I wrote all this after reading Matt's question on the Deep Cuts guild:
I was curious what conventions folks here attend and what you think they're doing well. Do they nail the venue or the crowd or is it just the gaming on offer? Maybe it's just simple geography that drives attendance.
For me, it's definitely people and geography first, followed by the games.
I've never been to a "big" convention. No Origins. No GenCon. No whatever.
My first board game convention was Niagara Boardgaming Weekend in 2007. It's a pure "open gaming" convention. I loved this format, meeting many great people. I had just moved to Binghamton from Buffalo. Driving up for NBW was also an excuse to get back up north to play games with the group that I missed.
Going to NBW got me an invitation to a small private con run by Scott Nicholson in June '07, which was a ton of fun, and led to me meeting Alan Moon, which got me an invite to the Gathering of Friends in April '08, which was a WEEK of fun.
In '09, I went back to NBW. I decided not to go back to the Gathering for many reasons, but mostly because I couldn't justify the cost and time involved in what was essentially a week-long selfish vacation, abandoning my growing family to do my own thing. My wife has always been gracious towards my gaming, but I didn't want to abuse that grace. Also, at that time, the event always took place the week before Easter, which just made it even more difficult to get away from family at that time.
'09 was also the year that I met Bill Ashbaugh from Oneonta and got invited out to Billapalooza, his gaming birthday bash.
In 2010, I took a break from all cons, public or private.
In 2011, I went to GMT East, after having slowly become more involved in wargaming. This was a blast, but I slowly realized over the next year that I'm not really a wargamer. I definitely like many war and historical games, but my family and general life situation is such that long, involved games are just hard to get to the table.
2012 and 2013 were years in which I did not go to any cons, and at times thought that I might be cooling on being so deep in the hobby.
2014 was the year that I started regularly reuniting with childhood friends for 4+ days of renting a place, hiking, gaming, drinking, relaxing. At first, we called it NOMAAM Weekend (my friend Josh had to explain the reference from Married with Children), but we've just referred to it as Mancation every since. It's been great for me and made me realize that I need at least one weekend away a year for my own mental health. We've been doing it every year since. This past year was the first year that I wrote an AAR.
I still tell people that NBW is my favorite public con, because it is. Unfortunately, the cost involved and the 5 hour travel time, just makes it hard for me to get to, especially when I've already taken time off from work for Mancations (and they keep seeming to get longer!) and more important family trips and events.
So far, in 2019, I've been to one private event at a friend's place.
This sort of weekend of gaming was something that we could have easily done when we were younger. Now it's a special event. But you know what? It is special, and I'm grateful for these moments of being able to get away and act like a teenager with the same guys I was acting like a teenager with, and playing games with, when we were teenagers!
These weekends, and Mancations, are great for getting the trashier dudes on a map stuff played, great for rowdy days and nights. They definitely scratch that itch. What I haven't really found yet is something similar to scratch the heavier longings. I'd love to go to an Age of Steam Con, Heavy Con, or something like Trains & Chits, a place where everyone was agreed on the task of melting their minds. I know that I could go back to GMT East for a wargame fix, but the hotel is expensive and the drive is far enough to discourage me. I've got to dig around local groups and the BGG 'find users' feature, and find the weird gamers in nearby upstate NY areas, the kind that wouldn't mind playing Soo Line followed by Sea Evil followed by Time of Crisis. I'd like that.
What's next in Cons for me in 2019?
I've already registered for MepaCon in Scranton, PA, and have signed up for sessions of Mutant Crawl Classics and XCrawl. I'm excited for that.
Later in the year will be Mancation (ManCon VI) and the inaugaral CuseCon in Syracuse, NY (about an hour north of me), where I'm hoping to play some DCC as well as find plenty of open gaming. I'll probably go to RoberCon again here in the Bingo area. And then there's always FATFROG, which I realized I didn't mention. It's the Friday After Thanksgiving Family Reunion Over Games that happens at my place on Black Friday.
So, what have I learned about myself after writing this? It's what I already knew. I don't care about the big cons. I want to play games I like with people I like. If that means being silly and calling a planned day of gaming at someone's house a "Con", well, I'm not above doing that. Because those are my favorite Cons. And sometimes it feels like the amount of effort that we put into planning and coordinating everyone's schedules to make something like this work has got to be as difficult, or more difficult, than what it takes to pack a stadium with new shiny things.
