November 20, 2007
I'll talk about the games I played below - other stuff first.
I went to the first BGG.Con in 2005 but missed last year's event due to work craziness. It is quite amazing the growth in the event in two years. In 2005 I think there were like 150-200 people while this year there were over 600! In some ways this was of course good, but the event didn't feel as 'intimate' to me and many people seemed a bit more cliqueish this year, playing again and again with mostly the same opponents. Still, was a great event and Aldie and Vickie and Derk and all the others did a great job (and this event was a ton more work to run I think than most other gaming events I've gone to for a variety of reasons) - I in fact almost never saw Derk or Aldie play a game, which is unfortunate.
My only suggestions for the future would be to have a central meeting spot for people looking for a game and also a different meeting spot for people to go out to meals. A spot where people meet on the hour to form groups to go out in (like 6, 7, 8pm and maybe 12 and 1 for lunch) was suggested on BGG and I think that an excellent idea, particularly since there were almost no places to eat other than the hotel itself and a Denny's within walking distance. There wouldn't need to be any coordination from the organizers for this other than just designating spots and letting people know about them.
Thanks to all the people I played with, new (Chris, Yehuda, Jonathan, Jim, Snowden) and old (David, Peter, Dave, Greg, Anthony, Joe, Kathy and Geoff, Ted) and lots of others I am forgetting or just only got like a single game in with. I had fun at every single game I played, even the few poor ones or which we had the rules to somewhat wrong.
I also ended up losing my carryon bag on the way back on the hotel shuttle to the airport which was an annoyance (and thanks very much David for your help with trying to deal with it) but nothing irreplacable in it and not really a huge deal in the end, just basically makes the trip somewhat more expensive. I HIGHLY recommend to everyone that when getting on a shuttle or whatever to make sure to actually see your bad loaded, regardless of what the driver says. I have always hated not doing this but from now on I am just not going to put up with it.
One last thing before I talk about the games I played: Tichu. I was simply amazed at the Tichu presence. Tons of people (not including me) were wearing Tichu shirts and even more Tichu games were played (I at points wandering around saw 5 simultaneous games being played). It might have even been THE most played game at the event, despite being 16 years old (although not really known of in the US since I and others discovered it in 2000)! Maybe Agricola or Galaxy Trucker was played more but I am not at all sure of that. I would absolutely bet that Tichu was played at least five times as much as any other game at least a year old. Just incredible. Like at BGG 05 there was a lot of Tichu played but mostly at night and I knew like 75% of the people playing. This year there was a ton more played all the time and I probably only knew like 10-20% of the people playing. I think given this I will have to offer (if nobody else does) to run a tournament next year although worry about how long it will take for those who do well during a fairly short event.
For the new games played, I've stolen category names directly from Chris's event report since seem pretty perfect.
Games to Purchase (or Games I'm Thrilled I Already Purchased!)
Aaron and Dave's Treasure Hunt - well I can't buy it but was absolutely excellent and our team (admittedly kind of overloaded) managed to solve all 26 puzzles with 3 minutes left which seems just the epitome of perfect timing on the part of Aaron and Dave. All excellent puzzles and the running around having to find/borrow/beg/whatever the objects was a nice gimmick. Thanks to Snowden for joining us at the last minute and doing so much running back and forth to his 11th floor room to get stuff. I also very much enjoyed the poker tournament even though I went out pretty early, calling a hand that was exactly what I thought it might be and dominated me but that is one problem with playing against some very inexperienced players, in that it is hard to really know what they would play.
Neuroshima Hex - excellent light wargame that was somehow totally off my radar, even though I think I actually did read Frank Branham's Boardgamenews review a while back. Just great, especially as a 4p partnership game. By far the most wonderful surprise game for me.
Galaxy Trucker - talked about this a bit ago but continued to really like it. Games at BGG were mostly played with a very generous timing rule (and the game I had played before was played with a really MEAN timing rule) which changes the game quite a bit but fun either way (I preferred the MEAN rule). The actual timing rule in the box is in between these two. I do think players who are only a little bit better will end up winning a lot more but even when your ship is getting blown apart, the game feels fun I think. Wouldn't want to play this every week but great for every few months.
Race for the Galaxy - preordered a while ago and also talked about before but remains excellent. I have now played or watched like 5 games of the released game and never saw more than like 10-15 TOTAL VP chips given out. Does it need the expansion cards to build a serious VP chip engine? My natural strategy is a settle/develop one anyway but surprised nobody managed an at all successful consume strategy.
Games I Hope To Play Again But Will Not Purchase
Kingsburg - Interesting dice/economic game. However, rolling low is just plain bad and I do wish the balance of positions was a bit better - having people 90% of the time just put all their dice together on the biggest spot they could is less interesting than spreading them out.
Through the Ages - This took a very long time as David is generally slow and I also kept rethinking my moves as this is a very complex game with a lot to consider. I would prefer it in a way if it went much faster but that might also lead to major mistakes which I wouldn't like so not sure quite how to deal with this. I made a major memory mistake at the end to let David beat me by a lot but I think he would have won by a small amount regardless so no big deal and probably therefore I was right to take the chance. David immediately after played another guy 1.5 more games which I was quite impressed by - something like 14 hours straight of TtA!
Brass - Thanks to Jim for an excellent job teaching and a generous offer (which we refused) to restart when he got way ahead early. I actually almost caught up once I had a better handle on the game and definitely enjoyed it.
Agricola - I didn't like this as much as many others. Good game but a bit too solitaire and the sets of cards people start with are bound to be not very well balanced, which is an excellent means of getting variety but somewhat unfair and unlike in a game like Cosmic Encounter the other players really can't react to a good card set to balance it.
