How would I describe my weekend of intense laser tag playing with and against some top caliber players in the Snowmageddon? Exhausting! And rewarding...and strenuous...and fun...and educational. And even though every muscle in my body is screaming at me right now I would have to say this was an incredibly worthwhile endeavor for which I am so glad I had the opportunity to take part along with my team, Ascendance.

However, it began with a rocky start when we learned the evening before that our team members from Fort Wayne area had encountered an unexpected problem and were unable to make the trip. Suddenly it became Stressageddon because we had two spots on the roster to fill by morning. However, Joe's younger brother Tommy had been out to practice the night before and paid attention when we went over the different systems, so he came along and filled one of the spots. One more player to round up. I knew there was a team that had an extra player, Jerome, and hoped we could bring him over to our team. I was pretty certain that would work, but as it turns out there was still a question mark up until the morning of the event. I kept an optimistic attitude while waiting for our team to gather for coffee before heading to the first arena when who walks in? Jared, a game master from our local Zone arena. He had heard about it and was on board...sort of. We were joined by Ziggy (one of our experienced veteran players) and then headed to the arena where we met up with Jabber, an Armageddon champion who had also joined our team with the intention that the more experienced players would be able to help the newer players to improve their skills and strategy. OK, showing up with six players. Roster settled? Not quite! Jerome was still up in the air, although I welcomed the idea of having an alternate extra player...but so did RNT. So a coin toss determined he would go with the other team. Well to cut to the chase of a confusing series of events, Jared could not play for the Rochester events, so Jerome came onto our team after all...then Jared played as an alternate for the first three systems. So that explains how we ended up with a roster that looked nothing like what we had expected twelve hours earlier! With the absence of Amber and Zach I somehow became the de facto team captain, so when a couple players from the other team wanted to take Jerome back I stood up for keeping him and he said "she's my team captain, I'm staying here" and I felt for the first time like I had a responsibility to that role in spite of its dubious value...after all, for anything big I would defer to the more experienced players anyway. So that was how we started off this year's Snowmageddon tournament.

First thing first...we walked through the arena to scope out the placement of the various bases and energizers for the Q-Zar and Storm games that were being brought in for the event. I marked them on my dry erase map (which was noted by some opposing players as a good idea...I do like to be prepared) and we got ready for our first games. We were scheduled to play a series of Q-Zar and Storm games on alternating sides of the arena, many of which put us in back to back game scenarios which made me appreciative that we had an alternate to rotate in. I made the call on players for each round to try to balance the playing time and we got the competition underway. It moved along so quickly I had to take notes and screen caps that I wasn't really able to analyze until after the fact, but my general feeling was that I had improved a tiny bit since the last time I played Q-Zar...

And that in general I'm still lousy at Storm...

After a short break we returned to the arena to face the other teams in Laserforce (SM5) and I was especially glad to have Jerome and Jared with us for this system since it was taking place in the arena where they play the game all the time (and I play SM5 every now and again...but at least I know the space). We had a rocky start finding our groove, but moving around some of the positions helped significantly and we held our own. I was excited to cheer for my team as they pulled one victory while I alternated out. Then, was even happier to go in the following round and be part of the next success...

After finishing that system (which involved four back to back games...sheesh!) we had a break. Those of us who were on the team in advance had gotten custom team shirts made, so we sported the team style for a photo...

Here's a closer look at the shirts that include the logo Amber designed...

And then we took our dinner break. A few of us might be completely crazy for doing this, but on our break from the laser tag tournament what did we do? We went to our Zone site to play some more laser tag just for fun!

I've got to say, after being in competition with real powerhouse players all day up to that point it genuinely made me feel like a rock star to walk in and kill it during the first game I played. I know the level of competition is not even close, but it felt good to play well and feel perfectly at ease with the system I know best in the arena I know like a second home. I also enjoyed answering questions from a teenager who remembered playing with us a couple months ago and who wished us good luck in the tournament. When Ziggy joined us Joe and Tommy and I were happy to be able to share some time playing in our home arena with our new teammate. Then it was off to Rochester to compete again, this time in Quest.

