Thursday, February 28, 2013

PREZCON - Part 1

Well, I figured I would talk some about my favorite annual convention, PREZCON ("The Winter Nationals") which happens every year about this time in Charlottesville, VA.  The con officially runs 5 days (Wed - Sun), but they have a "pre-con" on Monday and Tuesday (really, they should just tell the truth - the con starts on Monday).  This year, the con ran from Feb 18 - 24.  Prezcon is the first gaming con I ever attended, and this marked my 5th year.  Several years back I had really got back into gaming with some local pals including Paul Owen, Grant Greffey, Glenn Weeks and Brian Greer.  After hearing some of the guys talk about "Prezcon", Brian and I decided to give it a go, and we've been hooked ever since. For those unfamilar, Prezcon is a "tournament" style convention - they run tournaments for ~90 games over the course of the week...and each game has a number of heats and quarter/semi/finals depending on it's size.  There is plenty of open gaming, though...and this year Prezcon set aside a specific area for open gaming, which I think was a fantastic decision.

Brian arrived at my house promptly at 0800 on Wednesday morning, and just as promptly informed me his "check engine" light had come on and he needed to take his jeep to the dealer - car issues would be a bit of a theme this con.  We were able to drop it off and get on the road in plenty of time.  I did get flustered when we got close to Charlottesville by a mob of police escorting several black vehicles down the road - certainly not the President...the Governor maybe?  The motorcycle cop who came up inches from my window wildly gesturing for me to move over to the right flustered me enough that I missed the exit for the hotel (I'm counting that as a car issue).  No problem, we were able to U-turn and get back by about 10:45 or so.  I thought I'd see if we could check in early - the desk attendant saw my Virginia Tech hoodie and gave me the conspiratorial "I'll make an exception for a fellow Hokie!"  It's always good to get some Hokie love in the heartland of the enemy (UVa).  So we were able to bring in the cooler and games, and not worry about those for the rest of the weekend.

Circus Maximus

But enough of that...what about the games?  First up, at noon on Wednesday was Circus Maximus.  This Roman chariot racing game is run annually at Prezcon and WBC by an affable fellow by the name of Jake.  At the beginning you get to pick a light, medium or heavy chariot, and assign 4 points among driver, horses and endurance.  You roll some dice to randomly set your initial stats based on the points you allocated, and off you go.  Now, in 2012, I came in 3rd in this tournament, and narrowly missed competing for 1st when a light chariot scampered over the finish line before I could trample the driver, who was being dragged behind her horses.  I had found that the heavy chariots seemed to have the advantage, and here in 2013 I went that route again...and got exactly what I wanted when I rolled a relatively fast speed for a heavy.  I made an error by not giving my horses the whip off the start though, and a fellow heavy ran his wheel into my #1 horse on the 2nd turn.  It didn't kill my horse, but knocked my overall speed from 20 to 12 for the rest of the game, and from then on I was just hoping the leaders would kill each other.  It was not to be, and I finished in 5th place or so.  It's a fun game, and I still need to break out Circus Minimus, the little paper and chit game I bought a few Prezcons ago.  One other good friend Tom Snyder showed up about 15 minutes late for Circus Maximus...I gave him a copy of the key to our room, and then didn't see him for several hours.  Turns out he had to take his car to a garage due to hitting a large pothole on his way to C-ville, which threw it out of alignment.  The car curse continued....

Formula De

Next up was Formula De, the F1 racing game, run by Doug Gallulo.  Formula De has been reprinted lately as "Formula D" - same game mechanics as far as I can least for the basic game...Formula D adds a way to cutomize your cars, including using some pre-packaged drivers in almost a role-laying type scenario.  In any case, this racing game uses different size dice to roll for movement as you track through your gears...a 4-sided for 1st gear, 6-sided for 2nd, etc...all the way up to the "golf ball", a 30-sider if you can manage to get to 6th gear.  The key to the game is the corners...every corner on the track is outlined in red, with a number next to it indicating how many times you have to "stop" in that corner.  This, of course, means people have to really watch how they manipulate their gears.  You have certain stats on the car - brakes, tires, engine, body damage etc, that you roll for at certain times to see if you crash or not.  We ended up with exactly 20 players in this heat, which was unfortunate (in my opinion), as the GM opted for 2 10-player games.  Now, the game can handle 10, but if you start much further back than 6th place, you have your work cut out for you.  I must have had a terrible day in qualifying, because I started in 10th place (random die roll).  In the 2 lap race, I never passed more than 1 or 2 people, and in the end I finished 6th (due to some other folks crashing).  However, props to Liz, the young lady who started next to me in 9th place...I believe she finished 3rd.  The other unfortunate aspect of a 10 player game was that it put us over the 2 hour time block for the game, which meant I missed out on the start of Merchant of Venus


We didn't play with the dragon...
Since I missed out on Merchants of Venus, I decided to sit in on the 7:00 PM heat of Carcassonne, the classic tile laying game.  I'm glad I did.  It was a very close game, in which my buddy Glenn was involved.  I managed to pull out the win with the very last tile I pulled, which allowed me to sneak into a high value city that several other players were already in.  This, along with a later 2nd place finish would be enough to get me into the semi-finals (more on that in a later post). 

Game of Thrones

One of the attractions for the year's Prezcon, was the addition of several new games to the agenda.  One of these was Game of Thrones (2nd Edition).  I love the source material, and I love this game.  In my very first trip to Prezcon, the first game I played was Brittania, and while I enjoyed it, I have since decided that 5-hour monster games are not for me at a convention.  I happily made an exception for GoT
Ned...if you only had another support token...

Game of Thrones has been compared to Diplomacy in that you are constantly making and breaking alliances during the game.  I drew the Lannisters as my house (I'm always the time I'm refusing).  My friend Brian was the Baratheon's and Tom drew the Martells.  A fellow by the name of Ryan (who we would game with more in the con) drew the Starks.  A gentlemen who's name escapes me drew the Greyjoys, and the GMs son, Farrin, drew the Tyrells.  The Grejoys tried to mess with me right off the bat, but I promptly threw them back into the bay, and then explained to the inexperienced Greyjoy player why it would be better for us to be allied for a while.  That alliance lasted...until the last turn of the game.  I spread into the heartland where I was able to capture enough "barrels" to give me maximum supply for the entire game...which meant I could field more/larger armies.  Voting went well for me early on as I was able to secure both the Iron Throne and the Raven.  The Tyrells, to my south were a little unpredictable.  I left the Greyjoys to skirmish with the Starks, while the Baratheons and I met on the field of battle a few times.  It became apparent that no one was going to win the game by capturing 7 cities early, so I set in for the long haul.  Unfortunately for me, at the beginning of the last turn, on the 2nd to last card draw of the game, we had to vote for position along the 3 influence tracks.  Critically, I lost position severely on the raven track, which meant I couldn't play "star" tokens.  This killed me (literally and figuratively) on the last round, as I didn't have enough actions to support everything I wanted to do.  In the end, the Martells pulled out the victory, and I finished 2nd due to tiebreakers.  We headed off to bed at 1:30 in the morning, after a 9:00 PM start.  Later in the con, I had the chance to fill in in the final game, but I was tied up with other games at that point.  Still...great game, can't wait to get it back to the table. 

Well, my intent wasn't to do a separate blog post for each day....but I'm running long already.  So, check back later for Part 2....

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