Peggy came rushing into the room, utterly panicked, "It's my Dad! He can't breath, and the paramedics are on their way! I've got to go to him now." I jumped from my chair, and said, "I'll drive you". And so we rushed from our house, leaving behind friends from Illinois, Florida, and all the Game Fandango groceries.
As we drove quickly across town, Peggy's cell phone rang. Her dad's neighbor was on the line, assuring Peggy that John was NOT having a heart attack. In fact the paramedics were there, and were going to await her arrival before they took John to the hospital. We quickly arrived to find her dad in the ambulance, sitting up in the stretcher, and getting some oxygen.
After some brief conversation with her dad, and the paramedics, it seemed clear that her dad, John, was in no immediate danger. But still, being unable to properly breathe was a cause for concern, and he would need to go to the hospital. Naturally, Peggy was intent on going to the hospital.
But I was in a quandary. 2 hours north, 30-40 people were arriving for the 3rd annual Game Fandango. Each year we assemble at a quaint country hostel, where we have communal meals, take an occasional hike through the adjacent national forest, and pretty much play board and card games non-stop. I had all the groceries in my van for the people who were arriving at the Game Fandango that evening. In addition, we had three close friends who were at our home, waiting to go to the Game Fandango.
Peggy and I arrived at a plan. She would take her dad's car to the hospital, and I would return home with her car. I would then take my van, full of groceries, and escort our friends up to the Game Fandango.
Three hours later I arrived at the game party, unloaded the supplies, and told more friends what was going on. It was then I realized that we were so far out in the sticks that my cell phone didn't have service. When I asked the proprietor of the hostel for the common room telephone number, she refused to tell me – explaining that they didn't give it out because they had been stuck with collect phone calls in the past.
Fortunately, I had a telephone calling card. A couple phone calls later and I knew that Peg was at the hospital with her dad. He was going to be spending the night at the hospital. He had undergone a couple tests but they were awaiting the results. John is 82 years old, but normally in great shape. I could tell Peggy was still worried, but nothing new had developed. In fact John was pretty much feeling normal again. After some conferring, we decided I would stay up at the game party and check in after dinner.
The site of our private game party is a hostel nestled in the national forest of northern New Mexico. This was our third year for the game party – all of them held at this exceptional site. The hostel isn't all that fancy, it is downright rustic. There are wood-burning stoves for heat, pelts on the walls, limited lighting, plank benches, moth-eaten furniture, sagging floors, tin roofs, limited bedrooms, mostly bunks, and the most gorgeous setting in the mountains you could ever ask for.
The Game Fandango was the brainchild of my good friend Rob. He contacted me back in 2002 proposing that we put our game groups together for a celebration similar to an event hosted by a mutual friend of ours. Greg Schloesser hosts a biennial game gathering called Gulf Games. Both Rob and I had attended this game party at different times, and we wanted to bring the same sort of fun to our region. We quickly hooked up with our friend, Scott, and arranged the Game Fandango as a way to introduce our three gaming groups, and hopefully start building a New Mexico game network.
Rob knocks himself out to add all the extra trimmings he can to make the event. We've adopted a "Day of the Dead" theme the last three years. Rob had strung Mexican Day of the Dead banners across all the rooms. Our badges were drawn in the same style by Rob's daughter, Rowan. Scattered all around were placards and signs with notable gaming quotes, and welcoming everyone to Southwest Games III. (We call our event alternately Southwest Games and/or The Game Fandango.) Everyone who brought games even had a custom sign and place assigned to stack their games.
For the past few years New Mexico has been experiencing a drought. Consequently our hostel has a limited water supply. As we arrived they asked us to limit the use of the flush toilets, and if at all possible please use the privies. Sadly, the water supply gave out
completely just as we all gathered for dinner. Further, one of our campers set up a tent on a restricted area, and we had to move their
tent just as the light went away. It seemed we were facing adversity on a few different fronts.
