6% ABV bottled
The Board Game Olympiad
I’m certainly not above doing nerdy things in my life and have done plenty. There was the time I taught myself origami and enjoyed publicly showing off my skills to friends using random bar receipts.* There was that one winter I began to carry around a voice recorder to keep track of all my “funny” ideas.** And who can forget that one summer I started wearing ascots.*** But entering New York City’s Board Game Olympiad may be the nerdiest thing I have ever done.
Being that I was good at, you know, actual sports growing up, I didn’t really play a lot of board games as a youth. I always liked Trivial Pursuit but found many of the other major board games boring and more based on happenstance than any sort of skill, something I detest, and avoid. It was a bit of a surprise when a friend e-mailed me one day a few weeks ago asking if I would be the fourth and final teammate on her board game squad. I kindly explained to her what I have just explained to you good folks, that I don’t play board games, I don’t even know how to play many of the more famous board games, and why would she possibly want me on her team.
“You’re the most insanely competitive person I know, I don’t want to lose, and I know you won’t let us.”
She had me there, I hate to lose anything. The agony of defeat is far worse than the thrill of victory. I learned something a long time ago and that is that if you try insanely hard to win at just about anything, you usually will win. So few people in this world put effort into anything. And, assuming most of us have similar levels of innate talent, an incredible will to win will always serve you well. That is, if you want to win like I do. Many people don’t even care whether they win or lose. Those people have already been beaten, not that it matters a lick to them.
I still had one more question, though, before I committed and she read my mind before I had even asked it: “Yes, Aaron, it’s at a bar.”
Good. I will attend just about anything if it is at a bar.
Before heading to the Olympiad’s inexplicable location in the financial district, I had a few tipples. On a recent trip to Chicago to watch Syracuse defeat lowly Notre Dame in football, my friends Graig and Sal acquired some Three Floyds beers for me. Three Floyds is a highly acclaimed American brewery located in Munster, Indiana, but with a terrible distribution reach I had never had any of their brews before. The Three Floyds beers are also the ones I was only allowed access to after taking part in the dreaded Pizza Beer tasting.
Alpha King has one of the coolest beer labels ever, some sort of crazy demon god-monster ruling over us, presenting us with his fine beer. Looks like one of those gold leaf foil insert cards they started putting in baseball cards sets around the time everyone quit collecting. It poured a surprising ruby red. Smell is glorious, seriously hoppy. Bold citrus character, with alotta grapefruit. And, wow, if this is what Three Floyds consider a pale ale, I would love to see what they consider an IPA or DIPA. Simply a great beer. If it’s an IPA than it’s one of the best I’ve ever had, and I feel likewise if it’s a pale ale.
I arrived downtown for the Olympiad a tad early. No other teams or players were there but the organizers were setting up. Some serious nerds here. Imagine how nerdy it is to enter a board game olympics. Now think about the kind of people that want to create and run a board game olympics–unable to participate mind you–only reffing the events. Yeah, pretty nerdy.
After some small talk with the organizing nerds I headed to the bar, ordered a Guinness. “You with the Board Games Olympiad?” the cute blond bartender asked me. I was already humiliated and I wanted to feign ignorance, but it was clear I was and I humbly admitted my reasons for being there. Instead of looking down on my, though, she simply smiled and walked away. She hadn’t been mocking me, even questioning me, she just wanted to make sure I was with them in order that I get my beer for free. Nice! I hadn’t known this was an open bar, but now it all my sense, why else would they have been such a hefty entry fee? Not that I had paid any portion of the entry fee, I’m like a poker player that gets staked, I never pay my own way.
Soon my team arrived as did the other teams. My team wasn’t exactly the Four Tops in coolness, but my god, compared to those other squads we looked like the cast of “Gossip Girl.” The other teams were stocked with major nerds. Men with oversized glasses and scraggly beards, t-shirts with “funny” sayings or retro cartoon characters on them. The women flat-chested little tomboys in baggy sweatshirts, their wispy hair pulled back in unflattering and limp ponytails.
Aside from myself and a fellow male teammate of mine, it didn’t look like another person in the room had ever lifted. And I don’t mean weights. I mean, like, lifted anything: remote controls, forks, soda cans. These were some spindly armed, pencil-necked geeks. Twenty and thirtysomethings that still hadn’t gone through puberty.
