Los Angeles Gateway 2008--Acquisitions and Experiences
J.L. Robert
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Sherman Oaks
California
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The final major gaming convention of Southern California of 2008, Gateway is the third of the three Strategicon shows held each year. Strategicon wrapped up its first year back at site of its glory days, the LAX Radisson hotel, by hosting a convention that was a great weekend of fun gaming for me and my friends, despite significant parking and construction issues.

Below is my travelogue. Please feel free to add your own personal experiences, either by commenting or adding new items.
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1. Board Game: Rush Hour [Average Rating:6.19 Overall Rank:6487]
J.L. Robert
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My friend, Bill, and I set out Friday afternoon to the airport. From my workplace, Bill picked me up and we carpooled down L.A. infamous 405 Freeway.

Despite it being a Friday on a holiday weekend, the traffic was really not all that bad. We did, however, abandon the freeway about halfway down our trip and took surface streets the rest of the way to the airport area.
 
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2. Board Game: Search for the Emperor's Treasure [Average Rating:6.89 Overall Rank:4371]
J.L. Robert
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The third member of our troupe, Mike, was flying in from his home in Virginia. He typically attends 2 shows a year out here, as he enjoys the Strategicon experience from our days back in high school (he actually introduced both Bill and myself to the gaming conventions about 25 years ago).

With a few hours available before his flight arriving, Bill and I chose to drive around the vicinity of the airport, to locate options for dining beyond our normal comfort range of 1-2 miles. Stretching that radius out to 5 miles proved significant as we discovered the variety of restaurants in the nearby community of Manhattan Beach.
 
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3. Board Game: Free Parking [Average Rating:5.17 Overall Rank:14760]
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The convention staff tried to get the word out to convention attendees that the management company which operates the hotel's parking services had decided to tear down the facility's decrepit parking structure, presumably in order to build a larger one. This would seriously inconvenience those who would come from around town, park and come to the convention.

Since we normally stay a couple nights at the hotel, our solution was simple...we booked our stay at the Courtyard by Marriott, located across the street from the Radisson. Their parking lot wasn't being torn down, and the valet service was part of the hotel stay.
 
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4. Board Game: Hotel Tycoon [Average Rating:5.44 Overall Rank:15009]
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Bill and I checked into our hotel and got our baggage into the room. We were pleasantly surprised to find a very large room with plenty of space for us to maneuver in. The two full-sized beds were accompanied by a sofa, a decent-sized table, and plenty of room for a roll-away bed, which we happily obtained for my use (a welcome relief compared to most other hotels, which refuse to supply a roll-away to 2-bed rooms, leaving me [the least-picky sleeper] to typically sleep on chairs or the floor).
 
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5. Board Game: Geeks: The Convention [Average Rating:4.66 Overall Rank:13948]
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With about an hour before Mike's flight was due to arrive, we chose to check out the Friday night activity at the con.

It was, expectedly, quite thin. The only game of notice was a Friday night Agricola tournament which still drew 15-20 participants. Bill and I picked up our badges, looked around briefly, then went back to our hotel room until Mike arrived via the hotel courtesy shuttle.
 
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6. Board Game: Murder à la carte: Pasta, Passion & Pistols [Average Rating:5.59 Unranked]
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After Mike's arrival (he accidentally took the wrong shuttle, and we had to pick him up from the regular Marriott hotel, about 2 blocks away), we went to go get dinner. As expected, he was quite hungry from the flight across country, as were we from the day. So we drove back into Manhattan Beach, to their Olive Garden restaurant. While Mike enjoyed his chicken dish, Bill and I indulged in the chain's "Neverending Pasta Bowl" promotion.
 
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7. Board Game: Agricola [Average Rating:8.03 Overall Rank:17]
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Dinner was late, and we returned to our hotel room at around 11:00 pm. Not quite ready to call it a night, it was time for our first game of the weekend.

I brought out the current "it" game to teach both of them. Because of the lateness of the hour, I kept it to a 3-player Family Game, to give them the feel of the game's mechanics.