Despite everything, thirty or so good friends were on hand. Friends from near and far, and some I hadn't seen for a couple years. Everyone was thrilled to be there, and EVERYONE asked about Peg and her dad. I was in the best place I could be – surrounded by the best friends I have in the world. Poor Rob seemed extremely stressed from coping with setting up, cooking dinner, the lack of
water, and dealing with the hostel management. So I told him that I would begin organizing our evening activity.
After dinner, I had offered to lead everyone present in a communal game. I had been collecting sets of "Take It Easy", a game
somewhat like Bingo. Almost everyone played, and I was so pleased to see most everybody involved in this activity together. It
also proved a convenient way to make a few public announcements about the schedule of events and the water situation. I was
especially pleased to see Rob begin to relax and have fun that evening.
I called Peggy after dinner and learned her dad was resting comfortably. They had done a couple tests earlier in the day, but nothing more was going to be done that evening. A couple more tests were scheduled for the morning, but John's job was just to rest. I suggested to Peggy that she might want to do the same… With no escalation of concern, we agreed I might as well stay put.
I played several games that first evening, and I chatted with most everyone present. The amount of support shown by everyone was
gratifying. I stayed up far later than normal, finally crawling to bed around 2am.
One of the great things about the hostel is how we deal with food. We arrange volunteer cooks for evening meals. I do the shopping, Rob deals with the money, and we put together a plan, patchwork style. Saturday morning's breakfast was a DIY (do-it-yourself) sort of event. I had purchased bagels, schmear, fruit, cereal etc. I love how folks wander in at their own pace. I know of no other game con where someone might show up in their PJ's to grab a banana, and stick around to play a game before getting dressed for the day.
I normally play lots of shorter Euro-games. But of late I've been hankering to play some older, longer, wargames. I had a tentative date with Tim to play an old Avalon Hill game at the con. We both were up and about, so we decided on "Stalingrad" and set out to play. As we were setting up, our friend, Lori, came up and asked what we were going to play. Tim told her, and she wrinkled her nose and said something along the lines of, "ew, an icky wargame". Tim chided her for her casual dismissal of the game, and extolled its virtues to her. Whereupon she decided that she was being unfair, and that she would give it a try! But first she needed a big carafe of coffee for while we played. While she was away, I asked Tim, "So what are we going to do?"
Tim wisely said that he was thrilled if anyone would take an interest in these older games, and that he would team up with her to teach the game – and in fact, he preferred teaching the game anyway. As we set up the game Lori realized that Stalingrad was a 2-player game, and became a bit flustered. But we both told her not to worry about it, and that we were thrilled to make this a 3-player event. Playing the game with Tim as the teacher was great. He taught Lori lots of good wargame concepts, which also nicely reminded me of good habits when playing hex and counter sorts of games. We battled for Russia until about noon, when I decided to resign my position as the Germans.
At noon, I called Peggy to inquire how things were with her dad. With this phone call I fully relaxed. They were done with all the tests, and they were waiting on a doctor to come in and confer with them. John was feeling good, complaining about the food, and wanting to go home. He told Peggy that if they didn't come with some food soon, he was going to take out his I.V. and go get a hamburger.
When I hung up, I was convinced that John was going home later that day.
In the mid-afternoon, my old friend Dianne came to me to say good-bye. I was shocked. It was only Saturday afternoon. We were here
until Monday! But Dianne suffers from poor health, and was overwhelmed by the hustle and bustle of our nearly 40 people present. I could see she was struggling, so I simply gave her a hug, and my regrets for the necessity of her leave-taking.
Towards the end of the afternoon, I saw Scott packing up to leave. I quickly learned that he had some major concerns about the safety of
his son. Sadly, his son got a bad case of lead-poisoning 2 years ago. Scott and his wife went through quite an ordeal coping with his
son's treatment, and the cleanup of their home from the lead contamination. Consequently, Scott was concerned about any
possibility of lead in the hostel's environment. As I mentioned, the place is a bit rough, and quite old. Scott tested for lead, and found it present. Considering the trouble lead has caused in his family's life, I could see how he would have to leave. In addition, Peter and his family also decided to depart. Both of these families have children who are of an age where things tend to go into the child's mouth. I was distressed to see my friends frightened by our site.
