Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Two Eagerly Anticipated Games

Well, GenCon has come and went (I really need to get there some day) and with it, a bunch of eagerly awaited new games have arrived.  There are two that have been on my radar for a quite a while, and I've been fortunate enough to try them both in the last week or two.  They are the Lords of Waterdeep expansion, Scoundrels of Skullport, and the newest offering from Gale Force Nine, Firefly:The Game.

Let me start with Scoundrels of Skullport (SoS) Lords of Waterdeep has become a favorite at my house - my wife loves it, and it's just as fun with 2 players as it is with 5.  If I were to bet, it would be that LoW is my most played game in the last year (I've now started tracking my plays on BGG, so next year I'll be able to definitely see what I've played the most).  That being said, you can only Rescue the Magister's Orb or Domesticate Owl Bears so many times before you're ready for something a little new.  I worry a little about how tuned in my FLGS is to the overall gaming scene, and when I pre-ordered SoS from them, months ago, I was nervous that they wouldn't quite follow through.  So, I pre-ordered on Amazon as well.  Imagine how excited I was when my FLGS called me on the Thursday that GenCon had started to tell me they had it on the shelves.  I immediately ran over and picked up a copy...I think I got my copy before GenCon attendees got theirs!  Also, that gave me enough time to cancel my Amazon pre-order, which is fortunate, because apparently Amazon was unable to fulfill quite a bit of those orders.  So...+1 for my FLGS!

But, on to the expansion - SoS provides some new variety, with not one, but two(!) expansions in one box.  The "Undermountain" expansion adds new Lords, new quests and new intrigue cards, but generally does not alter the game that much.  The "Skullport" expansion adds a little more variety - again with new Lords, quests and intrigue...but also a new "resource" - corruption - which is worth negative points at the end of the game.  SoS also comes with agents and tokens for a 6th player, and some extra agents for the original 5 colors, so you can play the "long game" with more actions per turn.

Things aren't fitting quite as nicely
SoS has not been without some controversy, as apparently someone at the Wizards of the Coast quality control department fell asleep when this expansion was being made.  The cards are all a hair bigger than their counterparts from the base game, there's some slight color difference in the card backs, the quest cards are printed "upside down" with respect to their back and the box insert, while mimicking the insert of the base game, is of substantially lower quality (feels flimsier and doesn't hold the pieces as well).  I don't think any of this is a deal breaker, but some of it is mildly annoying, particularly from WotC, who have been publishing identically sized Magic:The Gathering cards for over a decade now. 

The new starting buildings in Undermountain
I've had a chance to play SoS twice now...but both times I've only played the Undermountain expansion.  So I haven't had a chance to play with the corruption yet...but that looks very interesting to me.  I've seen some concern online that the lord that gives you points for your corruption tokens is underpowered.  But how about Undermoutain?  The three new lords give you points in the following ways: 4 pts per Undermountain quest, 3 points for any (non-mandatory) quest and 5 points for any quest that was already valued at 10 or more.  Some big highlights of the other new items include 40 point quests, intrigue and buildings cards that force you to seed other parts of the board with money or adventurers, and intrigue cards that allow you attack (i.e. remove) other players buildings.  I should also mention that a side board brings three new buildings into play from game start (as does a similar board in the Skullport expansion).

Some nasty corruption tokens
In general, I've liked the expansion in both my plays.  The new quests and buildings and intrigue cards are adding some variety to the base game.  I have a slight nagging feeling that some things may be unbalanced, though.  In both games I've played (one 2-player, and one 5-player) the person with the lord who scored 5 points for every quest > 10 points won.  The 40 point quests are a huge advantage if one player gets one, and no more turn up.  The 40 point quest did not seem particularly hard to complete either - about on par with the 25 point quests in the base game.  The player who won in both games also played an intrigue card that immediately allowed them to draw 2 more intrigue cards and play them immediately.  That being said, in our five player game, we knew the eventual winner was more or less running away with it, and we did nothing to hamper him.  So, we have ourselves to blame - at least partially.  I will not be making any rash judgements after only 2 plays, but I will be keeping an eye on how things play out in future games.  I was also thinking of using the expansion in the final of next year's Prezcon LoW tournament, but I've cooled on that a bit.  We'll see...

