Nuts! - Iowa City War/Strategy Game Weekend, November 30-December 2
Tony D.
United States
Waterloo
Iowa
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The second weekend after Thanksgiving of 2007 marked the inaugural Nuts!, a weekend of gaming focused primarily on epic- and war-themed strategy games hosted by Kurt Rompot (aka krompot, aka K-Pot, aka Kurticus Maximus), who asked me to put together this GeekList. Although these games received the bulk of our attention (at least in total hours - see below), there were a variety of games played, but most of the Friday and Saturday gaming at least involved gunfighting, melee combat, homicides and various other forms of violence.

Not everything went according to plan, however. Saturday brought us the first serious winter weather of the year in Iowa, with some snow and a lot of freezing rain. This meant that anybody who didn't spend Friday night at Kurt's house pretty much ended up staying home. But those who were there shared in some truly classic moments, both on and off the gaming table, as well as many bean- and nut-based snacks. (I, for one, do not want to see another nut for at least a week.) I think I speak for everyone when I say that we eagerly await the next Nuts!, whenever it maybe be, along with its sister event, Balls! (coming in spring 2008).

Attendees: Kurt (krompot), Chris (um, crompot), Adam (DNose), DJ (Hawkeye77), James (Iceberg1), Gare (anomie), and myself, Tony (Fat Tony)

Kurt's Family, Who Rule For Putting Up With Us: Laura, Maggie, DJ (no, not the same DJ as above, although you can't be blamed for getting them confused), Andrew

Special Thanks: My wife Gretchen (aka LittleMarge), for supplying us with enough chocolate-covered nuts to feed all the armies we sent into battle over the entire weekend.
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1. Board Game: Conquest of the Empire [Average Rating:6.75 Overall Rank:1133]
Tony D.
United States
Waterloo
Iowa
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DJ, Kurt, Adam, Tony, Chris, James

DJ and Kurt were the first ones on the scene Friday night, which is a good thing because we were playing at Kurt's house. As Adam and I arrived , Chris showed up at the same time, and we were shortly joined by James, meaning it was time to jump into the first big event of the weekend: a six-player game of Conquest, using the Martin Wallace rules.

It was a pretty brutal game, featuring all-out war between me and James for the entire first half of the game (leaving both of us in a tough spot), multiple assassinations of generals by James, massive armies by almost everyone else, Kurt ruling Egypt with an iron fist, and a major power struggle in Italia between DJ and Adam. Adam ended up the winner, followed by Chris and DJ in a tie.

Observations:
*The game is a wee bit chaotic with six players. We played with four back in February, and we are starting to suspect that five is the sweet spot. Also, James noticed that the game seems to reward turtling with a higher number.
*The board is a wee bit on the enormous side. Obviously, we already knew this, but it becomes even more noticeable when there are roughly 86 plastic pieces sitting on Italia. Then you can't help but wonder if the all the artwork along the edges is necessary, not to mention the name of the game in massive letters.
*The moving catapult arm serves no useful game-related purpose. As far as we can tell, it's only there to give you something to play with when it's not your turn.

Kurt has since obtained the Eagle reprint of Struggle Of Empires, which may make an appearance in the future.
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2. Board Game: Mr. Jack [Average Rating:7.07 Overall Rank:413]
Tony D.
United States
Waterloo
Iowa
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This game was played twice that I know of. DJ and Kurt played Friday night while waiting for me and Adam to arrive. I believe this was the game where Maggie sort of blurted out who Jack was. Whoops!

Kurt then showed me how to play Saturday morning, and I really enjoyed it. Kurt controlled Mr. Jack and I was the investigator. On my last turn, there were three unrevealed characters, and I had an alibi card for one of them, meaning I had a 50-50 shot at making a correct accusation. I was wrong, and Kurt pulled out the win.

Great game, and one I suspect will go over well with my wife. The artwork and overall treatment of the theme reminds me of Guillotine, a favorite card game in our house.
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3. Board Game: Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation [Average Rating:7.21 Overall Rank:414]
Tony D.
United States
Waterloo
Iowa
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DJ (Light), Tony (Dark)

After watching a few scenes from Kurt's Flight Of the Conchords DVDs, Adam and Kurt went to set up Friedrich (see below), so DJ and I pulled out this one. It's a favorite lighter game of DJ's, but I had never played it.

