Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Fish and Strategic Gamers

(Bless me Father for I have sinned. It has been nine days since my last blog post.)

Benjamin Franklin once said that fish and Strategic Gamers always smelled after three days. Well, maybe he didn't say that, but he would have if he'd stopped by the front door of the thursday offices on Sunday and found them into the 52nd hour of a 72-hour marathon session of Panzer Brigade. There were two organizations full of these creatures - the Strategic Games Society and the Society for Creative Anachronism. I mean, who else would make an obsession out of serial Mad Mate? Who else could tell the age of a Risk board by the shape of the Ten-Army piece? And who else could look ridiculous in full chain-mail and tights, yet be authentically smelly?

Anyway, I lived on a floor that had more than its share of Strategic Gamers. We were divided up into clans that roughly paralleled the division of the dormitory itself. Walcott Hall to the south had the stoners, who would get drunk on vodka and play Mah-Jongg until 3 in the morning (or get stoned on hashish and play Backgammon until 4). Goodale had the sex-obsessed - the guys who would play Queen and 10cc while thumbing through Penthouse and fantasizing about the wattage of their stereos. And Bemis had the nerds, who would retreat to one of the lounges and preoccupy their minds with the problem set that was due at the end of the week. Oh, and the Strategic Gamers.

But the best place to find Strategic Games Society members in the wild was in Walker Memorial, whose carpet agreed with their flesh tones. They'd spread out their game boards and their hex dice and their strategy cards, and camp out for a while. They were immovable; not even the sound of Meat Loaf, cranked up to 11, could drive them away. This is not to say they didn't have their own place to gather; it's just that I could never find it...
Strategic Gamers also had another distinguishing quirk to their personality - they were obsessed with the military. Not that they possessed great amounts of brute physical ability that would qualify them as Army Strong. They were obsessed with weapons systems. One person, who lived on my floor and shall remain nameless, actually organized a Saturday night lecture on the merits of the A-10 Tank Killer (which someone in the Army would affectionately and mercifully rename as the "Warthog" when it actually went into service). If you ever wondered who kept Tom Clancy's publishing enterprise going all those years, this was his constituency. Well, that and all the old geezers who still think we could have won the war in Vietnam if it hadn't been for those damned hippies.
There was nothing quite as complex as an Avalon Hill board game. First of all, the game board was not necessarily square. Second, the dice were not necessarily cubes. And third, there were rules in this knife fight.
Many of the Strategic Gamers would go on to long and successful careers, either as Beltway Bandits or as drones in the Skunk Works. I never did find one who would later end up in the Peace Corps.

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