Eagerly anticipated game #2 was Firefly:The Game (FtG) from Gale Force Nine.  Long known as a purveyor of cool little tokens and trinkets for miniatures and board games, GF9 hit a home run last year with their first in-house game, Spartacus: A Game of Blood and Treachery.  For their 2nd game, they had taken on the universe of Firefly, one of the most beloved (if short lived) franchises in Sci-Fi history.  I must admit, that when I first saw pictures of the game back at Prezcon in February, I was underwhelmed with the board layout.  But's Firefly, right?  Unlike SoS, FtG will not be available to the general public until the end of September or so, mostly due to a production error with the Alliance ship, I understand.  However, they did have limited numbers available at GenCon, and one of our gaming regulars, Carson, snatched one up.

You can't take the sky from me
FtG is, at it's heart a "pick up and deliver" game.  You're the captain of a Firefly class transport ship, and you fly from planet to planet and your goal, to quote Malcolm Reynolds, is to "find a crew, find a job, keep flying."   At the start of the game, you pick from a number of "stories", which is basically your overall objective or scenario for the game.  Each story has 3 goals, and the first player to complete all 3 wins.  Now, you won't have enough skills or money to complete those goals immediately, so you have to take other "jobs", which allow you to earn money, which in turn allow you to hire crew, buy equipment, get ship upgrades,etc. - which in turn allow you to tackle tougher jobs, which get you more money, enabling you to get more crew, more equipment etc. - until you feel you can start tackling the main goals of the game.

My ride!
Our game was a 4 player game - which is the maximum amount of players - unless you picked up Game Trade Magazine Issue #162 which came packaged with "The Artful Dodger", a 5th ship.  Let me say right off the bat, that FtG comes as close to faithfully representing it's source material as any game I've played.  I think Gf9 did an outstanding job of getting the "feel" of the Firefly universe right.  You had to dodge the Alliance and Reavers, hope your ship held together as your go from one end of the 'Verse to the other, maybe take on some less than savory jobs just to stay afloat, make sure your crew stayed happy, watch out for the likes of Saffron - all great stuff!  My main concern after my one play is play time.  We played with the recommended starting scenario - and it was listed as 2 hours.  After 3 hours, we had to pack up because the FLGS was closing - and only one player had completed one of the goals.  I estimate we had at least another hour to go.  And that seems to match up with the comments on BGG, which are estimating an hour per player.

The 'Verse
Along with play time, and maybe related, I have a concern about downtime.  This, of course, is more concerning with higher player counts.  But, there's not a lot to do while the other players are taking their turns.  There's no direct conflict in the game, although players can move the Alliance or Reaver ships towards each other, and trade with each other.  But, by the end of the game we were getting better about speeding things along - for example if a player takes his last action as "going shopping" at one of the markets - fine, while he's deciding what to buy, the next player can start moving his ship.  And I will say that I thought as we started to get the hang of the game, we were playing faster, which is to be expected of any new players.  We were also starting to get the hang of how to earn money, which is key.  After about the first 2.5 hours, most of us still had the same amount of money we started with.  But we were getting there.  If we had started again, I feel we could have probably finished the game in 3 hours...but probably not the 2 hours they estimated in the instructions.

Bottom line - despite concerns of play length - I am eager to get this one to the table again.  I think just being prepared for a longer game, plus with experience in the game, will help a lot.  And there's a lot of fun stuff going on here.  I will say that this game takes up a lot of table space.  This game has the most cards I've seen other than maybe Arkham Horror.  And a lot of tokens for cargo, contraband, fuel, passengers, etc.  Each player needs to have their stuff laid out so they can see it, too, which means a lot of space.  But, I'm anxious to get my copy in a month or so and play it some more (one of the "stories" allows for solo play, I believe).  Until then, I'll be in my bunk.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

WBC 2013 Part 4

Ok, one last post about WBC 2013.  I'm not going to cover in depth everything that we did Saturday night and Sunday morning, because Paul did a great job covering it here and here.  Bottom line - we stayed up way too late on Saturday night, and then clung to every last minute into Sunday afternoon.

