Dice Tower Con #1
Snooze Fest
United States
Hillsborough
North Carolina
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We love our pups!! Misu, RIP 28 Nov 2010. Tikka, RIP 11 Aug 2011.
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After hearing all the rave reviews from last year, we were happy to able to add this to our list of summer game conventions! But if you're going to Orlando, you might as well make it a holiday right? So we arrived Saturday, did a little touristy stuff, and then joined the convention proper.

For a 5-day con, my numbers aren't particularly impressive:
- 16 unique games (including 2 prototypes)
- 20 games in all (played several things twice: a proto, Tichu, Memoir '44, and Battle Cry)

On the other hand, I did get to play a few longer games:
- Combat Commander, which I've wanted to learn for a long time (a bit over 2 hours)
- Ladies of Troyes (which I don't think should be long, but turned out to also be a bit over 2 hours)
- Rex: Final Days of an Empire, 3 hours and also one I've been wanting to try
- City of Iron, almost 3 hours (all newbies) but should play faster; and a cool game!
- a pretty good proto that took 2 hours, although that was a bit painful; should've been faster!

None of those are terribly long, of course, but I never did get to play Twilight Struggle with
Robyn Hamilton
United States
Ft. Myers
Florida
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! Unfortunately, I also missed out on my Eclipse: Ancients game! Poor planning on my part, perhaps? Maybe another time....

Anyway, here's the summary of my games played this convention!
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1. Board Game: Aeroplanes: Aviation Ascendant [Average Rating:6.63 Overall Rank:2452]
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Hillsborough
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SATURDAY June 29, 2013

The AirTran flight was OK, although the terminal is an old crappy one (renovations under way) and we had to park way-the-hell far away!

We took a cab (with the most quiet taxi driver I've seen in quite a while, and a pretty bad driver, too!) to the hotel and found that our room was way in the corner, near a path to Sea World. But we're not going to Sea World this trip, and the Fitness Center is on the other side of this resort. So we decided to wait for a different room to become available. Well, I waited -- Mary went off to attend the last few hours of today's session of a crafting convention happening a few miles down the road. Waiting is not that much fun, but at least I was able to do my Oasis of Fun list, and start this one .... But I'd rather have been having a massage!

It turned out the wait was over 3 hours! But we finally got a room in a better location: close to the "serenity" pool (rather than the one with all the kids, and the pool bar, nearby!), close to the fitness center and spa, and pretty close to where the gaming will be!

Mary got back from her crafting thing, we dropped our stuff off in the room, and then went for dinner across the street at Delmonicos Italian Steakhouse. Our waitress convinced us to give their 24oz specialty, Steak Delmonico (or something like that), which is supposedly a more fatty cut that is very tender and tasty. That is a LOT of meat! We had fettucini alfredo on the side ... deLICious!! The steak, however, was not exactly pretty; and it was tough. Maybe not Chuck Norris tough, but tougher than we liked. It was medium-well, but that's what we usually order and this seemed pretty bad. We figured that was how it was supposed to be and started having some. But then we told our waitress, and a manager came over and offered to have it redone for us. We ordered it medium this time, and it was SO much better! And I don't think it was just the medium vs. medium-well: this was just a better cut of meat! They also gave us another fettucini side dish !

Of course, we didn't finish all that food. It should be a tasty breakfast, though!
 
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2. Board Game: Disney Magic Kingdom Game [Average Rating:5.58 Overall Rank:13243]
Snooze Fest
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Hillsborough
North Carolina
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DISNEY

SUNDAY, June 30, 2013


The name of the day is ... SWEAT! I suppose it wasn't too hot for Orlando, but with the humidity as high as it was, it sure felt hot today! We started off at the Magic Kingdom. It's never been one I particularly enjoy -- in fact, Disney generally doesn't have a high hit ratio for me -- but there are some new rides so we decided to try them out. We took the early shuttle (which supposedly leaves right on time and you better be there or they'll leave you ... but was actually a bit late picking us up) and got there, to the entrance, around 8:30. We were sweating up a storm before we even made it to the ticket pickup, of course. But anyway, they don't open till 9! So we stood around in the heat for a while, looking for shade in the store nearby. A little family of ducklings walked by, and entered the park -- so cute!

The new rides (Little Mermaid, some others) were kind of entertaining, but I'm much more a roller coaster guy than a family-AKA-children's-ride guy. We soon left the Magic Kingdom (via a long bus ride -- this park is HUGE!) and headed to Animal Kingdom. Animals, of course, are cute! This was much more fun. There were a few rides, and a lot of walking around on trails looking at all manners of birds, fish, and other animals. The gorilla baby was awfully cute, and Daddy was impressively huge! The ride through their "African" Harabe National Wildlife Preserve was fun, too, with lots of animals to see somewhat close up.

From there, we took another bus to Hollywood Studios. The new stuff here included a Pirates of the Carribean -- lame, although the decorations are good -- and a redone Star Tours -- fun if you're into those sorts of rides, but I'm not; it was OK, I guess. We skipped the redone Alien Encounter, which is now a Stitch and Milo thing and, according to our hotel's concierge, pretty lame. I did go to an old favorite, the Tower of Terror -- love those drops! And both of us ended the day with a ride on the Aerosmith roller coaster: FUN, if short, ride with great acceleration at the beginning!

During the day we went to a few 3-D shows; 4-D, if you count the puffs of air and the sprays of water! With my Lasik surgery and mono-vision, 3D doesn't work for me as well as it used to. These were still fun, especially the one where a hornet stings you in the back and the beetles and other bugs crawl out of the theater under your seat; but I wish that one eye focused better! We also ate at a few nice places. We had lunch (delicious battered and fried beans, pot stickers, and other asian stuff) at Yak and Yeti (or something like that) in the Asia part of Animal Kingdom. Dinner was a bit of a trial: it started raining in earnest around 5:45 and we went in search of a nice sit-down restaurant. First choice was the Brown Derby, but they weren't taking walk-ins (and first available reservation was 9pm!). We looked at other places but finally ended up next to the Derby, at the '50s Prime Time Movie Diner and had simple, solid, tasty food: meatloaf, pork pot roast, and fried chicken for dinner; then a brownie sundae a la mode (with Cracker Jacks on top!) ... yummy!

