Dave Schueler’s fight against cancer is over. He fought, but ultimately didn’t win. Dave passed quietly on New Year’s Day. I had an hour and half with him and his devoted wife Lynn, but shortly after I arrived home from the Seattle hospital he was gone.
Dave was my dear friend. He is of the brotherhood of Dave, the three Daves in my life, including Dave Demick and David Sullivan. Periodically we would all gather together to play board games and we would call them the 3DK days. Of course, it would make communicating during games difficult, so Dave Demick would be Dave, David would, naturally, be David, and Dave Schueler-drawn from his AOL email address, Daveshoe, would be Shoe.
I have a wonderful sister, but no brother(s). The Daves all have brothers. But they are like my brothers. So losing Shoe feels like losing a close family member.
I met Shoe in the early 90’s when we began Enfilade. He was very involved with Blue Max, the WWI air game. I wasn’t a Blue Max or WWI air guy. But I was drawn to a painting competition he won with a scratcbuilt balloon and thought I really needed to get to know this guy.
I was drawn into the Air Pirates group with Dave and Paul Hannah that began with 1/300 WWII planes paired with the Avalon Hill Mustangs rules played on hex mats. But I was even more impressed as Shoe began adapting these rules to other periods, such as the Korean War with his Mig Alley Aces variant.
Mustangs was never my long suit. I was always a willing participant and painted plenty of planes. I just wasn’t very good at planning a move or two ahead and was mostly good at flying aimlessly about or being shot down. My greatest achievement was one night playing at Paul’s and flying a French De. 520. I’d been shot and caught fire. The next turn I put the fire out and the following turn crashed into a mountainside. Sigh.
Our friendship grew in other directions as Dave invited me to Mariners games. Dave and Lynn had season tickets, wonderful seats, down the first base line. He knew from the inescapable game banter that Paul and I were both devoted, deluded Mariners fans, so invitations to ballgames followed. Eventually Lynn and Lorri would join the two of us for several games and that relationship was established as well.
The highlight was when Dave and Lynn won one of the Mariner charity auctions that allowed them invite a couple of buddies to join them on the field to meet Mariners pitcher Jamie Moyer. Paul and I joined the Schuelers. They didn’t let us stand on the grass, but we did get to meet Moyer, exchange nods with Edgar Martinez and Lou Piniella, say hello to Tacoma News Tribune beat writer Larry LaRue, and shake hands with the immortal Doug Creek. It was awesome and clearly, I’ve never forgotten.
The Mariners and baseball would remain a part of our relationship until the end. Shoe and I did ballgames and Fanfests. We commiserated whenever we talked. We played baseball card games and board games. When Dave went into the hospital in November, whenever I dropped by, at least weekly, I brought news of Mariner offseason not-action, of the big signings and of the Carlos Correa not-signing. It was not unusual to see us both in our Mariners garb.
Dave was always an air and sea guy. He’d been a submariner, serving on boomers and attack boats, and it’s his time over at Bangor that brought him from his southern Colorado birthplace to Seattle. His game interests were largely doing plane and ship stuff, and I was happily sucked into that whirlpool of interests. Honestly, it didn’t take much.
Dave’s real talent was in game design. To be clear, Shoe was a legit designer of board games and miniature systems. Published. Sold stuff. He had a real genius for understanding what the players were going to experience in a game and ensuring the game would be inclusive, thoughtful and challenging.
He wrote the Golden Age Air Racing rules in 2000. They were fun, easy to run and play, with lots of choices for players to make. Dave and I used our best modeling skills to build a bunch of ancient Hawk air-racer kits in 1/48 scale and we were off. A few years later he followed with a version 2.0. But the crème de la crème was the introduction in 2005 of Thunderboats! This was a hyrdroplane racing game using many of the same mechanics. We concocted the base ideas for these on a Sunday at Enfilade when we were punch drunk and silly, but amazingly Dave produced the rules. Sean McEvoy provided the resin boats, and the game became a much-loved feature of the convention, nostalgic for a snapshot of the Seattle they grew up in.
David introduced me to the rules of David Manley, and we became “Manley Men.” We started with Action Stations and WWII coastal actions. We tried Airwar C21 for jet age combat. Things accelerated from there to try Lord of the Seas, Airwar 1940, and Fire When Ready. We embraced Manley’s use of just enough detail combined with playability to make games that we could not only play ourselves but share with others in a convention setting. This led to a tremendous run of games we would plan and share at Enfilade. At the center of it all was Shoe and his superb planning, crafting excellent games that a novice could easily understand.
We were Manley Men!!
I did lots of stuff on the side and with David Sullivan. We are mostly lots of figures kind of guys, and David and I have and always do lots of projects together. And honestly, I’m drawn to the off-beat. Convention themes are simply unimportant to me. With the attention span of a fly crawling on the wall, I am often captured by whatever historical experience has ensnared me. Whether it was gaming baseball on a tabletop or playing out a Spanish intervention in the Lewis and Clark Expedition, I would try it. I loved the history and painting the figures, and I firmly believe you can game anything.
It didn’t matter how wacky my projects were, Shoe would help me with them. I could block out a game and he’d remind me of what each side, every player would or would not be doing. Would the game bog down in mechanical uncertainty? Would a player be left with little or nothing to do?
When I told him I wanted to do The Burr Conspiracy as a game for Enfilade 2014, he rolled his eyes, but was also interested in James Wilkinson and what a ridiculous human being he was. Shoe helped me sketch out ideas for the game. Players would write orders. They could communicate with one another only in writing. Interesting perhaps for 1976, but something quite different 40 years later. In the general weirdness arena, “Emperor of Texas” was unmatched, but Shoe was there to watch and cheer me on that Sunday morning. In the great scheme of things, it wasn’t Waterloo or Teutoburger Wald, but for me it was a triumph, a game that played exactly as I hoped, one I couldn’t have achieved without him or the genuine interest of the guys who played.
