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DipCon at AvalonCon

by David Hood





Well, I was about to go to my first Dip Con held in conjunction with a big gaming convention. Dip Con 27 was held in early August at Avalon Hill's game convention Avaloncon in Hunt Valley, Maryland, just north of Baltimore. I had been to Avaloncon for several years, particularly since the demise of Atlanticon, which used to be held in Baltimore.

It has become customary for several of the Carolina Amateur Diplomats to make the trip to Maryland for a Dip tournament in my van, so that games can be played in the back of the van on the way up and back. (Indeed, last year the van went and I did not...) This year's "VanCon" was as fun as usual, and I didn't even have to drive back (given my complete lack of sleep on Saturday night, Bob Odear and others "suggested" that they drive the van instead of me.)

We ended up taking two vehicles, with Steve and Helen Nicewarner going in their car while Bob Odear, Tom Kobrin, David Harshbarger and Greg Fairbanks going with me in the Van. We played 1830 and Outpost on the way up, both of which I won from the wheel. (Strangely, I have never lost any game where I was playing while driving.) Since we didn't get in until about 2:00 am Wednesday night, we did no further gaming until Thursday morning. On the way back Sunday night, we added Steve Koehler and Ken Mathias to our trip and played more Outpost. Indeed, we never did play our traditional game of Origins of WWII on the way back - a poorly balanced game, but easy to play in the car.

The Diplomacy was not going to begin until Friday night, so that left Thursday for other stuff. Not surprisingly, Bob and I immediately got into a pickup 1830 game in preparation for the 1830 tourney to begin that night. I believe we played some Outpost that afternoon also with some of Tom Kobrin's friends, Bob Sohn and Chuck Krueger, with whom we always game whenever at Avaloncon. (Outpost has become somewhat of a staple with CADs over the past year, but I am not sure it will have the lasting appeal that 1830, Titan and Dip have had.)

Thursday night and Friday day all seem to be a 1830/Outpost blur, although I think I may have actually seen some other games somewhere during that time period. I did purchase for $5 a neat SPI game about the Russo-Japanese War, which is something I wanted to learn more about.

Anyway, on to Dip Con. Jim Yerkey and Bill Thompson were essentially in charge of things as they usually are at AvalonCon's regular Dip event. Their scoring system essentially forces you to try for a 3-way at the least, which is good given the time limits that were in place. However, there is just no way to really fix the problems that time limits impose on the game of Diplomacy. Many, many games just cannot be played in seven hours or less.

This fact reared its ugly head in each of the three games I played. In each, stabs (or lack thereof) were unduly influenced by the time limit. Of course, one could argue that there is always a time limit to any FTF game, i.e. the maximum amount of time everyone is willing to play. However, I think you see my point.

At any rate, I want to take nothing away from Jim and Bill. Time limits were not their idea. I write this report a little too late to remember all the ins and outs of the three games I played, but the most depressing fact remains unforgotten - I was Hammered in the last two rounds and got the Hammered Award to show for it.

The last round was particularly painful. I was on the board with several people whose Diplomacy skills were, let us say, extremely poor. The only problem was that I was Austria, and the only one who knew what was going on much was Carl Willner, playing Turkey. I felt I had to ally with him because I couldn't count on any other ally ordering units correctly. (And Austria can't just take on Turkey alone in the beginning of the game.)

At any rate, I continually hoped for a chance to stab Carl, but never got one - thanks to him and to England, who surprisingly was able to slow our advance somewhat. I then let down my guard, it being close to the time limit at all, and I was smashed like a bug by Carl. Which was proper, given that I had not defended myself well. This was played on Sunday - I really wish I had slept some Saturday night...

Some highlights for me included meeting Don Williams (and driving him in the van to get some fried chicken), seeing Steve Cooley again after a couple of years, and renewing friendships with many Dippers who usually play at the events on the East Coast. I was frankly chagrined at the lack of "Hobby People" in general at the Dipcon, but that is somewhat a function of their being a lot less people in the hobby than there was a few years ago. I was impressed with the play of the Genie players I played with, both here and at PrezCon in Charlottesville back in February.

There was a parallel tournament run on Saturday by Colonial Diplomacy guru Tom Pasko, and a Gunboat event Saturday night that were both well attended, but I played in neither. Apparently the Saturday CoDip final was a frustrating game in that CoDip is just too slow, but I am getting that secondhand. Perhaps Tom Pasko would like to comment?

There was a lot of pickup gaming going on throughout the weekend, as there usually is at AvalonCon. I learned a spades-like game from Steve Cooley called Wizard that was pretty good. I also played some Rail Baron and Eurorails on Saturday night with fun people like Ken Rothstein (who may join the Hickcon fraternity in October, for god's sake.) I talked David Harshbarger into conceding the Eurorails game so I could go to bed at about 2:00, then he talks me into playing 1830 instead. We finished that at 7:00 am, which was just enough time to let me shower and make the 8:00am Dip round. Will someone please remind me not to do that next year?

The Hobby Meeting on Saturday evening was full of vim, as usual. I presided because Jim Yerkey was still busy trying to win the CoDip final. In between eating my fried chicken wings (which, with hot sauce, were really good after a hard day getting stabbed by Lauren Cain, a Genie player), I presided over the selection of Columbus, Ohio as next year's DipCon site from a field of, uh, one contender. This will be the site for the 1996 Origins, with Bruce Reiff, Steve Cooley and Dan Mathias tapped to actually be the DipCon committee. There was also some meaningless debate from some quarters about World DipCon and so forth, but it all ended relatively quickly. I believe that World DipCon is supposed to be held in North America next year, so I believe it likely that the Columbus DipCon will also host World DipCon, as Chapel Hill did in 1990.

All in all, a fun event, even though Bob Odear and Greg Fairbanks did make me eat sushi for the first time. A list of important results is around this article somewhere. Suffice it to say that we had 73 players total, which is a little smaller than last year's DipCon in Chapel Hill, but not by much. Given the waning numbers in our hobby, I thought we had a nice mixture of players. The hobby awards were also announced, with the Miller Award for service going to Andy York, the Koning Award for playing to Bruce Reiff, the Holley Award for participation to Doug Kent, and the Walker writing award going to Ken Walker.

Let's all get behind Bruce and company for next year's event. I don't think DipCon has been in Ohio since the early Youngstown events in the 60's, so it is probably about time. The interesting thing is that there is currently no large Dip tourney in the Midwest at all, or at least not one that is widely publicized, so maybe this DipCon can get things moving up there again.