The shuttle back to our hotel didn't leave until 9:45pm (which probably meant it actually left at 10, and we'd have gotten back around 10:30 or later). But by 8pm we were tired and decided to just take a cab home. Stupid Disney ... their signs pointed us to a tram that would take us to the cabs -- but they were just a bit down the road! We wasted time sitting around waiting for the tram, then waiting some more while they repeatedly had "last calls for boarding", then went in a loop and got off just a short walk away from where we'd gotten on the stupid tram in the first place! Unfortunately for us, the cab driver in front of the line was a smoker; I sat behind him and had to breathe his stink for a while before it finally dissipated. A short ride (and $28) later we were home by 9 -- yay! Time to wash the stink of the day off!

Tomorrow, it's Universal!
 
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3. Board Game: Universal Life [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Snooze Fest
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Hillsborough
North Carolina
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UNIVERSAL

MONDAY July 1, 2013


Today's word is WET -- we definitely had to use our ponchos several times today! We had purchased multi-park passes, with the $30 meal plan as well. The meal plan turned out to be not so great: it was only at 4 restaurants, and the food was just OK. Economically it's almost certainly worth it: you can eat as much as you want, and it would likely cost you more if you paid for each item separately. But the items are just your standard fare: hotdogs, burgers, fried chicken, salad, mediocre cupcakes, bad chocolate chip cookies. And no drinks or ice cream!! Actually, we'd gotten 2 days of this plan. We decided to cancel tomorrow's so we can eat what we want where we want (and hopefully won't feel the need to get our money's worth and over eat!).

We started the day at Universal's Islands of Adventure, heading straight for the new Harry Potter area. These guys sure do know how to build stuff! Harry Potter, Seuss land, The Forgotten Continent, the Comic Strip area and Toon land were all really amazing! The whole town in Harry Potter land, and Hogwart's itself, where just really well done! Butterbeer is pretty tasty, too (we had it iced: sort of a butterscotch flavor)! They also know how to do those 3D rides, where you sit in a cart that whips you around all over the place while you're watching 3d projections and animatronics that provide a story line, very well. The Harry Potter one was the first one we rode, but others (e.g., Spiderman, Mummy Returns) were also quite good. The Dragon Challenge (in Harry Potter; re-themed Fire and Ice, which we'd ridden before) was as I remembered it: kind of fun, but too much head banging into the side cushions for me to really enjoy it (Mary skipped this one).

We finished what we wanted to see early afternoon, and headed over to Universal Studios. It started to just POUR as we were leaving the park, so we hung out under cover for a while, waiting for the rain to pass. We did eventually get there, ponchos in place (and pulled out again several times the rest of the day)! There were more 3D rides, and some good roller coasters, too (Rock It was awesome; Dr. Doom's Terror Fall was pretty good, but Twilight Terror at Disney does the drop thing better). After a long, wet day I was pretty tired; decided to go sit at the bus stop around 7:30pm. The 8pm shuttle was there a few minutes late (!), but left almost immediately and took us directly back -- yay! Sore feet and back need a rest!


TUESDAY July 2, 2013
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4. Board Game: Universal Power [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
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Hillsborough
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UNIVERSAL

TUESDAY July 2, 2013


Well it turned out that the shuttle to Universal was already full by the time we got back from the park last night. So we ended up taking a cab again -- not what we'd planned, but it worked out for the best. We got there around 8am and had a healthy breakfast: we split a Cinnabon and their pigs-in-blankets (actually sausages in crescent rolls). We headed over to Universal Studios only to find that they don't open at 9! Instead of waiting 20 minutes, though, Mary wanted to get back on the Harry Potter ride. So we walked all the way back to Islands of Adventure (opens at 8am), all the way through the park to the back, to find that there was a 60 minute wait! This is not a ride I felt we needed to ride again! But Mary had waited patiently for me several times yesterday, so I could at least wait in line for her (if not exactly patiently!). It turned out to be less than 60 minutes: we jumped into the single-only line and zipped up there much sooner, in fact. Yeah, cool ride.

After canceling our meal plan yesterday, we'd made reservations for lunch at Mythos -- which they advertise as the top rated amusement park restaurant 6 years running. So we walked around and looked for stuff to do until then. We even went on the Hippogriff ride, which is clearly intended for kids: we barely fit in the seats! We redid Spiderman, and maybe a few others?, and walked around a lot in the heat and humidity (and rain) before heading over around 11 (reservations at 11:15). The restaurant is inside a really cool mountain carved with faces, with waterfalls coming out the mouths ... VERY cool! The inside isn't quite as cool, but it's still very nice and carries the theme. We had a couple of nice appetizers -- mushroom cassoulet and a Mediterranean flat bread -- and then split the steak dish. DELICIOUS! Much better than Delmonico's steak: cooked medium-well, but still tender and juicy and yummy!

After lunch, we headed back over to the Studio side. Mary didn't want to get on any rides right after lunch so went for some shows or more sedate stuff, like the Terminator 2 show, the ET ride, the Men In Black ride (just target practice in a moving cart), and Disaster! (a funny little movie-making experience where several audience members get to "act", as well as the entire audience as they go through a slow disaster, and they show you the final production at the end). I rode on the Simpsons Ride, another 3D type experience where you watch stuff while the car moves vigorously in many directions; pretty well done, actually. We finally made it to the Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit and Mary thought she was up for it. Yesterday I'd gone with Crystal Method's _____. Today I went with some Rock instead: still a fun ride for me! Mary, though, wasn't so crazy about it -- still too much head banging; she was pretty much done for the day. I, however, went back on it 2 more times (first with another rock song, then back to Crystal Method)! I used the time(s) in line to take my PBW turns, play Scramble with Mary, and check emails. It was nice being out of the rain, too!

