As per yearly tradition, many of the Mechs met up in Gauntlet and Needlegal's home of Oakville, Ontario for a week of fun, games, and trying in vain to save money while also pigging out at the best local restaurants twice a day. Driving up from Detroit: Magnetman! Flying in from Saskatchewan: Snakeman! In the middle of a road trip from Cleveland to New Hampshire: Sparkman! Via rail from Montreal: Topman! With Special Guests: Gauntlet's girlfriend, Leah! And Room Escape Hype-Man, Jason! We came and went at a staggered schedule, but still had plenty of time together to try out new attractions and break things we weren't supposed to.
Shadowman: That's right!
Snakeman: So it'll obviously be of lesser quality than my own notes.
Day 0 - Friday
- Mags and Needle hang out and see The Gift and eat tacos with this Meet's guest, Jason Meyer. Apparently, the movie was awful. Mags had the longest stay of the out-of-town visitors, taking advantage of the spare room at Gauntlet and Needle's house.
Snakeman: So if we're stuck with nothing to do this meet and have to see a movie -
Magnetman: No. Not the Gift. Never again.
Day 1 - Saturday - Snake flies in, checking in at the Holiday Inn he'd share with Spark and Top. Met with Leah and had lunch at Axia. Had dinner at the Spoon and Fork, which may have made Needle sick with exposure to gluten. They also had no prices next to their menu - the all-you-can-eat menu is, apparently, their default. After much assurance from me that a regular menu exists one is presented and everyone is happy with their food. Though if you do go there, don't make any plans any time to leave. They're not quick with handing out the check.
- Spark arrives via his own car. Spark sees Gauntlet's Transformers collection.
Sparkman: Hold crap! You have a king's ransom!
Shadowman: At last! Someone finally gives a shit about it! I'm genuinely happy!
Needlegal: Aw, good for you, big brother.
- On a journey into the deepest depths of Shadowman's basement, Needle, Snake, and Magnet find a really nice chess set. Gold and silver coloured metal pieces with a classical Roman empire theme to the figures and an elegant black and gold raised board, all with a satisfying amount of weight to it. It was Snake and Magnet's recently rediscovered obsession with the game that prompted the escavation. We spent a lot of time playing on it throughout the week.
Shadowman: I forgot it existed.
Needlegal: Our dad was a chess champion, so there were actually a lot of sets to choose from.
- Needle and Mags bought Settlers of Catan. Shadowman won the first bout with the game and none of the others. We still became a little obsessed with the game as the Meet went on.
- Speaking of board games, we returned to Cutthroat Caverns for a match that surprisingly didn't bring anyone close to death, so deciding the winner came down entirely to prestige, for once. We introduced the game to Leah, but she didn't seem too impressed with it by the end. Perhaps she was a little too nice to get into the game's entire backstabby premise.
Day 2 - Sunday
- Lunch at Fionn McCools in which only one of Shadowman's 3 coupons came in handy.
Shadowman: And I was saving those too ...
- Then we went bowling.
Shadowman: I wasn't last, but it was painful how badly I bowled.
Needlegal: Me too, after some pointers.
Magnetman: I'm not doing too well at this.
Shadowman: Better than me, though.
Topman: Why do I have to suck at this so badly?
- Rather than go out for dinner, we bought some supplies at the Superstore so we could go back to the house and work on important side-missions while eating microwave dinners. Mags blasted the Meet's soundtrack of various awful versions of Biz Markie's "Just a Friend" while assisting Needle, who stepped up the game and got the materials to bake us some muffins and cornbread. Top spent all his time toiling away at plans for a D&D campaign to train us with. Gauntlet helped Spark load out his computer with the webmaster tools that would give him the power to update the Cossack's Comrade's site. Snake wasn't sure what to do until eventually borrowing Gauntlet's computer to write up a paragraph of a character bio that would eventually find its way to the Team Wiki. Relatively speaking, it was the most productive evening of a week of goofing off.
Shadowman: And you'll definately put all that up, right?
Snakeman: Oh, uh, sure I will. You know - eventually.
