My life as the Prettiest Princess - A ConnCon 2014 Geeklist
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Mid-March means it must be time for my favorite three days of the year for good games and good people.

The tale of the tape is 22 plays of 18 different games, of which 11 were new to me, but once again the bald numbers do not tell the whole story. This year, I'm pretty sure the Geeklist won't, either . . .

The ghosts of ConnCons past:
"It's fun having a Gola shaped whipping boy." - A ConnCon 2013 Geeklist
50 hours abusing Joe Gola - A ConnCon 2012 Geeklist
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1. Board Game: The Agents [Average Rating:6.40 Overall Rank:2177]
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Friday

With my usual Metro North buddies arriving much earlier and later than me, I was traveling solo from Grand Central to Stamford this year and so have nothing amusing to say about the ride . . .

Once I arrived at the hotel, there was time to check in and grab a bite of lunch before my first teaching slot. I have been a big fan of The Agents since the moment the Kickstarter launched so was excited to share this innovative and intriguing game with everybody here.

As I was explaining the rules to the six new recruits (who I would break into two games once we were ready to start) Loter swung by the table with cans of free but terrible beer for anyone who wanted. It was after Noon and it was free, so I said "what the hell" (though I responsibly did not pop the ring tab until after the games began . . .)

I love this game. The rules are simple - you have four actions to choose from and you must take two actions on your turn - but every action will help (or potentially help) an opponent. If this wasn't enough, each card interacts with every other and all the moving part mesh beautifully.

The game plays in about 40 minutes, so when Gola and Phil Ahlberg both crushed me in our first game everybody immediately wanted to go again. It was only once we were kneedeep in dead agents during this second game that I realized the four-player game next to us was still only midway through their initial play.

I guess AP can strike any game at any time . . .

Designer Saar Shai had donated a copy of the game to this year's Play to Win table, and I was very pleased to see The Agents being played almost constantly on Friday. It also appeared more than once on Saturday, and I was a proud spymaster when Phil won a copy at the Judges dinner.

Was this the most played game of the convention?
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2. Board Game: Imperial 2030 [Average Rating:7.73 Overall Rank:167]
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And then somehow, with no planning, no pre-scheduling all of the usual suspects were there for the compulsory game of Imperial 2030. It had only been six months instead of the usual year since we had last played, so we skipped the rules rehash and jumped straight into the game.

And what a game. Always one of my favorite experiences whenever it hits the table, such a great mix of wargamey mapness, stock market goodness and old fashioned screwage.

Unfortunately it appeared to be my turn to bend over - people have long memories when you win your first play (at least terrible, terrible people like Gola do) - although I second guessed myself out of contention in the mid-game by diversifying when I should have doubled down on a healthy and unmolested Brazil that I was chairing.

Dave Regan was the big dog this year, proudly accepting his winners medal and wearing it for the rest of his time at the con.

This much game, and finished inside two and a half hours? Doesn't seem fair.
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3. Board Game: Trigger! [Average Rating:6.40 Overall Rank:4980]
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Time for a buffet of meatballs, wings and crudites. Except this year someone forgot to order the veggies so it was a plate of meat for dinner.

As has become tradition, Erik D brought along a silly cardgame for us to play while they were refilling the buffet and, as has become tradition, that silly cardgame was far more fun than it had any right to be.

Cards full of True / False questions and a "trigger" in the middle of the table to slap with your right hand if you think the answer is true, left hand if you think it is false.

So simple. So much laughter. Especially with one player uncertain of her left from right, and with some questions stating "you" ("You are wearing pants"), other stating "I" ("I arrived here by car") causing all kinds of confusion.

And doing simple math, under time pressure, in your head is always a riot.

Might have to pick this one up (as I did with Anomia after last year's buffet) sometime soon. There has also been some talk of a ConnCon-attendee expansion . . .
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4. Board Game: Vicious Fishes [Average Rating:5.84 Overall Rank:10910]
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Time for my second teaching slot of the con, a hard to find and out of print tile laying game by Tom Vassel.