We left Rockit around 4:40 or so and headed out of the park ... time to call it a day! We had dinner at the world's biggest Hard Rock Cafe (we split a pineapple coconut mojito, salad, and the Santa Fe Rolls), during which we decided that we were both tired and sore, and deserved some relaxation: we booked a 7pm appointment at the hotel spa for a couples massage! We finished dinner with time enough to take a leisurely walk out to the bus stop for our 6pm ride back to the hotel. It wasn't so quick today -- caught in traffic -- but we got back in time to take a quick shower before heading over to the spa (they called and wanted us there 15min early!). The massages were a good idea: they were both very good! I like my massages pretty deep, and my guy massaged the hell out of me! My calves are actually kind of sore now!

So now, time to relax and get ready for the gaming part of this vacation!

Lessons for Universal Attendees
- wear (cargo) pants with big pockets (and don't bring any bags -- those are a pain in the ass to deal with)
- bring a poncho, hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen
- bring an AMEX card: there's a welcome center in Studios with a bathroom, water, snacks, and outlets -- we visited it several times the last two days!
- buy the Express Pass: it's expensive, but the time you save skipping through the lines is well worth it!
- skip the meal plan; eat at some nice restaurants instead (make reservations early)
- have a massage when you're done with your visit!

 
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5. Board Game: Mice and Mystics [Average Rating:7.41 Overall Rank:220] [Average Rating:7.41 Unranked]
Snooze Fest
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Hillsborough
North Carolina
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WEDNESDAY July 3, 2013

We continued our break from Insanity, although 3 days of parks may be an OK substitute, and did P90X Chest, Shoulders, and Arms. Boy, those sure are different muscles -- we're both going to be pretty sore in a day or two!

We got to the game room just a bit after 10am, and it already had several people playing games! Pretty surprising, but that's great! After registering, Mary and I were trying to decide on what to play, and looking for people to play with. We hadn't decided but happened to walk by a group trying to learn Terra Mystica from the rulebook. So volunteered to teach gem the game while Mary went off to find us a game and other players.

By the time I finished the TM rules, Mary had found a couple (Tom and Katherine arrived during that time) and a game: Mice and Mystics. I was not terribly excited by this choice since I'm not a big fan of fully cooperative games. But there you go, the game was chosen, apparently everyone wanted to try it, and at least I could check it off my list of games to try!

Fortunately, someone (don't remember his name) had volunteered to teach us the game. It's a pretty straightforward dungeon-crawl type of game: you set up a scenario, start in a room with monsters, fight and kill them, search for items, and make progress through the map until you fulfill the scenario objective (in our case, we needed to get through 6 double-sided map tiles). If the game timer, which advances with random events and whenever a player gets knocked out, reaches the designated end everyone loses. It's all that, with:
- some interesting mechanics for ensuring each run-through is different (encounter cards, randomly chosen, dictate different monsters in different orders)
- simple but effective monster movement rules (attack closest person, but not if they've been attacked previously this combat)
- a stupid theme I don't care about (we're mice? really?)
- a lot of dice rolling, but you're often only rolling 1 or 2 dice so it feels VERY random
- minimal character advancement: the leveling up seems overly costly (hard to tell after one play, of course)

I was very glad when, after 84 minutes, we lost and could put this thing away! I can see that this could be much more fun with a younger audience but I would MUCH rather play Descent.
 
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6. Board Game: Cartoona [Average Rating:6.06 Overall Rank:8073]
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Hillsborough
North Carolina
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We went to lunch after the previous game, in the hotel restaurant (Bamboo Grill). Service was sloooooooooooooow and not very good: they repeatedly got our orders (a bit) wrong, took a really long time to get the food to us, didn't check on us much at all, didn't split the check as requested, and forgot to give us the 20% con discount! Mary and I ordered burgers that were both burnt, and sent back to the kitchen. The replacements were actually quite good, and they comped us the sandwiches, but I am not at all happy with their service!

We got back to the game room a bit after 2pm. I had a work call at 3pm, so we looked for something quick that I could play before going. We kinda succeeded: this game should be pretty quick. But it took us a little bit of time to get through the rules (I would suggest to any demoers out there that it would be very helpful if a player aid with a brief but complete rule summary were left at the table for each player). I had to leave before we could finish (I'd say we were maybe 2/3 of the way through?) but I'll go ahead and comment on the game anyway.

This is a light set-collection take-that tile game. The tiles have various monster parts pictured on them (heads or parts of heads, front/back bodies, front/back legs, tail, beak); there are also some 1-tile monsters. You start the game with several tiles and 2 cards behind your screen.

On your turn, draw a tile and a card. Then, you may play a card and/or a tile, in any order. The tiles are used to construct monsters in your display (for 3er game, max 2 monsters at a time; single-tile monsters do not count against your limit). When you have completed a monster, may score it: every tile has a number on it; double the sum if monster is all the same color. Single-tile monsters score bonus if you have 2 or 3 different ones to score. All scored tiles are removed from the game. The cards do a wide variety of things (e.g., steal a tile, trade tiles with discard pile or another player, change point value of a tile, block another card being played, etc.). The first player to 50VP wins.

This is another game that's not for me. And it's not meant to be -- it's a light family game. For me, drawing one tile at a time and hoping to draw what you need, and dealing with cards that can mess with your collection, is just a bit annoying.
 
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7. Board Game: Ginkgopolis [Average Rating:7.43 Overall Rank:321]
Snooze Fest
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Hillsborough
North Carolina
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≈I've been playing a lot of stuff online recently, including Through the Ages, Trajan, and Burgundy, against Robyn -- and damn it, she beats me more than 2:1! But we hadn't actually met (in person) before. She was in a Bora Bora game earlier and during my call, and we'd arranged to meet and play something. My call ended just a bit before 4, and I wandered over to the main room. They were close to finishing the game (and I delivered my math trade game with one of the players) so I wandered a bit, found my wife, surfed, etc. Deron had been watching Bora Bora; he, Robyn, Mary, and I went off to find a game after BB ended.

Having played Gingkopolis so often recently, I wouldn't have normally chosen this one; but it fit with our needs (relatively quick to play, not too many rules, and no one vetoing it!) so we played it out. Deron and Robyn, the two newbies, beat both me and Mary! Congrats, Deron ... good game!

