The Rookery

Madeline's thoughts on social deduction games, forum/community meta, and any other philosophical musings

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Rathcon 2020

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No mountains, no valleys
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Never argue with idiots; they'll drag you down to their level and then beat you on experience.
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Microbadge: Crosswords fanMicrobadge: Taboo fanMicrobadge: I record detailed playsMicrobadge: I helped celebrate BGG Werewolf's 10th Anniversary!Microbadge: Ice Cream lover
A convention for BGG 2R1B/Resistance/Werewolf/social deduction people scheduled for a long weekend in the middle of the academic term always sounded "cool, but not worth the hike" when I lived on the opposite side of the country. Now I, too, live in the Maryland suburbs, so the calculus has changed drastically! Sadly not all the local commuter rail lines operate on weekends, but I made it over anyway.

The negative stuff out of the way first: the physical environment was more conducive to sensory overload than other cons I've attended. When you're at a loud cafe with loud music and loud gamers, not just physically noisy but also "TELL ME HOW TO PLAY THIS" "I DON'T GET IT" "I DO GET IT I AM VERY SMART" "LET ME TELL YOU WHY THIS GAME IS BROKEN" and the cafe policy feels like "you can't leave, you are trapped here, if you want to go for a walk to destress we will charge you money" (there may have been some loopholes to this, but I wasn't aware as a newbie), t̵̼̟̘̮͚̪͎̯̯͖̭͖͎͓̙̭̊͗̊͌̐͛̓̈́͒̀̀̄ḩ̸̢̪͈̼̹̯̲̮̘̭̠̙͖͎̪̊͊̾͌̀́͋͊̄͗̐͂̈́͜͝i̵̧̡̬͍̰͕̩̹̙̙̳͛̐̉́̏̂̚n̴̢̧̞͔̭̳̤̭̻̰̭̹̪̬̝̹͕̱̮̐ͅg̵̢̨̢̺͙̫̩̹̖̜͇̼͚̠͎̣̐̃́̒͗͜͠s̶̛̟̳͖̣̱͍̯̤͉̤̊̿͊̋̎̀̒̓͝ ̵̠̯̣͔̝̳̟̬̭̬͎̘̥͈̳̬̺͔͊͂͗̈̎̋̇͂̃̅̾̎̓̓̒͌̃̚͘ͅç̷̨̢͖̖̪͎̹̮͈͑̌͑͑̓̀͊͒̈́͜͝͠ḁ̴̦̪̪̞̩̰̉̑́̒̒̈́̃̇̌͒̿̆̿̄̋̈́́͘͜͜͠͝ņ̴͍̦̲̫̝̟͛͂͗̈́̊̿́̋̍̆̈́͊̋̐̈̈̔͘͝͝ ̷̨͙̮̹̠̥̠͓̿̌̍̆̏̔̆̔̌͆̈̓͘̕͠͝b̵͕̖̻̻́͋̆̿͂͂̒̒̄͜͠ȩ̷̘͖̳̖͉͈̩͈̏͒̍̈͋̈́̿͋̈̐̽̔̾͐̕̚͝͠c̵̛͈̻̦̣̝͕͉̐͋̑̄̓̀͑̓̅̃̎̽̈͆ǫ̶̜̜͕͎̗͎͕̬͓͔̫̘͕̯̺͆̔̃̍͘ͅḿ̸̡̢̢̠̮̤̗͎̼̜̬͕͌̾ͅȩ̸͎͚͔͕̱̮͚̜̟̦̱̝̻̺̩͂̾͗͆̇͛́̎̉̾͑̊̈̑̿̄͘̕͝ ̵̢͇̬͕̗̣̯̘̄b̸̪̰̺͈̠̠̳̳̞̩̻̥͕̱̬͍͛̿͒̌̇̇͛͒͒ŏ̴͓̾̓̌̾́͋́̈̌̃̃̓͐̔͂̒͠ţ̸͍͍̖̩͓̻̯̖͇̩̲͎̪̭̪̳̪̳̥̗̐̽͂̍̿̓̇̾̇̓͑̒̔͐͆̾̆͘̚͜͝h̸̢̢̨̢͈͖̖̥̫͙̤̼̟̯̗̩͍̯̹̔͊̓̓ ̴̛͇̹̻͈͍̮͆̓̉͊̑̓̀́̚̕͜͝p̴̧̧̨̟̣͕͇͕̳͈̏̽̅h̵̹̉͗͂͆̊̿͋͊̍̇͊̈́̂͒̂̾̀̉̎̇̃͒ẏ̷̧̡̮̩̜̗̯̟̯͉̩̮͓̤̣s̵̨̡̨̼̱͙̣̦̲̥͎͇̗͙̤͖̯̳̥̀̔̌̅̋͂̎̑́͜ͅi̴̠̭̰͍͎̞̞͍̰̾̽͜ç̴̢̢̢̤̜̭̬͚̬̗͚̗̿̌́̈́̿̓̔̏̚ả̷͙̱̂̊̈́̂͋̔̋̈̔̈́͊͑̌̒͘͝͠͠͝͝ḽ̷͉̗̤̰͋̃̃͜͠l̶̡̨̨̤̻̫̬̱̣̗͓̙̭̻̩̣̳͆̽̈́̈́͒̀͑̋́̍̍͝ÿ̴̧̡͎̹̘̰̘̪̜̣͕͖̫̫̜͈̻͖̙́́͗̕͜ ̸͔̥̄̄̄̄à̶̧̭̣̟̻͖̰͓̞̓̿̿́̍̚͝ǹ̴̢̧̧̰͔̝̲̦̠̜̰̯̘͎͓̬̿̉̈̂͆̒̄̇͜͜ͅd̵̡̨̛̖̘̟͓̫̻̤̙͓̲͔͖͈̤̱̰̗̪͙̍̂̍͗͛͑͊̂͋͌̊̀̾̽̄͑͋́̓̍͝ͅ ̴̨̟̥̪̲̘͙̻̬̹͓͍̦͇̃̒̆̅̉̏̒̌̏̇͑̐̔͐̔̓̒̈͛͘̕͘͜ḿ̶̧̡̛̳̞̙̳͉̻̦̜͇̟̼̝̳̤̝̋͗̔͆͋̾̅̑̋̓̐̐̍̓̚͝͠e̵̢̥͉͚̘͉͚̭̗̼̹̲̤̎̾͗̑͜͜n̵̩̤̙̰̘̳̲̻͛̅̎̇͐̃̈͊͋̃̀͋̑̎̈́͂̎̓͘̚ͅt̴̮͇̐̔̔̇̑̀͗a̶̞̜̒͆̎̊̉̌̔̅͋̃͋̿̋̋̽̐̆̊͒̚͠͝ľ̶͍̱͠l̵̼̤͚̮̮̔̔̋̓̀̎́͝ȳ̷̡̩͍̬̟̙̜̮̎̂̆̾͗͛̅̎̃͑̒̃̌͋̈́͘ ̷̢̰̞̭̠̘̤̑̅̆h̸̢̡̬̘̖͖̝͕̲̱̠̘͍̰͙͓͇̯̱̃̐̐̉͘e̵̛̤̣̣̬̝̯͈̙͔͎̘͉͓̬̝̘͕̣͑̄̑̈́͊͋̓̌̄̑͊͘͘ͅa̷̢͖̦̺͔̬͈̯̭̠͇̤͍̗͂̀̌̈́͒̈́̽̔͛̎̍̽̕͘͜͝ď̷̢̢̝̯̬͈̣̬͍̯̖͓͔͇͇̭̇̏͋̊̒͑͊͐̀͊̆̇̈́̃̀̕͜͝ȧ̵̛̛͚̩͔̎͑̉̐̃͆̀̒͊͒̈́͂̋̕̚ͅc̸̢͙͔̪̫̩̳̉͐͌̏̎̆̅̎̋͛͌̕ͅh̷̨̝̹̹̭̗̥̼̫̲̘͚̪̦̞̬̣͉̪̗̽̍͋̒͆̈́ę̶̹͓̱̲̤̱̝̻͈͍̲͓̣͉̦̊̉͐͌͛̋̈́̂̽͌̀͗͜͜͝-̶̠̟͇̰͕͐̆̆͋̿͛̋̅̃̈́̉͒͒̎̕į̵̘̙̜̻̮͆͛͂̇̈́̈́͆̐̀̂̎̅͘͜͠ņ̷̙͔̮͇̜͇͓̳̖̩̜̺̪͖̤͂̃̒̀̂̽̾͠͠d̵̮̓͊̽̂̋̍̃̍̀́͂ũ̴̖̰͎̺̺̳̗̭͙̖̦͚̬͈͌̂̀͐̽̿̈́̑̎͊͝ͅͅͅc̸̢̬͉̦̫̩̪̩͉̯̪̙̠͖̭̥̹̫̠̱̦̈́͆̔̊̀̊͜͝i̷̡̧̪͍̹̦̟̳̭̮̻̣͎̲̺̘̤̽͋ͅn̸̨̫̳͉̘͓͊́̈́͌̈̓̓̀̍̓͐̊̍̉̆̑̆͒̅̕ģ̷̛̻̰͓͕̘̘̮͔͇̺̘͓̣̪̀̅͐̃̈̀͐͂̊̄̒̽́̂̑͊̾̕͝.̵̨̧͈̪̘͎̤͕͎̜͆̔̉̎̿̓͊̐̈́̉̍̈́̓̍̑͝͠ͅ ̵̢͓̿̽̊̆̾̀̔͐͒͛͆͑͝ͅ So thank you to all of you who put up with me even when my nerves were frayed. heart

(Also, this settles the question of "do people like me just get hurt in their...elbows?" I was tilting my chair back to keep myself amused/get away from the stress, leaned too far, bonked into the bookshelf, and my elbow hurt for a little while when I tilted it. So the answer is "yes"!)

Some/much of this might be kind of "damning with faint praise" among new games. I'm not as immersed in the new hotness as many of my friends, so these are sometimes my first impressions of games that are new or new-to-me. If I sound overly critical, it's probably just because I'm reaching a stage where I know what I like and can form snappish judgments based on vague mechanical category.

Friday

I played my second game of Spirit Island; mmazala was also relearning it after a first play she hadn't enjoyed, with help from various interlopers such as VikingJ and Seen. Last time around I was defensive rock guy; this time wanted to go for higher complexity, so I was the one who synergizes well with being in tiles where the Dahan are, but I didn't feel like I used that power very well. We managed a win, though.