As expected, they picked up on the mechanics rather easily. The game was fun, and they both enjoyed it. But now with a better understanding of the dynamics of actions (especially the use of ovens), they'll put together better games in the future.

Now just after 1 am, we chose to pack it in for the night. I wanted an early start for tomorrow, to try to find some deals in the exhibitor room.
 
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8. Board Game: Wheeler Dealer [Average Rating:3.00 Unranked]
J.L. Robert
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Saturday morning, and we all got ourselves together and headed to the con.

As Mike went to get his badge, I chose to check out the Exhibitor's Hall. They'd both soon follow me, anyways.

It was a bit smaller than I had hoped, with a couple of regular vendors not present this time.
 
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9. Board Game: Pandemic [Average Rating:7.66 Overall Rank:73]
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My primary objective was to find a copy of Academy Games' "Conflict of Heroes". Alas, no one would carry it at this show.

However, my first stop at The Weekend Warrior's booth proved a boon. On their back table sat a single copy of Pandemic. My first words to Ken Fonarow at this show was to hold that for me while I checked out the rest of his convention wares.

Yeah, the box was a little dinged. But the game's incredible, and as rapidly as it leaves store shelves, I wasn't in the mood to let it slip by me.
 
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10. Board Game Accessory: Wings of War: Miniatures
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I also picked up a couple more Wings of War for my collection, bringing me up to 12 fighters, 2 of each type.

Ken was nice enough to knock a few bucks off the total, as he recognizes me from our dealings over the many conventions through the years.
 
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11. Board Game: RoboRally: Radioactive [Average Rating:7.54 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.54 Unranked]
J.L. Robert
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Milling around the dealer room, I was checking GMT's booth, then the adjoining seller, who had a number of books and used games.

Lo and behold, he had what I had been missing from my RoboRally collection, which I have been trying to assemble from scratch over the past year!

I was able to purchase this...
 
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12. Board Game: RoboRally: Grand Prix [Average Rating:7.76 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.76 Unranked]
J.L. Robert
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...and this...
 
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13. Board Game: RoboRally: Crash and Burn [Average Rating:7.79 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.79 Unranked]
J.L. Robert
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...and this. All 3 were still in shrinkwrap.

Total cost for the 3: $180. An excellent price, considering that all 3 fetch strong values in the secondary market, and that C&B rarely shows up on eBay.
 
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14. Board Game: Tribune: Primus Inter Pares [Average Rating:7.24 Overall Rank:465]
J.L. Robert
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The Flea Market tables were pretty sparse a that time, so we went into the Open Gaming area, to check out the activity.

Eric Burgess (BGG's 'Sheylon') was there running a game demo table, and had set up Tribune. I've played this game before, and really enjoy it. So I convinced Bill to join me and let Eric teach him and another local gamer, Stephanie. Mike had to participate in a conference call with a local gaming group of his that is going into business to develop a series of miniature game rules, so he wasn't able to join in.

Our 3-player game (Eric did not play, so he could be available to demo other titles) went smoothly, and both newcomers got into the swing of things quickly. Bill was able to maneuver his factions to collect 3 victory conditions in the same ACTION, and won the game.
 
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15. Board Game: Ticket to Ride: USA 1910 [Average Rating:8.01 Unranked] [Average Rating:8.01 Unranked]
J.L. Robert
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It was then time for me to run the first of the two tournaments I had volunteered to officiate. I don't mind helping out the con staff by refereeing a game or two. And even though a third tourney probably would have been enough hours to earn a reinbursement of my badge fee, I was content just helping out the amount I did.

8 players participated in the Ticket to Ride tournament. The 2-round event finished up pretty quickly, as 4 seasoned players raced through the final round in about 40 minutes. Richard Potthoff strung together a great set of connections to comfortably win the game.
 
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16. Board Game: Runebound: The Cataclysm [Average Rating:7.38 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.38 Unranked]
J.L. Robert
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Between rounds of the Ticket to Ride tournament, I went back out to the flea market tables, in the hopes of finding something of interest.

I came into one seller with some odds and ends. I wound up getting this...
 
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17. Board Game: Runebound: The Seven Scions [Average Rating:7.08 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.08 Unranked]
J.L. Robert
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...and this...
 
