JohnCon 2 - An Invitation-Only Solitaire Games Convention feat. Laser Dog
John Farrell
Australia
Rozelle
New South Wales
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Following the success of JohnCon 1 earlier this year, I was hoping to attend another such convention. As luck would have it, a chaotic December was interrupted by a tiny gap of peace and quiet on December 21 and 22. When my son advised me that he was going to his mother's house for some time (nobody knew how long), I planned to hold the con on December 22.

After JohnCon 1, AdamP:

Adam Polkinghorne
Australia
Buderim
Queensland
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expressed a desire to be invited. Of the many gamers I know, AdamP is the most suitable to come to a solitaire games convention. We play many of the same games, sometimes together and sometimes apart. So I invited him as well. He couldn't immediately accept as his family is more dependent on him, but he would consider it.

So at 6:52am on December 21st, I received a text message from AdamP asking if JohnCon could be moved to be a day early. Sure! All I would need to do would be to rush around and complete a day's worth of tasks in 3 hours... I told him we could start at 10am. So I rushed around, filling the house with convention food and supplies for surviving over Christmas.

Oh yes, Laser Dog. I have a contractual obligation to mention her name a certain number of times in this geeklist or I'll lose my sponsorship deal. Laser Dog could tell something exciting was happening - I was cleaning up the game room, which is very odd behaviour. She volunteered to help by cleaning left-over food from the fridge:



We were barely ready at 10am when the convention doors opened and AdamP did not arrive. I looked at Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Rise of the Runelords – Adventure Deck 2: The Skinsaw Murders... I looked at Magic: The Gathering Face the Hydra challenge deck... I looked at the convention tea and coffee facilities... I looked at the bottles of red wine in storage... I texted AdamP and asked what day he meant... and in fact his plan was to come at 10am on the 22nd. All of a sudden, JohnCon 2 became a two day convention. Hooray!

With that, I made a cup of tea and the games commenced.
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1. Board Game: Magic: The Gathering [Average Rating:7.45 Overall Rank:156] [Average Rating:7.45 Unranked]
John Farrell
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Having acquired the Face the Hydra deck earlier in the week, and the Theros event deck at the same time, this was something I was desperate to get to. I'd played once and not known about summoning sickness so my win was invalid. I started with a few more bashes at the hydra, resulting in a win and a loss on easy setting and two losses on normal setting. Obviously more playing needs to be done.

The hydra has this cute habit of swallowing my creatures whole:



not to mention getting a number of heads which is out of control. (On the hydra's turn, it does 1 damage to you for each normal head, and 2 damage for each elite head. That damage cannot be blocked by your creatures.)



This was my winning battlefield: the white lands came out and the white creatures followed them. Once you've got your fire power up it's easy enough to win the game, the trick is surviving until then.



On the other hand, if you don't draw many spells, you get hammered. I'm sure Magic players have a word for this.



During this time, Laser Dog decided that I sucked. She was too bored to even use her superpowers.



My impression of the hydra deck is that it's a bit of fun, but it would be a whole lot more fun if there were more strategy involved. My wins seemed to be based on whether my deck worked or not - on the last two plays my deck had clearly not worked, and it felt discouraging to lose so randomly with what is (apparently) a decent deck. It'd be nice to try some other decks against the hydra.
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2. Board Game: QUICKSingle Card Cricket [Average Rating:6.81 Unranked]
John Farrell
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Rozelle
New South Wales
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At this point I was suffering from a sore back - you'd think my back could support playing card games for a long time, but it can't, so I retreated to the more comfortable bed room (where, due to a quirk of fate, a pile of games had been occupying my wife's side of the bed for a week, waiting to be played).

My particular, formulated when reading a book about Strat-o-Matic Baseball, was to try playing this cricket game solitaire. I'd even selected teams by gathering names from the Solitaire Games on Your Table geeklists. The teams are (roughly-ish) some players of the COIN games (like Andean Abyss) and some players of lighter solitaire games, though of course there's a lot of crossover. COIN batted first.



I'd only played QUICKSingle once before, and I remember thinking it was a decent game. It took me an over or two to get into the flow. I'd start by drawing 7 bowling cards, keeping 6 and discarding the worst one. As it's to the bowlers advantage to bowl a consistent line (i.e. either to the batsman's left or right consistently) I'd sort the cards so that most cards on one line were at the beginning of the over, and the rest at the end.

