Safely Home!

August 9, 2009

Russ dropped me off about 90 minutes ago, and I’m safely home. Thanks to everyone we met at the WBC for showing us such a great time. Check back often in the coming weeks for our reflections on the whole experience.

Heading Home

August 8, 2009

Well, it’s been an amazing six days at the World Boardgaming Championships. We’ve played, laughed, and learned a ton, and this trip has been more than worth it! Russ and I are dropping by the vendors’ room one last time to browse and pick up brochures, and then will turn our gaze west, to home. We’re returning with four new boardgames, dozens of new ideas for our blog and our gaming, and a lot of fond memories. Stick with us over the coming weeks as we sort it all out and reflect on the experience.

WBC, Day 5 continued: John’s Perspective

August 7, 2009

Well, it is 11:00 and I am sitting on the bed in our hotel room, chomping on a few Wheat Thins and looking back over the day. It was great fun! After Here I Stand, I bought the guys from my semifinals game a round of beer (oh, I will miss Yuengling back in MN), and then some of us settled in for a quick demo/pickup game of Conquest of Paradise. The designer, Kevin McPartland, came over and introduced us all to it, which was gracious of him. He has an immense enthusiasm for what the Polynesian people have done throughout history. This is a two to four-player game. It’s published by GMT, which is odd; it feels like a civilization-building type game, which is very out of character for them. After one play, I am impressed by the marriage of theme and mechanics, though the game feels a bit too short to me. Just as you are done exploring and are busy building up an army, it ends!

After we wrapped up, I got in a three-player game of Small World with Ted from the Here I Stand semi-finals and Tim, a random guy we met in the open gaming room. This was followed by another game with Russ and Noah. And this is when I snapped my eleven game losing streak! I don’t care if Russ had never played the game before and if Noah was ten years old. It doesn’t matter. I won.

I also managed to get in a demo of Dominion: Intrigue, a nifty little card game that feels collectible, but isn’t. It’s a fun brain-puzzler sort of game. You have to purchase cards and build a deck to amass victory points.

Later in the afternoon, Russ and I headed over to a conference room for a one-hour look at Virgin Queen, the “sequel” to Here I Stand. I’ll have a whole post on this in the near future, but suffice to say that it looks like it’s coming along nicely and will (once again) set a new standard for what can be done with card-driven games.

In the evening, we met up with Dennis from the Here I Stand tournament and Battlestar Galactica demo and created a team for the Wits & Wagers game show. I’d guess about 60+ people showed up, and there was a lot of good-natured heckling. I appreciated the chance to blow off a little steam and learn insane bits of trivia like…how many US states allow marriage between first cousins. (That’s sixteen, by the way. Land of the free and home of the…shrinking gene pool?) That got out around 9:30 PM, so we headed to open gaming for one! last! game! It ended up being…Small World. It’s a fun, light little game that doesn’t take a lot of brainpower. And after 12 hours of gaming, you’re no good for anything else.

Today went so well that we decided to essentially end on a high note. We’re sleeping in tomorrow, and will be taking one last lap around the vendors’ hall before heading out. More reflections on the WBC as a whole later on.

WBC, Day 5: Russ’s Perspective

August 7, 2009

I nearly gave up on getting an internet connection. It seems the hotel we’re staying at doesn’t have the most reliable one. However, the long load times and retries allowed me to check out the rules of the new game I bought, World at War: Eisenbach Gap.

My brief encounter with the game yesterday put it on my radar. Today, at the vendor area, after talking with the designer, Mark Walker, and getting a run down of how the game works, I was sold (and walked away with a signed box).

The game itself seems to be a relatively quick playing tactical war game. It is set in a 1985 where the Cold War went hot and Soviet tanks and helicopters face off against NATO forces in West Germany. Suffice to say, I’m excited about playing a game that isn’t about knights, muskets, or panzerfausts.

The other exciting news is I finally found victory in a tournament game. Yes, that’s right! I made it to round two of the Twilight Struggle single elimination tournament.

My first game put me up against another casual player. I played the USSR and began a slow crawl, earning victory points throughout the early and mid-war. I pressured him hard, controlled much of South East Asia and eventually took West Germany. He played a well-fought game, but eventually the momentum was moving in my favor. On the first turn of the late war, I pulled three scoring cards and Aldrich Ames. I played Ames in the headline phase and found the US player holding a great number of Soviet events. I reordered his hand to get me the maximum number of victory points. After two action impulses and a Europe Scoring, the USSR was pushed up to 20 victory points and I won.

My second game put me in the shoes of the US and placed me against a more experienced player. I got an early lead in turn 1 that put him on his heels. Unfortunately, luck left me and I found myself struggling through card plays. I was pulling so many scoring cards that I couldn’t conduct the operations I needed to. And, thanks to the tight DEFCON track, I was always losing VP due to military ops at the end of the turn. After getting blocked out of South America, the VP track shifted to the Soviet side and just kept crawling up. The death knell for me was on turn 5. I had Flower Power in effect from a late turn 4 play and was hit with Quagmire. This allowed the USSR player to push hard in Europe, score it, and win the game.