We played round robin games with three teams in the arena at once (although you can only see two of the teams on the scoreboard at any given time). The games fluctuated a bit and success varied, but I was pleased with my placement here as I compared my outcome and ranking with some of the stronger players...

I felt my recent time spent practicing in this arena was beneficial in some ways and irrelevant in others. In this competition a cluster of players focused their attention pretty much exclusively in one tower. Up until this point I'd been practicing more as a sniper, but in these games I found myself having to go head to head in more dogfight scenarios with the tournament competitors. But I had put in some time and my confidence was higher for going into this system. On the whole I felt that some of what I had spent time working on definitely helped me to hit a lot more sensors and hold my own during these rounds. Yay for practice. :)

It was 2:00 in the morning before I got any sleep and then had to wake up and play some Lasertron (the system I've learned to appreciate on a casual Saturday night, but that also intimidates and exhausts me when things get serious). We had two games of rest sandwiched between three sets of back to back games. I'll be honest, after the first game I felt like Tron was going to be the death of me...possibly literally! I had a bad reaction to some medication the night before and I think my cough and labored breathing were exacerbated by the intensity of the game play. But I did everything I could to play my best (which I recognize is not in the same universe as some of these players). I don't know exactly what happened here, but when I saw my ranking I thought that might be my best placement for this system (although a far cry from my best score...which is an even further far cry from anyone else's best score most of the time)...

But our closest game came down to this narrow margin...

And when it was all over with I was so relieved it was over and was walking around in such a hazy fog of exhaustion that I almost left without saying a proper goodbye to my teammates...sorry, guys (head out of the clouds) and thanks to Ziggy for pulling me back to reality so I could say my farewells and be part of the group photo op before bee lining it home for some much needed rest. Every muscle in my body was in pain at the end of this...but I think it's the good kind of pain. :)

Our team came in fourth place. Looking at the caliber of talent and skill around us I will take that happily and find satisfaction in knowing there were some close calls along the way, the sharing of a lot of skills and strategy and more value gained through the experience above all else. Many thanks to the exceptional players I got to share this experience with...

Jabber - The caliber of skill you bring to this game is tremendous, but what stands out to me even more so is your willingness to share that skill with others. From the beginning we expected our team was largely going to be made up of newer players so the experience you brought to the table was such a benefit to us all learning quite a bit. While the roster changed, our desire to learn stayed strong. Thank you for teaching us all some of the finer points to build upon in the future.

Ziggy - After playing with you at the Armageddon I really looked forward to playing on a team with you again. I remembered how every time we played before you always had useful feedback and sought to improve our team through positive critique and with kindness to those who were still learning. I saw that happen once again and am appreciative of all you had to offer. Thank you for giving us the benefit of your experience and for being great company to have on the team.

Joe - As always, it's a pleasure to play tag with you. This weekend it was cool to see how you applied your existing skills to some systems that were brand new to you and grow as a player as you learned to play on different equipment than usual. I'm pretty sure you are going to be one of the powerhouse players of the future, so keep doing what you do.

Tommy - You were quite an asset as a last minute addition to the team. Your skills are growing every step of the way and you should be very proud. Keep at it and thanks for joining us. Hope it was a Blast (hmmm...maybe that will be the next system you

Jerome - So glad you were able to be part of our team. Even though we didn't know what was going on until the last moment, I'm pleased that it worked in the end because you have some awesome skills and I hope this was a great first tournament experience for you. See you at tag again soon!

Jared - For all the time I've played tag around you it was really great to at last play a few games with you. Thanks for joining us for as much of the event as you were able. And thanks also for sharing your knowledge and...we'll go with wit ("how do you play Force?") as we went along. :)

Amber and Zach - You were with us in spirit. I'm so sorry you weren't able to join us for the event, especially since we'd been planning to do this since September, but you are the reason we have this particular team and we WILL play again together soon.

So that wraps up my Snowmageddon experience. It was a great time with a great group of people doing what we love most...LOTS of laser tag. Once I recover from this weekend I'll be ready to do it all over again!

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