Odds and Ends: The Greatest Board Game Tournament of all Times
First things first. Yes, my game name is Drewby. I’m not embarrassed, but we don’t need to make a big deal about it.
My wife, Maren, and I were introduced to modern board games early in our marriage, about 20 years ago. We had much less money available for games back then and we often received hand-me-down copies of classic euro games like Puerto Rico and Settlers of Catan. In the years since, board games have played a big part in our family. I dare say it is one secret to a successful marriage…those who play together, stay together (as long as you’re also nice people). But, while we play a lot of games, we don’t play a large variety of them. This is probably partly for financial reasons, but it's mostly because my wife hates learning new games. So, we love games, but we, as a couple, get pretty attached to certain ones.
One such game, that is both a hand-me-down and a family legend, is Attika. It was designed by Marcel-André Casasola Merkle and first published in 2003 by Hans im Glück. The classic version, which has beautiful art and graphics, is set in ancient Greece. Sadly, it’s out of print now. It’s been reimplemented with a new theme under the title of US Telegraph, but my wife and I don’t officially recognize that version. Over the last 15 years or so, we’ve gone through lots of phases where, for a period of 6-12 months, we’ll only play Attika…usually every night. I can say, without reservation, that my wife and I have probably played Attika more times than anyone else on the planet...with the exception, maybe, of the designer himself. So, of course, we have debated about who is actually the best between the two of us (essentially the best Attika player in the world). This went on for some time.
Until one day, when we decided to settle the argument once and for all…and began one of the greatest dramas ever known! We decided to do a tournament. Now, we have done hundreds of tournaments in the past, with a variety of games. A seven game tournament is something you do over breakfast…this required something more. It was agreed that a 50 game Attika tournament (first to 26 wins) would be appropriate. This started in 2018, I believe, and the competition went on for months and we recorded every game on a sheet of paper. But, in the end, Maren won. At that moment, I began to feel like 50 games was not actually the most appropriate number to determine who was best. So, I proposed a best-of-three 50 game tournament (potentially 150 games in total), which she agreed to. Obviously, Maren won the first 50 game round of the tournament. If she won the next round of 50 games, she’d be, hands down, the best player in the world. I was fine with that. But, alas...she didn’t. I did. That’s right…I DID!!!!!!! (imagine an obnoxious, cocky, celebratory dance). One more round of 50 to go. This last round took a while and we were very near the end (I had won 21 games, Maren had won 19), when we took a long break from the game…maybe 6 months. Here’s where it gets spicy.
After our little hiatus, I proposed that we should finish our tournament. But Maren contested that our break from playing de-legitimized the tournament. And then she ripped up the score sheet! She just ripped it up into tiny pieces!!!! I still can’t believe it! We were at least 100 games into a marriage-defining 150 game competition and she destroys the official record of that competition. To this day, she believes that 6 month break meant the end of the tournament and feels justified in her actions. Everyone reading this knows, of course, that that is ridiculous. I collected all the scraps of the old score sheet and attached them to a picture frame in our bathroom, prominently displayed so my wife would not forget her bad behavior. And then we tried to move on as if nothing had happened.
Until Maren’s birthday the following year. After months of artistry, I presented my wife with a handcrafted, rustic chalk scoreboard capable of recording 150 games and explained that we were starting over again. After struggling for months with the guilt of her shameful deeds, she was ready to make things right. She agreed to start over. The design of the scoreboard necessitated a different format for scoring. We’d start with a best-of-7 game…first to 4 wins the “zone”. Then the first to win 2 “zones” won the “row”. Finally the first to win 4 “rows” won the tournament. Technically that was a possible 147 games, but it would work. Completing this tournament took a while (about a year), but, after an epic back and forth, we came to a final result. In my opinion, its just good karma. And incredible skill.
Maren is still a little sore, for sure. But our the emotional wounds are healing. I feel pretty good, actually.
Fun note: In the course of this double-150 game impossible tournament, we wore out one copy of Attika (cards are bent bad and the whole thing smells) and we’re almost through another. We recommended this game to a young couple, friends from church, about a year ago. We couldn’t give them the newer copy we were using for the tournament, so we gave them the old stinky one. But we felt so guilty (and a little grossed out) passing that one on, that we ended up buying another new copy and giving that to them instead. The stinky copy is in our closet. You'd think this would be a plug for sleeving your cards. But, this is, in fact, one reason why I don’t sleeve my cards. Not because I love odorous games. But because if you love a game enough to destroy it from use, it’s worth buying again and again. I will happily give the designer and publisher of such a game my money.