It was interesting seeing my opponent’s strategy and even though I lost, I learned a lot and can’t wait to take on John, Joe, or any of the other Twilight Struggle players back home.

Finally, I had some fun getting good and surly at the Wits & Wagers gameshow (I told you to listen to me about the number of Tootsie Roll licks) and I can’t end this post without mentioning how I beat John at Dominion.

WBC, Day 5: John’s Perspective, Part 1

August 7, 2009

This morning I awoke at 7:30 AM, got ready for the day, and headed off to the Kinderhook room to duke it out in the Here I Stand semi-finals. I came in as an alternate and was placed at a table with Dave (our third game together!), and three people I didn’t know: Jeff (assistant GM), Paul, Ted, and Manuel. I had second to last pick, and, as I knew that I wouldn’t be able to advance to the finals because of travel days back to MN, I took the English. My intention was to sit back and watch sparks fly, and fly they did!

The game was over in 90 minutes.

For people who know Here I Stand, this is pretty darn rare. On the opening turn, I pulled an okay anti-Ottoman hand. I tried to convince the Hapsburgs to give me something for it, but he (Dave) wasn’t interested. So I chatted it up with the Ottoman, and he granted me a card pull in exchange for an agreement not to play the anti-Ottoman cards (I wouldn’t have anyway, but hey…). The Pope and I agreed to one card pull from me to him and one play of Erasmus for the event in exchange for the divorce (essentially two cards). Then I gave the French two mercs in exchange for an agreement not to intercede in Scotland. I allied with the Protestants (in case Henry ditched three wives this turn and we both got a card draw for that third wife) and that was that.

Then things went a little south for me. The card the Pope pulled from my hand was a 4 CP card, and I only drew a 2 CP card from the Ottoman. Then I whiffed the “get an heir” roll. This now meant that I’d have to spend my home card on divorcing and remarrying, and another card on declaring war on Scotland. Long story short, I got one shot at Edinburgh at bad odds, didn’t make it, and came in at 14 VP (Edward was eventually born). This put me one behind the French by game’s end, on that same turn.

Who won, and how? The Ottoman did a bit of thrashing around and never took any keys. The French allied with the Hapsburgs, and the Protestant had a screwy hand: Michael Servetus and Copernicus (+3 VP) but very few CP. Dave took Tunis and Metz, nabbed an electorate, and then…in the New World phase, aced an explorer and a conquest roll and came away with 23 VP, the Pope behind him at 22. An interesting game, to be sure.

I face an odd choice for the rest of our time here: I can throw my lot in with Crusader Rex tomorrow morning (a small tourney, probably a lot of extremely good players) or go play 1960: Making of the President. The problem with the latter choice is that I’ve only played it twice, have never read the rules, and it’s rated as an “A” tourney–experienced players only.

This afternoon will be filled with walking around the vendors’ room, which just opened today, playing some games in the open area, attending Ed Beach’s preview of Virgin Queen, and playing the Wits & Wagers game show.

I should be able to post later today, so stay tuned…

WBC, Day 4 continued: John’s Perspective

August 7, 2009

I’m going to keep this short, as Russ and I need to book it on over to breakfast and the convention pretty quick. Yesterday was a lot of fun. I sat in on a 9AM demo of Circus Maximus, an old Avalon Hill game about chariot racing in ancient Rome. It looks like a cool game, but what I was most impressed with was the demonstration teacher, Jake. Every year he paints up several pewter figurines and makes a huge deluxe map for the game. He then has it sold at the auction. The figures are really beautiful, and the set this year went for $310!

At 11AM I sat down for the final heat of Power Grid. I hadn’t got in on the first two; this was just to get some more experience. I played with Keith (already linked to his game group), Bobby, Jake from the demo, and Helen. We played on the Italy map, which I had never seen before. Although the game went long (3.5 hours), I had a good time and finished third out of five. Thanks to everyone for the game.

In the afternoon, Russ and I headed into the open gaming room. I was hoping for someone to show me how to play my copy of Carcassonne, but what we got instead might have been better. We ran into a group of guys who were slowly suffering their way through a game of Here I Stand–they had played (years ago, I think) once, but were running through the tutorial. So we sat with them for 90 minutes and did a little coaching. This was very fun and rewarding, and we are always happy to do a little game evangelization. Thanks to Chris, Len, Ken, and Sean for letting us sit over their shoulders for a while. We also met Phil, a reader of our blog!

