Day 1 at GenCon 2003

Jacob and I just wrapped up day 1 of our GenCon adventure in Indianapolis. We
arrived downtown (after driving from Shelbyville where my parents live) around
9am and headed to will call to pick up our badges. Man I’m glad we pre-
registered – I heard the line for day passes was over 1 hour long, and the
line for generic tickets was 1-2 hours long. GenCon uses an interesting model
– you can pre-register for specific games (this is really required for some of
the more popular events like tournaments and the various RPGA events), and you
can also purchase generic tickets for about $1.50 per 2 hour gaming event.
Open (free) gaming is pretty scarce – it is pretty much all pay to play. Jacob
and I registered for games in about 75% of the timeslots we’ll be there, so
our gaming day started about 10am this morning. We used the time before our
first event to play
Senjutsu, the new
game from Salvador Games. This is a very
unique abstract strategy game with a Samurai theme. Imagine a combination of
Chess, Stratego, and Star Wars Epic Duals – there’s a degree of hidden
deployment (foot soldiers get equipped with 3 items each that can be weapons,
armor, ninja, or scroll). The goal is to capture the opponent’s scroll or
destroy all of the opponent’s soldiers. I barely beat Jacob – we were each
down to just two soldiers and he ran out of armor on his soldier that was
guarding the scroll. We both enjoyed the game and we might just have to pick
it up tomorrow.

We were scheduled to play Seafarers of Catan at 10:00, but
there was only one other person and we noticed a woman sitting by herself with
one of the historical scenarios for Settlers. Since she was the only for her
event, we joined forces and decided to play the Trojan
War
historical
scenario. I’ve played Settlers quite a bit, but never one of the scenarios and
we thoroughly enjoyed it. In this scenario, players are secretly vying for the
success of either Troy or Mycenae, and they pay tribute by contributing
resources secretly to the war effort. Once enough tribute has been paid, a
battle happens with the victor determined by the quantity of resource cards
played for each. The players on the victor’s side get extra victory points for
each successful battle. In this game, Jacob opted for a strategy of staying
land-locked (so that the sea people could not raid his port) and building
cities while actively support the war effort. It worked – he beat the three
adults by a wide margin, scoring 14 points and forcing the last battle for
Troy to be fought. I finished second with 11 points.

Next Jacob and I joined three other games for a game of Puerto Rico – the
first time I’ve played with 5 people. Jacob has played twice and the others
were new, so I spent the first 15 minutes explaining the rules (that’s me on
the left in the picture). The three newbies caught on quickly and started to
pick up on some of the nuances of the game (such as it is best to not be
producing what the player on your right produces, and it often makes sense to
mimic what the player on your left is producing). I opted for a strategy of
building valuable buildings and producing a diversity of goods. I started very
slow, but my gold production hockey-sticked (ramped up dramatically) and I was
able to build two of the large buildings. I think I finished with about 49
points and won the game with the closest finisher about 10 points behind. My
first PR victory, though hardly against a seasoned crowd.

Next it was time for Jacob and I to tour the exhibit hall. I was wearing my
Plenary Games t-shirt, and a surprising number
of people approached me wondering if I was associated with the company
(notably a game distributor and the folks at GameTable
Online
, who are interested in doing a
licensed version of Fresh Fish). I met some
interesting folks, including Eric Hautemont of Days of Wonder games, Steve Ellis of Rainy Day Games, my local game store on Portland’ west
side, and Andrew Looney from Looney Labs. We
picked up a couple of new games: the Battlecards
expansions for the Pacific Theater and Russion Front, and the Game of
Thrones
collectable card game. We stopped by
the Mayfair booth and got a chance to play in
a Bang! demo. We
loved this game! Players secretly take on the role of sheriff, deputy, outlaw,
or renegade and have different respective victory conditions. I was an outlaw,
Jacob the deputy, and I somehow managed to con the sheriff into shooting his
deputy! It was a close finish with both the sheriff and the renegade trying to
do me in, but I managed to draw a Bang! card at the right time and do in the
sheriff. We are definitely going to pick this game up (using our Mayfair demo
bucks discount of course!) tomorrow.

Finally, Jacob and I returned to the boardgame hall to play Tigris and Euphrates.
Unfortunately nobody else showed up for our game, so we played a two-player
game. I avenged my loss in the game where I taught Jacob and had a resounding
victory of 24 to 5. Jacob made the mistake of building monuments much too
early, allowing me the opportunity to attack and steal his hard work.

One tip for those planning on attending the board gaming sessions at GenCon –
don’t bother buying tickets for the specific games unless you are playing in a
tournament or it is a demo for a new game that might have limited instruction.
Stick to generic tickets and use the flexibility to play different games
without feeling pressured to play the one you signed up for. Jacob and I were
supposed to play Samurai at 7pm, but we decided to head back to Shelbyville to
have dinner with my parents and Matthew. The folks at GenCon were nice enough
to exchange our Samurai tickets for generic tickets that we’ll be able to use
tomorrow when I bring Matthew for the morning.