Sunday, March 3, 2013

PREZCON - Part 4

Saturday morning left me with a in the 2nd heat of Walnut Grove, or the 2nd heat of Power Grid?  Now I was mildy irritated with the con, because it "officially" starts on Wednesday morning, and Monday and Tuesday are "pre-cons"...and yet the first heat of Power Grid was Tuesday night.  As far as I know, they give out plaques for everything on Monday and I'm not so sure what's "pre" about it.  In any case, I had a decision to make.  In the end, I went with Walnut GrovePower Grid is one of my favorite games, but we'd been playing it a lot at home recently, and there are some real sharks at Prezcon (***cough***Crenshaw***cough***).  Plus, since I was pretty sure I was making the final of Walnut Grove based on my first heat victory, I wanted to get some more practice at that. 

Walnut Grove

We had a 3-player game in the 2nd heat - myself, Kit, and another fellow who's name I've forgotten (I have GOT to write this stuff down!).  I had a pretty good game...too good, as it turns out.  I was able to do most of what I wanted, and I was able to get the bonus token that gives you points for resources.  I used that score 17 points at the end of the game, and blew away my two opponents by over 10 points.  And then Michelle Hymowitz, the GM, came over and explained that that bonus token was used only for goods in your barn...not ALL your goods.  Oh...uh...yeah...sorry about that.  My opponents were gracious, and insisted I keep the win, since we had all been playing thinking it scored the way we had originally scored it.  But we did a theoretical "what-if", and how would I have played it differently, and it turns out that Kit would have been real close to my score, and had a good chance of winning.  Since I was already in the final from my first victory, I happily conceded and asked that Michelle advance Kit to the final.


This was not our final, and they're using crazy expansions
Next up was the semis of Carcassonne.  We had a tight 4 player game.  I made an unusual move about 2/3 of the way into the game.  There was a farm that 1 player had dominance in.  I placed a token that allowed a 2nd player (not me) to share that farm.  I hemmed and hawed about the move, and I'm sure the original farmer wasn't happy with it, but the move completed a road and an abbey for me, which gave me back two meeples...of which I was short.  With my last tile, I was able to complete a 10 point city that I had sole possession of, which also connected to a small farm that I was in sole possession of.  That was enough to push me over the top, and advance me to the finals.

The finals were supposed to start at 1300, the same time as my next heat of Waterdeep.  But the winners of all the semi-final games were present, and were able to start at 1200.  Wow...what an intense game.  My first 2 meeples went down as farmers, so I dominated a field that already has several small "football" cities completed in it.  I had 2 abbeys going, and managed to complete a few football cities myself.  I was able to get a 2nd farm going where I had sole access to 4 cities.  Over the course of the game, two players managed to get 3 meeples in the original farm where I had had 2 meeples.  Near the end of the game, I had 4 farmers on the board.  One tile would have allowed me to connect everything and dominate all the farms on the board.  Unfortunately, that tile did not come.  Adding up the score, I ended up with 63 points...and the two guys who shared the large farm both got 64 points!  So, I finished in 3rd place by 1 pt.  As Carcassonne is such a popular game, I was able to pick up my 3rd place plaque for free.

Lords of Waterdeep

Next was my 2nd heat of LoW.  I had 28 players...15 of which were new to this heat, which gave me 40 unique players for the tournament!  That's quite a turnout!  I'll be interested to see where I "rank" overall.  When I told the convention organizer, Justin, he actually put his arm around me and said "I guess we did good, huh?"

So, I had 4 games of 5, and 2 games of 4.  Here was my opportunity to play...but I decided against it.  Not because I had an ethical epiphany...but I was scheduled to be in the Walnut Grove final in 2 hours, and didn't want to risk getting in a long game of Waterdeep.  Turns out I probably shouldn't have been worried, as all the Waterdeep games finished well in advance, but still...if I'd been playing and having to answer a lot of questions, it may have gone long.

As for tracking "Larissa"...she won at least one game, and should have one another.  A young woman named Elizabeth, who I had taught at the demo, had Larissa, and had completed the quest that gave her the ability to play where an opponent had already played.  So, in essence, they couldn't stop her from building buildings.  But, she became so enamored with just building, that she forgot to complete quests as well, and ended up losing by 5 or 6 points.

