Can these four men save the world from ultimate destruction?
I force Bettman, Daly, and the Fehr brothers to play a Cthulhu board game with me to teach them a lesson about teamwork.
Part 1: Introduction
Zero progress on the CBA negotiation front. Gary Bettman, Bill Daly, and the Fehr brothers aren't even talking to each other, as far as anyone knows. The season hangs in the balance. We may already be too late.
Clearly, something has to be done. These people don't seem to know a damn thing about compromise, teamwork, or sacrificing for the greater good. Luckily, I have come up with a way to teach the Big Four of the CBA negotiations all of those things: by forcing them to play a game of Arkham Horror.
Since the vast, vast, vast majority of people reading this won't have any idea what Arkham Horror is, I'll try to summarize it briefly: Arkham Horror is a giant expensive asshole of a board game based on the writings of H.P. Lovecraft and others, in which players take on the roles of 1920s investigators working together trying to stop a big monster from waking up and destroying the world. It takes forever to set up and even longer to play, there are a billion pieces, and the players all lose far more often than they win.
It's really fun. I promise.
Since Arkham Horror is way hard, players are forced to cooperate or die. Compromise and teamwork are absolutely essential. Bettman and the rest of these assholes are going to learn how to play nice together or they're going to get torn apart by space-insects from beyond the moon.
(Surprisingly, this isn't the first time this game has been linked to the lockout. In fact, some people have even suggested that part of the reason we haven't seen any progress during the CBA negotiations is that the league and union reps have been playing Arkham Horror instead of actually trying to come to an agreement.)
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Part 2: Set-up
I invited Bettman, Daly, and the two Fehrs to my home (I will not comment on reports that I lured them there with promises of "money-flavored ice cream") and, once I had explained my plan (and my guests realized all the doors and windows were locked) they enthusiastically agreed to play.
Since I wanted the guys to have a good time (in fact, this was MANDATORY), I allowed them to pick their own investigators, rather than randomly selecting them as is the usual practice.
Gary Bettman chose Mandy Thompson. Mandy is a researcher whose special ability allows her to re-roll any player's roll, once per turn. Everyone knows Bettman loves rolling stuff back, so this is a perfect fit.
Per my suggestion, Bill Daly chose Michael McGlen, a gangster who starts the game with some dynamite and a tommy gun. I don't have any real reason for having Bill play Michael, except that Bill Daly really looks like a mafia goon:
Donald Fehr played Harvey Walters. Harvey is a professor with the special ability "Strong Mind," which reduces any sanity damage he suffers. He's the most mentally resilient Investigator in the game, which seems perfect for Don Fehr.
Finally, Steve Fehr chose Kate Winthrop, a scientist with a special ability that prevents evil hell-gates from opening in her location. It's a nice fit for Steve, since that is basically what was happening in that meeting without Bettman or Don Fehr, until that whole thing blew up.
I probably should have had one of the Fehr brothers play as George Barnaby, who is actually a lawyer in the game, but he's from the Innsmouth Horror expansion, which I don't have and which is like fifty bucks - far too much to spend just to write this stupid article.
For the main villain of the game, I've decided on Azathoth. Azathoth is the embodiment of pure madness and destruction, and so seemed like the perfect fit to represent the looming threat of a completely cancelled season.
Our heroes (Bettman and crew) will lose if too many hell-gates open and Azathoth wakes up (in many ways, Arkham Horror is just a Lovecraft-themed version of Don't Wake Daddy). To win, they'll need to close and seal gates as they open until the stars are no longer right, and the threat of Azathoth passes. Will these four men be able to put aside their differences and work together in order to save the city of Arkham, the world, and all of us from doom? Read on and find out!
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Part 3: The Game
What follows is a live transcript of the major events as they unfolded during our game.
Here's what the game looked like after the initial set-up:
and here is a close-up of the character sheets:
Arkham Horror veterans will notice that our heroes actually got really lucky in terms of their random items. Bettman has a revolver and is a skilled marksman, Daly has a magic weapon to go along with his machine gun and dynamite, Don Fehr has the super-powerful healing stone, and Steve Fehr has a damn flame-thrower and a spell that literally lets him create money*.
* = at this point REAL Arkham Horror nerds will have noticed a powerful, borderline-cheating combo in the random player cards that have been dealt. It's a bit complicated, but we'll see if our heroes figure it out!
As the game begins, a gate has opened to the Abyss and we have three monsters roaming the streets of Arkham. For those of you unfamiliar with the game, all those things I just said are bad, and the situation will only get worse from here.
On turn one, Bettman announces that he is going to gather clue tokens. He tells Bill Daly to go hang out near the monsters in case he has to kill them (it's often better to just ignore them for as long as you can) and tells Don and Steve to try and sneak past the monsters to get in to the gate and close it.
Don Fehr says "No, that's stupid, we're not doing that."
Instead of following Bettman's instructions, the Fehr brothers trade some objects between themselves and head towards the shops.
