Sunday, March 3, 2013

PREZCON - Part 3

Well, Friday arrived all too soon.  I didn't have anything lined up until my 10:00 heat of Lords of Waterdeep, so I was able to sleep in a little bit...

Lords of Waterdeep

I got down to the main ballroom at about 9:30 in order to start setting up for my first heat of Lords of Waterdeep.  I had my own copy and I had borrowed my sisters copy to setup, and I was a little worried that we would be short of copies.  Now I should mention that I've updated my copy of LoW, replacing the euro-style cubes with custom made meeples, which you can find on this BGG thread:  I had been having a bit of debate with myself as to whether I should play in the tournament I was running.  Paul Owen opined that he was not going to play in his Pillars of the Earth tournament, so as to keep any ethical questions to a minimum.  I had decided that my ethics weren't quite as up to snuff as Paul's, and that I would play if there was an open seat.  I recruited Tom Snyder to be my "assistant GM" if there were any questions in the game in which I was involved.  Turned out to be a moot I had exactly 25 players show up for the first heat, which meant exactly 5 games of 5 players each.  My fears about not having enough games were also unfounded, as at least 6 other people showed up with games.  I was pretty happy with the turnout...and it's a good thing I didn't play as I felt that I was kept pretty busy running around and answering questions (I did manage to sneak over to the vendor area, which had just opened, and pick up a copy of Viva Java, though).

A 4 player game in action
I did have a bit of a GM quandary, when Chris - the longtime GM of Puerto Rico - approached me and asked if their specific group of 4 could play together, to insure a "quick game".  I hemmed and hawed for a moment, then agreed, with the exception that I may add a 5th player.  As it happened, with 25 players, I did have to add a 5th to their game, but their buddy Jack showed up, so they took him.  As it turned out, they were not the "quick" fact they were the slowest, the only game to take over 2 hours to complete.

I did have one request for the players - I asked them to track who was playing which lord.  In particular, I wanted to track the "win rate" for "Larissa", a specific Lord role in the game.  As I mentioned in my earlier post, you can score end of game points based on your Lord role, depending on what type of quests you have completed ( 4 points for specific quest types).  That is true for 10 out of the 11 Lords supplied with the game.  The 11th Lord is "Larissa", who scores 6 points per building that her player has built during the game.  There is some threads on boardgamegeek where the opinion has been expressed that Larissa is overpowered...and I wanted to test that theory. As it turned out, only 1 of the 5 games involved Larissa, and she did not win in that game (though I believe was a close 2nd).

All in all, I think my first heat as a GM went very well.  All the players seemed pretty happy to play, and I had one person tell me that the only reason they came to Prezcon was because LoW was on the schedule.  So, were off to a good start!

Conquest of Paradise

 Next up was the 2nd heat of Conquest of Paradise, which was to be followed shortly thereafter by the semis/final.  As the 2nd heat was being set up, there appeared to be a turnout of only 6 players, including myself and Brian Greer, who had both won our first heat.  Realizing that if we just had 1
2nd heat game, we would be able to skip a semi, and go straight to the final, Brian and I volunteered to sit out, and we ended up playing a "fun" game with designer Kevin McPartland, and his design partner Jerry Shiles.  I regretted this decision later on (I'll explain why shortly).  For our "fun" game, we decided to play with the optional rules, which include Malaria, the southern half of New Zealand, and hunting for sweet potatoes.  We were also going to play with the random event expansion cards (published in C3I magazine).

For the first half of the game, I was a bit distracted...let me tell you about my friend Brian.  I've known Brian since freshman year of college, and at some point in college he got the nickname "Slop".  I want to say this started from his propensity to make "slop" shots in pool...but he also has the unfortunate habit of spilling his drink...and other things.  I ran an errand real quick before CoP, and when I got back, I found that Brian had knocked over my Lords of Waterdeep box, spilling the contents everywhere.  He took responsibility and said he would get it all organized again, but the OCD gamer in me couldn't wait, so I was organizing and counting pieces while playing CoP. 

