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Our Best Time Yet at Strategicon - Orccon 2012
Rick Baptist
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Highland
California
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It's my ninth Strategicon! Special guest Dirk Henn! Fun, friends, food, autographs, games ... and a surprise visit by one of my favorite designers.

So usually I chronicle the list of games I played and other stuff (if you'd like to read about my last visit to Strategicon, follow here: Our Best Time Yet at Strategicon -- Gateway 2011), but this time I plan on sharing some neat things from the con and then listing out my Top 5 Game Experiences from the weekend. Read on, readers!

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1. Board Game: The Prep Game [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Rick Baptist
United States
Highland
California
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The three Strategicon conventions all run from Friday-Monday on the three long weekends of the year. We try to hit all four days (admittedly, about three-and-a-half) but had to miss Friday this time. So we got there Saturday morning and after checking into our room and hauling all the stuff in, I goofed off with our one-year-old while my wife went to Twister Yoga. LA is so awesome.

It was at this time that I realized that I was HERE! Strategicon is my personal gaming mecca, and the six months away was way too long. One of the reasons why I like it so much is because over the last nine cons we have collected a group of friends here that we usually don't see. This is because we live an hour east of LA, and most of these folks are west of LA. I have dubbed them "con friends", although sometimes I am lucky enough to see them at some gamedays during the rest of the year. We really like them, and do our best to play as many games with you guys as we can!

A few other notes about the con that I just love:

The Board Game Library -- Eric Burgess, Matt Grimaldi, and staff are to be praised for this and I've watched it evolve over the three years I've been attending. In my first con, there were perhaps 100 games to check out, and nothing really worth checking out. Now, we have the opportunity to check out upwards of 400 games, with most of the hot titles there, sometimes even having two or three copies available of each! It's a godsend for packing purposes, and we also operate the math trade there (which I run, and you should be participating in).

Guests of Honor -- I love looking forward to meeting and sometimes playing with the various Guests of Honor that come to Strategicon. This year's slate of guests is the best I've seen as an attendee -- Dirk Henn was at Orccon, next up is Richard Borg, and then in September, Antoine Bauza! So of course I met Dirk and had him sign my copy of Shogun (pictures later). He and his wife were very nice.

Queen Games -- Wow, after seeing how generous Queen Games was with prize sponsorship, I don't think I could ever say a bad word about them. With Dirk attending they really pulled out the stops and I have to thank them for snagging a couple games myself!

Kids Day on Sunday -- My children always look forward to attending the con on Sunday. They have made a few friends there and love participating in the events. My hat is off to Stephanie Sarsoza who ran TONS of kids games this con and I know how draining it can be. So thanks for that, Steph! My oldest son (who has a few geeklists of his own on here) took home more blue ribbons than I've gotten in the past three cons combined, so there you go. Also, we got a great surprise handed to my daughter at the end of Sunday. More on that below!

The Game Auction on Monday -- Love attending the auction, and Shawn Hendrix and I enjoyed sitting by each other and guessing what items would go for. I didn't buy as much in the past but the place was hopping for sure, and I sold almost $200 worth of games so I'm pleased! Alfonso Smith does such a terrific job running the thing. There are always two or three jokes that have me doubling over in laughter every time.

Before I move on to the Top 5 games, I wanted to throw in a few blurbs about the many game designers that you could have met and talked to if you attended.
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2. Board Game Designer: Dirk Henn
Rick Baptist
United States
Highland
California
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Dirk and his wife were there and both sweet. He was down in the hall a lot and seemed to get a kick out of all the tournaments ran of his games. Not only did he sign my copy of Shogun but I also got a play in of the game a bit later on Sunday with some awesome friends, but man I got destroyed. I think it's a great game, though. Here's a picture of some of our family with him.

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3. Board Game Designer: Matt Leacock
Rick Baptist
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Highland
California
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This was the surprise I eluded to at the beginning! I was playing a game and watching the Strategicon Twitter feed and all of a sudden I see it announced that freaking Matt Leacock was in the Playtesting area trying out some of his prototypes! Matt Leacock stops by for a day while he's in town -- awesome. So after my game I went over to say hello and checked out the design. Suffice to say I will be purchasing this little gem for the theme alone!