There was a brief moment of concern when DJ opened the box and noticed all of the components were still in their sealed baggies! After obtaining permission to crack everything open, rules explanation took just a few minutes, and we were done twenty minutes later, with DJ the winner. I liked it quite a bit, and DJ was appalled to learn Kurt had not taught the game to his own children. He took the liberty himself, and they went on to play at least ten times that day.
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4. Board Game: Friedrich [Average Rating:7.56 Overall Rank:469]
Tony D.
United States
Waterloo
Iowa
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Adam (Prussia/Hanover), Tony (Russia/Sweden), DJ (Austria/Imperial Army), Kurt (France)

As I mentioned in the header, there was some pretty nasty weather Saturday in Iowa, which prevented several people from making the trip. Those of us who were already safe and sound inside the house were forced to make alternate plans, and this game was chosen. Kurt had planned in advance to make the game an Adam/DJ showdown, and they did not disappoint. However, counting rules explanation, the game went on for roughly six hours, and we were all pretty wiped out by the time the Imperial Army snarfed up enough flags to score a victory.

Observations:
*If you are Russia, and you don't immediately focus all your efforts on taking out Prussia's one general in the upper right-hand corner, you will have the longest afternoon of your life. He was finally eliminated after Sweden was taken out of the game, and because he felt sorry for me, Adam took the general off the board. After that, all there was for me to do was to try to grab flags.
*Twice, I found myself mentally comparing the game to, of all things, Fortress America. The supply trains are like a mobile version of the supply check in that Ameritrash classic, and Prussia's situation is almost the opposite of the Americans': that is, the longer the game goes on, the harder it is for them to win.
*Finally, speaking of which, Adam summed up the experience of playing Prussia perfectly: "It's like driving a Lamborghini, but knowing you're going to crash."
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5. Board Game: BANG! [Average Rating:6.54 Overall Rank:1018]
Tony D.
United States
Waterloo
Iowa
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Adam, DJs (both of them), Tony, Kurt, Andrew

Between wargames, we rounded up the boys for something that wouldn't tax our brains further. One of the boys (I honestly don't remember which) was the Sheriff, and Adam and Kurt were his Deputies. Also, Adam totally killed Kurt. Did I mention they were both Deputies?

I was the Renegade in this game, and was the final one killed before the law claimed the win, but not before I got to use a Gatling gun on everyone! Wheee! I'm still pretty new to Bang! - apparently, using a Gatling is pretty much the same thing as saying, "Hey everybody, I'm the Renegade." (Insert your own Lorenzo Lamas joke here.)
 
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6. Board Game: A Game of Thrones: A Storm of Swords Expansion [Average Rating:7.84 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.84 Unranked]
Tony D.
United States
Waterloo
Iowa
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Adam (Stark), DJ (Baratheon), Kurt (Lannister), Tony (Greyjoy)

I got to pick the next game, and I'd been itching to try out the Storm Of Swords expansion for AGOT, so we went for it. DJ and Adam are sort of old hands at this game, so I was especially curious what they would think of all the additions and changes.

Things were not looking good for us early on, as Lannister seemed poised to score 8 Claim on round 3 and thus earn a very early victory. Kurt launched a daring raid on Pyke which proved disastrous (thanks to a combo of the Hold Territory Tactics card and the Valyrian Steel Blade), and Lannister was forced to retreat to Lannisport.

From that point on, Lannister spent the game in a purely defensive position, and from round 5 on, Baratheon seemed like the obvious threat to win. Harrenhall, Riverrun and King's Landing all fell numerous times. But a couple of late moves by Stark lead to a tie in total claim at the end, with Stark winning the tiebreaker by controlling four Cities and Strongholds.