Then Between Two Castles of Mad King Ludwig. In the all-important "having the coolest name" competition, I went with "Circle Game" for the castle I built with Seen, which featured the "points for each oval symbol" bonus in the throne room. It's a Joni Mitchell allusion. I'm not sure if she's big in the Netherlands...?

I only managed a couple rounds of Mental Blocks, which I have down as "building things poorly," before bailing. This is a prime candidate for the list of games you can "play" without actually playing.

Got to relax with Parade, which seemed basically devoid of long-term strategy. In a classic case of "the person who is least interested in the game is the one who will win," I emerged triumphant.

Saturday

I'm a big Ticket to Ride fan, but could not muster a sixsome for Team Asia. In lieu of that, Rathstar taught Airlines Europe for some alternative Alan Moon network building. Rath won, but as one of the other players pointed out, the real winner is brown airline for making it to Sydney and Tokyo and cool places like that.

The Menace Among Us purports to be a faster/sillier Battlestar Galactica-esque game. Having never played BSG, I can't compare; what I will say is that "you're not allowed to talk about the card you put in, because that breaks the game" can be a harbinger of trouble. Between games I played at this con alone I could probably do another post about "syntax versus semantics." So I probably will. Later. Got to space them out.

Quaseymoto, ljtrigirl, and myself are all Kingdom Builder aficionados, and they graciously invited me to play when I needed to destress. As it happened, I got a great opening spot and rode that to a dominant victory, so, uh, thanks guys.

contig and I have played a lot of Keyforge online, but this was our first time playing each other in person. I borrowed one of his decks (because of course that would be the day I forgot mine) to take on his intimidating EDIE deck, and although I dealt with the EDIEs and some of their Logos friends, the Brobnar/Star Alliance cards presented more trouble, so he won that.

Finally got to play Emergence with this crowd after hyping it up among fellow DC-ish people. People tended to agree that it's fun, although the color distinction is terrible. BerenCamlost and Viking were the (informed minority) humans, and Beren split his chips among AI and human scoring in such a way that I turned out to be an easy scapegoat, and Viking had an easy excuse to "terminate" me and steal all my new chips. Womp womp, human victory.

Lorenzo il Magnifico is in the "worker placement but also all the places depend on confusing and overwhelming iconography" genre that I sort of already knew wasn't my favorite. I had a leader card that incentivized wood so I built a lot of it early on and then found factory cards that turned it into resources/points. Majai, who taught us, was like "okay so I haven't actually played it but I've read the rules and done research online. What the internet says is be very very careful, don't make the Church angry, or they will punish you, and it will hurt! Unless you're deliberately building your whole strategy around it." And then while we followed his advice, he promptly proceeded to get excommunicated two out of three rounds. (As people pointed out, anybody can get excommunicated from the Renaissance-era Catholic church, but it takes some real skill to get excommunicated twice!)

One Key, for its part, is in the genre of "what if we made some goofy and crazy pictures and then all of the value of the game was in the production, there? And also we could make an app for no reason." It also qualifies for the aforementioned list. ("But do you like Mysterium??" "Not really." "Well at least this is over quickly then?" "Well at least in Mysterium you actually are compelled to place your own pieces, co-op discussion or no co-op discussion!")

I choose to believe the origin story for Carnival of Monsters is something like:
Richard Garfield, 1993: hey guys, I'm making this game, I need art for different types of, uh, "lands," and different creatures that inhabit them
Some guys: here you go!
Garfield: awesome thank you, I will look into it!
*25 years pass*
Guys: Hey, Richard, did you ever make that game you were talking about? I want to see my art get published.
Garfield: oh
um
wait a minute

Despite this, it's actually more my style mechanics-wise than some of the other new stuff. contig successfully deployed the "if you are in second place..." card, but was not able to overtake rath for the win.

Jim Henson's Labyrinth: The Card Game has some gorgeous art, and I say that as someone who's never seen the movie. But lots of big cards in hand is difficult to manage, and I didn't think that there were a lot of meaningful decisions per time spent; like, you have to follow suit, labyrinth is a suit, and if you play a labyrinth you have to raise if possible. Cuts down on the decision-making. The ability to "bounce" the lead back and forth to your partner with judicious suit choice is slightly interesting, but on the whole: if you want to make a tarot deck, just make a tarot deck. Don't bother trying to come up with the umpteenth version of "some of the cards you take count differently than others," Tichu is fine.

It was late and I was tired and punchy so Beren's very methodical count of the cards he'd taken during the scoring phase was funnier than it should have been, you had to be there.

Sunday

Arrived just in time for Space Base with Quasey and Urza. I went for points early, but Quasey invested in money from 12s and eventually blazed past us. (Urza kept rolling 8s that benefited Quasey a lot, me somewhat, and Urza himself barely at all.)

Got to try 3 Laws of Robotics again, which was amusing. This is also one for the syntax vs. semantics writeup. We just houseruled "if you catch someone breaking the rules, point and laugh, but it won't count for points." It's a silly enough game (you're holding cards on your head and calling each other names like Brian-bot and Shawna-bot) that that was fine.

I'm not sure when this was but as I look over my notes I realize that I played it and don't remember when. So! At some point, we played Five Tribes, known for its problematic theme. Alas, I lucked into the djinn that gave me bonuses in the set-collection subgame for collecting several of the problematically-themed cards, so I went down that path, while Majai, who got the djinn that gives you bonuses for assassinations, went down a more violent path. This game can be quite AP-inducing because there's no way to plan what the board will look like on your turn; you have to wait till it gets to you, then try to see where the little dudes can go. I also wasn't a big fan of the "bidding for turn order" mechanic--it's easier in a game like Manila where you know what your options will be, and can acquire extra goods as harbormaster, versus "bwuh, I could go...here I guess, or I could wait, and go...well I don't know where I could go." Despite the different strategies pursued, Quasey, DeMo, and me finished within 10 points of each other in a 150-point game (Majai discovered that sometimes assassination does not pay).

Protracted battle in Decrypto with the expansion that rewards thematic clues--neither team was close enough on their guesses for opposing words to make that really worthwhile, though. A case of "if you want to use house rules to reverse the order of tiebreakers, definitely make sure everyone is fully aware of that beforehand."

People had been talking about Abracada...What? as a Hanabi-style "you see everyone's cards but your own" game during Three Laws of Robotics. I really like Koryo, so I was excited to see another triangular deck game from Gary Kim! Unfortunately, the physical implementation of the tiles is not great--you really have to rotate them in turns to be able to see everyone else's, which drags the pace of what should be a fun light game. I wonder if it would be better online? You wouldn't have to specify who you're asking for information, you could just ask the computer and it would play one of your relevant cards at random if need be...

Hadara, like Carnival of Monsters, is a game I could tell from the outset would be much more "my kind of genre" than Lorenzo il Magnifico or One Key. And it was. But, and again I'm sorry to damn with faint praise, but it just didn't feel more than the sum of its parts? Like, "increase resource. Get card. Increase resource. Get card. Count points." The discounts for cards of the same color make the choice of specialization versus diversifying (ie for gold medals) interesting, I went with the former, which didn't really pan out.

Telephone Pictionary/Telestrations/EPYB with this crowd is always a riot. Urza's "Cybersecurity" became "the three laws of robotics" midway through (which isn't that far off, when you think about it). Shawna prompted "LJ playing Die Crew until she dies," and Quasey did a great rendition of LJ's shirt. LJ interpreted angry concertgoers as hobbits, so I had to draw the Lord of the Rings Band Name: Taking the Hobbits to Isengard. Contig drew these adorable robots for a prompt that started as "semi-coop" and shifted into Battlestar Galactica pretty quickly:
From gallery of madelineb


First Contact was...intriguing. The "one human, one alien" winner isn't a mechanic I've seen often. Some of it is more fiddly than it needs to be: some of us were like "this isn't a drawing game," Seen was of the belief that "oh yes it is." Sometimes it's basically Codenames--other times grouping together things that you think go together but your opponents might not (mmazala got frustrated with Seen's human "queries") can lead to confusing answers and people being right for the wrong reasons. I know there are some RPGs about conlanging but those also seem to be more "how do languages go extinct and die in the real world" which is a bummer. Maybe I just need to conlang on my own to scratch this particular itch.

My headaches were acting up and would continue to irk me the following day, but I had to try The Message, which was billed as "Shadow Hunters but in terribly-translated Chinese." It lived up to the hype, such as it was. Everyone's character card (not alignment) had bizarre flavor text, and (in some cases public, some private) alternate win conditions that only replace your default win-cons if you draw a neutral alignment. Some abilities involve complete, boiled-down and unrepentant kingmaking. The rules clarify "your gender is considered unknown if your card is facedown," which, not the weirdest postmodern scheme I've come across.

Viking, in deliberating whether to accept a card from Benes, weighed the roles in his head and was like "statistically, you are the least likely character in the game to send around a black [deadly] card." Smugly flips it over. Reveals a black card. Hilarity ensues.

Next game, Viking's role incentivizes passing black cards around. mmazala makes a show of wondering whether or not to accept. "I might have a victory condition that requires getting lots of cards. But! It might be bad! I just don't know." Stalls. Flips it over. Reveals a black card. Hilarity ensues. We cannot deal with the ensuing hilarity. I turn away from the table, and lj shoots me a concerned glance, so I clarify, "My eyes hurt...but also Michelle is being a dunce." (mmazala did in fact have the victory condition that required getting a lot of cards, and did in fact win, so that'll teach me.)

Monday

A few rounds of Die Crew while I waited for my headache to recede a little. At five players we didn't do so well even on the "just take any three tricks" round. So of course we had to keep trying again, so exciting.

Then Pandemic: Rising Tide, which was new to me. Felt easier than Fall of Rome, but the theme is a little "too real" so I don't know if I need to revisit it, heh.

I could see some foundations for what became Legacy Season 2. Non-spoilery: in original Pandemic and Legacy Season 1, the basic bad action when you draw a city off the infection deck is "add a disease cube." That's it. In Season 2, the mechanic is, "remove a supply, but, if there are no supply cubes left, then add a plague." Here, it's "remove a dyke, but, if there are no dykes left, add a water cube." (Water cubes are not as bad as plague cubes; in fact, on some level they're useful because they let you connect up a pump network.) There were extra variants (that we didn't play with) that change the objectives by having you add/remove population, which is also a Season 2 mechanic.