After dinner, we headed back into the Kinderhook room for another round of Here I Stand. My group (Dave, who won last heat I was in, Erie (sp?), Rick, Ed, and Darren) was the last one there, duking it out in turn six. At one point, I had, as the Protestants, amassed the 23 VP needed for victory, but a rule I misunderstood meant I had to fight field battle instead of fight off city assaults in two electorates. All of England became Protestant, though, and it came down to Hapsburg, English, and French die rolls to see who would win the game on an explorer/conquest roll. The game went to Darren, playing the French, who has once again proved that you can win this game without ever going to war without any other player. I learned a lot about the religious game from Dave, and thanks to everybody; I had a great time.

Now we’re headed back over to the Host; Russ to Twilight Struggle and me to the Here I Stand semi-finals. I qualified on victory points, so wish me luck!

WBC, Day 4: Russ’s Perspective

August 7, 2009

Last night went late. Round two of the Here I Stand heats started at 7 PM and I didn’t get out until 12 AM. I finally got in a “good” game playing as the Hapsburgs, but was betrayed by the dice. Every battle I fought I had more or equal dice, but lost every one. My new world rolls were never more than a 3, just killing me. The Protestants ended up winning with the Papacy a close second. The head-scratching move in the game for me was the French player playing Michelangelo on the Papacy’s behalf for a card draw. Michelangelo is a 4 CP card that almost guarantee’s the Papacy 1 VP and the average draw would be a 2.5 CP card.

Earlier in the day, I met up with Stephanie (from the previous Sherwood Forest game) and another guy for some open gaming. We started with Vikings, which I wasn’t too impressed with. and then played a dice game called To Court the King. It was far better than most dice games; player buy cards with the dice rolls that can then modify later die rolls. It was an interesting mechanic and it made the game enjoyable.

Finally, I snuck in a Circus Maximus demo (interesting, but out of print and seems to take too long) and checked out Eisenbach Gap (I’ll have to check into this one more).

One last note, a reader of this blog named Phil, was able to recognize me in open gaming and chatted with John and me. He seemed like a great guy (like most of the people I’ve met here at the WBC) and it was fun and a little weird being recognized for our efforts on MoV. So, hi Phil!

WBC, Day 4: John’s Perspective, Part 1

August 6, 2009

I lost my game of Here I Stand tonight, but am still advancing to the semi-finals based on victory point totals. Now for sleep. 6.5 hours and then…into the shark tank.

A few WBC pictures

August 5, 2009
This year's Here I Stand tourney broke all previous attendee numbers.

This year's Here I Stand tourney broke all previous attendee numbers.

Some people add a lot of "chrome" to their games. This Wellington setup features 3D ships and troops.

Some people add a lot of "chrome" to their games. This Wellington setup features 3D ships and troops.

I give these guys a lot of credit; the monster games spend most of a week playing one game, usually one that simulates some/all of WWII.

I give these guys a lot of credit; the monster games spend most of a week playing one game, usually one that simulates some/all of WWII.

The principal war game room, Lampeter hall.

The principal war game room, Lampeter hall.

WBC, Day 3: Russ’s Perspective

August 5, 2009

Playing board games all day is oddly tiring. I think much of it results from trying to concentrate while the noises and activities of hundreds of people buzz about. So I slept in today, or at least as long as my timezone shifting body and mind still reeling from the worst Here I Stand game in my short gaming history would let me: 8:30 AM.

I eventually rolled into the WBC at 10:30. After wondering aimlessly for awhile. I met up with Gene, the same guy who along with his two sons taught me Dominion. After chatting about the previous day, we where joined by Stephanie. Together, we learned to play Sherwood Forest.

Sherwood Forest is a fun Euro style game where each player is trying to be the next Robin Hood. To do this, you have to work together and go it alone as you try to rob the caravans passing through the Forest. In spite of being rather light on strategy, I had a lot of fun playing it and trying to barter and work out crazy deals to get Stephanie and Gene to help me out. Sherwood Forest is now on my buy list.

I then spent part of the day trying to meet up with another guy named Mike. I noticed he had written on the board that he wanted to learn 1960: The Making of the President. Having some free time, I gave him a call and despite our best efforts, we were never able to meet up. We’ll try again tomorrow. (Is it still a victory if you beat a newbie you are teaching? Because… I’m still looking for my first 1960 win.)

Speaking of games I’ve never won, I played in two rounds of the Hammer of the Scots tournament.  (Never fear, my flawless loss record is still intact.) For my first game, I was paired up with the world champion, five years running. It was pretty much a blow out. But I did learn a few things about the game. For the second game, I was paired up against the world champion’s wife. I held my own for the first half of the game. I was actually doing rather well. But the tide turned, fatigue set in, and she nearly wiped me out. I managed to hold onto two nobles, resulting in a 12-2 loss.

But, through it all, I think I learned something about myself. For me, an integral part of board gaming is the social aspect. I love the competition. I always play to win. But, without the social aspect, it feels odd. I guess that’s one of the underlying problems I’ve had with some of my tournament games and why I could never be a great tournament player. I not only want to play the game, I want to make a connection with the other people at the table.