ConnCon 2015: Cards N Abstracts
John McDonough
United States
New York
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My 4th consecutive weekend in Connecticut on St. Patrick's Day Weekend. I was more excited to play games that I'd played before, so I can get the mechanics and strategies down, rather than try new stuff. Conncon, while fun, sometimes makes me yearn for my elementary school days where I knew how to play, at most, 15 games and only played those 15.
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1. Board Game: Pairs [Average Rating:6.40 Overall Rank:2013]
John McDonough
United States
New York
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Opponents: Erik, Alyce, Lisa, Peg, Mark, Mary

I started off the weekend at Plan B Burger with Erik, Lisa, Mark, Mary, Rich, Phil, Matt, Peg, Jim and Alyce. Erik brought this blackjack style filler where you get points equal to the pairs you get. The first person to get ## points loses and all others win. Apparently third party individuals created other games for this deck online, which is good as there's not much to it.
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2. Board Game: Cards Against Humanity [Average Rating:6.09 Overall Rank:2387] [Average Rating:6.09 Unranked]
John McDonough
United States
New York
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Opponents: Erik, Erica, Jim, Alyce, Lisa, Rich, Peg, Caroline, Joe McD

A brief break in the hotel room to practice for PPP and then downstairs for the CAH tourney. My crowning moment was my answers to:

"Every step I take towards" blank "brings me closer to" blank

which were:

"A box that knows it's a box and hates being a box"
"Being a motherfucking box"

As usual, there were no official champion, as the true winners of any CAH game is the American people.

After a while the burger kicked in and I retired to my room for a food coma.
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3. Board Game: Unpublished Prototype [Average Rating:6.98 Overall Rank:2205]
John McDonough
United States
New York
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Opponent: Dustin

I always sleep on and off in hotels, and this was no different, But I was able to get downstairs by 9:15. I had a unofficial 10 AM slot booked, and Dustin suggested we play his "Twilight Struggle Dice Game" prototype while I was waiting. Having lost enough games of Risk, dice games usually aren't my first choice, but I'm semi-obligated to play them once in a while, being related to Joe McDonough. I do enjoy them when we play, though.

The dice contain images of flags for Russia and America, tanks and mushroom clouds. You have cards with different countries and the number of your flags you need to roll to play the card (e.g. Chile - 3). Play the card facing you in one of three rows. If you have more than your opponent, you advance on a scoring track. Tanks advance you on a military track. Mushroom clouds advance you down a Def Con track, so you don't want to get to Def Con 1.

We didn't finish the game, but it was clever, fun and seemed well-balanced. If you like King of Tokyo or Martian Dice I suggest cornering Dustin and the next con before the twins come.
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4. Board Game: Trajan [Average Rating:7.79 Overall Rank:71]
John McDonough
United States
New York
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Opponents: Erik, Joe McD

I played this twice before, and determined to get some strategies down (see above) but was still working on the mechanics. It wasn't until a few days later that I realized that in these worker placement games, you don't try to balance out your choices evenly, but go for 1 or 2 strategies and stick with them. The rest is gravy. I lost by a wide margin. This will get to the table again.
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5. Board Game: Cypher [Average Rating:6.01 Overall Rank:4394]
John McDonough
United States
New York
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Opponents: Erik, Avri

Avri broke out this Play to Win card game which has a Love Letter feel to it, only smarter. You win by having the highest value cards in front of you by the end of the game, and each card has special abilities, such as exchange other people's cards with your own, negate opponent's cards, draw extra cards, etc. I lost both the game and the physical game.
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6. Board Game: BraveRats [Average Rating:6.49 Overall Rank:1800]
John McDonough
United States
New York
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Opponent: Avri

Avri then broke out this card game which has a Love Letter feel to it, only dumber.
Basically it's LL for kids with rats on the cards. We played twice, and I believe we each won once.
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7. Board Game: Chimera [Average Rating:7.05 Overall Rank:2310]
John McDonough
United States
New York
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Opponents: Joe McD and Chris

I saw that the ConnCon Library had Tichu which I had played once and was looking forward to trying again (see above). I never got around to it this Con, but my brother, his friend Chris and I played this PTW, Tichu-like game where the winner of the bid plays against the other 2, where you try to discard as many cards as you can, but each player must play a higher card or cards than the last person (two 4s beat two 3s, 6-7-8-9-10 beats 3-4-5-6-7, etc.). It has some elements of Skat, where 3 cards are placed face down during the bid. This guy started kibbutzing a bit, but quickly identified himself as Ralph Anderson, the designer, and asked if we needed rules clarification, which we didn't.

It was my favorite new game of the con, and I'd like to try others of these Oriental style trick taking games, whether traditional or westernized. I lost the both the game and the physical game.
 
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8. Board Game: Caverna: The Cave Farmers [Average Rating:8.12 Overall Rank:15]
John McDonough
United States
New York
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Opponents: Don, Bob, Nicole, Dan

I had signed up for Caverna last year with Don S and was keen to try it again this year (see above). After a year of teaching it at Cons across the land, Don did an even better job of explaining it this year. I pulled a Joe McDonough, coming in next to last, as in this worker placement, balance and a focused strategy wins. Don won, obviously, but dismissed it and congratulated the 2nd place as winner, who was an 18 year old named Nicole.

I swear, kids these days, with their loud music, their hula hoops and their fax machines...

At this point I did my usual wander around the halls looking at the games and being overwhelmed.