I'm not qualified to make any judgment on any of the legalities on all that has led up to the present AoS reprint. I've been following the back-and-forth for longer than 10 years now. All that means is that I'm less sure of who is right and who is wrong than ever in the past. It's a mess. It seems as if all parties have behaved badly.
My personal position is that Wallace admits that Bohrer took his design (at his direction) and made it a different, better game. Hamilton (who was the other half of Warfrog at the time) admits that the rules copyright belongs to Winsome (as is clear on original box and rules, so cannot be denied). If this were work for hire as Wallace and Hamilton insist it was, then why in the name of everything cardboard would the rules as written be allowed to be exclusively in Bohrer's name and not copyright Wallace or copyright Warfrog? Why is there a clear statement at the end of the rules that the rules are copyrighted by Bohrer? Copyright means that this individual HAS THE RIGHT TO MAKE COPIES AND LICENSE COPIES TO OTHERS. My understanding is that rules are the only things that can be copyrighted in game design. If Bohrer owns the rules copyright, he effectively owns the design. This fact, coupled with the clear fact that (for whatever reason, good or bad,) Warfrog did indeed slap a statement on the original box declaring license and copyright belonging to Winsome, is enough to make me feel no remorse in purchasing this new edition of AoS. Without any signed contracts between Wallace and Bohrer detailing who owns what, it seems like the public record made by Warfrog's own game box and rules testifies against their own position, whether they are in the right or not.
It should be noted that Bohrer explicitly names Wallace as designer at the end of the rules. I don't think that has ever been in dispute. My understanding is that Bohrer, right or wrong, as developer with copyright, believes that he can license these rules, and that he has always offered to pay Wallace. Based on the copyright and licensing statements, I'm inclined to side with Bohrer (and yes, I've read the claims that these were done "as a favor," etc., and that's probably true, but, if true, it was an incredibly stupid favor). My further understanding is that Wallace does not want any royalty payments from Bohrer or EGG because he believes that they don't have the right to print the game at all without his permission. Maybe so, I don't know. All I know is that it makes for a strange situation in which one company is trying to publish a game that I love while the designer is trying to stop this game from being published. The designer is happy with his re-designs (Steam, Railways) and no longer wants anything to do with the original rules-as-written design. As a fan of the original game and not the re-designs, I feel like I have to stand firmly on the side of those who want to reprint the original game, the version of the game that I feel strongly should NEVER go out of print.
What is important to me in any artistic medium is the text. I'm all for authors and editors getting paid, but what I really care about is the survival of texts that I love. I love reading Gawain and the Green Knight. I don't care that I don't know who wrote it. I don't care that I don't know the names of the guys (and maybe gals) who added to the history and development of chess. I don't know who first thought up the core idea behind Hnefatafl. I don't know anything about the first person who placed a stone on a grid. 1,000 years from now, I hope that the names Wallace and Bohrer are remembered in board game history classes (in the session on the importance of carefully worded contracts!). More importantly, I hope that the rules of Age of Steam are still remembered and that a physical copy of the game can be easily printed out at the corner print-on-demand board game kiosk (one can dream).
I'm a pink box owner. I never felt the need to buy the last 3e reprint, as I considered it a downgrade. This new version, however, is lovely, and is the Age of Steam reprint that so many of us have been waiting many years for. It's sad that all of this nastiness around it exists.
There is bad blood all around. I wish that all involved could be at peace.
I guess that my only purpose in writing all of this was to maybe help those few persons who have been on the fence about whether or not they should back this new edition of this great game. I would encourage these persons to do so with a clear conscience.
I fully expect some backlash. So be it. I guess I should add that I'm a big Wallace fan. I just played Wildlands last week and it knocked me out by what a fun design it was. I was a Treefrog subscriber back in the day. I used to seriously tell people that Wallace was my favorite designer. I tried to get my wife to name one of our daughters Martin. I've never met Wallace, but I've had brief positive email interactions with him. I've had no interactions with Bohrer and have only played a very small handful of Winsome games. If anything, my overall sympathies lay with Wallace. It's just that in this instance, I find myself leaning toward Bohrer's case, and I definitely find myself in support of any original Age of Steam reprint, especially one as well done as this one is.
