The Tyranny of Small Decisions

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Live on Stage...

John Shepherd
United Kingdom
Ovington
Northumberland
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One month to go, and it looks like the hottest ticket of UKGE22 has been officially announced...



I'm still not sure who they've scheduled us against in the big room... but whoever it is must be getting pretty worried now.

Because you ARE all coming to this, right?

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Thu May 5, 2022 7:10 am
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Underground Showtime

John Shepherd
United Kingdom
Ovington
Northumberland
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Not much gaming went on in the Shepherd household this weekend, as we had guests.

The worst type of guests … i.e. the type of guests who don’t really like board gaming

We did, however, amuse our visitors for an afternoon by re-visiting the local lead mine that I told you all about last year … and THIS time the ventilation system was in full working order, so we could actually venture underground! Sadly, I don’t have any new photos for you, as most of the tour involved wading through 6 inches of water, ducking low ceilings, and being in the kind of environment where you really don’t want to mess with folks’ night vision by using a camera flash. It was very interesting stuff though. Well worth a visit

From gallery of MrShep


…and it was the sort of adventure that gave me a hankering to crack open my copy of Tinners Trail (redux) for a two player try-out afterwards. But, alas, by the time our guests departed on Sunday, there wasn’t very much gaming time (or energy?) left in the weekend at all. So we made do with another play of Fjords (which Mrs Shep has now decided definitely isn’t her kind of thing), followed by a quick round of (reliable favourite) Nova Luna. Neither of which has anything to do with mines, or lead, or even the vaguest of tenuous links to holes in the ground. But the play of Nova Luna reminded me that I should really have a look at Uwe’s newest variation-on-the-theme, Framework soon. (Has anybody here tried it yet?). And I also remembered to watch out for the answer to Caroline’s query on my last post too:

From gallery of MrShep

Sea monster? Why yes. Yes there is!


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Unfortunately the presence of our houseguests also clashed with the highly auspicious occasion of a (potential?) return-to-form for Newcastle Gamers. We finally got the go-ahead from the venue to put our attendance numbers back up to pre-covid levels this weekend (hooray!). But — occupied as I was with domestic guest-hosting duties — I was unable to go along and see how it all worked out (booo!). Hopefully I’ll be able to attend the next meeting on the 30th though. Fingers crossed.

One other non-too-distant Saturday afternoon that I’ll definitely be otherwise occupied upon is on the first Saturday of June … falling, as it does, in the middle of the UK Games Expo! Especially because — as per the announcement on Tony’s Blog a couple of days ago — there will be a seminar session devoted to BGG blogging this year! The panel line-up features the aforementioned Mr Boydell, myself, Caroline “The Dyslexic Gamer” Black, Nicholas “Meepleonboard” O’Neil …and anybody else who we manage to rope in between now and then. And it would be nice* to have an audience too … so please do come along and join us.

Mark your diary for Saturday, 15:30, in the Piazza Suite.

I’m not sure who we’ll be up against on the main stage yet… but I shall be eagerly awaiting the publication of the full entertainments schedule to find out

Any bets?

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*Though if the worst comes to the worst... at least we'll have a nice quiet room for a quick game of something...
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Mon Apr 11, 2022 7:10 am
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AireCon -- you feel it in your gut.

John Shepherd
United Kingdom
Ovington
Northumberland
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Right then… the last day of AireCon coverage? Probably. I guess you’re getting pretty bored of this all by now...
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There’s a feeling that I sometimes get when something that I’ve really been enjoying comes to an end. A proper, visceral, feel-it-in-the-pit-of-your-stomach sort of a feeling. A true physical sensation, with an accompanying emotion that’s hard to explain; mostly a sadness because it’s all over, and a longing that it’ll all come back soon … but mixed with the warm, fuzzy satisfaction of time well spent. Well… I definitely felt that feeling sweeping over me, as I stepped out of the convention centre for the last time on Sunday afternoon, and back onto the streets of Harrogate.

From gallery of MrShep
The moment where “I” left AireCon.


But I’m jumping ahead of myself again, aren’t I?... What happened on Sunday?

Well… the last day of AireCon wasn’t too demanding. I’d had a bit of a late start that morning (the consequence of staying up way too late playing — or mis-playing — that game of Endangered the night before; I’m definitely not as good at burning the gaming candle at both ends as I used to be!!). When I arrived at the venue, Lindsey & Mr N were in the exhibitor area, demoing Top Hats And Treachery. I watched them play for a while, and decided that I’d maybe had a lucky escape by dodging that one; it didn’t seem much like my kind of game — a bit of a take-that laden, gloom-esque sort of a card game. I guess the narrative that the game produced was amusing enough, and they’ve done the same thing that Obsession did in using period portrait photos to illustrate the cards … but the actual gameplay just seemed like swingy luck-of-the-draw type shenanigans from where I was standing. Nevertheless, the Linsonix clan took a copy home with them on the strength of that play… so don’t trust my grumpy/deranged ramblings; your own milage may vary

We then caught up with some friends of the Linsonixes … (who I shall refer to merely as “P” and “C”, since Lindsey seems to have kept them both conspicuously anonymous on her own account of the day, and I neglected to ask if they minded being name-checked in random blogs on the internet!), ...and we commenced our play of what turned out to be my only game of the day:

Lewis & Clark: The Expedition.

