Session Report – GameStorm 2003

I had the pleasure of attending the GameStorm
convention in Portland
, OR last weekend. I had business travel on Friday and a
Cub Scout Pinewood Derby to run most of Saturday, but managed to spend time at
the con Saturday evening and most of Sunday. I went by myself Saturday, but
brought the whole family on Sunday. KC Humphrey ran an excellent “Intro to
Euros” session on Sunday that I thought would be perfect for my wife Julie,
son Jacob (age 8), and Matthew (age 6). I had originally planned to just take
Jacob, but Matthew became pretty distraught at being excluded and I decided to
take a chance and bring him. He has played Carcassonne, Settlers, and a few
other similar games.

Saturday Evening – Solo

Settlers of Catan – Cities and Knights

I have played Settlers of Catan as well as the 2 player card game, but never
this expansion. It took a while to understand the mechanics, and I found
myself trailing most of the game (we played 5 players on the 4 player board).
I really enjoyed the added complexity of this expansion – there are more
choices to make and more tension created by the raids. I enjoyed this so much
I bought the expansion from a retailer at the convention. I ended up finishing
in the middle of the pack with 8 victory points but only got that close when
an opponent interrupted one of the two leaders’ longest road with a knight,
giving me the new longest road.

Carcassonne

I managed to get in two casual games of Carcassonne in the open playing area.
I played against two opponents that were just learning, and there was some
initial confusion on the scoring, particularly for the farmers. I won the
first game and finished second in the second game.

Sunday – with the Family

Our morning was spent with KC Humphrey and Jay Schindler who were running the
Intro to Euros track, designed primarily to introduce families to German-style
games. We hit it off – KC and Jay were just fabulous with the kids; they made
the day worthwhile.

Liar’s Dice

Believe it or not, I had never played this game, and it was the biggest hit of
the day with the kids. Probably because it was the first time they were able
to repeatedly call their mother a liar! This is a keeper and I’ll be looking
for this at a thrift store soon. Matthew, Jacob, and Jay won with 5 dice (we
stopped when the first player ran out of dice).

Viva Pamplona

The theme was a blast – running with the bulls in Pamplona and accumlating
bravery points. We raced along trying to stay close to the bull, and KC ended
up accumulating the most points.

Wildlife Adventure

I loved the cards and theme for this game – traveling the world trying to
locate endagered species. We played very cooperatively, and Julie was the
first to go out and accumulated the most animals.

6 Tage Rennen

I’ve heard that this game about bicycle racing is fairly rare (it was
published in 1988). It was moderately enjoyable, but I don’t see much replay
value. This is a game where a random factor would actually help. Coming from
behind seems almost impossible. Toni, a young girl that joined us for a while,
pulled ahead at the end for the victory.

Aquarius

After finishing the Intro to Euros session and having some lunch, we spent
about two hours at a Looney Labs demo. I’ve
played Fluxx and
several of the Icehouse games,
so was eager to try a few more Looney games. We first tried Aquarius, a card
game similar to dominos. Very light but enjoyable, but given a choice between
this and Fluxx I think we’d usually choose Fluxx. Matthew won this one.

Martian Chess

Jacob and I gave the Icehouse game of Martian Chess a try next – even though
we have several Icehouse stashes we had yet to try this one. We both found
ourselves making bonehead moves – it is hard to get used to controlling the
pieces by location, not color. I sneaked by and won 15-12.

Chrononauts

Jacob and I sat down with two others to try this. It looked a bit daunting for
Jacob given the historical context for the game, but we both loved it.
Definitely a heavier game than Fluxx (in fact, the heaviest Looney game that
I’ve played). Jacob sneaked up and won this one.

Carabande

I’ve always wanted to play this – our family has enjoyed carom boards (we have
one and several of our Indian friends do as well), so the combination of a
flicking game with racing was a sure hit for the boys. They spent 90 minutes
here and we had to drag them away. Not sure I want to fork over the $ for my
own copy, but I’ll give it serious consideration.

InfoPath and CAB Files

As Scott mentioned
yesterday, we’ve been playing with InfoPath and we were sufficiently
impressed. We had some great meetings with Microsoft today, and took some time
to demo the tools for some Microsofties that hadn’t had the time yet to see
the environment. We did the same demo – building a simple front-end for adding
new weblog entries to ChrisAn’s BlogX. Demo
worked great – went from nothing to spell-checking front-end in less than 3
minutes.

Someone then mentioned how cool it would be if the .xsn specification file was
completely transparent as well (read: XML), but we were disappointed to learn
(after opening in Notepad) that it is clearly a binary format. How could they
stoop so low?

So what do I learn after arriving in my hotel room and pulling down my feeds
in NewsGator? Clemens points out that it
is just a CAB file.
And inside you can find tidy little (OK, so not all of them are quite so
little) XML, XSLT, XSD, JS file. Pleasant surprise.