by Keith Avallone, PLAAY Games
It started out as a casual idea on the community Facebook page, and blossomed into a full afternoon of PLAAY! The "2018 Milwaukee Meet-Up" happened Saturday, January 13th at Rockhead's Comics and Games in Kenosha, WI, and here's how it went down...
Back in December, Travis Jansen and Bob Hansen tossed out the idea of a get-together for PLAAY Gamers in the Milwaukee area. Travis and Bob had been part of the group that met in September, 2015 for the 3rd annual History Maker Baseball Fall Classic Pre-PLAAY, an epic event that forged some long-term friendships. I definitely wanted to be part of this, and e-mailed the guys about attending. In short order, the venue was chosen, a Facebook Event created, invitations sent out and we were ON for January 13th!
I arrived in Milwaukee Friday evening, and arranged with Travis and Bob to rendez-vous for lunch Saturday before the meet-up. We decided on "The Brat Stop," a local eatery that's been around forever. Travis said "You can't get more 'Wisconsin' than the Brat Stop," and he couldn't have been more right! PLAAY Gamer Art Campana drove up from the Chicago area, and joined us for lunch. (He was familiar with the Brat Stop himself, says it's where Illinois drivers stop for lunch after getting pulled over by local law enforcement for speeding, haha!) We ate, talked sports, and then the four of us headed over to Rockhead's right around noon.
When we got there, we were met by the rest of the guys. Dan Janezick and Joe Pritchard are more or less "locals." David Little drove down from Madison, WI. George Kwiatkowski drove up from Gurnee, IL and Chad McEvoy and his son Andy made the trip up from Elburn, IL. Long-distance traveler award went to Paul Salzgeber, who came all the way from Cleveland, OH to join us, leaving around 5 AM! In all, we had a group of 11 guys ready for an afternoon of dice-rollin' and sports action!
Rockhead's, BTW, is the biggest game store I've ever seen, in terms of space. It's an old two-story firehouse that's been converted to a game and comic book store, and as such it is SUPER spacious. BIG. The downstairs is packed with games and comic books, the upstairs is all game space. There had to have been twenty tables spread out upstairs. As is the case with most game stores these days, there was a sizeable Saturday "Magic the Gathering" tournament happening at the same time as out event. Yet the Magic guys had all the space they needed, we had all the space WE needed, AND there was ample table space left over! Pretty impressive.
We began the meet-up with introductions. Everyone gave their name, where they were from and a brief few words about their sports game background. Then, we were off and rolling!
We started out with a SECOND SEASON "Fab Four" Football tournament, using the new Late Game Scenario Generator that I'd created for the December newsletter. If you missed it, you can read more about it and download it here. The generator creates a late-game scenario in which both teams have a shot to win—it creates a score, establishes possession, down-and-distance, and field position—and you pick up the game with four minutes to play. This translates into 15 to 20 minutes of real-time game time. With the "Fab Four" format, it's possible to finish an eight-team tournament in 90 minutes or less. We decided to use the All-Time Franchise Great SS teams; I had brought those, along with the 2010 Pro Season team cards. We drew randomly for draft order, and to determine who would play whom. Prior to the event, Travis had used his new 3-D printer to create some field marker "meeples"—very cool!
Here's how the tournament went down—I'm going mostly by memory here, as no stats were kept and I could only be involved with one game at a time...
San Francisco 23 (Joe), New Orleans (Keith) 18. The "Fab Four Scenario" set San Francisco up at its own 36 yard-line trailing 18-17 (six Morten Anderson field goals, that would be about right for a Saints-Niners game!). With Montana, Rice and Craig at his disposal, Joe masterfully drove the 'Niners 64 yards and used up all but 30 seconds of the clock. Yikes. That left me time to run a couple desperation plays for the Saints, none of which worked out. Masterful clock management by Joe!
Dallas (Andy) 23, Green Bay (David) 18. By an odd quirk, we rolled the same scenario score for this game, but different field position and down-and-distance! Here, the Packers led 18-17, but were forced to punt. Troy Aikman and Emmitt Smith keyed the late game-winning drive, and Green Bay was unable to get past midfield to answer in the time remaining.
Miami (Travis) 24, Pittsburgh (Dan) 20. This game happened at the other end of the table, so I don't know a lot of details. Dan's Steelers led 20-17 and had an early stop, Jack Ham with a big play. But Dan Marino connected late to give Travis' Dolphins the win.
Cleveland (Paul) beat Chicago (George) but I don't have the score, I know they actually played twice, as the other games took longer to play. Paul can provide info here. I think I remember hearing that there was a fumble right off the bat that led to a Browns touchdown.
