Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Rincon 2013 - planning and a Fundraiser

Last year I hosted a game convention here in Tucson, and it was a resounding success!

This year we have a much better idea what to expect, and have started planning much earlier. We hope to make Rincon13 bigger and better than last year. We've got the same venue booked, the event will occur Friday through Sunday, October 4-6, 2013 at Holiday Inn and Suites Tucson Airport. Watch Rincongames.com for details!

In an effort to make Rincon bigger and better, we're going to hold a couple of Fundraising events, the first of which is coming up Saturday, March 30th. It's a Game Day and Poker Tournament, and I think it'll be a lot of fun. Here are the details:

Rincon Fundraising Game Day and Poker Tournament

Saturday, March 30, 2013
Barcelona Room, Holiday Inn and Suites Tucson Airport.

Game Day - 10am - 5pm

Come and enjoy 7 hours of gaming. Borrow a game from our library or bring your own. Learn a new game, or play an old favorite that's hard to get to the table. Participants also receive a Rincoin, which will be good for prize drawings at Rincon. All this for a mere $5 donation to Rincon.

Poker Tournament - 6pm - 10pm

Try your luck at No Limit Texas Hold'Em in this tournament run by Jeff Becker. A $25 donation to Rincon will buy you in with 3000 chips (donations from the game day count toward this, and an optional $10 add-on gets you 2000 more chips). Will you survive to final table to vie for the Grand Prize: 2 passes to Rincon and a hotel room for the weekend? There will be additional prizes (passes to Rincon) based on attendance, and all participants will receive Rincoins as they survive in the tournament.

So save the date - I'm looking forward to seeing you there!

Thursday, January 17, 2013


I have been playing a lot of Eminent Domain: Exotica lately (I believe I've mentioned this). Before I started on Exotica, I had been playing a lot of Escalation - but I haven't even touched that since November. The other night my roommate and I decided to combine the two expansions, and include the Exotica card subset that's for use with Escalation...

Ho-ly crap... that was some deep waters! So much different tech! Exotica is a much smaller expansion than Escalation was, and I recall the first couple of times I played Escalation - despite having played over 100 games of EmDo, I really felt like I was exploring strategies and figuring stuff out again. Exotica is much more focused on the Exotic planets/symbols and on the Asteroids, where Escalation adds a ton of new tech cards and dynamics. Adding the two together once again gave me that feeling of wonder and exploration. So many options!

At first John and I postulated that maybe we should have added the 4 cards from each stack back into the game (remember, with the expansions, you remove 4 cards from each stack in a 2 player game). But it turned out that we managed to get a good amount of stuff done. We played 2 games, and neither one felt turn-short to me, so I'm happy with the number of cards in each stack.

John hit me twice with a new card called Create Chaos - which made me discard my hand, and then draw 2 cards as reparations. When he bought the card I gambled a little and decided not to discard any cards from my bad hand. I had just reshuffled, and didn't want to draw my tech cards only to lose them to John's Chaos. He, suspecting that, opted not to play it the following turn, which meant I had a sub-par turn. Rather than repeat that, I went ahead and discarded some useless cards the next turn, drew my good tech, and then lost it to the Chaos. A pretty neat exchange really, and with the 2 card Reparations (and the card from dissenting John's role), I was still able to do something useful on my turn. I like this card, though I could see potentially increasing the Reparations to 3 cards.

That might have been the only Exo-Esc card that really saw any play. I'm pretty sure we'll have to play a lot of games before everything makes an appearance. Oh, I did buy a card called Mimic, which copied John's level 3 Adaptability... though I didn't actually use that effect at all. I have 2 versions of that card, a L2 and a L3 version. Not sure which one I want to go with. L2 seems neat, since it gives you access to a L3 ability, but only if an opponent buys one.

The Exotic stack Peace Treaty may have come into play, but that's not really "new" - I'm familiar with how Peace treaty works ;) Similarly, the Exotic stack Double Times came into play, as expected.

