In the first place, tournament grade board gamers are cold-hearted, merciless lot. They play flawlessly, too. They’re quick to read the board and they just don’t make blunders. The kicker, though, is that racing games are doubly brutal. You might lead the pack, but everyone trailing you has every incentive to take on risks that can propel them ahead. You’re just not going to walk into a convention and do well against these people unless you’ve played the exact game hundreds of times already.
I sat down at the Formula D heat anyway. I’m not even clear on the finer points of the rules, so I was doubly out of my depth. The game is rightfully a classic, extremely accessible to all ages and yet difficult to master.
Somehow I got the pole position. This was actually bad for me because I couldn’t copy other people’s moves! I drove through the first three turns like a maniac, burning through my tires and wearing out my brakes. I was still in the lead, though… but then I missed a roll with exactly the wrong amount. It was extremely unlikely… but it was just enough off to send me into a spin-out.
Somebody at the other end of the table piped up: don’t have to worry about him anymore!
An absolutely crushing remark that put me way down on the tabletop hierarchy. It rolled right off of me. See, this isn’t 2016 Jeffro we’re talking about here. This is 2018 Jeffro… whose very brain has been rewired to accommodate his top lobster mindset. That tail-flick reflex that would normally steer me safely away from conflict and potential humilation? It was nowhere in sight. Flushed with high levels of serotonin, I calmly set myself to taking consistent, moderate risks with essentially no margin for error. And over the course of the two lap game, I found myself passing one tournament-grade player after another until I was in second place.
I was barreling toward the penultimate turn of the game. I needed to land inside it in order to maintain my position and threaten to win. It came down to a two-in-three chance that I could pull it off. If I’d had more of the brakes that I had carelessly spent it the opening phases of the game, it would have been far more likely to succeed. But I throw the dice… and I find myself spinning out for the second time in the game.
It was still awesome. Guys at the table that might have looked right passed me congratulated me on my climb from total irrelevance to “my gosh, he could actually pull this off.” I wasn’t going to the final on this one… but I was awash in a feeling of tabletop glory anyway.
Clawing my way up through this particular bucket of crustaceans was flat out exhilarating.