JaCON 2015 - "If you aren't me, you aren't there."
Jacob Walker
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Some might think the idea of a convention with only one attendee is a bit odd, and I admit, when I first decided on holding JaCON, I thought maybe I'd gone a little bit crazy. For your benefit, I held a brief interview with the event organizer about my motivations. The transcript of that psychologically worrisome conversation follows:

Jacob: Hi Jacob! Thanks again for the invitation to the CON.
Jacob: We're glad to have you Jacob! It's looking like our inaugural event is really shaping up.
Jacob: Can you tell me a little bit about the CON?
Jacob: Sure! As you know, my last day of school was Wednesday. With no more grading, lesson planning, test creation, or other job-related responsibilities for about the next 2 months, we've officially entered what I am going to refer to as the "Summer of Cardboard."
Jacob: No job-related responsibilities whatsoever? What about those training days next week?
Jacob: WHY DOES IT HURTSSSS USSS?!!!
Jacob: Oh dear, I'm very sorry.
Jacob: It's okay. We just don't speak of that here:
Jacob: Understood.
Jacob: Anyways, with 2 solid months of gaming ahead, we hit a minor snag. It turns out my wife's school won't be done until the 15th, leaving us with an awful lot of alone time. Sure, I have some friends, but they aren't available 24/7. So, the JaCON was born. Plus, at some point this summer when I try to convince said friends to play Mage Knight with me, it would be good to remember the rules.
Jacob: Fascinating. Shall we get started?
Jacob: Lets.

Pictures will follow eventually, once I've had the time to upload them, but today's focus is games.

And so the CON begins...
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1. Board Game: Imperial Settlers [Average Rating:7.51 Overall Rank:131]
Jacob Walker
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My inspiration for the first game of JaCON is the single, solitary token discovered yesterday on my kitchen floor while playing games with friends (friends that are very real and not imaginary).

I recently picked up the first expansion for this game, and figured I'd try out one of the new solo setups, so I will be playing as the Barbarians against the Romans.

I was not a huge fan of my starting hand (it not having any additional card draw, and the first draft was not terribly impressive either. With a little bit of clever Razing and card play, Round 1 finished looking not unreasonable.

The second round draft was equally unimpressive, containing no card draw, and pretty limited production options. I could tell I was going to need to use a lot of workers for card draw this game. The end of this round saw me get hit for the first time by the bot, but I got him once too. There's hope yet.

Round 3 saw yet another disheartening draft, but I did find a way to make extra use of my deals, so all was not lost. Several deals and a lot of swords later, and round 3 closed without any further damage from the bot.

The round 4 draft saw a couple of ruins, which were much needed if I was ever going to build up enough faction buildings to actually win this thing. I finally managed to pull a watchtower, and fearing for it's safety, opted to raze it rather than build it. This led me to draw the Barbarian card "Rabble" which might have been the turning point for my game, allowing me to raze my own locations that the bot was likely to destroy anyways. This made things seem at least close by the end of this round, but I still only had 8 faction locations to the bot's 11 (the jerk razed another one of my locations) - and my entire hand consisted of 2 faction cards.

The round 5 draft was once again a drought of card draw, so I grabbed some worker production and a cheap foundation. Things really kicked into gear during this round. I managed to finally draw a few "Raid" cards from my faction deck, and so I got 6 extra points when I called off all of the bots locations for the round. I also nabbed an extra 8 points in total for the black buildings I had built so far. After the bot destroyed my last common building, I had 14 faction locations to his 12.

Final score, a mere 53 points. This was one of my most brutal games ever of Imperial Settlers. I checked through the rest of the draw pile, and all of the watch towers and castles were very near the bottom. Brutal, but tense and quite fun.

Now, what next?
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2. Board Game: Harbour [Average Rating:6.59 Overall Rank:1242]
Jacob Walker
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Harbour is a game I'm often unsure of. I like it, but I find it typically takes about much longer than I feel it should. Yesterday, I busted this out with my (again, very real, not imaginary) friends, and was pleased when we actually finished it in a reasonable amount of time. It made me think it would be a good candidate for a quick solo run.

I've never tried out the training dummy before, and I think its clear that if I do try it again in the future, I'll need to look up a few clarifications. But mostly, I think I handled it alright.

For my character, I chose the Penny Pincher, which gives you a potential incentive to overpay for buildings by making future buildings cheaper. Over the course of the game I managed to purchase 2 buildings that had coins, as well as overpay for 2 buildings. This meant that I was able to purchase my 4th building immediately after I purchased my 3rd building, by discounting it by $4, which I thought was kind of neat.

