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
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

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

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
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
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
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
on arrival.

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
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
, 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
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.