Observations:
*Everyone loved the Tactics cards and Leader tokens, and especially the Ally decks. We're already talking about using the Leaders the next time we play on the original board. I suppose we'll have to use the Tactics cards as well, so people can rescue hostages.
*It was a bloody game, with Eddard Stark, Balon Greyjoy and Jaime Lannister all being executed. The first two were courtesy of Kurt, who showed no interest in hostage negotiations, even while I was holding Ser Jaime. Naturally, Jaime's death was in retaliation for Lord Balon's.
*There were a few rules issues, but in all cases we managed to either find the answer or resolve it to everyone's satisfaction. I did find one rule when I got home yesterday that we got wrong: Ally units (the green units obtained from Ally cards) cannot be in an area by themselves. They have to be accompanied by at least one unit belonging to the player holding the card. I'm pretty sure I did this at least once, but I don't know about anyone else. Either way, it didn't affect the final outcome.
*This game did lead to my one big regret of the weekend: we failed to get a picture of Adam using the big plastic toy axe in the corner to conduct a mock execution of the last-place player. However, seeing as how I was the last-place player (three claim!), maybe I should be grateful.
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7. Board Game: Cowboys: The Way of the Gun [Average Rating:6.17 Overall Rank:3993]
Tony D.
United States
Waterloo
Iowa
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We started this game after finishing A Storm Of Swords, and I don't remember the specific scenario, but Adam and I were a team controlling Billy the Kid and the Regulators against DJ and Kurt. It was a pretty one-sided slaughter, with us going down.

I was starting to fade at this point, but there was a classic moment early on. All of our men started in the bunkhouse, either by the back door or looking out windows. Adam and I decided on turn one or two that one of the guys I was controlling absolutely had to jump out the window and make a mad dash for the brothel across the street - partly for the tactical advantage, but mostly because it would be funny as hell. We went for it, and our guy was mercilessly gunned down by a couple of townsfolk. I laughed about that for the rest of the night.

In his comments on this game, DJ said it best: "This game should come with beer and pretzels." I definitely owe this game another play when I'm more coherent.
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8. Board Game: Yspahan [Average Rating:7.11 Overall Rank:444]
Tony D.
United States
Waterloo
Iowa
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We had planned to devote Sunday morning to another war-type game along the lines of Shogun or Perikles, but we were all pretty fried by then, so we ended up turning our attention to a couple of medium Euros. This one was first, and Adam won if I remember correctly, followed by Kurt, DJ and then me. The point gaps were pretty big.

It's an interesting game, for sure. It's not so much an area majority game as it is an "area completion" game, which can cause you problems if the dice don't go your way (an uncommon problem in Euros!). Also, DJ and I more or less neglected the caravan, which hurt us. I'd play again, if for no other reason than to exorcise the demons of my craptastic showing.
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9. Board Game: Thebes [Average Rating:7.17 Overall Rank:376]
Tony D.
United States
Waterloo
Iowa
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I enjoyed this game quite a bit more than Yspahan, and I'm more than willing to concede that may be because I finished a solid second place this time. On top of that, it's one of the better-themed Euros I've played in a while, and one I think would be a good "next-step" game for friends that I've taught Ticket To Ride, Carcassonne, etc. Kurt won pretty easily on the strength of a couple of congress cards, and I believe he may have had more than one exhibit. Poor DJ had some horrible tile draws in this game.
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10. Board Game: 1960: The Making of the President [Average Rating:7.59 Overall Rank:157]
Tony D.
United States
Waterloo
Iowa
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Not long after we started our game of Thebes, Gare showed up, which I felt bad about because those of us who had been around all weekend were getting ready to take off after the game was done. Before Thebes was even finished, the decision was made to follow up with this one, which Kurt started punching while thumping us in the current game.

Since I wasn't around for the playing of this game (I don't even know who played who), I will instead recap our efforts to get Adam's car out of the driveway.

The ice was pretty thick on the windshield, so while the engine warmed up we took turns scraping and chatted with DJ, who was warming up his jeep. After 10-15 minutes, Adam went to back out, but the rear tires couldn't quite grab the pavement. I got out and pushed while DJ sat in his Jeep, presumably twiddling his thumbs (recent knee surgery having prevented him from doing anything useful), Kurt was nice enough to come out with some cat litter to put behind the rear tires. One more push and we were on our way. DJ managed to back out no problem.

This is the second time this year that a game weekend at Kurt's has coincided with harsh Iowa winter weather. This is part of why Balls! won't be until March at the earliest.
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