Treasure Hunt Part 2
[This is a leftover blog from our days cleaning out the Vermillion garage.]
After lowering down another pile of boxes using my ingenious pulley system (The pulley was so much fun to use that I found myself regretting its efficiency toward the end. The better it worked the less I got to use it.), I noticed several tiny particolored cardboard squares littering the garage floor like confetti. My stomach lurched as I recognized the precious elements of Scorched Earth, the enormous war game that Nate and I have been playing, off and on, for 17 years.
Scorched Earth allows its players to re-enact the eastern front of World War II, the great land battle between Nazi Germany and Stalinist Soviet Union. With a rule book stretching to 87 pages, and each two-week game turn taking Nate and me a little longer than two weeks, Scorched Earth is for serious war game geeks only. Shown here are the German 61st infantry division and the 108th engineer regiment (with an Australian dollar for scale), both of which came to grief at the gates of Leningrad.
Nate moved to Brookings in the eighth grade and, because my friend Chris was his peer natural helper (whatever that was), and we had the same home room, and we quickly recognized each other as members of the same social class (Geeks, But Not Totally Irredeemable*), we agreed to hang out. During our very first afternoon of hanging out, Nate introduced me to wargaming. I’d played the odd game of Risk before then, but The Battle of Krynn was far more complex, confusing, and wonderful.
In my memory, we graduated from wargames that could be played in an afternoon to Scorched Earth in a matter of months. I remember Nate selling me on it (it cost something like $150), by emphasizing its hugeness (3000 game pieces and an eight-food wide playing space), and then for the rest of our school days we spent a lot of our time searching for a place to put it, setting it up, putting it away, and then looking for another place to put it. At one time or another it resided on a ping-pong table in Nate’s basement, on the floor in my basement, and on the floor of Nate’s bedroom, necessitating a tricky double jump to get from his bed to the door.
We play it via email now, so there’s no need to bargain for playing space and, I suppose, no need to treasure a few cardboard counters. But one look at the 61st and I’m carried away by a sense-memory of basement murk and dust, my fingers cramp into the uncomfortable claw necessary to organize and move with precision a stack of eight little cardboard squares, and my mind slips into thoughts of diversion and counterthrust, the search for a weakness in the defense, and the decisive maneuver that will, for the smallest and most personal stakes imaginable, bring triumph.
*The male social strata of Brookings Middle School, from least to greatest:
Geeks, But Not Totally Irredeemable
Violent Criminal Lunatics
Those Who, Because of Their Aptitude For Football and Basketball, Are As Gods