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WBC 2013 - a week in DonCon's Amish Paradise
J. R. Tracy
United States
New York
New York
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With late summer comes the annual trip to the heart of Pennsylvania and the clean, well-lit halls of the Lancaster Host! Well, not so clean, and not always well-lit, but they contained the World Boardgaming Championships, and that's all that mattered.
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1. Board Game: 10-4 Mr. Truck Driver [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
J. R. Tracy
United States
New York
New York
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With a big load of auction fodder, we opted for a pickup truck for our drive down this year. Dutch Raspler helped me load up and we headed southwest, abandoning the concrete jungle for the bucolic Pennsylvania countryside. It was a bare-bones ride, driving a big red brick down the interstate, free from modern encumbrances such as air conditioning and functioning shock absorbers. Dr. Rob, our usual traveling companion, was making his way separately in a custom-engineered Department of Corrections vehicle.

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2. Board Game: Manoeuvre [Average Rating:7.31 Overall Rank:412]
J. R. Tracy
United States
New York
New York
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I arrived just in time to plunge into Andy Lewis' Manoeuvre event. This consistently good fun, and I always try to get my fix at DonCon if I can.

The first round of the format arranges gamers in four-player pods for round-robin play. The best records advance with tiebreakers determined by the strength of the side you played. The idea is taking a weaker country gives you more points, rewarding risky choices. You are limited to playing a given nationality once over the course of the event, so there's a nice metagame where you must weigh taking a powerhouse early against saving them for a later round.

First up my Russians faced Bradley Raszewski's Brits. Our first clash saw my cavalry pursuing one of Brad's units deep into British territory. I managed to kill my prey but Brad bagged two of my units in return. He aggressively cycled his deck in search of useful cards while I was content to work with what I drew. His approach proved superior as he soundly thrashed me with an attrition win.


Already slipping away

Next up was John Bateman - this time I took Great Britain against John's French. I copied Brad's deck-diving MO and was able to line up some killer combos of multiple attack cards and leader bonuses. As our draw decks grew thin I was in good shape for a nightfall win, but a couple of sharp bombardments found me just a single loss away from another attrition defeat. Fortunately John had already run through his deck and I was able to race through the rest of mine before he could nail his fifth victim.

Lastly, I paired with Nathan Hill, the younger half of the formidable father-son Hill tag team (they work the Lucha Libre circuit as Las Colinas) . I figured my chances for advancement were slim so I picked the French just for the hell of it. Nathan went with the Austrians, a nice choice for advancement points. We had a very tense game, fighting back and forth along the border between our areas. We both teetered on the edge of catastrophe but we ended up playing through nightfall. Despite being outplayed, I squeaked out a win when Nathan misjudged the cards remaining and was unable to grab the extra couple squares needed for victory.

Overall, 2-1, with no advancement. Still, a satisfying event with three fun games and a win over a perennial contender.

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3. Board Game: Advanced Squad Leader [Average Rating:7.88 Overall Rank:119]
J. R. Tracy
United States
New York
New York
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Perry Cocke and I scheduled an ASL playtest beforehand, and Perry pulled out Show of Force, an interesting card drawn up by Michael Koch. This features a highly mobile German force assaulting a Soviet-held village in 1943. Perry's attack opened with a Tiger and some PzIIIs and PzIVs, followed by SPW-borne infantry and a flamethrower tank. In the village, I had a 76L artillery piece, a T34, and some infantry backed by an HMG, an ATR, and some LMGs. I also looked forward to reinforcements of another platoon of infantry, a pair of T34s, and a T70.


Perry looks for a new angle


To win, Perry had to drive me from the center of town without taking too many losses, so I essentially conceded a board and a half and just concentrated in the victory area. Perry swept forward, threatening my front and flanks. We were playing on brand new boards slated for an upcoming Action Pack. I've noticed the newer boards have been a little more open than the first fifty or so, and sure enough, I spied some tight but tasty lines of sight. Soon a PzIII and a pair troop-laden SPWs were burning.

The German casualty cap loomed, but Perry still had his flame tank as well as the Tiger that was nearly invulnerable to anything in my order of battle. His Tiger commanded the center of town from behind a wall, just across the road from my 76L gun. Perry started up the Tiger to close with my infantry; as he popped over the wall I tried for an underbelly hit. I rolled exactly what I needed thanks to the point-blank range, and the biggest German armor threat was eliminated. The Tiger is worth a stack of points as well, and with the death of a little more infantry the Germans were over their cap and out of the game.


