Once again, a shout out to Shannon, whose idea I stole. Which, now that I'm Evil, I don't feel so bad about anymore...
Recon Pics & Intros
I Part II
Part III Aftermath
Click on links in the text below to open illustrations (in new windows for your convenience)or links to relevant sites in some cases.
Friday, April 6th, was Tartan Day, which meant that Saturday night, April 7th, I was up late selling tickets (and doing the Address to the Haggis) at the Minnesota Tartan Day ceilidh. So it was rather groggily that I met Joe Sunday morning for the drive to the Ring Game meeting. However, once we'd stopped in Hudson for a ham egg 'n' cheese McBagel (and the obligatory stock-up on Orange Crushdang, I wish Crush was available in Minnesota!), the old pre-Ring Game excitement began to rev up.
The drive was uneventful, thanks to the first sunny day I could remember since Octobersurely a great portent. After meandering around the State Street area for a little while (which included getting to watch a police officer give a ticket to a bicyclist), we headed in the general direction of the Great Dane Brew Pub. We had a map I'd downloaded from Yahoo, but did not realize that there is a "King St." and a "Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd." in close proximity to each other. Luckily, we were only wandering in the wrong direction for a minute or two when a passing motorist shouted at us to "get a job!" Before I could even think of a good four-letter retort to shout back, Joe said, "hey, I think that's Scott and Shannon!" And by golly, it was. Upon our catching up to them, they explained about the "King St./King Blvd." thing and led us to the pub.
There, we spent an enjoyable couple of hours chatting with a big ol' gang of Ring Gamers (whom I won't name, 'cause I'm bound to forget someone). Topics of conversation included the inevitable war stories, talk about camping out in the park, as well as discussion of what characters people were interested in picking for the upcoming game. There had been some e-mail talk in the days leading up to the meeting of a large group of "veteran" players (the arbitrary cutoff being at least five years playing experience) all taking White Hand characters. This plan was abandoned, however, because not many people wanted to be mere White Hand orcs. I was one of the lobbyists for the plan, because in such a plan, I thought I'd try for Wormtongue, thus reprising the same character I'd played at my first game, ten years ago. Other than that, I had no particular character in mind for the meeting, so for the first time, I was hoping that my number didn't come up earlythat way, I'd have a chance to see which way the winds were blowing before committing to a character.
We toasted the Spirit of the Game, and a little after 6:00, the group went its several ways to head over to the meeting. At the meeting, Jeff actually finished up his speech for the newbies about fifteen minutes before 7:00he's getting quicker at it! So there was a brief break during which I did a lot of meet-and-greeting with assorted players (and wrote the new web site address on the blackboard). I also took a number. The pickings were pretty slim, so I chose seven, hoping it would be lucky. Lucky enough, it proved.
The first character chosen was Frodo. Saruman was the second. With the fifth or sixth overall pick, Otto selected Gandalf (to great cheers), which was a surprise to meat Great Dane, all he'd been talking about was taking a hobbit. Joe told me later on that he and Todd had "encouraged" Otto to pick Gandalf. Now, it's a personal theory of mine (and I could be wrong), but I think that one of the reasons it took so long for Sauron to be chosen was because Otto was Gandalf, and no one had the cajones to challenge him. About the early twenties, Joe's number was called, and as expected, he took Gollum, much to the chagrin of the fifteen or so people already on the good team. Well into the late twenties, Scott's number was finally called, and he took Sauron (also to great cheers). Having previously won as both Saruman and Gandalf, it was his intention to be the first (I believe) person to win the Triple Crown of Ring Game (winning as all three wizards).
Having played Good four out of the last five games, I decided to throw my hat back into the Evil ring. It had also been over a year since I last wore my chain mail. My turn as Gimli convinced me that my chain mail should only be used for a "slow, road-walking Evil character," so if I wanted to wear it, I had to be Evil. I also figured it would be very cool to be on Scott's team if he did indeed win the Trifecta. When my number finally came up, there was one Nazgūl left, so I grabbed it. I figured, if I'm not going to be fast, at least I'm going to be worth boatloads of points. With nine Nazgūl, it's permissible to have a couple slowpokes.
The lottery finished up soon after my pick, and the end result was that the "veteran" players were pretty evenly split between the Good and Evil teams (unlike last fall, when most of us were Good). The trash-talking started even before all the characters were picked, but the Spirit of the Game remained intact, as Scott and Otto shook hands and wished each other good luck.
