Archive for the ‘Convention Reports’ Category
and you can read it! Or not. This year continues my trend of playing very long and very short games, with few 60-90 minute titles.
Note — My rambling Geeklist is up.
I played a fair number of new games at the Gathering this year (despite my general “New games, meh!” comments, 7-9 new games per Gathering seems typical, although that includes card games, ameritrash and wargames most years). I mean, last year QMG and BBH2045 were both new, along with many less memorable games. So the seven new games I played this year is about right on the money.
While I didn’t play many new Euros this year I hit the classics, hard.
I mean, I got in a game of Settlers, of Euphrat und Tigris, and two games of Lowenherz. I played a brutal (simply brutal) game of Tichu. I played Fast Food Franchise, a game I picked up in ’93-ish (and it wasn’t new then).
Race: Xeno Invasion is new, but Race itself is a classic. I’d write about Xeno, but I still haven’t really grokked it beyond the basics (“When has that stopped you before?” I hear you cry).
Lowenherz is interesting, in that I seemed to recall that Domaine made it worse, but my BGG comments indicated otherwise. So now I want to try Domaine again. But only slightly. Having played Lowenherz twice reminded me that I’m not very good at it, and while it is “old,” it is definitely not a classic (which I would include every other game I played from the ’90s).
[Oh, and today I played Mage Knight twice with the TaoLing. Not quite as old, but a game I’ve played a ton.]
All in all, time well spent.
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.
There are as many reasons as gamers. Usually gaming provides a release after a hard day. The game starts and ends and is put away; the experience no more remembered than the random sitcom it replaced. A few laughs and time pleasantly murdered.
For most people the question itself surprises. Games, to them, means “sport” not board game. Ludus translates several ways, but a Roman would think of gladiators. Nowadays a sports fan means a sports spectator. I understand why Romans preferred watching over participation, but people watch sports and games (including videogames) for just as many reasons as they game.
I shouldn’t answer. My steadily growing impulse is to reject the premise and not game at all. But when I do game its to solve a puzzle, one that fights back aided by clever opponents trying to thwart me. They never do, except by wildly improbable maneuvers that I can only laugh at incredulously the few times they succeed.
That’s how I remember it, anyway.
I game to spark creativity, to play with words, to explain drawings, to find connections. I settle Catan, I find one word hints to obscure celebrities, I trade goods across Europe (as long as they can be packaged in small, colorful cubes). I explore new worlds. I examine the subtle nuances of gesture and phrase that led to your tragic lynching. I explore +1/+1.
I explore — I play games — at the Gathering of Friends. But even from my first the languid meals and chats linger in memory, even as I devoured new titles most of my waking hours. My gaming passion has dimmed, but my joy of camaraderie and fellowship has grown.
As has the Gathering itself. Now I grab my badge to a barely opened convention already larger than the first several attended. It will, over the week, triple in size. But my first Gathering was almost 10x larger than the first. The growth shames me. I don’t know everyone, I may not know half of the attendees because I’m too busy catching up with old friends. I do try to introduce myself, to make new friends. Greedily I want to keep attendance low and this shames me, that I want to deny this experience to all who would attend. I have no illusions; I am no more deserving of this than the next gamer. I am merely lucky.
(Everyone agrees, especially after a game).
Gamers such as us are rare; play is universal. Young mammals of all species frolic and play, hide and seek. They engage in mock battles for no stake other than glory. Play is safe, enjoyable learning. Players imagine their glorious futures, players act, discover, laugh and tolerate imaginary losses. Play is surprise, free form or ritualized. Players set up the pins, knock them down and delight in how they spin and bounce. Players say “Did you see that?”
Sometimes I play; but I am old. Sometimes I decline. Most days I remember fondly the instinct to play; others I recoil at my folly and chastise myself to grow up. Still others I gasp at that folly, the belief that work is somehow privileged over play.
And these days, these too short glorious days at the Gathering, I greedily clutch my luck and briefly glimpse the hundreds of reasons. Though I do not understand most, they are all made manifest before me and I do not feel guilty anymore. Our reasons are all different, and it is not a problem that I do not understand why I no longer enjoy games I used to and that we do not enjoy any games in common. It is not a problem, merely a fact that we have different tastes. I do not question why.
(Originally written April16th at the Gathering).
Population — Me
Every day I bother to log on I’ve gleefully watched my “Games Played for last 30 days” count fall. Ignoring bridge (2 sessions) and solo games its now two, both played with my kids. When I took my son to game night, I didn’t play a thing and felt good, that meant my number would go down. I took the time to call people and chat.
Sometimes I get looks when people invite me to play a game and I decline. I won’t lie, sometimes it is personal, but that’s a small percentage of the population and gamer stereotypes exist for a reason. I found the “courage” to duck boring games a decade ago; now I’m ducking games I like.
Hopefully, Hopefully, this is my Lent to enjoy belated Fat Fridays. But I don’t actually like conventions. I discovered this at Austin Game Fest a few years back – a ‘meh’ day I spent ducking games – but I apparently never posted about that day. I sat with friends and didn’t play more than a handful of games over 30 hours and I’d paid money (quite a bit, counting hotels). And its not just gaming conventions, my best WorldCon moments involved watching my kids have fun.
I am looking forward to next week, even if I continue my perverse gaming hate I’ll catch up with old friends, stay up late and oversleep and generally relax. Maybe I can route my schedule back to normal by regressing via collegiate debauchery, at least clock-wise. (Working an odd shift for the Q1 contributed to my mood). Games, right now, are just a bonus.
Perchance I’ll have something interesting to say then, too.
So consider this a pre-apology and confession, if I duck out on a game.