Thursday, March 20, 2014

2014 Prezcon - Part 2

Let's see...where was I...oh, that's right...up way too late playing Game of Thrones.  Thursday morning I had to be up by 9:00 for my demo of Lords of Waterdeep.  I had a few people come by - 3 or 4 - not quite as many as showed up for the demo last year.  Waterdeep has been out for a year and a half now, and is quite popular...most euro enthusiasts have probably played it by now.

Picture courtesy of
After my demo, I headed straight for a heat of Pillars of the Earth, again being GM'd by my buddy Paul Owen.  I was in a 3 player game with Mark Beckman and another gentleman who's name escapes me.  I'm very much a novice at Pillars, and I know that Mark is an excellent euro game player, But I played a very good game...right until the last turn.  Truth be told, I thought the game was coming down to me or Mark, and I had discounted our 3rd player...and so did Mark.  In the penultimate turn, I used a pawn to take the first player for the last turn, setting myself up to hopefully take the glassblower...which would have given me a lot of points.  Unfortunately, the glass blower ended up on the board, vice in the area where he could be bought immediately.  As I drew pawns from the bag, I of course drew Mark's pawn first.  He hemmed and hawed, but ultimately decided to go for the defensive move of paying to get the glassblower (blocking me from getting it).  I drew about half the rest of the pawns before I realized, that as the player drawing the pawns, it had been my right to take one "mulligan" and redraw.  We discussed it at the table, if I could go back, and brought in Paul who ruled (correctly, IMO) that I had forgotten tough luck.  In the end that likely cost me the game...but to my and Mark's surprise our 3rd opponent came out of nowhere to claim the victory.  Which is a lesson in never underestimating anyone.

At noon, I got in a heat of Carcassonne, and managed to win.  For whatever reason, I've been doing well at Carcassonne the last few years at Prezcon - 2nd overall 2 years ago, and 3rd last year.  With my win, I was on my way to the semi-finals again. Directly after that, I played in a heat of Stone Age, where I was promptly trounced by a Stone Age afficianado named Rodney.  I made the mistake of not collecting very many cards - I was in the lead, and then promptly got lapped when the card points were counted.

Picture courtesy of
Next up, at 3:00 was a heat of Chicago Express.  I'm not a huge fan of stock market type games...and despite it's train theme, that's really what Chicago Express is.  However, I find this game growing on me.  In fact, I like it more and more every time I play.  My heat didn't go so well - we had a 3 player game, one lady was brand new to the game...but the other fellow was clearly a veteran player.  I did learn a hard lesson, as I took 2 of the shares for the red railroad, he took the remaining 1 share, and just as I had the red railroad approaching Chicago, he veered it off in a different direction.  The veteran won by a significant amount.  I would also like to give kudos to Lee Sensabaugh, the GM -

who in my opinion is one of the friendliest GMs - or person, in general - at Prezcon. 

We had time late that afternoon to get our gang (Brian, Tom, myself, Paul and the Senzig clan) together in open gaming and get in a game of Viva Java. We had to cut short due to some pressing tournaments coming up, but I was likely on the way to victory, thanks to playing the "going rogue" card, and investing in other players brews.  Halfway through the game, we did have designer T.C. Petty III show up!

The South Island!
Next up was one of the highlights for me - my old favorite Conquest of Paradise, once again GM'd by designer Kevin McPartland.  This year, Kevin decided to mix it up by adding in almost all the optional rules, plus the expansion random event cards.  I was excited about this, as I was ready for things to be changed up a bit.  In my first game, as Raiatea, I discovered New Zealand early on - which, with the optional rules gave me both the north and south island.  However, the player playing Samoa used the random event of Fijian Raid to completely decimate his Tongan neighbor, paving the way for him to move in for the kill.  He was able to ride that to victory. 

Picture courtesy of
After Conquest, our "gang" got together for some late night gaming, bringing out Space Cadets: Dice Duel, and following with a favorite from last year, Bang!  Dice Duel was a blast, although I was surprised we didn't go more attention from others in the room.  It was somewhat awkward with uneven players, but we made it work.  With Bang!, I threw in one of the expansions, and that only served to confuse things - some of the cards were odd, and the new characters didn't seem that balanced - Mike Sr. had a guy that could hold 10 cards, for example.  The one drawback to Bang! is that it can drag a little long, and with player elimination, that can be no the end, we called it quits with Tom's sherriff and Mike Sr.'s outlaw in a virtual standoff.