Final Score: 29 (me) to 17 (Dummy). This was a fast game.

I'm feeling a bit peckish, perhaps I should go make lunch...
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3. Board Game: At the Gates of Loyang [Average Rating:7.39 Overall Rank:238]
Jacob Walker
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It should come as no surprise that the official food of the JaCON is bacon (baCON is a convention I would definitely attend). Unfortunately, I'm on a diet lately, so bacon is a bit out of the question. I spoke with the event organizer about this, and he was very accommodating, scrounging together a meal that was a little more veggie-centric.

Speaking veggies, we have the inspiration for our next game!

I adore At the Gates of Loyang. I think it is an excellent 2-player game (I've never tried it with 3 or 4, and don't expect to). Of all the Uwe Rosenberg games that I have tried solo thus far, I also think it is the most interesting. I think this is because Loyang manages to keep its tension in the solo mode, mainly by turning the normally "free" card offer into a potentially pricey market. I enjoy solo Agricola, but I rarely feel tension as I play it.

The starting card offer did not look very promising. There was a 4-space private field, but it was in the second row, which made it awfully pricey. In the end, I decided I couldn't afford to be quite that broke at the start of the game. I bought a pumpkin to sow my home field, and then went for a con-man (hopefully useful later) and a casual customer that was looking for pumpkins. I could tell already I was gonna need to take a loan or two. Hope that works out for me.

As an aside for anyone that is potentially confused (by the pictures I haven't posted yet), I always play the offer so that it slides down instead of up. I just feel like that's a bit more natural given where I usually place the offer on the table.

I got very lucky with a 2 pack in round 1 that landed me the shopper and a pretty useful market stall. I used my con-man to grab the foreman from the offer, and then used the shopper to pick up and sow a wheat, using the Foreman to get the shopper back. Good deal. Things were looking up already. I also grabbed a loan so I could move an extra space up the path of prosperity this round, while still netting some coins. This may have been ill-advised, but I did it anyway.

In round 2 I used the shopper again to buy and plant a leek.I also got a Harvest helper from a 2-pack, so I actually planted 4 leeks. I wasn't entirely sure I had a use for it, but I decided to go for it anyways. At worst I could sell them back to the shop to get my money back and still have 2 leeks left over. Only 1 space on the path this round.

In round 3 I made another con man trade to gain a merchant from the top row of the offer, knowing I would need it in the next round. I also delivered to my first regular customer. I also went crazy and bought a 2 pack for 2 cash. It was pricey, but I'm building up a good stock of helpers. Only 1 space on the path, but the next few rounds look more promising.

In round 4 I grabbed a second regular, and once again bought the con-man from the offer. I'm loving that guy. I also managed to combine the haggler with the merchant to buy 2 wheat for 1 cash. Talk about a steal. One of them was sown in my new field, the other was traded at a market stall for a bean so I could satisfy my first casual customer (which doesn't sound remotely inappropriate). This netted me 13 coins, which I think we can all agree is awesome. One of my regular customers went home angry, but I think I'm in good shape. 3 spaces on the path this round!

Round 5 was very productive, first I delivered to a casual customer for 14 coins, and then I used a plough-man to empty out 2 fields a turn early. Then it was 2-pack time, which netted me another very appealing casual customer. I planted some more pumpkins in my new field, and advanced 2 spaces on the path.

The con-man was free in round 6, so that was a natural choice. I also nabbed another regular customer. They're starting to swamp me a bit, but I think I can pull through with minimal damage. I finally used an Official this round to buy a 2 pack I'd bben staring at for a while, and what luck, it's the haggler and merchant again. This is possibly poor shuffling of the offer deck on my part, but I'm taking it. Of course, I couldn't use them both at the same time, but it was still a useful draw. 2 spaces on the path.

In round 7 I grabbed a bookkeeper, and payed one coin for a casual customer I didn't really want, knowing I could exchange him with Tout in a future round. No 2-pack this round, but 2 Spaces on the path.

In round 8 my only card from the offer was Tout, as anything else looked like an over-commitment. Pretty ho-hum round as things go. Delivered to my regulars and moved 2 spaces on the path.

In the final round I risked buying the con-man once more in the hopes that an excellent helper would be in the offer. Alas, it was a waste of a coin. To add insult to injury, this left me with only enough money to advance 1 space on the path. That extra coin would have made the difference. I'm really not sure what I was thinking. Must have gotten a little too excited at the end there.