Palce Gefluster - A cool hand management game but marred by the fact that most hands someone loses rather than wins and a poor scoring system. Peter actually liked the game better when got towards the end and people had asymmetric positions but I liked it worse as it seemed to very much limit my options and require me to take poor chances. Still, very cool mechanisms.
Kakerlakensalat - A fun game where you have to not say the wrong words. Two of us tied as we both made no mistakes while the other two piled up cards but was fun for all of us. Wouldn't have much staying power at all though.
It's Alive - Basically an auction version of Zirkus Flohcatti and (re)themed around building Frankenstein-like monsters. Works fine and nice mechanics although the luck of the draw is pretty important. One player won with ease and I was honestly not quite sure how though. He seemed to have both more and generally better pieces than anyone else and I am not sure how he managed it.
Felix Filou - Kind of a Geschenkt style light game. A bit too random but fun. I was sorry I didn't get to play any games with Friedemann.
Chicago Poker - Finally got in a game with Greg who grabbed me for this. Fun game of fighting a bunch of simultaneous fights via poker hands and some bluffing (cards are sometimes placed up and sometimes down, much like the bluffing in Sternen Himmel) and nice and quick.
Games I Don't Expect To Play Again
Before the Wind - We had the rules wrong but I don't think I would like it that much even played correctly.
Medievalia - I again think we had the rules somewhat wrong but regardless I think the game has problems.
Also played but not at all new
Tichu, Black Vienna, PitchCar, Yinsh, Knockabout, On the Underground
November 07, 2007
Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage - Valley Games edition
Well, my friend's copy of the new Hannibal edition finally arrived and I watched them play parts of a game yesterday and looked it over. It honestly looks incredibly similar to the original version with a few minor graphical changes (for the better for the most part) but the rules are apparently straight 2nd edition and really the whole game feels almost like a straight re-release.
The puzzle board seemed to work fine. Locations on the map now have their name on both sides of the hex, so readable from either side of the table. There is a minor typo on the mountain attrition roll modifiers on the board (should be an unmodified roll for Alps and -2 for normal mountains) but not a big deal.
Anyway, I am very happy to see this - it is too bad (to me at least) that they are making more significant, at least graphical, changes to Titan. I don't really need a new copy of Hannibal but might decide to buy one just to support them doing re-releases the way I like.
November 06, 2007
Ron Paul Candidacy
There is a nice article in Salon on Ron Paul and his candidacy. I would vote for him (and have in the past) in a second as a Libertarian candidate (despite of course not agreeing with all of his positions) but pretty sure I won't as a Republican candidate as he is an anomaly on the Republican side and a vote on that side, especially when he obviously won't win, seems counterproductive.
Essen 07 Releases
Got to play a number of the Essen 07 Releases over the weekend and enjoyed almost all of them.
The one I had been most looking forward to was Tom Lehmann's Race for the Galaxy which I had played and really enjoyed a couple of times in prototype with Tom at David's house. The released version looks great and was really fun to play and all three of us quite enjoyed it. Still, the learning curve for the icons is definitely going to be a factor for brand new players and I hope people stick with it because I expect they will be easy to remember after a couple of games. I still really like San Juan and don't think this will replace it for me although will probably play this one more. Both are 8+ and definite buys for me.
The game I was most surprised by how much I enjoyed was Galaxy Trucker, which is kind of a timed puzzle game of ship building (similar to Factory Fun in this phase but major differences too) followed by a semi-random adventure game, where you will do better in the second part based on how well you did the puzzle aspect. I thought the whole thing quite cool and will likely buy this. My only concern is that the person with a ship that is only a small amount better may end up doing significantly better in the adventure phase as the other person takes more damage in an escalating way. Anyway, fun and pretty and my kind of game.
Gipsy King is an area placement game where one is constantly making the choice of putting down more pieces vs. important pieces (quantity or quality) and works quite well but I just didn't find it that exciting.
Cash & Guns: Yakuza without the special powers felt pretty much just like the regular game, although I was one of the Yakuza and they seem just plain weaker than the regular characters so kind of think one should use the special powers to try to balance this back a bit. Despite this, our Yakuza team won. Its a good party game but just not really my thing. The team aspect of Yakuza (we had 3 teams of 3) did help some for me and made decisions a bit more interesting.
Amyitis is the new Ystari game (makers of Caylus) and feels like it will appeal to the people who like Caylus. The fact that you can do a fair amount with only 2 different action types I found impressive and good. However, this feels like it is a style of game which I don't like very much (Caylus is also in this category) where the game often feels more painful than fun as you have a plan and then the guy in front of you takes the thing you need (not in a 'take that' way - just that he also wants it) and so you are constantly having to adjust to bad things happening. So the game certainly works very well and may be popular but just isn't my thing.
Cheeky Monkey is an animal-themed game similar to Zirkus Flohcatti but with tons of stealing of animals from the other players. I thought the level of stealing, at least with 6 players, was just too much and almost totally random but still enjoyed the one play.
Master of the Rules feels like a trick-taking game but isn't. Has a lot in common with Was Sticht? in that people on each round are going for different goals and that you can, if your memory is a lot better than mine, know the cards in other players hands. I would happily play this again but probably won't try to buy it, although I think Matt and some others in his group would like it so might try to pick up a copy for him.
There was one abstract game vaguely similar to Ricochet Robot that we played that I didn't like but I think maybe we had a rule or two wrong and I am not sure of the exact name but was only dud of the day.
Oh, I also played the new 1960: Making of the President last week with David and quite enjoyed it. Does feel much like Twilight Struggle but somewhat simpler and significantly shorter. I like both and would play either but probably won't buy either so rating around 7.