From gallery of MrShep


I seem to recall Lewis & Clark: The Expedition being quite the hot new thing, back in wild and crazy days of 2013 … but for some reason, I never got around to playing it. So I was quite happy to (retrospectively) find out what all the fuss was about, and see what I’d missed. It turned out to be quite a nicely-constructed game … Fundamentally a deckbuilder which rewards super-lean efficiency of actions. Playing cards will generate resources to allow you to progress your expedition across the North American continent … but having cards left in your hand — or too many resources to afford efficient carriage on your boats — when the time comes to reclaim your discard pile causes you to slip backwards a proportionate number of spaces on the progress track. So it’s all about pushing forward, but continually making sure that your inefficiencies don’t drag you backwards.

Despite a bit of a worrying last-minute surge from P (the pace of which I think surprised P just as much as it surprised the rest of us), I managed to set up camp on the west coast first, and won the game… possibly because I’d kept my deck pretty lean, and had been extremely frugal with resources. I suspect that such a tactic wouldn’t work quite so well against folks who know the game a little bit better and have a good idea of how to ride this particular efficiency engine by the seat of their pants. So maybe I should just resign here, with a 100% lifetime win record?

Anyway… Lewis and Clarke took us ages to play, and we had a bit of a slow-and-rough start with it (due to nobody knowing and/or remembering the rules, even those who had played before) … but it was still very enjoyable. I’m glad I played it.

I maybe don’t feel the urge to run out and get a copy … but I’m still glad that I played it.

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By the time we finished our trans-american expeditions, the sun was well over the yardarm and AireCon 7 was into its final hour-or-so of existence. It seemed like an appropriate time to bid farewell to Lindsey, Mr N, P & C, and do one last lap of the vendor area …just in case there was anything exciting that I’d missed.

And there was something exciting that I'd missed!

Well… exciting to me and my obsessive Oink Games collecting ways, at least; The Firestorm Cards stall had English language copies of THIS bizarre and unusual gaming delight…

From gallery of MrShep


I didn’t even know that English language copies of Hey Yo were a thing yet, so this was definitely a bit of a happy discovery. So needless to say, I handed Jimmy the requisite 15 quid and snapped a copy up. So expect further coverage shortly!

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And with my small burst of shopping activity complete… this just about takes me up to that strange-sensation-in-my-gut moment that I was telling you about in the opening paragraphs.

All in all, AireCon 7 was an excellent convention … made all the more excellent by the fact that it was a very normal seeming convention and board-gaming experience, after two very long years of covid madness. Back when I first mentioned this trip, I wondered if it would feel like a bookend to the two years of lockdowns and social distancing — AireCon 6 was, after all, the very last big event that I went to before the first national lockdown … and Airecon 7 was the first big (indoor) event that I’ve been to ever since. So yeah… it’s very much seemed like that. A couple of weeks after coming home from AireCon life is … sort of … back to normal now. Or as normal as it seems like it could be, all things considered.

A life bookmarked by big board-gaming events? Well … I guess you could do worse

In summary… AireCon was a wonderful weekend, spent doing my favourite things, in the company of new friends. Couldn’t ask for much more, really, could you?

…and there’s only 10 weeks until I get to do it all again at the UK Games Expo…

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P.S. the view from Lindsey’s side of the table can be found here.
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Sat Mar 26, 2022 7:10 am
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Saturday AireCon night becomes Sunday AireCon Morning

John Shepherd
United Kingdom
Ovington
Northumberland
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Over the years, AireCon has been gradually increasing its seminar & entertainment content. Aside from its legendary Friday night board game pub quiz, the traditional Saturday night performance by Pirate-Pop band Jollyboat, the big charity raffle, and the starship simulator, there’s been a steadily-growing programme of seminars by podcasters and youtubers.

…. absolutely NONE of which I went to this year.

Because I was having way too much fun gaming

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I guess I’ve just really missed face-to-face gaming over the last couple of years. Between the various lockdowns and variant spikes, the opportunities for genuine sat-at-a-table gaming have simply been way too sparse. I can pretty much count the number of times that I’ve spent an ENTIRE DAY playing board games with other people over the course of the last two years on one hand.

And I wouldn’t even need to use my thumb.

(Or all of the fingers, for that matter).

So … no time for any of that non-gaming nonsense for ME at AireCon this year. Open gaming was where I intended to spend my AireCon 2022 evenings!