- Getting back to Top and the D&D campaign: Diving into a roleplaying session was a last-minute plan that we were severely unprepared for and it would be a couple days before everything was ready. Top pared down a campaign he had previously done with his friends, giving us versions of their characters to play as. There was still a lot of hassle texting his husband back and forth to transfer the necessary files from back home and then getting the supplementary documents printed because Gauntlet's printer was also out of ink and we kept putting off buying some. Kudos to Top for that scramble and pulling it all together in the end, but we'll get back to that on Wednesday.
Day 3 - Monday
- Spark has his first breakfast at Tim Hortons, a chain he doesn't see often in the States. It became a morning routine for he, Snake, and Top to go there and pick out bacon sandwiches, Oreo cream donuts, and Reese's cream donuts. Where else can you find such rare delicacies? Magnet and Shadow eventually joined in too because saving money with homemade breakfast is for chumps. Their Chocolate Chill milkshakes were popular choices for all.
- Lunch at the Stout Monk.
- We went to the Science Centre. There was a Mythbusters exhibit there and a presentation mostly geared towards children. Golly! Still, very productive. Needle and Magnet decided to play with magnets while Spark and Shadow decided to go on a Mechs scavenger hunt.
Shadowman: We found almost all of them except Needle and Snake.
Snakeman: I saw a snake. A real one! There were plenty of snakes to be found!
Shadowman: We'll carry on the hunt tomorrow.
- The big new thing we tried for the Meet was a Room Escape. We're usually very bad at planning ahead, but this was one event that we laboriously scheduled and booked weeks in advance...or rather Jason, Needle's friend that we brought in to advise did all that for us. Figures that we need an outside contractor to actually put together an itinerary. We were originally booked for two games, but sprang for a third once we finished those and we weren't in a hurry to leave. In between sets, we went for dinner at a nearby pub, The Owl.
- If you're not familiar with Room Escape, it's basically a mystery/puzzle solving game where groups have to figure out the arcane methods required to make their way through elaborate sets. The group is blindfolded, led into the set, locked in, and given one hour to escape using only their collective wits. Excessive force is not required and actively discouraged, though somehow we always find a way to break things anyway. Groups are given walkie-talkies to contact the staff for hints at the cost of being able to claim "Elite Escaper" status. Some of the puzzles require multiple people to coordinate and the sheer amount of puzzles is too much for one person to solve in an hour anyway, so efficient teamwork is essential. We did not get to claim "Elite Escaper" status. Jason had the most experience with the venue, and Needle and Top had both been to Room Escapes before, as they're apparently plentiful in Toronto and Montreal. The rest of us had no idea what to expect.
-Our first game was "The Dark Altar", a quest to escape a mad museum curator's spooky cult dungeon. This is where we learned firsthand what constituted "excessive force". It's much less than you'd think! Accidentally prying open certain panels in the first section (by barely touching them, seriously) we ended up focusing on the wrong puzzle for too long.
Shadowman: Hey, I found a clue behind this panel!
Topman: What could it all mean ... ?
Staff: Actually, you just broke something. Please be more careful.
- We had no way of knowing something went wrong until the staff noticed what we did and reset it for us.
Shadowman: I feel really redundant ... I think I'll just stand out of the way...(covers up hidden sensors where he's standing) ...and active lasers?
- The rest mostly went smoothly until the final section, where misinterpreting one clue led to damaging another fragile prop.
Snakeman: Pulling this thing has to do something!!
Topman: Snake, would you quit it?
Snakeman: I'm sure it'll do something!
Staff: Actually, can you stop? It doesn't do anything. Please be careful, you could break it.
Snakeman: ... Oh. (I think I broke it...)
- A lot of problem solving work was put in by Jason and Top. We got a LOT of help from the staff to get out only seconds before the time limit. We didn't count it as a win. This was the one with the lower difficulty rating, too. Ahh, but we had to cut our teeth on something, bring on the next round!
- Second set: The "Penitentiary", where we were locked in the cell of the infamous "Water White" (you read that right).
Topman: Wait, what? "Water White?
Shadowman: Well, on the video. The printed story says he's "Richard Ramirez."
Magnetman: (With utter indifference) Facinating.
