Australian Games Expo 2008 - How I turned into a Zombie!!!
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This is another GL that recounts the experience that was AGE 2008. More for the personal log than anything but you may find it mildly interesting.

Feel free to add your memories if you were there or have thoughts on any of the items on the list.
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1. Board Game: Meeting of the Minds [Average Rating:8.00 Unranked]
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The weekend kicked off with a whimper for me as I attended the AGM of Boardgames Australia. I only say whimper because I couldn't play any games.

After a nice dinner at Taco Bills and our covert meeting (location cannot be disclosed) I realised just how many clever people we have in the Australian Gaming Scene. It also lead me to the inevitable question, 'What am I doing here'?

We finished up around 10pm and I figured I should at least be fresh for the start of the tournaments, which would take place the next morning, so we (Patty and I) left early. The fact I had left her in the gaming room to fend for herself with a room full of geeks pretty much tells me she has ascended to the title of 'Geekette' herself.

For the record, the function room at the Hume Inn was pretty full Friday night and probably would have been as full as last year's Saturday night! Translation?..we had some hard core gamers and they'd come for a good time!
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2. Board Game: Competition [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
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The day kicked off at 8am for me as I got ready to officiate the Australian Championships for Carcassonne and Settlers of Catan. The Saturday morning is always a stressful affair as last minute entries try to sneak in and we worry that our numbers won't be even (divisible by 4 or 2) for the events.

We had the typical questions as always regarding the scoring of farms and the revealing of development cards (some rules are changed for tourney play) but most of these were cleared up by the end of the 2nd round.

The day flew by pretty quickly and we completed 3 rounds of Carcassonne and Settlers by 6pm. By this stage I had endured almost 8 hours of watching other people play games. I needed to game fast or I was going to kill somebody.

I must once again thank David Cordova, my judging partner, for his excellent support. He travels all the way from Melbourne for the privilege of watching other people have a better time than he does.

For the record we had 54 entries for Carcassonne and 68 for Settlers of Catan. All participants played in a really good spirit and we had no major reports of poor sportsmanship.
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3. Board Game: Saturday Night Live Trivia Board Game [Average Rating:5.30 Unranked]
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Finally I could cut loose and catch up properly with all those familiar faces I had said hi to briefly during the day.

Dinner was a pizza on the run and by 6:30 the gaming had started in earnest......
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4. Board Game: Saint Petersburg [Average Rating:7.32 Overall Rank:230]
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I didn't want to start off with a brain drainer so I picked up what is still my favourite Euro in Saint Petersburg. I taught Randy (GeneSteeler), Michael and Scott (I think).

The game was fun and I think the lads got the hang of it. I was able to get a Mistress of Ceremonies in the 2nd round and backed her up with an Aristocrat strategy to win by 4-5 points.

Best part was that it only took 50 minutes with teaching!
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5. Board Game: Stone Age [Average Rating:7.62 Overall Rank:79]
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Right on cue Giles (Caradoc) walked in. I promptly said hi and shined his shoes for him before asking if we could grab his copy of Stone Age. He promptly agreed but realising that I would likely beat him, declined to join in...erm...ok this may not be fact. I suspect he had taught it enough on the Rio Grande stand during the day.

From memory Gregor (gmcnish) taught us this game and I was joined by Heather and somebody special (whose name escapes me).

I was really impressed with the game play as there were so many choices to choose from and so few resources to allocate to them all (ok fine, I just descibed many a good game but there you go).

Timing is all important in this game too, both in the allocation of your tribe (workers) and in the resolution of the actions that they allow.

The cards allow for some end of game scoring (think Aristocrats in Saint Petersburg) as well as offering in game bonuses that can be very important.

The theme feels less pasted on here, with elements such as the necessity to feed your people and work as a tribe.

All in all this game looks great and plays great. With a little experience Stone Age should be playable in 1 hour.

For the record, I won my 1st game by 3 points or so having acquired 6 unique green cards and a healthy number of buildings.

I bought a copy the next morning and played 3 games over the weekend.

Stone Age shoots into my Top 10 with ease as it hits the sweet spot for me in terms of time, weight and decision making.
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6. Board Game: Race for the Galaxy [Average Rating:7.77 Overall Rank:49]
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As the lid box farted its way to closure (as well as it can close...stupid box design) I looked up to see who was free.

