Sydney SCtory #1: Damp Squid

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Derived from
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captainslow 1087

Prologue

Suburban Sydney rolled by: palm trees, pre-war homes with orange roofs, Thai restaurants, joggers straining to impress each other, and sidewalks studded with dessicated cockroach husks. Home, for a while.

Bretton lounged against the train window, relishing the deliciously air-conditioned cabin. Enjoy it while you can, he thought, shifting his long legs. “I wish I were tall,” they always say. But they have never been tall on a rollercoaster or train. They should be more judicious about what they wish for. Wish to end transphobia or something like that.

“Banter Behind the Throne” tinned in his earbuds over the train’s dull chug. Tony Makos’s lilt brought Bretton back to a land of morning bagpipes, cobblestone closes, and sunsets on Skye, where he had lived before ever playing his favorite card game. Black Betha, bam-a-lam went the refrain.

The cabin was nearly empty, heading outbound on Sunday morning. Bretton retrieved his faded, peeling first edition deck box from his bag. Magali’s Robb Stark art still smoldered, all jubilant brown locks and unknowable frown, as if to suggest, “Stark cannot suck, as one day this artwork will return.”

Inside this beautiful cardboard vesicle was Bretton’s weapon of choice for the tournament, a boring, efficient, cookie-cutter Greyjoy Rains deck. He had been tiring of his favorite house of late, but felt compelled to honor his Drowned God at the first Store Championship of the season. It stood out among his decks in that it lacked a single interesting card choice. But really, what choices were there to make? A cheeky Pirate Santa or a second Newly-Made Lord? Red Wedding or Wildfire Assault? There was no jank to be had this day; Drowned God dominance is a myth; no, GJ Rains has no secrets to yield. Yet, it could counter the netdecked Martell and Targaryen piles Bretton expected to face.

He loped off the train at Epping Station and rode the interminable escalator towards the surface. On and on it went, it must have been a mile, ten miles, so that he lost his balance and could no longer tell up from down. Every moment it got hotter, a reverse Inferno.

It was years later and still that Sunday when he finally stepped into the thick, hellish Sydney air. He knew the way to the store by heart, though he had never been there before. He had passed by it on a bus once, that bus to the farm in the middle of the industrial park, where it had been 47-degrees-Celsius-or-like-117-Farenheit that one time and he had thought the apocalypse was upon him. What becomes of our humanity when the whole world around us is hot to the touch?

Such musings brought him to Good Games Epping. The little retail area opened into a comfortable playing space, with the customary set of folding tables and chairs. In the back of the shop, a 60% off banner invited customers into a cupboard of old, dying, and dead games. I’ll have to explore that later.

“Here for Game of Thrones?” the mohawked Thrones-agnostic shopkeep asked. “What’s your house and agenda?”

Bretton answered, then carefully spelled out his name a few times, until the Jousting Pavilion tag was correct.

“Entry fee is four-point-two billion dollars.”

“Sure.”

The playing space was already crammed with contestants. Michael “Unluckiest Thrones Player in the World” Parris nee Harris was there, Nail Nynas, Ali “Combo Lord” McD, all of the usual suspects plus a few more, even Soe Thura, freshly back from Singapore.

Bretton wished Adem Kolar a happy birthday, wondering if he minded running the event on his nameday or would have liked for somebody else to take the reins.

“Make sure you fill out a decklist,” the stocky Bosnian said.

“Whatever, Adem, I’ll do what I want. Jeez”

Bretton had soon scribbled out his decklist from memory on a blank sheet of A4 paper, which is basically 8.5x11 for you Imperial bastards. He took fleeting pleasure in there being an equal number of 3-cost-and-lower and 4-cost-and-higher characters.

Stephen "The Tackler" Patane hunkered nearby, filling out a list of his own. "What are you playing today?" he asked, all Aussie-rugby-swagger.

"Boring old Greyjoy Rains."

Adem chimed in, "Didn't bring the Targ?"

"Nah, couldn't get it to work in time." The Skanky Daeny Twist would have to wait. "How about you guys?"

"Martell," Adem said. “Wasn’t liking my own Greyjoy Rains.”