The game itself didn't go well for me.  Brian got a random event card that he was able to save, and later used in battle.  He, as Tonga, invaded my Samoan homeland, and defeated me.  That was essentially the end for me, although I limped along.  Meanwhile, Kevin managed to sail to South America and discover sweet potatoes, which gave him +2 VPs.  In the end, Brian was left with a bit of a kingmaker choice between Kevin and Jerry, and Kevin pulled out the victory.


The actual city of does look like the game!
There was an hour break between the 2nd heat of CoP and the final, so I jumped in on another heat of Carcassonne.   My opponents were an older gentleman, and 2 young kids (probably 10 or under).  Now, I have no qualms beating young kids - they can be vicious.  I had to fight for my life against a young girl in the semis of Carcassonne last year, and you can ask Paul O. how he felt after losing to a 9 year old girl in the finals of last years Chicago Express

I feared that this game was going to go the same route as my heat 2 game, as I didn't score any points for about the first half of the game.  I started coming on in the end though, and managed to pass the 2 kids, and ended up finishing 2nd.  With one 1st place, and one 2nd place, I felt comfortable that I would make the semis.

Conquest of Paradise

Now it was time for the final of CoP.  The finalists were myself, Brian, Rob McKinney, and "New Guy" that I only beat by 1/2 point in the 1st heat (I really have to write down people's names if I'm going to keep doing this blog thing).  This is where I regretted not playing an "official" 2nd heat game.  In the final, Kevin allows people to pick their starting island based their margin of victory in their earlier games.  With a margin of victory of only 1/2 point...I was picking dead last.  Now, I'm not blaming Kevin, he's been doing it this way for years...I should have remembered that and played in the 2nd heat.  So...I ended up with Raiataea. Brian was near me with Hiva, Rob had Tongoa, and "New Guy" had Samoa.

If I'm to be completely honest, I was looking forward to the challenge a little bit.  I'd won the CoP tournament the last 3 years, and every year I had played Samoa in the final.  Maybe I shouldn't have relished the challenge so much....

Island exploration started poorly for me...finding only atolls and I think one 1-village island.  I did what I could do to finish developing my home island, keeping a wary eye on Brian.  In subsequent turns I would discover small islands...enough to keep me generating canoes and colonists, but not keeping up with the other empires.  The turn that I decided to focus on military, I discovered Hawaii, which is a 4-village island, and I think that may have kept me thinking I should produce colonists and villages, rather than go all-in on military.  At one point, I had 2 war bands and 2 war canoes, which gave me a raiding party of 4 military units.  I decided to strike at Brian's home island ( a bit of retribution from our "fun" game).  He had 3 military units, plus the 2 automatic defenders that come out (think of them as a sort of "National Guard").  Things didn't start off well for me, but Rob played a card that allowed a re-roll in any battle (he was interested in seeing me win).  When I got a roll that made 1 of Brian's units panic, I played a card that turned that into 2 units panicking.  After a few more dice rolls, I went from being a 5-4 underdog to having a 3-1 advantage.  Taking Brian's capital would be a huge turnaround in my fortunes!  So, I promptly rolled 3 bad rolls, and lost the battle.  Sigh...

The rest of the game was a race between Rob and Brian.  I made a half-hearted effort to sneak in the back door of the Samoa player, but it never panned out.  Rob, unfortunately made a tragic blunder.  He "declared victory", thinking he had 1 more point than he needed for victory (you always want to have 1 extra point, because another player can play the "deforestation" card, which will wipe out one of your villages, and thus 1 VP).  Well, Rob laid out his cards, and had unfortunately miscalculated...he only had the exact number needed for victory, and Brian did in fact have the deforestation card, which he promptly played.

I was left in a bit of a kingmaker role between Rob and Brian at that point.  Although, Brian had put out a picket line of war canoes that was going to prevent me from doing any serious damage to him, and Rob had an open "mythical island", for which I had a card that gave me extra VPs.  So, I attacked that island and took it.  I took too many forces, for I left myself wide open to Brian, who captured my capital and cut my canoe chains to other islands.