…And another thing that I haven’t done nearly enough of over the last couple of years — another bit of our hobby, which I really love — is sharing recent gaming discoveries with friends. That thing where you play a new game, and think “oh… such-and-such would LOVE this game. This is so their type of game”. And then you take it along to your next game night, with great expectations, curious to see if you were right…

Linsonix and Mr N are, of course, relatively new acquaintances. And as such, my only clues as to what games they might — or might not — enjoy were based almost entirely on my readings of Superfluous Somethings (plus a few short messages going backwards-and-forwards in the days before AireCon along the lines of “is there anything in my collection you fancy playing?”). Nevertheless, I think we went into the Saturday night session pretty well prepared…

I’ve written about a few of these games before. And … just for a change … I’m in the slightly unusual (and interesting!) position of not having to write about what I think the other folks at the table really thought of the stuff that I laid before them, as I’m sure Lindsey will be furnishing us with a whole heap of opinions over on her own blog any time now. So I’ll maybe just touch on some of these titles really briefly, and then wait with bated breath to see what Lindsey writes over on the other side.

Could be interesting!

(Edit: find out here)

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So, following on from the last instalment ... the rest of the things that we played on Saturday ran something like this:

SCOUT

From gallery of MrShep


My first play of SCOUT with more than 2 players … and it turns out that the full-fat version has a very different feel to the 2-player variant. I might slightly prefer the 2 player version … it’s a pretty sharp game at that count …but this “proper” version seemed pretty decent too. I can definitely see this game going into rotation as a regular end-of-session quickie, with a bit more familiarisation.

Capital Lux 2: Generations

From gallery of MrShep


I was interested in playing this one after reading about it on Lindsey’s blog. Capital Lux is a relatively simple majority-collecting card game, with special interest injected by the fact that each of the four suits has one of four unique-to-that-suit special powers assigned to it before the game begins … resulting in 256 different ways to play the game. This random configuration gives something of a Dominion/Kingdom builder vibe (in fact, I might even go so far as to suggest that this might be the best Donald X Vaccarino Game that Donald X Vaccarino didn’t actually have anything to do with! …I can definitely see how the various suit interactions would favour players who can “read” the game configuration at the outset, and strategise accordingly … just like all the best Donald X titles). I enjoyed playing Capital Lux — no big surprise; I had a feeling that I’d enjoy it just from reading this blog post — but I don’t think it’s one that I’ll add to my own collection. There’s a mathy-ness to it that I don’t think will appeal to Mrs Shep (who tends to be my main opponent for titles like this); lots of counting and re-counting of cards, and weighing up the +/- adjustments that might (or might not…) be brought into play by your opponents.

Very happy to have played it though. Good one.


Masters of Renaissance

From gallery of MrShep


I’ve been banging on about this one on the blog a fair bit over recent months — but AireCon was my first chance to evangelise it to an audience that isn’t Mrs Shep. Pretty successfully, I might add. Though I’m still describing it as Splendor++

Bus

From gallery of MrShep


Regular visitors to the comments section might have noticed references to me “owing Linsonix a game of Bus” popping up for some time now.

Well: It’s official. I no longer owe Linsonix a game of bus.

(And I think this might even have been her + Mr N’s first Splotter? )

For a while — and given the course of my previous game of Bus at the Gathering of Chums — I was feeling a little bit guilty at just how big a lead I was getting in the game. Was I at risk of gaining a reputation for totally sharking bus-newbies at gaming conventions? Matt Green was a witness to that previous game, back at Newent … and, by odd co-incidence, he was sitting only a couple of tables away from us at AireCon too! Hmmmm.

But then…

well… probably best if Lindsey tells the rest of this story.



And finally, something new to all of us…

Endangered

From gallery of MrShep


I’m pretty sure that Endangered is NOT supposed to be a three hour game…. though I guess our experience might be down to the fact that it was a library copy, which we were learning as we played. (Not particularly well, as it happens, as we only spotted one particularly egregious rules error about 75% of the way through our play … oops!)

Anway… Endangered is a co-op game. A dice-placement affair, where you’re attempting to herd various animals (tigers, in the scenario that we played) around a rapidly-declining habitat, and hoping to keep them alive long enough for you to successfully petition various world governments to vote on resolutions to secure their survival. And it was actually a pretty decent game … (once we’d figured out what exactly we were supposed to be doing!). Not an “I’d rush out and buy a copy” sort of game. But certainly a “I’d probably play it again if somebody invited me” sort of a game. Though hopefully we’d get through it a bit faster in this hypothetical next time. And not (accidentally) cheat anything like as much as we did here

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1:30am! I can’t remember the last time I finished a gaming session at 1:30am. (Though, to be fair, with the way the last couple of years have gone… I can barely remember staying out at ANY event past midnight!) … but — combined with the earlier play of Paladins of the West Kingdom — that was an extremely satisfying day’s gaming. And there was still one last day of AireCon to go…

[to be continued…]

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Wed Mar 23, 2022 7:10 am
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Little britain. Murders. Infidels. AireCon.