I'm still enjoying this one, although it feels as if either I'm just not getting it, or there is more randomness (and less opportunity for tactical play) than I had originally thought? Probably I'm just not getting it ...
 
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8. Board Game: Troyes: The Ladies of Troyes [Average Rating:7.95 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.95 Unranked]
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So then we again tried to figure out what to play. I prefer longer games, Mary wants to only play new games and games we don't already own, ... how to pick something? Well thankfully Robyn and Deron had The Ladies of Troyes with them -- their copy, rules read but game unplayed. Mary and I both like the base game (we've each played it twice, I think?) and have been wanting to try this expansion. Deron taught us the rules (and for the most part also taught the base game; it's been a while since we had played it and needed a lot of refreshing!).

This is an interesting addition. I think I'm happy playing just the base game, although people who have played that a lot may enjoy this more. It adds:
- new activity cards in each of the 3 areas
- new black enemy cards
- new end-game bonus cards, for meeples on different colors of activity cards or buildings
- a purple die for each player: only the owner may use the purple die
- 4 new board areas placed along the wall, and a new pawn placed at the top of the wall; may spend pips to move the pawn around the wall, and to place cubes on the board area(s) your pawn has passed. These areas do a variety of things (eg spend 1 cube to earn 4 influence when someone buys your die)


 
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9. Board Game: Pluckin' Pairs [Average Rating:6.62 Overall Rank:2997]
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Tom taught a bunch of us this little party game, one of his favorites from last year. It's pretty fun, although there are other party games I would much rather play!

Each round, put 11 cards on display, each with a random picture on top. Under time pressure (30-second hourglass?), players simultaneously group these into 5 pairs and one left-over. Then, announce your pairs: get 1VP per player with the same pair, unless every player has that pair. We also played with a variant where matching the odd-card-out also scored VP. To set up the next round, just flip the cards over (they're double-sided). Every odd-numbered round, you of course need a new set of cards. The player with the highest sum after 6? rounds wins.

The fun comes from seeing how and why people paired the various photos. But there are some problems:
- the cards and really tiny: bigger would be better (easier to see at distance; less likely to be totally confused about what you're looking at)
- the paper pad could use some simplification
- may not be so much fun if you aren't thinking like everyone else in the group
- the box is HUGE relative to the contents; really, you just need a deck of picture cards, a timer, and some scrap paper

It's a pretty good game, but it's hard to beat the classics!
 
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10. Board Game: Combat Commander: Europe [Average Rating:7.90 Overall Rank:104]
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THURSDAY July 4, 2013 - Independence Day!

Still a P90X day: this time, Plyometrics in our room. Man, that is still a lot of workout for us, especially the jump-knee-tucks and rock-star jumps ... Whew! We finished around 8:40 or so, and I rushed to get ready so I could make the 9am session I'd signed up for (on the Big Game Geeklist -- thanks for setting that up, Patrick!). Unfortunately:
- despite my cold shower, I was still warm from the workout. That, and the walk outside, meant that I was pouring sweat by the time I got to the convention area!
- the item didn't actually say where the game would be set up! So I spent some time walking around several times looking, and finally posted to the GL
- Patrick arrived soon after, and I found him around 9:15
- no one else who'd signed up actually showed up!

Well, despite the late start it all worked out well. A big thanks to Patrick (Farsol) for teaching: I've owned this game at least twice now, and been scared off by the rulebook. But I like card-driven games and I have wanted to learn (i.e., be taught) this game for quite some time! And thanks to good cards and good luck, the Americans prevailed over the Germans ... Happy Independence Day!

This is a very cool game, although I think it's likely still too much of a wargame for me. I love the card-driven nature of it, where the cards are used to:
- issue orders on your turn (e.g., move, fire, advance one step with no op-fire possible, call in an artillary strike, recover -- flip a broken unit back to full strength, rout the other player -- force them to make checks on their broken units)
- take actions on either player's turn (e.g., ambush them in melee, opportunity fire, modify combat strength)
- make dice rolls (every card has 2d6 at the bottom)
- trigger events (trigger words on die rolls)
- enact events (e.g., sniper fires at a hex, weapons break, weather effects)
- choose a random hex (hexes are coded; each card shows one such code)
- advance game rounds (each time a player depletes their deck, advance one step on the time track; defender also gains 1VP and other stuff may also trigger)

But I don't like:
- setup: wow, there are a lot of chits to dig through to set up for your scenario!
- charts: there are charts and charts for stuff like reinforcements, terrain modifier summaries, etc. I just don't want to have to deal with that stuff! Of course, after playing a lot of this likely becomes unnecessary.
- dealing with little chits during game play. I like how 1941 has big chunky tiles

On the other hand, game play is pretty cool. I generally don't have a feel for combat tactics, and stuggle to figure out what I should be doing at any given moment. But card-driven games help you in that respect: you can only do what the cards allow you to do! Maybe I will try this on Vassal some time ...

We didn't completely finish the game, actually, but we had both signed up for the Tichu tourney at Noon, and by 11:45 it seemed highly unlikely that the Germans would be able to turn things around (I needed only 2 more kills for a surrender victory and had just received a nice influx of fresh troops). So we called it quits and cleaned up.

Again, thanks to Patrick for doing a good job teaching this game, and helping the newbie win one for the Americans!

And thanks, Mary, for bringing us some nice Doubletree cookies (and half a Subway sandwich for me) while we played!!
 
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11. Board Game: Tichu [Average Rating:7.60 Overall Rank:123]
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I think there were 13 teams in the Tichu tournament. Mary and I don't usually partner together, but we did for this. Sadly for us, it was a pretty poor showing. The other guys both played well, and had some very nice hands (they had 5 useful bombs between them, I think, compared to our useless 2: an ace-bomb with a bunch of crap, where they went out one-two anyway, and an 8-bomb with nothing to back it up, either). We ended up losing 380-1020 ... BAD cards!

But on the plus side, I had signed up (on that Big Game Geeklist) to be an alternate in the next game; one of the players had to back out at the last minute -- previous game running long -- so, assuming I wasn't still in the Tichu Tournament, I was in! And so I was ...
 