But some of the mechanics feel fiddlier than base Pandemic or even legacy. Like, when you have to remove a supply cube, there isn't a lot of deliberation about it; either the cube exists, and you take it, or it doesn't, and you get a plague. But dykes don't stack up within a region; they form borders between regions, so you actually have some choices to make when you decide which one to remove. This could easily become AP-inducing, especially in a group with several potential alpha gamers. Likewise, when you operate the pump on your turn, there's a lot of "remove these" "no these! those will come back anyway" "no not down that one, that will disconnect the pump" "why do we even have pumps if they're not removing water, rrr."

Viking edged out xandryyte in Sagrada, after none-too-subtly gunning for yellow cubes.

Clyde brought Nyet!, which might be an example of "if something has lasted twenty-plus years it probably has staying power." A lot of the "interesting decisions" here come in the pre-round "bidding" phase, which is much more engaging than Die Crew's "select tricks you want" phase. We only played a couple rounds, but I found plotting against people to make tricks count negative to be particularly fun. devil Maybe I'm confirmation biasing, but the potential for 1's to be "super" but also a danger if your opponents capture them as "loot" feels like a more interesting version of the "different cards you take are worth different amounts" mechanic that fell flat with Labyrinth.

And to close out the con with a bang: The Resistance: Avalon (Merlin, Morgana, Percival, two Lancelots), but with the "madness" cards from Mountains of Madness (which I have never played) that give everyone communication restrictions. mmazala, Viking, and I bounced off each other fantastically. Viking could not say numbers at all (just "less" or "more"); mmazala could only say numbers if they were expressed as a sum (or difference); and any time I heard someone else say a number, I had to interrupt and increase by one. So it would be like:
Viking: We need...more people on this mission.
mmazala: I want to go on mission 1+1.
Madeline: 2+2?

M1 was LJ and itsbrianyay and failed. M2 was Brian, Viking, and Clyde, which passed with mmazala as the extra upvote. The good/evil Lancelots did not swap allegiances; mmazala was added to M3, it passed, Lancelots remained loyal, the original M2 passed M4. Sure enough, LJ was Morgana but hadn't intended to fail M1, oops. I was evil Lancelot. It seemed like mmazala had voted too Merlin-y to be Merlin, and both of us had a gut sense that it was Clyde (I'd never met him before this weekend but he seemed more subdued than the crazy persona he posts as). So we didn't overthink it, went with our gut, and were successful!

Thanks again to all who made this work, and *hugs* especially to those I met for the first time! See you around. Especially if "around" is by train.
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Sat Jan 25, 2020 2:03 am
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CabinCon Fall 2019

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No mountains, no valleys
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Never argue with idiots; they'll drag you down to their level and then beat you on experience.
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Microbadge: Crosswords fanMicrobadge: Taboo fanMicrobadge: I record detailed playsMicrobadge: I helped celebrate BGG Werewolf's 10th Anniversary!Microbadge: Ice Cream lover
The werewolves go north of the border for a long weekend of gaming in Ontario!

Friday

Got in late after a fun day at the Minnesota State Fair with my parents and sister. mmazala picked me up shortly after midnight (or early-evening mmazala time) and we waited out the long line of holiday weekend travelers at the border.

We then encountered an unexpected difficulty, as Canadian speed limits are of course all posted in km/h, and her car was one of the few whose speedometer didn't have that scale as well. Fortunately, I came to the rescue with a great math nerd lifehack; to convert from km to miles, you can approximate by jumping from one Fibonacci number to the next lowest (and vice versa for the other direction). So 8 -> 5 which means 80 ~ 50, and we made it from there.

Wanted to fit in something short before I crashed, so I started with Just One. The first word was "Salt" and mathlete power couple cvb and dejojam crushed it with "sodium" and "chloride"!

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dejo nailing it

Saturday

I'd recently received Filibuster! and tried to remember the rules, but we stalled out trying to figure how to elect a leader and what the consequences would be if we didn't, so eventually shelved that as more people were waking up and needing something to join.

Felt brave enough to dive into Terraforming Mars, which is one of the more popular longer games among this crowd (as will be seen). We played with the Prelude, Venus, and South Pole expansions, and Viking narrowly defeated Benes. I started with the corporation that let me draw from the deck until I had a plant card or two and discard the rest, which in this case meant I tore through a significant portion of the deck before the game was really underway.

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A very large discard pile

Then Villagers, which surprisingly has nothing to do with social deduction or werewolves, it's a tableau-builder. I doubled-down on making hay symbols while the sun shone and that netted me 128 points for the win, and also for powers of 2 awesomeness.

I'd never played original Machi Koro, but apparently Machi Koro: Bright Lights, Big City wasn't significantly different. I found it to be a little...disconnected? as well as take-thaty. Like, in a lot of card games I have no trouble recognizing that their cost and effect are two uncorrelated values, but here it's like "I rolled a 9. Should I buy a 9 card? Wait...no that has nothing to do with that 9. Um...I guess I'll just buy something so brianyay can't steal my money."

mmazala: Brian is evil.
Brian (behind his spread of take-that cards): Why am I evil?!
Anyway Viking won that.

Revisited Colossal Arena, and Viking won that as well.

We tried playing FUSE, which always seems to take much longer than the 10 minutes alloted, which is good! We stopped with 1:35 still on the clock and it seemed like a win, but then we realized that the actual win condition required us to clear several more cards, and we were already packing up, so, oops.

By then, mystery guest Felice Si had graced us with her presence! She's a really sweet person and it was lovely to meet her in person. We cracked up during some Eat Poop You Cat, attempting to draw the "fractal" snacks she'd brought and/or the related math term.

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Felice Si (right) and Ryagic

dejo, cvb, and I taught Netslummer The Shipwreck Arcana, and we got a perfect win! Then Nets won at Sushi Go Party!. (He and cvb started racing for the ice cream early, and did well, while dejo and I stayed out of that fight, and lagged behind, which probably says something about stereotypes but idk.)

Then a couple rounds of Werewolf, it was CabinCon after all. I could report on how the games went, and perhaps someone else will do that, but the tl;dr of all of them was "pretty terribly for me," so instead in the spirit of this blog I will leave some open-ended musings and reflections on werewolf.

-Sometimes the "low-hanging fruit" non-wolf that too many villagers want to push on is actually an isolated villager that a wolf can get prescience cred by defending...but sometimes they are just an aux.
-Bussing is probably more valuable on the forums where people can get credit for looking good in past tallies, versus in person where it's like "I forget who voted where, I'm just going to brutal [that person who cast critical votes on a wolf yesterday]. Oh they're evil too? Huh nice."
-Syntactic restrictions ("you cannot post the letter E") are awesome; semantic restrictions ("you cannot claim to be the martyr") are...bad, in part because it relies on policing intent.

Several of the quicker games I had brought and wanted to teach were for 2 players, which is kind of an issue at big gatherings. But I revisited Koryŏ for three players and found that held up okay (I may have come close to burnout by overplaying it some time ago, but still good). I won the first game and then cvb won the second.

Karaoke, as always, was a hoot. After Tarrant (?) sung "You'll Be Back" from Hamilton, Brianyay was like "I've never seen Hamilton but I'm rooting for that guy [King George], please no spoilers." So...yeah.

I sang "I Just Wanna See You So Bad" by Lucinda Williams (a good song for internet friends), "Today We Rise" from Galavant, and new hit "Harmony Hall" by Vampire Weekend (and some acoustic guy who covered it on YouTube). Other classics that others sang included the Math of Love Triangles and the wonderful anchor song that expresses many deep sentiments I can't quite put into words myself. I had tried to go to bed early, but couldn't really sleep, so was still up in time for the traditional closers, "Hungry Like the Wolf" and "Happy Together."

Sunday

A low-scoring game of Kingdom Buildercame down to the wire, but my wagons pulled it out.

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Four players within five points

Learned Space Base, which might actually have been my favorite new-to-me game? (Although there weren't as many as in prior years.) Viking went hard into a 12 strategy at first, and then cvb got a "if there are five twelves then you win" card, but Majai pulled it out. (The end can be a bit anticlimactic because it's like "well we have one more turn to catch him, but, that's not going to happen.")

Citadels with a bunch of the new-edition roles was fun, felt like a novel experience trying to balance all of them. Both cvb and I were going hard for the rainbow bonus, and I narrowly edged him out.

Got to test out my new KeyForge: Age of Ascension decks with Ryagic (I'd tried them a few weeks ago with a non-gamer and it didn't really click). This was a very close game between his Criminal and my Fan, but I wound up pulling it out.

More Terraforming Mars, this time with the flip side of the expansion map, and throwing in Colonies. "Terraforming" was an exaggeration in the case of brianyay, who had his TR still on 20 after a few rounds and then decided to just double down on never increasing it. This wasn't a winning strategy but it did decently well.

We tried Letter Jam but it was somewhat AP-inducing. Since you can't go back to previous letters, there's a big incentive to try to clue to the players who need earlier ones, no matter how much they are chomping at the bit to be the cluers. Then the last phase took too long since an anonymous party got hung up on anagramming THOOP. Many others were just as stymied. ("Is it werewolfer ortho_ so he can be here in spirit? That's so nice.")

Some very funny rounds of Subjective Guess Who. dejo and I were a partnership, and both times we POEd down our candidate to Irina_Phoenix. The second time the real answer was whirlingdervish (not too bad), but I hope Irina will not be offended that the first time it was Half-Cat, the unofficial mascot of CabinCon.

LJ and Brian asked "on a scale of 1 to 10, if this person were put in charge of organizing and executing the cooking duties at CabinCon, how doomed would we all be?"

dejo: ...2?...
me (confidently): 8.

Brian (flipping stuff down): Based on those confidence levels it's probably this one *points to Madeline*

They get down to two. "Okay. If this person were dressing up for a theme day, would their costume be something people outside our group would be likely to recognize?"

dejo: ...What?
Me: I mean...I think...most of us would probably be, yes?
dejo: What does that even mean? I mean, LJ and Maxie were a seer and sorcerer, but...like...
Me (whispering): Oooooh, it's a Xylophone Werewolf thing, they're trying to rule out Contig because he dressed up as the Xylophone Werewolf one time.
dejo: He did? Was I there?
Me: IDK. Anyway, yes, this person would make a more generic geeky reference.
LJ and Brian: Is it Madeline then?
Us: Yes

A couple other comments just from spectating:
"Is this person likely to be in a long-distance relationship in six months?"
"I mean, life is uncertain, I don't know whether I'll be in a long-distance relationship in six months." -cvb

Because we'd used an older board and mapped less familiar nonattendees onto newcomers: "It's hard for me to remember who these people are, I want to ask 'do I want to punch this person in the face the next time we meet.'"

