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.