I didn't have quite as much fun with Article 27 as we did at Prezcon, but some of that may have been due to the late hour.  I also got a bum deal in which 4 of my 5 secret agenda tokens got pulled all on the same turn...and there was no way I was going to get everyone to agree to passing that many in one round.  All the same...I remain unsure about that game...with 6 players especially, it can be hard to keep track of all your bribes.  Panic on Wall Street I enjoyed, though it took me a few turns to get the hang of it.  I would like to try it with more than 5 players, though.  Code 777 - I've been wanting to try this with more than 2 players since Paul and I played it last year at WBC.  Unfortunately, 2 in the morning is not the best time to dive in...we gave it a shot, but it was just too much for our tired brains at that point.

On Sunday, I enjoyed Battle Line, which I picked up for $5 thanks to my $10 GMT coupon.  Neat little 2-player game - time will tell if I like it better than Lost Cities or not.  Spartacus - speed kills, speed kills.  My gladiator, with his ability to use speed dice as defensive dice, was a juggernaut in the arena.

I want to highlight my purchases.  Usually, I get caught up in convention fever and spend more than I should, and end up getting a stinker or two (see the "buy 1 get 2 free" Mayfair sale at Prezcon this year - there's a reason they were giving away some of the games for free).  I feel pretty good about my haul at WBC, though:

Dominant Species - Didn't play it at WBC, but I really enjoyed it during vacation this summer - I pretty much knew I was going to buy it before I got to the con.

Space Cadets:Dice Duel - possibly my best pickup of the con.  I still haven't had a chance to play the original Space Cadets, and I was suckered in a little by the "buy it first at WBC" schtick - but after a few plays, I can report that this game is a blast.  Especially after a long day hunkering down in front of "serious" games.

Pirate Dice - I had read about this, and previously tried to pick it up online, but it had been sold out.  When I saw it at a vendor table, I snatched it up quick.  I'm glad I did (though I found it online later for half the price) - this is another fun, wacky game - and much easier to get into than Robo Rally.  I've already ordered the expansions.

The New Science - Probably the only game I totally bought on a whim.  I'd heard a few good mutterings about it, but hadn't had time to really research it.  But the science theme called to me, and I went for it.  I've since played one game, and I'm glad I picked it up.  One game isn't enough to really run it through it's paces, and I'm mildly concerned about a mechanic or two...but all in all I really like it so far.

Agricola All Creatures Big and Small More Buildings Big and Small - I really liked this "mini Agricola" for 2 players when I picked it up last year.  It hasn't made it to the table recently...but I couldn't pass up on the expansion at the Z-Man booth.

Pandemic and On the Brink - Yes, I already owned Pandemic and it's expansion.  However, there's a new expansion coming out soon, and it will only be compatible with the new artwork in the Pandemic reprints.  So I rebought the base game and the first expansion.  The good news - the On The Brink box now fits everything...but will it fit the new expansion???

Battle Line - As mentioned, I got a $10 GMT coupon for winning Conquest of Paradise...I thought about getting the Dominant Species Card Game, but they were sold out, and Paul convinced me to pick this up instead, and I'm glad I did.

So...sadly, another WBC has come and gone.  And now I get to sit here and be jealous of all the info coming from Gen Con.  But, Prezcon is only 6 months away...and my copy of the Lords of Waterdeep expansion should arrive in a few days.  Looking forward to the next big event!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

WBC 2013 Part 3

Alright...we come to Part 3 of my WBC recap, in which I talk about Conquest of Paradise, and then talk about Conquest of Paradise, and finally I'll talk a little about Conquest of Paradise.

I may have played a little CoP on Saturday

As I mentioned in Part 2 of this recap, I won my CoP game during the "mulligan" round on Friday.  So, I didn't really need to get up for the 9:00 AM round on Saturday.  But, I typically only get to play CoP at conventions anymore, so I rolled myself out of bed and made it over.  About 14 people showed up for the morning round, which meant 2 games of 4, and 2 games of 3.