Assailed from all sides


This scenario looks pretty good as it stands - I was lucky to rack up the casualty points as quickly as I did, but even without the losses the Germans still face some tough reinforcements with a wide range of entry options. The German force is strong enough to get the job done, but a little light on the infantry needed to seal the deal in the village itself. The Soviets are overmatched in terms of quality, but the tough victory conditions compensate for that. Both sides have mobility and attacking options, and the size is appropriate for an evening's play. Assuming the balance is there, I expect this to be a popular choice.




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4. Board Game: Kingdom of Heaven: The Crusader States 1097-1291 [Average Rating:7.70 Overall Rank:1883]
J. R. Tracy
United States
New York
New York
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Gary Phillips and I are settling into a tradition of a wargame every DonCon Tuesday, and this year we chose Kingdom of Heaven. Gary has played it a couple times already and I read through the rules and examples of play ahead of time.

We tried the First Crusade scenario as a training game. I had the Franks, and after an arduous journey across Anatolia I took a crack at Antioch. The garrison refused to submit so it took a bit of besiegery to finally take the place. The Christian cause was helped by the fact that slow-moving Kerbogha couldn't draw a '3' card to save his life.


Kerbogha, the original Sultan of Comedy


Unfortunately, Antioch is only good enough for a draw - to win, the Crusaders really need to take Jerusalem, which is on the far side of a heapload of hostile Saracens. I considered just hunkering down in Syria and playing for a draw, but that just didn't seem very Crusadery. I decided to strike south, leaving a small force in Antioch to face the wrath of Mosul. I got a stroke of luck when the Fatimid Diplomacy card resulted in a Shi'ite uprising, which led to the Damascenes sitting out the fight. My dusty force rolled up the the Holy City, and politely asked for surrender. Imagine my surprise when the garrison said yes! With Jerusalem in hand, I had only to hold on to my takings for the win. It was a fun if flukey scenario, whetting our appetites for bigger things.


Deus Vult!




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5. Board Game: Kingdom of Heaven: The Crusader States 1097-1291 [Average Rating:7.70 Overall Rank:1883]
J. R. Tracy
United States
New York
New York
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Gary and I followed the First Crusade with the Second - here I was the Seljuks to Gary's Crusaders. This scenario starts with the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem established, and as the Seljuk I had to grab back a few cities or lose outright halfway through the six turn game. My reward for surviving the initial VP check was a mob of angry, well-armed Franks showing up on turn four.

This proved to be a game of (rolling) sixes. I quickly overran Edessa, and a timely event card replaced my competent commander Zengi with the pretty awesome Nur-ad-Din. I pressed on to Antioch, snapping the True Cross over my knee in a gesture of contempt. It apparently did the trick as I rolled a six on the call for surrender, and the city was mine. I made a play for Acre but enough Christian troops gathered in the south to make me think better of it.

Meanwhile, the legions of the Second Crusade made their way across Anatolia. This trek is no picnic under ordinary circumstances, but a scenario special rule forces an extra attrition roll on the top column. Gary managed back to back sixes, flipping his entire force. He followed this with another six, further depleting his troops, before he staggered into Syria. He still had a lot of fighting power, but those lost steps really hurt him.


Horsemeat *again*?


With Antioch threatened and my other options limited, I rejoiced when the Overture from Damascus card fell into my lap. Gary had twice tried and failed to bring Damascus into his camp, but with the -2 die roll modifier provided by this card, I persuaded the Damascenes to take their rightful place in the cause of the just. They immediately fell upon Jerusalem, and yet another six on a call for surrender roll brought the city back into the Muslim fold.

The Christians were in a tough spot - they now had to re-take both Antioch and Jerusalem, either one of which was a tall order. Conrad's Crusaders besieged Antioch, so Nur-ad-Din rode to its relief. I was greeted with a battlefield catastrophe, followed by annihilation in pursuit. Even this success wasn't enough for Gary, for despite the intervention of an Italian engineer (a card which makes siege play much more efficient) the city held. Jerusalem also stood against a KoJ assault, and the game ended with a Seljuk victory.

I enjoyed the scenario but I had terrific luck in both cards and dice, while Gary suffered the other extreme. Battle is very swingy, so we both focused on sieges and position play, engaging only when we had no other choice. From my reading, that feels right. I look forward to trying the rest of the scenarios. Jeromey Martin offered a few post-game tips that opened up both tactical and strategic options that should further enhance play. Overall, I'm impressed with the history, the entertainment value, and the crisp pace of play - this game deserves a little more love.

