What could possibly inspire a man with a 101-degree temperature and a terrible head-cold to board a plane on a Friday morning to go meet strangers just to lie to them? What kind of depraved, deep-seated need compels one to waste a perfectly good weekend in the company of ghouls and persons of questionable parentage? Something must be seriously wrong with the wiring of my brain. Was it a poor environment during my youth? Or just some bad genes buried deep into the matrix of my being that lead to these pre-dispositions? I will probably never know the answers to these questions, but the following is my account of a seriously twisted weekend, a Diplomacy orgy known as World DipCon.
My plane left Louisville International airport on time at 9 a.m. I left armed with several bottles of Vicks formula 44D (my personal favorite) and some old antibiotics left over from my last bout with a virus. Does anyone ever take them all until finished as prescribed? It was a dreary rainy day, with a heavy downpour all through the flight. No better way to start off a venture that would lead to a serious bloodletting. I was flying into the belly of the beast.
I waited in the room like everyone else while David Hood stood high above us like a deity reading the list of the damned. (Okay, he stood on a big table with a yellow legal tablet.) He read a name and country and pointed to a table. This went on for 70 or 80 names. When my turn came I learned just how it was to be that entire weekend. No mercy, just a date with the archduke. I was Austria.
Actually, the game started out quite nicely. Russia and I quickly pushed back Turkey, and we where off to a blazing start. I think by 1903 I was at seven SC's and Italy (Manus Hand) and I had a great relationship. However, I kept noticing that his units never steamed into France as planned. They just swam around the Tyrrhenian and Ionian in seemingly endless "practice" maneuvers. Needless to say, the Archduke was growing weary of this complete lack of commitment. The best thing for Austria to cement the protection of my back door was to see a bloody war of attrition between Italy and France, which was being played by Mark ("Faz") Fazzio (whose irrepressible wit and good nature hides the fact that he is most likely killing you softly).
The board was set up so that Germany, England, and Turkey were getting whacked. France, Italy, Russia, and Austria all were doing well. I sat at seven SC's and had a plan.
After conferring with France, it was decided that he would make an aggressive move to the Western Mediterranean and I would move on Italy. Italy was to help me finish off Turkey, and Russia was going to start grabbing middle Germany.
After much debate with the uncontrollable forces of greed that resided deep in my subconscious, it seemed to be the perfect time to take out Russia. He was strung out and my well placed knife was guaranteed one dot, two if he was not looking, and three if he really moved poorly. If France kept his word, Italy and France would be at war, and if Italy kept his word, Turkey would be gone. All in all, a perfect set up for a strong Austrian showing. I would march into the midgame at nine or ten and not have to look back. This kind of maneuver works for me nine out of ten games that I play. However, I learned quickly that I was among my brethren here. Most of us worshipped at the same church.
France did not move against Italy and Italy misordered his attack on Turkey on purpose (I found out that his misorder was intentional after the game was over...every time I saw Manus the rest of the weekend I had to restrain an irrepressible desire to grab him by the shoulders and scream, "Fleet East Med to Smyrna!! Please! For the love of God!")
My pole-vaulting knife netted but a single dot, leaving an angry Russia with a viable Turkey and cementing the Franco-Italian Alliance. The game ended in a two-way for them, with Austria falling back to four SC's.
In Manus's defense, at least he had the decency to buy me a beer at the bar afterward.
The only way to play Russia is with a heavy dose of anger. Russia should be played like a foot soldier on the cold northern front just itching to take a few shots with his AK-47 to feel the warmth of the gun and take somebody out running for freedom. I knew after my experience of the day before that I could not trust these swine. I took my place at the board with a certainty that I had to remove some lungs.
Fortunately for me, my Turkish friend to my south looked even more hung over and tired than I. No better place to start negotiations than to commiserate with those players in misery as well. We walked off to a corner to discuss our dark plans. "Juggernaut" we both said in unison. He invited me into the Black Sea as a show of good faith. I readily agreed.
It took me all of three seconds to decide to throw this particular Turk under the bus. Austria was a heck of a nice guy named Ike and we got along splendidly. I opened to attack Germany, and I opened Warsaw to Silesia, Moscow to Ukraine, Sevastopol to the Black Sea, and St. Pete to the Gulf of Bothnia. France supported me into Munich in the Fall and Russia had a three build 1901. All I had to do was keep myself off the hit list for a few years and everything would be fine. (Yeah, right!)
England was being run by a certain fellow named Edi and we were getting along famously. Italy was a Belgian player and was lying to everyone on the board, but his aggressive style paid off, and everyone else was eliminated and only Russia, England, and Italy remained. The dreaded end-game was near.
Edi and I decided to kick the Italian to the side and take the two way. It was to be so easy: Italy in the middle, England and Russia to either siide, we just put the ol' squeeze on him. However, England did a funny thing on the way to the forum; he sent his units north! Now hold on one cotton pickin' minute! If we are going to divide Italy, why would you need to send all those units toward Scandanavia?? Needless to say, my English chum had no good answer for that. Edi wanted one of two things: he was either going for the solo, or he wanted control of the board and I would be at his mercy. Neither situation was palatable to me. I quickly made up with Italy and forced the three-way. So game number two ended in a fourteen center Russian triple, with a fourteen center England and a six center Italy. After game one, I would settle.
GAME #3 - SAT OUT
Tired and looking forward to a proper outing to the local taverns Saturday evening, I passed on the third round. My cold/flu was really starting to drag me down and I opted to watch the demons pick at each other's entrails from the sidelines for one round.
I watched my good chum Eric roll to victory as France and shamelessly prolong the game in an attempt to garner the Best France award (which he accomplished). He and Ike finished a double win as England/France. Okay, okay, it was pretty much the same cheap trick I tried to pull off with Edi but apparently neither of them tried for the solo. Ya hear that, Edi?!?
I wrapped up my DipCon experience on Sunday playing RoboRally. In retrospect, a bad call (a fun little game but no Dip, that's for sure) but I was pretty tired. I got all the flavor of round four that I really needed when Eric threw his chair against a concrete pillar and yelled with angst because he misordered and his line collapsed. Who knows what dark visions he had that night in his fitful sleep?
Fortunately for me, I finally kicked my cold a few days after getting back in town (great timing, eh?) but it will take the psychological scars much longer to heal. However, I am now hooked, and like a political junkie looking forward to the distorted reality of election night with all it's gutted hopes and dreams, I will have to return to the dance floor to spin my own sorry tale of greed and conquest. Allan Calhamer would have it no other way. See ya at Origins!
I would like to give special thanks to David Hood and the staff of DixieCon/WDC. It was my first Con and it was run very professionally and was a pleasure to attend.
If you wish to e-mail feedback on this article to the author and clicking on the envelope above does not work for you, feel free to use the "Dear DP..." mail interface.