Session Report: Gaming at Kevin’s

I finally found some time for gaming last Saturday and spent the evening at
Kevin Graham’s, “connector” of all us
spielfrieks here in the Portland area. I’ve met most of my favorite gaming
folks through Kevin, and I know we all appreciate his efforts to create a fun
environment and a thriving gaming community in this city.

It was a fairly small crowd this Saturday, but we had a special guest: Mike
Oakes from the UK. He is in our neck of the woods for a 2 week RV tour of
Oregon. Doug, Mimi, Sabrina, and Greg were also present.

Quicksand

I brought this at Kevin’s request (along with Capt’n Clever and Aladdin’s Dragons) and we
decided it would be a nice opener. This is my second play, and I’m still not
sure about this one. It is a nice opener, very light, but with 5 players (we
were still waiting for Doug and Mimi) there isn’t much deception involved. In
Quicksand players are secretly trying to advance their adventurer to the
treasure. Advancement is achieved by playing cards of the same color as an
adventurer, and most of the time a player is forced to move someone else
along. With 5 players only one of the tokens does not belong to a player, so
bluffing is frought with disaster. I suppose there’s some strategy in moving
players onto the quicksand whenever possible. In this game, we all got
bottlenecked at the end of the board, and Sabrina was forced to move the
leader into the treasure since that was her only legal move. I don’t remember
who the winner was – maybe Kevin? I’ll rate this one a 5.

Volldampf

Doug remembered that I had been wanting to play this gamesince trying
Age of Steam and was
kind enough to bring his copy of the game along. I’ve heard from several
others that they prefer this game to the newer Age of Steam, and I can see
why. Volldampf is certainly a simpler game, and it keeps the features I like
most about Age of Steam (route planning and cooperation). The board routes are
fixed (in AoS they are built out by players), trains can carry goods up to 6
segments from the start (in AoS you have to pay money to upgrade your engine),
and there’s no income reduction. We played this in about 90 minutes (including
teaching) and I loved it. It helped that I won (I got very lucky with two of
the final goods placements) – Doug finished a close second. I’ll score this
one a 9 for now.

Aladdin’s Dragons

I helped Sabrina, Mike, and Kevin get started with this game – I wrote about
it previously here. Kevin doesn’t much like auction games, but I think he had
a fun time with this one. Sabrina managed to pull out the victory, from what I
here she took advantage of the spell cards.

Bang!

I talked everyone into trying a 7 player game of Bang!, which I first tried at GenCon. I don’t
think this game works very well with 4 players, but I absolutely love it with
7. For the second time in three games, the sheriff (Sabrina) helped dispose of
the deputy. This light game is made even more fun by the social interaction
and bluffing. I’ll rate this one an 8.

Weekend Update – Camping at PGE Park and Matthews’ Birthday

We had a blast this weekend. Friday night Jacob had his first official
football practice Friday evening after a week of football camp in the evenings
put on by Sherwood high school. This will be Jacob’s first year playing
football and he’s very excited. Saturday morning we picked up his gear then I
took Matthew and Jacob out for 9 holes of golf. We like to have little
contests while we play – usually a team net score we’re shooting for and a
little bingo-bango-bongo competition. We missed our team goal of 160 strokes
by just 1 stroke – I was happy with my play – I took a stab at playing with
just a 5-iron, 52-deg wedge, and putter and shot a 34 (par is 30 on this
executive course).

Saturday evening we loaded up the car and drove downtown for the Portland
Beavers
game for Scout Night – not just any
special night, but a night where we get to camp out on the field. This was
even more fun than I thought it would be. A perfect evening – the four of us
were called down to the field for a promotional tug-o-war and we won some bats
and balls. The game was a thriller – 4 runs in the bottom of 9th inning for
the Beavers to win the game, including a 3-run smash out of the park in left
field.

After the game we picked up our gear and set up camp on the field.
InFocus sponsored a movie showing on the field
(The Rookie – great flick written by local
talent Mike Rich). The weather was so nice
that we eschewed our tent and slept under the stars (the nice artificial turf
in center field didn’t hurt either). That’s Julie and Matthew you see
engrossed in the movie. Definitely a late night – the movie didn’t end until
1:30am – and we had to head out early from the park since they had a day game
today.

Sunday at least started a little bit more quietly – I joined the boys for a
2-lap race of Formula De and we prepared for
Matthew’s low-key birthday party this afternoon. We had some friends over, did
some tie-dye t-shirts, and played croquet and bocce balls. Matthew is now 7,
but given his penchant for dictating his personal fashion choices he feels
like 17 at times.

New Look and Feel

You’ll notice that I’ve made some small changes to the look and feel of the
site. That’s because I’ve moved over to DasBlog by
Clemens Vasters. From a display
perspective, there isn’t much change (in fact, he based the design on the BlogX engine that I previously used). What was sorely
lacking in BlogX was a solid web-based interface for posting and managing
images. DasBlog fixes all that and didn’t require that I change the core XML
content files.

Day 3 at GenCon 2003

Sorry for the late report on our last day at GenCon (Saturday). This was an
abbreviated day – had to make it back to Shelbyville in time for a birthday
celebration with the family. It was a blast nonetheless and I have a few more
photos to share.

Jacob examines his order cards in Battle Cry.

