BGG.CON 2013 Day 4

Kohle And Kolonie

This is day 4 of BGG.Con. You might want to check out Day 1, Day 2, and Day 3 first.

On Saturday morning Jim and I strolled through the hot games area and were invited to join a game of Kohle & Kolonie with fellow Oregonians Lorna and and Mary. This is a hard game to explain and was a bit complex with the symbology and illustration. The basic idea is to buy into coal mines, do various upgrades in your player area, send your workers out to help in the rail network, and avoid mining disasters (cue the Bee Gees song). It feels a bit like Age of Industry but has some interesting company merger mechanics as well. Decent game.

Kohl And Kolonie Board

The graphic design takes some getting used to and could have used some work on distinguishing similar icons (engineers vs workers). Thanks to Jennifer G (again) for volunteering her time to teach us.

Andy Looney of Looney Labs

Noted designer and publisher Andy Looney was on hand running games. We still love our Fluxx!

Nations

I’ve already played two civilization building games this weekend, so why not a third? Jim and I joined Mark and Mike for the new civ game Nations, a game comparable to Through the Ages (think civilization development without a geographical map). Each player starts with a base set of technologies that can be powered with meeples (e.g., you can pay to out a meeple on your military technology to get a soldier). Every choice like this will cost resources but ultimately produce a benefit. The game has its share of special even that happen, an arms race very similar to Through the Ages (though less punishing), and upkeep during era transitions where you pay your dues like food for soldiers.

UNations Board

The game felt just as rich as Through the Ages but maybe a bit more streamlined and shorter. I look forward to playing again soon.

Pillars Of The Earth With Jim And Mark

Jim and I have a tradition of trying to play Pillars of the Earth each BGG.CON, a game special to us as we played it early at the original Essen Spiel release. I view this game as the first copycat game after Caylus and like it more than the ancestor, especially with the rich theme and beautiful graphical design. Mark joined us and we played with the expansion.

Pillars Of The Earth Board

Jim got off to a great start with an early VP bonus and we were never able to catch up, though it was tighter at the end than we expected. Still love the game and we played in under two hours.

Rialto

The last game of the night was the new light Euro release Rialto by Stefan Feld. My friend Nadine from Israel was able to join us for the night cap.

Rialto Cards And Board

Rialto is a card drafting and area majority game with some nice twists. Players can use cards to buy special buildings that can be triggered with gold to help draw better cards, improve buildings, and other special actions. Resources are tight and there are only six total rounds. We were zoning out by the end and needed to get some sleep for our 18xx game in the morning. We still managed to swing by the bar for a nightcap whiskey first.

BGG.CON 2013 Day 3

Core Worlds

This is part 3. You can read part 1 and part 2 first.

Here’s a quick recap on day 3, which featured mostly new games for me that I universally liked. A good day! Jim and I had a leftover game from last year that we never tried, Core Worlds, and we started with that on Friday morning. I had just learned the day before and was able to teach it quickly. I think Jim liked it as much as I.

Trains

Another deck builder was up next — Trains — this one with a board that includes track laying, station building, and multiple ways to score points beyond just the cards. This was developed by our very own Steve Ellis of Rainy Day Games in Beaverton OR and was very easy to learn for all of us. It feels most like Dominion but has enough twists to differentiate it.

Your cards can be used to buy other (presumably more useful cards), lay track in the board, build stations, remove cards from your hand, or take special actions like drawing more cards. Your deck can become consumed with waste quickly as many actions introduce these dead cards into your deck. Like Dominion you may find cards to buy that can remove wasteful cards, but with the variable setup that may not be the case. The production quality is outstanding and I understand Steve was the designer of an expansion so I hope to try that soon too.

Pathfinder Adventure Card Game

Jim hadn’t yet played the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game so we played through a full three scenario adventure. We died trying to kill Blackfang but it was a fun romp. Matthew and I are ready to dive into the first adventure pack so maybe we can squeeze in a play or two with Jacob back this coming week.

