It was about one o' clock in the afternoon when the regrets of insomnia set in - I had slept too late yet again and barely managed to budge myself out of bed, shower - and get ready for what I was unprepared for - by far the longest game of Talisman I had ever played - but also the most brutal session of Tekken 6 I had ever experienced. But we did more than that, my friends, oh yes, we did more.
First of all while I waited for my friend Mr. S to arrive, let's call him Mr. S because his true identity is that of a man of mystery - for truly a man of mystery is the only one who would stay up for all hours waiting for the World Cup Final and still make it to my house earlier than five o' clock. Round about three he arrived, and he brought with him a can of whoop-ass which he delivered in Tekken with a brutal efficency - to see him play Tekken was to experience the futility of human evolution - you felt like you were embarrassing Darwin to the point of him turning in his grave by playing Tekken against this fighting-game Ubermensch. The flurry of blows as he rained down punches and kicks on man, woman and beast - no matter what character I selected I always failed to beat him except with a few lucky strikes. Three matches won by me. Thirty by him.
Mr. S is the inventor of the phrase "Trollroller", evolved from a brief Youtube video jest that a person playing Talisman with the Troll character was "rolling with the troll". To be a Trollroller is to not care how nerdy something is - and yet with no small irony enjoy it. Mr. S is not a man who revels in the darker side of gaming where grown men have amassed whole collections of games they will never play - he simply is a man of essentials. And brother - he has the essentials nailed down pretty tight.
My twin brother J-Man, which of course isn't his real name, tends to need to grasp board game rules better than usual to play them properly. And yet when we played our epic game of Talisman we were learning new rules as we went along. We discovered that you had to trade in monster cards for more limited strength than I previously believed in the last game I had with him. And so because our characters were weaker the game took a lot longer. We also discovered that reaching the Crown of Command is not the end - fitting that the Troll of all the characters was sitting atop the Crown of Command raining death dealing Command Spells on people.
The worst part of all was where I was turned into a Toad and Mr. S being the troll he is, took all of my items because he had a mule. He took all my gold too. If it wasn't for that I might have won the game - the bleakness of it left me wandering the wastes of the Middle Region with a Wand in hand casting Healing on myself, but when Mr. S reached the Crown of Command I cast my last Healing on my brother J-Man's Elf, for only he was left with the inventory capable of winning him the game. He would have avenged my death too - if only he didn't get stricken down by the Command Spells that followed.
Magic: The Gathering was the next game me and Mr. S played - my Kor White deck was the star attraction of the matches because it seemed to win every match it was used in. The Red mono deck Mr. S borrowed from me brought the pain, but not enough pain to beat me. So we decided to switch the decks around, playing about eight games with different combinations of the four decks I brought upstairs. My Red/Green Allies Zendikar deck, I discovered was a mess. The mana base was more broken than last year's Guinness World Records - and those things get broken all the time. So I busted out the Sliver Foil deck for use in our casual matches - and still the Red deck beat me. I used the Red deck against the Kor White deck for the final match and got slaughtered. Mr. S had beaten me and J-Man at pretty much everything so far, and he was gloating it up.
J-Man promised us UFC on the digital sports channel, and we eagerly awaited it while playing Risk to pass the time. My brother had never played Risk properly - which is probably why there wasn't maths involved - but still the way we'd played it since we were kids was pretty fun. Mr. S was laughing at the Mission Card that said "Destroy all the Black Troops" - because to be honest even though it was innocent it was still pretty racist. He had to get a new Mission Card after that - but lucky for me I got the Destroy All Yellow Troops Mission, and since I was the Yellow Troops it would be a Kamikaze mission for me!
I tried my hardest to play as badly as possible so I would be defeated. I was losing ground left and right, and I was so tired that I actually believed this plan would work. Constantly egging on J-Man and Mr. S to attack me - I thought I had the game in the bag. Until Mr. S completed his mission of aquiring 26 Territories. He asked to look at my mission card and saw that there was a disclaimer of sorts that "If you are the YELLOW TROOPS, Conquer 26 Territories". I was gutted, since I had my idiotic plan all set out - I was so deprived of a nap that I really thought it would work! So another game won by Mr. S.
Mr. S hadn't tried one game though - Nuns on the Run. Nuns on the Run was a controversial game at my house because nobody had truly read the rules properly - for the most part because they seemed intimidating. What J-Man and Mr. S discovered though was that the game itself wasn't bad - but that I was horrible at explaining board game rules to people. Upon learning of this horrifying reality - my dreams of possibly being a University Professor on the side while I wrote my novels and stuff were ground into the dust like my Death Guard Warhammer 40,000 army many years and many times before. It seemed that when it came to board games, even in the teaching of the rules aspect there was always somebody better at it than me, let alone at playing the game to win.
It was a no holds barred hiding match - and since J-Man's promised UFC aired on the digital sports channel didn't show up, he was the one doing a lot of hiding. I was the guards for the first game, and I lost because Mr. S had managed to evade me as I looked around blindly trying to find either him or J-Man. It was hopeless, but fun. I got to be one of the Novices in the next game, with Mr. S being the Guard Nuns. The game that resulted was possibly on par with the sheer espionage exhibited in the movie Heat. I was taking extra keys to plan an exit via the back tunnel back to my cell, but my brother J-Man beat me to the win with his own plot. So J-Man and Mr. S let me play to the end of my route to see if I could get to my cell without being caught. I couldn't help but imagining that this board game needed the soundtrack of Iron Maiden's Run to the Hills - because running was exactly what we did that night - running the hell away hoping we wouldn't make noise tokens appear near us. I made it to the end getting second place - and I had defeated the insidious Mr. S for once, even though I beat him at Magic a few times this felt more like a victory.
It was an epic night of tabletop board gaming - one I will not soon forget. The craziness of it all consumed us like the garlic bread we ate for snacks - the spinach triangles we devoured while trying to not get crumbs on the board.
It was a night of glory, disappointment - and human pathos - all rolled into a day and a night under the same sun and moon. When midnight came, I was dead tired and found myself sitting in my chair because J-Man had crashed on my bed while watching Frisky Dingo. And why is it again my bro complains I invade HIS space?
Jacob Martin is a writer, blogger, Photomedia student and board gamer who travels the bowels of Sydney's hobby game shops to find the strangest games he can review. He was once refused work for not being Victorian, at which point he wondered if a monocle would get him employed but later found out they meant the state, not the Queen. He lives in Australia, and it is his understanding that the Bartertown community of gamers is friendly. The precious juice is usually offset by public transport.