At least, it had been hard to find and out of print until a couple of days earlier when, out of the blue, nestorgames had reissued a smaller, cheaper edition.

I explained the goal (score the most points) and the rules (play a tile, score the tile, draw a tile) and the end condition (play all your tiles) and the five of us were off.

Some of us more than others. Erik D had got into a fight with a plate of meatballs and chicken wings and ran to the bathroom between every move. Bizarrely he was always back in time for his turn and Jess, Mike, Caleb and I kept the game chugged along nicely.

Vicious Fishes is a light and forgiving game - the hidden goals mean that everybody is engaged throughout and noone feels that they don't have a shot at winning - and I think has a place in many collections.

I look forward to playing some more.
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5. Board Game: Hanabi [Average Rating:7.17 Overall Rank:275]
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The SdJ winner was sitting on the play to Win table, and Joe McD was looking to teach it to Jennifer, Molnar and Fake Mindy. There was room for one more so I joined them.

Then Joe used the word "co-op" and I almost stood up again . . .

The game is fine. I had fun with the other players, which is always a good thing, but I always find co-ops so anti-climactic, win or lose.

I also felt that each of us had very different comfort levels of "gaming" the system - of "using inflection" as Joe called it.

The game is fine. I don't need to play it again.
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6. Board Game: PitchCar [Average Rating:7.25 Overall Rank:314]
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Everyone appeared to be heavily into their of games after Hanabi, and there was a decent looking Pitchcar track, jump and all, just sitting there all lonesome, so Molnar and I each grabbed a disk car and started flicking.

As usually happens, as soon as two people started playing, others joined in and soon Jess and Mike were also racing.

I kept falling behind in the early part of the track, screaming back to right behind the two leaders by the back stretch, the blowing an easy straight and slipping back out of contention.

Stupid game. *grin*

But at least, unlike Mike, I could clear the jump . . .
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7. Board Game: Capo Dei Capi [Average Rating:6.84 Overall Rank:2895]
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I Kickstarted this Doctor Finn design on the strength of his Scriptorum / Scripts and Scribed / Biblios / Whatever The Hell You Want To Call It - one of my favorite games - and the fact that Steve seems to be one of the nicest guys in the industry.

I received my copy right on time. Unfortunately it was missing the rulebook.

I emailed Steve and within minutes he had confirmed that he had a copy of the rules in the mail. I mentioned that I would be at nearby convention this weekend and soon he was offering CdC for the Play t Win table.

Molnar and I sat down to try it out (rules included!) and started to play.

Roll, roll, roll, bust.

Roll, roll, bust.

Halfway through the game, busting three out of four turns, I have the realization that if a game is this bad, I'm probably playing a rule wrong . . .

Quick peek at the rules and yup - multiple Mayor tokens don't trigger a bust - suddenly here is a push your luck game where you can actually roll and roll and roll . . .

From then on, the busts were self inflicted.

I enjoyed this a lot once we straightened out our rules boof, and I think at 15 minutes playtime, it might get some play in our house.

[I understand Dr. Finn made it to the Con Sunday, but I didn't want to disturb him while he was gaming with his kids, and me a little worse for wear . . .]
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8. Board Game: Ka-Boom [Average Rating:6.32 Overall Rank:4522]
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Erik D. knee problems are probably reasonable enough pretext to leave Schnapp at home, but all the same I was sad that we wouldn't be playing late night, full body disk flicking this year.

That was until I realized that he had replaced disk flicking with *dice* flicking. So glad I figured it out and signed up!

Erik (back from a fetal nap) set up the game on three tables, taught the dozen of us the simple, simple rules (one player stacks colored blocks in the order described by cards, the other fling dice at those blocks with a catapult, if certain dice face show SLAM THE TABLE!, all before the 30 second timer runs out) and we were off.

It was hysterical. There were times you feel so in the zone that you couldn't miss with the dice, picking off structures with every flick. Then all of a sudden for no reason the eye just goes and you're desperate for someone else to stop the builder scoring.

