Monday, March 10, 2014

2014 Prezcon - Part 1

Well, another year has come and gone for my annual pilgrimage to Charlottesville, VA - home of Prezcon.  Prezcon is the first game convention I attended, way back in 2009.  Hard to believe this was my 6th year attending.  In 2009 my buddy Brian and I started on the last few years that migrated to Wednesday.  This year, our friend Tom had business meetings in Charlottesville on Monday and Tuesday, giving Brian and I the excuse to join him at the convention on Tuesday evening.  Which quickly turned to Tuesday afternoon.  Incredibly, the wives bought off on this.  We'll pay later, I'm sure.

The first game we settled down to was, like in previous years, Circus Maximus.  This year, GM Jake Jacoby had a surprise for us - instead of the typical oval, we were racing around a "cloverleaf" track, with a free-for-all area in the center.  Unlike the last several years, I decided to try being a "rabbit" - in other words, a light, fast chariot.  That was the idea, anyway - I had poor rolls on my setup, and ended up on the slower end of the lights, with not much in the way of stamina either (used for whipping to go faster).  I was also chosen to start on the inside lane, which meant I was the furthest back at the start.  There was not a whole lot of drama to the race as another light chariot got out in the lead and stayed there, despite the efforts of the heavies to smash him to bits.  The cloverleaf made for an interesting change, but I feel that it was to the advantage of the light chariots, as once they got ahead, it was not as easy for the heavies to get to them as it is on the oval, when they can slow down and wait to be lapped. 

Next up was Power Grid, an old favorite.  I'm always a little wary of the heavier euros as Prezcon, as there are some real sharks in the water, but I consider myself competent enough at Power Grid that I won't embarrass myself, and I could even make a good showing.  In this case, though, I simply played awful.  Actually, I don't think I was doing too terrible, but I was letting the leaders slip away, and I made the move to catch up at the wrong time, buying up to 12 houses, when the rest of them stalled at 11, which ended up killing me in turn order the following turn.  I finished in last place :(

For some reason, Brian, Tom and I decided to end our Tuesday with a game of Dungeon Lords.  This is a great game, but I hadn't played in a while, and it wasn't coming back very quickly.  Tom had never played, but fortunately Brian had played recently and got us squared away.  Again...a great game...but probably not one to start after midnight.  We were up to 2:30...starting off Prezcon with a bang.

Next morning...since we were there for a Wednesday morning for the first time, I finally got to play in the Prezcon Agricola tournament.  See my earlier comments about the euro sharks...and unlike Power Grid, I don't consider myself a very good Agricola player.  I was at a table with Tom, our friend Mike Senzig Jr., who'd arrived that morning, and Aaron Buchanan, the GM of Castles of Burgundy, and a very good euro player.  In the card draft, I tried to set myself by taking a lot of cards that helped with wood gathering and fence building.  I was doing OK at the beginning, I think, but I waited far too long to grow my family.  Mike was able to build a couple of extra rooms early on, and get to 4 family members pretty quickly, and then he was off to the races. 

Avast, me hearties!
Following Agricola, I played in the Merchants and Marauders tournamentThis is a game that got a lot of press when it came out a few years ago, and I snatched up early...but it had been a while since I had played.  In our previous plays, our group thought that the Merchants had a bit of an advantage...but what fun is that?  For the tournament, the GM lowered the speed on galleons, and allowed pirates to go into port after other players.  In my 3-player heat, we all went the pirate route.  One player had the misfortune of running into a Spanish man-o-war, which doomed him in his sloop.  I managed to upgrade to a frigate, and was doing well as a pirate, but won the game by delivering an in-demand cargo to my home port and stashing my riches.  With my win, I qualified for the final, but unfortunately, that conflicted with my first Lords of Waterdeep heat.  I enjoyed the game, but some of the nagging feelings returned - it can run a bit long, and there can be downtime while other players perform their actions - particularly in port.

Following M&M, it was time for my annual game of Formula De.  I like this racing game a lot, but I dread it at Prezcon a little bit, because the GM Doug Gallulo will run up to 10 players on a board.  That's too many, in my opinion.  Sure enough, in our race we had 9 players, although I was lucky enough to be drawn starting in 3rd position.  I grabbed the lead halfway through the first lap, but miscalculated on the back stretch, as I was trying to set myself up to use the 30-sided die coming out of the next turn.  I stayed in 4th when I should have gone to 5th, and was promptly passed.  2 turns later as I desperately tried to make up the difference, I spun out, and that was it.  This game can be unforgiving if you make one mistake, or get one bad roll.

I'm trying to pay my debts...
Wednesday night it was time for Game of Thrones.  By random draw, I ended up with the Lannisters - I should have asked to redraw, as I think in every game except for one, I've played the Lannisters, and that put me off from the get go.  The game progressed fairly normally for the first 2 or 3 turns, but the player to my right, as the Tyrells was clearly coaching the younger Martell player to his advantage.  The were putting a pounding on the Baratheon player, who was very young and pretty inexperienced.  Instead of helping Baratheon, I sensed blood in the water and tried to take my share.  I should mention that we had turned up several muster cards, but nothing had come up to adjust our supply yet.  I had captured a bunch of barrels on the board, but without the supply action, I could not take advantage.  The Tyrell player eventually took the land area between our capitals, and also The Reach, which contains two barrels - and he threatened to take Lannisport from me by using the Ser Loras cards which allowed him to carry his attack token with him.  I had to quietly accept my losses - and THEN the supply card came.  Of course.  By this point, with Baratheon effectively out of the game, the Starks, Greyjoys and Lannisters had essentially an alliance against the Tyrell-Martell block.  There was some baiting of the Martell player, accusing him of being a pawn for the Tyrells, which caused him to make at least one bad move, attempting to "prove" he was playing his own game.  In the end, the Starks made a play to clean up the last of the Baratheon holdings, the Tyrells turned on their Martell lackey, and used that Ser Loras card to attack the Starks.  In an equal battle, it came down to the draw of the "Tides of Battle" card, the Tyrell player got a +1 to Stark's "0", giving him the victory.  The game didn't end until 2:30...which was WAY too late for that to go on...

Next up...part 2 of Prezcon 2014

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