The organizers gathered the several dozen teams and explained the rules, something all of us should have already known had we read our introductory e-mail sent a week earlier. I hadn’t read it because it was far too many words long and included no pretty pictures or hilarious FAIL videos. Essentially, the teams would compete in a round-robin format of several games spread over the first couple of hours, some games necessitating only one or two teammates, others needing the entire foursome. At the end of the round robin, the top two teams in the standings would compete in one final surprise game.
First up, I was enlisted to play Battleship while EC played Connect Four and Liz and Kay took on two other girls in Memory. Those are games that seemingly don’t take much skill, are games of much happenstance just as I previously mentioned hating, but my team swept all three events. Suddenly I didn’t hate these games of luck and as our opponents bitched about their bad guessing and bad fortunes, I brought out my best Gary Payton trash-talk, telling them they had just faced some superior opponents and how dare you call Battleship a game of luck. I fucking knew you were hiding that tiny plastic boat on B1 through B4.
After our sweep I hit the bar to order a few more beers for myself. My teammates were worried that my burgeoning drunkness would affect my gameplay but I assured them it wouldn’t. In fact, I explained that I am like professional darts players who aim to enter “the drink,” some non-sober point at which their nerves become most steady, their focus most clear, and their strategy most lucid. They are at one with the dart, their arm just an extension of their mind. I too after a few drinks am at my best in anything: writing, fucking, improvisational insults of fellow bar patrons, Pictionary.
We surged to the leaderboard as we headed to the next round of games. EC and I handled two-on-two Uno, while Liz and Kay battled some others in who could most quickly put together a two-hundred piece puzzle. Again, we swept those two games and lengthened our lead.
Next, our team got to finally join as one for a Trivial Pursuit match with a team consisting of three girls and a guy, one of the lady’s boyfriends. EC and I immediately began goofing on them before the first die had even been rolled and soon they were frazzled. Any time sports questions came up to ask, EC and I would mock celebrate, sardonically chauvinistically telling the “girl’s team” that they would never be able to get the sports question. They crumbled like a house of cards and after we had beaten them by a score of six pie wedges to two, I saw the girl and the guy arguing in the corner about something, she crying, no doubt ashamed that her man didn’t know what city the NBA Grizzlies first played in.
For the final round-robin game, our team faced off against the #3 team in the current standings in four-on-four Pictionary. We had already qualified for the championship, our lead untouchable no matter the result of this final game, but we still wanted to sweep the round robin with maximum points. Unfortunately, that would not be the case as the pedantic Pictionary nerd judge screwed us on several debatable answers and we lost the game.
Afterward, all teams were gathered to announce the final round-robin standings. We finished first with an ungodly score, nearly doubling up second place and causing some nerd in the crowd to call the kettle black by turning to us and decrying us as the “nerds.” Whatever, we made the finals, bitches. Our championship game opponent ended up being the team that beat us in Pictionary, only qualifying for the final due to that victory.
They say the best revenge is living well. Finding out your ex-girlfriend is dating some huge fucking loser is even better. And getting a chance to take down some rival who had just smoked you in Pictionary some ten minutes earlier is the best!
Before the final game was announced I went to the bar for yet another Guinness. The bartender brought me my beer along with a handwritten tab for the six others I’d already had. Apparently I had misread the situation, there never was an open bar set up for us, and I was simply walking away from paying her every single time! Son of a bitch.
I’ll say one thing about the organizing nerds, they were very clever, realizing that by night’s end many competitors would be drunk and tired. Thus, they made the championship match a game of Operation. Now, I had never played before but I have to believe every one understands the concept of the game, one that requires a player to be steady and supple in removing tiny plastic body parts with cheap metal tweezers from a cartoon patient lying on the surgical table. Something that is somewhat hard normally and should be quite harder for some one drunk. Oh, and some of these nerds were now very sloppy.
Long story short, my team removed seven of the thirteen body parts before the other team, and we claimed the victory. As we hoisted the Operation game board like it was the Stanley Cup, we wondered what our victory prize would be. Perhaps a trophy, some celebratory t-shirt, heck, maybe even a nice bar tab. Nope. Nothing. The prize for winning the board game olympics was simply getting to hang with huge nerds for five hours. Oh well, at least we beat them and became king of the nerds.
*Aborted when I realized I was only skillful at making the boring crane.
**Aborted when I got wasted and lost said microrecorder.
***Aborted when I decided I wanted to start meeting women again.