------------------------------------------------------------------------ Every year I get together with good friends for a Mancation.
PartheCon is not Mancation.
PartheCon is two days of gaming at Parthe's apartment. Parthe agrees to stop chasing skirts long enough to host games at his sweet bachelor pad. We all agree to show up and play games.
These are the essential elements of PartheCon: Friends. Board games. Pizza. Beer. Farts. Shouting. [Optional: picklebacks, stale chips.] ------------------------------------------------------------------------
Friday the 1st:
I was the only one driving in from out of town. The drive sucked. Cross Bronx. Ugh. Enough said.
When I showed up, Mike was already there. I walked in on Mike and Parthe playing Hive, one of my favorite games that no one will play me in any longer, because I'm pretty danged good at it.
After they cleaned up Hive, we played a session of The Mind to see how attuned we were to one another. We were Level 5 attuned. No further.
Mike was on a mission to get me to love Onitama, a game that he likes a lot. My previous experience with it was frustrating. I disliked having to learn new moves each game, resulting in AP, with little reward. I rated it a '4', 'not so good - but could play again' according to the BGG scale. I wanted to like it, but didn't. Still, I was willing to be convinced. We played with the Wind Spirit expansion, and a Wind card did come into play, which opened up some interesting decisions. We played a best of 3, and I won 2-1. Result? I like it a little more. I raised my rating to '6' and it could go higher. I think that the major difference between this time and last time is that last time I played (with Parthe), we changed the cards every game. That was just too much. This time, we played with the same cards for the entire best of 3, and I would have been willing to play even more, going for a best of 7. I realized that my problem wasn't so much with the game, but with one way of playing the game, with a new set of cards each time. Now, I think that I'd actually like the game a lot if we just stuck to one set of cards for long best of 7 matches, then switch it up. That seems like a good sweet spot for scratching my need for exploring stable systems, while also providing variety each session.
After Onitama, Parthe and I faced off in a game of KeyForge. Complicated Thorpe of the Chateau (me) vs. Dutchdotter McIver-McIver, Baron (Parthe) Complicated Thorpe simply mopped the floor with McIver-McIver. It was embarrassing. What was more embarrassing was the amount of baby whining that happened about how Thorpe was over-powered, cry cry cry. I offered to swap decks for a rematch, but the offer was declined. We moved on.
Yams showed up at this point, so we moved on to the serious Dudes on Maps action that we had all showed up for.
We played Wildlands, which was as wild as its title suggests. I lucked into two easy gems at the beginning of the game, but that only marked me as a target for the rest of the game. I really like how the game allows for "unfair" situations like this, then encourages the players to do something to deal with it. In this case, everyone else heavily guarded my other gems from me, picked off my weak characters, all while scoring their own gems and kills. I managed to get the win by running with a character through several spaces, surviving two attempted kill interrupts, and grabbing a gem in the most unlikeliest of rooms for me to get to. I also killed an owl. It was a wild time, much fun.
Mike was the only one of us who hadn't played Root. I gave him the Marquise, did a quick rules teach, including quick review of other factions, then we were up and fighting in the woods.
It was a close game the entire time. Mike's cats ran a tight business, expanding business centers and profits each turn. Yams' Chaos Lord Trash Bandit saw a good thing and began allying himself with Big Cat. My Woodland Alliance was the mole being whacked, consistently getting points, but struggling for a board presence. Parthe's cute lil birdies aggressively expanded, eventually hitting turmoil, only to be reborn unstoppable. It was my 7th play of the game, and the first time that I saw a bird victory.
We also ate pizza, drank beer, farted, and shouted. A lot.
Saturday the 2nd:
Mike and Yams had gone home the night before (or early the next morning, really). I woke up too early at 8 and putzed around. Parthe woke up at 9:30. We went to a local deli and got great breakfast sandwiches, then returned and played...