John Shepherd
United Kingdom
Ovington
Northumberland
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From gallery of MrShep


Yeah. I know that I really shouldn’t be putting money into the coffers of evil Tim Wetherspoon, no matter how reasonably-priced his breakfasts are. But I *do* like breakfasting in the Harrogate winter gardens. It’s a vast, lovely, airy, victorian-era building; very steampunk-looking … usually extremely quiet early in the day, and a very civilised environment in which to sip coffee and load up on a full english breakfast before facing a busy day ...with no distractions other than a quiet background murmur of fellow diners discussing the matters of the day, a rattling of spoons in teacups, and the occasional gentle clatter of knives and forks echoing around the vaulted victorian steelwork.

Well… usually, it’s like that. But this particular Saturday morning, without really thinking about where I was seating myself, I managed to land near a fairly rowdy bunch of people. I’m guessing it was some board gaming you-tuber or other at the epicentre of the group, doing a meet-and-great …it kind of had that vibe to it, and the voices were loud, and American-accented. Fair enough; they all seemed to be having good fun, and it certainly wasn’t the lairiest group of folks that you’d find in a Wetherspoons bar by a long shot. But it did send my mind thinking — as I sipped my coffee — how odd it was that such a grassroots gaming convention — in a small, northern British town — was shipping in so many of its “headline” delegates from the USA. I mean… we do have some pretty good home-grown YouTubers and Podcasters on these very shores. …don’t we?

Or maybe these musings were just the result of residual little-britain sensibilities — latent and deeply engrained in every branch of Wetherspoons — seeping into my consciousness

Anyway, I didn’t have too long to muse over these matters; I got a text message from Linsonix, saying that she and Mr N were already in the conference centre, had managed to grab a copy of Paladins of The West Kingdom from the game library, and were wondering if they should they save me a seat? Well… in terms of random offers that can arrive while eating your breakfast, that one has to rank reasonably highly, doesn't it? I was only half a sausage, a few baked beans, and a small piece of black pudding away from completing my morning repast, so I replied that I should be with them in 15 minutes or so...

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As it turned out … we spent a little bit of time in the demo area before heading upstairs to play Paladins, because a particular game in there had caught the eyes of Lindsey & Mr N while waiting for me to potter down the road from the pub…

Snapshot: Wildlife Photographer

From gallery of MrShep


In short: You’re a wildlife photographer. There’s a push your luck card-flipping thing going on at the start of your turn (thematically: setting yourself up to photograph the animals, without “spooking” them), then you allocate dice to the cards that you’re interested in adding to your score pile, roll dice to beat the target scores (/successfully photograph the animals) on those cards, collect sets, and achieve secret card-accumulating objectives.

There’s a significant luck factor (I had some awful rolls + flips!), with some mitigation mechanisms — tokens that you can spend for re-rolls, or to shore up dice results in advance, and a rule by which you can avoid going bust from an adverse card flip by taking it into a personal reserve — to an extent where I wasn’t massively sold on this one, with some some elements seeming incongruously inelegant/under-developed for such a simple game. But then… I’m probably not the target audience for this one. Lindsey + Mr N, on the other hand, clearly saw something in it, as they bought a copy to take home for the kids

After a quick stop-off at the Bright Eye Games booth to look at Termite Towers (we played a couple of rounds, but not enough to really understand the game properly), another demo zone caught our collective eyes …

The Detective Society.

From gallery of MrShep


The Detective Society is an escape-room-in-a-box company, and their demo booth featured a self-contained “15 minute mini-case” to solve, involving players being handed details of a murder victim, three suspect profiles, and a few small items of evidence to look at… then being left to themselves to solve the case.

From gallery of MrShep

Seems like a legitimate murder motive to me!


I’ll not give too much away, because if you see this demo elsewhere (some of the written material made reference to the UK games expo) it’s well worth having a go at it yourself. There are some interestingly-immersive “real-world” elements which require a smartphone (no, those people in the photo looking at their phones AREN’T doing that because they’re bored of the game!) — you visit web sites that have been set up to depict in-game organisations and send emails to various characters to help move the case along, and there’s some very nice physical props to poke and prod at along the way. All very satisfying. And if you do manage to encounter this very same demo at some point — our time to beat was roughly ten minutes and 50 seconds


Anyway… with a morning of impromptu game demos out of the way, it was time for the main event. The previously-promised game of…

Paladins of the West Kingdom.

From gallery of MrShep


Oddly, I’ve never played a Shem Philips game before. I know that Shem and Garphill games have developed quite a following over the last few years … but for some reason, all of those titles have kind of stayed a little bit outside of my orbit. Not because I’ve been deliberately avoiding them, or have heard bad things about them … quite the opposite in fact. They just don’t seem to have ever landed on a table that I happen to have been playing at, is all.

Until now.