On turn two, a gate to the Dreamlands has opened in the woods, with a warlock guarding it. Gary Bettman proceeds to charge into the woods holding his dynamite and blows the warlock to hell. Bettman goes into the Dreamlands, and will have a chance to close the gate once he comes back out.
Bill Daly, dutifully following Bettman's orders, shoots a cultist to death with his tommy gun in the city streets.
The Fehr brothers's plans become clear: the crafty lawyers HAVE figured out the powerful combo of combining the healing stone and the alchemical process spell, which will let Steve create three dollars a turn, giving him unlimited money to spend on powerful items.
The Fehrs announce they plan to focus on this strategy in the game. Gary Bettman roles his eyes and says "That's totally cheating," and Don Fehr responds that Bettman should "Just leave us a voicemail about it, you whining bitch."
Oh, and Steve Fehr burned a cult leader to death with his flamethrower.
So far we're seeing some pretty great teamwork within the league reps and the union reps, but not a lot crossing over those lines. I take the opportunity to lecture the four at length about the whole damn point of this exercise, and we move on.
Turn three is uneventful. Bettman proceeds safely through the Dreamlands. Don Fehr fails to help an old gypsy fight off a mugging in the park (Bettman snorts derisively). Daly and Steve don't do much.
On turn four, things take a bad turn. A whole bunch of monsters show up, and effectively pin Steve Fehr in the shop where he is trying to purchase powerful items. He's committed to the infinite-money strategy for the moment, whether he likes it or not - but once he HAS the item, getting it out of the shop might be tricky.
In other news, Gary Bettman has returned from the Dreamlands and Bill Daly shoots about a million holes in a witch in a heroic effort to protect his buddy Gary.
Bettman then seals the gate at the Woods, which means the players are 1/6th of the way to victory!
Turn five begins with several minutes of Bettman taunting the Fehrs, which only ends when I point out that Arkham Horror already takes about 3 or 4 hours to play even when people aren't messing around taunting each other. Another gate opens, more monsters appear, and Don Fehr goes into a gate that leads to the Plateau of Leng. Bettman dodges a nasty accident in the science building, and Steve continues to buy useful but not awesome items - he hasn't been very lucky in his random draws thus far.
Then, a crisis!
Don encounters a crumbling bridge in the Plateau of Leng. He fails to be fast enough to cross it, which would mean he will be Lost in Time and Space - a serious set-back for the team.
Of course, there is one way Don could possibly survive. Gary Bettman could use his ability to let Don re-roll...but will he?
Bettman spends several minutes conferring with Bill Daly, and then makes a phone call to Jeremy Jacobs. In the end, he agrees to help Don, but says that Don has to make concessions as well, and must tell Steve to quit it with his stupid infinite money garbage that isn't even working anyways. After a whispered conversation between the brothers, an agreement is reached. Don Fehr re-rolls and...
A six! That's a success! Don makes it across the bridge, and we have our first moment of true league-union cooperation in the game!
I'm feeling pretty optimistic at this point. They're doing really well for new players!
On turn six, Bill Daly kills a couple of monsters and gets some brass knuckles as a reward, which make him even stronger. Steve, true to the agreement made between Bettman and the Fehrs, leaves the shop, trying to sneak past two deadly monsters as he does so. He almost gets caught by an Elder Thing, but Bettman again uses his re-roll ability and saves the day.
Bettman dives head-first into the gate to the Abyss and kills a maniac when he arrives, and Don Fehr makes it back from the Plateau of Leng and seals the gate. Two down, four to go! I think our team really might be able to win this you guys!
At this point I let the players take a break.
Everyone got some snacks, drinks, and went to the bathroom. And then, when we returned to the dining room to continue the game - disaster!
Oh no! A cat on the board! As anyone who has ever played Arkham Horror knows, this is one of the most dangerous events that can occur during the game.
We'll have to be very careful to get him off the board without disturbing any of the pieces or -
No, Chandler, don't!
So this particular game has been wrecked, as there is no possible way we could get all the little pieces back in their proper places. But I'm sure that if Gary and the rest of the guys help me, we can have the board set-up for a brand new game of Arkham Horror in less than an hour!
Oh. Oh, they broke a window and escaped. How about that.
I'm pretty sure I saw Don Fehr giving Gary Bettman a boost, too.
So I guess they did learn a little something about teamwork today.
I guess that's the end, everybody. Like so very many games of Arkham Horror that have occurred in my home, this one ends in a victory for that ever-present servant of the forces of chaos and destruction, Chandler the Cat.
Outside the ordered universe is that amorphous blight of nethermost confusion which blasphemes and bubbles at the center of all infinity—the boundless daemon sultan Azathoth, whose name no lips dare speak aloud, and who gnaws hungrily in inconceivable, unlighted chambers beyond time and space amidst the muffled, maddening beating of vile drums and the thin monotonous whine of accursed flutes.
(If you want to know more about Arkham Horror, go read this).