Around Australia Day the reader of this blog normally expects tales of my journey to Canberra complete with extensive bovine commentary and gratuitous insults towards our national capital. Subsequently the aforementioned masochist can look forward to a nailbiting account of my deeds in the ASL competition at the Canberra gaming convention, CanCon. Not, alas, this year. In deference to the plague ravaging our planet the organisers of CanCon have wisely decided not to proceed with an event that brings together several thousand people many of whom have only a passing acquaintance with personal hygiene. While responsible this left several middle aged and relatively freshly laundered men of my acquaintance without anything to do. Faced with the prospect of spending the holiday weekend with their family and loved ones a desperate planning session was undertaken.
A venue was sought and found, prayers (and the occasional blood sacrifice) were offered up to the plague gods in the hope that a very specific portion of the state would not be under lockdown at the relevant time, funds were gathered and spent on accomodation, food, alcohol and strippers. Wait, did I say strippers? What I meant to say was that money was definitely not spent procuring strippers (saved it). With all these things in place a select dozen or so people chosen solely on personality, charisma and the ability to pay were invited to gather in Leura for what they told their spouses was a weekend of gaming.
For those of you who don't know Leura is in the Blue Mountains and is sort of like Katoomba only with higher prices and fewer junkies. Over the course of Friday this leafy mountain village (think suburb with hills) became the gathering point for a dozen grizzled cardboard warriors who came from near and not quite so near. The one person who was planning to come from "far" couldn't make it past the border guards. Our destination was a two story wooden house nestled in among trees and overlooking a creek, or at least it would have been overlooking a creek if the damn trees hadn't been in the way. There were many rooms, a confusing floor layout and broad balconies overlooking the trees which blocked our view of the creek. In defence of the trees they also blocked our view of the houses on the other side of the creek and thus gave a wholly spurious air of remote isolation to a place that was about ten minutes walk from Leura train station.
There was no competition or specific game. Rather the whole weekend was centred around impromptu gaming. A spreadsheet was set up to assist us in the organisation of our impromptu gaming. Being an ASL aficionado (a fancy word which means "I like it") I had arranged to play a three handed campaign game with Dave Wilson, my regular Wednesday opponent and Mark McGilchrist. I say "I arranged" what I mean is Mark and Dave arranged the game and I whined until they let me in. We played Time on Target's "A Dish Best Served Cold" which consisted of three parts involving a rampaging horde of Americans (jointly commanded by Dave and myself) attempting to evict a collection of heavily but somewhat bizarrely armed Germans from a village. This was supposed to last us three days but Dave and I skillfully demonstrated the weaknesses of command by committee and the Americans were done by the time we got part way through the second part. Mark's predilection for rolling low when firing sturmmosers didn't help. A number of American squads became integral parts of the German landscape during the advance and not even the fortuitous killing of a jagdpanzer was able to help us through.
Although chastening this defeat did at least allow me to take part in a Call of Cthulhu game late on Sunday. Its the first time I've played that game and it was immense amounts of fun. Ivan Kent was our game master and provided us with a great atmospheric setting although he was a little disconcerted by my suggestion that we cold bloodedly murder four people along the way. In my defence they were witnesses to certain acts of nefariousness that our characters had got up to and killing them would have definitely been the safest option. I was outvoted but only narrowly. Despite our institutional squeamishness we managed to fumble and blunder our way through the scenario and save 1920s Arkham from various nameless horrors at the price of only one of our company going irretrievably insane. We left him painting the walls with his own faeces and went off to celebrate.
Aside from the gaming there was bonhomie and good cheer which I understand are old fashioned terms for the result when you gather a group of men together and none of them actually try and kill each other. Although David Bishop might be considered guilty of an attempt when he produced a bottle of Jeppsons Malort and invited the two people he thought might have the most amusing reaction (myself and Daniel) to have a glass. Daniel's reaction was all that he might have hoped for but sadly for David I quite liked it. Sadly for me its almost impossible to source outside of Chicago. Between the malort and the absinthe it was a rather wormwood heavy weekend but all of us emerged with our eyesight and our sanity intact or, to be more accurate, those of us who had possessed such attributes going in still had them more or less on departure.
Encased, as we were, in a tree surrounded wooden house in the mountains the temperature was pleasantly cool which was convenient as this was the week when nature suddenly remembered it was Summer. While the rest of the state boiled we just simmered gently and enjoyed pleasant breezes blowing through the house at the price of being ground zero for enough insects to make a nature documentary although probably not a particularly interesting one. Huge amounts of thanks to David Bishop and Gordon McClelland who conducted the cat herding exercise necessary to get all of this happening. It almost makes one hope the plague is still continuing next year so we can do it again.