My eyes fell to Randy and Michael so I pointed to RftG in my box. I had taught the lads this game at the April convention in Melbourne (ConVic) so I was keen to follow that up.

Scott joined the 3 of us and we enjoyed a close stoush. As luck would have it I pulled New Sparta and drew an awesome miltary starting hand. In short time I was up to +4 military and then +7 and was able to play all the big guns. Further good pulls saw me play two 6 point Development cards, awarding me VP's for Genetic Worlds and Military Worlds. I won this one quite comfortably as the other guys couldn't get their economic engines up quickly enough.

A 2nd game quickly followed. I forget the players but know that we all had our 'asses' handed to us. In fact I lost so badly that I was handed a sign which had directions for where I could find my 'ass'.
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7. Board Game: Yspahan [Average Rating:7.11 Overall Rank:444]
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As Saturday night became Sunday morning, our minds starting looking for lighter fare. Yspahan with its 40 minute time frame looked pretty good come 12am. I played with...people (I really should write these details down) and enjoyed a good early start by building both 8 resource buildings before the end of the 1st week. This meant I hardly figured in the Souk Districts and my score was 0 after 7 days, but I dominated the Souks in week 2 and was 'a player' in week 3 when they all caught up.

The game was awfully tight in the end game and I managed to steal the win by 1 point.
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8. Board Game: Crokinole [Average Rating:7.79 Overall Rank:75]
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By 1am we knew we should be leaving but wanted to play a couple more if possible. With brains having melted to the mush stage, we figured it was dexterity game time and went for Crokinole, which Julian had brought from Melbourne.

We played two team games and happily played with Jennifer, which was the 10 year old daughter of the hotel owner. The games weren't overly competitive but it was my first time playing Crokinole in teams and I really enjoyed it. I'd like to get this game if my tax return can cover it.
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9. Board Game: International Soccer The Game [Average Rating:6.68 Unranked]
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Of course I wasn't sane enough to go home and simply go to bed. I had to watch Australia play Iraq in a World Cup Qualifier until 4am.

Of course the karma gods made me suffer further as I watched the Socceroos go down 1-0 to a freakish 30 meter effort.

Total sleep Sunday morning = 3 hours
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10. Board Game: Assassin: The Final Game [Average Rating:4.68 Overall Rank:14792]
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Sunday meant the final round of the tournaments and then the Finals.

This years finals in both events were as tense as usual. The Carcassonne Semi's were hotly contested and featured the winner of Expo 2006, Dennis Bodman. He got beaten 2-1 but the other final had high drama indeed. It came down to the 3rd and final match in the best of 3 format and after 30 minutes the scores were calculated. Amazingly the game was a tie and the winner had to be determined by a count-back on points from all 3 games. Within a few minutes we had one very relieved winner and a shattered loser. Daniel beat Melissa with a score of 202 to 201. That's quite an amazing result.

The final for Carcassonne was played out between Daneil Geromboux and Christine Freels. The final went the distance with Daniel winning 2-1. He now heads off to Essen for the World Champs.

Settlers featured a 16 player Semi Final Round, with the 4 winners going through to the final. For the 1st time in 3 years David Hawkins (?) didn't make the final, which was a shame as he was gaining cult status. Think Federer on Clay ? good but not quite good (lucky) enough to go all the way - even though you really want him too. Next year man - I feel your pain.

The final featured Simon Plummer (Catan winner in 2006), Rohan Flavelle, Robert Whelan and Grant Davies. Robert was very unlucky going 8 turns straight without collecting a resource in the early game. The winner ended up being Rohan and will now represent Australia in the US at GenCon Indy.

Congratulations to the winners and thanks to all those people that took part again this year. I really don't mind not playing in the event and enjoy watching the drama unfold.

I also want to pay some attention to a young girl called Prue. She made the Semi-Finals of the Catan event, meaning she was top 16 out of 64. She lost that final but I was informed that she had been a little too friendly in her trading. Her opponents in that final said she was a machine of a player and made some brilliant decisions in very quick time. It's great to see such a young player come along and do well. I hope Prue continues to come back as she will be a strong player with a few more years experience under her belt.
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11. Board Game: Buy It Right Shopping Game [Average Rating:4.50 Unranked]
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With a couple of hours up my sleeve before hitting the hotel for more gaming, it was time to spend up big. Yes folks, spending big was the only way to release my pent up frustration at watching others play games for over 15 hours!