Gloomhaven. Parthe had a copy of Gloomhaven because, like so many people, he chose to have Gloomhaven instead of having kids. Also, after the sad death of his dog, Gloomhaven provided the loving company that he needed, demanding the same attention and care.
All jokes aside, I played Gloomhaven. I liked it. The hype, the praise, it's all legit. Do I see myself playing it 100+ times? Nope, though I did tell Parthe that I'd be willing to commit to a scenario a year, so if we don't replay any of them, we should get through the entire game when we're 140 years old.
After Gloomhaven, Mike showed up. Parthe played tiny people games on his tablet while Mike and I played forging keys. This post is already getting too long. Short version. Complicated Thorpe killed it again against a deck name I don't remember, then got seriously owned by The Noxious Barkeep of Antiset. Friggin' noxious barkeeps. That last game played long, but it was satisfying the entire time.
Yams showed up while we were finishing KeyForge. After screwing around for a little bit, we decided to play Lazer Ryderz. During set-up, it was obvious that the table was too small, so we then spent the next half hour (at least) pushing and pulling on Parthe's uncooperative table to get the flyleaf out. I cannot stress enough how epic the moment was when success was achieved without the table falling apart, and no one being injured. We finally had a big enough table to play. Then, Parthe's friend Sean showed up, and we couldn't play the 4 player Lazer Ryderz any longer. We put it away. So it goes.
After a short bit of debate, we settled on Attack on Titan: The Last Stand, which was an adequate adaptation of the anime in the sense that we felt hopeless and ultimately all of humanity perished in a tragic final slaughter. We came close a few times to offing the Titan, but it's also clear that we misunderstood and mismanaged the use of the tactics deck. I'd like to play it again. I had fun, but right now, I still think that Attack on Titan: Deck-Building Game is better than this one.
After the catastrophic end of the world, we were ready for the catastrophic end of the world. It was time for the main event. Blood Rage. The main event consisted of lots of swearing, threatening, and more swearing and threatening. Arguments. Shouting. Farting. Blooding. Raging. I was doing well, carrying the lead, until the end of Age 3, in which everyone at the table decided to shower Parthe with free victory points, out of sheer love for his greatness, I guess. He won by a large margin. Blood Lame. I kid. It was a great time.
Throughout all of this, there was also once again the always important elements of pizza and beer alongside the above mentioned shouting and farting.
Mike's girlfriend showed up near the end of Blood Rage (the fact that she could survive amidst all of this gnarly gamerly testosterone must mean she's a keeper). After BR, we all played Dungeon Derby, a simple racing and betting game with lots of luck and chaos, perfect for the end of the night. Except by this time of night, I'm usually asleep. I wasn't asleep, but the pizza and beer was warring in me to get me to go to sleep so that it could colonize my belly without any further resistance. I was dopey through the game, but I managed to win through a lucky bet, followed by overly cautious management of my immense wealth.
Then, goodbyes and sleep.
Early wake-up and early travel to beat a snowstorm the next day. The Parthenogenesis is over. We'll do it again next year, PartheCon 2: The Parthening.
Tikal is one of my handful of 10s. I discovered it early in my personal gaming renaissance, when "Euros" were still German games, and more importantly, were still highly interactive. I'm going to try to get it played more often. Back in '07/'08, I had a few friends that I played with regularly on spielbyweb. One of those friends came to visit me this past month, and one of the best gaming experiences of the month was a 2 player game of Tikal with him. I probably like Tikal best with 3, but I still find it very satisfying with 2 and 4. My preference is 3-->2-->4. I still very much enjoy the 4 player experience, but find it a touch more chaotic than I care for. This 2 player game was great. We both knew the rules well so we played with auctions. There was hardly any downtime as neither one of us is particularly prone to analysis paralysis. It was just an all-around very pleasant session. And I lost. :-)
I think that Saint Petersburg has earned a permanent spot in my collection. I've been unsure of it in the past. I've owned it for a long time. It rarely got played. But recent plays have all been great, so I'm hoping that I can get this to the table often this year. My kids like it, so I think that it'll happen.
