Midcon 2013 - "The good news is that your beaver's not fallen off"
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So, Midcon. Probably the second-biggest gathering of British board-gamers after the UK Expo. And this year I went for the first time!

Here's a brief resume of everything I played, bought and did (well, not EVERYTHING I did) that weekend. If I played anything with you, please do post a comment so I can link BGG ID's to faces. I've done my best to name-drop as many people as possible, but some have inevitably become prey to late-night beer: my apologies if I've mis-titled you or just forgotten who you are - by all means correct my uselessness.

If you've been brought here mostly by the title, see the final geeklist item.
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1. Board Game: Hive [Average Rating:7.32 Overall Rank:213]
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The weekend started a little earlier than I expected. I can't afford to stay at swanky hotels, so I bunked up on a friend's sofa. Imagine my delight when she slapped a copy of Hive on the coffee table on Thursday evening, saying: "Is this the sort of game you'll be playing?"

Yes it is. Yes, indeed it is.
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2. Board Game: Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small [Average Rating:7.43 Overall Rank:209]
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Friday began before the scheduled 11am slot. I had had the foresight to book a couple of days off work in order to maximise my gaming. Keith was another early starter, and in the process of comparing our collections, we agreed on a nice starter of ACBaS.

Keith thought himself into a hole on a couple of occasions, but came good at the last with a more-than-adequate 41 points. I suffered by not picking up animals in the opening two rounds. Not smart.
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3. Board Game: Skyline of the World [Average Rating:6.47 Overall Rank:6154]
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By this time, Andy and Richard had already split up a different table, and we invited them over for this little building pleasure. Andy took to it with gusto, building quite the money-making little empire at one side of the board, but Keith came good later on and his domination of the 'Special Building' sites saw him pip Andy in the finish. I scored a single, miserable point and have, indeed, been playing quite appallingly badly since I started enthusing about this game to other people.
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4. Board Game: Snowdonia [Average Rating:7.44 Overall Rank:389]
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Chris is one of the old Bromsgrove muckers from back in the day (well, a couple of years ago), so when he passed by it made sense to build up the table to five and play Snowdonia (Chris and I had managed to bring pretty much identical bags of games, which says a lot about our gamer compatibility but isn't very practical at this sort of convention). Keith, Andy and Richard had each played precisely once before and I threatened to embarrass myself by completely cocking up the setup routine (my defence: the designer normally does the setup himself when I play this...)

However, I was soon into my own in a game that became dangerously fog-bound and started eating up the excavation spaces like nobody's business. It also - unusually - closed down the top station before we'd even reached it. I fortified everyone's confusion with my favourite Surveyor strategy and 83 points was quite enough for the win. When Chris found out I was planning on writing this up, he asked me not to mention that he'd only scored 39 points. So I promised not to.
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5. Board Game: 7 Wonders [Average Rating:7.78 Overall Rank:45]
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Andy was making noises along the lines of 'ninety minutes to dinner', which was fine by me too. Quick five-player games being in short supply in our combined bags, we decided on a 'just can't play it once' session of 7 Wonders.

Two appalling games later, I had scored an aggregate of 77 points (I once saw Alan Paull score 79 in a single game, so that's not good), and was pleasantly relieved to crawl out of the third with a respectable second place. Keith casually mentioned that the second game is always the ultimate test of gamer skill, so it won't tax anyone's deductive skills to work out which one he won...
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6. Board Game: Kingdom Builder [Average Rating:6.99 Overall Rank:488]
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After a brief interlude and the worst pizza known to humanity, Richard and Andy had gone home, and I rounded up the remains of that table, roping in Patrick and Peter for a 5-player Kingdom Builder. I'd never played this with the full expansion complement of five, and it's much more impressive when five competitors tie the available space up to bursting point. Merchants were a difficult scoring card under the circumstances, though.

I finished a credible second to Chris after much abuse of the sliding and teleporting powers of Caravans and Barns. Patrick for a while looked to have a decent combo going with Shepherds, and Keith/Peter faffed without achieving very much.
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7. Board Game: Spyrium [Average Rating:7.12 Overall Rank:552]
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I ended up casting around again after this table split up; Alex's direct approach of "I want to play something. Let's play Spyrium!" worked on me. I'd heard good things but not actually investigated it. Russ and Andy were booked in for seats 3 & 4 and there was much undue discussing of 'Spyrium Counts' and Spunk (you really had to be there...). I would use first-time play as an excuse for my poor performance, but Andy was also playing for the first time and put a rollicking mine/factory operation together for an impressive victory.

I enjoyed Spyrium and will certainly play again, but it's aggravated by the spacial aspect which I don't believe is a) necessary or b) thematic. My wife is dead keen to pick up a copy, so I'm guessing that will happen sooner or later in any case.