So, in the end, Brian earned his first WBC plaque, and I came in a distant 4th.  I'm looking forward to redemption at WBC.  I also hope that CoP remains on the Prezcon schedule.  It had been on the chopping block earlier this year, before Justin relented and kept it on the schedule.  I think Kevin had 12 players this year, which is up from the 9 that I think he had last year.  I need to figure out a way to spread the love for it at Prezcon.

Stone Age

Next up for me was a heat of Stone Age, another euro worker-placement game.  In this game, you send your - uh - cavemen out to collect resources, which you use to purchase huts and cards.  You can also go to the village and procreate(you start with 5 cavemen, and can give birth to up to 5 more), move up on the farm track, or get a tool.  At the end of each round you have to feed all of your cavemen, or you take a -10 VP hit.  The cards you purchase can give you in-game bonuses, as well as provide for (significant) end-game scoring.  At the very start of the game, the card that was in the #4 slot (meaning you needed to pay 4 resources for it) was the 3X hut multiplier...meaning it gave you 3 pts for each hut you built at the end of the game.  In  Prezcon heat last year, I passed on that card, and it was used to beat me later...and I was informed "it's the most powerful card in the game".  So, this year, I jumped on it.  Unfortunately, in turn 1, you have no resources to start with, and I was unable to roll well enough to get 4 wood to buy the card.  So, I essentially did nothing on turn 1.  That was a particularly stupid move on my part, because I was in line to be the start player in turn 2.  Which meant as the cards slid down, I was the first to place, and easily got the 3X hut multiplier when it became cheaper.  I should have realized that and not bothered in turn 1, and done something more productive.

At that point, I seriously considered the "starvation" strategy.  There is a strategy that you don't worry about food, take your 10 VP penalty each turn, and use those workers to do other things rather than hunt for food.  I chickened out, though, because the starvation strategy is boom or bust.  It's a bit controversial as well, in that some folks consider it against the spirit of the game.  I probably should have gone for it, as I had a "bust" game anyway, finishing a distant 4th in our 4 player game.

Article 27 & The Resistance

After Stone Age, I didn't have anything on my schedule as far as official tournaments.  I hung around the Pillars of the Earth final, and watched Tom win the whole thing.  After that, we got our gang together again (minus the Selzigs, who we learned later crashed early that night) for some late night social gaming.

First on the list was Article 27, from Stronghold Games, one of my favorite game companies.  I was sold on Article 27 after hearing Stronghold Games found Stephen Buonocore talk about it on the D6Generation podcast.  Accommodating up to 6 players, the gist of the game is that each round, one player acts as the secretary general of the U.N. and presides over voting on a number of issues.  The heart of the game is the 3 minute negotiating/bribing round where players try to bribe the secretary general (and each other) to put certain issues up for vote...and to pass the measure.  Issues are represented by colored disks with symbols on them.  At the start of each round, you randomly draw 5 disks and put them on your player mat, behind a screen.  These issues are arranged from +5 to -5 points, and you are solely looking at the color of the disks to see which ones you want to pass that round.  However, at the beginning of the game, you drew a token which represents your "hidden agenda" - this corresponds the symbols on the disk.  The more of those you get to pass over the course of the game, the more bonus points you score in the end.

The game is pretty fast and furious, and inclusion of a wooden gavel in the game only adds to the fun.  We were finding that being secretary general later in the game tends to reap the most benefits, as players are eager to get their secret agendas passed.  I wonder if this is a bit of a flaw in the game, as an early secretary general doesn't get the benefit of desperate players.  There was also, not a lot of bribing between non secretary-generals, although we started to do more of this near the end of the 2nd game.  This game will require more plays before further judgement (don't the all?).

After A27, we broke out The Resistance again.  We seemed to have our act together a little bit better on the 2nd night.  Although a fellow named Clyde joined us, who was a very experienced Resistance players - in fact Clyde's specialty seems to be the social'll hear more about him later.  In any case, he started introducing new roles, such as "Morpheus", the "leader" of the Resistance, and the Assassin, who can still win the game for the traitors if he successfully kills Morpheus at the end of the game.  Later we introduced the Bodyguard, and, well...I've forgotten, but I'm pretty sure there was at least one other role introduced.  It was wacky, and fun, and again I didn't hit the bed until late...

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