I checked in with Peggy at dinnertime. Her dad was at his own home, and she was finally resting at our home. She was nervous about
leaving town to join me, since it was difficult to contact anyone at the hostel. While John was seemingly doing fine, Peg was distressed
that the hospital didn't really know why her father had been unable to properly breathe. After some consideration, I suggested that she just stay home for the rest of the weekend. I explained about the lack of water (we finally had some, but it was to be used slightly), and the departing friends. But mostly I knew that my wife would be constantly worried about her Dad if she wasn't a quick phone call away. It sure felt like clouds were swirling around my favorite event.
But by Saturday evening, albeit with a few missing personnel, the Game Fandango really began to get into full swing for me. I was no
longer overly concerned about my father-in-law, and was really able to relax with my friends. As we played on an entirely hand-made copy of "Conquest of the Empire" (insane production, my friend Bob stained a leather map, cast the coinage, and playing pieces, etc.) I pulled out my single-malt scotch. Conquest of the Empire isn't that good of a game, but sitting around sipping scotch with your friends while playing a beautifully manufactured one-of-a-kind game ain't so bad… We followed this up with a playing of Credo, another game that isn't that great – but highly themed and a remarkable subject. We intoned our variant version of the Nicene Creed, much to the puzzlement of the rest of the folks in the common room.
Sunday brought more gaming, more conversation, and more fun-filled conviviality. I probed folks about their concerns with our site. Rather than report what I heard, I intend to do a more formal survey of our group.
By Sunday afternoon it was time for our prize table event. Before we started the festivities, Rob made a special presentation to one of the ladies, Teri, who has cooked us scrumptious Cajun food all three years. I pointed out to Rob prior to the event, that we ought to do something special for her. Each year she had refused to let me buy the groceries for her meal, nor had she ever let Rob reimburse her for the expense. Rob took my suggestion, and somehow magically found a "Day of the Dead" Apron in Santa Fe. I think Teri was pleased with the special recognition.
The prize table is another tradition we took from Gulf Games. Each family wins simply by contributing something to the table. During the weekend we had one big event (the Times Up group game) and one on-going competition (the Need for Speed). Our winners got an early pull from the prize table, followed by everyone else who contributed. Rob had arranged to get a number of extra games from a friendly benefactor. Everyone was able to get three choices from the table, and many happy smiles were had.
We gamed on into the night. I especially enjoyed being "Dad" to the Waldschattenspiel players. Here is yet another game that
may not be an "excellent game system" – but it rates a "10" in my book. Waldschattenspiel hits you in the heart. Our late night game of Time's Up will last forever in my memory… I have a list of all the games I played, but that isn't really the point of this write-up.
Despite the health scare with my father-in-law, the lack of water, the lead issue, and some trouble with the hostel management –
Despite all of that - I had a great time at my 3rd Game Fandango. I can hardly wait for the next one. And that is how my third
- Last edited Sat May 19, 2007 7:09 am (Total Number of Edits: 1)
- Posted Sat Sep 11, 2004 10:12 pm
what an incredible range of emotions and events for the weekend.
I'm, first, most glad for the stabalization of your father in law's health.
The socializing with your friends, dare I say extended family, and the nights you had together in games...well, that's the absolute best part of this hobby for me and it's why I do what I do to get people to play.
May the health of your family continue and may your memories of the weekend and the past fandangos blossom in your sky like the morning yolk breaking in the pan and spreading warm across the horizon out the window.
That's a tougher situation than the time I inadvertantly scheduled my Fantasy Football league's draft on the night of my wife's birthday. Wow, I screwed that one up. But I got my just desserts. We agreed that that night would be here birthday night out with the girls and I'd babysit (and draft). Well, the league didn't fill up so I ended up not having a draft at all, just the guilt of having one and the loss of brownie points. Doh!