I think I've completely cooled on Azul. I still think it's a good game. I don't think I'll ever turn it down in a casual setting (at home with family or in a situation with lighter gamers). It also just doesn't get me all that excited. It's a bit repetitive. I think I'm also slightly annoyed by the constant re-seeding of the board in between turns. I dislike many games with fiddly upkeep phases. This one isn't all that fiddly, but it gets old. I almost think I'd prefer an app version.
This is new to me because it's the first time I've logged a play on BGG. I have played it before, though, back in the early 00s. Hnefatafl is a fascinating game. I like that it is still a game in a state of rules flux, where variants rule over any official static game. It's just an interesting reminder of an earlier time in which games would be tweaked and re-worked by different players in different regions. This is an excellent site that I used to find rules for many variants: http://tafl.cyningstan.com/downloads/703/rules-leaflets
It's been tough to teach Tak to new players, not because it's hard to teach (it isn't), but because new players have a significant learning curve. I've got a pretty high win record at this game, and it's mostly because I show no mercy when teaching.
I know it will be an amazing feeling if i ever win The Mind with a group. Right now, though, I almost feel defeatist about the game. I don't know that it's possible to win without a splash of luck and a system of developed "tells" from playing multiple times with the same people.
The wife of my good friend and fellow Tikal fan mentioned above brought me a very thoughtful gift, a lovely handcrafted Ur board. I had a ton of fun playing this simple race game with them. Maybe more importantly, I'm actually excited about trying Backgammon for the first time. Backgammon is a game that I've never played and never had any interest in playing, though recently a few people have told me to get over myself and give it a try. After playing Ur, I'm more interested in trying it, as it seems that Backgammon is definitely the "spiritual successor" to Ur.
I've never been a huge Dominion fan, but I've always liked it. After 15 plays, I'm feeling like I'm kinda done with it. I'm sure I'll play it some more, but I don't understand how players get this to the table 100+ times. It sounds tedious.
I loved my first few plays of this. The novelty is gone, and I found this last play a little bit tedious. So it goes.
Game Purchases: DCC Judge's Screen - $10.79
I'm doing pretty well at not buying games, though I think that's going to fall apart next month with the Age of Steam and Irish Gauge kickstarters.
Albums I listened to a lot of new stuff again, which is always a mistake. I stopped caring after a while. I liked the new Panda Bear and Deerhunter, but haven't cared to return to them. I liked some other stuff that I forget. I forget other stuff that I couldn't care enough about to remember at all. Probably my favorite new-to-me album was Beck's Morning Phase, an album from a few years ago that a friend introduced me to, describing it as "soft rock for aging hipsters."
Here you go:
Books Reading was sporadic throughout the month. I was dipping into a lot of things, never finishing anything. I did finish Remains of the Day, and it did make me a little misty eyed at the end.
Films A re-watch of The Third Man was probably the best feature film that I watched all month.
Most of these plays were with my children, as I only made it out to two game nights this past month. I'm still loving Keyforge. I'm undefeated against my children. :-) I've thought about playing in the local competitive scene (one gaming friend of mine is currently dominating the scene), but I just can't get excited about guys who have memorized every bit of errata, card combos, etc. I love Keyforge, but I don't luuuuuuuvvvvee Keyforge, if you get what I mean.
24 plays of 15 unique games. 4 of them new to me.
Gettysburg. My rating on this could go up. It's a short and simple "intro-level" hex-and-counter wargame. Between this and Fort Sumter, I've become a big fan of Mark Herman, making me want to re-visit Washington's War (which is the only other game I've played by him), and dive into some of his deeper, longer designs (like For the People). Two notes on these recorded plays. 1) I've decided this year to track solo plays, IF I play through the entire game start to finish, and not just muck around a little to learn rules. So, one of these plays was a solo play. 2) My second play was with my 14yo daughter, who said that she enjoyed the game, which means I should get it played again. She's also the one who played Shogi with me this past month.
Century: Spice Road. I found this one tedious, generating cubes to trade in for cubes to make more cubes to spend cubes. I won the game I played, and felt it was overall pretty obvious. It's weird to me that people describe this as a Splendor killer. I'd rather play the simplicity and directness of Splendor any time over Century.
I mostly liked Trains. The "waste" mechanism is what is holding me back. I get why it's there, but I think that it mostly slows down the game instead of really providing for more interesting decisions.