And I really enjoyed this game. At the start of each round, you’re given a bunch of differently-coloured workers — the exact mix of which depends upon some card management on your part, and a central card draft — and then you pop your workers onto your personal board in various colour combinations to activate particular actions … boosting your levels of faith, military strength and influence … building your little empire, fortifying your defences, recruiting helpers, and vanquishing the infidels. All of which will drip-feed a steady stream of points.

There was much fun to be had here. But at the same time …it all seemed oddly familiar. At first, I chalked this up to parallels with Hadrians Wall — the only other Garphill Game that I own, and which I can now see took an awful lot of design (or development?) cues from Paladins, despite being the work of a different designer. But it was only a few days later — when I was retrospectively mulling over what I liked, or disliked about Paladins — that it finally clicked.

It’s Orléans. But without the bag-building.

From gallery of MrShep


In Orléans you place groups of workers of specific colours onto your personal board to activate actions (check!) … you can take a development action to fill up the first space in those groups with a permanently-blocking “thing”, which makes them easier to fill later in the game (check!) … one colour of meeple is a wildcard that can stand in for any other meeple, but comes with its own special rules and concerns (check!) … and these are just the aspects that are initially popping into my head despite not managing to crack open my copy of Orléans for 6 years or so.

There’s a lot of parallels there.

So I’ve kind of had a bit of a pivot from “maybe I should put Architects Paladins onto my things to buy list?” to: “I really need to play Orléans again to see if it scratches the same itch”… because I did like Orléans, back when it was the hot new thing. And I’ve got a feeling that the bag-building and variability of building tiles in Orléans perhaps nudges it a little way ahead of Paladins for me. Hmmm.

Great to finally play Paladins of the West Kingdom though, and to see what the fuss is about; it is a very good game in its own right!

(to be continued…)

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Sat Mar 19, 2022 3:22 pm
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Friday night on the moon (or, at the very least, at AireCon).

John Shepherd
United Kingdom
Ovington
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Oh look, another ping! This one is for Sunday. All I need now is one for the Friday session and then I’ll have a complete set!

From gallery of MrShep


…but I'm getting ahead of myself here. I was only half way through telling you all about my Friday AireCon adventures in the last exciting instalment, wasn’t I?

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Following our extended stint at the Hachette stand (playing the tremendously-enjoyable Iki), I decided it was time to dip out of the conference venue to stretch my legs and check in at my hotel. I always feel a little bit happier to be successfully checked in; the sooner the better. It’s many years since I last fell victim to a checking-in-at-11pm-only-to-find-out-the-hotel-was-overbooked-and-there’s-no-space-left scenario … but … the pricing for hotel rooms within the town seemed to be VERY fierce this year (another disadvantage of AireCon’s growing popularity), and I suspect treatment of capacity limits might’ve been a bit loose and fast. And I definitely didn’t want to find myself getting bumped to outlying accommodation

It was, of course, raining when I exited the venue. Because AireCon just wouldn’t be the same without having to endure at least one long walk in the rain each year, would it?

To be fair, I only have myself to blame for the length of this walk. I’ve stayed in the same hotel for the last 4 years, and it’s about half a mile from convention entrance to the hotel foyer. But its familiar territory, the car parking is easy at that end of town, and I kind of feel that — after spending all day long sitting on my backside playing games — its probably a good thing to get at least a tiny bit of exercise in going backwards and forwards to the hotel.

(But that half-a-mile is definitely about as far as you’d want to lug a big bag of games in the rain each day!)

Speaking of a big bag of games: while I was at the hotel, I grabbed a heap of games from my car boot. Some math trade bits and pieces that I’d arranged to drop off with various parties that evening. Plus… some stuff to play in the open gaming area as the night wore on. I’d already quizzed Linsonix & Mr N as to which games they might be particularly interested in giving a spin from my collection, so had a bit of a shortlist in mind. And thus, once I’d successfully made my math-trade drop-offs, we reconvened to play:

Moon Adventure

From gallery of MrShep


Moon Adventure makes a top-notch co-operative gaming entrée …and is a game which is far more fun, interesting and euro-ish to me than Deep Sea Adventure ever was. There’s still a significant push-your-luck element at its core… but with a huge chunk of mitigation-through-good-planning and some lovely risk vs reward dilemmas to stress over. Unfortunately, we lost this time; our poor little wooden astronauts doomed to a lonely death on a hostile world … though seemingly just on the brink of turning everything around and grabbing all the vital life-support supplies that they needed. Which seems to be a formula that all of the very best “just-one-more-try” co-operative games manage to pull off.

Moon adventure easily ranks amongst my top 5 Oink games. And possibly even ranks in my top 3 Oink games. But only possibly. (Hmmm… I really do need to do a top 10 Oink games post at some point, don’t I…)

And after our moon adventure…

Hallertau

A nice chap called Dave joined us for this one. Dave is a bit of a Uwe Rosenberg fan by all accounts. And to be fair … we might have looked a tiny bit like the Uwe Rosenberg appreciation society while setting this one up; Lindsey was wearing a “Agri-Cola” T-Shirt, while I had my BGG Avatar proudly emblazoned upon my chest (which is — for anybody unfamiliar with that particular resource icon — an Ora & Labora sheep, as rendered by the mighty Klemens Franz!). So, spotting us gleefully unloading the contents of the super-massive Hallertau box, Dave might’ve presumed that he’d fit right in.