The drive back to Minneapolis was a bit more exciting than the drive to Madison, as Joe and I passed through a scary-yet-exciting lightning storm. Joe remarked that he and I have not been on opposing teams (we agreed that the game where he played the Menace didn't count) since the Fall of 1995, when he played Pippin and I played the Mouth of Sauron. Funny how those things work out.
When I got to work the following morning, I found my e-mail box already stuffed with trash-talk e-mails, courtesy of the Ring Game e-mail group. Some samples:
And this was just within the first twenty-four hours! The smack-talking continued right up 'til game day, but continued to be all in good fun, no meanness at all. The Queen of Smack-talk turned out to be Stacey, who grandly taunted the Evil team (and Joe in particular) vis-a-vis her invincibility as Tom Bombadil. Needless to say, we of the Evil team assured her that she would be bounced very soon after her rangerization.
Over the next couple of weekends, I worked on putting together costume components. I decided to try to wear a skull-like half-mask under my chain mail coif, with makeup to complete the Nazgūlish appearance. As usual, it was much harder to find costume components in April than it is in October. After a couple of strikeouts, I hit paydirt at a shop called "Donna Jean's Costume Emporium" in Burnsville. She had just the sort of mask I was looking for, and was very proactive in helping me find makeup to match. As soon as I got home, I did a makeup test. It looked pretty cool, but I decided to go with red makeup on the eyes to make it a little more Nazgūlly.
For the costume itself, I decided to take a somewhat non-traditional route. Most Nazgūls go with the black-black-black look. Ho-hum. I decided to go with more of a "Nazgūl unveiled" look, with red as my primary color. First, I got a pair of red sweatpants (trickier to find in Minnesota than in Wisconsin, I'll warrant). Then, I went to three different shops looking for red fabric (at one shop, I found some "Coca-cola" fabric and briefly contemplated being the "evil product-placement Nazgūl," but decided against it). I finally found the perfect fabric for my Nazgūl tunic: red (but not flat red, almost a water-color look going from red to dark red, a nice "blood stained" look, I thought), with oriental-type black runes all over it. Very cool.
Because my apartment was in its usual pre-Ring Game disaster area mode, I brought my sewing machine and other doodads (yes, I own a little sewing machine, you wanna make something of it?) to my office, in order to have enough room to work. Using the tunic I'd worn as the good paladin as a template, I was able to successful create a Nazgūl tunic. I had a bit of a crisis when I realized I'd miscalculated and cut the fabric too small, but I was able to put extenders on both sides that actually made it fit better than it would have if I'd gone with the original "pattern." I even put eyelets on either side of the collar, so it could be laced up. Adding my "Saruman" dragon pendant completed the look.
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A few days before departure, I got an e-mail from Scott. The plan, he said, was to split the evil team in two: half would attack the citadels roughly a half-hour after their attackability times, while the other half would flush hobbits. I was very flattered that he asked me to head up the citadel-attacking force, although I did mention my willingness to share authority with others (knowing that there were at least two other veteran player Nazguls). Scott was also trying to reach Joe to discuss Golluming, but since Joe resides at "no fixed address" these days, reaching him can be rather problematic. I offered to pass along any messages when we got together to drive down on Friday.
And practically before I knew it, Friday was here. Joe and his girlfriend Elissa showed up at my house a little after 8:00 AM. The sun was shining, the birds were singing, it was a great day for a drive. We easily packed in all my costume stuff, photography stuff, and camping stuff (all in all, it was a damn lot of stuff for a three-day trip!) and hit the road. We made pretty good time, arriving at the park a little after 2:00 PM. In fact, we made such good time that we were the first to arrive at Group Site A (aka. the Lothlorien campsite). We loitered around for a bit, then decided to go check out the Mt. Doom campsite to see if there was anybody there. Nope. We also did the "drive over to Gondor and see how muddy it is" routine. Muddy, but not the worst I've seen it. There was also the corpse of a dead fish on the path, which was pretty groady.