Just thought I'd throw this in to break up the wall o' text.
I was in one of the 3 player games, along with Phil (I really have to write down these last names) - who is a CoP regular, and Guy, who I hadn't met before, but was familiar with CoP with a little bit of refreshing.  By random draw I was Samoa, Guy was Tonga and Phil had Hiva.  The game went well enough for Guy and I, but Phil had bad luck discovering islands.  Guy did some unusual exploring, sending his boat all the way out east, when he still had unexplored areas only 2 or 3 hexes to his southwest, but it seemed to work for him.  It quickly became apparent that Phil was falling far behind, and as sometimes happens in 3 player games (any game, not just CoP), he had the unenviable task of becoming somewhat of a kingmaker.  We got to the final turn (or so we thought) - Phil attacked both of us, his attack on me was unsuccessful, but he did break Guy's canoe chain.  Still, Guy - who had levied just about all his military chits at this point - was able to connect around that.  We flipped cards, counted points and Guy was the winner by a point or so.  At that point, we called Jerry over for the official score tally, and as we were counting, he suddenly said "Wait a guys are playing a 3 player're supposed to go to 25 points!"  Oops...we were all so used to the 4-player 22 VP condition, that this slipped right past us.  Now, things got a little uncomfortable, as Guy got a little irritated about having to play on.  I said something to the effect of "Well, we all made the same mistake", and his response was "NO - You two made the told me it was the end of the game!"  Nevermind that the victory conditions are printed right there on the map.  I think Phil may have taken a little offense at this, because in the next round, he went full bore after Guy and left me alone.  This didn't help Guy's mood.  Still, Guy had enough military to reclaim his losses.  That left me last to go.  I'm not going to say I threw the match...because Guy had a lot of points, and I don't know for a fact that I could have caught him.  But I'll say this - having already qualified for the semi-finals, and feeling somewhat guilty that I may have inadvertently led Guy to believe the game was over before it was - I didn't put a lot of thought into my last turn.  I picked up a few more points, but in the end, Guy won officially.  Funny thing is, he didn't even come back for the semi finals.

Pic from BGG - perhaps the reprint will come with wooden huts
At noon, the semi-finals started, with two games.  The two winners, and the two players who finished closest to their winner would qualify for the final (which mean if 3rd place in game A finished closer than 2nd place in Game B, that 3rd place guy was in.  In my game, I had CoP regular Dave, and Andy from GMT games.  I embarrassed to admit that I don't remember our 4th players name.  As a top seed (by virtue of my mulligan win), I got to choose my starting territory, and I chose Samoa.  Dave had Tonga, Andy was Hiva, and the 4th player was Raiatea.  As I recall, I had decent exploration finds, but not great.  At one point, I was exploring to my north, and I decided to check out 2 islands that Andy had discovered, but kept hidden beneath his "discovered" markers.  The first was an atoll, which I revealed.  At that point, Andy said "are you sure you want to waste your movement on the other one?"  I actually paused, considering moving to an adjacent unexplored hex, but then decided to stick with the plan, and checked our what he had found already...which turned out to be Hawaii.  Ah...Andy with the mind games.  To be honest, I don't remember a lot of the rest of the details of this game, with the exception that near the end of the game, Player #4 moved in a war canoe to where Andy had sent a transport and some colonists.  Not having any war chits, Andy had to immediately retreat those pieces.  This turned out to be crucial, as Andy had an "Arioi" card had forgotten about, which could have cancelled that "combat" (even though he didn't have any war pieces, that counted as combat).  If he had done so, he could have colonized, and won the game.  With an extra turn, I was able to rebuild my canoe chain (which had been earlier broken by Andy), and pick up some points by attacking the pre-printed "NPC" islands on the map.  This was enough to secure victory, and Dave came in 2nd at our table. 

That set us up for the final, which consisted of me, Dave, my buddy (and Prezcon champ) Brian, and a fellow named Charles.  Quite simply, this turned out to be one of the best games of CoP that I've ever played.  I took Samoa as my homeland, Prezcon champion Brian took Tonga, a fellow by the name of Charles took Hiva, and Conquest of Paradise regular Dave ended up with Raiatea. The rest of us got a little nervous when Dave found 3 islands with his first 3 moves, but he had some atolls in there. The rest of us slowly revealed island groups, and after a few turns, Samoa, Tonga and Hiva all revealed one of the 4-village islands. Raiatea was not to be left behind however, as he eventually revealed 2 3-village islands. It was becoming apparent that we all had done roughly equally as well in island discovery, and no one was going to run away with a "lucky" victory.

As I am wont to do whenever I play Samoa or Tonga, I grabbed the island of Niue before my neighbor could. When it was becoming obvious that this was going to be a roughly equal game in terms of discoveries, Tonga decided to beat the war drums early and launched an attack on Niue. I struggled with the decision to use my Arioi card to stop the combat, but I decided to wait until a more crucial moment later. My  Samoans attempted to retake Niue a short time later, but to no avail.