Which he did

From gallery of MrShep
Should've photographed it earlier.
Hallertau definitely looks its dullest at game end!


This was the first time that I’ve played Hallertau with 4 players … which means that it was the first time that I’ve played a game of Hallertau where worker cube removal isn’t dictated by a flip of a card each round. Instead, a full row of cubes is removed from every space, every round. At first, this seemed to make the game feel way looser, and less-constrained than I’m used to it being (especially in the early game) … and I think I got lured into a bit of a false sense of security over the seeming lack of action scarcity … expecting some kind of access to all-of-the-things, all-of-the-time. Which, of course, threw me completely once worker numbers had scaled up and the board got super-blocky just as we went into the critical final round.

Hmmm. Does it sound like I’m trying to make excuses for coming in third place here? Because that’s exactly where I came. Good fun though, all the same. And at least the mandatory “Play something by Uwe” achievement was ticked off on the first day.

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We were wrapping the game up just as Mark “Mr AireCon” Cooke walked past to warn us that we were approaching closing time. He noticed what we were playing, and asked how it was … apparently he’d somehow managed to gain TWO copies of Hallertau in some kind of trading mix up earlier on, so was hoping it was at least a half-decent game. I guess this is what comes of trying to arrange complicated game trades alongside organising one of the very best gaming events in the UK?…

Anyway, I bade folks farewell, and retreated to my hotel room… made the obligatory long phone call home to Mrs Shep, grabbed a late-night takeaway, thumbed through my math trade gains from the day, and then fell asleep almost the second that my head hit the pillow.

Just as well, all things considered. Saturday was going to be a very long day…

From gallery of MrShep
Math trade loot!

(to be continued)

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Fri Mar 18, 2022 3:39 pm
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Hachette Job

John Shepherd
United Kingdom
Ovington
Northumberland
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I’ve never had a particularly good memory for faces. And for that matter, I’ve never had a particularly good memory for names either. Not a great combination of traits, those two, all things considered. Plus, THIS year’s AireCon had a masks-are-mandatory-when-walking-around policy … which made recognising people that I vaguely know from previous gaming events even more difficult than it would normally be. So… apologies to anybody who I managed to walk straight past over the course of AireCon without saying hello. I’m sorry for being so useless.

…but if it makes you feel any better, I think I must’ve done 4 or 5 laps of the bring-and-buy area before I spotted Linsonix and Mr N. And it’s not really been that long since we first met. Oops. blush

Anyway, greetings exchanged, and one short (and completely uninspiring) session of poking-around-the-bring-and-buy later ...the three of us were ready to play some games!

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The trader zone is something that I’ve seen grow quite considerably over the years that I’ve been attending AireCon. The first time that I went, there was only a handful of stalls -- just a couple of local-ish games shops, and perhaps a few indie board game designers. (And the the area was completely roped off until Saturday morning!) ...But these days… it seems to be a key attraction, and there are a lot more booths than there used to be. A couple of which are starting to expand out to "big convention" proportions:

From gallery of MrShep


One such area was the Hachette board games UK stand … an area containing lots of demo tables, a wide selection of recently-released games, and some of the very best & friendliest game demonstrators that I’ve met in a very long time. Which is perhaps why we ended up spending a considerable chunk of Friday afternoon lurking in this little section of the ‘con, playing…

Trek 12: Himalaya

From gallery of MrShep


A roll + write from Bruno Cathala and Corentin Labat. It’s a fairly abstract dice game with a pasted-on mountain-climbing theme … essentially, there’s a regular D6, and a D6-minus-1 (i.e. numbered from 0 to 5) rolled in combination each turn, and the each player gets to choose one of five functions to apply to the dice (take the highest, take the lowest, add them, multiply them, subract them), and then write the result into a space adjacent to a number that they’ve already written. You can only use each function a maximum of four times (scribbling out boxes to show what you’ve used), and when your board is complete you score for the “ropes” (i.e. runs of consecutive numbers), and “plateaus” (i.e. contiguous areas containing the same values) that you've made.

There are apparently some other tricks in the box … envelopes of new content that you unlock in a semi-legacy style, and mini campaigns where you collect “equipment” to help you out on subsequent rounds. But, at its core, it’s a putting-numbers-into-boxes-to-form-patterns sort of a game, with a slightly mathy/statistical bent. And a perfectly fine one at that. I’d happily play it again. Maybe even buy a copy, if I was in the market for a new roll + write. (Which I’m not, really. But you never know. One day…)


Into the Blue

From gallery of MrShep


A Reiner Knizia push-your-luck, yahtzee-but-not-yahtzee dice game.

