Friday, August 29, 2014

WBC 2014 Recap - Part 2

Well, I'll just pick right up from where Part 1 left off.  After another night of not enough sleep, Saturday morning was upon us.  Saturday is typically "Conquest of Paradise Day" for me, and this was no exception - sort of.  The 4th and final heat was at 9:00 am that morning.  Since Brian had arrived late, this was his 1st chance at CoP.  Due to my victory in Heat 2, I was in the semis, but I always like to play, so I joined in Heat 4 as well.  Randomly drawing Samoa again, I had fortunate tile draws.  The random effects took their toll a little bit, and the Hiva and Raitea players used them against the Tonga player and myself.  The only unfortunate part of the game was that the Tonga player misinterpreted some rules, and got a little perturbed about that, as well as thinking that the rest of the table was picking on him even when he was down.  I don't think that was true, but he had a little bit of a sore spot with the game, and that made things a bit tense.  In the end I pulled out the victory after conquering some of the native inhabited islands to the west.  This got me the #1 seed in the semi-finals.  I had my choice of homelands, so I picked Samoa, which had treated me so well in the tournament.  The semis consisted of 3 4-player games.  The 3 winners and the "best" 2nd place would advance to the finals.  I was a bit chagrined when the gentleman from the previous game was assigned to my table again, but he seemed to have gotten over the earlier game, and had a find attitude this time around.  Brian was assigned to my table, and our 4th was a young lady who's name I don't remember (I wish I hadn't lost my notes).  I thought I had another good game going, with several good island pulls.  The Tonga player and I were clearly in the lead, and Brian tried his best to convince the young woman that they should focus on us, but she was intent on attacking Brian.  That effectively took the two of them out of the game.  I was preparing to attack Tonga, but I waited too long.  By virtue of good island pulls and Arts&Culture cards, he declared victory.  I was 4 or so points behind.  One of the other games had to go to a tie-breaker, so that meant I wouldn't get in the final.  My reign as defending WBC CoP champion had come to an end.

Saturday tends to be full of semi-finals and finals, so getting into new games becomes somewhat of a challenge.  I decided to go to the demo for Concordia, a game which Paul had picked up in the vendor area based on reputation.  While waiting for the demo, we watched a bit of the Memoir '44 mega-Overlord game, which was simulating the entirety of the D-Day landing.  There must have been 16 or so players, presided over by designer Richard Borg.  I had the pleasure of chatting with him for a few minutes - he was very nice, and opined that the mega-Overlord scenario was probably a "bit much", but fun for a convention.

I had some trouble keeping my attention during the Concordia demo...lack of sleep was catching up to me, but I decided to jump in the heat after the demo anyway.  My opponents were all more experienced, but I think the most experienced had played maybe 5 or 6 games.  My big problem is that I really didn't understand how scoring would work - and scoring doesn't happen until the game is over.  Like many euros, you can score for a variety of things.  I just didn't have a coherent plan on what to focus on, but even though I finished 4th, my broad approach didn't land me too far behind the leaders.  I don't know what to think of this game...I didn't love it, but I would be interested in trying it again.

Brian had gotten himself into the Tigris & Euphrates semi-finals, so Paul and I met in open gaming for a few rounds of Confusion:Espionage and Deception in the Cold War.  This is a great 2-player game that doesn't get to the table often enough, where you don't know how your own pieces can move...thus your opponent has to say "yes" or "no" when you attempt to make a move.  The objective is to get the briefcase, and carry it off your opponents edge of the board.  Our first game was quick, with Paul essentially bum rushing the briefcase off my side for the victory.  Our 2nd game was much more "tactical", though Paul still won in the end.

Brian re-emerged, his dreams of glory in Tigris & Euphrates smashed, and then we were joined by Bryan Fischer and John Sizemore of Nevermore Games.  We broke out Thunder Alley, a NASCAR inspired racing game.  In Thunder Alley, you play a team of cars, and you use cards to move either your single card, or the entire row of cars that your car may be linked with.  As you play cards, damage will build up on your cars, eventually forcing a pit stop.  The winner isn't necessarily who finishes first, but who accumulate the most points among his cars for things like leading laps.  I liked the game, but I didn't love it.  It was a bit more fiddly than I hoped for, and there was a certain luck of the cards element.  Someone made the comparison to Formula Motor Racing, and I think that was apt.  I would play it again, but I think Formula D remains my car racing game of choice.

