Got no sleep at all on Thursday night - a late LJ entry, work on a secret project with ericklendl (did you receive the Bcc:, Erick?) and late packing put paid to that. Caught the coach to Oxford without any problems; happily, I managed to get quite a bit of sleep en route. The journey used to be faster than it is now; these days, the coach stops at Woodhall service station both ways, which is very dull.
Arrived at Oxford a few minutes early (!) so waited at the bus station. cygnusfap kindly dropped by a couple of minutes later and zorac was only a little further behind. Like any self-respecting spods, we went to the Internet café next door to check LJ (hey - at a pound for a half-hour, much cheaper than a pub). We found a sufficiently inexpensive train that we have nearly convinced cygnusfap to come to MacT00bage next weekend. Hurrah.
As previously planned, around a dozen or so of us (mostly from the Oxford University Diplomacy Society) met up at Oxford Laser Quest for a game. I suspect that over the last eight years or so I have probably played the equivalent of between 75 and 100 fifteen-minute games there; after so much practice, I know the arena moderately well, I know the routes that players are likely to take and have developed some accuracy at aiming. Most to the point, I have developed some sense of the timing and routine of the game. I'm competent at it; not a vast degree of natural talent, but generally a cut or two above the general public and reasonably competitive against those who have played several tens of games. One day I'll write about the different laser games that exist and what I do and don't like about them, but in short they're all good to various extents and the quality of the game experience is far more about the company you're in than anything else.
Anyway, this year I came 3rd out of 15, behind non-LJ-ing dear friend Phil Hannay and his wife Sarah. Phil is known as a bit of a LQ stud, but amusingly his wife cleaned house to win; this may have been the first time that she had won a game with Phil in. I was satisfied with the way I was playing, managing to get five consecutive hits without reply a couple of times, and thoroughly enjoyed the game. My equipment worked well; fifteen minutes of play was just enough to visit all the areas worth playing before I got too exhausted either in my legs or my trigger finger. One of the gentlemen (who shall remain anonymous) who won one of our two games the previous year finished last this year, so equipment quality (as ever) remains a factor. LQ also had an Addams Family pinball table with replay at an absurdly low 32,000,000 (hmm - maybe so low because the machine wasn't in good condition?) but we didn't have time to play it.
We then went for a curry at Uddin's, which is principally distinctive for serving seven different condiments with your poppadom. Decent-to-good food, good portions, medium-high cost (£15 for poppadoms, starter, curry, rice, drinks and tip), decent service, mediocre speed. It isn't the Dilshad, but then only the Dilshad is. After that we decamped to Gordon's house for more games: failed to protect my starting city in Settlers: Cities and Knights and couldn't recover, followed by a Chairman's Game with four of the seven players quite heavily drunk to the point of interfering with normal principles of sane gameplay. Very entertaining, but not the best actual game. My experiment of shuffling the cards from Zirkus Flohkati into the main deck had the shock value I was hoping for, but won't be repeated.
Phil Williams then drove me and Phil Hannay back to Phil Hannay's house where we were staying for Friday and Saturday nights. We settled in easily (I was in a sleeping bag on top of my carry-mat and some sofa cushions) and caught about 5½ hours sleep before a shower, a banana and a bus into Oxford to permit Phil to drink. :-) Saturday is Diplomacy day at OxCon, a game which I've played, disliked and play no more. Instead I played random other games all day: Outpost (excellent space-themed development/auction game, gemuetlich-a-go-go), Taj Mahal (clever, complex cardplay whose strategies I don't get to the point where I don't enjoy the game) and more. Mid-afternoon, my lack of sleep caught up with me and I had to break for a sit-down/lie-down to recover - not so easy in a pub with a games con. zorac came and played games all day, which was a treat as I hadn't previously reckoned on him as a particularly proactively keen board gamer; alas, the_maenad was missing (double alas, through illness). I do hope you're feeling better now, Sandra.