A couple rules discrepancies in Shadow Hunters, but we played a couple rounds which both ended in solo neutral wins!

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cvb snickering

Then an extremely funny round of Telephone Pictionary, featuring pretty good descriptions of Netslummer, and poor dejo and cvb drawing/interpreting some raunchy images. Plus Dracula and his aquarium.

More werewolf musings:
-does brutalling one's own aux qualify a werewolf for the TommyDanger/maximumsaximum Futility Award, or does it have to be a straight-up nightkill?
-Evil governors; are they overpowered for deterring special claims? Hilarious for incentivizing people to claim evil? Double-edged swords because they can allow GSes to drop departing hints?
-Are certain playstyles more likely than others to be vulnerable in "tribunal" deadlines rather than the nomination format? (First noticed at Strategicon in 2015.
-What is the best way to deter cliquiness, is it even possible? (Specific examples: how do we keep newbies informed of prior incidents/stuff older people know without potentially relitigating old wars? Does playing more with the same people increase or decrease the likelihood of wanting to protect them for non-game reasons?) See also: this entire blog.

Monday

LJ and I had been hoping to get in a game of Kingdom Builder, so we started off with that. Despite her complaints about her poor start, she pulled out the win (which perhaps may not come as a surprise).

Not familiar with Lanterns, but tried Lanterns Dice: Lights in the Sky, which dejo crushed. She thinks it's possibly more strategic than the base game, which also involves stacks of polyominoes (but maybe ones that get depleted quicker).

This day featured a lot of "well we could wait for the other group to finish, but they're going to want to play something heavier, so I'll just hang out with the mathletes." They taught me Dice Forge next.

The mechanical gimmick of this game is "you're crafting your own dice, so they're big crates where the faces can come off and get upgraded."

The thematic gimmick of this game is "you're not rolling dice, you're asking for Divine Blessings and Minor Blessings. There are cyclops and monsters and stuff everywhere but we're not going to put words on those cards, haha. Also there are suns and moons. Also it's the expansion so the orange guys and pink guys are at war. The orange guys look like the sun but are not. They're also good as opposed to evil so they will give you points as opposed to taking them away. Okay?" It was just...very visually overstimulating for what's actually a not-too-hard dice game. I did well with points on dice in games but cvb and dejo went hard for cards (sorry, Heroic Feats) and cvb edged her out.

A couple rounds of Pictomania before it fizzled out, but the highlight was for sure dejo not knowing which colors came on the outside of rainbows. (Are they just always upside-down and doubled in New Zealand????)

People had been playing 3 Laws of Robotics the day before and I wanted to try it out, but it wasn't at its best with 4 players. The "laws" can be kind of goofy like the Ballroom in original citadels (you have to say "message sent" after asking every question), but then also more demanding (you can't say people's names, which might actually matter for questions like "hey brian, am I on the same team as dejo?") Interesting contrast to the werewolf semantic stuff I'd been musing about. I like the ballroom because it's so goofy and rare, but I'm not sure the equivalents work as well. The rules even suggest that "you can't tell the truth to an AI" is an interesting and puzzling potential rule, but then that was included in the "warning, advanced mode!" envelope. So...I kind of want to try this again, but it's more an "incomplete" than "yay, liked it" rating.

More Kingdom Builder; Brianyay avoided the ambassadors goal to implement a policy of mountain isolationism for the win.

He also won at Above and Below. I got the highest reputation from heroic adventures; dejo was the dastardly scoundrel lagging behind on that track.

More Shipwreck Arcana, 4-player loss on hard mode.

Then The Resistance! (dejo and I had put "Shipwreck Arcana" and "Resistance," respectively, for "games you would want to play with" the mystery person who was actually me. So that worked out.)

In the first game, I was the commander/Merlin, and jokingly extended trust with dejo early on after she seemed to be the person the randomizer selected as leader. LJ floated M1 with me, with Viking being the only person to vote that down, so I pushed the theory that he was rightly skeptical, and we got a passing M2. Viking temporarily forgot his "you have to resend M2 on M4 at 6 player count, but until then treat it like it was a failure and don't send M2+1 again, it gives us more information" spiel that he's rattled off and bored people with before. (To be fair, he was sick this weekend.) So we fast-forwarded through that, got the inevitable M3 failure, and resent M4. LJ chose to assassinate Ryagic, who'd been fairly checked-out and looked like a spy, and he was in fact Percival!

Then we added the defectors/Lancelots. This time I was Percival, and saw that cvb and Ryagic were Merlin/Morgana in some order. It didn't help that they both put each other on proposals, but I leaned more towards cvb as the true one. So I proposed him, dejo, and myself for M2, which passed (I was sending a lot of missions over both games). The defectors switched, and somehow we threw together a perfect M3, which was dejo, lj, cvb, and myself. It turned out that dejo had started as evil, floated to M2, then switched with Viking. Viking and Ryagic correctly deduced that I was Percival (Merlin probably wouldn't have put dejo on M2, since he saw her as a beginning spy), and correctly assassinated cvb for the spy win.

It was getting late but what the hey, I was awake enough for Terraforming Mars with the same expansions as before, so we did that once again. I had a microbe engine going, and "reverse hate drafted" Ants, the microbe stealer--I wouldn't be able to play it until there was more oxygen, but I couldn't risk someone else grabbing it to attack me! Viking narrowly beat Ryagic. I think overall I like Prelude, don't like Colonies (it's fiddly and hard to know when/why to trade, at least for a relative newbie like myself), and am neutral on Hellas/Elysium and Venus.

Tuesday

Brian and Viking graciously dropped me off at the airport.

For those who haven't heard, I'm joining the mid-Atlantic wolf pack soon, so hopefully I'll see many of you at Rathcon 2020 on my new home turf!
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Wed Sep 4, 2019 6:17 pm
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Strategicon: Gamex 2019

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Once more unto the regional convention!

Friday

As I discovered last time, the "collectibles" room can have a variety of random stuff. People were demoing KeyForge: Call of the Archons, the "computer automatically generates a deck for you" hotness. I got to be the Arctic Singer of Elktrack, featuring a couple Pawn Sacrifices, which was fun (and some powerful shadow beasts that protect their neighbors). It felt like a close game but the other guy pulled it out. Then he gave me a couple new packs! Which was great, although my goal for the con was to try to get rid of stuff...

I love Dread, and the RPG of Star Crossed being run was in the same mold. This was a simultaneous set of two-player Jenga-block romances all occurring on the same space station and informing each other. I was a management droid paired with a moth-looking alien and our attempts at making a connection amid the corporate downsizing ended in disaster. (Unlike Dread, this requires you to touch the tower without pulling when your character is speaking dialogue. You'd think this wouldn't be so hard, but...)

More puzzle playtesting from the Escape Room in a Box people. They have a hard task, in my opinion--making freestanding puzzles that can ideally be solved within five minutes, without being too easy or too difficult, that are pasted into an ongoing adventure/game/quest thing with a lot of superfluous flavor text. All the best to them, but this seems a high order.

Monopoly Deal Card Game: second in my first-round group, then third in the finals (out of four, so it was like "she won, and now he won, okay guess it's down to just us." But hey, it got me a ribbon, so can't complain. The same GM ran Love Letter and despite a hot start I went out in the first round.

Then Seven Blunders, which is just like 7 Wonders except you're competing for the lowest score. (I think from the same punsters that gave us Sushi No!) 3rd at a table of 5, either way you count it.

The Escape Room people were also testing a circus-themed social deduction game. It made me appreciate how most of my favorite games in that genre have an inherent progression towards an end point: Resistance has a finite number of missions and votes, in Werewolf people die and that moves along the "game clock." This game...did not. There's just endless rounds of trades, and very little opportunity to get concrete information about people's allegiances. The one time the group did get some information, it went to a good guy who didn't understand that it was safe and in fact pro-her-win con to share it; meanwhile, I was a blind traitor, and my partner (who knew me) made no effort to communicate with me, so I played the first half of the game assuming that someone else was on my team, because he was the only one really talking to me while the other three (who knew each other out of game) all traded. At the risk of sounding elitist, this prototype was not a good game to play with newbies to the genre.

Saturday

Got crushed in Ticket to Ride: France, but did much better in the original, winning in the first round despite some congestion along the long Canadian routes. (I got to use my own board so maybe home train advantage?) In the finals, I missed out on the ten points for longest route by one train...and then lost to that guy by eight points. But he was the GM, which meant he was not eligible to win the "dealer dollar" prize, so I actually got the first place payout! Despite offloading some old games at the auction, between this and Keyforge I was not feeling great about trying to leave with fewer games than I started with...

Intrigued by The Acts, but eesh, the color scheme. I get that they were trying to go with muted greens and browns and stuff because first-century Judea, etc, but it came out even more washed-out than intended. I don't usually have color-discrepancy issues with games, but I definitely moved the wrong piece at least once (although maybe that was inattentiveness). Also the art felt kind of cluttered, and like, the prayer location doesn't get blocked unlike other worker locations, so maybe that should have a different symbol or area or something to indicate it?

On the other hand, the rules do ensure that regardless of player count, the game always begins with twelve disciples on the board, so that was a nice touch.

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"Lydia traded in purple cloth, what's their excuse" -my mom when I told her about this game, pretty much

Young GM led Ca$h 'n Guns (Second Edition), and though I prefer the first edition's mechanics, I was glad to play the individual game instead of the raucous, kid-skewing real-time version. I had the character power that let me steal bullets from people, and was lucky/paying enough attention to do so successfully several times, but finished well out of contention.

Then...well, the most interesting thing going on was the raucous, kid-skewing real-time version. :/ I teamed up with a family whose surname lent itself well to a punny team name (team names are hard, okay, everyone seems to agree on this), but freaked out when one of the other guys lambasted me for getting the timing of my aim wrong. Despite this we finished second (out of four), and I got the ribbon because my teammates weren't going to take it. All about those ribbons.

Wandered around open gaming and managed to interject myself into a group that was looking for something to do; we realized that we all knew and liked Ticket to Ride, so we borrowed Team Asia from the library and went for it. Both teams avoided the northeast (Chinese border control was tight) and got in each others' way, but we both managed to complete plenty of tickets. The other team won.