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12. Board Game: Rex: Final Days of an Empire [Average Rating:7.14 Overall Rank:613]
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This, too, didn't have a specific location posted in the item. At least, now one I found. So I wandered a bit looking for it before finding it in the back of the main game room. Actually, I think Mary found it for me. Anyway, I had not managed to make it through the entire rulebook yet. Maybe others hadn't, either? Thanks, Bob, for going through the rules! I have played Dune before, but it's been many years and I didn't remember all the details.

This is still like Dune, but with some streamlining (only 8 rounds, for example), a few rule changes (e.g., the weapon/shield explosion only happens if opposing players play them, and leaders survive), and a different (ugly) map. I strongly prefer the Dune theme and board, but the game play is pretty similar. I chose the Bene Gesserit race (turtles), and predicted the Harkonnens (Barony of something) would win on turn 7. But then, since the Harkonnen player was a veteran, I changed it to turn 6.

Eric was Atreides, Spencer the Emperor (? the ones who get all money spent on cards), Bob the Fremen, and ___ was Spacing Guild (get all money spent on deploying troops). An early alliance card resulted in Bene Gesserit-Atreides, Fremen-Space Guild, Harkonnen-Emperor pairings). Sadly, Eric misunderstood his card and lost one of the strongholds early on; he also repeatedly got hit by the storm, losing many (and eventually all) his troops. I slowly built up forces, but when I did finally battle I lost nearly everything to a laser/shield explosion! Other alliance cards came up, but neither Eric nor I were good partners and everyone else was happy ... so allies never changed. In the end, we both had lost all our troops and were slowly rebuilding forces.

But it was too little too late for the good guys: a combination of moves resulted in one of the strongholds being totally empty and the Emperor was able to move in and hold it for the win for that team. On turn SEVEN -- boo! If only I hadn't changed my prediction at the last minute! It goes to show you ... that old saying about trusting your first choice is a good one. Don't change your answers on tests, people!

Or maybe I should have remembered about that explosion thing!

Good game, but the Dune theme/board sure are much more fun! Some of the changes probably are for the better, but I would love to go back and play Dune again!

-------------
Time for dinner -- yay! Mary, Tom, Eric, Bryan, and I went (back) to Delmonico's for dinner. Tom and Bryan were a bit pressed for time -- 7pm Game Designer panel scheduled -- but we didn't actually have to rush. We had a great time chatting about games and stuff! And, of course, great food: we ordered several appetizers (antipasti, cheesy garlic bread, portobello mushrooms ... all delicious) to share. Mary had a delicious filet mingon (sp?) and I had shrimp scampi on angel hair pasta -- YUMMY! I also had 2 glasses of tasty (but I'm not a wine connisseur) house cabernet! It was not a cheap dinner, but at least we got 4 delicious meals out of it (dinner, and leftovers for breakfast)! And we really had a nice time at dinner!
 
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13. Board Game: Unpublished Prototype [Average Rating:6.95 Overall Rank:2254]
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Liar's Tycoon (working title) by Bud Leiser (who wants info about this game spread far and wide)

I had signed up for the Prototype session, which started at 8pm. Until then, I chatted with some people and listened in on the tail end of the game designer/publisher panel: interesting discussion, and VERY entertaining final question and answer (about what would be best to fight to the death: lion in the jungle, shark in the water, or bear in the woods) ... maybe I should add the Plaid Hat Podcast to my long list of gaming podcasts!

Shortly after 8, a bunch of game designers began setting up their games. The first several I asked about did not sound at all like my type of game: a coop (with drafting), a take-that card game, something with fuzzy dice, and an abstract 2-player game. Maybe they're good for the right audience, but that's not me! Finally I found this, a PURE economic euro: interesting mechanics, not a whole lot of theme (buying resources, converting to money) or interaction (for the most part, just competition for bids) ... sounds good!

This was quite enjoyable, although too long (2 hours) for what it is: you are basically doing the same thing repeatedly. Things do, however, change between rounds a bit (supply of goods, possibly new action choices) so you do have ongoing choices to make. Some of the length was, of course, simply due to having new players (and one particularly analytical one ... Hi J!). I did terribly, coming in dead last with a score less than half that of the winner (scores were something like 116-78-62-53)! What did she do differently? She used the extra action cards almost exclusively, didn't seem to worry too much about the end-game bonuses, and must have done much better at the auctions each round!

Good game, Bud! Some thoughts (including the post-game discussion):
- how would it play with 2 workers/player (4er)? Each round would be faster, but there'd be less chance of a player having a big turn. People also wouldn't have turns where they were wasting their 3rd worker doing nothing. You might need to decrease goods availability, of course. You could then have 3/player in a 3er game, to have a similar number of workers on the board. Maybe it's just better as is ...
- why don't the supply cards change based on player count? or maybe they do, and we just didn't see that other set of cards?
- it might be nice to have more action cards, and more variety in them?
- I really like the switchback turns
- it may be nice to have some information about both cards each round, like how card backs are market in Pergammon? For example, you could have 3 decks of cards, one each for wood/stone/iron. Card backs might indicate low/high. Each player still gets to look at just one card.
- the No Purchase option seems painful: may be better to have a little reward (like taking a wood, or $1)
- obviously, the board needs to be redone: more space for stuff, bigger board, pretty art

--- Rules Summary ---
Setup (4er game). To start, each player gets $25, 2 random contracts, and 3 numbered (1, 2, 3) workers. 4 random contracts and 4 random end-of-game bonus cards are put in display. Also, 4 action cards are placed near the action row.

Each round has 2 phases. First, there is an auction for resources (wood, stone, iron) that are available at 2 prices: a limited number cheaper than the rest. Each player has partial information about how many will be cheap (there are 2 supply cards; each player gets to look at one of them). In turn order but switchback style, players place one of their workers onto the market board to indicate how many of each they WILL purchase. Then, reveal the supply cards. In turn order, players activate their #1 workers, then #2, then #3; if you run out of cash, may take $5 loans as needed (pay off at any time, $7 each).