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8. Board Game: Keyflower [Average Rating:7.86 Overall Rank:46]
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I was rapidly bouncing between tables tonight, a problem which continued well into Saturday. The 'large round' table was home to occasional acquaintance Shaun and some of his regulars (I'm going to have a stab at Ian, Rich and Jo(h)n but somebody please put me right on the names), and some willingness to learn about Keyflower. I'd like to give you a detailed analysis of who won and how, but I can't actually remember much. It WAS after midnight and I'd had beer, but that shouldn't be an excuse.
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9. Board Game: Dungeon Fighter [Average Rating:6.85 Overall Rank:849]
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The time of the night suggested 'silly wrap-up game', and I had quite the candidate in Dungeon Fighter. Retaining Rich and Jo(h)n from the previous Keyflower, we scooped a couple of concerned-looking extras in form of Simon and Andy.

As always, Dungeon Fighter started on a wave of optimism before we got ourselves remorselessly crushed by the dungeon on around Level 3. One day, I will get to the final boss...
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10. Board Game: Bora Bora [Average Rating:7.57 Overall Rank:168]
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Saturday dawned, and with it came the promise of Bora Bora, a game new to myself and high-chieftan Jeremy; taught to us by two gents whose names I have criminally failed to write down, although I want to say one of them was Paul.

Proceedings were somewhat slow, interrupted as they were by Jeremy's booking-in duties and a half-hour break for the minor matter of lunch and the rather more major matter of the bring-and-buy sale (more on which below). Jeremy was - ah - less than charmed with the game, but managed to pip me to third place when I ran out of God cards at the last.

The pace probably didn't help, but I don't think I'll be returning to Bora Bora terribly often. It felt very clinical, very predicated on understanding how to plot your way through the game and - well, why not? - very Stefan Feld. The saving grace was the sheer amount of innuendo afforded by the suspicious shell-pictures and jokes about 'using my man action to get a woman'.
 
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11. Board Game: Let's Go Shopping! [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
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SHOPPING TIME!

A modest haul this week, given that I was eating out for lunch and dinner every day and only have a limited wallet. The bring-and-buy yielded fruit in the shape of Quo Vadis for £6 and Leonardo Da Vinci for £8, which is nothing to be sniffed at.

The wonderfully nice people from Spirit Games were also in residence. I already owe them a debt for slipping me a free English copy of Dominion: Walled Village promo at the Expo a couple of years ago, so I spent a modicum of cash on my second Kingdom Builder expansion.
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12. Board Game: Divinare [Average Rating:6.76 Overall Rank:1634]
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Bora Bora finally ground to a close at about 3pm, so I went in search of snappier stuff. Thankfully, Keith was around again, having just broken up a table who were in search of food. He'd played Divinare before, but never two-player, so I inducted him into the dark arts of this delicious mediuming game. I think I beat him as well...
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13. Board Game: Fleet [Average Rating:6.96 Overall Rank:772]
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The dinner crowd had still not returned, so I further educated Keith in 'Fish For The Galaxy', as I like to call it. I lucked into a good Cod/Lobster combo at the start, but Keith pulled things back well by getting into fish-processing early and spending the proceeds on a pub (and why wouldn't you?). His comeback netted him 61 points, which is pretty damn good for a first go. Not quite as good as my 69, though.
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14. Board Game: On The Cards [Average Rating:6.57 Overall Rank:7865]
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Hattie (Aaagh! Name crisis. I think it was. I also owe you a glass of white, don't I?), Ian and Mike had returned from mid-afternoon consumption and I had dealt out this unspeakably odd little game ready.

Unfortunately it wasn't a great session. None of the layouts really clicked with five players (except one near the end), and I had a nagging feeling that we were missing a rule or two throughout. Ian just looked bored. I suggested we call this one before the official end, and didn't meet with much resistance. Shame.
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15. Board Game: Citadels [Average Rating:7.10 Overall Rank:353]
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Now THIS was a much better prospect. We were reduced to four when Hattie (yes?) went to appease her yawns, and four tends to make for a terrifically backstabbing Citadels. It certainly did after Ian opened by mainlining the Assassin. Kings Michael and Keith (followed by Keith II and Keith III) made deliciously urbane rulers, and I thought my Warlord-heavy strategy was going to bear fruit for a long while. Sadly, I had one eye on my dinner, and was usurped by a returning Hattie who slipped into Ian's seat when he was called away to the bring-and-buy.
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16. Board Game: Chicago Express [Average Rating:7.23 Overall Rank:388]
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I had a MUCH better dinner than the night before, and if you're visiting Derby I unreservedly recommend the Viceroy for an outstanding curry.