The mornings always seem to come early at Prezcon, and Friday was no exception - even though the first thing on my docket was the 10:00 heat of Lords of Waterdeep.   I had about 20ish folks show up for the first heat, and I managed to play this year as well.  I was determined to keep it to 4 player games this year, and in my first heat I think I only had to go to 5 with one game.  I only had one group go long, but they were able to find me over at the 2nd heat of Conquest of Paradise

Friday afternoon and evening ended up being a Conquest of Paradise marathon.  In the 2nd heat, I was once again Raiatea.  In an interesting twist, New Zealand was discovered directly between Raiatea and Hiva.  The Hiva player and I decided on a truce - he would take the North Island, I would take the South.  I also made a run for sweet potatoes, though I was unsuccessful.  My memory is failing me here a everything from that day is a bit jumbled together, but I did not win, and then Kevin had to decide on how to run the semis/final game. 

The final was scheduled at 4:00, but Kevin wanted to run 2 semis starting at 3:00, as he had 5 individual heat winners, and would fill in with 3 2nd place finishers - of which I was one.  In one moment that made me ornery, one young player that was a heat winner complained because that would conflict with a heat of Leaping Lemmings.  Kevin was hemming and hawing, especially since
not all the winners showed up.  The young fellow went so far as to get the tournament director, Justin, to come over and arbitrate (at which point Justin said "Kevin is one of our best GM's...whatever he decides goes").  In the end, Kevin ran the two semis, and I made it in. 

Picture courtesy of
In our semi, I was with Brian, and Steve Bondra, and another fellow.  I had a decent game, but again finished 2nd to Steve.  As it turns out, in the other semi, Steve Cameron ran away with the victory in such a dominating fashion that both I and Brian (our 3rd place finisher) made it to the finals.

The final game started out terribly for me.  I found no islands for the first 3 turns.  That was drawing various remarks of pity from the other players...and they were completely discounting me.  I should mention that I was Hiva, and Brian was playing Raiatea.  At one point he essentially offered me a small island as a way to appease me and stop military aggression.  It sort of worked, as I then went on a tear and found a bunch of islands in a row.  I also successfully discovered sweet potatoes.  I was gearing up to land colonists on 4 islands at once, for an 8 point jump, when Steve Bondra declared victory.  As Samoa, he found a bunch of islands and was able to isolate himself.  One more turn, and I think I would have been able to make a run at it - but isn't that always the way of things?  I was still able to squeak out a 3rd place finish.  In general, I liked playing with the advanced rules, though Malaria never came into play, and Sweet Potatoes are had to get to.  New Zealand factored in several of my games, and the random events change the strategy significantly, in my mind.  The rule is that the player in last place gets to draw and implement the random events - this leads to a tactic of intentionally lagging behind.  In the finals, I was drawing the majority of the time, but I never got any of the "super" cards.  Twice Steve Cameron managed to lag behind me, and he got two cards that would have helped me significantly.  Oh well...lesson learned for WBC....

After almost 8 hours of Conquest of Paradise, it was off to open gaming.  Some other familiar faces were showing up, including Ben Rosset, Nick Ferris and Josh Tempkin.  I got in a game of Coup with Ben, Nick and several other fellows, and managed to pull off the win.  Although I still don't think I caught Ben lying.  After that, Ben, Nick, Josh and Brian were gracious enough to give Santa's Workshop a try.  They only ended up getting through about half a game, but I got quite a bit of good feedback.  I loved Unpub, but with 3 game designers playing, I think I got more valuable feedback during that playtest than during Unpub.  This led to significant changes, which I will detail in an upcoming blog post.  After closing that up, Brian, Tom and I sat down with Ben to playtest his Homebrewers - the "prequel" to Brewcrafters.  I think Ben has another solid idea here, although it's certainly in a more "rough" stage than when I playtested either Brewcrafters or Brewcrafters:The Travel Card Game.  Combining dice rolling, negotiation, and card management, I look forward to playing the next iteration the next time I see Ben. 

Well that was enough for that night, and that's enough for this blog entry.  Next up in Part 3, I'll wrap up with Saturday and Sunday, and some overall thoughts about Prezcon 2014.


  1. I really enjoyed Santa's Workshop and am eager to try the next iteration. Worker placement games are like crack to me, especially richly-themed ones.

    1. Thanks, Nick - I very much appreciate you playing and providing feedback. I look forward to being able to return the favor next time we're at a con!

  2. I really appreciate Justin's ruling: "Whatever Kevin says, goes." Justin relies on his GMs to run their tournaments fairly, and I think the quality of the GMs is a big part of the success of the PrezCon tournaments (even if I can't win one to save my flippin' life).

    1. Yeah, the whole situation was weird. I don't think I would have been upset if the slight schedule change was messing him for another final or something...but it was the first heat of Leaping Lemming, for goodness sake. Anyway, I got the feeling that Justin was kinda like "WTF did you bring me over here for?" - the unfortunate thing is, he probably deals with this kind of thing all week. Not sure what "fun" he has being the coordinator, but I'm glad he's doing it!