I've decided that I really dislike the Exit games, but my family enjoys them, so I'm sure I'll keep experiencing them.
Get Bit! is not a great game. Rules as written, I don't really like it at all. But playing with house rules with my 5yo and 3yo, it's one of the best games around. The house rules are simple. Me and the 5yo both pick a specific colored lego man and the corresponding colored deck of cards. We shuffle our personal decks. Each turn then happens simultaneously, with each of us flipping the top card of our deck, war-style. Whoever has the higher number gets to tear a body part off of his opponent. After the turn, my 3yo, playing the shark, gets to roll a die. If she rolls a 6, the shark gets to eat everyone and instantly wins. That's the game. If the shark doesn't win, then last lego man with any part of his body left wins. It's a total luckfest, but it's fast and frantic, bloody and brutal, over in 5 minutes, and the kids have a loud, crazy, fun time, which means I have a loud, crazy, fun time.
-I broke down and bought a copy of Transatlantic yesterday. It was only $27 on Amazon, which is a steal. -I don't think I ever want to play Agricola with 5 players ever again. 3 seems to be the sweet spot for me. -I've finally gotten to the point at which Root is quite simple to teach. I think it may be time to add in the Lizards and Otters. -The Mind is so much better than it has any right to be.
Albums listened to: 13 Rivers - Richard Thompson Aeonic - Balsam Range Ain't Nothin' to It - Cody Johnson All Ashore - Punch Brothers All for Money - Greensky Bluegrass Magnolia - Randy Houser Old News - The Steel Woods Warrior Queen - High'n'Heavy
I have been using Goodreads and Letterboxd for books and movies. Is there any equivalent for music?
I didn't love any of these, though I did listen to the Thompson multiple times, so that's probably the winner. Richard Thompson has been making consistently good music for 50+ years (the first Fairport Convention album dropped in June '68). The rest of these listens were me checking out newer country/Americana stuff, and I guess also one doom metal album, just for the sake of keeping it eclectic.
Probably my favorite song of the month was this simple country song of fatherly advice from Cody Johnson:
Second favorite song was this Randy Houser track, mostly for the delivery behind the clever phrasing of "no turn unstoned." The rest of the Houser album doesn't live up to this (whereas the Johnson album is pretty good all around), but it's not bad, just not to my tastes.
This morning, I read Matt Thrower's post about not making lists. It made me want to make a list. There will never be a year in which I will make a top ten list of that year's games. I have played 11 2018 games. If I made a top ten list, I'd have to pick ten of those eleven. That's silly. What I can do, and what I like to do, is make a list of the best new-to-me games, games from any year, which I played for the first time in 2018.
Shogi is one of the greats. I've known about it for a long while. I've read about it. I had played children's introductory versions. I had messed around with digital versions. But I hadn't actually played it face-to-face (which is the only way that counts). It's up there with Go/Baduk and Chess as one of the games that I consider perfect. What is especially fun about it, though, compared to western chess is that I don't know the first thing about it. I get the basic rules, of course, but "good play" is something that I'll be exploring for the rest of my life.
Dungeon Crawl Classics takes everything that I love about role-playing and does it right. It emphasizes all of the right things, with rules that encourage wild role-playing and discourage min-maxing and power gaming. When I'm playing an RPG, I want wild stories. I'm not playing to win. I'm playing to laugh and to get that thrill of wonder at grand heroics writ large. DCC satisfies.
I really like player asymmetry. I really like direct player interaction. Root delivers the combination of asymmetry and direct player interaction better than any other game I know (Chaos in the Old World is the other game that I played this year which does this well, but that one didn't also charm me with its cuteness).
KeyForge is every bit as good a game as everyone is saying it is. What is a "good game"? Well, for starters, it has to be fun. Shogi is brain-burning fun. It activates that deep, slow center of thought. DCC is gut-busting fun, scratching the story itch. Root is the fun of playing the players as much as playing the game. KeyForge is the specific fun of the card game, in which you are at the mercy of the shuffle. It can be very swingy, in which you think you're about to make the greatest power move of all time, to be followed by your opponent undermining and destroying you the next turn. I was there at the beginning of Magic. I remember being 14 years old in '93 and opening starter decks and playing right out of the box with a mix of cards and lands that worked terribly together. I remember the thrill of slowly crafting that mess into something that works better. KeyForge gives that initial thrill of playing with what you're given, and also delivers that thrill of discovery in learning cards and how they work best together.