To the east, Hiva and Raiatea quietly expanded their empires. The Hivans expanded via the atoll at Flint Island, and eventually launched their own attack on Niue, capturing it. In Samoa, I decided discretion was the better part of valor, and did not want to get into a 3-way tug of war over Niue. So, I used the "safety valve" and attacked the "NPC" island of Kiribati, and colonized it.

By this point, the drums of war were pounding across the entirety of the South Pacific, with War Canoes and Warbands seemingly multiplying overnight...well, all except in the southeast, where not much was heard from the Raiateans. After seeing the Samoans take Kiribati, the Tongans reasoned that many Samoan warriors were away from home, and launched a direct attack on the Samoan homeland. This is what the Arioi card was saved for! The Hivans continued to be a threat on the island of Niue, though it looked like they might turn their eyes to the fertile islands of the Raiateans.
Pic from BGG, but closely resembling our situation.

Sensing he might not have a better opportunity, Dave - as Raiatea, revealed his Arts & Culture cards to show 22 points - enough for victory. That is, until the dastardly Tongans revealed the Severe Deforestation card, causing the rest of the empires to lose a village, and dropping poor Raiatea back to 21 VPs.

There's nothing like revealing a possible victory to make yourself the target, and all eyes turned towards Raiatea. Or did they? The Tongans, still reeling from being thwarted earlier, launched a 2nd attack on Samoa itself. The extra turn had given Samoa enough time to build and reposition various warriors however, and the Tongans (with the "help" of some atrocious dice luck) were beat back. Samoa was looking further to the west, and was choosing between the Marshall Islands and Pohnpei to attack. With Hiva still left to go, Samoa thought they were eyeing Raiatea, but dared not take all his warriors, in case Hiva decided to strike west instead. Judging it safe to take only 3 war units to conquer a western island, Samoa chose to attack the more lightly defended Pohnpei, easily conquering it and adding it to the empire. Hiva did indeed launch an attack on the Raiatean homeland itself, successfully wresting it from it's original owners.

When all cards were revealed, Samoa and Hiva were tied at 24 VPs each. Samoa earned the victory based on the tiebreaker of number of controlled island groups in his empire. Critically, on the last build phase of the game, Hiva chose to build a 3rd village on the captured island of Raiatea, rather than building a transport canoe and chaining it to his empire. If he had done so, the score would have remained the same, but we would have had to go to the 2nd tiebreaker, which was Arts&Culture cards - where Hiva would have won.

I think this means I get WBC "Laurels".  I'm not sure I know what those are...but I think I get some.

 So...WHEW!!!  Before Brian dethroned me this year, I had won the CoP tournament at Prezcon for three years in a row.   But success at WBC had eluded me.  I had only made the final once, and that one time I came in a distant 4th place.  It feels good to have won at WBC...and in addition to a plaque, I got a $10 coupon to spend at the GMT booth, which I immediately used on Battle Line (with some "encouragement" from Paul). 

Thanks go again to Kevin for running another fine tournament...and let me also take this opportunity to mention the Conquest of Paradise reprint that is currently on GMT's P500.  Kevin tells me that the reprint will fix some of the color issues, include wooden tokens of some sort for the villages, include the expansion random event cards, and maybe a few extras (including a card that makes it tempting to attack Fiji...interesting indeed).

Brian, Paul and I did some more open gaming on Saturday night and Sunday morning...but I'll leave that for Part 4 of my WBC recap....

Thursday, August 8, 2013

WBC 2013 Part 2

So, right off the bat, I have to issue a correction.  You have to understand, at these conventions, the nights can get late...and that leads to fuzzy memories.  My buddy Paul recapped his first day at WBC, and when I read that, I realized oh...the late night games I posted about earlier were actually on Friday night, not Thursday night!  So...what was played on Thursday night?  As Paul mentions in his blog, we sat down for a session of Settlers of Catan:Cities & Knights.  Now, I have to admit, I've not actually played a LOT of Settlers - my fair share, but not a lot.  I've played the Seafarers expansion on my tablet, and that adds a little bit, but it's still 95% the same game (my understanding is that the Seafarers rules were originally part of the base game).  Cities & Knights on the other hand, is a whole other animal.  This expansion changes the game significantly - to the point where it bears minimal resemblance to the original.  Paul told me he likes it better than the base game.  I'm not so sure - I did like it quite a bit, but our game took 3+ hours.  That's too long for a Catan game (although there may have been mitigating factors such as the late hour and the beverages being consumed). 