Evening: watched people play indeterminate-low-double-digit-number-to-1 as per the Bill Stewart quiz show. Must remember next year that taking part really is more fun than watching. A large party then advanced to the Moonlight Tandoori on Cowley Road in time for our 8pm booking. It did have a good reputation, but performed badly this time: unexceptional food, a particularly disappointing starter, medium-high cost (£15 for poppadoms, starter, curry, rice, drinks and no tip other than a short written note of complaint), lousy service, poor speed - the mango lassi that I ordered before the poppadoms came didn't arrive until after I'd finished the curry. Admittedly Saturday night is absolute peak time and it's a big place, but another table had a drinks-related billing query and the overall effect was sufficiently poor that I would recommend avoiding the Moonlight Tandoori. I can't help wishing that I had carried out my threat to lead a rebel party to the Kashmir Tandoori two doors up, which serve Chicken Tandoori soup as a starter and banana lassi to drink. *smacks lips*
We returned early to Abingdon and finished the evening with a three-player Lord of the Rings. (We were going to add the Friends and Foes expansion, but I declared myself too tired for anything new.) We started with Sauron on 15 and he just would not move. About half-way through Helm's Deep we decided it would be very cool if we won with Sauron still on 15, but unfortunately we bought one fewer Gandalf than we could have done, conceded one more die roll than we needed to and ended up winning with Sauron on 14 instead, which is nowhere nearly as cool.
Bed. Sleep. Apparently I snored. MacT00bage folk, this is your fair warning: if I'm stressed or uncomfortable then I do sometimes snore at nights. I understand there are excellent reasons why the beds have already gone, so I expect to snore and will not be offended in the least if I am banished to a cupboard.
The car ride into Oxford on Sunday morning preceded the usual parking-in-Oxford difficulties. All the same we made it to the Mitre well in time for the Settlers of Catan tournament; this year it attracted eight boards, one down on last year's record of nine. This year also saw five rounds of sixty minutes (or slightly more) instead of four of eighty, which worked well. All five of my games were losses, but I played reasonably well and enjoyed all five. Twice I came close to winning, three times I came up against a superior player who I clearly had very little idea how to beat. I finished 19th out of 32 - top of the players who hadn't won a single game and also top of the four Chrises for the prestigious "Best Chris" non-prize. A particular favourite game was one in which I placed one settlement on the triple-rock and the second on the double-wheat - though it was argued I should have placed it on the triple-sheep which might have given me access to both sheep and rock 2:1 ports.
After game five, chrisvenus and beingjdc turned up, which was a thrill; I hadn't seen Chris for a couple of years (since a maths reunion, I think) and John for possibly five, so I really appreciated that they made the effort to drop by. beingjdc is up to a great wheeze: standing for the vacant Chancellorship of Oxford University, as discussed elsewhere. He has done his homework on this and clearly fulfils the requirements. On top of that, he's doing it for charidee. Fingers crossed he'll be able to force hustings and show up Chris Patten, the last governor of Hong Kong. Watch this space - or, better still, beingjdc itself.
Evening: Lost Cities tournament (adopted a 0-2 position from another Chris who left the tournament and turned it into a 4-4 position), went out controversially for pizza at Pizza Hut. The six of us opted for both the Treat For Two and the Feast For Four, pausing only to substitute potato skins for the chicken wings and add another large pizza just to fill people up. We tipped well and yet escaped with only paying £8 per head for a pretty sizeable feast - two medium slices, two large slices, two garlic breads, one potato skin and unlimited Pepsi.
After that I stayed overnight on Sunday at Gordon's house, watching about the first 20 minutes of the Superbowl before I fell asleep. Travel home on Monday was easy and uneventful; I returned to see 170 messages on my Friends list (over 84 hours) and a mere 960 mail messages, of which junk outweighed 95%+-mailing-list not-junk by 531-429. An excellent weekend!
Time to catch a little sleep - the MacT00bage Express leaves in just over eight hours...