Late-night Wingspan had a lot of signups but there was room for me despite the scarcity of copies. A couple of the more experienced players went with frequent flocking strategies, but a newbie's dominance of the round bonuses let him win.

"Motherflocker!" "No, it's not a mother, there's no egg on that card anymore." "Fatherflocker!"

Sunday

Slow start after a headache but I slowly improved throughout the day. There's this group that has been doing various game shows, and I sat in on part of one last time, but the audience couldn't really play along. This time, however, they advertised Countdown (the British numbers and letters show) as being open to everyone. I'd played online a couple times (one of my internet acquaintances from another site was on the real thing in 2010), so I was able to get up to speed quickly. Despite the migraine, I was good with both the arithmetic and anagram components, and held a five-point lead going into the last round, which made it a CRUCIAL COUNTDOWN CONUNDRUM.

The letters were STOPHYENA, and I scribbled down various health-condition looking things: enphy...? asphytone? Someone guessed HYPOTENUSE, which, no. Finally with a few seconds left I realized it was PANTYHOSE and pulled out a convincing win!

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Hung out with the Stupid Users: BETA demoers, not a super deep game but they're nice people who I've seen around. Then onto Manila with some enthusiastic newcomers. (The GM, who runs this often, is the father of the guy who ran Cash and Guns the night before.) I came in second by eight points, for a few more dealer dollars.

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When it's the last round you have to bet on the 2 for 15.

One of the others invited us to be the first to play his new fanmade map...Ticket to Ride: Westeros.

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We didn't play with these mean cards, but note that George R.R. Martin lets you kill any special card and remove it from the game...

Another guy had come up with the base map (mostly standard, but with "shipwrecks" that are a little bit like mountain routes in Europe/Asia), but Brandon added on with bonus cards. You take one, play it on your turn to give you some bonus, then immediately draft a different one. So some will let you draw face-up cards out of turn, some let you build a route with one less card, some are just straight bonus points. At the end of the game I got stuck with Faceless Men, which lets a girl play a set of matching cards as if they were a different color for some route of the correct length. This sounds good but in practice was bad, because I had more of the colors I needed anyway than any others (but not enough), and I couldn't play a route to swap it for a good card. So I got frustrated that I couldn't complete my last route. Brandon was like "oh, now I'm worried you had a bad experience your first time playing my game," and I'm like "...I have a migraine, it's never gonna be a great experience, but it's well-designed." Even though I've only seen a few episodes, I was able to make a few thematic jokes, so that was worth it anyway.

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Came out of it with only a headache and a bruised sense of pride, which I understand is better than 90% of the characters in Game of Thrones.

Had to get rid of those dealer dollars, so I splurged on "Filibuster," which I'd played at earlier cons. I'm not sure if it'll work mechanically (I've never played a full-length game), but the theme is spot-on, and my brother wants to work in political campaigns so I figure I can always give it to him to use as a drinking game.

Wandering around open gaming, saw a Base Roll demo. I was wearing my ubiquitous Cubs sweatshirt so obviously I could be like "yes, I know how baseball works." We played the simple mode of the game and it was a bit...too simple, lots of thematic dice rolling and tension but not much in the way of interesting decisions. It was not obvious at first that while cards from the public pool were a finite resource, cards from one's hand could be burned through and replenished often. Oh well.

New Salem: Second Edition was very good! It's an individual winner game, so it's not true "social deduction," but there are "Puritan" and "witch" factions that have conflicting goals to be eligible to win. The tension of trusting the Constable with hope to make "pro-good" decisions was good. We busted one witch early via an Interrogation and put her on Trial, but then a later constable reported via Hysteria that there was another witch in the game. Truth or bluffing? The last constable was like, "give me your hope, I'll burn down the outed witch's buildings," and I had to patiently be like "I'm not giving any more hope and I don't think you guys should either. I've seen the witch's card and I know she's correctly on trial, that will reduce our despair even if another witch escapes and increases it. So witches cannot win. I am not giving an unknown power that she could use to backstab me." Sure enough, the constable was a witch who got thwarted, so I felt like I'd argued successfully even though one of my fellow Puritans got more points than me.

Then I got to talking with the designer and it turned out we went to high school in adjacent suburbs in Minnesota, small world.

Again tried my luck in open gaming, saw a few guys sitting down to read the rules of Sapiens, which is a cross between Kingdomino domino-type mechanics and Rise of Tribes theme, while being more complicated and harder to grasp than either. One of the other guys misunderstood the details of the mammoth tile versus mountain-action bonus, so he missed out on food at the end, which would have let him pull ahead of me, so as it was we tied.

We weren't in the mood to read more rules, but I realized they had just bought The Acts, so I quickly taught that. This time I won.

(The premise is different disciples each competing to have the most individual followers, which seems like something Paul would have gotten snarky about. Also, Paul, how do you not know if you've baptized anyone else? Are you performing baptisms in your sleep???)

In bittersweet news, this was probably my last Strategicon, at least for the medium term; I'm leaving the LA area and waiting to see where I'll get a job and settle down. Thanks to all the GMs, teammates, and opponents who have made it such a wonderful experience over the years.
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Tue May 28, 2019 2:16 am
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CabinCon Spring 2019

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Another wonderful CabinCon with play-by-forum Werewolf friends!

Thursday

Flew into DC and was picked up by itsbrianyay; we swung by to pick up VikingJ and were on our way. Brian occasionally failed to abide by the speed limits, and when Viking made tangentially related remarks (“well, we seem to be making good time” etc) pretended to overreact. But we did make good time!

We were the second group there and joined the Buffalo-ish contingent for a couple rounds of Shadow Hunters. I was Bryan (neutral who wants to kill high HP guys) in the first game and lost, then George the hunter. maximumsaximum was my fellow hunter and died early, but Viking was Daniel and forced to side with me. Despite the neutral back-and-forths, I eventually perished for the shadow victory.

Kingdom Builder is a game I had learned last time and was excited to try again. I cleaned up hard on the "longest distance between two connected settlements" goal and won against MajaiofDreams and dejojam1.

I had brought Manila, or as Brian referred to it, "that boating game." We taught Majai, who had bought it after Benesephiir's enthusiastic recommendation the previous CabinCon, but had yet to play his own version. They got into enormous bidding wars for the harbormaster role which allowed me to sit back and hoard my pesos for the win, even when Tarrant subbed in for Brian.

The only thing I knew about The Game was that it was related to The Mind, which is one of those "I'm glad it's fun for some people but nooooot gonna give it a try" things for me. The Game is somewhat more structured and less bad. We got to the end and ran out of options, but Maxie continued on, being like "okay well what if we could just skip to so-and-so's turn, then we would..." and I took this rampant and flagrant cheating as an excuse to make my escape.

Big game of Welcome To..., which allowed me to check off a bingo box as my first time playing with nyriv! VikingJ's "Trashville" was the winner there.

There was a Codenames tournament on the schedule. Like many CabinCon events, some things get scheduled and then don't come to fruition, so it wasn't too disappointing when ljtrigirl never got around to hosting an "official" one. As there were several of us who were up for a game, we organized into teams of two and drew our own bracket...only to be stymied by the fact that only two Codenames word cards had been packed. (A full slate of the grids, though!) So we turned to online generators and persevered. Viking and I were partners, eliminated by xandryyte and nyriv in the best-of-three opening round.

Friday

For the first couple nights I roomed with the Richmond crew of Quaseymoto, TFang, and xand. The former two are fairly early risers, and Quasey was tasked with finding a game for the morning crowd that was both "pretty social and light" but also "had actual win conditions." Lost Legacy fit the bill, and allowed other people to join in as they woke up. The Lord of Rot became a powerful (and amusing) strategy in a combined deck, and TFang pulled out the win.

Then onto Yokohama, another "placing dudes and trading goods in a real-world city name" installment. I guess I got a little frustrated with the fishing ports being blocked, no hard feelings though. Fang won this one as well.

"Why does the UK want copper, why can't it want something I have access to, like tea."
"Well, it's the US who needs tea, they threw all of theirs in the ocean."

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Quaseymoto and TFang: "okay, then you're screwed."

Dread was also "scheduled but not really scheduled." When I kind of backed into running it, I decided I needed to be firmer than usual for CabinCon and was like "we are running at four on Saturday, be there or be a rectangular prism thing."

We had a fun group of lunar colonists, and the collaborative roleplaying was wonderful. There wasn't actually much in the way of dramatic pulls: lj's secret weapons agent wound up making most of the pulls, nobody died, and the players solved their problems (a weird bacterial breakout, possibly but not necessarily lunar lycantrophy) by contacting the appropriate authorities and not exposing themselves to much danger. So a little anticlimactic, but still fun (I hope). Maybe with more warning next time, whenever next time is, I'll have a better plot built out. Or maybe not.

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Before...

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and after

dejo had liked Kingdom Builder enough to try again, and she won the next round. (We got several turns in before we realized "oh there's a new terrain in this expansion that nobody can build on," welp.)

Played a couple rounds of CrossTalk, which is in the burgeoning Codenames genre of "clue things that relate to other things." (I also played a couple rounds of Wavelength--I'll talk about that more when I get to a full game, but for now you should know that dejo, who is from New Zealand, mentioned the current New Zealand prime minister in one of her clues.)

If I sound harsh on these or some of their cousins here, I'm just trying to pick apart what makes some of them work versus not work for me. Usually in these games there can be several people trying to receive/interpret the clues at once. In Crosstalk, I felt like we hit diminishing returns with player count. Like, "it could be this maybe, Madeline do you have anything to add"? "Uh, not really."

Somewhere in here was the (Halloween) costume contest. I was Sexy Prime Numbers (Halloween is a big deal in the math department) and managed to win “best holiday-themed costume,” since Quaseymoto was lobbying for Pi Day. Contiguity as the Xylophone Werewolf and whirlingdervish as an astronaut were also very impressive.

Then it was time for Cabin in the Woods werewolf! I was a normal Cabin Guest (Villager), and started reading Benes as good the first day, so I followed him to vote Stonecutter. Little did we know there would be a five-way tie! lj asked the uninvolved participants to revote, at the risk of killing all the people who remained tied; we averted catastrophe and narrowly lynched a villager. To help prevent a reoccurence, she had everyone who died the first cycle (all goods) nominate a living player who would break ties if it happened again. "Well what if that person is up for lynch?" "Then they won't kill themselves, hopefully."