We decided to head back to Lothlorien and get our tents set up. If nobody had arrived by the time we finished, we were going to head up to the ranger station and hang out there to wait. But just as I was getting my tent out of its bag, Andrea and Shannon arrived with the camper (or as we dubbed it, the "mobile Barad-dur"). Joe and I helped unload firewood, and shortly after that, Stacey arrived, followed soon by Chuck and his crew (Katie, Dean, and two new playersAnne and Alicia). Since Alicia sounded so much like Elissa, she suggested we use her SCA name, Élie (pronounced "Ale-ya") to avoid confusion. To make sure there was no confusion that this was definitely the Ring Game campsite, Shannon put a Red Eye banner (made just for this occasion) on the site marker. I finished getting my tent set up (Joe helped me inflate my air mattress), and was quite proud of myself, since I probably had not pitched a tent in well over fifteen years. Shannon discovered a leak in the camper's water supply, and Joe and Elissa gamely volunteered to head into Dodgeville to get some plumber's putty at the Wal-Mart. I also asked them to bring me an Extra Value Meal from McDonald's, so I could play the "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" game.
Those of us still at the campsite hung out for about two hours, when Scott arrived, followed soon by Joe and Elissa (they had met up in town, apparently). Shannon was able to plug the leaky camper, and I was able to answer the question, "In ancient Rome, a centurion would have had what occupation?" The correct answer, of course, was "A) a military officer." Dusk was coming on soon, so Scott, Joe, Elissa and I hopped in the big red vehicle to do some scoutin'. At the Mt. Doom campsite, we discovered that Maury Smith and his crew had arrived and were setting up. We're always glad to see some of our folk in that campsite, so we don't have to walk around it after the game! The four of us walked part way up Mt. Doom and bandied about several ideas regarding where Otto might be planning to attack. From Mt. Doom, we drove to Rivendell, where Scott and Joe scouted out where the Evil team would go to try to flush out any hobbits going that way. Our next stop was the Shire, where we examined several possible hobbit escape routes, and discussed how Joe could be best used to get the hobbits going in the direction we wanted them to go.
By this time, it was really getting on towards nightfall, so we headed back to the Lothlorien campsite. Otto and Bob were thereOtto and Scott greeted each other warmly. More folks showed up, some of whom were sharing the campsite and others of whom were just visiting for the s'mores. I counted twenty altogether at one point, but it was dark, and I may have missed a few people. We lit a campfire (which remained pitifully small until the baked potatoes were finally done cooking and we could really build it up) and had a grand time. Some highlights (in no particular order): Katie got tired of Dean picking on her and kicked his ass (despite the fact that it looked like he was biting her); Chuck came to her aid, but she really didn't need any help; Anne introduced the group to the idea of roasting Starburst Fruit Chews over the campfire (they tasted good, but were very very sticky); Joe brought out some leftover Easter "Peeps" for roasting; Joe asked Orion if he was always this quietthe reply: "yeah;" Chuck revealed a remarkable talent for making s'mores; and we took some very cool digital pictures of Scott and Otto by firelight. Eventually, those who were sleeping elsewhere started wandering off, and as the fire began to die down, I headed off to my tent. To my surprise, I was very comfortable and was able to get to sleep easily.
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Naturally, I woke up a half hour before my alarm clock went off. I was eager to get moving, but forced myself to stay in bed for a little while longer before getting up. But get up I did, putting on the "base" components of my costume and using the window of Shannon and Scott's car as a mirror to shave. By the time I got packed up and started taking down my tent, a groggy Joe appeared. We loaded up my stuff in the car and drove over to the staging area. The picnic tables were still where they'd been left at the last game, so there wasn't much to do to set up other than tape the sign to the table and determine the best picture-taking spot (Joe stood in as a guinea pig). Joe waited while I got costumed and made up, so he could take my picture before he headed back to the campsite to finish packing up his stuff and getting into his own costume and makeup.
While the judges were getting set up, I managed to snag Jeff and Bill to have them record a special "welcome to the web site" message, which turned out just the way I wanted! In fact, my new digital camera made this the easiest picture-taking process ever. I didn't have to worry about changing film, I was able to check if I thought somebody had their eyes closed or a funny expression and do retakes, I was able to take additional pictures of some extraneous things (like "Fluffy the Warg," the "Sock Puppet Mouth of Sauron," and the Dark Elves' "brownie points"), and it was so quick and easy to take the pictures that I was able to work the line myself and ensure that everybody got their pictures taken. As usual, there were a few I missed, but all in all, I think it was my best "hit ratio" yet.