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6. Board Game: Storm Over Dien Bien Phu [Average Rating:7.86 Overall Rank:3038]
J. R. Tracy
United States
New York
New York
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MMP ran an all-week open tournament for their upcoming game, Storm Over Dien Bien Phu. I playtested it a few times several years ago, so I decided to check out the new map and find out how much had changed since I last had a look.

I paired up with the designer, Nick Richardson. Nick took the French against my Viet Minh. A new rules tweak (new to me, anyway) closely linked the airfield to French resupply, so I decided to focus my attack on threatening, or even taking, the airstrip. I concentrated my troops to the north, and hammered my way through the paratroop perimeter. I had some good artillery cards early, which helped get things rolling. Nick was very cagey, preserving strength while forcing me to burn extra actions to take a particular area. He also counterpunched when the opportunity presented itself, actually re-taking at least one area.


Nick ponders the fate of Dominique


Despite the success of my airfield plan, Nick continued to sail through his replenishment checks. Capturing areas near or on the airstrip generated nasty die roll modifiers for his supply tests, which ideally would result in several areas failing to refresh between turns. Apparently Nick had a secret stockpile of vintage bordeaux and tinned escargot, because he went nearly the full game without missing a roll. As a result I had to grind my way through determined resistance, and our dead piles grew ever more massive.

In the last turn, following a reshuffle, I was once again flush with artillery cards. This proved enough to break through in two areas in the south. Nick was forked, and just didn't have the combination of troops and actions to retrieve the situation. After going the distance, we ended with a narrow Viet Minh victory.

I like the way the game has shaped up; the few adjustments made since I last played make sense, and Niko's map looks great. I saw a steady crowd at the table playing the game, so it appears MMP's little outreach program had some impact. I think this should prove a hit with folks interested in the subject matter and/or the 'Storm Over' series.

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7. Board Game: Combat Commander: Europe [Average Rating:7.93 Overall Rank:50]
J. R. Tracy
United States
New York
New York
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With the Combat Commander tourney looming Wednesday morning, Rob Winslow kindly offered to kick my ass back into shape rules-wise. I only play this game at DonCon, and my command of the rulebook is less than ideal. We tried At the Crossroads, a German-Polish scenario from '39. My Poles were on the attack against a heavily outnumbered German force. Rob had some extra troops arriving a couple turns in, so my goal was to find a weak spot and try to race off a few squads before then for a healthy VP lead.


As shifty as he looks


Things started off well, with a few Move cards in hand. I sent the bulk of my troops up the right flank, with a pinning force in the center to keep Rob honest. Unfortunately, Rob had the Fire cards he needed to slow my flanking move; by the time my boys reached the map edge, Rob's reinforcing platoon was there to greet them. However, the German surrender limit is pretty tight so I switched my focus to winning via attrition. I battled to within a couple units of victory, but had to close on Rob's main position to bag my final victims. Sadly, the result was timecheck-timecheck-timecheck-toast, and a German win.

Good fun, good opponent, and with the rust knocked off I felt in decent shape for the next day's event.

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8. Board Game: Combat Commander: Europe [Average Rating:7.93 Overall Rank:50]
J. R. Tracy
United States
New York
New York
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Bryan Collars always likes to have a theme for this event, and this year he opted for early war scenarios. This suited me fine - it's my favorite period for ASL and I already had a taste of some early war action in my warm-up with Rob.

Structure-wise, we played four games in a Swiss format to shake things down to four players for the semis. Advancement points for tiebreaker purposes were essentially based on margin of victory, with some bonuses offered for playing the attacker or forcing an opponent to his surrender limit.

First up I faced Mark Yoshikawa - I've conversed with Yoshi on line for years and we have many friends in common, but this was our first game together, and in fact the first time we really hung out at all. We played Blitzkrieg Unleashed, with Yoshi's Germans attacking my Poles. I enjoyed the company but the game wasn't particularly memorable. The Germans established strong firing positions down into the town but after that it went south for the Nazis. Yoshi's cards sucked and he just couldn't catch a break as I raked the ridgetops with mortar and machine gun fire. He finally pieced together a flanking move with decent potential but a timely Polish reinforcement event closed that avenue. 1-0, and a new DonCon friend.

Next I played Jordan Kehrer in a little British-German 1940 action whose name I failed to record. I edged Jordan last year in a tense German-Soviet battle, so I knew I was up against some talent. My British were on the attack, armed with good leadership and a satchel charge. Jordan had a relatively weak force, but by scenario special rule he could withhold some troops and bring them on anywhere in his setup area on a future timecheck. The setting is the pre-dawn gloom so in the first few timechecks a significant firing hindrance existed.

