Gathering 2016 After Action Report (Part 1)
Last year at the Gathering I thought that perhaps I should only attend part of the week and when push came to shove I stuck with my guns (despite Mrs. Tao’s offer to let me stay longer). I won’t deny that part of me regrets leaving early, but even on Wednesday I struggled (and eventually decamped for several hours). Yesterday I did had renewed energy based on my impending departure.
I am officially old enough that I can’t even handle my favorite convention. Meh.
I did get in a goodly number (and even some variety) of games, as you can see from my list of games played at the Gathering. I may review some in more detail, but for now I’ll give brief thoughts:
New (to me) games [number of plays]:
Ponzi Scheme – “I don’t have to outrun the bear market, I just have to outrun the other players!” Finally, an investment game where the loans (actually, investments by your marks) have even more outrageous conditions than Martin Wallace! Borrow $10 to pay $11 every five turns is one of the better loans. Borrow $60 to pay $140 every three turns! You take loans to buy industries (VPs), and then make a secret offer to another player, who can either take the money to buy your industry, or sell to you for that amount. When someone goes bankrupt, the survivors compare VPs. There’s downtime and players who don’t value things properly will lose, but this was my pick for new game of the Gathering. Suggest.
Team Play  — Teams of two try to collect sets and can pass cards around. The basic strategy is to pay attention and avoid having both teammates need the same cards. You only have limited control over that, but then again it’s a 20 minute game. Suggest.
Karuba  — “No time to take it easy, Doctor Jones!” Build paths (ala Take it Easy) between archeologists and their destinations, and may scatter some points on the way. But you discard tiles to move your fedora-wearing meeples and get points for being first. A nice, solid, improvement over the predecessors…. Suggest.
Air Alliance  — Remember the “Take a bonus turn” cards that proliferated and were (rightly) removed from most games? Well, if you get a really good turn, you get a bonus turn. Your opponents will (naturally) block you from getting a really good turn. But they can’t if your first turn has a random setup that gives it to you. I got a great first turn (the injurty) and then a bonus turn (the added insult). If you fixed that, I’d consider playing again, except the polar view of the world also makes finding places I should be able to find harder than it should be. Avoid. (But with some fixes there is a game, just not to my tastes).
I played two Ameritrash games as well
Cthulu Wars  — I’d seen this beautiful game last year (the miniatures look like the plastic melted in horrible ways, which is thematic) and I’m glad I got the chance to try this. Spawn, Spread and Smash, but you only accumulate VPs and the game will end quickly. (Player’s can earn VPs each turn and buy some as a bonus, and once enough “buy VP” actions occurs, the game ends, or if someone breaks a threshold).
Blood Rage  — Draft cards to upgrade your viking clan and get specific objectives and combat bonuses, then fight around Yggdrasil. Getting set to Valhalla is a minor setback (or, with the right circumstances, a good way to score points). I worry that suicidal battles are a bit too good (and can feed your slaughterer points, too). Combat is add up values and play a bonus card, with the winner having to discard their card. Elegant. Game ends after three rounds (drafting, board play, upkeep).
Overall both design seem well done. I have some quibbles but if I assume competent development (and the names on the boxes lead me to assume this) I imagine there is some depth of play. Both games are lovely, with good minis and a nice clean design. Blood Rage, with the card based combat (and at half the price, although still not cheap) is more to my tastes. Both are indifferent plus in that I’d like to try them once or twice more, at least.
Finally, I played Triumph and Tragedy once. Played may be a strong term, I didn’t really grok supply or naval operations, but eh, I played the Soviets. We had a brisk game at maybe 4.5 hours (with rules!) but partially that’s because I missed the right time to declare war on the Axis and the game quickly slipped away. I clearly backed the wrong horse by purchasing Churchill instead of this. Will I play T&T often? Of course not. It’s a long wargame with a card-driven diplomacy/tech system. I’ll definitely try it again, hopefully before next year. I know locals who play this …. suggest (if you like long wareuos).
Next up — The classics.