Next, players use their 3 workers to take actions. Again in turn order but switchback style, they choose any action. Actions, taken immediately when chosen, include:
- become first player next round
- take one contract from the display
- fulfill a contract you have: turn in the requisite wood/stone/iron and take the reward (usually cash; sometimes other benefits like taking another contract, or playing your workers face down next round)
- take 1 wood
- convert 1 wood and 1 stone to 1 iron
- the action cards: these generally allow you to convert 2 types of resources into a third, at a favorable ratio. If you choose one of these cards, the card is discarded immediately (i.e., only used once).

End of Round: when players have used their 3 workers, replenish the display of contracts and action cards so that 4 of each are available. New start player takes the Start Player marker. If any player has completed 7 or more contracts, next round will be the final round.

End of Game: reward cash for people who satisfied the bonus card conditions (e.g., most roads built, fewest incomplete contracts). Most cash wins!
 
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14. Board Game: City of Iron [Average Rating:7.30 Overall Rank:851]
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FRIDAY July 5, 2013

We woke up early, but were feeling sort of lazy today. Or maybe "achey" is a better word for it ... no workout at all! Instead, we took our time getting ready, and had our leftovers (steak, shrimp, noodles, salad, portobello) for breakfast. We didn't get to the game room till just before 10am! I had signed up for a big game of Eclipse Ancients at noon, so didn't want to play anything too long. Wandering the game room, we found a couple of people just setting this game up, which I've heard about somewhere (podcast, maybe?). So we joined them. Good thing, too, since one of them soon (most of the way through the rules explanation) had to leave for work stuff!

This is a pretty interesting deck-building game! There is a lot going on, with the deck-building being only a part of it. And the best part? There is no constant deck shuffling -- in fact, no shuffling at all! It took a while figuring out how the game works, but in fact game play is pretty smooth. The card row works well to keep the game moving, and should help make every game a bit different. I would like to try this one again!

--- Summary ---
This is a deck-building, area-majority game with a steampunk theme. Players each are a different race/faction, with slightly different abilities. They start with the same 2 decks of cards (military and civilian cards, 2 cards each) but they each also have their own supplies of these cards from which they will be adding cards to their decks. They also start with a city tile with 4 terrain types, with one district tile on it (the 5 = max number of resource cards allowed in the city). Several other city tiles, showing a distance (4-8 compasses), a variety of terrains, and possibly a ship or airship icon, are placed nearby. The central board has a card row where cards (in 3 groups for phases 1-3) will appear. These are mostly resource cards (~10 types in the game; cards show 1+ resource icons, and requisite terrain). The board also has a track for each resource; these are used to show each player's current total in each resource. The tracks also show the coins earned at the end of each turn to the player(s) furthest in the track, and the VP earned for 1st/2nd place players each scoring round (3 in the game). 3 decks of town cards are shuffled and placed next to the board. Players may look through the deck, but do not change the order.

Each turn, players bid for turn order. Then, each player takes an action in order, a total of 3 actions each. Actions are things like:
- build a card (from the display or that you'd previously stored): pay its cost (coins) and put it in a city with the requisite terrain. Update the central board resource counter for that resource type.
- store a card: take it from display and set it aside (may build it later)
- play a card from your hand. These do a variety of things like collect coins, attack a town (top card of one of the 3 town decks, or another player's town; have a range and defense -- you spend cards with compass icons for range, and military strength for defense), discover a new city (play cards with requisite icons: compasses, possibly ship or airship icon; then place a new district tile on it), add a district to one of your cities (increases the allowable number of resource cards), etc. All spent cards are placed in appropriate (military/civilian) discard deck.

After 3 actions/player, everyone:
- collects income (1 per resource card built, plus income for players with the most of each resource)
- draw cards according to your districts (they allow you to draw either a civilian or military card from your deck). If draw deck empty, flip discard pile over (no shuffling).
- spend coin(s) to buy cards from your Supply; these are added to your hand (no hand limit)
- advance card row (first several cards discarded, others slide forward, new cards drawn); if End of Phase card drawn, Scoring will occur after next round.

Scoring: for each resource type, award VP to 1st/2nd place players as shown. There are bonuses for being especially high on most resource tracks.

The 3rd End of Phase card is at bottom of deck. Game ends the turn after that card is drawn. Some end-game bonuses (e.g., most towns, most compasses on city tiles, etc.) are awarded; then most VP wins.
 
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15. Board Game: Tichu [Average Rating:7.60 Overall Rank:123]
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Me and Bob vs. Mary and Daniel. Partial game (3pm M44 tourney scheduled)

With limited time, we decided to play something quick. It could've been Parade, but then I suggested Tichu (what?!) and everyone seemed agreeable. Bob and I were getting some good hands and were ahead at 3, when we called it quits so I could go play some Memoir '44. And I got a bomb (or 2?) this game -- yay!
 
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16. Board Game: Memoir '44 [Average Rating:7.54 Overall Rank:117] [Average Rating:7.54 Unranked]
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Tourney. Moyland Wood Scenario x 2.

I like this game, in fact this system in general, but never get to play it except at gaming events. So I signed up for the Memoir '44 Tourney, as well as the Battle Cry Demo (or Tourney?) tomorrow.

I played 2 games, winning both of them ... but not quite well enough: I came in 3rd. Close, though! Anyway, it's not about the winning but about the playing: it's nice just to be able to play the game once in a while!
 
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17. Board Game: Legendary: A Marvel Deck Building Game [Average Rating:7.62 Overall Rank:126] [Average Rating:7.62 Unranked]
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After finishing up Memoir, I wandered a bit looking for something quick to play: the flea market was scheduled to begin at 7, and I thought a long game wasn't the best idea. Sadly, most people were either already in a game, or starting a game I had no interest in playing. So instead I took my turns of Terra Mystica and Burgundy (PBW), worked on this GL a bit, etc. Eventually, a table with this game put up the "Players Wanted" sign. I've been wanting to try this, sort of: I'm not a big fan of deck-building games, but this has been getting some hype of late.