On Friday, I intentionally avoided playing anything in the morning, as I wanted to be there when the doors opened to the vendors area.  Last year I missed on getting a copy of Eclipse because I was late to the vendors.  In particular, I had seen Stronghold Games mention that WBC would be the first place to buy Space Cadets:Dice Duel, and that they had limited copies.  I got my copy of SC:DD, and several other things, but I'll save that for later (I think "limited" was a loose term for Stronghold, as it appeared they brought enough SC:DD to supply the entire convention :))

After the vendors had their way with my wallet, I had to choose between Stone Age and Agricola.  I like both games quite a bit, but in general I think I like Agricola a bit more.  Partially because I'm still not very good at the cards, and I think I have lot left to explore with that game.  That being said...I chose to go with Stone Age, as the late night and early morning left me feeling that I would just be raw meat at an Agricola table.  Turns out I was raw meat for my fellow Stone Age players instead. I went with the strategy of trying to get the hut multipliers, but they didn't come out very fast.  The fellow who won the game had 10 family members, but he didn't have the food problem, because the player to his left kept passing on the agriculture track.  She did get 88 points from the tool bonuses, though, which is the most I've ever seen for that.

That afternoon was the "mulligan" heat for Conquest of Paradise, which is "my game", if you will.  I had won three years straight at Prezcon, until Brian dethroned me this past year.  But for some reason I had come up short the past 3 years at WBC.  I arrived a bit earlier and saw many of the usual crew that plays Conquest, and then as typically happens, designer Kevin McPartland showed up, trailed by a bunch of folks who had just attended the demo.  At my 4 player table, by random draw, I was playing Tonga, veteran Conquest player Brian (a different Brian) was playing as Samoa, and two new players were playing as Hiva and Raitea.  It was a fairly uneventful game, to be honest.  The woman playing Raitea had unfortunate luck in finding little to no islands - and for some reason she made the decision to explore right up next to me, finding an island for me, essentially.  Being a new player, she did not really pick up on the need to go military at that point.  On the last turn of the game, I had enough military to pick off one of Brian's small islands, to ensure enough VP for the victory - that may have been the only battle of the game.  So, I was qualified for the semi-final.

That was it for tournaments on Friday.  The rest of the evening was spent in open gaming, which I detailed in the last post.  We did run into designer Ben Rosset, and his friend Eli at one point.  Later we came back, eager to try the latest iteration of Brewcrafters, but I believe they were smack in the middle of demoing to other folks.   In fact, that turned out to be one of my big disappointments of the con - I never did get a chance to sit down and play Brewcrafters.  I believe Ben mentioned that they were gearing up for an October Kickstarter campaign, so I'm excited for that to start. 

Next post will be about Saturday at WBC - aka - "Conquest of Paradise Day".  I would be remiss if I did not mention the reprint of CoP planned by GMT games.  It's up on their P500 list now, and I encourage folks to order it.  They will be correcting/enhancing a number of things in the base game, and including the random event cards that were originally published in C3i Magazine.

Monday, August 5, 2013

WBC 2013 Part 1

Well, this year the World Boardgaming Championships seemed to sneak up on me.  Held every year in early August, in Lancaster PA, the WBC is essentially a bigger version of Prezcon.  While Prezcon has 600ish attendees, the WBC gets 1500+ - one of their board members recently told me that they are the 3rd largest pure boardgame con, after Origins and BGGCon (clearly, he wasn't counting GenCon with it's 30K attendees as "pure boardgame").  In any case, like Prezcon, the WBC is a tournament style convention first and foremost, although they have a very large open gaming area.  At the beginning of each year, the Boardgame Players Association (BPA) members vote on which games will make the "Century List", i.e. the 100 (give or take) games that will make the cut at WBC.  They actually run a little over 100 as publishers can sponsor games, and my impression is that there is a core group of favorites that it's almost impossible to get dropped.  Now, this is a long convention - it officially runs from Monday - Sunday, however they have "pre-con" events starting the previous weekend as well - so you could spend 9-10 days at this convention if you so desired.