I plowed up the middle, seizing a large building and killing its occupants. Jordan built a line in some woods behind a stone wall, but with the hindrance protecting me and the satchel charge in hand, I felt pretty good about my chances. Unfortunately, Jordan wired up my satchel team as soon as they stepped adjacent. This stymied my initial plan, so I flanked his main firegroup and closed for a melee, trusting in my Ambush card. Well, Jordan rightfully placed even more trust in his two Ambush cards. That's pretty much how the rest of the game played out, as Jordan had an answer for my every move. Still, it was a fun game and I felt I was never quite out of it given the low German surrender limit. German win, leaving me 1-1 for the event.


Time to go


My third game was against Bill Dickerson, from up near Albany. We played Signals in the Snow, a Finnish-Soviet encounter, with my Finns trying to hold a road against a massive Soviet assault. I had a very good start with some well-placed mines breaking a Soviet squad and leader on Bill's very first move. Those units soon routed off the board and Bill was down some key troops before he'd barely started his attack. However, he quickly consolidated his forces and concentrated in a large woods mass to utilize his remaining leadership while enjoying a covered approach. Time was on my side, with checks falling regularly. I held the bulk of the objectives and a max win looked likely. However, I had one very real fear: loss via the surrender limit. Bill picked up on this and pressed his attack. I was forced to abandon a multi-VP objective in order to preserve my force for the win. I pulled out the victory, but a tier down from the top, which proved to have consequences during the tiebreakers. I really enjoyed playing Bill - he maintained his good humor throughout, despite some atrocious fortune. I'm glad he stuck with it even after the game seemed out of reach. He played in the spirit of the event and the outcome justified the format Bryan chose for advancement tiebreakers. 2-1

I wrapped up with Stormgruppe Beton(?) against Joshua Gottesman. Joshua's plucky Belgians were counterattacking my Fallschirmjägers in order to retake some fortified positions. This one was just gross. The rapid fall of timechecks would have been abusive enough, but I also received four reinforcement events, generating an artillery module, a good leader, a heavy machine gun, and an infantry gun. It was a disgusting run of luck and simply poleaxed the Belgian attack. It was good hanging out with Joshua, at least! 3-1.

In the end, I came up a pip short on the tiebreaker front, so I failed to make the semis. Still, I achieved my main goals: a full day of CC:E, some new friends, and a decent showing.

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9. Board Game: Tichu [Average Rating:7.66 Overall Rank:63]
J. R. Tracy
United States
New York
New York
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I've had Tichu on my shelf for over ten years without a single play - the rulebook just sucks and none of our locals have a handle on it. Still, its fans rave about it, so I was happy when Adam Oliner offered to teach it to a few noobs. I was late to the party so I didn't get a seat at first, but looked on as Adam taught it to Glenn Massey and John Drexler. The experienced fourth player kindly yielded his seat to me, but not before Adam and Glenn had amassed a 720-0 lead (playing to 1000).


Boom


We proceeded to have a wild game. I know little if anything about Tichu but I know something about probability. We had eleven 'bombs' in five hands - a bomb is typically four of a kind, played by a single player. Two cards are passed and received in a thirteen card hand, but that still felt pretty extreme. I asked Adam if it was indeed unusual and he said he'd never seen anything like it in several hundred playings. Though Adam and Glenn won, we had a blast, closing the gap to a couple hundred points before it was over. We even had a double-Tichu, with Glenn and I both calling it (we each had two bombs in hand). A fun trick-taking game with elements of Bridge, Hearts, and a few other games mixed in - I will try to introduce this to my card-playing in-laws.

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10. Board Game: Catchphrase [Average Rating:6.03 Overall Rank:7201]
J. R. Tracy
United States
New York
New York
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I had a little time to kill so I followed Adam in search of a copy of Catchphrase. This is an electronic device-assisted version of the old game show Password. The device gives you a word or phrase, and you must provide clues to your teammates without using any component words until they guess it. The device has a timer and the game is basically hot potato - whoever is holding it when the buzzer goes off loses the round. The format is gamey (hold the device, delay the answer, and toss it just as time runs out) but nobody is playing to win. The clue-giving and answer-guessing are a blast, and as we played a crowed gathered with everyone pitching in. It's a hoot, and I might have to track it down for my own collection.