As the picture taking went on, I began to wonder what was keeping Joe. I was taking a picture of some trolls when I noticed that Elissa (and Joe's friends Doug and Christine, who had arrived to spectate) were standing by the table. I was going to ask them where Joe was, when it suddenly struck me that the person sitting on the ground by them (whom I'd assumed was another troll) was JOE. I had not even recognized him at first! I've gotten so used to his costume being "whatever sweater is closest to the color of the foliage today" (see last game, for example) that I was totally blown away by his great costume and makeup. I found out later that he had very deservedly received fifteen costume points, and had impressed the judges by climbing all the way over the judging table, underneath it, and back to the top, without ever touching the ground. And he stayed in character completely! That's my boy, I was so proud!
My memory stick showed "full" literally as I was taking the last person's picture. I got tidied up and repacked as Bill was doing the "they've got guns!" speech, and joined my fellow Nazgśls just in time for introductions. Some highlights: when Scott was introduced, I ran out and mimed kissing his feet, which got some good laughs; Bard (who was dressed as a 70's disco king for some reason) was greeted with a chorus of "Stayin' Alive" by the good team; the two girls who were the "Blue's Clues Wargs" at the last game came as "Santa's Elves" this time (they caroled the judges for extra costume points); Fluffy (with a little help from his orc master) managed to steal a couple of tokens out from under Bill's nose; when the trolls were announced, they quickly marched out of the circle instead of into it; and Sterling was very intimidating as the "fairy godfather" Menace. Bill announced the official Ring Game Time as twenty minutes to twelve, and we all dispersed to our starting locations. Doug and Christine were nice enough to give me a ride to the Mt. Doom parking lot.
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The last time I played a Nazgūl, back in 1993, the Nazgūls were required to start the game at the perimeter of Mt. Doom. Apparently, that rule has lapsed quite a bit, as most of the Nazgūls started in the Mt. Doom campsite, and some only in the parking lot. I, at least, walked far enough up the path so that I could see the perimeter. At noon, I walked back to the parking lot, where I chatted briefly with Mike, who seemed to be acting as the nominal leader of the dark elves. He assured me that the dark elves were ultimately loyal to the Evil cause and could be relied upon to help out with the Mt. Doom defense. I also met up with a couple of other Nazgūls (there were about four of us altogether), and we headed in the direction of the Long Lake Bridge, where Sauron had told us to wait for him. On our way, a truck went past carrying the remaining Nazgūls, including the Lord of the Nazgūl. I explained to one of the newbies that they couldn't just hop off and join us, they had to go to their starting point before they could enter the game. They caught up to us very quickly and we arrived at the bridge together.
A minute or two later, we spotted Sauron coming our way, along with the Mouth and several others, followed by the dark elves. While we were waiting, I explained the plan to have a hobbit-chasing squad and a citadel-bouncing squad, and took a show of hands of who preferred to be on which squad. Scott arrived and said that the dark elves were going to be on the citadel-bouncing squad. I was somewhat skeptical. Sauron also announced the plan to the remaining group, including anointing me as the citadel-bouncing leader. The dark elves split off to take the horse trail towards Rivendell, while the rest of us continued up the road. At the crossroads, Shannon ran down towards Lothlorien to see what they were up to. The bulk of the group went right down the road towards Rivendell. I lingered, waiting for Shannon to catch up; she reported that Lothlorien was deserted. We guessed that they were probably heading up towards the Iron Hills to assist Radagast, and the temptation to go looking for them was strong, but the plan was to go to Rivendell, so we stuck to the plan.
En route, we noticed some movement in the trees up to the right, and many people ran off the road to go investigate. I stayed on the road, so I only had a vague notion of what was going on. I also noticed Saruman and his cronies ahead on the road, they took off to the south. Finally, we arrived at the Rivendell barn and regrouped. I kept my squad well away from the dark elves, who had appeared and were loitering suspiciously. Sauron came out of the woods and went over to talk to them, and gave the order to consolidate forces. About this time, a murmur of panic went through the Evil team, as word got around that the Menace was approaching from the south. I wasn't really worried at all because 1) we had so much Evil there, I was sure we could bounce him on points, and 2) Sauron could always sacrifice to him, if needed. He tried to cut up towards the horse path and come at us from behind, but as soon as he made a tag, Sauron called a freeze. We lined up and began totaling up the Evil points. I took the opportunity to loiter around the calculator person, to get a ballpark figure in my head regarding just how much the dark elves were worth (for future reference). It looked like they were averaging about 30 points each, so I figured they were worth about 300-350 altogether. Long story short, the Menace was dead.