I went back and forth on my reads of Benes and Stone--was it a dichotomy? Day Two, after many tally corrections, ended with another tie, between TFang, Stone, and xand--and sure enough, Fang was the tiebreaker! Despite having been voting stone, TFang flipped on the read, and governated the lynch to xand, a max evil!

Night three there was no kill, which meant there was some kind of conversion mechanism in play. By day four I was whispering to Benes "people are saying you don't sound like a villager, want to claim? I am a villager." "Okay, I'm not a villager." "Uh...I guess that really doesn't help all that much." But I must have started trusting him and went back on my stone read, because at the end of the day Stone was like "who are you voting?" "You! " "Me?! You think I converted?" "No, no, I think TFang converted, but I want to hunt for a starting evil today." "You think I converted TFang?" "Sure! You or one of your evil pals, I dunno how the mechanic works." Despite this the village wound up lynching contig, the last starting evil, so that was that! The Facility (evil-tending neutrals) had not gotten the benefits of conversion, so they got to try to guess the remaining good specials to secure a win. "If we get one wrong will you just put us out of our misery?" "Sure." "Okay. Madeline?" "Nope, she's a villager, heh."

Played some more Shadow Hunters as karaoke was starting up. dejo the Werewolf died (but of course), and then I died as Emi the hunter. Didn't stick around to watch, but it sounds like the neutrals won.

Karaoke was a blast, once again. I sang "What About Everything?" by Carbon Leaf (great band, also they are from Virginia, so I will recommend their Virginia-themed songs if I'm carpooling through). I forget who did "Shut Up And Dance," but it was great.

LJ had some great werewolf-themed parodies (instead of "in my head, zombies" we got "in the thread, werewolves"!). So I decided to add my less raucous, but personally meaningful, riff on "Burn" from Hamilton, from the perspective of the capricious Cassandra Project werewolf bot. (Originally written 2017 in the Wolfy threads. You can see the grains of some of the ideas that would develop here but that I hadn't really found a place to share.) Thank you guys for being quiet enough to listen to my lyrics!

There was also a rollicking sea shanty about nautical implements.

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maximumsaximum gives a PSA: "Trust me, I'm almost a doctor"

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"Satisfied": ljtrigirl as Hamilton, Netslummer as Angelica, Quaseymoto as Eliza, whirlingdervish as the chorus

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Irina_Phoenix and stonecutter, partners in song

I wanted to stay up for the "traditional" close-out songs, but the group showed no sign of slowing down as it grew close to 3, and Quasey basically told me it was okay to go to sleep. I appreciate him looking out for me despite his significant alcohol intake!

Sunday

Woke up early enough for a walk with the morning crew (not necessarily by design, but it was pretty).

Learned Pandemic: Fall of Rome. cvb2009 had a cool player power that, among other things, let him draw three cards from the player deck and discard one to the top at the end of his turn, as opposed to the usual draw two. So he kept drawing three cards, one of which would be a "Revolt" (Epidemic) and kept putting them on top for DeMorcerf to draw on his turn. "I feel like I'm being set up..." DeMo complained. Found the hidden traitor! We were able to ally with all the tribes (cure the diseases) for a standard-level win.

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That feel when everyone teleports to share cards and you're out manning the front lines

Just One is a word-cluing game we play via forum sometimes, I prefer the RL pacing. I failed on guessing one of my words (went for a less-classy form of the correct "manure") but we seemed to work pretty well as a group. I like this well enough; each player is working independently, and adding more players isn't necessarily for the best because duplicates can be an issue.

Then there was the now-traditional Game Show. I'd been hesitant about participating the previous time, but wound up enjoying myself and doing well, so I jumped in again. The first round was current-ish events, including werewolf role events, so I felt good about that, and made educated guesses about some others. (Plus recognizing one new song only because it was in a baseball commercial!)

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The question was about New Zealand, and dejo had just clued the prime minister the day before. cvb: "I think you've got this."

I wound up winning the first round, which put a target on my back and gave me some winner bonuses that wound up snowballing later. I tried to downplay it, people have led in these kinds of things without going onto win, but it beat the alternative! I felt much better about the Christmas songs category than the similar-formatted TV Theme Songs category last time around.

With five players left, we got to HOLIDAY Scattergories. whirlingdervish and I tied for last; we had lost points for both putting Independence Day for a holiday. So we needed a "quick" runoff with I words/phrases. Something related to winter? We both thought of "icicles" but in the few seconds remaining, I came up with "indoor sports" which was four points, and his answer also had four points. Welp. Something related to werewolf? "Idiot villager"/"Interesting role mechanics." Tied again! Something, anything related to holidays? "Idolatry"/"Indigenous Peoples' Day." Okay, even the mods were starting to get frustrated at this. Any board game? "Innovation: Echoes of the Past"...? Whirling didn't come up with one, and so on the fourth tiebreaker, I squeaked by.

Won the Easter Egg hunt despite that, and that brought us to holiday-themed Who Wants To Be A Millionaire. I breezed through the first few questions, but then got stumped on "which is not true about Oktoberfest?" Is it (not): "a 16-18 day folk festival"? "celebrates beer and sausages"? "sometimes begins in September"? "originated in Munich, Germany"? All of those sounded right to me. Time to use a lifeline.

The good news was, as the winner, I had first dibs on phoning a friend--and we had a European in the cabin, annab from Sweden! So I brought her in, and she confidently said it was the September one. Deferring to her judgment, I went with that, only to find it was the beer and sausages one. Just sausages, not beer. Oops!

Brianyay was next up, and he was stymied by the "Twelve Days of Christmas" one. "Who would I even call for this? TFang, or is it too secular? I'd call you but obviously I can't." A lifeline helped him...but then he got to the Oktoberfest one. "Is it a trick question because it's not beer, just sausages? Nah, they wouldn't do that." (I sat in the background trying to keep a straight face.) "Okay, 50/50..." did not really help because the audience was almost 25/25/25/25. So he too guessed, and was wrong. Tied again!

Quaseymoto went last, and, spoiler alert, failed on the Oktoberfest question. So we all got/had to answer all of them for "best overall" score. This led to liturgical calendar nitpicking (how long is Lent, really? 40 days? Well more than 40. But less than 55...), but ultimately, Quasey and I snuck through. We had an epic showdown in Time's Up/Celebrities/that cluing phrases from a hat game, and he prevailed to be the champion!

Call to Adventure was a pretty fun game, except for the “never knowing which dice things to pick up” issue. I’m not much of an RPG person, but this was structured and competitive while still allowing for some fun elaboration on the flavor text. Ryagic won this.

We had 17 people signed up for the Christmas-themed hidden roles game, which is a great number, but a little questionable for multi-village mechanics with a double lynch and nightkill. So the mods had one village lynch, while the other village made “naughty” and “nice” lists with unknown purpose, and the second village had the nightkill. I was The Grinch (max evil, bodyguard/blocker type), and wolves with ljtrigirl in “the sleepy village.” The mechanical stuff meant we had a slow start of “actual” hunting, particularly given an unfortunate emotional blowup. (On the plus side, that did allow us to make Good Friday instead of Christmas allusions…?) But I seemed to be pretty well-read by the time we collapsed, and lj was able to give a believable good read on me. I was pushing hard that cvb was good, he’d sounded genuine to me the first day and we’d almost nightkilled him. He gave me a “present” that happened to be a governor power, awesome! Things didn’t look great for us at collapse, from what I could see; the other village had already killed two auxes and the only remaining max from their side, Tarrant, was outed, and there was some kind of seer power floating around? Plus people were saying all of them were kind of clear because of claiming magical present views? But the living seer type (xandryyte) turned out to be a spent OPG thing, and the previous “views” were from a cool mechanic that let seer whirlingdervish distribute them to the nice list, so that village got paranoid of each other and we went along with it. And then it turned out cvb was an aux, so we more than had vote control by the end!

Sunday

The Shipwreck Arcana with the morning crew, fun game. We won!

Learned Custom Heroes The wording of the player aids was a little confusing, it says “go out first with 10+ points to win.” Well, TFang went out first in the second round (and the first round), going over the top with 10 points. “No, it means I have to have 10 points before a round starts and then go out first, or accumulate 10 via a bet. You guys will all have more energy than me so I won’t win this next round.” Spoilers: TFang won the next round.

Got a few rounds into Marrying Mr. Darcy before I realized that it wasn’t for me. Maybe if I’d read “Pride and Prejudice” I’d enjoy it more, but even the other players seemed to advertise it as more an experience than a competition, and a lot of stuff came down to a dice roll at the end. Which, we could modify slightly, but still kind of random. And then we had to go through the entire event deck to get there, so every game would see the same cards?

I think it illustrates just how hard it is to design a game, because the designers obviously know and love their theme and a lot of effort went into making the events unique and thematic. But as a competition, for me, it just fell flat. Anyway, I won, yay?

A few rounds of Crossfire which is a little too chaotic/arbitrary for me. Then Wingspan, which my aunt had sent me a newspaper article about! It’s a little like Isle of Skye in that each round has different bonuses, so I was like “they’re all going to be going for the forest goal in the first round, I’ll just not do that so I can compete for others,” but then I was scrambling just to get bits of food. itsbrianyay went heavy on an egg strategy, and we actually ran out of egg tokens during play (substituting food, it sounds as if there wasn’t intended to be a limit), but he was still surprised when he won.

Pictomania sounded like a fairly light/silly game, and laughs were laughed, but it actually worked surprisingly well as a game? The increasing abstractness of the cards was good, plus the “this is probably a moral value, but what if it’s human resources from the business departments?” issue. I wasn’t thinking in the first round and guessed the number card that I had (although for a different column, thankfully), but managed to do pretty well later on.

A full game of Wavelength this time. I think as a guesser I still prefer Codenames, maybe because it’s more discrete? You can say “I think X” and your teammate can go “well I think Y” and there’s only a limited number of choices to go between. (Decrypto is similar, albeit with pointing and whispering instead of talking out loud.) With this it’s just “ehhhh okay.” I also found the “print and play” spinner (really a crude Styrofoam thing) to be pretty difficult to use, but genuine thanks to Majai for bringing it along!

The potential for silly, subjective clues is amusing:
On a scale from pleasurable to painful: “a threesome with Majai and Benes at CabinCon, but you have to leave on Wednesday.” (Majai’s response was “okay that would be pleasurable but there are a lot more pleasurable things in the world,” and he underestimated it!)
From good man to bad man: “Hitler, killing puppies with his buddy Satan, while drowning...everyone.”