- Yeah, totally a thing. Shadow felt only a tiny bit more useful in this one. Spark and Needle ended up solving an early puzzle by applying the first half of its hint to the wrong second half and coincidentally ending up at the right solution, leaving us confused for the remainder of the game what the unused actual second half of the hint was for.
Shadowman: It was here where I was struck at how Japanese the whole production was. On the surface this scenario could be from anywhere, but there was a heavy Sudoku influence later on and the plot takes a TOTAL left turn in true anime fashion.
- We just about solved this all on our own with time to spare, but lack of immediate response with the final key had us spinning our wheels looking for other solutions. When we finally called in for the hint and they told us what we'd already figured out, we realized we just had to turn the thing a little more. Since we DID turn it, we counted this as a win.
Staff: You didn't break anything in this room, did you?
Topman: Not this time, no.
- Lastly, we stepped up to max difficulty with "Joker's Asylum" about a revenge-crazed circus clown's infeasibly trapped private care home and his helpless therapist's control room. Man did we suck at it. We ended up wasting a lot of time following an incorrect clue while attempting to communicate between the two groups we were blindly split into. From there, the staff practically walked us through this whole room.
Shadowman: I was very proud at how I rescued Top and Needle who languished in the smaller control room all by themselves.
Needlegal: It was very frustrating being in there.
Topman: Guys, man that comm station better next time! Geez.
Shadowman: The others had given up on them, but not me. Not their leader. It was truly my shining moment.
Magnetman: There was a LOT of reading involved in this puzzle. A little too much reading. A little too Raph.
- Overall, a really fun team-building activity! We look forward to attempting other sets with better understanding of how they're put together and how best to leverage our specialties without just shouting over each other and retreading the same wrong clues over and over. Top and Jason did most of the heavy lifting putting disparate clues together and keeping us as organized as possible. Needle had a great rapport with Top that saw them putting together a code key unbelievably quickly, Snake took to every cryptogram and sudoku, Shadow uncovered overlooked triggers, Spark turned a crank like nobody's business, and there were a couple puzzles that employed magnets...that Magnet didn't get to do because other people were too eager. Still, there's a recipe for a brilliantly coordinated team somewhere in this mess.
Magnetman: Thre were actual magnets here and I didn't get to use 'em!
Day 4 - Tuesday
- Toronto day! Blowing Topman's budget day! Yay!
Topman: (unenthusiastically) Yay.
- Dining at the Rich Tree- another fine Mechs tradition.
Shadowman: I got pasta and put dried pepper on it. A LOT of it. This would affect my day later.
- Top bought three meals worth of food. Why? But it was good and fun was had by all.
- It wound up POURING rain during lunch, but immediately cleared up when we were finished. We spent the rest of the day encumbered by umbrellas.
- Leah wound up joining us. Hooray!
- We took a trip to the Art Gallery of Ontario and wound up splitting up. Spark and Snake continued the Mechs scavanger hunt. They couldn't find anything related to spark, shadow, or magnet. Oh well. We all went our separate ways in the gallery. The most notable exhibit was the nuclear one.
Shadowman: It had a lot of somewhat depressing exhibits in it, but made the most impression on me that day.
- Meanwhile, Needle and Mags went on a scavenger hunt of their own across the city as they tracked down some fabric and pieces for a costume project Needle was working on. They later met the rest of the group at the museum for just long enough to observe the nuclear photography exhibit, the one new addition since they had visited ealrier in the year.
Sharkman: Dood! They're like, my homies. You can't tell what a shark is and isn't. We just sneak up on you and then it's nomnomnom.
- There was a truly mesmerizing jellyfish display. The stingrays seemed very interested in Magnet; he speculated that it was because one stung him years ago. We ended up watching them for a good twenty minutes, easy.
Shadowman: It was around this time that I realized I made an unfortunate choice in pouring so many peppers on my pasta. Ohhhhhh. Ohhhh my stomach. Can we stop looking at jellyfish, guys? Guys ... ?
Snakeman: It was fun, but you had to be there.
Magnetman: We went to Sidecar for dinner. It was great.