Last year, the WBC was plagued by some infrastructure issues that hit the aging location - The Lancaster Host.  Primarily this was in the form of lack of air conditioning in much of the conference center, including the large "Lampeter Room".  As you might imagine in a building full of gamers - who's hygiene habits can sometimes be questionable - this led to some uncomfortable situations by weeks end.  One of the side effects was that more people escaped to the open gaming area, which was still cool - and that led to a lot of crowding and table scarcity.  I'm happy to report that the A/C was in fine form this year, though. 

Unfortunately, I have a little too much in the way of home responsibilities to go for the whole week, so I typically head up on Thursday and stay through the weekend.  This year my buddies Brian Green and Paul Owen joined me at the con.  I'm not going to give a thorough game-by-game rundown like I did for Prezcon, but I want to hit a few highlights.  And, unfortunately, I was a little lazy on taking pictures - so any that you see here are likely one's I've stolen from the internet somewhere.

Pic from BGG user David Morriss
Thurn & Taxis - It had been about 3 years since I last played this euro about building postal routes across Bavaria (you have to love euros and their themes) - since they removed it from the Prezcon list much to my friend Grant's dismay.  The other players at the table were gracious enough to help me shake off the rules rust.  I'm happy to say I finished in a tie for 2nd - and I conceded the actual 2nd place finisher to another player who was looking to move on in the tournament.

7 Wonders - This was the largest game I played in, with probably 120+ participants.  The GM separated everyone into 4 player games.  Each table was to play two games, you got points for your finish in each game (8,5,3,0 I believe and 8.2, 5.1, 2.5 and 0 for the 2nd - the decimals to help prevent ties).  In my first game I was the Pyramids of Gaza and finished in 2nd place.  In the 2nd game I had the Hanging Gardens, and I misplayed the very last card, causing me to finish in 3rd instead of 2nd.  If I had finished 2nd both times, I would have had the highest total, and moved on.  Bummer.

Amateurs to Arms - This game about the War of 1812 was published last year, from Conquest of Paradise designer Kevin McPartland and co-designer Jerry Shiles.  I had pre-ordered it, but had yet to get it to the table.  So, I went to the demo, and then played in the "Mulligan" round.  This is a card driven game, in the same vein as Twilight Struggle - i.e. each card has text that you use to invoke certain events, or a number value, which you can use as "operation points" to do many different things such as levy troops, build forts, etc.  Each side starts at opposite ends of a "peace track", and where those two counters meet on the track determines the winner.

This is an interesting game, but I'm not sure these type of card driven games are my cup of tea - I'm so-so on the aforementioned Twilight Struggle for example.  The game is beautiful - the map consists of essentially everything east of the Mississippi.  But 90% of the action takes place around the great lakes.  So, there's a lot of empty real estate.  It also runs long - I conceded to my opponent after 4 hours - although he didn't have a huge advantage, and it's conceivable I could have come back.  I definitely want to get some more plays of this under my belt - but considering it's length, and it's only  2 players, I'm not sure when that will happen.  Let me take the opportunity once again to praise the components of this game - in particular the map and cards.  The map is practically a work of art, and the cards contain lots of historical tidbits.  Also, the "designers notes" are a funny read - Jerry's sense of humor certainly comes through.

This is the upper right quadrant of the board...but where most of the action takes place.

Thursday night open gaming consisted of playing World Without End, St. Petersburg and Hex Hex XLSt. Pete is an interesting one - Brian and I had both played this several year ago, as were just getting into the "hobby boardgaming" arena, and both of us came away with negative impressions that kept us from the game for years.  Paul brought it back out, and re-taught us, and we played again.  Brian didn't change his opinion much, but I came away with a better impression.  Some of that might be because I had a good game, and won - but I think years of playing these games now has given me some insight into many of the mechanics, and I think I just "got it" this time around.  I'm not saying it's my favorite - but I won't avoid it either.  Hex Hex XL was one we had high aspirations for - but it fell flat for us.  Brian in particular seemed disappointed, but I think a large part of it was due to having only 3 players.  My intuition says this one would be better with 5+ players. 

More to come in Part 2.....