Here's a picture of us when he was the Guest of Honor two years ago at Orccon 2010:

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4. Board Game Designer: Flaster Siskin
Rick Baptist
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Highland
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Flaster, otherwise known as Dan (right), is an awesome dude and I finally got to try out Pirate King at this con. It was fun! The components are really neat and the art is stellar. I want to pull this one out on a pirate-themed gameday sometime! You can usually find Dan at the con on Saturday and he will gladly show you any of his games, including the highly-recommended Operation Maccabee. (Also, I need a picture with you to complete my geeky pictures-with-designers habit!)
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5. Board Game Designer: Jeff Siadek
Rick Baptist
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Highland
California
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Finally, one guy who you can always find at every Strategicon is the incredible Jeff Siadek from Gorilla Games. I have made it a habit to play Lifeboat several times at the last few cons and it gets better every time I do. Dying to play the new World Conquerors! And dangit, I just realized I don't have a picture with Jeff either!

cry
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6. Board Game: Mage Knight Board Game [Average Rating:8.15 Overall Rank:8]
Rick Baptist
United States
Highland
California
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All right, on to the games!

My friends Tony Abeyta and Mike Sarsoza played this with me with Tony doing a great job teaching since it was our first time. Mage Knight Board Game is truly an awesome game system as although it is complex it does a good job of using theme to illustrate mechanics and therefore things kind of slide into place after a time. If you couldn't guess already I loved the game. The components are fantastic and although we only played the beginning mission that takes around 90 minutes, it went very quickly. I can tell that it does lend itself well to solo play also, as there is definitely a "me against the world" feel to it. As I have noticed with other pseudo-deckbuilders like Core Worlds, the game isn't just about the deckbuilding, and that's exactly the kind of deckbuilder that I like. There is the opportunity to put cards into your deck that you want, but that's never the main mechanic and there's plenty of other choices along the way. This is by far my favorite of Vlaada Chvátil's designs. In short, I know what I want for Christmas ...

My favorite moment
: In Mage Knight I was focused more around the game's mechanics than a specific moment (although there are some elements of surprise, like when visiting a dungeon). It's definitely a strategy game, so I enjoyed the future-planning element of deciding on attacking or influencing towns depending on what cards I had spent and what I knew was coming up in my deck. The deck is small enough to be able to mentally keep track of that and it was fun to position myself on the map correctly with that information in mind. I'm telling you, this should be a must-play for anyone, regardless of your favorite genre of game.
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7. Board Game: Rattus [Average Rating:6.87 Overall Rank:543]
Rick Baptist
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Highland
California
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Rattus has been a favorite for two years, now, and I was surprised to see how popular it was at the con -- over 30 people signed up for the tournament! For me, I love the simplicity of the game. The role selection is so well done and I have to admit, as horrible as the theme of the game is, it's quite easy to get into character and have fun with it. I'm also a huge fan of all the expansions, although for the tournament we just used the basic set.

My favorite moment: I was playing with David Mines and Stephen Stewart, two fantastic people, and David pops out with a religious discussion pertaining to the time period of the game. The other fellow gaming with us disputed this, and while turns were being taken the conversation continued. Then we drifted to another disaster-themed game, Pompeii, and David told me about when he visited Naples and so on. This continued on and off until he eventually chose another role (he already had three) and proceeded to end the game with it. Shocked that he was selecting another role and ending the game (because all the current cubes on the board need to be resolved, at which point you want as few of roles as possible), I questioned this move. "Oh yeah, then I can hurt you here really good." I chuckled and after resolving what he did, I said, "Okay, let's start the massive diseasing." I immediately saw the smile fade from his mouth as he announced, "Ah! I forgot we resolve everything at the end! I was too focused on those stories!" LOL!

I ended up tying with the other player and finished second. Good times. I will be bringing up Naples in the future for more good laughs.
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8. Board Game: Lifeboat [Average Rating:6.44 Overall Rank:1385]
Rick Baptist
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Highland
California
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Crawling quickly up my list of favorite 6+ player games, Lifeboat puts you inside of a rowboat and assigns you someone you hate and someone you love. You get points for surviving, killing your hated one, and keeping your loved one alive. It's all kinds of awesome, and honestly, it's just a deck of cards. Fantastic. I ended up playing two games of this, the second of which I actually won as Sir Stephen.