And the moments when you're building and you watch the dice keep screaming over your structure, knowing *just knowing* that this time it's going to be standing when someone yell "TIME".

And then the die crashes into your 7 pointer right before the sand runs out. At least if you're Molnar.

Tired buy happy, I went to bed.
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9. Board Game: Tessen [Average Rating:6.61 Overall Rank:4407]
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Saturday

Shower, breakfast and back down to the ballroom, where the 8am games appear to be winding down. While we waited for more players to come free, I taught Gola this real time card game.

I know I said it was a real time card game. I'm sure it was the first thing I said. And as I went on to describe the pretty straightforward rules, Gola was nodding and seemed to get it.

Then, ready to begin, I yelled "TESSEN" and started drawing and laying cards.

Which is when it occurred to me that Gola (who was just staring at me) had missed the part about it being a real time game.

We started up again, and he utterly crushed me. Really, I think the core was something like 17 to 83, and I didn't think there were that many point available.

I want a rematch.
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10. Board Game: Taj Mahal [Average Rating:7.32 Overall Rank:306]
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Bu there wasn't going to be a rematch, because Gola announced that it was time to play the world's best game, and were the five of us ready?

I told him that Penguin Soccer didn't play more than two. (OK, I didn't, but I thought it . . .)

He taught the Knizia-esque rules, emphasized that under no circumstances was one player allowed to keep the Princess card for more than a couple of turns, shuffled and dealt.

Joe McD went into his "woe is me, I'm terrible at Euros" lament and declared that he was striving for 4th place, then promptly grabbed the Princess and just wouldn't let the poor girl go!

He won by an even bigger margin than Gola beat me in Tessen. And Joe McD did it without cheating.

If Gola had actually followed through on his theatened table flip, I might have had to agree that this is the world's best game.
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11. Board Game: Finger Baseball [Average Rating:7.21 Unranked]
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Another teaching slot, and big boots to fill after last year's drama.

I taught the (very baseball-y) rules to two teams of three, set myself up behind home plate to umpire, and it was time to "Play Ball!"

The team of hardcore gamers started out badly, literally questioning my first ball / strike call, but the father and two sons team just couldn't seem to string two hits together.

First blood went to Molnar, doubling in a run, and the game was on.

By the 8th, it was clear that this was the gamers' day, and that 4 runs was going to be more than enough to beat the light hitting family. All that remained was history - Molnar was a home run away from the cycle.

Final at bat. Called shot. Could we top last year's two out, bottom of the ninth game saving catch at the wall after all?

No. Pop up.

What a bum.
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12. Board Game: Baseball Highlights: 2045 [Average Rating:7.63 Overall Rank:366]
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Thus teased, I was looking for a more satisfying baseball climax.

I was very excited to learn that this deckbuilding baseball experience was going to be demoed all weekend, and now I asked Ralph from Eagle Games to teach me.

The game is magnificent - it simply reeks of baseball. It is not a pitch by pitch sim, but everything you know and love about the national pastime shines through.

The tw0-player game takes you through a three game "regular series" to determine home field advantage for a best of seven "World Series". Each mini game takes just a few minutes, and after each one you can send your generic rookies and veterans to the minors and draft Free Agent stars to improve your squad. Unlike many deckbuilders, the new cards go right into your hand (team) for the next game.

The mechanic is clean and exciting and the narrative is perfect. Our series had a 1-0 pitchers duel, a 8-6 slugfest, a ninth inning rally and a heartbreaking extra inning loss.

After all was said and done I had won the Series 4-2 and enjoyed the best game of the weekend.

There are still a couple of weeks left in the Kickstarter campaign, and the game is already funded. If you like boardgames and / or baseball you must take a look.
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13. Board Game: Prosperity [Average Rating:6.77 Overall Rank:1478]
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A new Knizia on the Play to Win table? An honest to goodness new one, not just another retheme?