Day 5 - Wednesday
- TONS of Catan. SO much Catan. I think we got sick of it there. Everyone got to win at least one round. Our main obsession was trying to build the longest road, AKA Fury Road. It did help a few of us win, but didn't help the game go any shorter.
- Rich forced his latest obsession, Its Always Sunny in Philadelphia, upon the group. This led to the birth of this Meet's most prominent meme; the constant listening to and singing of Biz Markie's "You Got What I Need". Also, if you have no reaction to a naked Danny DeVito crawl out of a leather couch, you have no soul.
Magnetman: Yoooouuu ~
Needlegal: Got what i neeeeeed.
Topman: You say he's just a friend.
Magnetman: You say he's just a friend.
-We also played Bomberman and Super Smash Brothers. Rich dominated Bomberman for the most part (it was his game), while Spark had a chokehold on Super Smash Brothers. No Megaman, though.
Magnetman: Guys, we can only speed run Mega Man 3 and playing Mega Man so often. I know we're a Mega Man team and all, but give us a break here. We can't play it EVERY Meet!
- We started playing Dungeons and Dragons today. Snake, Magnet, and Shadow had never played. Luckily, Top had set up a small campaign with his friends that was ready to use. Unfortunately, he wanted dice and we took a trip to EVERY COMIC STORE IN THE AREA trying to find some. He wound up buying a multi pack, which we could have done right at the start. Shadow also bought comics. After a LOT of trouble printing the thing we finally got going in the evening. Still, driving around was fun, but unproductive.
Shadowman: I played Phelia, a Tiefling that used dark magic and was being corrupted by it. She was magically "handcuffed" to her twin sister - Cynisca. She struck me as a troubled teen in a "don't do drugs" special, so I played her as a whiny, petulant goth teenager. I also made her super greedy and the first to grab at any and all treasure. That's mainly from me. Initially I wanted to change everything about her, but I wound up really liking her character.
Sparkman: I played Cyn.
Shadowman: She's a paladin, a too-good goodie goodie who likes to boss me around. Nobody understands me.
Sparkman: Quiet or I'll tell Mom.
Snakeman: I played Skritch, a goblin with a fake mustache pretending to be a Halfling. I played him very straight, oriented to exploring as well as he could.
Needlegal: I played Argus McFist, a bagpipe playing Dwarven warrior.
Shadowman: She couldn't play during round two so he because extremely generous and helpful ... to me.
Magnetman: I played The J-05-H, a robot. I played him like the Terminator, complete with accent. Because why not?
Shadowman: We played this on and off until Friday morning, where it was resolved. Everyone was so focused on exploring and solving puzzles nobody but me grabbed ANY TREASURE AT ALL. Including the final magical treasure (a diadem), which I wound up wearing along with a crown and a fetching ring and got three rubies which nobody else wanted to help get and tons of gold I looted from a body nobody wanted to loot. Go me! Go greed!
Snakeman: Oh, be quiet.
Day 6 - Thursday.
- Needle couldn't join us due to work. Catan followed by Shadow Hunters followed by Catan followed by chess followed by not spending money. Shadow lost at Shadow Hunters ... A LOT.
Shadowman: You know, I'm beginning to hate this game.
- Lunch at Pizza Hut all-you-can-eat buffet. It took a lot of scouting around, since most Pizza Huts these days only do take out, and pretty much live up to the name "Hut". It took us a few tries to find one that had a sit-down restaurant. Let alone a buffet. But our persistence paid off. There seemed to be only one waitress taking care of everyone, who was probably just as happy that the five guys were fending for themselves at the buffet, and didn't need her attention, which was already being split in at least five or six directions. Top was just happy to get some chocolate milk with some pizza. Magnet...decidedly less so. Who knows what possessed Snake to order one for him while Magnet was in the bathroom. But what are friends for? Magnet sat there with this woeful "Why me?" look on his face as he did the best he could with a meal that sat in his gut like a wrecking ball. Incidentally, Skynet was next door to us. No really. It was some mom-and-pop network center, or something to that effect. Apparently, Skynet wants to keep a lock on the only Pizza Hut you can actually sit down at, when it's not going back in time and killing John Connor.