Bryan and John took their leave, and Paul taught us Pergamon, a game about digging for archaeological treasures, and then displaying them in a museum.  By this time, lack of sleep was really catching up to me.  I liked the game well enough, better than Brian did...but would certainly like to try it again when I'm more awake.

Sunday morning we got in a couple more games in open gaming.  Brian Goodman and Dave (gah!, what's Dave's last name) joined us for a game of Mag Blast.  This is a sort of tongue-in-cheek game about battling each other's space fleets.  The unfortunate part is that like Bang!, there is player elimination, and I was eliminated early.  After that, we got in one more 3-player game of Villainous Vikings, and then called it a trip.

So, another WBC in the books.  But what does the future hold?  The big announcement was that starting in 2016, the WBC is moving a little bit west, to Seven Springs Ski resort.  As you might expect with gamers, there is no shortage of opinions on this...many negative, and many positive.  There are some legitimate complaints, and some not so legitimate ("It's no longer an east coast convention!"'s moving an hour or so's still east of Pittsburgh for crying out loud). 

The key for me is that the Lancaster Host is simply a dump at this point.  The management doesn't seem to care about the favorite this year was the sign on a table in the foyer advertising "Sign up now for low 2013 membership rates!"  The food...never great quality...seemed a notch below this year.  And the surrounding area isn't much better.  I've stayed in 3 different hotels now - the "Rodehouse Inn", the Continental across the street, and this year, the Ramada just down the street.  All 3 of them are marginal quality at best.  I'm happy to try out Seven Springs...I think the drive will be a little longer, but an hour more at most.  But to be honest, I have limited time and money for gaming conventions.  Prezcon is a must for me every year, but I'm starting to hear the siren calls of Origins and GenCon.  I would like to experience both of those.  I may have to make a decision in the next year or two on whether to skip WBC or not.    A lot of that may depend on where I am in further development with Santa's Workshop, and a couple other game ideas I have.  We'll see...
One more year...

Thursday, August 28, 2014

WBC 2014 Recap - Part 1

Unfortunately, real life has gotten a little bit in the way the last month or two, so I've not picked my blogging back up at the pace I would like.  However, things are getting back to normal, so I hope to do this a little more regularly.  I did manage to squeeze in time to make the annual pilgrimage to Lancaster, PA for the World Boardgaming Championships from Thurs-Sunday, though.  I took some notes - but have since lost those, and I didn't do a good job with picture-taking this year (I will be glad to see Summer 2014 come to a's been challenging, and I've been off my game).  So, I'm going to do my best to give a brief recap, with some thoughts on WBC in general. 

My friend Paul Owen and I headed up early Thursday morning.  We got there around 10ish, and headed in to the Lancaster Host.  I thought about playing Stone Age, however I decided to play Thurn & Taxis, which I don't get to pay fact my last play was last year at WBC.  I was seated with 3 veterans, and had to ask for a quick rehash of the rules, which they provided.  The game went fairly ended about a turn or two before I was ready and I finished in last place...however it was very close with a 5 or 6 point spread from first to last.  I was pleased with how I fared against 3 players who obviously were much more familiar with the game than I was.  Next up for me was a round of 7 Wonders.  GM Nick Ferris has a great randomizing method to seat people with unique cards he hands out to everyone, calls a row and column and everyone had their table and seat assignment.  My three opponents consisted of 1 fellow who was pretty experienced and 2 other folks who were fairly new to the game.  We played 2 games in an hour, and I finished 3rd in both, for an overall 3rd place.  In both games, I was hampered with lack of certain resources. 

Paul didn't advance either and I tagged along with him to the Lampeter room where he was going to engage in some Wooden Ships & Iron Men.  I took the opportunity to relearn this game, and played against one of the experienced hands in a frigate duel.  As expected my experienced foe got the upper hand, I didn't adjust to the wind very well...but his hot  dice luck didn't help any.  Next up I took part in a heat of Navegador...another game I don't get to play often enough.  I concentrated on building churches, but my lack of investing in any kind of ships in the 2nd half of the game caught up to me in the end.  Still, I finished in 2nd, about 8 or so points behind the winner.  At 9:00 that night I participated in my first heat of Conquest of Paradise, which had been expanded to 4 heats this year.  As at Prezcon, we were playing with the advanced rules and random events.  My game went very quickly...we were done in under an hour.  As Samoa I started last, and my 3 opponents each found 2 or more islands on their first turn.  I only found found one, but I consistently found islands over the next several rounds, and was able to expand my Polynesian empire for a quick and bloodless win (there was no combat in the entire game). 