Then I'd deal 8 cards to the batsman. There are always 9 fielding cards in play which are always visible to both players. I'd then reveal the 6 bowling cards one at a time, and the batsman would try to score runs.

This bit is quite cunning. First of all, the batsman MUST match the line of the ball, or he's out (bowled). Then he must NOT match the number of the ball, or he's out (lbw). Then if he plays a higher number, there's no run (dot ball). If he plays a lower number, the bowler chooses a fielding card of the same colour (which represents where the ball was hit to). Some of the fielding cards are catching cards (batsman is out caught) and others have numbers on them. If the batsman is not out caught, he (or she) scores as many runs as is the minimum of the numbers of the batting and fielding cards.

In this image, the bowler bowled a leg cutter (black card means off side, a leg cutter starts on leg and moves to off), to which the batsman played a thin edge backward of square (purple), which would be fielded at deep point for one run. In the fielding discard pile you can see that the previous batsman who played backward of square on the off side was caught at first slip.



loganbreath got COIN off to a good start (probably because I wasn't using the rule about catching cards for 2 overs). Then COIN collapsed fairly badly until the carefree slugger Sigrdrifa came in at 9 and set about the bowling in an astonishing fashion. Possibly the completely incompetent field setting by Friendless contributed to this. Note that in this image there are no orange or green fielding cards. For some reason the captain set an entire off-side field. Sigrdrifa was able to avoid playing on the off, and scored many runs on the leg-side (the fielding cards are just replaced from the deck, nobody chooses them).



fractaloon did not get to face a ball. After 9.3 overs, the COIN team was out for 58. Best bowling performances were from mo7189 (3-7 from one over) and yetirydr (4-0 from one over).

With the COIN bowlers excited after Sigrdrifa's heroics, and a generally peppiness in the field (i.e. catching cards in every colour), Friendless's team would be facing a rough period.

At this point I was desperately trying to figure out what the team could do to score. It eventually became clear that in fact we couldn't score at all until someone got out. The batsmen were instructed to sacrifice their wickets ASAP so as to clear the catching cards from the fielding display.

That's how the team chasing 59 ended up at 4-6 after 4 overs. It really didn't look good. However, cometh the hour cometh the man... yetirydr started confidently. And then he got out, and then everyone else got out, aand it was all over in a great big disappointing sudden.

Oh the shame. Well played COIN. Let's play something else.
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3. Board Game: Catan Dice Game [Average Rating:5.70 Overall Rank:5291]
John Farrell
Australia
Rozelle
New South Wales
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The Catan Dice Game was sitting on the bed as well, so I took a few minutes for a game of that. I'm notoriously bad at this, but this game went OK and I scored 59.



As I left the bed room, Laser Dog zapped me - she was well and truly sick of being ignored.

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4. Board Game: Dungeon Roll [Average Rating:6.16 Overall Rank:1993]
John Farrell
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I bought Dungeon Roll from a Kickstarter earlier in the year. I like some of the things it does, but found that it only gets worse the more players you add to it. One is the optimal player count for this game. After 3 adventures with different characters, I'm thinking that may be too many.

It seems my phone was completely incapable of taking a decent photo of this game, but here were my results after three expeditions each:





I don't think I'll bother with this one any more. Laser Dog agrees:

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5. Board Game: Spiral Zone [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
John Farrell
Australia
Rozelle
New South Wales
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At this point I gave up gaming for the day as I had other things to accomplish. I'd been watching the very excellent French TV series "Engrenages", or "Spiral" in English, and had 4 episodes to finish before my wife got home on Monday.

Laser Dog continued with the death glare:



(BTW, you should watch Spiral, unless you're squeamish.)
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6. Board Game: Magic: The Gathering [Average Rating:7.45 Overall Rank:156] [Average Rating:7.45 Unranked]
John Farrell
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Rozelle
New South Wales
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DAY 2

As promised, AdamP arrived at 10am, or close enough. He'd brought some Magic decks, including the Theros event deck which was the only one I owned and the one he wanted to use... so I took one of his other decks, and he played the event deck.

We started with a normal 3-headed hydra, and dispatched it fairly easily. So then we had another go, this time at a 4-headed hydra. That was more fun as I got to bring out some big dragons:



Playing with the red deck felt like more fun, as I got to do some planning and put together some (small) combos, rather than playing the very obvious strategy of the Theros event deck.

