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The Dreaded Cold Streak

Chris Tannhauser
United States
San Diego
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"Writing will make people lazy and stupid." —Socrates

After coming off a hot streak of back-to-back wins in High Frontier in which I dropped much pain from Highly Eccentric Orbits and then a Race for the Galaxy drubbing that was embarrassing to witness—nearly doubling everyone else's score—I wake in the gutter, one eye swollen shut, a halo of dark blood and brighter teeth ringing my head. I take a breath and gasp at the pain of broken ribs, entering a coughing fit that whites out the vision in my good eye. Damn this hobby. Damn it to hell.

How did I get here? My "friends" began to grok High Frontier, or at least one "friend" in particular. Now he's on the back-to-back win streak and all I got was dead crew orbiting Comet Encke and a gaggle of mutely emaciated Cosmonauts outposted in not so much a Mars "Base" as a broken-down Winnebago whose naugahyde seats are coated in grime and assorted biofilms. I can only imagine they committed suicide after watching the second relief mission light up the night sky with a fireworks display of incandescent food, porn and cigarettes. Perhaps Alexiy popped his helmet seals right then and there, unable to stomach the idea of another two years of eating hydrolyzed feces. What will History say about the arrangement of mummies in the front yard, with its careful pathways of rock and plastic flamingo? Did Vladi run? And what was Sasha doing with a gun in space? Shooting Vladi through the mission patch by the looks of it. Will future historians mention the stench in the hab? Probably not, so we're left to think on it here. As you can see, this stuff bothers me a great deal.

Then last night it was two games of Pandemic, a co-op, sure, but I can't help but think I let us all down. I just couldn't torch that entire village. Couldn't do it. I cried on the evac helo all the way to Greenland. Twice.

And Tichu. Normally a larf, smack-talkin', card-tossin' good times. Only this time the wives were sandbagging, claiming they had nothing even remotely resembling a Tichu, feigning confusion and hopelessness to rope us in until one of them does, indeed, go out first, exclaiming with mock surprise, "Well, look at that!" Final score 985 to -280.* It was a tap on the shoulder, a beer bottle across the brainpan, legs kicked out from underneath and the kiss of Mother Earth as the Tooth Fairy licks her lips. Then it's boots, and dragging, and more boots until a panicked darkness claims you.

This morning I thought I'd treat the wife to some Ticket to Ride—that's always nice, and, really, what could go wrong? The coffee's hot and so is she in her flannel jammies. Which is nice. I nearly lapped her on the board, and as we were rounding into the final stretch I thought about how best to couch the apology for the wicked beating even as Ash and Admiral Ackbar were screaming at me silently from behind the interface with the Phantom Zone, mouthing the words we all know—

She laid out her tickets and spun the table to get her bit to go around enough times to encompass her enormous score.

And so here I lie, as repellent to polite society as I am attractive to stray dogs, resolved to bring Candy Land to Easter dinner and give the nieces hell.

*We play to a delta of 1000 instead of 1000 proper to keep epic beats as short as possible. Not that it made a difference here.
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