After that, Paul and I wen to the open gaming area where we found Peter Gousis and his friend Jerry and played a game of Tobago, a clever little game about finding treasure, where the location of the treasures is narrowed down in a sort of logical card progression by the players.  Peter had come to our Unpub Mini and I was glad to catch up with him.  After that we all joined several other players, including T.C. Petty III for some Coup, followed by Panic on Wall Street.  With Coup, we played with the Reformation expansion, where players are assigned to the Catholic or Protestant faction, and can't act against someone in their faction...although you can change someone else's faction.  It adds another twist to an already fun hidden role/deduction game.  We had played Panic on Wall Street last year, and I was kind of "meh" on the game, though as I recall I was very tired at the time.  This time we also started late, but I got into the game more...and manged to eek out a win as a manager by riding the high-risk shares. 

Friday morning came too early (all the mornings seem to come too early at these conventions...)  I briefly toyed with the idea of playing in the Circus Maximus heat, but decided to wait for the vendors to open at 10:00.  I made a beeline to the Stronghold Games booth in order to pick up the Die Fighter expansion for Space Cadets:Dice Duel.  (About a week later I had a package arrive at home...the copy of Die Fighter that I had forgotten I had pre-ordered...DOH).  I picked up a few other things as well - a copy of Caylus Magna Carta (the card game version of Caylus), Freedom:The Underground Railroad, of which I had heard many good things, and game called Quilt Show to use as a gift for a friend that is really into quilting.  I didn't actually sit down for a game until 1:00, when I decided to try my hand at a heat of Ticket to Ride.  I enjoy TTR but I haven't played in a tournament in years because it's so popular, and it tends to conflict with other things.  One player ran away with it at our table - I finished 4th...I might have finished higher but I knew I wasn't winning so went for the Hail Mary on the last turn and drew more tickets...none of them I had complete.  But I did get a set of translucent trains just for playing. 

There was another heat of Conquest of Paradise at 3:00, but instead I decided to help Paul with a demo of East India Company he was giving to a publisher.  Now, I hadn't played EIC in a quite some time, and was eager to see the changes Paul had made.  He had streamlined it by removing the dividend track, taking out the Caribbean, removing the tariffs, and eliminating the option of using wood to build new ships.  The demo went well, I thought, although afterwards, on the drive home in particular, we brainstormed some about the game.  I thought Paul had actually removed too much, and we talked specifically about a way to add the tariffs back in, and possible some changes to how the pirates work.  Now, I will also admit that I had an ulterior motive.  This same publisher had contacted me after our Mini Unpub, specifically about Santa's Workshop.  I had sent him rulebook, but he had contacted me right after we got to WBC to tell me that it wasn't what they were looking for.  Which is fine, I'm happy he looked at it...and did take the opportunity to get his advice for 5 minutes or so after the EIC demo was done.  I specifically wanted to get his feedback on the theme...which had really gotten a negative reaction from a publisher at Unpub back in January.  This particular publisher thought the theme may be a bit of a tough sell, but he didn't think it was necessarily a deal breaker.  So, I was happy to get some feedback.

About this time, Brian made his WBC appearance, and we just decided to hit open gaming.  Paul sat down to re-teach us St. Petersberg, and we were joined by a 4th player...who also wanted to teach the game.  Once we got started, it came back quick enough.  Our 4th player won, but I made a strong showing with a building heavy strategy.  Brian and I hit the vendors for a while, and I picked up a copy of Villainous Vikings.  We had seen a demo of this game last year at WBC when designer Jeremy Stoltzfus had brought his prototype to demo.  Victory Point games had picked it up, and I decided to get a copy, including a promo captain.  Brian and I sat down in open gaming to give a 2-player game a try.  Fortunately, Jeremy was a few tables over teaching some other folk, so we were able to get quick answers to some rules questions.  We had a fun game, but were thinking it would bet better with more than 2 players.  After our game, Paul joined us along with Bill and Laurie from Nomad games.  Brian had purchased a copy of Spurs from them earlier, and we broke it out. Set in the Old West, with just about every trope you can imagine packed into the game, this was probably the purchase of the con.  The best part was watching Paul and Brian "gunfight" by drawing bullets out of their bags.  Brian pulled out the victory, I was a few points behind in 2nd place.  The last game of the night was another round of Villainous Vikings, with Paul joining in for a 3-player game.  Paul ended up running away with the game, but I did think it was better with more players.

Well, I had intended to do one short recap of WBC, but I think it's probably better to break it up into two next up, Saturday & Sunday, plus general thoughts on WBC.