My favorite moment: In the first game I played, my friend Kirk Udvardi was the Captain, and I was the First Mate, so I figured that we could work together a bit (at least thematically). He ended up at the front of the boat (allowing him to get good cards) and I ended up in the back (allowing me to steer). Things were going fine until he decided to fight me and defend the honor of the punk Kid. I went overboard and even though I climbed back in the boat, from that point everything went downhill. Eventually I did kill the Captain for getting back at me, but that ended up giving him the game. The Captain hated himself, and therefore was fine with dying as long as he could take everyone else with him. Ironically, he loved the Kid and the Kid survived (which is difficult to do), so he ran away with the points in that one! Awesome fun.
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9. Board Game: Wiz-War (eighth edition) [Average Rating:7.18 Overall Rank:400]
Rick Baptist
United States
Highland
California
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This was sprung on us after the Mage Knight game and although I had a tiny bit of interest in it, I've been straying away from many Fantasy Flight games recently. A lot of the recent ones I've played have felt very fiddily and underdeveloped, like they've been rushed. There also seems to be a huge mass of counters and chits that just seem unmanageable and unreasonable. Well, Wiz-War is a reprint, so maybe that's why this one worked, but it DID work! And in comparison to the older game, this new edition is an absolute gem. I really liked the concept of four wizards duking it out and trying to steal each other's spellbooks. The combat is clever in that you can physically attack one other, or you can put up walls and such to slow them down. It's a very nice design by Tom Jolly, of who I also enjoy Cave Troll, and we had a lot of fun with it. I didn't win, not even close, but it seemed like we all had a good chance of it (well, besides Kirk, who died!)

My favorite moment: Wiz-War has the knack of being able to provide many hilarious moments. The one that sticks in my head is the Boomstick spell, which created a fireball that TL threw at Tony. Next turn, Tony played the same card and threw back the same fireball. I think that same fireball might have been tossed around more, but whatever the case it was amusing to see us casting these spells back and forth all over the place. The game comes with different decks of spells, so I'm looking forward to playing again sometime and seeing the ones that change your characters into various monsters.
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10. Board Game: Battle Cry: 150th Civil War Anniversary Edition [Average Rating:7.70 Overall Rank:648]
Rick Baptist
United States
Highland
California
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I am a Richard Borg fan -- or at least a fan of The System That Has Spawned Four Games. My favorite of the ones I've played is Memoir '44, and I've been dying to try out the new edition of Battle Cry. I LOVED IT! What amazes me about this system is how Mr. Borg is able to take it and develop it so nicely for each different time period. Memoir and Battle Cry use the same system, but there are the smallest changes here that make the games so incredibly varied. Just the difference between the artillery and cannons threw me, but adding the generals and having them attach to units and such is just so incredible. Of all the games in the system, this one really felt the most authentic to its time -- infantry was what it was all about, and it is reflected as such. So glad I got a play of this in before the Guest of Honor for the next Strategicon in May visits ... didn't I mention that Richard Borg was coming to Gamex? Oh yeah!

My favorite moment: I was playing with a veteran of the game, and he made it even more fun with a nice backtelling of the scenario along with adding that his great-grandfather was actually IN that scenario as part of the cannon team on the Union side. Made for some fun moments as I scrambled to keep that unit alive! Even though I had a pretty exciting moment when my infantry mowed down close to two units of cavalry, it was all for naught. I was destroyed 6-2 in the battle, but I learned a lot and am really looking forward to playing this again as soon as possible.
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11. Board Game: For The Win [Average Rating:5.96 Overall Rank:3866]
Rick Baptist
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Highland
California
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I played lots of games during the weekend, and had a lot of fun -- the top five games here certainly don't encapsulate all of it. It's always nice playing games with friends, and especially nice when you can go to sleep, wake up, walk downstairs, and start doing it all over again! Thank you Strategicon Conventions for another great con, can't wait until May to get back down there again.

Oh, and the biggest surprise of all is that my daughter won a plaque to commemorate placing first in the Kids Games category in 2011! Great job little lady!

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