guys as Frankie
Christian Slater as Will "Too Many nicknames" Black
Sean Connery as Sean Colman
Brendan Fraser as Shane Cubis
Michael Richards (Kramer) as Geoff Kerr (all his parts to be filmed in
Johnny Depp as Muzzatti
Dr. Peabody as Evil Boring Quiding
Ricky Lake as Arianwen Harris
David Hasselhoff as Dugal Ure
Sean Connery as Edi Birsan
Mike Myers as Ugly Rohan
Ron Howard (Happy Days) as Russell Dovey
Tom Hanks as Jason Whitby
Charlei Sheen and Emilio Estefes as Richard and Phil Orme
James Belushi as Not So Rough
John Cleese as David Currell
Marlon Brando to make cameo appearances (in the background etc. ) as The Don.
Bob Hoskins as Bill Brown
Danny Devito as the newbies... one or two roles on each board.
Stalone as Shane Beck
Rohan Atkinson as Roland Wallander
Catherine Zeta Jones as Kazel
Gillian Anderson as Pox
Billy Crystal as Chad
I draw Turkey, and I've got Chad along for the third straight game playing Russia, Russell Dovey as Austria and Arianwen as Italy. I figure if I can just get one of them onside I'll win the tournament... IF... Goffy is England and Frankie is France with Spiller Sedgwick as Germany....
Goffy disappears in record time while Chad lies to me. I challenge him and he says lets work together, and lies to me... and then he lies to me... and follows that up by lying to me... I'm on the ropes big time, owning SMY, CON and ANK with Russian F BLA, A RUM and Austrian F AEG, A BUL, and Italy firmly allied with them both. I point out to Russell that there's only three centres in Turkey... he might get two fo them, but I'll help him get four or five in Russia. I point out I can order SMY and ANK to support Con and it will take them at least two years to get two builds out of me, and then I point to the six German armies looming and with nowhere better to go than Tyrolia, Silesia and Prussia... and on into Bohemia and Galicia... I suggest that two builds this year would be a great idea and show him that I could move A SMY - ARM and make sure he got RUM and SEV this year... and he agreed. But he was lying to me... luckily Greedy Chad emerged and stabbed Russell at the same time and that put Russell firmly in my camp. He'd taken CON in the spring but agreed to move out (back to BUL) in the fall... I had actually staggered over the brink, and come back. From there it was a heart stopping desperate struggle to get Arianwen and Russell's units into position to stop the advance of Spiller and Frankie. We did it, JUST, and I finished on 7, Arianwen on 5, and Russell on 2 units (not my fault - he was unlucky, and I had to take his centres, with his blessing, behind him as he could only build in Budapest which was on the front line) and Frankie and Spiller on 9 each and Chad surviving on 2 too.
And that was enough to win the tournament.
That's 6 of the ten major DAANZ trophies held by New Zealanders right now:
NSW 2000 Brandon Clarke (NZ)
Wellington 2000 Brandon Clarke (NZ)
Queensland 2000 Jimmy Millington (NZ)
Victoria 2000 Jason whitby (Aust.)
Waikato 2000 Andrew Goff (Aust.)
Australian Champs 2000 Rob Hadley (Aust.)
Bismark Cup 1999 Brandon Clarke (NZ)
Don Challenge Cup 1999 Will Black (NZ)
NZ Diplomacy Champs 1999 Russell Barke (NZ)
Canberra Capers 1999 Rohan Flavelle (Aust.)
So we say our goodbyes and Evil Boring Quiding, Too Many Nickanmes Balck and I jumped in Pat Brennan's car and went to his place for a roast dinner with Fleur and Suzanna and then Geoff Kerr came over and we played board games till midnight. NZ 1 - 2 - 3 in El Grande, and we won Modern Art too... we had some wine, and all was good.
Up at 4.45am and off to the airport, onto a plane, more Mars Attacks And back to a brilliant day in Auckland, and hopefully a wee sleep soon.
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