Bretton turned to Stephen. "And you still rocking the Martell Fealty?” He was a loyalist to main-house Martell through and through.

“Martell Wolf today,” he said. His voice dropped low. “I’m trying to decide between two plots.”

“Which?”

“Long Plan and Duel.”

“Play Duel.”

“Yeah?”

“I certainly don’t want to see Duel. It has the potential to flat-out win games, and you’re not hurting for openers if you’ve got Fallen from Favor and double Marched.”

“That’s what I was leaning towards. You solidified it for me.”

“Well I can’t say I’m happy. I hate playing around Duel. Hopefully we don’t get matched up.”

Soon, Mr. Mohawk posted the pairings. Nerves were all ajangle. 21 nerd hearts fluttered. Hopes rose like the tide on Pyke. Bretton found his seat and shuffled, mashing his fortune against itself, wave after wave.

I. Christopher “The Smiling Pilot” Lim

On one half of the table: Bretton’s deep blue kraken house card and the fear-inducing pink and pumpkin Rains agenda.

On the other: the same two cards. A daunting mirror.

It was an austere setting. None of the playmats and acrylic tokens and frippery of so many gaming tables. Brett had left a glut of accessories on the other side of the world, ducking baggage allowances from Boston to Fiji to Oz.

Punch-punch, punch-punch, the game began, a hero and his doppelganger sparring. Asha and Urine Crow's Eye and commoners on Brett’s side. Asha and Urine and intriguing Chintarion on Christopher’s. Lordsport Gymnasts sabotaged Iron Fleet Scouts, back and forth, turn after turn.

The board slipped away from Brett, low tide, Rains falling even as he accumulated power. Give the people vittles and they will love you, panem et circenses. 6-1, Brett led, though control of the Iron Islands still eluded him. He couldn’t hold on for much longer.

By the fourth turn, Brett was in dire need of a hero, of deliverance from his own shadow. Desperately he searched for an opening. And then he saw it. A prayer to the Drowned God. A long shot, but a shot nevertheless.

Trade Routes was flipped to fill his coffers. He would need every bit of it to hire his savior: Wex Pyke. Hail the Bastard of Botley. Bretton bestowed seven gold on this mercenary, a tithe barely worthy of such a conqueror. Asha and her uncle could not stand in his way. He would bring a storm of death and destruction.

Christopher’s forces attacked, knocking Bretton with mighty blows. But when the counterattack came, it came like a hurricane. Those Rains hailed a The Red Wedding. Urine and Baby Boo fell at the festivities. The tide had turned.

It was some rounds before Christopher finally relented, staging a final mighty assault by The Chin and King Balon as the kraken banners rose. Bretton withstood the last gasp, and won the day as time in the round was called.

The second round began before Brett had a chance to savour his win. The contestants wished each other well as they parted, two galleys sailing away, one east and one west.

II. Bill “Nye, Knight of” Ren

Once more, Bretton found himself at table two. Once more, squids stared back at him, now accompanied by House of Dreams and the Great Kraken itself.

This time, Bretton’s forces sprang ahead, suppressing Pirate Santa with Accusations of Raunchy Cabin Sex. Reserves of saves piled up on his side, while Bill slowed the game down and hooked Urine and The Chin on opioids. Bill smartly countered Valar with Varys’s Riddle, but Urine was still saved from death, the only sailor left topside. Rains triggered into a Stand Token Machine, and Urine killed his brother Balon in one-on-one combat.

Bill’s ships were lost at sea, their sailors all sent to meet their watery maker. Smooth sailing for Bretton, the wind at his back, the sea open before him. So it was for a few turns, until he seized his 15th power and a second victory.

III. Lunch

Brett felt his stomach contract, pulsing with a dire need to be filled. Surely there must be food somewhere nearby, even in this desolate corner of the city. Stephen and Tim “Hast Mich” Hasenbein were stumbling around the shop; they groaned in pain and cried out in unison, “Feed us! Feed us, you miserable capons! You misers!”

So the three of them staggered to the pub next door. In a starved world as this, the vittles were pricey, so Bretton ordered a simple 1.8-million-dollar hamburger. He then briefly excused himself to pee away the morning’s stress.