As I sit here writing this GL, I am shrouded in the shadow that is cast by some 20 odd titles that stand stacked on my kitchen table. I worry that the stack may fall and crush one of my children but at the current time I really don't have any room for them (the children of course). This begs the question - 'Why did I buy them?' (the games).

Expo madness is all I can come up with.

My treasure horde from Expo 2008 includes ?

d10-1 Stone Age

d10-2 Aquaretto

d10-3 Micro Mutants

d10-4 The Hanging Gardens

d10-5 Oregon (A bargain at $35)

d10-6 Union Pacific (Picked up after a strong recommendation from Dave Fuga (intheclear))

d10-7 Growing Hunger (LNoE Expansion) - (I'll be comparing the boards for myself this weekend)

d10-8 Chateau Roquefort (One for family to play in the coming weeks)

d10-9 Descent: Alter of Despair

d10-1 d10-0 Descent :Road to Legend (All I need now is Universal Head's player aide)

d10-1 d10-1 Ticket to Ride: The Card Game (Blind purchase but I read the rules in bed last night and am looking forward to a play today)

d10-1 d10-2 Tichu: Tin Set (My 3rd copy of Tichu - I simply had to have the tin and so did everyone else - all 20 copies sold over the weekend)

d10-1 d10-3 Catan: The Dice Game - Catan Yahtzee it is but at $15 it could be good for those late nights after work with the wife before going to bed.

d10-1 d10-4 Castle - Flea Market pick-up for $6 and I've always wanted to try it

d10-1 d10-5 Attika - $30 at the flea market in good condition

d10-1 d10-6 Big Manitou - Seen it on Fauditti's website and looked ok. At $10 I couldn't resist

d10-1 d10-7 Warriors + Expansion - Total impulse buy and possibly rubbish but at $20 for the pair and given the designer names I figured it was worth a gamble.

d10-1 d10-8 Shogun - I've resisted this baby for too long, now I finally have a cube tower!

d10-1 d10-9 Archaeology - Having won Australian Game of the Year I decided this couldn't hurt. Now that I see that my list comes to 19 titles, I'm a little miffed I didn't fork out for just 1 more.

d10-2 d10-0 Oh wait - I bought a gaming T-Shirt!

All in all I am pretty happy with the booty. Of course this will take my list of unplayed games to over 50 so a few friends and I decided to form a Pact of our own this coming weekend and try to play through our entire collective collections over the coming 2 years.
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12. Board Game: Crash City [Average Rating:6.33 Unranked] [Average Rating:6.33 Unranked]
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Sunday was a much shorter affair for two key reasons. One was sleep deprivation, the other was my long awaited engagement with Twilight Struggle and GeneSteeler...
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13. Board Game: Twilight Struggle [Average Rating:8.35 Overall Rank:4]
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In truth I had had a few offers to play this over the weekend but Randy and I had narrowly missed a play of this at ConVic in April so when he came searching for me with those big puppy dog eyes on Sunday afternoon I couldn't resist.

This was another game I was dying to play over the weekend. I had bought it 18 months earlier but never managed to get it to the table.

TS was heavier going than I had expected as the night before began to take its toll, but Randy explained things very clearly, which helped. I'm a sucker for history, politics and the Cold War so I found the theme a real turn on (ok, ok it was really Randy).

I played the Russians and enjoyed some good early hands and general dominance, mainly due to the Russians starting off the stronger. But sure enough Randy pegged me back and had me beat on points by Mid War (turn 7).

This game was a lot of fun and I really enjoyed the hand management aspect. I took in 90% of the rules and now need to consolidate with another play this weekend, but I only fully fathomed around 50-60% of the strategy. I did find it challenging to know which theatres were the most important at any given time and the control freak side of me didn?t like the ?not knowing?.

I think I will really enjoy this game in time but it will take 5-6 plays to start getting the hang of it. I just hope I can find another opponent to play it with regularly as the learning curve is a little higher than what my club mates are used to.