Cleveland (Paul) 24, Miami (Travis) 19. This game was highlighted by Jim Brown's clutch running and a late Marino interception that doomed the Dolphins.
Dallas (Andy) 24, San Francisco (Joe) 21. Great finish to a classic playoff matchup! The Cowboys come from behind with an extended drive, and Montana's late heroics were not enough to pull it out for the 'Niners.
So our "Fab Four" championship featured an unlikely match-up of Cleveland and Dallas! (Well, not so unlikely when you figure that most of the Browns stars are from 50 or 60 years ago, when the club was a dominant league powerhouse!) This remarkable finish featured Cleveland's version of "The Drive." After a Dallas punt angled OB at the Cleveland 4, the Browns took over with 1:50 to play, Cowboys leading 35-32. From there. Otto Graham hooked up with era mate Ray Renfro for two 20+ yard completions! Jim Brown galloped for a couple of sizable runs. Suddenly the Browns had a first and goal from the Dallas ten! The Cowboys defense stiffened, and with five seconds left Dawson comes on to send the game to OT with a 32 yard field goal—it's good! But the Cowboys are called for holding on the attempt, and with the ball moved to the four-yard line, Paul decided to try to win the game then and there. Taking points off the board, wow! The give is to Jim Brown—(wait, not Earnest Byner?)—he crashes across for the touchdown! Cleveland 39, Dallas 35! Your all-time tourney champs, the Cleveland Browns!!
We all agreed that the "Fab Four" format was a winner, although it probably works better as a "Fab FIVE" format. That extra minute makes it a little tougher for one team to run out the clock without the other team getting its hands on the ball, while still keeping the overall game time quick. In any case, we'll definitely feature it as part of the event schedule at PLAAY-Dot-CON in July.
After the football tournament, we talked shop for a bit, a couple guys got lunch. I had brought along a couple game ideas that I'm working on, and we talked about the upcoming release of HMB 5.0. We gave away some door prizes, drawing names out of a hat. Then we moved on to the open play segment of the meet-up.
I joined the McEvoys and Bob for eighteen holes of HISTORY MAKER GOLF at Erin Hills. Andy, Chad and Bob each had pictures from the real thing on their phones, nice! We made "cards" for ourselves, scribbling our qualities on the side of the score sheet, which worked just fine. Andy made a Jack Nicklaus-like card for himself, me and Chad were more middle of the pack in terms of skills. I felt bad for Bob: I had suggested rating him strong with woods, not remembering that iron and recovery skills were so important at Erin Hills. (To Bob's credit, he never complained!) Andy grabbed an early 4 stroke lead, but a double bogey on 7 brought him back to earth. After nine holes, me and Bob were at even par, Andy and Chad were both two under. Many memorable moments here but the biggest was an Unusual Result on 11, where Andy had an opportunity to go in the zone by sinking a gimme birdie putt—and then he rolled a 6-6!!! So no birdie, no zone, just a fat red chip!
As it turned out, though, Andy played Like he was in the zone anyway, with birdies on the last four holes to win going away. I scored pretty well on the back nine, too, but couldn't make up any ground. Meanwhile, Chad posted bogey-bogey-double bogey scores, to drop out of contention. Bob struggled with Erin Hills' tough terrain and the semi-UTILITY rating we had given him for irons (Sorry Bob!). Our final scores: Andy, 6 under 66; me, 3 under 69; Chad, even par 72; Bob, 3 over 75.
While we were golfing, Dan and Paul played hockey with the All-Time International Great Teams cards, USSR vs. Canada. David Little was interested in learning more about the hockey game, so he took over for Canada In the second period, with the score 2-2. (They finished the game after I left.)
Joe and Travis played some HISTORY MAKER BASEBALL with Bob's awesome enhanced Century League cards, Gotham vs. the Bronx. (Bob re-did his cards to include spiffed-up graphics, team logos and 1930s-era action photos!) They put the game on hold for a half hour to join me, Bob and Paul for a DEMO DERBY SMASH-DOWN event, just the five of us, which was total fun. It came down to me and Bob, both of us with severely crippled cars, Bob's engine light was on, but he kept it running until the bitter end—I managed to eke out a hit that KO'd Bob’s car for the win.
I wish we would have had time to run another heat using the DDSD strategy cards and double-down rules, but by that time it was almost 5 pm and I had to get back to the airport for my flight back to Denver. Wow, that was a fast five hours! But SO much fun!
The event continued on after I left, with baseball, hockey and some soccer played as well. Thanks so much to Rockhead's for allowing us to meet and play there. Thanks also to Travis and Bob for making the arrangements for this awesome event! For future reference, I'm always willing to consider making a trip for something like this if time allows. So if you arrange a similar meet-up with gamers from your area, please let me know about it, and I'll try to be there!