Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Strategicon report - work in progress

Last weekend I went to Los Angeles for one of the 3 annual Strategicon game conventions - Gateway 2008. I like Strategicon because they have a lot of mini tournaments at which I can usually earn some dealer dollars to spend on a new game. I also like that it's usually a cheap plane ticket and a short flight to get to L.A. - and now I have a lot of friends out there to hang out with.

Here's a brief summary of my trip. I was in something of a daze for most of it, as I really didn't sleep at all, but according to my notes this is what went down.

Friday 8/29/08:
I arrived on the scene and immediately saw Greg Richardson at a table where the Ticket to Ride card game was being taught. I ha never played that game, so I learned it and played in the tournament, and lost miserably. I was overly ambitious with tickets, all of which shared several colors, and I only managed to collect 1 White card... so I was able to do exactly 1 ticket in the first scoring phase, and the rest of my collected cards went to waste! In the 2nd half of the game I did much better, but that wasteful first round really killed me. Greg more than tripled my score!

After that I talked someone into playing the prototype of Prolix I'd brought with me. I can't recall who that was for some reason, maybe Greg, maybe not :/ I've played Prolix a couple times now since I received it in the mail. I think the board could be a little more interesting, but all in all I think it's still my favorite word game.

The next thing I did was an Amun-Re tournament. I don't play this game very often, but I usually do well at it. This time I didn't draw enough cards, and the cards I did draw just doubled up on cards in my hand. Boo! I made some bad bids, mostly because I'm horrible with the 'jump bid' card - whenever I draw it I try to do something tricky and end up screwing myself. The final score was 41-37-36-?, I finished 3rd. Sadly, a Princes of Florence tournament started before our first game of Amun-Re was over, so I lost amun-Re AND I missed out on Princes of Florence!

Next was a game of Race for the Galaxy with some of my L.A. friends (who have played the game twice as much as I have). I'm not a big fan of multiplayer RftG. I played several games of it this weekend and my opinion has not improved.

We had some time, so I suggested Wizard's Tower. Shannon liked that game, so she played while I also taught Travis. I don't think Travis cared for it much.

Erig Burgess, Travis, Chris and I sat down for a game of Tinner's Trail. I had been playing poorly in general all day, and that didn't change here. however, in Tinner's Trail I made some disappointing mistakes based on misunderstanding or simply forgetting parts of rules. I'm usually better about that, and I was frustrated at how badly I digesting Tinner's Trail. I finished dead last, and would like to play again just for that reason - but as for the game itself I don't think I liked it very much. It's just not all that interesting.

Finally in the late night it was time to play some Werewolf! I went and found Winton in one of the side rooms leading a game. I played in the next one, and I was eaten in the first night. I had to wait hours for the game to end and start again, and was eaten in the first night again! I spent a lot of time waiting and not much time playing, and by the time it was over and Winton and I went to his place to go to bed it was almost 7 in the morning! After after 4 or 5 hours of sleep we headed back to the con.

Saturday 8/30/08:
The first game I got into was a Notre Dame tournament. It's been a while since I've played that game. Our game finished with scores of 68-68-65 (I had 65). I made a mistake midgame that cost me probably 2 points, possibly 3 - still not enough to win because the winner had better tiebreakers than I did.

While we had some time, Chris and Shannon suggested Fairly Tale. I never liked Fairy Tale much because i felt like it was a sort of wimpy version of a Magic: the Gathering booster draft, only after you draft in Magic, you play a game! When my friends wanted to play it I was reluctant, but better to play that than nothing. I had to relearn the rules, and I didn't want to hold things up so I decided to relearn them as I went. So I went ahead, learning rules as I went along, choosing cards mostly at random, or because they had similar symbols on them. After the game, which I didn't win, I suggested we play again now that I knew what I was doing – but noone wanted to! Bah.