Kami-sama; placing shrines to honor the blizzard/luck/frog/tree deities. In the latter two years there’s a lot of blocking and having to destroy other people’s stuff since the board was full, but the first year felt kind of a slow start. “I will complete this easy goal, and then I will move to this other village to complete it again, and then I will move...” DeMo’s flips of fortune let him win.

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DeMorcerf and itsbrianyay

Some tough games of Decrypto where both sides struggled to understand their own clues; we lost on miscommunication after three rounds in the first game, and our opponents did in the second. Majai was amused that, when cvb would clue the other team, dejo and Irina leaned way in to whisper while cvb just sat there.

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A quieter moment

Then werewolf time! The “CabinCon ##er” is a kill-heavy set that gets adapted to the player count; we had thirteen that wanted to play. As we were drawing up the roleset, lj was like, “the sorcerer will learn a pure villager N0. Actually, what the hey, they can learn the tinker villager N0.”

I was a villager. Early D1, Irina was like, “should the seer claim who the tinker is?” “what?” “that would help us, right?” “um, it’s the sorcerer who knows who the tinker is.” “oh. Well. Yeah, they could claim it to help us, but maybe that won’t happen.” Derp cleared?

Whirling and dejo were whispering some stuff and some discussion swirled around them from the outside. I nominated whirling, but his defense seemed okay and I didn’t vote for him. Other nominations came and went. Someone nominated stone, and his reaction felt like “caught for the wrong reasons,” so I did vote him. Nobody got majority, so we went to a tribunal. Stone was one of the last two standing, so we had to vote between him and the other candidate. I voted for Stone again, he got lynched, and he was the gunwielding werewolf, who’d never gotten his shot off! Good start.

Then we went to sleep.

Whirling was the remaining starting wolf. And he decided to kill me.

DeMo was the seer. And he decided to view me. And he got a hit.

xand was the aux seer. And she decided to view me. And she got a hit.

Anna was the gunsmith. And she decided to give me a gun. And the mod tapped me on the knee, to indicate I had a gun, while trying not to crack up.

And that was the saga of the tinker villager.

(Goods won that game; whirling died D2 and brutalled brianyay, a villager, so the cub promoted. Dawn of D3, lj was like, “tragedy has struck the village for the first time, as Anna the gunsmith perished.”) Jamie pipes up “was Madeline’s death not a tragedy?!” Thanks for having my back!)

Game 2 we removed the brutal villager because it seemed good might have been a bit too strong. I was the seer, and got stone as an N0, so that was a nice way to turn around from the previous game. Again, there was a tribunal, that came down to contig and Irina. I’d been reading Irina as relaxed, so I voted contig, and he died, but he was the hunter who took out an aux. Decided to view Irina to get more information on the tally, and got a hit! Between tinker potential and guns floating around I slow-played it and just pushed her hard D2, but couldn’t get traction, and wound up claming D3. She got shot and we lynched the second wolf but the cub pulled it out.

We were down to 10 for game 3 so went with a modified Hi set. 2 of the 4 villagers died D1/N1, and I was the third, so pushed for an all-claim. When a martyr claim war arose, it seemed as if Benes and Majai were the evils outside it, so I pushed on them and we did get Benes lynched as a wolf. Stone was the second wolf, and he’d thought Majai was the unclaimed clear, so he tried to kill him, and the mod revealed him as sorc-cultist even though he should have had aux immunity. So the game was called, but goods were in an okay place since dejo would probably have brutalled Majai anyway (which was good since contig the seer was about to clear him)!

Was about werewolfed out, so I played a little more Shipwreck Arcana to wind down for the night. Quote from Stonecutter: “so do you just read a lot of old games? Because I feel like you don’t participate much.” Me: “...yes.” “Do you, like, read them as they’re going on?” “...yes.” Now you have met madelineb, everyone.

Monday

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Assembly line

Made French toast for the gang, which as DeMo pointed out might have been the only time someone actually made breakfast at breakfast-ish hours!

Mission: Red Planet is kind of a Citadels-like game, where we all have the same cards but can play them in different orders. A little more up my alley than Libertalia, and the art/components were very nice. Contig won that.

The Resistance We went with 7-player Avalon/Commander. I was a normal rebel; lj and dejo passed the first round, and DeMo nominated those two plus me for the third. Just DeMo being DeMo? It was the mission I wanted, anyway, so I voted it up and it went through...but failed.

Itsbrianyay: “Which one of you guys failed that mission? Uh, you ladies, I guess.”
Me: “I’m from Minnesota, guys is the generic plural.”
dejo: “Which one of you guys failed that mission/I’m from Minnesota? What kind of answer is that?!”

Round 3 also single-failed; Round 4 was myself, lj, Brian, and DeMo, which passed. We felt pretty solid about the first three, and were just choosing between DeMo and Majai (contig had basically given up after being accused earlier). I felt that Majai was being less rebelly in his logic, but lj pointed out that he wasn’t really influencing the game, whereas DeMo was pushing hard to get failing missions to go. At that point I figured Merlin was either lj, who knew what was up, or DeMo, who was isolated from the rest of the team, so the best thing to do would just be predeclare that I was voting the mission down and send the proposal along to someone who could send a better one. This worked out; lj and Brian added Majai to the team, it passed, and dejo the assassin killed Majai!

Trapwords is a kind of Taboo variant with a few more random elements. I don’t think I like the troll mechanic, at least at large player counts—it seems likely that the game could end before someone got to clue, and cluing is maybe the most fun part.

mmazala had brought along a Truth or Dare reimplementation that was being playtested. More of an activity than a game, and outstayed its welcome (and the feedback period really outstayed its welcome). But it was fun to see contig acting out Ocean’s Eleven (I realized later that of course he would, he’d given a movie-themed clue to Ocean in Decrypto that nobody had got the previous night!), mmazala going on and on about the Cleveland Film Festival, and learn that lj and I had independently almost taken jobs at the same place out of college. (How about that alternate universe?)

On the other hand, as I told mmazala later, it was a more structured reimplementation of “talking to neurotypicals,” which already makes it better than The Mind… >.>

Fall of Rome again, this time more of a slog, enlivened by mmazala’s attempts at pronouncing the Latin city names. I had the role that cvb had had before, and mmazala pointed out that I might as well take the Revolt hit on my turn so as not to go over the hand limit! It’s hard to figure out which tribes you’ll be able to eliminate by the end, since they keep popping up, so it’s safer to go for alliances. But we were in deck-card-count trouble by the end...when we lost on outbreaks, womp womp.

Was fighting a migraine during dinner and beyond, played a couple rounds of Muse as a loose co-op. I do like the constraints here! But then, you know me.

mmazala also had a prototype Resistance expansion to playtest, which made me feel very cool and hip despite the headache. It’s supposed to make it go quicker, which is pro-spy, so there’s another mechanic that gives rebels another chance, but without limitations on how that can go it kind of defeats the purpose. As we were analyzing it we found that there were some issues with (7p) missions 1 and 4 as currently designed; on the bright side, before we’d dug into “optimal play,” we had the thrill of a single-failing M4! Spies were myself, lj, and mmazala, and we wound up sowing a lot of confusion and none of the rebels (whirling, Viking, Benes, Majai) were particularly close to the correct team by the end.

Was laying low and just talking for a while, so some of the blog stuff came up. Viking: "well, her calling you a plateau is the highest form of flattery. The highest form of flattery. The highest form of flattery." If I'd been healthier I would have thrown things.

I rallied enough for some Ticket to Ride: UK which is a beautiful map (all the rainbows!) that I struggled with. mmazala won the first game, and VikingJ took the second (in part because he beat mmazala to the 40-point sea route by one turn!)

Tuesday

Still headachy but survived. On the first few minutes of the drive out, I was trying to rest, DeMo’s GPS was confusing him, then he hit potholes in the rural area, and then he started going on about the gas tax in different states. DeMorcerf is a Twenty-one Pilots character, confirmed.

Flight back featured, as usual, TSA agents being like “how old are you?” As less usual, I was exhaustedly going “where is my city on the departures screen...oh I’m transferring in Phoenix lol right.” Then when I got to Phoenix I was like “how is this flight time correct...oh Arizona doesn’t do daylight savings so I’m in ‘Mountain Standard’ which is actually the same as ‘Pacific Daylight,’ lol right.”

Still grappling with migraines, but this stage of academia should be drawing to a close soon (famous last words), so we’ll see where I land after that! Hope to make it to future cons someday, and until then, I’ll see you all around the forums.
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Strategicon: Orccon 2019

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No mountains, no valleys
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Never argue with idiots; they'll drag you down to their level and then beat you on experience.
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For a change, how about some actual board game writeups on this blog! surprise

This weekend I had the pleasure of returning to Strategicon, the local gaming convention. (They have three installments a year on US long weekends; Orccon is the February/Presidents' Day edition.)

Friday

Arrived Friday afternoon. I usually like to see what tournaments/events are going on in the main room since I don't come with friends for Open Gaming, but nothing looked super intriguing in the moment, so I wandered upstairs to "Collectibles." This is mostly stuff like collectible card games, I guess? (Magic the Gathering, Yu-Gi-Oh), but also some companies who make more traditional board games show off their stuff too. There was supposed to be an "indie games" display that never materialized, so I wound up going to the demo from Cheapass Games, and learned Unexploded Cow. Usually I feel like when the intro starts with a lot of theme ("after World War II, the UK had a lot of cases of mad cow disease and France had a lot of landmines, they decided to help each other...") and few mechanics, that's a bad sign. But it was okay.

Tried to sign up for some party games early on, but the party game signup was also the LARP signup, and the organizer there was really a proselytizer. "Well you didn't like the LARP you tried? There are lots of other genres!" I think the same person was also running a seminar later about "correcting false stereotypes about LARPs," which, maybe the problem lies elsewhere.

Then onto Ticket to Ride: Africa. There are a lot of TtR expansions played at Strategicon, which is great, I love learning and playing them. Came in third in my first-round table.

I joined the first of several Love Letter tournaments. Somehow won my first round despite feeling like I had the 1/3 combo every other hand (and then getting guarded and having the 3 guessed to eliminate me, on top of that). The finals table had several players and onlookers who all knew each other, plus me, so at one point I was like "yes, it's your turn, stop yik-yakking and play." This verb choice was apparently very amusing? After all the yik-yakking, I placed second, and got the bragging rights that come from getting a ribbon for my badge.

