BGG.CON 2008 Wrapup

(Don't forget to check out my 2007 BGG.CON wrap-up)

BGG.CON continues to impress and remains at the top of my list of conventions to travel to, surpassing Origins, Gen Con, and even Essen. Jim and I solved the food issue this year by always eating in at the hotel (despite many generous offers from those with vehicles!) and I fully expect to return next year.

Already Own and Thrilled I Do

Agricola - Deserves to be at the top of the geek. This will be the first longish game to make my dime list in a single year.

After the Flood - This will be the game to play with my wargaming buddies when we have three people.

Canal Mania - Evergreen game of canal building in the UK. A game I'm always willing to play and it gets better with time.

Dominion - How will this hold up over time? Reports are that it is showing its age and may lack replayability. I'm still having a ball playing it.

Race for the Galaxy - Renewed interest with the recent expansion will keep this in heavy rotation.

Games I Played and Must Own

Steam over Holland - Hard to come by but I'll keep hoping.

Le Havre - I'm fairly certain this will get acquired soon - it should get more play this week at Mike's and then this coming weekend at Salishan.

We the People - Technically I already have this on order (Washington's War) - hopefully the new version holds up with this classic.

Chicago Express - High production quality combined with a solid game make this an easy decision.

Battle for Hill 218 - Great two player abstract? wargame? - who cares, this is a fun game.

Game I'll Need to Try Again Before I Buy

Batavia - I'm worried that this is in the Thebes niche and won't get played as much as it should.

Cities - Fun little game but will it grow old quickly?

Municipium - Just didn't jump out at me and say "play me again!"

Games I'm Glad I Tried But Won't Acquire

Toledo - Lighter Wallace fair but not distinct enough from other similar games to hold my interest.

Energie Poker - What can I say - I'm not a collector!

Wealth of Nations - There are better games in this genre.

Supernova - Partly because I'm not a big fan of multi-player sci-fi wargames, partly because there are better options out there when I feel like playing this sort of game.

Comuni - Reminds me of a slightly deeper version of In the Year of the Dragon, and neither one is up my alley.

BGG.CON - Day 5

Sunday at BGG.CON - the exodus begins and gamers try to fit in an as many games as they can before the library closes. Jim had been lugging around his copy of Martin Wallace's Toledo - a game under my radar for some odd reason given how much I enjoy his games.

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This is on the lighter end of the Wallace spectrum. My comparison - Ticket to Ride combined with Aladdin's Dragon without the blind bidding. How's that? Check out the 'geek if you need a more detailed description. Fun game that I happened to win but this game didn't jump on my wish list.

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Next up was the new Knizia / Valley Games release Municipium with Hamzy and Jasen Robillard. The production quality is very high on this game (but pink as a player color?).

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The game - I'm not sure what to think. This is certainly a deeper Knizia release compared to what we've seen lately and that is very welcome. Still, this isn't Amun Re or Tigris & Euphrates - there's a decent amount of player chaos in the game as you try to capture majorities to trigger prize attainment or special actions. I'll have to try this one again before considering a purchase.

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Oh, and Jasen let me borrow his nifty 12-24mm wide angle zoom lens for the following shot.

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That's it for the day-by-day reports. Next up I'll wrap up all of the games I played in a summary report.

BGG.CON - Day 4

Saturday began with a scheduled game of Steam Over Holland with David Fair, Tom McCorry, Jeff, and Jim. This was a last-minute substitution over 18VA and turned out to be a great choice, though we forgot a rule that likely made the game a bit less enjoyable for a few of the players.

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Steam Over Holland is designed to be a more approachable, simplified 18XX game than the standard fare. It fits the bill with a simplified stock track and a shortened game time via a fixed number of rounds. The crucial error we made was missing that companies collect income on unsold shares, putting more cash into the treasury and easing the sting (somewhat) of the rapid train evolution and obsolescence that is characteristic of this game. David and Tom have since played again and assure me that this fix helps not only in managing train purchases but also in speeding up the game.

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We took a quick break during the game to enjoy the BGG flea market. I didn't find anything worth purchasing (like I had room to carry anything else back), but buying and selling were vigorous and I know several folks that brought games to sell that liquidated quite a bit of inventory.

Flea Market

I had to escape the final scoring of Steam Over Holland to setup for our scheduled game of Agricola with Yehuda (his post) via Skype and webcam. Yehuda was unable to attend BGG.CON in person this year and requested a remote game from Jerusalem - I obliged and it worked out great. We setup mostly mirrored boards for the game and talked through our actions. We finished a 3-player game with the I-deck in just about 2 hours - impressive given the remoteness of our partner. Thanks to everyone that stopped in to check out our game.

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After a quick dinner in the hotel bar, Jim and I returned to the main hall for the 2008 Golden Geek awards.

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There were few surprises (that's Zev below with his first of two medals for Agricola) other than Hannibal edging out 1960 for best 2-player game (I love Hannibal, but it is hardly a new game...).

Zev wins geeky

Jeff and Jim then started their scheduled marathon game of Hannibal so I was off for some other gaming action. The Austin crew pulled me into Wealth of Nations, a game I knew little about but was certainly willing to try. Our teacher did a fantastic job explaining the game.

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The game is best described as a commodity production and trading game with a bit of abstract hex placement included. It was a nice diversion but lacking thematic elements to keep me coming back. I happened to be producing a lot of the "red" resource which allowed me to flag out territory on the map for future placement. It also allowed me to accelerate the end of the game - when a player places all of his marking flags, the game has one more production and trading round. I did a quick calculation and figured I was in the lead or close, so why not end the game. I finished one point out of the lead.