We went with a random setup, and it was pretty BO-ring! My starting setup was 4 coins and 2 strength for the first 2 turns: could only buy 2 heroes, and couldn't fight anything. Mike #1 was in a similar situation. Mike #2 and What's-Her-Name did better, able to both buy stuff and fight villains. I ended up buying the silver-equivalents, but couldn't make the deck work very quickly. Why? Because W-H-N bought Black Widow Silent Sniper, perfect for this villain (Mr. Sinister) -- by the end, she was able to defeat him 3 (out of a max 4!) times! She is particularly -- brokenly -- effective against Mr. Sinister. But even without that little hiccup, this doesn't seem like a very interesting game.

The game is sort of a mix of Thunderstone and Ascension, with a comic theme. Villains march into town in random order, have some effects when they appear and when you fight them. Here, they continue marching out of town (escaping), triggering a scenario-specific result. Similarly, heroes available for purchase march into display randomly. Each turn you draw a villain card (either a villain, or a card triggering some effect). Then use your hand: may use every icon and all text on all cards (i.e., you don't get to/have to choose between which parts of a card to use). At the end, discard all your cards and draw a new hand. But with no cheap-cost things to do (unlike Ascension, which has 1-cost cards and 2-cost monsters) you can end up just sitting around hoping for a good draw!

I was so bored -- very happy when W-H-N won the game and it was finally over! I might try this again, if someone really wants to play it; but it doesn't do a lot for me!

---------------

After the game, I joined Mary in the flea market. This was near the end, and surely whatever good stuff was there was long gone! Except for Tom's table: he was practically giving away a lot of games, including some good ones like Felix, Kamisado, and Tide of Iron (for $10!!). But we have only limited luggage space, and we don't really need any new games! Mary did, however, pick up Qwixx and Fast Food, both of which are good games; and some others I'm not so sure about!

After the flea market, Bob, Daniel, _____, Mary and I went to dinner -- back to Delmonico's! We had a great time: thanks, all! This time we got their Napoli what's-it (the fried noodles with cheese sauce, olives, sausage, banana pepper slices) at the bar while waiting. Three of us also had some drinks: great $5 happy hour! I ended up just having the tomato-mozzarella-basil appetizer for dinner, but still ended up pretty stuffed! But I sure do like their house cabernet! We didn't leave the place until after 10pm ... well past bed time!
 
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18. Board Game: Battle Cry: 150th Civil War Anniversary Edition [Average Rating:7.64 Overall Rank:927]
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SATURDAY July 6, 2013

Well, last night's dinner and wine took a toll. That, and the fact that there were some loud kids around late last night and other noisy people upstairs! The last several weeks (not counting vacation days) I've been waking up about 4:30am. I didn't get out of bed today until 9:30! I sure did feel rested, though! The Battle Cry tournament was scheduled for 10am, so again no time to work out .

I got there right at 10am, but I was number 7 (of 10 who'd signed up) to arrive so we waited a while. Eventually, an 8th person showed up and we began. I think I've played this once before, at least a partial game of the original version (and maybe online at Game Table Online?), but if so it's been a long time. After a rules review, we were off! We played 2 Gettysburg scenarios, 150 years (and a few days) after the actual events: Devil's Den and Pickett's Charge. I ended up winning both games, although the second one turned out to have been premature -- we had both missed a rule that gave me a medal I shouldn't have actually had yet (a general cannot claim a medal from holding one of the fenced hexes). But the game was already put away when we figured it out. So, a tainted victory ... but victory nonetheless. I did get to play 2 fun games (against Alex and Mark)!

We weren't the only ones to screw up the rules (one game forgot to take a card out of the deck and it apparently changed the battle significantly) so I guess I'll just live with the taint! I ended up with the best overall record, taking home a blue ribbon (to go with my white from yesterday's Memoir '44 tourney). And bonus -- Richard told me there are actually prizes for both these tourneys! It turned out to be gift certificates to Cool Stuff -- a total of $50 I'll have to spend tomorrow, assuming I have luggage space!

--- Rule Differences vs. M'44 ---
- Infantry:
... move 1 and battle (may not move 2)
... fight at 4-3-2-1
... may not take ground unless accompanied by a Leader
- Artillery:
... fight at 5-4-3-2-1
... if on hilltop, 5-4-3-2-1-1
... DO need line of sight
- Leaders:
... may join any unit
... allows that unit to ignore one retreat
... if the unit attacks and empties a hex, may take ground
- New terrain types
 
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19. Board Game: Unpublished Prototype [Average Rating:6.95 Overall Rank:2254]
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After Battle Cry, I rounded up a few people (Zev, Bud) and Mary and I went back to Delmonico's yet again for lunch! The $6 filet mignon sandwiches were quite tasty. A bit on the small side, but actually pretty good size for lunch -- and great for just $6!

When we got back, we decided to play Bud's game, Liar's Tycoon, which I'd played yesterday. He'd since changed it, adding a fourth resource type (labor), increasing starting money (from $25 to $50!) and contract payoffs, and moving the guillotine cards (pay 8 iron to earn $32 AND take a contract from another player) to the action card deck instead. We only played a partial game: I think it was better yesterday! We chatted for a while after ... hopefully the game will continue to change for the better -- I think a lot of good ideas came from that discussion (especially from Zev!).

We were going to relax with a game of Tichu afterwards, so Bud bowed out. As it turned out, though, we never found a fourth person -- this seems to be the wrong con for that game! Instead, we ended up playing another partial game: one that Zev had brought with him that he and Mary (and others) had both tried yesterday but with one key rule error. I thought there were a lot of cool ideas there, and it's very different; but maybe some things could be simplified or just removed ... a bit too much stuff in the game. On the other hand, that seems to be the thing to do these days.

After that game, although it seemed as if we had just gotten back from lunch, Mary and I decided to join Tom and Katherine -- back at Delmonico's!! -- for dinner. We again got the Napoli (pasta chips covered in cheese and cheese sauce, etc.), we each had that wedding soup stuff, and then we split the fruit in sweet cream ... light and very tasty! Another great meal and conversation (also with Richard and Sandy, who we saw at the bar on the way in)!
 
