I didn’t make it to last year’s DCD, but I was damned if I was going to miss this year’s event… and it turned out to be one heck of a weekend!
It started on Friday afternoon when Ali, Steve, Rich and I met up in London for a couple of escape rooms to get us in the mood for a puzzling weekend. We’d congregated at the hotel we were all staying at before heading up toward Camden for a quick bite to eat (fab burgers!) before our first escape room: Codebreakers at Mission Breakout. Housed in the basement of a tube station, it is very atmospheric. We ended up spending quite a long time on the first section, and then managed to somehow rush through the second bit, albeit we made a bit of a meal of the transfer between the two sections… Steve took a while to recover from that. The puzzles were really well-implemented and fitted the theming very well, and if there was a complaint to be had, it would be that things were very linear, but without a lot of signposting of what came next, so we often found ourselves wondering where to go next. We were happy to complete it and our gamemaster told us that we were one of the fastest teams she’d ever seen at rifling through the desk drawers – so there’s that…
Fresh from our victory we headed up to Cluequest where Steve had thoughtfully booked us into their hardest room, cQ Origenes. We made a quick pit stop at a convenience store for some chocolate and soft drinks and then plunged into our next adventure, having agreed that when our gamesmaster asked us if we’d done any escape rooms before, the honest answer would be “Not in the last 45 minutes.” This room was excellent – our only possible slight grumble was a difficulty reading some markings under a blacklight where they’d been rubbed off by previous players – nothing a little magic marker won’t fix… there was a lot to do in that room and the theming was really excellent – definitely recommended!
After we’d finished the second room we wandered back to the hotel and took up station at the bar for a couple of libations before I headed off to bed - leaving the lads at the bar, until that closed and they headed off to a nearby night club… I got a good night's sleep.
Next morning bright and (very) early we walked down to St Pancras to grab the Eurostar across to Amsterdam – with the monkeys lugging some incredibly heavy looking suitcases filled with brassware. Sod’s law dictated that my luggage was pulled for examination – it turns out that big shiny antique locks from Morocco look quite suspicious. (You’re welcome, Frans!) If that wasn’t sufficiently ironic, Steve’s big case of brass went through fine but his hand luggage needed searching as he had a single brass Gobstopper in there – presumably it resembles a nuclear detonator or something.
Once we were on the train, the puzzles came out and we played pass-the-puzzle. Steve gave each of us a copy of a new design he doesn’t plan on making again, having christened it something that cannot possibly appear in a family friendly blog. When Rich took his apart and then tried to reassemble it, it was very clear where the name came from – it’s another 6-piece co-ordinate motion puzzle with extra protuberances inside that make alignment absolutely critical – the name is a direct quote from every single person who ever has the misfortune of having to assemble one. (Yes, when I was reassembling mine this afternoon, I said exactly that…)
During the course of the journey I had a little play with Ali’s copy of Bruns’ Bomb Destroyer Puzzle – which went through security without so much as a second glance – and got absolutely nowhere – and I made a mental note to give it some respect when my copy arrived.
At some point we had a chat about the fact that if we got off the train in Rotterdam, we’d get to The Hague about an hour earlier, and much as we were enjoying the train ride, we decided that would be sensible, so we got off at Rotterdam and navigated our way more or less successfully to the right station in The Hague – close to our hotel for the weekend.
Louis met us at the station and took Ali, Steve and a couple of metric tons of brass over to the DCD venue so they could set up their stall while Rich and I headed to the hotel to check-in. The lovely folks at NH Den Haag let us both check in early so we got to sort out our shirt(s) and freshen up a bit before meeting the others and heading off to Rob’s place for the traditional pre-DCD-bash.
For someone who’s just about to move out of his flat, Rob still has a shed-load of puzzles in cabinets, although in fairness, there were many piles of puzzles neatly packed in banana boxes and his main puzzle cabinets had already been dismantled. We spread ourselves out around the dining room table and duly brought out the puzzles for everyone’s amusement (or torture, depending on the puzzles in question). I’d taken along a few of the tray packing puzzles I’d been unable to solve (it’s a strategy of mine to get my tougher puzzles solved – don’t knock it!). There were also a few of the new Kickstarter Clueboxes. Rich spent a while working through Box of Celts and Yaccine manfully attacked Rob’s Cricket Bat. As usual there was a LOT of laughter, interspersed with the occasional triumph over a puzzle or two… and there was a lot of food, thanks to Rob’s most excellent of catering.