The creators of Escape Room in a Box: The Werewolf Experiment were playtesting several puzzles they were designing as part of someone else's big game. A couple sudoku and mastermind-type ones were cool, the visual ones less appealing to me. Timed myself and gave feedback (mostly of the form "liked this, didn't like that.")

Was getting drowsy, but tried a game of Dreadball because hey, futuristic sports, what's not to like. I'm not much of a miniatures game person either--not super appealing for the additional expense, and visually distinguishing the pieces is hard, but I took on the robots against my opponent's dwarves. His sister-in-law had painted the latter and they were very cool. Later a friend of his came to play and so he took over, with the original guy teaching us both. His teaching style was more of a "jump right in and I'll talk about additional options (how to pass instead of running, etc) as needed," which isn't how I prefer to learn games. But it was charming nonetheless? ("Since the referee isn't in play, you can hit from behind and get away with it!") Ultimately after a tied regulation period, my robots took it in sudden-death!

And then back to the ranch. (I live close enough where I can take a straight-shot bus down, but prefer to rideshare back to my place when it's late at night.)

Saturday

Had a little time to kill before the virtual flea market, and lo and behold, a new game store was advertising themselves with flyers downstairs featuring "games for short attention spans" upstairs. Perfect! I went up to find a game of Bob Ross: Art of Chill Game in progress, and I swapped in for the organizer while he started up Kingdom Builder, which had caught my eye. Though I inherited an excellent position in Bob Ross, another player caught up to win. It's a light and straightforward game mechanically, but it's a theme I'm not familiar with and all things being equal that's kind of a turn-off for me.

I'd learned Kingdom Builder a few months ago and really enjoyed it, so I was excited to try again. We had the "largest settlement" and also "most settlement areas" goals in play, which was an interesting contrast/dynamic. I got an engine going that allowed me to place several extra settlements per turn and trigger the endgame, but the other players had the "you can move your settlements" bonus power, which was good for the "most areas" goal and also AP-inducing...Despite, or perhaps because of, my enormous desert, I was a distant third out of three.

The flea market was very hectic, but I was able to meet up with the people I'd contacted online, and got great deals on Cash & Guns, Pandemic, and Resistance (with plot cards)! No, I don't have a consistent group to play with. Yes, I want to move soon. No, my collecting problem is far from the worst out there. Yes, it might be a little more of a problem this week.

More Ticket to Ride, this time Rails and Sails. We blocked each other somewhat in the middle, so I wound up needing to trade in several trains for boats and taking the point hit.

There was a mini-tournament for two-player games, which wasn't really scheduled and just drop-in. (They've done stuff like this in previous years, too; I'm not sure how successful it is at getting consistent participation.) This time it had been exiled to the Collectibles room; there weren't many people there, but I was able to get in a game of Patchwork. I tried the button engine-building strategy that's been recommended, and it actually worked! Even though my opponent got like all the small patches and the 7x7 bonus, I came out on top pointswise. And we were both in the positives, very exciting.

Then 108, which is basically Sudoku with a take-that component. I'd seen an earlier version in development; the new components are very pretty, although from what I saw of the rules writeup/box it looks a bit woo-woo? One of the players had to leave after an hour for another event, but a second player had just pointed out she could win in one move so we agreed to call it.

This left me free to...start another Ticket to Ride tournament, this time the new Old West expansion. You have to start the game by placing a depot, and can add more later; you start building in your depot and can only build adjacent to your network. When other players build through your depot(s), you get the points.

I feel like this game would give a bigger-than-usual advantage to people who have played before and know what the tickets are, so they know where to put stations? I was just like "I'll put one in Spokane because I have a ticket there so I'll start there...someone is coming to Denver so I'll put one there to get his points [netted one measly point]...one in Albuquerque because it has a lot of longer routes coming from there? [nobody came]." Spokane, however, paid off a little much later, to my surprise. It's harder to block people in this game, because even if you know where they want to go, you can't play there unless you're already connected.

Probably at this point I wandered around Open Gaming looking for someone to jump in with? The danger is that a lot of the people who are free and actively looking for players are also the people who are trying to push their own games in...various stages of polish.

I played a Colosseum game which was, shall we say, "in development." It felt mostly like roll-and-move, and if you overshoot the place you want to go, too bad. Also a lot of rolling to get out of jail--did I get a 2? Nope? Lose the turn. And also it was an "interactive game" which meant you had to stop and say the right response when this video interrupted, and then listen to the random event instructions, which were hard to understand and hear, even playing with one of the designers. I asked him what this was based off of/what kinds of games he liked and he said it was actually an upgrade of a "VHS game," which, okay.

(On the upside, the decks of cards were interesting, and the components you're trying to collect were very nice-looking?)

Also wandered around the dealer room. I'd seen Filibuster (very funny theme) and Escape from Dulce (complex dungeon crawler, cool components) in earlier stages/demos, and both were displaying samples. Didn't splurge, but would recommend either if you want to burn some cash on cool new games from enthusiastic, hard-working designers!

Early evening, there was a meeting for people interested in learning how to moderate Werewolf. Nothing too surprising, but an interesting look behind the scenes culture-wise.

"If you're an apprentice, you don't sit at home waiting for your master to die, you follow them."

Not sure how long I'll be in town/able to moderate, but maybe someday!

One of the longtime moderators/players had died recently, so there were several memorial games in his honor. He had pioneered "Texas Werewolf" (no relation to the BGG variant of the same name), where everyone has guns and no one has healthcare. So it's 2/3 brutals (woodcutters/hunters), 1/3 werewolves. And then at the end Obama comes to take away everyone's guns.

This is less broken than it sounds (maybe not by much), at least playing with slightly more mature/less hyper people than the kids I played it with the first time. Our village actually got off to a strong start in terms of lynches/brutals. On N2, "usual suspect" Rob died, and brutalled me (I'd mentioned being a Minnesotan so I found Texas hot, death sentence there); I brutalled someone who'd had a weird interaction (reluctant bussing?) with the werewolf we'd lynched the previous day, and she was evil! So good was in control for a while, but then the chain reactions came along and then someone semi-arbitrarily decided "okay no more brutals" the last day and evil won. Maybe if there was a more fixed rule for when the brutals would stop it could be even less broken? (I died just after gun control was randomly implemented in the previous game which wasn't fun either.)

Sunday

Since most of the events start on the top of the hour it's kind of a tossup coming down by bus; will I make it in time for the next thing or wander around for an hour? Good news: I made it just in time for a Kingdom Builder tournament. Bad news: there were a lot of people already signed up. Good news: they had brought lots of copies, so I made it in! No horses in this game, so we were able to play fast.

There was a "content production" (web show) seminar/audience playalong later on. Weren't really enough people to make Team Carcassone a thing, but I was mostly there to spectate Resistance: Avalon. (The audience had loyalties, and combined to be a seventh up/down vote in addition to the sixth players.) I was a spy-affiliate, and since it was a fast game there wasn't a lot of time for Merlin-hunting. "We" lost.

Manila is one of my favorite games which I learned at the convention. I had my own copy this time! ...and promptly got curbstomped, taking out and repaying a loan, to finish on a whopping 37 pesos. Woo.

Did leave time for me to bring my own copy to, surprise, an (original) Ticket to Ride tournament. All four players decided to keep all their routes, and I was able to complete mine, including a long one; some people got cut off around Oklahoma City, however, and the woman who'd done it by accident going for longest route cruised to victory. I was a distant second (by 48 points), which did not qualify me for "best runner-up."

Open Gaming was a little more promising; I demoed a game about dinosaur hunting with the designer. A lot of luck, and the "these cards are negative, unless you have the most, then they're good" felt a little weird with two players (maybe more a risk-reward thing with more?), but it was much better than the gladiator one.

France is the flip side of the Old West map for TtR. The routes of length 2-5 don't come pre-colored, so when you draw cards, you also assign a color to a route (hopefully of the colors you just took). When the route is built, the track is returned to the supply. Again, a little harder to block others since the route might not exist yet (but you can jump on the thing they just built).

You only use 40 trains, so when I took some extra routes at the end, I realized that I would need every train! Fortunately some timely rainbow-grabbing let me eke it out to trigger the endgame and then win.

The guy who runs this (and most of the Ticket to Ride tournaments) is very hardcore about "you must randomize player order like so," etc, but he was in a good mood touting the virtues of this map, and we got to chatting. "You're a math person, huh? I liked college math up until linear algebra...it wasn't linear and it sure wasn't algebra." laugh

In the second round I lucked out with an awesome opening ticket hand, several long routes that would be basically overlapping each other for the main north-south component. Picked up a few more long ones, connected the outlying cities, and won the tournament!

Downstairs, I saw a "player wanted" sign in open gaming. For another demo? No, it was several people (maybe a family?) starting into Pandemic. "Do you know how to play?" "Yes." "Awesome, we don't, want to teach us?"

I tried not to alpha-game too much, just responding to questions, and we set in on beginner level. The kid pointed out that "[the dispatcher]'s ability seems way more powerful than all of ours," which seemed to be true in my Legacy Season 1, but we tried to deploy the others as needed. It came down to the last turn--there was one card left in the deck, the dispatcher needed five actions to cure yellow, and she only had four. But they seemed into it. Apparently they already owned Legacy 1 but had never played the base, so were just trying to learn it?

Snuck into the Sagrada tourney under the wire. One of the players was new. "We won't be hardcore. You're not competitive, are you?" "...she has multiple ribbons on." "I mean, I'm competitive, but not cutthroat." Of course, I was the first one to screw up my placement, and the experienced player was like "you can take it back." "No," said the woman next to me, who seemed very adamant about not being tokenized/treated like a newbie, "we're playing by the rules." So out went my illegal die...and then she caught the other (young) new player on the same thing.

Afterwards several of them were in open gaming and invited me to join them for some Love Letter with their friends. "Oh wow, another favor of affection from the princess, who isn't even my type," said one of the men. "I guess..." *riffles through deck* "the priest would be the most attractive to me?"

I then taught them Manila and wound up basically doubling my score from earlier in the morning, which meant I still lost by a wide margin!

All in all, another exhausting and thrilling weekend. Despite a few early morning headaches I was able to make it over with lots of energy every day, which did feel like a good sign!
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Mon Feb 18, 2019 10:48 pm
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