After the 2nd heat, I had to determine who had made the semis.  I had 11 different winners, and I figured I fill the bracket out with the 5 "best" 2nd place finishers to get 16 semi-finalists.  That would be 4 games of 4, and the winners would be in a final game of 4.  So, I started ranking people by percentage of overall score.  I did this for every game, and started ranking before I realized that the people in a 4 player game had an advantage in that they were only "splitting" their score 4 ways instead of 5.  So I went back and redid the ranking based on delta from the winner's score.  Next year I'm bringing a laptop and excel!

Walnut Grove

Well, after Waterdeep, it was on to the finals of Walnut Grove.  It was 4 player final with myself, Brian, Kit and Jack.  I saw that once again the bonus tile for resources was available, and decided to make that a center point of my strategy - which meant that I need barns to store as many resources as possible.  I took "neighborly help" at the beginning of the game, in order to help me pay one of the "taxes" in town...and kept it the entire game, paying it off at the very end of the game.  I was in fact able to build two new barns, and get the resource bonus tile, as well as the bonus tile for having fenced in pastures.    Jack went heavy on new workers, as he picked up the bonus tile for # of people.  In the end, when we added up the score, I finished in 1st with 27 points (I think)...3 or 4 ahead of 2nd place.  Jack was catching on to my strategy in the last turn or so, but I think I caught Brian and Kit by surprise.  So, streak ended in Conquest of Paradise, but I still got a 1st place plaque this year!


After Walnut Grove, Brian and went down to open gaming to give Zombiecide a whirl.  This was a kickstarter game that Brian picked up a few weeks ago.  Now, I should mention that I'm not a big fan of the zombie genre...I'm just tired of it, frankly.  It seems like it's been uber-popular for about 5 years now...and I'm just done with it.  But...I agreed to play the game.  We gathered another player, Amber, and gave it a shot.  The game certainly does reflect the zombie theme well, with hordes of the undead lumbering after you as you try to complete your goals.  But, to me it's rather fiddly.  There are a LOT of plastic figures to fiddle with.  There are two decks of for zombies, and one for items, that have the same exact backing...just different colors.  We kept getting that confused.  My other problem was that I was hitting "the wall".  Several days of little sleep, and intermittent food were taking their toll on me.  After an hour, I just looked at Brian and said "I'm done".  I went to get some much needed dinner.  He and Amber continued, and at some point Tom joined them.  Again, I'm not a zombie fan, but I would give this one another try, just to give it a fair shake when I'm not suffering from Prezcon-itis.

Lords of Waterdeep

At 2100, it was time for the LoW semis and final.  As I mentioned, I had wanted to get 16 people playing - the 11 winners and the top 5 2nd place finishers.  Well, not all the winners ever show up, so even if people were ranked lower than 16, I encouraged them to show up.  We had 11 total people turn out.  I saw Cindy, who had finished at best a distant 3rd in one of her games loitering around, so I invited her to round the group out to 12.  Then at the last minute one of the winners showed up, so we had 13 (I wasn't cold hearted enough to kick Cindy out at that point).  So, we went with 2 4-player games, and 1 5-player game.  I was going to take the winners and the top 2 2nd-place finishers to a final of 5 people.  In hindsight, I wish I'd separated the the semis into 4 games, even with some 3-player games, to get a final of 4 winners.  Well, lessons learned.

At this point, all the players had at least 1 game under their belt, and there was not much I needed to do.  Paul and Glenn joined me after a while for a game of Formula Motor Racing (see below) to pass the time.  Actually Brian joined us as well, as his LoW semi-final finished in 45 minutes or so (sadly, he did not advance).  

In 2 out of the 3 semis, the player with Larissa won the game.  Uh-oh...maybe she is a little overpowered?  In any case, I was able to get my 5 players together quickly.  Jack, who had been in the Walnut Grove final with me, asked if we could push the final to Sunday morning.  I declined, not knowing if any of the other players had conflicts...and frankly I didn't want to drag out my commitment any more. 

