Saturday, May 06, 2006

Horizocon recap

Wahoo! I found my notes for the games I played during Horizocon last month. I've got this on the back of a flyer for Ikkicon, an anime convention due to hit Austin in February. So, twelveish hours of gaming:

For standard convention fare, I brought Carabande (BGG, STILL OOP). It always surprise me that so few people know it.

Here's Mike in front of a regular figure-eight track incorporating the ramp and both chicanes. I think we had a six-man race on this track.

Here's Blake striking a pose with a full eight-person race spanning at least three generations of con-goers on what I think was a full track using all available track sections.

Who cares who won? It wasn't me. As competitive as I am, I don't mind losing at Carabande. I feel the game almost transcends simple winning and losing because it's so involving. Maybe I'm assigning too much value to play, but the game won the Spiel des Jahres for a reason. Carabande's elegance and simplicity are a welcome distraction from heavier games while maintaining the immersion needed for a satisfying game. On the other hand, explain why it ranks in the top 100 (#95 at time of writing) over on Board Game Geek?

One of the next games we played was good ol' sixth edition Wiz-War (BGG, OOP STILL). Amazingly, other gamers had heard of it and wanted to play. Huzzah! I'm glad I brought it, as I got in a good competitive four-player game and got my treasures handed to me. I probably should eBay my old fifth edition, don't you think? Some of you may realize that I plan to bring out Wiz-War as often as possible, with the hopes that I'll eventually raise enough people who will ask to play it with me as opposed to the other way around.

I also had the opportunity to pull out a then-new game called Sucking vacuum (BGG, BUY ME!). The tagline for this game pretty much sums it up: "Six astronauts. One escape pod. Two seats. You get the picture." This is a relatively light and backstabby game about running around the International Space Station and holding your breath while beating up your fellow scientists as you scramble for one of the coveted seats to freedom and life. Did I mention you have to speak in a silly foreign accent? This has a fair way to keep everyone in the running as you steal space suit pieces from each other and try to get someone else to break open the airlocks and let the Breathsucker in. Barring that, you can always luck out and find Annabelle the helper robot to walk over and beat up your esteemed colleagues. Fun stuff, but I need to find a chit list so I know which pieces to play with. I played with four; the game supports three to six. (I'd like to see a six-player game.)

Now, a quick review of a three-player game of Wallenstein (BGG, BUY OVERSEAS?). This is the game with the famous cube tower (aka "The Cat Feeder. Check out the picture; it's in the lower left-hand corner.) I had heard good things about this non-wargame of the Thirty Years' War as a heavier strategy option. However, looking at it, I felt fear- the fellow explaining it didn't do the best job and it has a lot of bits. It's also a game where you're making decisions; interestingly, a limited number of them: ten different actions each for three seasons (score in winter) for two years. You've got a number of "no order" cards to use as you delegate orders to your provinces. This is definitely a resource management game worth playing. (Pity it's expensive and hard to find.) Let's talk about the cube tower/Cat Feeder. Basically, combat resolution is done by scooping up colored cubes representing the forces involved (players, farmers, etc) and dumping them into the Feeder. The Feeder has grates to trap some of the cubes inside, so there's no guarantee as to what goes in coming out instantly. You also get a feel for what kinds of cubes remain inside to plan your next move (Check out these Detailed images of the Cat Feeder). I'd absolutely play this again if I could. It's a longer game, medium-heavy, running around two hours with three. I assume the maximum five players would run longer.

I also introduced Ricochet Robots (BGG, BUY ME!) to strangers. I love it when, while playing another game, someone pulls a game out of the stack and expresses interest to play it. Notably, a new rule about breaking ties that encourages fairness and discourages the runaway leader problem has been brought to light. In a nutshell, the player with fewer chips breaks ties- therefore keeping the scores more even throughout the course of play. I also suppose that this game could be played solitaire for practice. I know there's java versions out there to play online, so have fun. RR is also delightfully cooperative, as players compare solutions. Definitely a meritocratic game with a visible learning curve.

For more tasty strategy after Wallenstein, we had a three-player session of Colossal Arena (BGG, BUY ME!). This is easily one of the best games to be had for less than twenty bucks. I would totally rule at this game if I could do sums in my head faster. I love juggling kingmaking and alliances and passing information with a single card. For some reason, I often think of bridge when I describe this game, though I've never played it.

Last on my notes sheet is Bohnanza (BGG, BUY ME!). I know that there are a number of expansions for this game, but I haven't played with any of them. This was either a four or five player game; a little slow at the start, but rapidly understanding how it goes. The fault of this game is the number of the cards- with 150ish cards, shuffling takes some time. It's also hard to do a practice round, given the time it takes to see the results of made decisions. The social factor plays well, so it's important to get a group that understands the interaction is a huge factor. (I recall playing a three-player game of Settlers with a fellow who didn't like to trade. Miserable session.)

All in all, I had fun with Horizocon. I played board and card games with strangers, avoided the nutty CCG people and their $10K tournament, and disparaged the RPGA. I'll get my con roleplaying fix elsewhere.

Also a big shout out and thanks to my readers who have bought something off Funagain through one of my affiliate links. Now I've got store credit to spend!

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