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11. Board Game: The Devil's Cauldron: The Battles for Arnhem and Nijmegen [Average Rating:8.17 Overall Rank:1006]
J. R. Tracy
United States
New York
New York
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It was getting late but Joe Doughan and Matt Fagan were still going at it with their massive The Devil's Cauldron/Where Eagles Dare campaign game. Joe, who builds sets for film and television in real life, constructed a custom table to handle all the maps and components, complete with self-contained lighting. Don let them set up in a corner of the main lobby and they were at it all week.


A table too far


I stopped by often, to roll some dice or handle a formation for an activation or two. Wednesday night I had the spearhead of Guards Armoured, trying to winkle out the last resistance at a bridge near Breugel. I failed to take the position, but chipped away enough that the next commander had a good chance of breaking through.


My part in their war


This was a great team event - Joe and Matt welcomed anyone to try a hand, walking them through the mechanics of activation, movement, and combat. They put in a lot of work but I think the spectacle was enjoyed by many.

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12. Board Game: Funny Friends [Average Rating:6.49 Overall Rank:1184]
J. R. Tracy
United States
New York
New York
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Here are some friends playing interesting and worthy titles - first is Pablo Garcia-Silva and Perry playtesting MMP's prospective Sainte-Mère-Église HASL:


Pablo's panzers prepare to push past Perry's paratroopers


Here, Gary, Rob, Volko, and Marty tackle Angola. This one popped up all over open gaming over the course of the week - it's a rare four player wargame that keeps all players focused and involved, with little downtime:


The good old days - Cold War by proxy



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13. Board Game: Syracuse (415/413 av. J.-C.) [Average Rating:7.67 Overall Rank:4478]
J. R. Tracy
United States
New York
New York
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Rob and I pre-arranged a Thursday morning game, choosing Syracuse from Vae Victis. This depicts the Athenian siege of the eponymous city during the Peloponnesian War, an operation the Athenians would come to regret.

The game focuses as much on engineering and construction as on field and sea battles. The Athenians first establish their fortified camp, then set about constructing a wall to restrict Syracuse's access to Sicily's breadbasket. Syracuse must counter with a wall of their own to block the circumvallation's path to the sea. Athens also builds fortifications around the map to help extend her control of the countryside, while Syracuse can stretch a chain to blockade the harbor and deny the Athenian camp access to the sea. The walls and the chains are subject to destruction by enemy troops. None of this is a given - construction resources are granted by die roll, while destruction of walls and the chain is a 67% proposition.


Bold beginnings for the Athenian gangster


Land and sea combat is odds-based with many modifiers generated by troop quality, combined arms, leadership, etc. Losses are typically 1/4 to 3/4 of a given side's units receiving step-losses, with a winner indicated in bold. In the heart of the table losses are close to even, with the victor almost always taking a hit. If you max out the table and get a sack of modifiers, you might eliminate your opponent, but it's rare. I like the feel of chipping away at the other side, playing as much for position as losses. From what I've read, until late in the campaign few battles wiped out the losing side, so the table feels right history-wise.

Other rules account for attrition, winter quarters, amphibious landings, and events. The latter are all over the shop, including very specific combat modifiers (diekplus for galley fights), re-rolls, and bonus reinforcements. Players draw two each turn, and can retain one of any unused chits to the next turn. Instant victory can be had by either side if they starve their opponent out, but otherwise it's determined by VPs, generated by construction projects and battle losses inflicted.


Hermocrates prepares to tear down some walls


In our game, Rob quickly built his camp and started his wall. I countered with a bit of wall construction of my own, and once Rob finished two of his three wall sections, I decided a little vandalism was in order. Unfortunately, I had to fight a battle, control the field, and stay over into the winter to pull it off. Hot dice granted me the battle victory, but I was left with some difficult choices. I needed a minimum number of troops to destroy the wall, but as noted, they wouldn't be able to return to winter quarters and therefore faced an attrition roll. Also, initiative is determined by die roll, so a weak force left in the field might be subject to a lightning strike in the spring. I decided to leave my best troops exposed to the elements, and managed to tear down the wall. Unfortunately, I maxed out the attrition roll too, but caught a break when Rob failed to gain initiative.

After that, we fought a series of battles where I tried to deny Athenian control of the areas needed to finish their wall. Rob had truly awful luck here, twice expending a re-roll chit only to turn a bad result into something worse. His field army was getting hammered while my own was relatively unscathed, and in contrast to his crappy die rolling I was getting some sweet event chits, restoring my losses and sickening his survivors. I also managed to stretch the chain across the harbor, a cause for celebration until we discovered a giant rules oversight (Rob first needed to build a fort in Plemmyrium and I then had to capture it - slightly Byzantine but clearly stated upon a careful re-read). Rob's giant late-game slug of reinforcements failed to turn the tide, and we called it before completing the last turn, declaring a very qualified Syracuse victory.