CRASH. Brett halted at the sound of shattering glass. But it was only Tim spiking his glass of ginger beer on the stone floor. And why not? Property is a social construct.

When he returned to the corner table, Brett found Tim apologetic.

“I knocked it over with my bag,” he pleaded.

“You don’t need to explain yourself to me.”

“Um--”

“You paid the iron price for that glass and you break it if you want! Smash it! Or discard it like a Salt Wife!”

“That’s pretty misogynistic.”

“What is dead may never die!”

They rushed through their insipid food when it arrived, refreshing Jousting Pavilion all the while to see the next pairings. Tim, gangly and bookish-cum-cool, talked of migraines and rebellious students and his slow eating pace. Bretton sympathized profusely. Steven ate fastest.

Another Pavilion reload and round three matchups were there, blinking at them in green. Sure enough, Bretton and Stephen were paired.

“Well, I have exactly three characters that aren’t hit by Ward, First Snow, or Duel. Let’s hope I see one of them. I don’t want to play this matchup,” Brett moaned.

“We always have good games,” Stephen said, modest and confident.

The trio carried their distended bellies back to the shop, drool spilling over their chins, a sticky, small respite from the heat. They fell into their seats just as the round was set to begin.

IV. Stephen “The Tackler” Patane

First Snow, Ward, Double Marched, Duel, Brett reminded himself. Stephen’s orange and silver house cards sneered at him, the bogeymen of the meta. As long as I keep bodies on the board, I will be okay.

His opening hand was acceptable. Chuds, economy, and most importantly, Urine. His tools were ready, if he could only hold on to them. One 7-coster would stick. One with an intrigue icon was even better.

Stephen lacked the resources Martell so likes to see in the early game. No Dornish Fife Domes, no Tropicana Trees, only a lowly Roseroad that was quickly plundered. The hardy Greyjoy fleet thrives on such scarcity. Urine seized Dornish lands, blue lips smirking.

Bloodied but not beaten, Stephen swung back, but each haymaker was thwarted. A Hand’s Judgment for the Viper Eyes. Ladleflinger for the First Snow turn. A Riddle on Counting Coppers. Icky Shivs turned aside by last-minute saves. Barring the Gates and a Nightmares for Arianne. Twice did the captain of the Silence pillage Varys, who may have orchestrated a reversal of fate had he not been so cruelly set aside.

The relentless Kraken forces raided, sacked, reaved, and none of the descendants of Nymeria could abate their fury.

Bretton waddled back to the train station down the road for an inter-match pee. It was Australia, where bathrooms are nowhere and death is everywhere, in exploded bladders as much as funnelweb spiders.

V. “Long” John Hu

Bretton grimaced at the final pairing. He had faced John once before, when his newly-summoned Beric-to-be-Voltron was discarded for intrigue claim on the first turn. John was his jovial, bespectacled self, setting his Targ Rains deck down with care. Perhaps this game would be more competitive than the last.

But destiny did not smile on Bretton’s setup. A lone Chintarion was manacled and Marched to the wall, sparking sad memories of a particular tournament years ago. An effort to keep bodies on the board turn one was thwarted by Dr. Mirriam M. Durr M.D. and company. It was time for plan B.

Brett played no characters for three rounds, searching for saves, economy, and the right characters, avoiding putting power on his house to steal. He surmised that John was running two resets, so he would try to use that to his advantage.

Just before John’s Dohaeris/Morghulis double whammy was approaching, Brett played out Asha et al., knowing he could keep them on the board. Momentum tilted in his favor, but John’s lead was great.

Bretton stood and stretched his legs, which always cramped when stuck to folding chairs for hours on end.

The eighth round brought the third Valar Morghulis of the match. All men must die, die, die, went the refrain. Asha and a shipwright lorded over a lonely Doreah, but time had been called, and John led by six power. Knowing that both contestants were likely in the cut regardless of the outcome of the game, Brett conceded, eager for another chance at victory.