The Evil team then split up. The dark elves took the Rivendell flag at 1:00, and headed north. Gothmog took a squad and headed south to scout out Gondor/Rohan. Sauron took a group and headed down the horse path toward the Shire. After loitering a bit, I took the few remaining Evilers and headed towards Isengard, to approach Gondor/Rohan from that direction. The plan was to wait until about a half-hour after the citadels' designated time to attack, figuring that Good would get bored and leave. At the crossroads, we spotted what looked like a squad of good heading up the road from Bree towards our position. I tried to signal to the Evil stragglers coming from Rivendell that they needed to hurry up and join us, but they didn't get it, so I had to shout at them. Luckily, it turned out that only part of the approaching group was good; the remainder was Evil who had trailed them from Bree. We made the tag, and I opted to take Stacey (formerly Bombadil, now a ranger) as prisoner, just so I could have the "I-told-you-so." Just then, the Menace (who by this time was alive again) ambushed the group and killed everyone who was not immune (which was two Nazgūls who'd missed out on the earlier battle). I sent the remaining survivors on to Gondor and took Stacey back towards Rivendell in search of Sauron.
I found him about twenty-five yards up the horse path. Among the Evil people with him was Bondo, who as usual, had shown up late. Sauron asked Stacey where the hobbit with the Ring was, and she said she didn't know, because "the plan had gone plbtt." Foolishly, I neglected to get a picture of Stacey being questioned. However, another prisoner (Galadriel) arrived shortly after Stacey was cut loose. I did remember to get a picture of this encounter, but I didn't pay attention to what the question was. I grabbed another couple of Evil players and headed to Gondor, for real this time.
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As we approached the crossroads, we saw the good players we'd killed running up into the Entwood, joined by Bard. There was no way to catch them, so we just let them go. We passed by our dead Nazgūl comrades and headed towards Isengard. Just before we came around the bend, we spotted a dang big group of Good, including Gandalf, loitering around Isengard. As we watched, they headed up the path in the direction of Gondor/Rohan. We waited a couple minutes to make sure they had a big lead on us, then headed that way ourselves. At the crest of the hill overlooking Gondor/Rohan, we found Gothmog, Rob the Nazgūl, and several other players. Down the hill, we saw several clusters of good players sitting down, apparently dead. The word was that the Menace was in the area. Oh, and there were some red eye orcs on the far side of the bridge.
I had an intense conversation with Gothmog regarding Sauron's orders that we wait until Good left the area before attacking the citadels. Apparently, only Rob and I had the patience for this planthe teen Nazgūls, Gothmog, and the others all wanted to "do something." Gothmog in particular wanted to go down towards the bridge and see what was going on with the Menace. Exasperated, I told him to go ahead on down and reconnoiter. As he approached the bridge, Hayes the Ranger came out to talk to him. We couldn't hear what they were saying, but after several minutes, I said, "c'mon Hayes, tag himit's the only way to get him to shut up for fifteen minutes!" which got some laughs from the others who were with me. Eventually, Gothmog disappeared into the weeds to the north of the bridge, I found out later that he'd been tagged by an Ent or some such.
I walked down to take a couple of snapshots of the dead folks. Stacey later told me that they hoped I'd stay to chat just a minute or two longer, upon which they would have come back to life and bounced me. But I wasn't stupid enough to stick around that long.
I continued debating with the young Nazgūls regarding the need to stay put and wait to attack Gondor, when Gandalf and one other player appeared over the side of the hill from the Isengard side. Almost simultaneously, the Menace came out of the weeds on the hill below us and started moving towards us. Chaos ensuedthe hotheads went chasing after Gandalf (even though there was no way they could realistically catch him), the remainder scattered trying to avoid the Menace. I slowly walked into the weeds south of the path, trying to talk the Menace out of killing me, but Sterling wasn't having any of that nonsense. He wanted revenge on the evil team that had killed him earlier. So I was dead for twenty minutes. Gothmog rejoined us and Rob gave him a drink of water, much to the chagrin of the wargs.