Clash Of Cultures

Our big game of the day was the civilization building game Clash of Cultures where Jim and I battled with Jeff DeBoer. I think this is a better version of both the original Avalon Hill Civilization game or the newer Fantasy Flight version of the Sid Meier a Civilization game. I struggled but had much fun along the way and would like to play again. I think I can swap out a few games and keep this one.

Clash Of Cultures Map

BGG.CON 2013 Day 2

Core Worlds

Day 2 started off on a very nice note as I joined a group of two with a willing teacher to play Core Worlds, a game that was on my list to play last year but never got played. Core Worlds is a deck building game (like Dominion, Thunderstone, etc) with similarities to the modern classic game Race for the Galaxy. Players start with identical home planets and decks (we didn’t play with the optional initial drafting rules which would have allowed us to customize our starting decks a bit) and can take actions to draft new cards, deploy forces from their hands, and conquer new planets. These all cost action points and energy which are significantly constrained at the start of the game. As you conquer new planets you will likely add to your energy production.

The cards you draft help you improve your military forces and add new tactics (special events or bonuses) to help you conquer the every escalating spectrum of planets that will come into play. Players are rewarded by some specialization as the final planets in the game will give bonuses based on the types of cards that are in the deck at the end. There’s a limited amount of deck tuning and pruning throughout the game as players can bury the basic military units underneath conquered planets if they participated in the battle.

Very good game and one I will consider getting. I may need to choose between this and the soon-to-be-rebooted Race for the Galaxy.

Amerigo

My next game was one of the new hot games released at Essen: Amerigo by Stefan Feld. Amerigo borrows the cube tower from one of my all-time favorite games Wallenstein but with a completely different application: the colored cubes that tumble out of the tower determine the actions that are available to all of the players in a given round.

The theme of the game is exploration and colonization in the Americas during the age of discovery. Players move around ships that can drop off trading posts on islands, then buy and develop structures on those islands with the hope of fully populating them and claiming victory points. Not surprisingly there are many different ways to score points in the game, though we found that if you don’t stay on top of the rhythm of buying and placing structures (and keeping enough beachheads on the islands to give you room to expand) you probably won’t stay in the running.

I really wanted to like the game but I think it is too long for my taste. I don’t mind long games, but they need to have an arc without too much repetition and I think the last 3rd of the game dragged on.

Prize table

A quick diversion to show off the “prize table” for BGG.CON attendees. You get to choose one game from each of the two column racks. These are definitely overstock type games but sometimes you can find a nice pick. I chose Disorder and Venture Forth.

Lewis & Clark

The third in my set of four biggish new games was Lewis and Clark, a game that should be right up my alley living in the Pacific Northwest and all. Game explainer extraordinaire Rick Thornquist taught us in a very efficient way and we were off and running quickly.

Lewis & Clark Board

The game looks like a worker placement game and has elements of that, but is more of a hand management game in my opinion. I had a hard time grasping the various interlocking concepts and made a few foolish plays. It can be pretty punishing early on if you don’t manage things well and two of us fell behind pretty early. The game is a race to Ft Clatsop at the mouth of the Columbia River and it takes a lot of planning and proper execution to get the right resources to travel effectively while lightening your load for efficient resting.

This is not a light Euro like Stone Age. I would put it right up there with Agricola and similar heavy Euro games. I would play again but am not likely to purchase.

Patchistory

The disappointment of the night was Patchistory. I’ll keep my comments short because I don’t want to be overly critical. Suffice it to say that this game could have used another year of development, blind play testing, and rules editing. Unless you are ready for 3-4 hours of reading, errata checking, and online clarification I wouldn’t even bother trying to play this game out of the box. It took us about 4 hours total to learn and just play through 2 of the 3 ages and things still didn’t feel right rules-wise.

This is a shame as the core mechanic of acquiring tiles and layering them together to tailor your civilization is very solid. There’s a good game inside here but it needs a good developer, streamlining, and a complete rewrite of the rules.