There were empty tables when I returned, so I quickly rustled up a game of this excellent 18xx-lite, featuring Simon, Patrick and (aaagh! One other...). It's never an easy game for beginners, this one, but Patrick played like a seasoned pro, maxing up his green shares before driving reds into a dead-end (clever, clever...). I was being spendthrifty, which did me actually no good at all, but I still managed to pip Simon, much to his general disgust.
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17. Board Game: Catacombs [Average Rating:7.12 Overall Rank:777]
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I was a little distracted during CE, because there was a game of the deliciously daft Catacombs being erected behind me by Brian and another chap whose name escapes me. That's what you get for losing your name-badge. Both definitely fell into the category of loud, extrovert gamers and I managed to muscle in only to demonstrate some complete flicking incompetence (double-entendre entirely intentional). We roped in a curious James to play the part of the Paladin, which he did with panache.

Sadly our heroes were let down by the misfiring elf on the fourth dungeon, which caused elimination of the Paladin, much swearing and - almost, and most catastrophically - Brian to put his nob on the table.
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18. Board Game: Pick-a-Dog [Average Rating:6.19 Overall Rank:3122]
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With the prospect of the infamous Quiz encroaching, I engaged the table in a couple of rounds of Pick-a-Pig, pretty much the only multi-player games I managed to win all day.

Delightful game which everyone should play a couple of times. That's all I'm saying on that one.
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19. Board Game: Quiz Kids [Average Rating:5.50 Unranked]
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I managed to rustle up a scratch team for the annual Quiz, also known as the opportunity to crack jokes at Dave's expense for a couple of hours. As my team-mate Rob said, "I DO like a good quiz", and I quite agree. In fairness to Dave, it was a well-run event and I would definitely part with a couple of hours gaming again next year for similar torture. James handicapped us early by setting our team size at five and then leaving us, reducing us to the 'four or less or fewer' bracket (at which we pointed out that we were now 'four AND fewer') and losing our small-team bonus points.

My highlight? Feeding Rob the correct answers for the last four rounds of Heads/Tails, allowing him to become the reigning champion.

My lowlight? Not remembering the surname of Alan, the Australian motor racing driver.
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20. Board Game: Modern Art [Average Rating:7.37 Overall Rank:215]
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Hoping to squeeze in one more before bedtime, I was overjoyed to find a table of four setting up my favourite and blagged myself into fifth seat. The others, remarkably, were relatively inexperienced with this classic of the genre, so I embarked on some swift teaching, which shortly turned into swift arguing with Andy.

It was probably the beer talking, but I completely misread the game, reading Andy for a late lead, with a free-spending and French-accented Jake feeding him cash all game. In fact, Eric had quietly been acquiring a small fortune all game and it was a bit of a blowout in the end. Fourth place is pretty miserable by my standards, and the subtle differences in play-style with a different group are very interesting.
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21. Board Game: Wizard [Average Rating:6.90 Overall Rank:706]
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I had Sunday pegged for a short day, so I was pleased to trip over a delightful table of ladies who only wanted to play quick games and fillers on the final morning. My associates for the rest of the day were Lee, Hil and Ruth, and fine company they made indeed.

Lee taught me this, which I quickly pegged as Oh Hell with extras. I've been playing Oh Hell since I was a kiddiwink, so had no fear here. I found it a very interesting twist, with the uber-jokers and uber-nulls providing a little more uncertainty. And I was competitive to the last, failing by only a single trick on the final hand to overhaul Lee's lead.

Round five was signalled by Remembrance Sunday's two-minute silence, which I'm pleased to report was impeccably observed by the room.
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22. Board Game: Divinare [Average Rating:6.76 Overall Rank:1634]
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I had no reason to doubt that my card-loving ladies would dislike Divinare, so I reprised my teaching routine and we dived in. I was pleased to find that it was just as popular as I'd hoped; Lee in particular grabbing handfuls of points during the opening couple of hands. But Hilary fought back for a thrilling tied finish, with myself only a point behind.
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23. Board Game: Animal Upon Animal: Crest Climbers [Average Rating:7.11 Overall Rank:3485]
Ben Bateson
United Kingdom
Ross-on-Wye
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Oi! Hands off...
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My closing game for the weekend, and also responsible for the subtitle of this geeklist.

Frankly, anyone who can publish games that are uproarious fun both for German children and British adults is worthy of acclaim. And anyone who can play this with three ladies and maintain a sensible demeanour throughout is clearly not cut out for such a hobby. Or they might play 18xx, of course...

Yes, they all look like they're humping each other. In a variety of rude positions. And yes, that is still very funny. Even at 1 o'clock on a Sunday afternoon.
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