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20. Board Game: Xia: Legends of a Drift System [Average Rating:7.82 Overall Rank:163]
Snooze Fest
United States
Hillsborough
North Carolina
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We love our pups!! Misu, RIP 28 Nov 2010. Tikka, RIP 11 Aug 2011.
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When we got back to the game room, we walked around looking for something to play. We checked out Cool Stuff's inventory, found The Great Zimbabwe, and decided to see if the library had it so we could try before buying. The didn't, but someone happened to walk up and check this game out while we were there. This has been in almost constant play, and has been getting a lot of good reviews from people here at the con (and online) so we joined 2 experienced players.

I'd seen this on Kickstarter, where it had a very successful run. The pieces look terrific, but after reading most of the rules I hadn't thought it was going to be something we'd enjoy -- I did not Kickstart this one. And it turned out I was right! We played a short game to only 7 points; it ended up being less than 90 minutes. I ended up winning, but largely because I rolled better (several high movement rolls), rolled 2 20's, and played towards a short game (you get 1VP every time you sell to empty your hold ... I sold fewer goods but more often than others). Also, a timing thing: I sold cubes and bought my final VP (may buy 1VP for $5000 on any planet).

There is some good stuff here:
- the bits look great!
- the map-building/exploration is pretty simple and works well, although it could result in supply/demand payoffs that don't make much sense (prices to buy and sell are fixed, not based on distance)
- variety of ships, each with different shapes (which limit what components you can have, and how many goods you can store) and abilities (e.g., pay energy to reroll, pay energy to move further)

But I didn't like:
- the randomness of rolling dice for everything:
... 50/50 chance to get the resource you want or take damage (either lose energy or take damage)
... totally random roll-and-move
... random payoffs for missions
... a third of the discover markers (or whatever they're called) give you 1 VP
... you get a VP whenever you roll a 20! Really?!
- the possibility of attacking each other (we never did in our short game, but I know that would be annoying)

I am more interested in the exploration and pick-up-and-deliver part of the game, and not at all interested in the player-vs-player aspect. As such, I would MUCH rather play Merchant of Venus!
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21. Board Game: Epigo [Average Rating:6.84 Overall Rank:3697]
Snooze Fest
United States
Hillsborough
North Carolina
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We love our pups!! Misu, RIP 28 Nov 2010. Tikka, RIP 11 Aug 2011.
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SUNDAY July 7, 2013

Another late morning wake up (9am), and it's the last day of the con, so we decided to skip our workout yet again. I was hoping to play something meaty, but that didn't work out. We shopped at Cool Stuff (I used my gift certificates to pay for half of The Great Zimbabwe -- I sure hope it's good!) and then spent most of the restored the morning chatting with people. By the time we were ready to play something, everyone seemed to be in the middle of their games. Just as well ... we were able to give this, one of Mary's flea market purchases (from Tom) a try. Good thing, too -- it's not our kind of game. We gave it to Russell, whose kids will perhaps have more fun with it.

--- Summary ---
The board is a square grid, with several corner spaces removed. Players set up by placing their numbered (1-7) "Epigo" tokens in the center rows. Place them simultaneously, including the "X" which is then removed. Each turn, players program movement for 3 pieces, revealed one by one. If both players choose the same number at the same time, skip those. Moves include a slide of 1-2 spaces, or a push if the number of your pieces equals or exceeds the other player's in that row (counting from the moving piece to the first empty space). If you push a piece off the board, its owner loses a point. The first player to lose 3 points loses the game.

I guess it's probably a good abstract. There are 21 rule variants included in the game, too. However, we aren't big fans of abstracts and the box is bigger than it needs to be, and certainly bigger than we want to carry on our flight home! So it's good that we could try it, and hopefully its new owners will enjoy it more!

-----
After, we went back to Delmonico's (for the 5th time this trip?), this time with Patrick (Farsol). They really should give us some commission! This time we tried the steak tips -- with a delicious sauce, garlic toast, and very tasty hot peppers -- in addition to the now-usual Napoli. Definitely need to work out more this week!

After lunch, we said a few more goodbyes before sharing an early cab to the airport with Eric. We left a bit after 1, which was a bit early but we had planned on playing games after getting through security. That didn't work out: TSA does NOT do lines like Universal or Disney! It was 2:20pm by the time we were through! Anyway, Eric had had to go through different security (United vs. AirTran) so there was never any real chance of gaming at all.

We got a caramel ribbon frappucino at Starbucks, then passed the time playing Scramble (Boggle clone) on our phones. We got a last minute surprise: we'd been upgraded to row 1 -- business or first class! We got to board early and enjoy some Bailey's while sitting at the gate loading! Then, during the flight, I had some (mediocre) red wine and Walker's Shortbread to ease the pain of travel! When we arrived, we were the first ones off the plane -- landed at 5:20 and were in our car by 5:30 ... awesome!!

------

We had a pretty good time this week. Despite all the rain early on, when we were at the parks, we did get to see and ride a bunch of stuff! The con, too, had plenty of good stuff going for it:
- Well-organized, for the most part. Things seemed to run on schedule, and I don't think I heard any real complaints about that.
- Nice bunch of people, both organizers and gamers. I did get to meet some friendly new people.
- Good mix of scheduled events and open gaming. Of course, there were also a lot of unofficial scheduled events (the Big Game Geeklist that Patrick organized).
- Pretty good game library, although not like BGG!
- Great system for finding players and teachers -- those signs make it easy to see who's looking for what, from across the room!
- Excellent food nearby, just across the street and down a ways.

On the less good side for this trip:
- It was HOT! I was usually pouring sweat after the short walk from our room to the main convention area!
- It was RAINY (early in the week)! Bad luck, maybe? It wouldn't have been an issue if we were indoors gaming ... just a bit of a problem at the parks.
- I really don't like those motel-like rooms, with people walking by at all hours, noisy kids at the pool and running around upstairs, etc. I would much rather be in the tower building.
- The con may be a bit bigger than I prefer; I think I would have liked last year's event even more (much like I preferred BGG.CON's earlier, smaller years).
- The daily 5pm raffle was pretty annoying: loud, game-interrupting, and it went on way too long.
- Smokers in public areas ... gross!

Still, it was a fun time so maybe we'll be back next year? Hard to say for sure, though, 'cause we may go back to Origins instead.

 
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