Roll and re-roll dice to determine when you can place your shell pieces, with the intention of scoring area majority in the final reckoning. It’s a step up from your average dice game, has nice pieces, and certainly feels Knizia-ish … but it's very light. A fun diversion, but not one that I’d make a particular effort to seek out.


Iki

From gallery of MrShep


Now THIS was more like it; a solid medium-weight euro, set in the Nihonbashi market district of Edo, Feudal Japan. You Hire Artisans, trade goods, earn prestige, and try to avoid having all of your nice things burn to the ground whenever the marketplace periodically catches fire. Lovely.

There’s nothing mechanically revolutionary about Iki. You have a single game piece that moves around a rondel. As it travels, this piece interacts with shops that have been built either by yourself, or by other players. Shopping gets you stuff, or converts stuff into other stuff... but also grants a little perk to the opponent who owns the shop. There’s some set collection objectives, a spacial aspect (which grants you a bonus for placing your traders in a “harmonious” layout), end-game bonus cards to be bought, and a feldian speicherstadt-esque need to invest in fire-fighting points before a regularly-scheduled fire event turns up to trash the property of players who weren’t adequately prepared. Because fire outbreaks are SO well behaved in euro games, aren’t they?

But despite this all feeling like stuff that I’ve seen and done before, umpteen times, in different games … Iki turned out to be a real joy to play. All of those semi-familiar mechanisms just fitted together really nicely, into a thing far greater than the sum total of all its parts. In fact, I think Iki was probably my favourite new-to-me game of the whole convention (and I’ve still got a lot of new-to-me games to tell you about before this series of posts is over) ...and I suspect it’s only a matter of time before a copy is added to my collection.

Good one, this

(And if you’re interested in the view from the other side of the table, you’ll find that here.)

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Wed Mar 16, 2022 7:10 am
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AireBorne Disease

John Shepherd
United Kingdom
Ovington
Northumberland
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AireCon has been a bit of a landmark event for me, in recent years.

AireCon 2020 was the last big indoor event that I attended before the covid lockdown took hold. The last weekend when I met friends, or played board games with people who I wasn’t married to, or had any real face-to-face social contact with pretty much anybody for a very long time afterwards.

Which is kind of a big thing, right?

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Back then, I remember the UK government was pretty much just telling us to wash our hands a lot and stay alert, and then we’d all (hopefully?) be OK … but there was certainly an awful lot of concern and anguish being expressed across the gaming tables of AireCon 2020. I distinctly remember somebody suggesting that AireCon might even end up being the only big gaming convention that happened in 2020. That perhaps the mighty Essen itself would be abandoned if things took a turn for the worse?

….But nobody really thought covid would be a problem for that long... did they?

I left AireCon a day early in 2020. Left my hotel room un-slept-in on the final night. The world just seemed to be getting a bit scary, and I don’t mind admitting that I was starting to get a little bit worried about things. And it didn’t seem like a good time to be away from Mrs Shep.

(and we all know what happened next…)

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Fast forward 2 years, and it seems strangely appropriate that AireCon 2022 happened to be the very first big indoor event that I’ve attended now that the big covid threat seems to be easing. Admittedly… war in europe is kicking off (an entirely different thing to keep you awake at night)… but at least the threat from global pandemic is easing. Or, at the very least, my own personal threat from global pandemic seems to be easing — three vaccinations and a very mild bout of omicron just a few short weeks ago making me feel just about as safe as it’s been possible to feel for quite some time.

Which is just as well, really … because AireCon 2022 was bigger, and more packed full of gamers than ever before.

From gallery of MrShep

Zones 3 and 4 used to be one of the best-kept secrets of AireCon. You could always guarantee acres of empty tables in here. But alas — as this Saturday morning photo shows — those days are now gone. (Though if you think THIS hall looks full … downstairs was rammed to the gunnels!). And so, despite the stringent covid pass checks on all points of entry, I couldn’t help thinking that this event might turn into a bit of a litmus test for my covid immunity super-powers.

A theory proven true when my phone went “ping” at some point yesterday afternoon:

From gallery of MrShep


Saturday you say? Hmmmm. Where was I on Saturday?


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As it turns out, Covid had attempted to scupper my AireCon-going plans earlier that week too. My usual convention-attending-partner-in-crime (who I will refer to as “A” from this point forward, in a paper-thin attempt to preserve his anonymity) had messaged me a few days earlier to warn me that he’d tested covid positive, and -- unless he made a miraculous “day 5” recovery -- I’d be driving down to AireCon alone this year. Which wasn’t the best of news. I mean... I was that sure “A” would recover just fine, and I’m not completely averse to going to gaming conventions alone (I’ve happily managed to wheedle my way into games with complete strangers on many an occasion!). But it was disappointing that "A" wouldn't be able to come, and that I would be attending by myself. It’s always good to travel in numbers to these things, with at least one person who likes the same kinds of game that you do … just in case you spend all weekend getting really desperate, and end up saying “yes” to a game of Fluxx or something. Just out of sheer desperation to play something / anything

But … the benevolent powers of the universe seemed to be looking after me this year. Within literal minutes of the text message arriving from “A” to confirm that he would have to bail out, a second SMS arrived from a certain blogger of this very parish, asking if I would be at AireCon on the Friday, and if I might fancy meeting up for a game or two?