I'm cautiously upbeat about the game. We struggled with the rules, which aren't bad but suffer a bit in translation. As stated above, we screwed up one big rule and a few smaller ones. It really does feel like a siege operation, though, with the maneuvering all done in support of the engineering efforts. I can't even begin to guess if it's a balanced situation, but I'm willing to give it another try. We played it to near-completion in under four hours, so it won't be hard to get it on the table again.

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14. Board Game: Unpublished Prototype [Average Rating:7.04 Overall Rank:1522]
J. R. Tracy
United States
New York
New York
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Bryan Collars offered us a chance to check out his latest project, WBC: The Board Game, the game that lets you relive your DonCon experience right in the middle of DonCon! Bryan sat down with Rob, James Hankins, and myself. Players strive to advance in and win the various events of the WBC, represented by cards that rate each tournament for difficulty, duration, and character (wargame, eurogame, or general), as well as the goodies and VPs gained for advancing and taking home the wood.

In addition to the tournament event cards, there is a deck for general goodies (die roll modifiers, food and energy bonuses, etc, including some 'gotcha' cards), and a character deck, where the likes of Pete Stein can wander by to ruin your day. Characters have general or event-specific effects depending on when they're played, and the flavor text and impact line up nicely with the miscreant portrayed.

Multiple players can compete in a single event, and don't actually go head to head until the final - until then, players are just rolling 3d6 against a value on the card to advance. Advancement may grant you bonus cards, though occasionally you'll suffer a penalty (a longer event might drain your energy). In addition to entering events, players must manage their energy and food levels, true to the spirit of DonCon. As your energy depletes and your hunger grows, you suffer adverse die roll modifiers, and must kill some time in the recovery zone, eating and sleeping. Each turn is a day, at the end of which each everyone competes in the likes of Slap Shot and Liar's Dice; victory is usually 'rewarded' with an energy hit or some other realistic consequence.


Themetastic


If a player survives to the final in a given event, he then dices off against the other players for wood. If there are less than four players participating, NPCs roll as well, though only with two dice. At this point cards may fly, supporting your own roll or hurting those of your opponents. When the dust settles, the final is resolved and points are awarded. Each day new events begin as others are completed or move through intermediate rounds. It's a clever construct with one, two and three day events allowing for a variety of gameplay within a turn as well as a steady cycle of allocation and recovery of the game cubes that represent a player's time commitments.

In our session, I pulled a card early that made me a Eurogame master, enjoying a +1 in all my Euro events but at the cost of a -1 penalty in any wargames. I allocated my cubes accordingly, bagging a lot of Euro wood early though sadly flaming out in the big-point Puerto Rico tournament. I aimed at a couple wargames as well, to flesh out my Team Tournament card. Each player has a random team card (derived from real teams) and gets bonus points for advancing to the final in his team games. Winning plaques has a detriment, though - the more you win, the fewer action cubes you have, as you're assumed to be burning cycles telling war stories in the bar.

I had a good lead for most of the game but kept my eye on Rob and Bryan, both of whom had a lot of events in play as well as un-tallied team points. My biggest concern was Bryan's shot at the Nappy Wars crown. It was worth beaucoup points on its own, and also was one of his team games. I pummeled him with cards, forcing re-rolls on his advancements, inflicting dysentery on his troops, and undermining his performance in the finals. It was to no avail, and he not only won wood in TNW, he took home the prize in WBC: The Board Game as well.

I had a lot of fun with this - I feared it would just be a novelty piece, good for a couple laughs, but there's a real game here amidst all the in-jokes and shared experiences ("The Dreaded Call From Home: player misses his next final"). Worker placement plus head to head die rolling, with a little screwage mixed in. I think it works well as it stands, though Bryan might tweak things to address game length with four or more players. I saw enough that I'd be happy to help it move forward, via Kickstarter or whatever other path Bryan might choose.



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15. Board Game: Unpublished Prototype [Average Rating:7.04 Overall Rank:1522]
J. R. Tracy
United States
New York
New York
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Dr. Rob was testing a game of his own, called The Board. This uses a modified Kremlin engine, in a setting of corporate intrigue. Rob has added cardplay to the orginal's influence mechanic, but the gist was quickly picked up by the players he dragooned. The Dilbert-inspired art of the playtest copy was a nice thematic touch. I think it was generally well received, with players providing some useful suggestions and feedback. This will likely get some more play in our local gatherings.