We started the day by checking out Battle
Cry
from Game Base 7.
This is a game I’ve been wanting to try for quite a long time, and I was not
disappointed. This is a very light, very tactical war game set during the
American Civil War. There’s a lot to like about this game: the use of command
cards to simulate (in my opinion) the complexity and latency of issuing
commands on the field; the use of multiple miniatures in a square to represent
force strength; the easy to learn and execute combat system. We taught
ourselves the game and played the Bull Run scenario in about 45 minutes. I won
fairly easily, but I was playing the confederates and for some reason I think
the deck is stacked against the union in this scenario. This is definitely a
game we’ll add to our collection.

Jacob and I enjoy a game of Elfenland.

Our next game was a scheduled event to play
Elfenland. I’ve played
King of the Elves
many times with my kids, but this was our first chance playing the board game.
We both enjoyed the board game more than the card game. Players attempt to
visit as many towns as possible in the space of 4 turns. Player interaction
comes in a few interesting ways. Players alternate choosing what mode of
transportation will be used to travel from town to town. By leveraging routes
laid out by other players, a player can likely visit more towns in a turn. But
with that approach comes risk, since a player might subsequently choose an
unusable mode of transportation to a town you plan to visit. I didn’t catch on
soon enough, and my initial path sent me too far away from the other players,
limiting my travel each turn. I’ll still managed to finish in second place
with 17 towns visited to the winner’s 18.

Jacob and I had a fab time playing some D&D in this RPGA sessions.

The last event of GenCon for Jacob and me was a 4 hour
RPGA-sponsored Dungeons and
Dragons
adventure – part of
the Legacy of the Green Regent campaign. We fell in with a great group and had
a fun time, even though we did not manage to complete the adventure. Jacob
played a shield dwarf fighter and I played a human rouge – the rest of the
party were either elves or half-elves. This was the highlight of the
convention for Jacob – he loves role playing and looked forward to this event
all week.

That’s all for GenCon Indy 2003! We plan to make it back each year given the
proximity to family in the Indianapolis area.

Day 2 at GenCon 2003

It is getting late but I still want to get my report out. This report will be
shorter on words but I’ll keep the pictures. Matthew (my 6 soon-to-be-7 year
old) joined Jacob and I for the morning. We met my parents at a great deli
near downtown called Shapiro’s, and they took him back to Shelbyville from
there. Jacob, Matthew, and I started our day with a partial learning game of
the “A Game of Thrones” collectible card
game. I’ve read the first book of the series on which the game is based
(Julie’s read the entire series), and it came with a strong recommendation
from Steve Ellis at Rainy Day Games. One of
his points of praise was that the emphasis is on game-play, not so much deck
construction. I’m just not prepared to spend a lot of money buying cards to be
competitive or spend a lot of time building decks, so this game is appealing
to me. We only played a couple of turns and I like it so far. Too complex for
Matthew I think, but Jacob picked up on it quickly.

Jacob and I at the demo for Mystery of the Abbey.

Our first scheduled game was a demo of Mystery of the
Abbey
by the folks at
Days of Wonder (including president Eric
Hautemont himself). We had a blast with this one – especially when the event
card turned up that forced us to talk in Gregorian chants until the next mass.
This is a Clue-like deduction game with much more depth. I’m fairly certain
I’ll pick this one up tomorrow at the exhibit hall. I managed to win the game
with 6 points and a correct accusation of the culprit monk. This was enjoyable
for Matthew, though the different dimensions of deduction were a bit
challenging (fat/thin, beard/no-beard, etc.).

What would GenCon be without the costumes? Matthew enjoyed his journey around
the exhibit hall as much as playing the games. And yes, you do see Matthew
sporting a mohawk haircut here. Long story…

After lunch, Jacob and I journeyed back the the folks at GameBase 7 to play
Ra, the Knizia
classic. I’m obviously a huge Knizia fan, but this game didn’t do it for me.
I’m beginning to think I don’t like games where auctions are the primary
mechanic. Jacob and I didn’t do too well in this 5-player game – he finished
last and I was second to last.

One game I’ve been wanting to play is
Domaine, the new
Klaus Teuber game by Mayfair. Perhaps I’ll get
a shot at it tomorrow, but check out this jumbo board from the Mayfair booth!
Those are real miniatures you see there. We also saw some very cool jumbo
Settlers arrangements, both at the Mayfair booth and on the game floor.

Speaking of miniatures, Jacob and I took out an hour of our time to try out
the free miniature painting booth near the boardgame hall. Very nice folks,
very nice deal – we got some great starter tips from a professional. Jacob
painted an elvish archer and I did a brawny fighter. My goal was to do better
than the last miniature I painted at age 15, and Jacob confirmed that I
surpassed that lofty target.

Oh yes, and we made a few purchases today: Bang!, the Settlers of Catan travel
edition, some dice and glass bead counters, the Star Wars D20 rules (Jacob,
Matthew and I have been playing the old D6 West End Games rules but grew tired
of switching back and forth with D20 systems), and a couple of R.A. Salvatore
books for the family.

Tomorrow will be a shortened day, but Jacob and I are excited to play in our
first RPGA event using the new 3.5 edition D&D rules. We will also play
Elfenland in the
morning and plan to try Battle
Cry
on arrival.