Eight-Minute Empire With Mark And Jim

Jim Ginn finally arrived after delayed flights around 11:15pm. After a Laphroig toast in the bar we joined Mark Hamzy for another play of Eight-Minute Empire. This game is a keeper.

BGG.CON 2013 Day 1

image

Day 1 at BGG.CON is over for me. No promises that I’ll be be able to keep up with daily posting but here’s a quick recap.

My first stop was the dealer room and a change to run into other people from Oregon that I haven’t seen in a year `or two (Jeff D, Jennifer G, Steve E). The nice gentleman at the Mage Wars booth gave me a brief rundown of the game and let me know they were running demos in the Hot Games area so that’s where I headed.

Mage Wars is a two player tactical “miniatures” game played with cards instead of figures. It uses a simple area movement system so there’s no rulers or measuring involved. If you’ve played Summoner Wars you’ll find some similarities. What sets this game apart is the innovative use of the cards. There’s no deck to draw from; instead, players each build a spell book ahead of time using a point budget and have all cards available to them throughout the game. In my demo game I chose the Wizard and the deck was pre-built. I played against the Warlock; also included in the base game is the Beastmaster and Priestess. The game was easy to learn but gushing with theme and, I suspect, replayability. The game is currently ranked in the top 50 overall on BGG and seems to be holding up well. Not sure I will buy it as I’ve got enough games in by his genre but I would love to explore it some more.

image

I wandered around a bit and was beckoned to come play Alien Frontiers, a game I’ve played just once exactly 2 years ago at BGG.CON. I enjoyed it then and after playing again I can appreciate how good this game is. The dice rolling fun isn’t hampered by poor rolls because there always seems to be something worthwhile to do. I’d gladly play this again.

image

I had checked out Eight-Minute Empire from the library hoping to talk someone into playing it with me. I’ve seen good reviews of this game in Counter Magazine and elsewhere and the idea of a quick playing empire and exploration game is intriguing. The group I played Alien Frontiers with was happy to stick around and try it out.

This is a very solid game, and we played in about 17 minutes including some rule checking along the way. Players start with a small army of cubes all in the same location as the other players and take turns buying action cards that serve two purposes:

  • They grant an action such as moving some of your armies around, adding new armies, building a city, or destroying an enemy cube
  • They grant you a commodity that, when collected in sets, score victory points at the end of the game

Points are scored by having majorities in regions on the map, having majorities in continents, and by collecting sets of commodities. There is minimal direct conflict between players (no battles and very few of the action cards that destroy cubes) but plenty of interaction as you try to spread out and control regions. This would be a great lunch-time game. They have Eight-Minute Empire: Legends in the library so I’ll try to play that before the weekend is over.

image

My friend Tim is here for the weekend (I first met him in Dallas at his gaming group about 9 years ago, then he moved to Portland, then moved back to Dallas) and I caught him playing an interesting looking Pictionary-style game called PIX.

image

My final play of the night was a prototype trick-taking game from a Finnish designer called Blackhat. It combines card game mechanics with a board and still needs some work. I didn’t exactly dislike it and there is a decent core to the game that has some promise. We played a rule or two incorrectly that might have made it better.

Sailing Charter in Greece – Part 2: Athens and meeting our boat and skipper

The Parthenon

This is part 2 of my Sailing in Greece series. You can find part 1 here.

We had converged in NYC at JFK airport and after a mad dash to the duty free shop to buy some whiskey (both Makers and Jameson) we all boarded. Dave and Lisa in first class (dual income empty nest doctors? You bet, but no I’m not bitter or jealous), Adrienne and Andrew in the back of the bus for their first trans-continental flight, and my family comfortably seated just behind business class in two pairs of window/aisle seats. Sleep is always a struggle on these flights, but my wrap-around inflatable pillow did help me grab a few hours.