He runs a playtest with an iron hand


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16. Board Game: Love Letter [Average Rating:7.44 Overall Rank:104]
J. R. Tracy
United States
New York
New York
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Dan Dolan always has a bagful of new and interesting stuff, and this year he was pretty high on Love Letter. This is a quick little game that reminds me superficially of Citadels; cards represent characters that each have a special ability and a power ranking. Each player has one card, and on their turn draws another. He then chooses to play one for its role, which can be defensive in one case but usually involves attacking another player or gaining information. The goal is to force all the other players to 'lose' their character; last player standing (or highest VP card left if there are multiple survivors) collects a victory cube. Four cubes wins the game.

Dan taught the game to Chris Storzillo, Dr. Rob and myself. Dan had yet to win a single trick, let alone a game, despite pimping the game all week. His luck changed in our session, however, with a handy win. Nice little game, which I picked up for the end-of-summer family get-together.


My romantic correspondents

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17. Board Game: Matilda [Average Rating:6.50 Unranked]
J. R. Tracy
United States
New York
New York
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A crisis on the home front recalled Chas Argent to Maryland, cancelling our ASL playtest. This was a drag, but it meant an early start back to NYC to fetch Matilda, my thirteen year old daughter. This was Tildy's third DonCon - she looks forward to both the gaming and seeing the friends she's made in just a couple years. She thinks Brian Youse and Ken Dunn are two of the funniest people alive - if that doesn't illustrate the mysteries of the adolescent mind, I don't know what does.


Don't let the smile fool you


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18. Board Game: Mage Knight Board Game [Average Rating:8.15 Overall Rank:8]
J. R. Tracy
United States
New York
New York
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Former local gamer Britt Strickland and his wife Louise continue to make the trek back to DonCon despite relocating to the UK a couple years ago. Scott Muldoon wanted to get in a game with Britt, so we tried a PvP session of Mage Knight. Scott took the martial arts gal from the new expansion, Britt had a blood mage, and Matilda and I ran the lizard-warrior. Despite being competitive as opposed to cooperative, there wasn't a lot of interaction as we each set out on our own miniquests in order to build out our decks. Our lizard suffered a lot of wounds delving into tombs and subduing mage towers, but we picked up some nice cards in the process. Britt make excellent headway after picking up a card that allowed him to acquire new spells on the cheap.


Setting the table


The biggest knock I've heard on this game is the slow pace of play, but we were able to interlace our turns, planning and executing quickly once the baton came around to us. We had a lot of fun with some tough monsters and complicated combat resolutions - those double-critter tiles are a handful! Still, we were too weak to contemplate actually taking a city, so as the third day closed we called Britt the winner, given his decent VP lead.

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19. Board Game: 7 Wonders [Average Rating:7.88 Overall Rank:19]
J. R. Tracy
United States
New York
New York
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This is Matilda's favorite game, so we sat down with Gary and his daughter Rose for a couple quick games. Though we had both Cities and the Wonder Pack expansion, we played it straight up the first game and used Leaders for the second. I slapped down a ton of point-scoring gold cards for the win in the first game, but struggled early in our Leaders session. Rose had Rome, which helped everyone but me (cheaper leaders). Fortunately I was able to build out both green cards and monuments, to tie Gary for a shared win. Good fun but we still have yet to move beyond the first two boxes in the series.


Tag-teamed by the Phillips' (Phillipses? Phillipsi?)

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20. Board Game: Glory to Rome [Average Rating:7.52 Overall Rank:91]
J. R. Tracy
United States
New York
New York
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Jeff Coyle joined Matilda, Gary and me for some black-box GtR. I romped early with several buildings completed, but did a poor job shifting material into my vault. Jeff had no such trouble, merchanting his way to victory at 25 points to my 21.


Matilda fixes Jeff with her death-stare

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21. Board Game: Liar's Dice [Average Rating:6.95 Overall Rank:407]
J. R. Tracy
United States
New York
New York
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Tildy and I had a midnight date with destiny, but first we grabbed a little tourney fun with Liar's Dice. We had a mutant set and therefore only four players. I was first out but Matilda and fellow teen Maia went down to the wire, head to head at a single die apiece. Maia took the last round and the table, freeing Tildy and me to set off for the fear-stricken alleyways of East London.


