The Gathering in the Desert is over, and it was a fantastic event. I will do all I can to make it again next year.
Tim McKnight, the manager of Collectormania, and I had been planning our trip for a couple of days. His army was almost completely painted a year ago, he only had to add a couple of models. We both made up our display boards at the last moment. They were functional but not all that hot. The only good thing about mine was that the holes were cut in such a way that when the first four rows were filled I was broken. It acted as a nice score board for both my opponent and I.
Keith, the other Colorado player, was flying down. I offered to carry anything he might not want to take on the plane as we had plenty of room in the SUV. He chose to send his display board with us on the way down, we brought his army and paints back with us. It turns out, by the way, that you can't take a whole bunch of bottles of paint on the plane. TSA and Keith had it out, guess who won? Keith ended up checking his army. The Sabol army case worked as designed and the army arrived with no damage. Good stuff, but nail biting for Keith. The other problem that Keith had was that, as a physician, he has been told that he can work for days without sleep. When we got down there he was down two days on sleep, minus about three hours. The night before the game he stayed up all night finishing his army. He finished as Tim and I were heading for the door for breakfast.
Tim and I met up at the store at 0530. It had snowed overnight and I was a little bit concerned about the drive. As it happened, getting out of the parking lot at Collectormania was the worst part of the drive. We loaded Keith's display board and Tim's stuff into the car and we were off. The drive down was great. Good conversation all the way and an easy drive. We made good time and got straight to the hotel with no issues. Once we were checked in we called Keith, got handed around for awhile, and got directions to the store.
Empire Games is an impressive venue. They have twenty (or so) 4x6 tables, tons of terrain and the largest stock that I have ever seen. The store is brightly lit and the staff were great, helpful but not pushy. Tim spent some time checking the place out, professional curiosity.
We checked in on Keith, who was playing in the March to Mt. Doom. We met a few of the other guys and got directions to a local Mexican place. Dinner was great and the beer was a godsend. We hit a grocery store, since I had forgotten my ditty bag at home. It turns out that in Arizona you can buy real beer at the grocery store. We found some good Colorado beer, no local beers were in sight. Once we were done we found our way back to the hotel. At this point we were feeling pretty good about our ability to get around town. It helps that Mesa is laid out on a grid. Good system. I wonder why we don't do that so much in Colorado.
Tim and slept like crap. Hard bed, too hot, too cold. I was looking forward to sleeping in, being away from my boys, but I was up at 0600. I jumped in the shower and headed down for some coffee. The hotel had breakfast set up so I ate and waited for Tim. He got down, we called Keith, who was alive and awake but not really all that with it. It took a few minutes to get to the store and get our armies and display boards into the store and we were ready to go.
I'll cover the games in separate posts. The day flew by. I enjoyed all three of my opponents and the tables were gorgeous. I learned something in each game I played. My opponents were all great sportsmen and very reasonable about everything. It was the best day of gaming I've had, at least from a fun point of view.
Not so great from the gaming stance as I started out with a Major win, then a draw and ended with a total shelacking Major loss. Over the course of the weekend I played against the best overall, Best General and 3rd Best General. I learned a lot at least.
When we were done gaming for the day we all headed out for dinner again. Since people were coming from all over the country they wanted Mexican. Tim and I volunteered the place we had eaten the night before so we headed over. Most of us even found the place. Dinner was good and the company was great. The dinner ended up sitting a little heavy though. Back to the hotel, drink a beer, watch some curling on TV. Hit the rack.
The second night was no better than the first, and the third was just as bad. Day two was a shorter day, only two games. My first game of the day was no fun at all but the last one was great. I ended on a high note at least. The awards were given out and Tim won best sportsman. That was all he was really gunning for at this point so he was very pleased. Jeremy, who we had met there and fallen in with, won 2nd best sportsman.
I packed up my army and board and talked with everyone about their games and weekend. I was sad it was over but I was also beat and not looking forward to the drive the next day. Anyone who had not already left went to dinner again. A bunch of us headed back to the hotel and Tim and I picked up some beer. We got a variety pack of New Belgium as Jeremy had just been snow boarding in Denver and was raving about the beer. He was thrilled and we burned through the beer while we all sat around and talked through the games, history, sports, women, whatever.
Tim and I slept badly again so we were up early and out of the hotel. The drive started out well, a little overcast. As we got farther north we transitioned to rain, snow, harder snow, freaking BLIZZARD in ARIZONA and back to snow. It took us two hours to finish the last twenty miles before Flagstaff. It turns out, oddly, that Arizonan's can't drive in the snow. If they weren't driving really, really slowly, they were in the ditch.
Once we were out of the traffic jam/blizzard we grabbed some breakfast and got back on the road. The drive was reasonable until we hit Santa Fe and it got crappy again until we hit the Colorado border. At that point the roads were clear and dry and the rest of the drive was easy.
I had brought the Fellowship of the Ring on CD so we listened to that on the drive back. Tim had not read the books and was surprised by how different the books were. We both agreed that the first few chapters of the Fellowship could have been tossed out the window and no one would notice.
We hit town about two and a half hours later than we had planned. I dropped Tim off at the store at 2100 and headed home. Mama and the boys were all racked out but I woke each one up for hugs an kisses, then went to bed myself.
As I said at the beginning, this was a great event. The blizzard aside, the trip up and down was great. I can't wait to head back to Phoenix next year. Tim and Dean put on a great event and Tim's wife did all the book keeping, so thanks to her as well.