Adem read out the standings: John in first, Michael Parris nee Harris in second, then Adem himself. Bretton snuck into the cut in fourth place, accepting his creepy Chella mat, Chella deckbox, and ear tokens with relief and befuddlement. What offbeat FFG employee has a Chella fetish, and was it the same one who decided on consecutive Tyrell SC mats for two previous years? What happens at FFG OP? What nefarious additive is in their water? These questions would go unanswered.

A pre-cut deck check delayed the final round, testing memories or thronesdb translations, all of which passed muster.

Bretton browsed the 60% off board game graveyard while he waited. A gigantic bin of first edition chapter packs lay dormant, a paper imitation of Scrooge McDuck’s vault, full of broken and dated playing cards. $1 each, which is also the price for a used condom in Sydney.

“Is there a Bretton back there?” Mohawk called out.

“Yeah, that’s me.”

“Come on, we’ve been looking for you. Round is supposed to start.”

Bretton jaunted back to the playing area.

“I just texted you, where were you?” Michael asked.

“I was like, right over there.”

“Unacceptable.”

Sometimes Bretton did want to hide from the world, but he hadn’t been hiding then.

VI. “Long” John Hu, Again

“I have dreaded this matchup,” John said. “I don’t want to play it again.” John cut Brett’s deck.

“I don’t love Targ Rains either, believe me.” Brett cut John’s deck.

Adem and Michael set up next to them, all of the friendship between them tucked away for now, competitive juices seeping.

The cut had begun.

Bretton’s setup was much better this time, five cards, including Baby Boo (TFoA), a Gymnast, an Iron Mines, a Great Hall, and a Scout. John had a five card setup of his own, with both Piddledingler and a Roseroad. This would be a match.

The early tempo belonged to the squids. Urine led the charge, triggering Rains, pillaging Astapor, and cancelling a first Dracarys!!!!!!!!111!! with a feel-good HJ. Nothing Burns like the cold hit John’s Plaza of Pride, a Newly Made Lord took care of Plaza of Punishment, and John was on his back foot. Or so Bretton thought.

The Plaza of Pride was sitting in the discard pile, ripe for Urine's taking. All he needed to do was win a challenge, any challenge. Bretton overcommitted to a power contest with Wendy, the Lord, and Urine, knowing he would win even in the event of a second Drac.

But what hubris. What irony for this ironborn, thinking he could proudly swipe that Plaza. John had two gold, four cards in hand, and, of course, two standing dragons. Duped Urine was incinerated by double Dracs!!#$#$#$@#!@#!!!!@!!!1111!!. Bretton plunked his warlock captain in his dead and discard piles; his face flashed hot, and tears welled in his eyes.

Then John pulled Asha out of six cards for intrigue claim.

Brett rended his clothing, cursed the gods, spat on his hands for kneeling the wrong cards, swallowed his gold tokens whole.

They enjoyed each other’s company for the next few turns, slogging through another five or so plots, but Bretton could make no headway, and was again down by six or seven power when time was called.

John would go on to defeat Michael’s innovative Night’s Watch Sentient Tree Aggro deck in the final.

It was a glorious day of competition, and a harbinger of jousts to come.

Bretton rode the same graffitied train home, reflecting fondly on his opponents, their kindnesses, their passions, their mutual willingness to play a game with a stranger. The tournament had been well organized, the competition stiff.

The hot Sydney sun was falling in the west, sinking like Bretton’s hopes for an SC win that day, tumbling like a damp squid down a garbage chute. He had only disesteem for himself, and his desire to write so much about so little.

[This was obviously an experiment in tournament report writing. Give me feedback with hearts or stars or critical comments!]

7 comments

Hybrid92 114

I love your write-ups. More please!

  • Adem

2deep99me 78

wow very cool nice

JimmyNovak19 6

As always, these reports are the highlight of any jaunt I take to thronesdb.

Looking forward to the Skanky Daeny Twist!

deaseb 47

This was awesome to read! How long are you in Sydney for?

Patrick 1

I look forward to your write-ups every time. Well done, sir, and nice deck.

captainslow 1087

@Hybrid92``@2deep99me``@JimmyNovak19 @Patrick Thanks dudes!

@deasebCouple months and I'll be back in New England!

chrislimjiaan 1

@captainslowgreat game Bretton =). That 7 gold Wex was hiliarious!