Well, to cut a long story short… I ended up spending most of the weekend in the company of fellow BGG Blogger Linsonix, and her husband -- the mysterious “Mr N.” ...and played a whole bunch of completely excellent games over the course of the next few days. Many of which you might end up reading about twice, if you also happen to be subscribed to Superfluous Somethings. Which is no bad thing. Because:

(a) Superfluous Somethings is an excellent read, and...
(b) because it’s always interesting to get different opinions on the same game, isn’t it?

And also… Lindsey was far better at remembering to take pictures of everything than I was

...so stay tuned for some extensive AireCon reportage. Either here, or there. Or maybe both?

(To be continued…)

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Tue Mar 15, 2022 7:10 am
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(also) Previously on The Tyranny of Small Decisions...

John Shepherd
United Kingdom
Ovington
Northumberland
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Board Game: Pandemic


Quote:
It was a good weekend, the weekend just gone. Well… apart from the bit where my boss sent me a text message to warn me that he’d tested covid-positive, mere hours after I’d spent most of the day cooped up in a small meeting room with him (Gulp). But, apart from the near-constant psychosomatic inner-voice nagging of “hey… is my throat feeling a bit scratchy now, or what?” … it was a good weekend.
Well… if there’s a moral to that paragraph from a couple of days ago, it is this: trust your inner voice when it tells you that something isn’t quite right.

I was a little bit suspicious on Saturday …but despite the vague feeling that something in my throat wasn’t-quite-right, the Lateral Flow test said “no, don’t worry, it’s fine!”. It also said “no, don’t worry, it’s fine!” on Sunday. (In fact, it said “no, don’t worry, it’s fine” twice … since I was a little bit naughty and tried a second test in the same day; I’d finished a box of nasal tests, and discovered that my newly-arrived box contained those awful old throat swabs — but then thought that it might be worth a shot with one of those too, just for peace of mind. And for science!).

On Sunday night, I had trouble sleeping; not with fever symptoms or anything like that; I simply couldn’t sleep for some mysterious reason… but Monday morning rolled around and my customary start-of-the-week, pre-going-to-work test was also negative.

Don’t worry. It’s all fine.

Which brings us to Tuesday morning. And finally … the long-expected second stripe on the LFT

See! I knew it!!!!

So, yes. I’m now a fully-qualified member of covid club*. Though not one with an over-abundance of symptoms; the aforementioned “scratchy” throat thing has now turned into a slight cough. But not a particularly bad one. Not yet, at any rate.

We’ll see.

And on a brighter note (“when life sends you lemons” and all that)… at least this takes a lot of the stress off my visit to AireCon next month

In spite of the British Government’s loosening of restrictions, and to their great credit, AireCon seems to be taking a very sensible approach to covid security this year. NHS pass required at the door, masks required whenever you’re not sitting down, and a rebuilt ventilation system in the venue which doesn’t recirculate any internal air (The AireCon AirCon? ….I KNOW!!!!). And now, on top of all that … I should be full-to-the-gills with all kinds of covid immunity by then, and not particularly stressed about catching something nasty.

So that seems like a good thing.

Just as long as the next few days go by without too much trouble, that is…

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*The first rule of covid club is: don’t give people covid.
(Of course that’s the first rule of covid club. Anything else would just be stupid!)
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Wed Feb 9, 2022 7:10 am
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The Omicron Strain

John Shepherd
United Kingdom
Ovington
Northumberland
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I’m a firm proponent of the theory that you can tell exactly how bad the effects of a given virus will be purely from how sinister it’s name sounds, and from how fitting it would be as the title of a cheesy Michael Crichton novel..

So needless to say… “The Omicron Variant” is giving me some significant concerns right now.

Strap in folks. We may have a problem.

However, a few hours before this new and potentially-very-scary thing hit the headlines (i.e. back in the safer, happier days of the middle of last week) … I took the plunge and booked my tickets for AireCon 2022… which is now only a few months away!

So fingers crossed that this all turns into a big heap of over-hyped worry about nothing.

(gulp).

From gallery of MrShep

They’ve still got a nice picture of the back of my head (circa 2018) on the web site.
Wearing a Jimmy Cauty MdZ Estate T-Shirt too!


At least the no-quibbles refund policy means I haven't risked any money yet.
(Not until I book my hotel, at any rate).

Anybody else planning on going? Virus (and/or Boris) permitting?

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Wed Dec 1, 2021 7:10 am
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