Great Western Trail doesn't have any of the dramatic swinginess of KeyForge. What it does have is the steady rhythm of the trail, that circle of satisfaction. Great Western Trail is, despite its somewhat complex interlocking systems, a very simple game, in which you move and take an action or two, do it again, do it again, deliver cows, do it again, do it again. I find the game very relaxing. I won't be telling stories about the wild times running cattle, but while playing I experience that peace that playing a well-constructed closed system can give.
Why do I love Blood Rage? It's probably the minis. There's a good game beneath the pretty, but really it's the joy of playing with toys. This is a satisfying "dudes on a map" game for grown boys. I enjoy the drafting, and think that there are serious decisions to be made, but mostly it's about fighting other vikings. I just spent too much money on the recent Kickstarter. I might regret it. I did only play Blood Rage once. Maybe its shine will wear off. So maybe this little boy infatuation won't last, but I also feel pretty confident that I can sell the KS exclusive content to make my money back (and a little more) if I no longer want it.
Meltwater is a game that I bought after reading the designer's notes on the Hollandspiele blog. It was obvious that a lot of thought had gone into the theme and the design. After playing the game, I was happy to find that the design is a complete success. It's rare that a game can meld theme and mechanisms so well. But each rule is in place to serve the theme. The claustrophobia of a shrinking world is truly felt. The gameplay is good, and it also allows for emergent storytelling. Those poor Swedish scientists.
Transatlantic might be my new favorite Gerdts game. It takes what is good about Concordia and layers on a wonderful racing theme with direct and indirect player confrontation. I do like some Euros in which everyone does their own thing on their own boards, but really I love the interaction, in which something I do affects you, and something you do affects me.
Meow is stupid. It's also a brilliant design. On your turn, draw a card and say, "meow." That's it. There's one other rule added to this that actually makes it a game, but mostly it's the silliness of meow-bluffing. This stupid game made me smile and laugh a lot. That's a successful game. This one, more than any of the others on the list, is very group-dependent (having little kids present is a definite plus), and shouldn't be played more than a couple of times in a session or it outwears its welcome. With those caveats, I highly recommend Meow as the light "experience/party game" that it is.
I played Fort Sumter five times in a row one day. I haven't played it since. I do really like it, but I'm not sure about it. It's an abstract historical game, if that seeming contradiction of a description can be used. The historical theme is there. It's not detailed, but playing the game will give someone a sense of the issues at stake that led up to the war. In play, though, what matters isn't the history, but matching colors and symbols, exerting influence on the board through mechanisms. I greatly enjoyed my play, but I don't know how often I'll get this played. I've been meaning to teach one of my older children how to play this one to see if I can get this one played at home.
That's it. So far this year, I've played 61 games that have been new to me. This list above represents what I think was the best of that bunch. It's only December 10th, so I know that this list is premature. There are still 20 days left in which I could play something new to me which completely blows me away. It's possible. If I am surprised by something, I'll update this post, but right now I'm thinking that that will be unlikely.
I didn't do any gaming for the first 11 days of September.
September 12th was the first day of Mancation 2018 (ManCon V). Childhood friends. A rented house. Good food. Good beer. Good games. Good times.
I picked up Josh at the Scranton airport at 2pm. We immediately attempted to get in on a Sacred Gong Immersion session, but we were there at the wrong time so settled for beer and pizza next door instead.
(It's really not that funny.)
Parthe and Yams made it into town around 4p.
To our complete surprise (or maybe not), we found The Games Chateau across from the gong immersion site. At 5p, when the Chateau doors opened, we were there.
Okay, so we planned this. A games cafe twenty minutes from the airport? Yeah, we're going to check it out.
We got some good coffee, looked around, then settled in. The table space was right and the coffee was good.