Shoe, on his own, hosted DANG, or Dave’s Annual Naval Game. This had its own ritual which usually began in August or September as Shoe offered ideas to the dozen or so attendees. Those able to come to the late December event voted in two rounds to select the topic for a day’s mini campaign that Dave and Lynn hosted in their living room. For fifteen or so years, Shoe hosted a variety of naval events from Lepanto to a modern campaign in the South China Sea. I was there for almost all of them and enjoyed each immensely.
Yes, we had this great gaming relationship, but there was so much more. We just enjoyed each other’s company. Whatever was happening either Dave or myself would try to combine a get together with lunch and a beer. Dave was a lunch and beer kind of guy. I’m kind of a goat and will eat almost anything, but Dave was a little pickier. Chicken strips were his thing. Our favorite place to eat was the Elliott Bay Brewery, which had pretty fine chicken strips. Any of their locations was okay, but we loved Burien the most. We had so many great meals there, followed the M’s in the bar, talked politics, reviewed games, miniatures and rules. My favorite was after buying Dave Smith’s giant pile of planes, spreading them across the table and puzzling over some of them. Lots of laughter over lots of beer.
I am one who enjoys self-celebration. Birthdays are big. Dave and Lynn came to my 60th birthday celebration. When I retired, Lorri celebrated her 60th birthday and we remembered our 40th anniversary with a party-a trifecta of important dates. Dave and Lynn were there. As our Lorri’s family shrank and our Thanksgiving dinner table seemed less full, we asked friends who didn’t have plans to join us on Turkey Day. We asked Dave and Lynn and Dave Demick and Margaret to join us. It was all much fun, if a bit of a frenzy. Casey loved Lynn, and because we were politically more or less aligned, there was little chance of an unpleasant eruption. John and Susan Gee joined us in 2021. It was wonderful.
Dave and Lynn were a great twosome. Sometimes Lynn would join us at Elliott Bay. If we were lucky we could persuade Lorri to make the drive up too. They were great with our boys. Casey sometimes joined us for board games at Meeples. He could be a force to be reckoned with. They surprised musician Patrick a couple of times as they attended his shows at Whiskey West in on California near Fauntleroy. Everything felt like the best of friends.
After I retired, Shoe would always torture me about being retired and having all the free time to paint and game regularly. But when Covid struck the following March it was like the world came to a standstill. We learned very rapidly just how social miniature wargaming was. I didn’t miss working, but I sure missed my friends.
Dave seemed to solve that problem as he began hosting a series of games under an outdoor pavilion in his front yard. The summer of 2020 was filled with all sorts of games including What a Tanker, Fire When Ready, and I ran my Philiippine Insurrection game. It reunited lots of old friends, and we added new friends to our circle. It was the best. Even if we were masked and distanced the beer and discussion afterward was the best.
Of course the summer series lasted as long as the good weather did. Games became scarce as the rain became plentiful. In November Dave suggested John Gee and I use David Manley’s Splendid Little War campaign rules to play the Spanish American War. John graciously agreed to take the Spanish. Yikes. We only were able to play my attack on Manila Bay in person and it just didn’t work out well for the Spanish. I had fun, but was looking forward to games in the Spring.
But the Northwest’s Great Darkness became much darker when Shoe announced in January he had cancer. I am a prostate cancer survivor. Mine was detected early, I had surgery and eight years later I remain cancer-free. Dave’s situation was much worse. Stage four prostate cancer had aggressively metastasized to his lungs and bones. He let me know by e-mail, not quite sure of how to tell the guys. I read his missive, laid my head down at my computer and sobbed. Just fucking sobbed. I didn’t know where this would go, but I vowed to be the best friend I could.
In 2021 chemo and Covid kept Dave from a Labor Day Enfilade. We had planned to do Ploesti, but that wouldn’t fly. David and I did our Hue game, which was great fun. But we did reprise the summer series on the lawn. We were a happy group, but what hung over everything was learning in the fall that Dave’s chemotherapy had little lasting effect on his tumors. A second round was scheduled for 2022.
I planned another Enfilade without Shoe, which seemed doubly weird. But Covid was definitely present and with his suppressed immune system, there’s no way he could attend. Gaming throughout the summer seemed sparse and Dave seemed weakened by his illness and his treatment. We did play Lissa in his living room, but Shoe seemed thoroughly done in by the experience. I was worried.
In June, the weekend after Enfilade Casey died. It was and remains devastating. For the next month my life was pretty well subsumed into working through the different threads of getting his apartment cleaned out, planning a memorial, contacting his various business interests. It was exhausting. I tried to stay in touch with friends and I called Dave every couple of weeks. He was struggling with his symptoms. When Casey’s Celebration of Life was held in Sumner on July 10th, Dave and Lynn were there. Dave, unable to sit for long periods, and having faced an hour car ride, stood through the hour presentation. I’ll be forever grateful. I know there was a cost.
Cyber-knife treatment in August brought some relief and September was better, but by October it was clear the cancer was spreading and he was feeling the effects. We spent a sorrowful day playing board games, enjoying one another’s company but afraid of what was coming. Dave made an appearance at our Museum of Flight event on November 18th, but the week after Thanksgiving, Shoe was admitted to the hospital.
Dave was a gamer. He was a far more accomplished miniature wargamer than I am. He was probably much smarter than I am. I learned a lot from him. Not only in the sense I learned how to play games or design scenarios, but in other much more important ways. We were friends who enjoyed our shared interests and experiences. We weren’t the same, but we just clicked, and I loved him and miss him so much. He made me a better person, one who taught me lessons I hope will help me to lead a better life.