Changing Metro trains

Athens: It was hot, we were tired, but we all knew we needed to make it through the day to get on a reasonable sleep schedule. We quickly made our way through passport control and customs (like most countries I visit, customs was empty) and found our way to the light rail station after buying 8 one-way tickets to the city center (about 8€ each, though we were able to buy some group tickets and saved a bit). The airport is way outside the city and reminds me of the Denver airport relative to the city. In fact the terrain is similar with desert-like scrub and olive trees with surrounding lightly wooded mountains surrounding a valley and the vast city of Athens. Our destination was the city center near the Acropolis for some tourism before our designate check-in time with our boat at about 5pm.

We can carry everything in our backs but that doesn’t mean we want to sightsee with our luggage. Julie had done her homework and we made our way to a hostel with public lockers (Athens Studios. 3A Veikou St, Athens) available for rent. For 3€ per locker we were able to squeeze our bags in 3 or 4 lockers. Big mistake on my part was not getting my hat out of my luggage for mid-day touring in sunny Athens with 90+ degree weather.

Panathenaic Stadium

I won’t go into the details of our touring that afternoon, but here is a quick summary of what we saw:

  • The Stadium
  • The National Garden near Syntagma Square
  • Greek Parliament House
  • Plaka
  • Roman Agora

We were all seriously dragging by this point, but it was necessary as we kept telling ourselves. Stay awake, no afternoon naps, then get a good night’s sleep. After a late lunch (and Andrew’s first foray into the wild world of international menu selection) we walked to the tram to take us to Alimos marina to meet our boat and skipper.

Julie with Alice Dentes of Seafarer

Seafarer Charters was on their game. Our host Alice is someone Julie felt like she already knew well after the multitude of email exchanges they had going back to January. One reason we chose Seafarer was because of Alice’s thoughtful and timely responses. My understanding is that Seafarer is really just the booking agency for boat owners trying to rent charters. They can do both bare boat (no skipper needed) or skippered (and possibly crewed) charters and in our case they also found our skipper based on our demanding specifications. We wanted someone that would be fun and allow us to help crew as much as possible.

At Alimos marina there are a series of small shacks along the piers where these charter companies hang their shingle. We had no problem finding Seafarer and were welcomed by Alice and Vassillis, our skipper. They had drinks, fruit, and cookies ready for us as we began our check-in process.

These charters can be complex four-legged transactions: the tourists, the charter company, the boat owner, and the skipper. I think it is important that the skipper be the tourist-advocate and Vassillis certainly was. We needed him to be engaged in the check-out and inspection process to ensure the safety of our lives and credit cards.

Boat briefingVassilis' rules: 1. Safety, 2. Comfort, 3. Your wishes

And with this safety briefing began our delightful interaction with Vassilis and his three priorities under consideration:

  1. Our safety
  2. Out comfort
  3. Finally, our wishes

The meaning here being that skipper knows best, and when we are considering itinerary and what island to approach next he will always ensure that we are safe and comfortable (I.e. avoid rough seas) before accommodating our often fleeting and misguided wishes. This would lead to some difficult choices and probably the only discontent we experienced on the trip.

Seafarer arranged for a small car and driver for us to use for grocery shopping – we are solely responsible for feeding our group and the skipper throughout the trip! Julie, Andrew, and I climbed in a tiny compact and drove a few blocks over to a tiny grocer. We were warned to stock up heavily on water and I think we bought about 40 one liter bottles. We did our best to find good choices for breakfast (cereal and yoghurt), lunch (sandwich fixings) and snacks with a plan to eat dinner out the next few nights. Oh, and beer. Our brands of choice were Mythos and Fix, with Fix being the favorite of the two. It reminds me of Genesee Cream Ale, which is a good thing. This provisioning routine would turn out to be one of the mini-adventures we would face in every port.

After a sort-of-dinner at a night club near the marina we crashed and spent our first night (moored in the marina of course) on the Lagoon 400. I’ll describe our final day of touring in Athens as well as describe the particulars of the boat in my next post.