Final Score: 16, once I account for the loan. You know, I once scored 19 points in this game. It sure would be nice if I could ever manage it again.

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4. Board Game: Eminent Domain: Exotica [Average Rating:7.66 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.66 Unranked]
Jacob Walker
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JaCon is taking a brief hiatus while I go check out this kickstarter, and inevitably spend all my money. Well, maybe not all. But definitely some.

If you haven't played Eminent Domain I highly recommend it. It's a solid game that became an exceptional game with the first expansion. Of course, I've never tried it solo. I wouldn't have suspected that it would be worth my time, since the game is so heavily dependent on predicting the actions of other players (I don't buy any of this multiplayer solitaire nonsense). On the other hand, this looks promising...
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5. Board Game: Onirim (second edition) [Average Rating:7.22 Overall Rank:466]
Jacob Walker
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I was worried about spending money on that Eminent Domain expansion, but luckily the event coordinator is a super generous guy, and he offered to buy it for me, so that he could play it....I might need medication.

I picked Onirim up around Christmas time, shortly after grabbing a copy for my brother as a Christmas present. It just looked too interesting to let him have all the fun. My first few plays did not go well, but eventually I caught on to the general strategy (hint: Keys are the greatest, Prophecies are important). Today I thought I would try out one of the expansions that came with the game, and "The Book of Steps Lost and Found" seemed like a natural starting place.

My first go-through was on the easy difficulty. I started off with a prophecy because my cards weren't looking great for the color of door I needed to start. That conveniently killed off a nightmare and lined up the colors I needed. An early spell to check the bottom of the deck revealed a door card that I moved to the top of the deck, since it matched one of my keys. One more spell switched the order of two adjacent goal cards, and one final spell dealt with a nightmare. Otherwise, it was smooth sailing, without a wasted card. I didn't even have to throw any off-colors to transition into the needed color.

This seemed so easy, I figured I'd flip the spell card over and give it a go on the harder difficulty. This game was quite possibly even easier. I threw one off-color card for set transition, but otherwise got lucky on card draw. I was a big fan of the three nearly successive nightmares that were dealt with by using the "Powerful Punishment" for nightmare #1, discarding the top five cards of the deck for nightmare #2, which gave me enough cards in my discard pile to do another "Powerful Punishment" spell when nightmare #3 rolled around.

This game is a keeper. I'd like try the co-op rules with my wife sometime, I'm definitely gonna need to test out some more expansions, and I'm probably going to pick up some of the other Oniverse games.
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6. Board Game: Ghost Stories [Average Rating:7.37 Overall Rank:194]
Jacob Walker
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Idaho
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Since this one was requested, I figured I'd give it a whirl. Most of my gaming today has been done in relative silence, but I feel this game begs for added ambiance, so I brewed up some green tea and found a youtube playlist of Guzheng music.

I decided to play this game the way I solo most cooperatives, which was to ignore the printed solo rules and just play as all 4 characters. Much easier than trying to remember a bunch of additional rules, if you ask me.

I used to be terrible at this game, but much like Onirim, I'm starting to pick up on the tricks that help ensure victory: grabbing Buddha, using the circle of prayer judiciously, and making very careful use of player powers. Since I no longer absolutely suck, I played on normal (cut me some slack, I don't hate myself; I'm certainly not trying Nightmare mode today). My Wu-Feng incarnation was the Forgotten Ones. They aren't too tough, but they did get played on Yellow, which took away my ability to use the enfeeblement token. Had he gone somewhere else, I'd have won a little bit sooner. The last roll was pretty interesting too. I didn't roll a single black die, but thanks to the circle of prayer and some shared tokens, I was still able to win. I only dealt with board overrun twice, so maybe I should consider stepping it up to Nightmare mode.

Final Score: Victory, with 22 points (would have been 30, but I had 2 haunted tiles).

Now, what next?
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7. Board Game: Sentinels of the Multiverse [Average Rating:7.30 Overall Rank:275] [Average Rating:7.30 Unranked]
Jacob Walker
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One of my (I swear, not imaginary!) friends that was over yesterday lent me his copy of the first volume of the "Invincible Ultimate Collection". I've been a pretty die-hard Marvel fan for most of my life. Nothing against DC (except Superman - I despise Superman), Marvel comics just speak to me. I've never read a single Image comic, until last night, when I devoured Invincible. I can't believe I've never read it before. It is so incredibly good.