I don't think I had to answer a single question during the final...the players all knew the game pretty well at that point.  In fact, I got sucked into a game of Pitchcar a few tables away while they played.  Again, the player with Larissa won the final.  We had a bit of discussion after the game as to whether she was too powerful.  At this point, most people had flipped and thought she was.  I will say, though that the champion (again...I'm forgetting his name...) was clearly the most knowledgeable player in general - he had won all his previous games easily.  The suggestion to remove Larissa from the game was generally frowned upon, because that would take an element away from the're never sure who has what Lord.  There was a suggestion to reduce her bonus from 6 to 5 points, which I think merits some consideration.  When they recalculated the final score using only 5 points per building, the winner was only 2 or 3 points ahead of the field rather than the 8 or 9 he won by.

Wizards of the Coast is putting out an expansion for LoW this summer, and I'm eager to see if there are new Lords who score via different means.  Perhaps this will help balance out Larissa.

Formula Motor Racing & Pitchcar

As I mentioned above, Paul and Glenn came up to keep me company during the Waterdeep semis, and brought Formula Motor Racing with them.  This is a quick little racing game that I've owned for years, but never seem to get to the table.  Relative position is manipulated by card play, and the winner is whoever is in first when the card deck runs out.  Each racer gets two cars...and traditionally several races are played, with finishing positions giving you pts...whoever has most points after, say, 3 races is the winner.  We played on the one quick race, though.  Glenn was unfortunate to have both his cars knocked out early.  I couldn't seem to gain position (I was stuck with a bunch of cards for other color cars), and I think it was Paul who won in the end.

When the Waterdeep final started, Paul went off to demo his East India Company for some folks.  I got the Waterdeep finalists started...then wandered over to where a large Pitchcar track was being setup.  They had the works...jumps, ramps...I think it was estimated that they had one base set and 5 expansions.  So who were the "they"?  Chris Kirkman, of Dicehateme fame, and TC Petty III, designer of VivaJava, I had met before at the last two WBCs.  For the first time, I met Darrell Louder, designer of Compounded (which I had recently backed on Kickstarter) and Ben Rosset, designer of Mars Needs Mechanics and the forthcoming Brewmasters (more on that later).

They kindly invited me to be the 8th player in their pitchcar extravaganza.  I didn't want to be a bad GM, but my Waterdeepers seemed fine, so I joined in.  I may have been drinking while driving (shhh).  Starting from the last position worked out much better for me than it did in Formula De earlier in the week.  Fortunately I was able to get past the two younger racers that were ahead of me and doing an adept job at blocking Darrell.  By the end of lap 2 I was in the top 3, and in the final lap I charged ahead, passing TC and Ben.  I got a little nervous approaching the finish line and pulled what we in the croquet world call an "Aunt Emma", by hitting too softly, giving TC the opportunity to make a miracle finish.  But it was not to be, and I managed to win the race.  And then, like any good winner I made the excuse that I had to tend to my Waterdeep players so I didn't have to help pick up the track...

2 Rooms and a Boom

As pitchcar was winding up, and I was wrapping up the finalists in Waterdeep, a woman named Emily came up to and pitched a game they were playing downstairs called "Two Rooms and a Boom".  "Eight Minutes of the most fun you'll have at Prezcon" or something like that was how she pitched it.  Well, who could refuse that?

It turns out that Emily was with Clyde, our "Morpheus" friend from Resistance.  2R1B (how's that for an acronym) is another social game, like Werewolf or Resistance.  There's nominally two teams, one red and one blue.  On the blue team is the president, on the red team, the bomber.  The goal for the bomber is to finish the game in the same room as the President, thereby blowing him up...the President of course wants to survive.  Each player is given a card showing their identity, and team.  Then everyone is randomly divided into the two rooms.  While in your room, you can talk to anyone you want, even reveal your identity by showing your card.  A "leader" needs to be elected in each room, and after 3 minutes a timer goes off, and the leader sends a certain amount of people to the other room.  This continues for 3 rounds, each successively shorter.  At the end, the bomb goes off and we see if the President survives.

Sounds simple, right?  Well, then they start adding in other roles.  The doctor, who must get the President his pills.  The engineer, who has to arm the bomb.  And "gray" roles, who don't care about blue vs. red, they just have their own victory conditions.  Later on we added zombies and werewolves.

This is a fun game, but you have to be in the right mood, and the right beverages don't hurt.  I was up to 2:30 AM playing it, and I heard later that some teenagers arrived shortly after I left, and they were up until 5:00 AM.  When you start to add a lot of different roles, it just gets completely chaotic...but in a fun way.

Well, next up a review of my last day at Prezcon, and some closing thoughts....

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