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While I was dead, sure enough, Good got bored and left Gondor, the hotheads returned, and they took the flags with the help of the red eyes who'd remained on the far side of the bridge. So the plan was accomplished, even though my "leadership" proved utterly futile. Rob and I came back to life just a few minutes apart, and we decided that we'd try to find the path that led from the area of the power lines to the backpackers' campground. We ended up taking virtually a straight-line walk from Gondor to Mt. Doom. I was very glad that we needed to stop frequently to water the wargs, as I was getting quite exhausted from the weight of the chain mail and the blazing hot sun. We never did find the path I was looking for (next time, I'm going to scout it out better), but we did work our way to the path at the northwest end of Mt. Doom, between the perimeter and the campsite.
It was getting very close to 3:30 by this time, and I was rather nervous about the lack of evil players in the area. I could just barely see a bit of the campsite, and was rather startled when I saw an Evil player pass in front of my field of vision with what seemed to be a Good prisoner. So I tramped up to the campsite to see what was going onperhaps Sauron was up there? What I found was a number of evil players who were out of their costumes and armor and picnicking. Good weather usually favors the evil team, but it was becoming clear that the weather today was too goodthe heat was making a lot of our players drop out. The player with the prisoner thought that Sauron was up on the saddle, so we headed back down the path towards Mt. Doom. I got as far as the place where the path intersected the perimeter (I had to warn the escort not to cross the perimeter), but was just too exhausted to start tramping through the brambles and such. So I decided to take up watch at that point, since it was now 3:30 and good could be attacking any moment.
After resting for about fifteen minutes, I hauled myself up and moved about twenty yards further south, down the western side of the perimeter. I positioned myself on the edge of the gully overlooking the stream, where I had a good view of about 150 yards of the perimeter. There was no sign of the good team, but alarmingly, there was no sign of the evil team either! I could hear occasional shouts from the Mouth up at the top.
You'll forgive me if I now digress into a rather maudlin emotional sidebar. At about 4:00, I found myself standing by myself out in the middle of the woods. My back hurt from the weight of the chain mail, my feet hurt from the blisters, and I was just plain tired. But in a moment of revelation, I discovered that I was having so much fun. In that moment, I realized that I'll keep playing this game as long as I'm physically able to.
But back to business. A huge chunk of the perimeter was my sole responsibility, but I also realized that there was no way in hell I was going to be able to scurry up the west side of Mt. Doom if the call that good is on the mountain went up. If I wanted to be of any use at all, I needed to get my ass over to the saddle. So I deserted my post and began working my way around to the right. After going around a fallen tree, I spotted the Captain of the Corsairs with one of her followers. I explained to them where I had just come from, and the corsair went to take up my former position. I continued to work my way around to the right, and just as I was getting in range of the saddle, I saw about fifty yards down to my left, a huge Good army, led by Gandalf, crossing the perimeter. It was lucky that I'd gotten forty-five minutes of rest, 'cause otherwise I would never have been able to take off up Mt. Doom as I did. Barely twenty paces after crossing the perimeter, my pants got caught up on a fallen tree branch and I fell face-down onto the ground. But I picked myself up and did my best to scurry along after the Evil team. I knew that if I was to have any chance to join in the battle, I'd at least have to get over the big log blocking the path up the saddle. I was just able to do so when a "freeze" was called.
I later found out that Gothmog had prematurely tagged the Good team, before Evil had taken up its desired position around the Crack of Doom. So neither Saruman nor Sauron (who were both up at the top of the hill by this time) called a freeze. That meant that only the few Evil players who were within twenty-five paces of Gandalf were included. I put my staff on the ground to mark the place where I was frozen, and went over to take some snapshots. I got back in place before the mountain was unfrozen, and when the unfreeze was called, I hauled butt as quick as I could up the hill, followed closely by the Good army. Another tag was made, and this time, all three wizards called freezes.
Not unexpectedly, Gandalf used the Miracle token to remove Sauron from the battle. Boromir also used the Horn token to take out all the red eye orcs. He wanted to take out all orcs, but Saruman protested that white hand and red eye orcs were different breeds. There had been similar rulings at previous games, so the white hand orcs were allowed to fight. The two teams' points were tallied up, and Evil was victorious. All five hobbits were present, but we could only take two of them prisoner. Much to the chagrin of Shannon and myself, the first hobbit Saruman selected was Andrea (Pippin), whom we were sure didn't have the Ring, because we were sure she had been carrying it all day. The other hobbit he picked was Frodo, who had been with Andrea all day, and whom we were also pretty sure didn't have the Ring. And sure enough, neither of them had it. Both Shannon and myself made sure to position ourselves very close to Saruman while he was choosing, just in case he did get his hands on the Ring, so we'd be close enough to tag him right away. I could almost see Shannon's hand hovering over Saruman's shoulder, ready to drop at the first sign of the Ring.