At this point we went onto something else so I'll give my thoughts on the hydra challenge deck. I think it's very cool, it's a very good idea, but it's somewhat poorly executed. The only sensible way to face the hydra is with a great big army. The hydra doesn't block, it just takes damage. You can't block. All you need is creatures that can hit the hydra, as soon and as hard as possible.

Magic is a very varied game, and there are many other strategies that people can play - milling to run out a player's deck, hand denial so they can't play anything - but the hydra is immune to both of those as it doesn't have a hand and the game will be over before its deck runs out.

I'd love to see more of these solitaire Magic games, as that's probably the only way I'd care to play it, but I'd like them to be a bit more interesting than this one.
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7. Board Game: Let's Do Lunch! [Average Rating:5.49 Overall Rank:12501]
John Farrell
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Rozelle
New South Wales
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At this point we started on another game, but before I get onto that I'm required to post some photos of Laser Dog. During the game we went out and got KFC for lunch, which got Laser Dog very excited. Here's she's using her Mind Control superpowers to make AdamP give her some chicken:



and here's the very undignified scrabbling on the floor when she succeeded:



Somewhat pleased with her haul, she allowed us to return to the game room.
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8. Board Game: Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Rise of the Runelords – Adventure Deck 2: The Skinsaw Murders [Average Rating:7.67 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.67 Unranked]
John Farrell
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AdamP and I are fans of PACG, and neither of us had really got to Skinsaw yet, so we resolved to do it. He wanted to take Valeros, and I wanted to take Merisiel, but it turned out we both had the Deathbane Light Crossbow +1, so it didn't really work. As my Amiri has that as well, I was left with only Kyra to go with Valeros. This is how she started:



Kyra had in fact done the first two scenarios of Skinsaw already, but I hadn't liked one of the mistakes I'd made so I'd resolved to repeat the second scenario anyway. But that meant she couldn't (again) take the scenario rewards for the first two scenarios.

We mucked around a bit on the first scenario. Kyra looted the General Store, while Valeros mocked her. Then when Valeros got stuck with a couple of impassible barriers, she had to come help him out. And then it was kinda too late, and we failed the scenario. And then Kyra realised that all of the items she'd found at the General Store had to be thrown away, as she wanted to keep the Sihedron Medallion and the handy-dandy Spyglass anyway.



The second time through the first scenario, there was no mucking around. The Augury spell and the Spyglass helped us identify where the bad guy (Rogors Creasby?) was, and he was easily defeated.

As the scenarios went on, I realised that I'd been turning Kyra into a bit of a fighting machine. Her skill increases have all gone to strength, so for melee she's now d6+5, and with a warhammer+1 she's d8+d6+6, and against undead she's 2d8+d6+6, without even a blessing. Nice!

However that didn't help us against the Skinsaw Man. The first time we fought him, Kyra used her warhammer (and discarded it for a bonus) while Valeros used his bow from another location. We had 2d8+2d6+2d4+7 (or something like that) to get 17:



That was impressive. We got him the next time.

Kyra was having a fun time. There are a lot of undead in these scenarios, and apart from her mighty hammer she's got this trick as well:



Against undead that's 4d12, almost certainly rechargeable. Unfortunately Kyra ran into Xanesha (Wis 10 then Combat 17, not undead) and took a beating and the combo was wasted. I do believe Xanesha ran into Valeros at a moment when he was feeling particularly vigorous, and he made short work of her.

Meanwhile Laser Dog bided her time, remembering the joy of the KFC:



Late in the afternoon, we finished the adventure. We got boatloads of loot, most of which we threw away. Valeros picked up some nice armour, and Kyra took a weapon card reward so she could use the Impaler of Thorns (yes, she has weapon proficiency).



Overall it was a very successful and enjoyable afternoon.
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9. Board Game: Outside the Box [Average Rating:5.88 Unranked]
John Farrell
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At this point Laser Dog's superpowers took control of us, and she forced us out into the blinding sunlight...



And that was the end of JohnCon 2. I borrow Legends of Andor from AdamP, but I was a bit exhausted and ended up lying on the sofa watching a movie instead. AdamP borrowed the hydra deck, which is probably a good thing or I'd be at the game shop right now buying cards. The games shop may even have the Hook Mountain Massacre, maybe I'd better go there anyway.

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