Little Miss Poker Face

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22. Board Game: Letters from Whitechapel [Average Rating:7.56 Overall Rank:124]
J. R. Tracy
United States
New York
New York
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It pains me to even contemplate this particular segment. For two years running, Dolan père has eluded us as the Ripper, despite our bringing family knowledge, law enforcement expertise, the resources of Homeland Security, and NFL-caliber linemen to bear on the problem. Last year we missed him by less than a whisker - a crucial decision to opt for a search instead of an arrest allowed Jack/ManMountain to slip away to his home for the win on the final night. After a year of relentless trashtalking we were more than ready to get our revenge. Unfortunately, our quarry wasn't just sitting on his laurels; he was studying the map and planning his evening. We kicked this off at midnight on Friday at the top of the open gaming room, with Storzo, Campoverdi, Dan Dolan IX, Britt, Matilda, and myself in pursuit of the Ripper.

Jack allowed the Wretched to pace the streets for several turns the first night before striking his victim. He then raced off into the night. We set up a cordon to track his departure path, while leaving some detectives in the backfield to search for a lucky break. The night dragged on without a significant lead, though we turned up a few clues. A turn short of the limit, Jack announced he was home, and we'd only reduced his possible lairs by a third.


The brain trust of Scotland Yard


On nights two and three we had even less luck, failing to reduce the target area. Clever use of coaches and back alleys allowed Jack to double back and leave us grasping for air. On the final night, as we approached 4:30am in real time, Campo turned to the Ripper and said, "If you can get home in one move and decide to jerk us around instead, there's gonna be a real murder tonight." With that, Jack cackled and said, "I'm home." It was a merciful, swift end to a brutal game. We all suffered, but Dan IX and absent Tim Dolan will suffer more than most, as they'll get to hear about this at home for a long twelve months, before we take another crack at catching the monster.

After we wrapped up, Dan VIII showed us his moves for the first couple nights. As expected, he used his coach moves to cut through our cordon, then ran a couple daring loops around our detectives. This allowed him to scatter clues in on both sides of the main road before cutting for home. He did the same thing on the second night. Like I said, he did his research and came into the game with a plan. Now, we'll have to do some planning of our own....



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23. Board Game: Waffle-opoly [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
J. R. Tracy
United States
New York
New York
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Waffle House, where have you been all my life? I've heard good things but tried it for the first time after we crawled out of bed just before noon. Breakfast is Tildy's favorite meal, hashbrowns are one of my favorite dishes, and they serve both all day. An excellent greasy start to our Saturday.

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24. Board Game: Coup [Average Rating:7.24 Overall Rank:213]
J. R. Tracy
United States
New York
New York
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This is another of Dan VIII's bag games. Like Love Letter, each Coup card has a character with special attack and blocking abilities. Each player has a 'hand' of two cards. Unlike Love Letter, however, players can bluff, exercising a given role without revealing whether they actually have that character. If challenged, they lose the character if they're lying, while the challenger loses a character if they're telling the truth. The goal is to build up enough funds to 'coup' opposing player-characters out of the game, and gameplay turns on gathering coins for yourself while blocking the money-raising of the rest of the table.


The perpetual duke makes another preposterous demand


Campo, Dan, Tildy and I played three games in about half an hour while Campo waited for his Nappy Wars final. Campo took one game, Dan two, mainly through the steady use of the "I'm the Duke!" ploy. Matilda, model of consistency, placed second in all three games. I like it, but prefer the taut simplicity of Love Letter for a quick ten minute card game.

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25. Board Game: King of Tokyo: Power Up! [Average Rating:7.74 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.74 Unranked]
J. R. Tracy
United States
New York
New York
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King of Tokyo is a fun, fast, fighty game that is improved with the inclusion of the Power Up! expansion. Power Up adds a character (PandaKai) but more importantly creates differentiation for the beasties through unique mutation cards tailored to the personality of each critter. These proved to be the key to our game. Campoverdi played The King, Tildy had Pandakai, Dan was the Alienoid, and I had Gigazaur.

I was the first to enter Tokyo and decided to hang on all the way around to my turn, but took so much damage I was essentially out of the game. Dan, however, focused on generating mutations, and he soon had a cool array of powers augmenting the cards he purchased with energy cubes. He had a healthy run as King of Tokyo, but Campo was right on his tail with a card that could instantly generate five VPs. Unfortunately for Campo, Dan closed out his VP dial for the win before Campo could play his card. Nifty title made even better with what I consider an essential expansion.


King of Tokyo, but not for long

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