Instead we played Pow Wow. I like Liar's Dice, so I thought Pow Wow might have been OK. It's a cross between Liar's Dice and Indian Poker. I managed to win without even losing a round :) it was neat deducing the probable value on your card based on what people bid. A few times I made it really obvious by my math what everyone's cards were, and Chris 9to my left) was able to make the 'correct' bid. he commented on my making it easy, and I noted that it was on purpose - I could let him take down each player to his left in turn, doing all my work for me! :) there was an old way to play Magic that involved attacking to the left and defending to the right - I recall using a similar strategy there... I used Varchild's War Riders to give my left hand neighbor an army of creatures, then watched as he mowed through each player around the circle. When it became time to fight 1-on-1 I would simply destroy all his creatures and stop giving him more :)

I somehow got suckered into playing another multiplayer game of Race for the Galaxy :/

Liz arrived, and while she was waiting for Aaron and Travis to finish 2-player games so they could all play Indonesia, I showed her BrainFreeze! We played a few rounds of that and a game of Wizard's Tower with another guy.

I've wanted to play Winds of Plunder at home for a while now, but I had forgotten how and was being lazy about re-learning the rules. So I took this opportunity to play the game again. Soon after my first turn I remembered that you should never start that game without picking up a cannon in the first turn! Or at the very least, don't do it when there's a cannon on the upcoming tile. i picked up a treasure map instead, and then I was followed around the board by another player, being plundered at almost every turn. Then one turn when me and my aggressor were on one edge of the board and the other players were on the other edge, I had 5 wind cubes, my aggressor had some cubes, and between the 2 players on the opposite edge they had 6 cubes. I had the Blackbeard tile, and I bid all 5 cubes. If my aggressor had bid even 1 cube then we'd have won the wind direction and we wouldn't have had to use all of our actions for a gust of wind just to get anywhere. So even inadvertently that guy had my number! I finished dead last :(

I taught BrainFreeze! to the guy that was all over me in Winds of Plunder and his wife, who had gone to the U of A for grad school. She was pretty good. He wasn't as quick...

They always have Charades events at these cons, and it's fun to play once in a while. I found Winton in a back room where they'd just started a game of Charades. I jumped in on a team, which happened to be the team that won! I didn't realize it at the time, but that earned me 2 dealer dollars!

Travis, Chris, Shannon, Winton, and Daniel were in the main ballroom playing Gimme 5, and I joined them for a while until it was time for more Werewolf. Chia and Greg were playing Tichu in the vicinity, and would occasionally pop in for a round or to comment on the choices.

Finally, another night spent playing WW. This night was much better. I had some good games, including one where I was a Wolf, and I did the best job I'd ever done – until I was put on the stand, gave a really good defense, and then didn't stop while I was ahead. When I'm really tired especially, I tend to babble. I couldn't stop myself, and I ended up giving myself away. I died, but the wolves ended up winning thanks to the brilliance of Amber, who ended up leading a charge against the final Werewolf so she wouldn't give them both away, and then going against 7 villagers on her own and coming out ahead!

At 7 or 8 in the morning it was time to either go to sleep or go to breakfast. I decided to go to breakfast with 5 other WW players.

After breakfast I wanted to wake up a little, so I played BrainFreeze! Again with 2 of the Werewolf players from breakfast.

Sunday 8/31/08:
I jumped in a Power Grid tournament and ended up at the same table as Chris. I don't play PG very much since I don't like it a whole lot. But when I do play I generally do well. This time I didn't play terribly well. I didn't like the starting location I chose, but I didn't make any huge mistakes. In the end, Chris had enough money to buy up to 17 houses and power them all. I could power 17 as well, but couldn't afford to buy them all. Another guy could afford to build the houses, but his power plant capacity wasn't big enough to win.

Because of Power grid I was too late to get into the Brass tournament, but I went to check it out anyway. 4 new players had learned the rules and had just begun the game. Had I been there in time it would have been a pretty easy game for me, as it takes a game or two to figure out how to play well. When one of the players had to go and asked me to take over his game, it seemed like a handicap since his game so far had not accomplished anything. He had almost no money left, hadn't built any income, and had built some tiles and canals that were completely useless. In the end I won by about 4 points, but it was really hard and fun to dig myself out of that hole! The win earned me 10 dealer dollars as well :)

[will finish later - left notes at home]

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