It was late November, 1999. I was in Dallas, Texas, visiting some friends. It was late. We were bored. Someone suggested a game of ERF. After a brief tutorial, I was hooked. We played all night.
When I brought the game back to Georgia, the magic happened. I spent a lot of time at the local Waffle House. Honestly, it was the closest thing to a home that I've ever had. Anyway, there were dozens of regulars back then that would show up at all hours of the night. Really, it was the only thing to do in town after 9:00pm. It was a small town. Everyone learned to play, and everyone loved it.
One of the great things about the game is that you haven't necessarily lost once you're out. There's always a chance to get back in until it's over. In fact, you don't even have to have started at the beginning of the game to win. There would be times when people showed up half-way through a game and won it. There was a list of house rules a page long, and we even had plans to build a tournament spec'd table. There aren't even ERF tournaments, but we held them anyway.
Honestly, I ended up getting pretty good. I was one of the top three players. It was always in the air who would win a given match, though. There's strategy to the game, but it's also a lot of reflexes, and a lot of luck. If you were having an off night, there would be just no winning for you, no matter how good you usually are.
The communal love of that game lasted as long as the scene did. Eventually we all grew up. People started moving away. Several years ago they even closed down that Waffle House. I cried. It's still standing, though, and occasionally I go back and sit on the curb outside.
I'll have to tell you more about that place some time. It'll have to be after April though, W & H are already taken. Actually, I'm pretty dead set on most of the alphabet at this point.
Anybody out there have a group hobby that brought people together?