In largely unrelated news, I had created a card for the diverse stack in the EXO set - a permanent called Space Station which counts as an asteroid. It has not seen any play yet, and I suspect that's because 1 Asteroid isn't super exciting. I might try upping that to "counts as 2 asteroids" - that way it'll combo with all the Asteroidal tech.

Anyway, it was an interesting night, and I look forward to playing more of the combined EXO-ESC expansion sets :)

Monday, January 07, 2013

The Woes of Game 'Splainin'

Oh Lucy... You got some 'splanin' to do!

Obligatory nostalgic TV reference out of the way, I'll get on to the meat of this blog post. It's about teaching games.

In the past I have been referred to as "good" at explaining games. I used to take a lot of pride in that, and I actually put some thought into the process of teaching a game - there are definitely good and bad ways to go about it. If you explain things in the right order, and if you give the right amount of information each step of the way, then you can get through the explanation of even relatively complex games fairly quickly and get to the point where players get to actually play the game (which, incidentally, is where they really learn how to play anyway).

More recently I haven't taken as much care in my game teaching. Perhaps due to fatigue (I teach a lot of games nowadays, and often times it's the same one over and over, and in the noisy, distracting environment of a convention at that), or perhaps for another reason (which I'll get into shortly), sometimes I feel like I just don't have it in me to carefully peal away the layers of a game, revealing the magical and interesting inner workings that the players are about to explore.

One thing I've noticed more and more over the last few years is that the job of teaching a game feels a lot more like a chore. Rather than fun and exciting, teaching games has become laborious and tedious - and it's not just me who thinks so. By way of example, today on BoardGameGeek I read a post about Noblemen which mentioned an hour long rules explanation. In the comment thread, the OP said (in re: the length of the explanation):

Much of the hour was taken up by questions - how many points usually win in a five player game? Do the Follys have to be surrounded to score? Are there different ways to acquire men at arms? Are there advantages to placing men at arms on one type of land structure rather than another? Explanation of the cards took a while, as each new player wanted to see the cards. During the game I did not completely understand the point system, i.e. how points are scored using chapels, castles, and palaces, how influence is calculated, etc., but the rules do give examples. Everyone was seeking to understand the basics of how the game was played, as well as what it took to win, how you could foil your opponents, and beneficial moves or courses of action. With the many variants, an hour was not overly excessive.
I replied (as you'll see if you read the thread) that this does an extreme disservice to the other players trying to learn as well as the game itself as players may have a bad experience due to jumbled or lengthy rules explanation.

I've seen this type of thing more and more in recent years, perhaps it was always the case and I was simply more tolerant of it before, or perhaps people have literally become more difficult to teach a game to. I don't really know why that would be, but it's certainly something that's come up. I was discussing this exact phenomenon with a friend after last week's game night, and how it applies to certain people locally.

The BGG user who commented after my post in that thread said it well: "When I'm explaining rules, what part of "shut up and listen" is so hard to understand?" Maybe that's not polite, but frankly when 1 gamer is constantly burdened with the onus of reading, digesting, and then explaining the rules to a game, maybe I should worry less about being polite and consider who is doing who the favor. Hint: the people being spoon fed a summary of what is often a poorly written or translated rulebook are NOT the ones doing anybody a favor.

I don't know who reads this blog, and whether those people are the ones who have to learn all the new games the hard way and then teach their friends or not. But as a public service announcement - when someone is trying to teach a game, let them teach it. Do not interrupt with questions - if they're a good teacher they'll either answer your question by the end, or give you a chance to ask it later. Pay attention - do not space out or have a side conversation, and then complain later that you didn't hear some critical rule. In fact, for the benefit of everyone else at the table, maybe don't have a side conversation even if you aren't going to complain later!

The less people distract and interrupt the game explainer, the quicker you'll be able to start playing the game, and the better than rules explanation will be!

Luckily, this phenomenon is not universally true. I had the pleasure of explaining some games over the holiday season to various friends who are literally a joy to teach, because they're genuinely interested in learning the game, and they don't end up presenting road blocks to the teacher. If it weren't for people like them,I'm not sure what'd stop me from throwing in the towel and letting someone else be the game explainer.