I hope to play this with Randy for many years to come and form a long lasting rivalry. He really is a top bloke and a lot of fun.
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14. Board Game: Stone Age [Average Rating:7.62 Overall Rank:79]
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I then ended up playing 2 back to back games of Stone Age with various people.

Hadn't actually planned it this way but I promised Rene from Canberra a game and he missed the 1st one.

I managed a win in game two but had tried a different path, targeting food and reproduction as my key goals. I then went after Farming multiplier cards and managed to tally a score of 167, which was a good 60-70 points higher than my 1st game effort.

It's always nice to find multiple paths to victory so my impressions were enhanced after this play.

Game three saw a few rules clarifications that changed the game considerably. The key difference was that I had been taught that workers were resolved in order starting at the Tool Hut. In fact the start player for the round goes 1st and can choose which order he resolves all of his workers before moving to player 2 and so on. It was a massive change that altered the strategy quite a bit. Peter was far too good for us in this one and racked up 180 odd points. We simply didn't pay enough attention to his plans and allowed him to acquire all 8 unique Green Cards.

3 games in 48 hours and I was still feeling the love, my fav game of 2008 so far.

By 1am I looked across the room to find Patty staring back at me. Like 2 rabbits sensing that they could soon be impending roadkill we gave each other a knowing nod and were soon on our way.
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15. Board Game: Monday Morning Manager [Average Rating:6.19 Unranked]
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For the 1st time the Expo had extended to a 3rd day, allowing me to actually see what was on offer in the Expo Hall major.

I took the chance to get to the Rio Grande stand to learn Aquaretto. The game was great and Kylie taught it really well. It's a heavier game than Zooloretto and the depth of decisions makes it more of a gamer's game than its predecessor. I was sure to grab a copy and I look forward to playing both together to see if the game play warrants the investment in time.

After some general wandering and chit chat it was 1pm and Flea Market time.
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16. Board Game: The Flea Market Game [Average Rating:6.80 Unranked]
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For the 1st time the Expo featured a Flea Market, where vendors and gamers could try to get rid of their unwanted or no longer needed titles.

I half suspected to be fleeced by my wily gaming companions but was pleasantly surprised by how well it went, selling all but 1 of my items.

In all I got rid of a 5-6 Player Expansion for Settlers, Fist of Dragonstones, Settlers of Candamir, Through the Desert, Modern Art, Lupus in Tabula and Full on Soccer.

The highlight was the sale of Full on Soccer to Terry (Cubillas) for $5. I felt kind of guilty as the game only has value as a packing carton should he one day move house but we both laughed about it.

With $150 odd dollars in my pocket I was off to get me some deals and expand my gaming collection (see above booty).
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17. Board Game: Zombies!!! 4: The End... [Average Rating:6.19 Unranked] [Average Rating:6.19 Unranked]
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The time between 2-4pm was Zombie time. I vaguely remember walking around the Expo center in a daze of confusion, saying hi to people I had only staggered past 20 minutes earlier.

It was in this state that I recall some last minute lag shopping. I would walk half dazed past a gamer and hear whispers of a great deal. Minutes later I would discover that my legs had carried me to said stand and sluggishly dropped the hard word on the vendor monkey (hi Miles ) for the same deal.

I think I picked up 3-4 titles in this 'other-world' state, much to the ire of Patty who could only watch on helplessly as she worked in the Mind Games stand.

Cheers to the Games Paradise lads for looking after me too!
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18. Board Game: Time's Up! [Average Rating:7.33 Overall Rank:381]
CanCon, BunnyCon...BorderCon!!!
Australia
KILLARA
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May 2018 be all you dreamed it would be and be all that you dreamed...
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So here we are, Thursday night, some 3 days after the close of the Expo and I'm still catching up on sleep. Those new purchases are about to find a loving home on several shelves and some older titles are no doubt going to grumble at me as they suffer the indignity of being moved to a less auspicious shelf.

Thanks to all the great folks that had the time for a chat, a game and a drink.

We had between 200 and 250 people play games back at the Hume Inn over the 3 nights, which was fantastic. Let's hope things only get stronger in '09 should the Expo indeed make the inevitable move to Canberra.

As soon as I hear of 100% confirmation I will begin to sound out potential hotels for a similar arrangement for evening gaming.

I now have a new bunch of Geekbuddies to find on the boards and a new bunch of titles to learn, play and review. Till next Expo...
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