- Laser tag! Laser tag! We got to lose against children! It was still fun. The music was loud and the guns were silent, which Snake didn't appreciate, but Shadow did as it allowed for much sneaking around. Rich was basically Bugs Bunny during this game shooting many in the back without them noticing.
Shadowman: There was many a time I turned around to see him smiling and waving, then disappearing into the dark. Good times.
Needlegal: So you really weren't angry at losing all the time at this?
Shadowman: You know what? I wasn't.
- During one game, one particular kid was very enthusiastic about his codename (the lazer packs had codenames on them).
Torchman: I AM HELLFIRE!
Torchman: RESPECT THE HELLFIRE!
- and after he gets hit a loud
Snakeman: He got the highest score. Not our finest hour.
Shadowman: Hey, there's a "Gauntlet" name associated with the green team. How come I only noticed that after our last match?
Sparkman: That's a real missed opportunity, but at least I found "Napalm" early on.
- We also played glow-in-the-dark mini golf. Holy crap, but Magnet kicked ass at that one, followed closely by Snake and Spark. Magnet was feeling particularly smug about this one due to it making of for his abysmal performance during the 2010 Meet. Sweet, sweet revenge.
Day 7 - Friday
Shadowman: Lunch at Wendy's, followed by wrapping up D&D. Things looked bleak for us when the village chief accused us of murdering a villager who was supposed to be our guide. To be fair, the guide tried to summon demons to sacrifice us Lloth, so he had it coming. But it didn't help that a couple of us were feeling silly at the moment and took off his pants and tried giving them to our robot before throwing his corpse into the woods.
Magnetman: I refused to comply.
Shadowman: But a little diplomacy (rolled a 20) from Spark got us off the hook. Though he had to cover up for the post-mortem pantsing by saying that one of the party crapped themselves in the middle of battle, so they tried to take the only clean pair they could find that no one was using/needed anymore.
Snakeman: Did it really have to be me?
Shadowman: You rolled the assist, so yes.
Topman: I can't believe this is actually working out for you guys.
- Thank goodness the chief bought it. Snake probably didn't even have to be the one to chime in with the Bluff roll to vouch for it, effectively taking the rap as the pants-crapper. Then we finished up Spark's remaining time with us by playing Shadow Hunters upon his request. After that, it was time to say goodbye to the first Mech to leave the Meet.
Shadowman: We then went to play pool at a local pool hall. I felt I did quite well. Won three out of four rounds.
Topman: I finally found a pseudo sport I'm was good at.
- Then we ate dinner at The Works after Needle met up with us - a very nice burger joint.
- After we left The Works, Mags challenged Shadow to a drag race, finally displaying his Camaro's one good use. It should be noted that the Camaro's backseat becomes a sweltering dungeon in the sun, and it gradually became less and less popular a place to travel in.
Shadowman: Wait, we were racing?
Magnetman: We were and I won.
- This day fulfilled another Mech's tradition- a trip to Playdium. Magnet had a strong urge to go go-karting, and finally got his way...in spades. At some point, the outdoor track had become a lumpy mess, so everyone wound up with injured backs for the rest of the Meet, all save for Top, who wisely chose to get his fill of DDR within the air conditioned arcade.
- After that, we eventually decided to have dinner at a steak house before seeing a movie.
Snakeman: The movie wound up being Fant4stic, which is notoriously anything but fantastic.
- Needle, Mags, and Top entertained themselves by spotting how many times Kate Mara's hair was covered by an awful wig.
- Another Mech fades away as we drop Snake off at the airport. Since Snake was the one that booked the hotel, this meant that Top would spend his last night in Shadow and Needle's house, with he and Mags bunking together. They fulfilled another fine tradition as they talked to each other until WAY past any logical bedtime.
Day 9- Sunday
- Mags drops Top off at the train station after indulging in more YouTube videos.
- With Needle off at yoga, Shadow, Leah, and Magnet end up playing Dr Mario, which G won handily.
Shadowman: As always!
Magnetman: Why do I play this game with you? Why??
- Mags and Needle have supper at a different Spoon and Fork before Mags rides off into the sunset. Oh wait, that wasn't the sun- that was an entire ablaze crackhouse neighborhood in Detroit illuminating the sky.