Time for bed. Except, no, my hotel neighbors decided to keep knocking on each other's doors and slamming them shut. At 2 in the morning. There was also a hint of pot in the halls.
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9. Board Game: Pinochle [Average Rating:6.80 Overall Rank:1957]
John McDonough
United States
New York
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Opponent: Joe McD

With all these $30+ games by famous designers with lots of colorful boards, tiles and meeples, which one to choose? The new hot games like Alchemists and Orleans? Slightly older ones like Tzolkin or Eclipse? Maybe a classic like Puerto Rico or Caylus?

Fuck that noise. I'm playing Pinochle.

What a great classic this is; it really needs to be taught more. My second hand had five 10s dealt to me, which can't be used in melds (not that I had any other melds to make), and can only beat the 9 in taking tricks. But it scores 10 points whoever wins it in a trick. So I was essentially dealt a 50 point hand for Joe. Another loss.

Joe and I have played this before (see above) and have been determined to memorize the rules. But sadly it's always months between plays.
 
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10. Board Game: Civilization [Average Rating:7.52 Overall Rank:227] [Average Rating:7.52 Unranked]
John McDonough
United States
New York
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Opponents: Nato, Will

Finally, finally, finally.

And it almost didn't happen. I was sitting with Nato (who beat me at 18AL 2 years ago) saying that if we didn't have another player by 7:30, I would cancel it. BUT at 7:21 Will came by and asked if there was room for one more. Success!

Then Will reminded me that he beat me at Twilight Imperium last year.

To make matters worse I was hit with 2 red backed calamities early in the game. Even though I prepared myself for another loss, I still remembered how much I absolutely love this game. New strategies emerged, including Nate's brilliant move of building a 12 unit city in a land-locked area between 2 of his 6 unit cities. And Will realizing that if he gave us calamities, he'd have no one to trade with in later rounds. We stopped one round before the last, as the result would have been the same: Nate, Will, me.

Both opponents liked the game, but thought it too long. Which means I probably won't teach it next year.
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11. Board Game: Pretty Pretty Princess [Average Rating:4.29 Overall Rank:15354]
John McDonough
United States
New York
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I'll let others describe the near train wreck that was the Pretty Pretty Princess Tournament. Even Loter was concerned. Suffice it to say, never drink Barcardi 151 out of a backpack.

Anyway, this was the entrance music I played:

[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kuw8YjSbKd4]
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12. Board Game: DVONN [Average Rating:7.44 Overall Rank:351] [Average Rating:7.44 Unranked]
John McDonough
United States
New York
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Opponent: Joe Gola

While the tournament was going on, I cornered an inebriated Joe Gola to play an abstract before I left. I went through the formality of showing him the games I brought, knowing full well that it would be this one. I got trounced again. I'll just have to keep playing online until I can wrap my head around it.

We had a nice convo, though. (Best Gola line: "Molnar's hardcore!") It's too bad he can't stay the weekend anymore, as No Saving Throw isn't the same without him.

Time for bed. But, no, my neighbors repeated the previous night's behavior, only this time at 4 in the morning.
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13. Board Game: Pushee Pieces [Average Rating:6.90 Unranked]
John McDonough
United States
New York
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Opponents: Avri, Molnar

I treated myself to brunch and staggered down to my own event at 10AM in in time to salvage what was left of the slot. Avri and Dave M were already there, at Avri asked us to play this kickstarter he backed with a slight silly name, IMHO. But the game had a lot going for it. When you place a fence on the board, it repels the surrounding fences in the direction yours was facing, sometimes in a chain reaction. I lost to one of the 2, too groggy to notice.
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14. Board Game: Shacru [Average Rating:6.27 Unranked]
John McDonough
United States
New York
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Opponents: Avri, Molnar

I then brought out this multi-player abstract, that I had tried once before (see above) and it was quickly dubbed "Tron, the Abstract Strategy Game". I didn't pay attention to the direction of play, and cornered myself early in the game. Molnar said something like "Yeah, definitely not trivial", and he ought to know, you betcha.
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15. Board Game: Akron [Average Rating:7.00 Overall Rank:8015]
John McDonough
United States
New York
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Opponent: Molnar

Dave brought out his Margo set, but I suggested a game I played on iggamecenter (see above) called Akron. Although we had to look up the rules. You try to connect sides of the board, but you can break chains by stacking marbles over your opponents.

Molnar had trounced me at both Santorini and Ponte da Diavolo last year, as he's hardcore and shit. But he and I were (surprisingly) neck and neck, although he won in the end.
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16. Board Game: YINSH [Average Rating:7.70 Overall Rank:133] [Average Rating:7.70 Unranked]
John McDonough
United States
New York
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Opponent: Erik

OK, enough losing. Time to shake off the cobwebs - I was out for blood in this game. Only problem, so was Dresner. Ultimately I won in the end, but it was close, and I didn't see the winning move right away. Lots of new strategies tried in this game from Erik's hugging the edges to my using the rings to block counterattacks.

Abstract Strategy Man now knows what games to choose with specific opponents for a tense match:

Erik - Yinsh and Zertz
Molnar - Akron
Avri - Arimaa
Joe McD - Tzarr and Camelot
Gola - something he hasn't tried yet
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17. Board Game: Diamant [Average Rating:6.83 Overall Rank:621]
John McDonough
United States
New York
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Opponents: Erik, Lisa, Molnar, Molnar's daughter, and some other guy.

Molnar then brought out this short press your luck style card game, where you try to acquire the most treasure in a cave before being eaten by snakes or crushed by rocks. Spielberg should probably sue the designer, but whatever. Not being a gambler, I played it safe most of the time, exiting every time I got an artifact, and of course lost.

And that was that. Headed home by train and slept for 12 hours. A lot of high points this time around. Thanks again for a great weekend.
 
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