Somewhere around a vaguely reasonable hour we headed back to the hotel in the snug Coolen-mobile – Rich, Ali and I got to know one another quite well while Steve stretched out in the front seat.
Next morning after breakfast the Coolen-mobile dropped us off at the school for DCD-proper which was reassuringly familiar, in spite of the fact that we didn’t have the speed-cubers in tow this year as they were holding their competition on a different weekend to allow for some social distancing… their space was instead taken up by a couple of tables running the length of the hall with copies of all the 2022 Nob Yoshigahara Design Competition entries… available for all to play with – I mean we’ll miss the speed-cubers, but give me design competition entries any day!
The first order of duty was to say hello to my friends I haven’t seen in person for a few years – and then on to browsing through the various stall already set up and ready for business… the lads had mentioned that Marcel had a bunch of good stuff worth raking through and he was keen to show me a few special things at remarkably reasonable prices – I did end up picking up a few small items from him.
Jan Willem had several lovely things on his table, and truth be told I could probably have blown all of my allowance on his table in the first ten minutes, but I summoned some restraint, from where, I know not. Wil had a stupendous selection of goodies and I came and went several times during the course of the day, finding new treasures each time… I managed to pick up a copy of CUBI from around 1985 and a copy of the Anchor puzzle box that I’d played with at Frank’s place – purely to stop anyone else from having to buy and solve it… I’m nice that way.It was great to see Michel had been able to make it even though he wasn’t on top form. George and Roxanne were their usual whirlwind-selves. Given the pictures of their fully-loaded car afterwards, I suspect they took the prize for largest DCD-spree.
Tony Fisher's table was sublime as always - showcasing his twisty puzzle chess set where each piece is a unique individual twisty puzzle - if you haven't seen his Youtube videos on them yet, go here!
The afternoon saw a lecture on Uwe Meffert and then Rox and George did a double act showing us their Puzzle Castle and adjoining hotel in Panicale and telling us about their wonderfully ambitious plans for the complex.
After the lecture I spent a while playing with a few of the Design Competition entries and generally hurling encouragement / abuse at the others trying to do the same… I’m nice that way.
When things began to wind down, we pitched in and helped pack up the hall and return it to canteen style for the kids on their return. Louis carted all the luggage (brass remains and puzzle purchases) back to the hotel and we navigated our way reasonably successfully back to the hotel – although Steve and I failed miserably in our attempt to get the others to do a 540 around one of the roundabouts on the way.
By the time we got back to the hotel we realised that we’d acquired quite a few folks joining us for dinner, and the restaurant we’d planned to head off to was closed… so we gathered everyone at our hotel and headed up the hotel restaurant where they were looking forward to a quiet evening until 16 of us rocked up unannounced… they did well in the end, even if they needed to ask us to please restrict our menu choices to something that the single chef on duty might be able to bash out in a sensible time. The grub was good and the chat was better… with Nick showing up Amy and solving the puzzle that had eluded everyone but Ali up to that point (he’s a machine is Ali!).
After dinner a few of us spent a while in the bar with something cold with the US Grand Prix on the telly in the background – thankfully given the number of Dutch fans in the bar, Max took it in the end.
Next day I dragged the lads into The Hague city centre in search of a Longchamps bag for Gill – only to find it wasn’t in stock, so we headed off to a toy shop and bought some puzzles before doing a lightning tour of the Escher Museum…
We collected our bags from the hotel and headed back into town for a train to Amsterdam (we didn’t fancy our chances of being allowed onto the train at the wrong station on the way back). Some rail disruptions gave us a leisurely trip up to Amsterdam where we had plenty of time for a burger before grabbing the Eurostar back to London…
…which brought more puzzling, both on our respective purchases from the day before and on an envelope full of challenges <The Corporation from Puzzaroo, if you're interested> that I’d bought a while back and hadn’t found an excuse to bring out yet - that passed a couple of hours quite well – and we managed to solve it with very few hints… definitely a good hive-mind in operation – I shouted encouragement from the side lines.When we hit London we said our goodbyes and I sprinted to Euston to grab a train on the ever-decreasing West-Coast service back to Brum where Gill was waiting to take me home… what a weekend.
Thanks a stack to all who made it such a grand puzzling weekend!