Gaming started with Ticket to Ride: New York. It's light, it's easy, it is what it is. What is it? Ticket to Ride in 15 minutes or less. Which is exactly what I want. I've never hated Ticket to Ride, but I've never enjoyed it all that much either. It always goes on for much longer than a game of its weight should. But 15 minutes? Exactly right for Ticket to Ride. I don't have any interest to play TtR ever again, but I'll never turn down a filler game of TtR:NY.
After TtR:NY, we got to the main event. Root. This was my third play and third time teaching. Teaching Root gets easier each time I do it. I'm at the point now (after four plays) that I'm looking forward to the next time I have to teach it!
Here's the simple script: Basic Overview... Cats as entitled industrialists. Birds as proud aristocrats. WA as guerrila freedom fighters. Vagabond as Chaos Lord. General common rules. Run through each player board. Go. As the game is going, I feel confident that I can answer any questions that come up for anyone. Just play. Follow the player boards on your turn and it will all be good.
It's still a lot for new players, but at least I feel confident teaching the game now, which I didn't the first couple of times through.
(Root at Game Chateau)
I was the Woodland Alliance. And yes, the WA won. The forest is once again safe for the common animal.
We took a break for a bit and then played Sheriff of Nottingham. I think this was at Parthe's request. It was one of the games off the shelf at the cafe. Since I was the only one who had played it before, I glanced at the rules and then taught the game.
It was fun, but I still just don't care all that much for the game. My complaint is that there's actually too much game to it. If I want to play a bluffing game, I'd rather just play Cockroach Poker or Liar's Dice. I don't want to mess around with types of goods and discard piles and snap pouches.
We picked up Nick at 10pm at the airport, then hit the hotel. Beer and sleep.
Thursday morning, we grabbed some groceries and drove down to the house we had rented. We explored the local area, grabbing the best jerk chicken tacos I've ever had in my life at Zach's Taco Shack. Then some beer flights and whiskey samples at the Barley Creek Brewing Company down the road.
(The beer was just okay)
We headed back to the house and spent most of the afternoon playing Kuub in the backyard. Not a board game, but a good lawn game. I approve of any sport that allows you to hold a beer in one hand while you compete with the other.
(I suck at Kuub)
At some point we made it back inside for the annual Pickleback traditional shots. We played a few rounds of Meow, which is a game either for children or for childhood friends who haven't grown up. Meow.
(It's like it never happened.)
After supper, we played Cosmic Encounter twice. I don't remember how the games played out specifically, but I remember having a great time. I need to play more Cosmic Encounter.
Then, a full day of roleplaying. I ran Sailors on the Starless Sea. We took a lot of breaks so I don't know how long we actually played for, but it was off and on all day. They did defeat the Big Bad, but at great cost.
Gameplay looked something like this:
(how do you dungeon crawl?)
Saturday was beautiful and we got our hike in, a small portion of the Appalachian Trail near the Delaware Water Gap. The climb up was a great wake-up call reminding me of what terrible shape I am in, that I should stop playing so many games and drinking so many beers and move my body some more instead. So, after that wake-up call, we returned to the cabin and drank lots of beer and sat around playing board games.
I did too well at Kemet, which meant that I got ganged up on and was punished for my success. Oh well, it's fun to be the leader target. I lost. And we all lost Attack on Titan. It's one of the few co-ops I enjoy, partly because it captures the theme so well. It's pretty brutal, conveying a sense of despair and desperation. I haven't beaten the game yet. I almost don't want to.
Sunday morning was the end of vacation. Clean-up and getting everyone home. But we had time for one last early morning game. The rental house had a copy of High School Musical Mystery Date. All I'll say about the game is that I won. It wasn't even a competition. The date was mine and the other girls were left sulking. Alright, I'll also say that Yams ordered a copy of the game before the day was over. It's definitely a new annual tradition.
(Somehow instead of going on my mystery date, I ended up doing the dishes while these two celebrated behind me)
Josh left with Yams and Parthe so that he could see his mother and siblings before flying back the next day. I drove Nick up to Scranton. Nick and I met up with my brother-in-law and got in another game of Root at a Mexican restaurant (it turned out to be an awesome place to sit and play a game) while waiting for his late afternoon flight. And then I drove back home myself.
And that was the end of another Mancation. We'll do it again next year.