As Erik D said, "It says 60 minutes on the box, and it's a Knizia so it really means 60 minutes."

We sat down, set it up as we deciphered the fairly straightforward rules and were about to start when Real Mindy and Vassily swung by. Scales to four and no change in the set up? Come on in the waters great . . .

After playing Prosperity - which took an hour on the nose, by the way - all I could think was, "Anyone saying the the good doctor hasn't done anything good in 15 years has to shut the hell up now".

Sorry Gola, but this might be every bit as good as Taj Mahal.

(Yes, I know them's fighting words, but I think I can take you. I might have felt differently if you hadn't wimped out on what would have been an epic table flip. But I think deep down you already know Prosperity could whip Taj Mahal's butt - after all your talk of shivs in bathrooms, you didn't even play to play to win . . .)
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14. Board Game: Dominion [Average Rating:7.67 Overall Rank:72] [Average Rating:7.67 Unranked]
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One of my favorite games, yet somehow I never seem to play it anymore. When I saw Britt setting up a teaching game, I asked in.

And it s still as good as I remember, whether playing the First Setup from vanilla (which I won handily) or an Alchemy / Hinterlnds mashup (where is was crushed mercilessly).

This was my first time using cards from Alchemy and Hinterlands and, while I enjoyed chasing the potions, it did not go unnoticed that those of us using the Alchemy cards scored far lower (I think I ended with 7 points) than those who ignored them and played Hinterlands only (the winner score 42 . . .)

So perhaps Alchemy is as sucky as everyone says?
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15. Board Game: 7 Wonders [Average Rating:7.81 Overall Rank:41]
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At which point I wandered upon another favorite game just being set up and jumped right in.

Two plays later, it remains a game I love and am terrible at. Even a perfect 18 points of military in the second game could only get me from last to one place out of last . . .
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16. Board Game: Pretty Pretty Princess [Average Rating:4.24 Overall Rank:15219]
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And then this happened.



Actually, that was a few hours later. I had to play the game and win first. And drink lots of vodka. (The 100 proof Virgin Vodka began as a sight gag, but became much more significant when it enabled me to keep pace with Loter without actually drinking any of his horrific tequila.)

The whole thing played out like a bad Hollywood movie. I wanted to win - I needed to win. But my crown was stolen by Ali (a GIRL!) in the heats and my dreams were crushed.

But what's this? A reprieve? Ali has to leave, and is handing me the crown? I *will* go to the ball.

And at the ball (AKA the final table) I must have a handmaiden, and my handmaiden is Erik D. And my handmaiden starts putting jewellery on my - earrings and bracelet and necklace and ring.

In all honestly, I don't recall spinning the spinner more than twice, but that second spin read "Choose any item", and after confirming that the crown was an item, it was official.

I was the prettiest of all the Pretty Pretty Princesses (with a lot of help from Loter, Ali and Erik . . .)
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17. Board Game: Arimaa [Average Rating:7.30 Overall Rank:1858]
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Sunday

Up by 9am again and feeling worse for wear, staring at a stationary sea of Elephants, Camels, Horses, Dogs, Cats and Rabbits was the perfect activity.

A good game and a good opponent to focus my damaged mind, John McD put up a good fight but, despite getting an early material edge, Mr. Abstract Strategy Man was defeated, and I was ready for the rest of the Con.
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18. Board Game: Trains [Average Rating:7.22 Overall Rank:368] [Average Rating:7.22 Unranked]
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But it turned out I only had one more game in me - my girls back home in Brooklyn were calling. So the Sutherlands and Donna taught me the most generically named game in history.

The Dominion influence is blatant - we had some fun renaming the various cards back to their original Dominion versions - but the board play adds a nice wrinkle and in all it was an enjoyable game.

The best part was finally getting to game with Don and Lisa after missing out on them the last couple of years - thanks again, guys.

All that was left was a shuttle to the train, a train to the Subway and the MTA making the final 25 minutes of my commute taking and hour and a half.

Shoulda just stayed . . .
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