Seeing it on the counter earlier today made me realize I should bust out SotM. I recently acquired the Vengeance expansion, but I've yet to give the new multi-villain setup a try, so now seemed like the ideal time. For my game, Tachyon on the Sentinels took on Friction and Fright Train in Freedom Tower. How alliterative!

Spoiler (click to reveal)
Given the content of Invincible, it would have perhaps been even better if I had played with Legacy vs. Iron Legacy, but alas, I don't have the necessary expansion.


This was one of the easier games of SotM I've played, but I was reminded of why I love the app so much. This game is awfully fiddly solo. It's nice to have the app handle the modifiers for you. Still, it was great fun, and it was also the first time I got to try out the Sentinels. I like them a lot, and will definitely bust them out in future games. Tachyon was, unsurprisingly, the MVP of the match, finishing off Fright Train with a 13-burst "Lightspeed Barrage". She also dealt the finishing blow to Friction, which is only fitting.

I wonder how much it would cost me to pick up some of the expansions I'm missing....
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8. Board Game: Fire in the Lake [Average Rating:8.03 Overall Rank:423]
Jacob Walker
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No, I'm not playing this game at the moment. Unfortunately, neither I nor the event coordinator know how. But now that my wife is home, JaCON is going to wind down for a bit anyways.

A very real friend lent me his copy of this game so I could learn the rules, so I'll do that while my wife and I watch something mindless on the tube. Perhaps tomorrow when she's away I'll try a solo round...

...but this rule book looks very thick. If anyone has any recommendations for tackling this one, please do let me know.
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9. Board Game: Infection: Humanity's Last Gasp [Average Rating:7.36 Overall Rank:1917]
Jacob Walker
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Alright, one last game to round out the day. I'm never really sure how I feel about this particular game. When it works, it really works, but when it doesn't work, it really doesn't. This was one of the rounds where it worked. The proteins I needed were plentiful and cheap, molecules were exposed and profitable, and I bought more equipment than I've ever bought in this game. Seriously. I bought 7 pieces of equipment and 3 doctors! Not even interns. Doctors.

It almost makes me think I'm ready for the Virus side of the board. But, of course, the primary reason for my success? On at least 3 occasions during the game, had I rolled anything other than a 6, I would have moved forward on the death toll track. And 3 spaces is all I had left between me and game over. Something about that randomness rubs me the wrong way, and yet I keep playing this game. It's hard to argue with that.
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10. Board Game: DC Comics Dice Masters: Justice League [Average Rating:7.49 Overall Rank:846] [Average Rating:7.49 Unranked]
Jacob Walker
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JaCON was put on hold for a while today because I received a text from my FLGS owner telling me they were running a Dice Masters draft at 11. So, when my wife ran off to attend a baby shower, I ran off to the store. For reference, I "won" the tournament, but we really only played 2 rounds. Most of the players are pretty new, and this game can be very slow when you're new.

My brother and I have gotten a lot of mileage out of this game, so I'm not exactly desperate, but is anybody aware of any decent solo rules for this? I can imagine that creating a basic "AI" to run any particular team wouldn't be too difficult. I do this all the time when I want to test a new build. But some kind of extended campaign or extra challenge beyond just "kill the opponent" could be neat.
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11. Board Game: Agricola [Average Rating:8.02 Overall Rank:17]
Jacob Walker
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Anyways, I was worried that not being home while my wife was at the baby shower was going to prevent me from making "family growth" jokes, but luckily, when we got home she decided to take a nap! So I get to make them anyways...

So yeah. Baby shower. Family growth. I am just too clever.

I went with the complex deck for this solo run, which worked out in my favor, since I drew the Wet Nurse with my occupations. Normally if I start a solo game of Agricola, my concern is just beating the designated 50 points. I don't find this to be overly difficult, but doing much better seems to depend on the cards you draw. With the Wet Nurse in play, I figure you have to up your expectations; you should be doing a lot better than 50. What's interesting is that I'm unsure how much she really helped, as she saved me only 2 actions total.

The real MVPs this game were probably the Schnaps Distiller, Clay Pit, and the Plowman. Vegetables for 5 food kept my family off the streets in at least 2 Harvest rounds, anything that makes the Day Laborer action better is an auto-play (if you ask me), and the Plowman accounted for 3 of my 5 fields.

Final Score: 65 points. Not too shabby.

As an aside, my wife and I are expecting our first child, so the whole time I played this game, my family members were named. Jacob and Nicole to start, and little baby Cora to follow.
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