Since it was ten minutes 'til 5:00, and everyone who was dead would be dead until after 5:00, the judges declared the game over. In hindsight, as Andrea pointed out, they probably shouldn't have done so, since Evil had not captured the Stone of Galadriel token. The other thing nobody seemed to know was whether the Lothlorien citadel had been captured. So even as we took the traditional "pictures on top of Mt. Doom" and worked our way down the hill, nobody knew if it was an Evil victory or a draw.
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At the parking lot, I learned that the dark elves had been approximately forty, or approximately thirteen (depending on who you talked to) points short to take the Lothlorien flag. So for the second time in four games, it all ended in a draw. I was very happy to peel off my chain mail and go looking for Joe. It turns out that he had (in keeping with the Plan) been hovering around the opposite side of Mt. Doom, just in case the good team was trying anything sneaky. I reluctantly gave up my Nazgūl ring to Jeff (he wouldn't let me keep it 'til A&W) and was just plain old Jack again.
We threw everything into the car and drove to A&W. The toy this year was little miniature A&W skateboards with little self-propelling motor thingies. Very neato. Scott and Otto both had very high praise for each others' efforts (although Scott seemed a bit depressed at not winning the Triple Crown). I bought root beers for Stacey and Chuck as reward for their picture-taking efforts on my behalf. I'm told that after my crew left to go check into our hotel, the owner of the A&W brought out a special "gollum burger." I'm sorry I missed that.
Speaking of hotels, the Super 8 wouldn't take a one-night reservation, so we ended up staying at a place called the "Highlander Inn." I can't really recommend it, tho, 'cause it smelled funny. And the soaps were about the size of Chicklets and the "towels" were practically see-through. But it was a place to stay, so it wasn't too bad. Joe and Elissa disliked it a lot more than I did. Before we left for the party, I got an extra key for our room, in anticipation of Elissa wanting to leave the party early.
The party was the usual rollicking good time. After some rigamarole, we managed to get the video camera hooked up to Sterling's TV and watched some of the game video Elissa had shot. Many excellent war stories were told (Bondo is always good for those). If you haven't heard Sterling's "BBD" story, ask him sometime, it had the whole room cracking up. As the evening wore on, the kitchen became the "conversation" room, while those in the living room were either playing or watching the "Indian" drinking game, a Ring Game tradition that I thought had largely died out. As expected, Joe Elissa Doug & Christine bailed at about 11:00 (not before Joe got a "big hug" from Otto). I stayed about another hour and a half or so before I also went back to the hotel.
I arrived at the hotel without incident, but wound up having to wake Joe up (even though I had a key of my own) because he had latched the door. The next morning, we checked out and did the traditional "take everything out of the car, sort it, and put it back in" routine. There was less garbage than usual, go figure. We had a nice breakfast at Perkins, then bid farewell to Doug and Christine. Joe Elissa and I drove downtown, where we met up with the "brunch" gang back at the Great Dane. We had practically finished the meal when we realized we hadn't really talked about the cheese grater award yet. There were several suggestions made, but the consensus was that Gothmog definitely earned it with his premature tag on Mt. Doom. Otto also suggested that we inaugurate a "golden gauntlet" award for outstanding fortitude displayed during the game. Consensus on this award was much harder to come by. In the end (after some e-mailing the following week), the golden gauntlet was shared between Radagast (for her efforts in getting to Gondor in time to defend it) and Alicia/Éile the Ent (a newbie who persevered despite an injury).
And that's the end of the story, except for one post script. Our route from where the car was parked to Washington Avenue East took us past the Great Dane, where a number of stragglers were still chatting. One of these stragglers was Scott, so I couldn't resist rolling down the window and shouting for him to "get a job!" as we drove past. Turnabout, after all, is fair play.
All in all, this definitely ranks as one of the best games ever. The two wizards were very evenly matched (as evidenced by the tie), and there was superb play by both teams. The campout was also great fun (plus, it didn't rain!), so it's likely I'll be doing that again. As for who to play and what to do next time... we'll see. Haven't decided yet. Only days before I have to make up my mind, tho!
©2001 Jack A. Barker. All Rights Reserved.