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Next up - one of the holy grail games for collectors: Energie Poker! This is a game made circa 1980 in Germany to help teach the world about the impending energy crisis where players play countries striving to diversify their energy supply chain. Timeless, huh? Not a bad game, especially given when it was made.

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Done gaming for the night, I opted to wander the halls and snap some photos. Derk and Aldie were recording a Geek Speak podcast with Jason Matthews and Tom Lehman. This will be a good one to listen to - hopefully it will be published soon.

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I wandered back to check out the Hannibal game. Turned out it went until about 2am with the Carthaginians turning out victorious. Nice work Jim!

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BGG.CON - Day 3

Friday started with a mini photography meetup with Mark Hamzy, Jeff Jones, and me. We enjoyed chatting about equipment, lenses, and Sony vs Canon. We also decided to jump into a game together and the result was... Supernova!

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Supernova is a multi-player space conquest game that includes a bit of exploration and plenty of conflict. We were very lucky to have the designer Oliver Harrison there to teach us the game - very nice and helpful chap. Unfortunately Jim and I had the same impression of the game - too much downtime, it seems to favor attacking the weaker players, and likely unbalanced with some runaway leader issues. In this general category of games, we are both much more fond of Nexus Ops.

Jeff was eager to try After the Flood, and Jim and I were eager to apply all of the lessons we learned from our first go. This game had a very different pace as we often found ourselves stalling and seeing what the other players does, especially once our armies began marching. It was commonplace to use our workers as extra payment after a player had passed to extend our turns.

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I was behind the entire game but had a nice slingshot victory at the end. I think all three of us think very highly of this game.

Jim had been lugging around the copy of Batavia that he had checked out from the library. This is a re-theme of Moderne Zeiten, a game neither Jim nor I had played so it was all new to us.

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Again, Queen games is setting the bar on production quality. This is a beautiful game with a well illustrated board and high quality bits. The game was good - set collection to achieve majorities in certain goods with an interesting pirate mechanic.

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Batavia is on my wishlist - this is a good lighter-weight family game worth checking out.

Jim and I ended the day with a game of Canal Mania with Nathan Morse. Canal Mania is a game I will always play (especially when played correctly - last year at the beach we played a game where we were only bringing out a single good at a time instead of two!). Nathan played a strong game and edged us out, though Jim and I both closed the gap considerably during the final goods runoff.

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BGG.CON - Day 2

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Day 2 (Thursday) was a day of longish games - a series of 3-4 hour plays that were very rewarding. Jim and I hung out around registration and played The Battle for Hill 218. This is a light 2-player abstract with a nice wargame theme. Nice to have around when you've got 10-15 minutes to burn and may be a game I pick up.

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The line for registration (and prize table) was quite long but flowed very well once the process started. Jim and I had the benefit of getting our registration badges the night before (shhh, don't tell. actually I told Aldie and he scolded us but didn't object to us going to the prize table once the crowd started gathering in force there) so Jim and I got decent grabs at the prize table - On the Underground for Jim and Colosseum for me. There were some good games for the taking there - thanks for all of the sponsors that supplied the table. Amazing how far the prize table has come since 2005.

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Jim and I roped Rodney Lloyd into breaking open his shrink-wrap copy of Le Havre to give it a try. Le Havre is notionally the successor to Agricola but is very different. No hidden information and a building-ability activation mechanism very much like Caylus. It lasted a little over 3 hours and I wonder if it could have been streamlined a bit - does it need so many turns? It might also be a game that is just as interesting with only two players so I haven't ruled out purchasing the game.

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The first game I checked out from the library was an un-punched copy of We the People(!). The game flowed quickly (thanks to Doug teaching me the weekend before) and Jim grasped the basics straightaway. We played in just over 2 hours with the Brits edging out a victory over the belligerent Colonials thanks to an extremely strong final-turn hand draw by yours truly.

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Next Jim and I joined Morgan and some other Brooklyn friends for a game of Comuni. This is a tough game to learn from the rules - it isn't that they are incomplete, they are just obtuse and circuitous in how they walk you through the game. We just couldn't get the feel or flow until we stumbled through a turn or two. I made some early strategic blunders that kept me out of contention but it was reasonably enjoyable. Won't make my acquire list though.

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It was nice to see Rick Thornquist back in action. I know he's still finishing up his book on Infocom but hopefully this convention was a sign of future things to come - welcome back Rick.

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Next up was the new Queen games treatment of Wabash Cannonball - Chicago Express. Jim and I played with Jason Matthews and a couple (names escape me, though I'm sure Jim recorded their BGG handles). Queen continues to impress with their production quality and this game is no exception. Beautiful components and a nice game to boot. The comparisons with Steel Driver will continue (and I can see why - there are similarities) but I think each stands well on its own. This is on my wishlist right now and will likely convert to a purchase in 2009 if it doesn't turn up in one of the two Secret Santa swaps I'm in on.

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Jim and I were compelled to stay up until past midnight so that we could witness first-hand the disappointment of not winning any games in the midnight madness giveaways from Thought Hammer. We roped Aaron Fuegi into a game of Dominion and he schooled us, though my engine was in full steam when he forced the end of the game and given another turn or two I think it would have been a close(r) battle.

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