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18. Board Game: Wrasslin' [Average Rating:5.92 Overall Rank:6022]
J.L. Robert
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...and this. This game was the first game I led a playtest group, and my name in the credits is my first official credit in the gaming industry. I had given away my complimentary copy years ago to a co-worker whose son was a pro wrestling fanatic, so I was happy to finally get around to reacquiring it.

Total cost for the 3 items: $10.
 
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19. Board Game: Cleopatra and the Society of Architects [Average Rating:6.81 Overall Rank:757]
J.L. Robert
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My second tournament was immediately afterwards. 6 players arrived to play "Cleopatra & Company", so I had to scrounge around for a second copy of the game to accompany the one I had brought to the show.

We were able to get the second table underway, and two 3-player games brought 2 finalsts each to play a 4-way last round. Justin Clouter was able to construct several of the big ticket pieces to win the game, while his friend Jon Wagner was the unfortunate sacrifice to the crocodiles. Mother and daughter Leslie and Esther Udvaldi (a pre-teen who loves this game) finished 2nd and 3rd, respectively.
 
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20. Board Game: Yetisburg: Titanic Battles in History, Vol. 1 [Average Rating:5.73 Overall Rank:9528]
J.L. Robert
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Mike's extended conference call ended while I was running the Cleopatra tournament. So Bill and he took out one of his purchases, Yetisburg, and tried it out. Behind the silly, over the top theme is a fair game with some strategy and risk management. Certainly worthy to hit the table again in the future.

I would get to play it late Saturday night, and enjoyed it immensely.
 
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21. Board Game: Miscellaneous Game Accessory [Average Rating:6.96 Overall Rank:3760] [Average Rating:6.96 Overall Rank:71]
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After the tourneys, I popped back into the dealer room, just to see what else may have shown up.

The GMT booth had a stack of counter trays this time around. Being a wargamer at heart, I can never really have enough of these. And at $2 apiece, without having to place a $100 mail order, I gladly picked up 5 more.
 
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22. Board Game: Pandemic [Average Rating:7.66 Overall Rank:73]
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Bill and Mike had never played Pandemic, so it was time I finally introduced them both to this brilliant game.

We played 3 games, joined by a fourth player for 2 of them. They've yet to experience the frustration of the Expert game, with all 6 Epidemic cards in the deck, but we won 2 of the 3 games.

They both enjoyed the fast play and the tension of the game. Mike went to get a copy to bring home to the family, but no copies were to be found in the dealer room.
 
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23. Board Game: Murder à la carte: Burritos & Bandidos [Average Rating:6.50 Unranked]
J.L. Robert
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It was now dinnertime, so we brought our gear back to our room and got the car. Between the convention site and the Olive Garden restaurant we went the night before was a Chipotle location. This chain of trendy Mexican-ish fare has been spreading around the country, but is admittedly really good food.
 
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24. Board Game Accessory: Wings of War: Miniatures
J.L. Robert
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Our goal for the weekend was to play Wings of War, especially with the miniatures.

After dinner, we brought down my planes, along with some of Bill's. In the miniatures section, we chose to fly a 4-on-4 battle, Bill and Mike flying Germans, while I took the Allies. Their 3 Albatross D.V's, plus a Fokker Dr.I would take on my pair of Sopwith Snipes with 2 Spad XIII's.

After the initial clash sent an Albatross and a Spad to the earth, I was able to regroup my planes, while the other two got their aircraft separated. I isolated and finished off Mike's second Albatross, then shot down Bill's triplane (which took a beating--14 cards!--before finally going down) in quick succession, before swapping casualties with Bill's remaining fighter.
 
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25. Board Game: Nexus Ops [Average Rating:7.24 Overall Rank:336]
J.L. Robert
United States
Sherman Oaks
California
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After the dogfighting, we headed back to our room once more. It was around 11:30 pm again, so we had time for a short game.

I had learned how to play Nexus Ops the previous weekend, so we chose to finally take my copy out of shrinkwrap and play it.

Mike got to the Monolith early, and had great synergy from the Energize cards he obtained from it, while I could never keep enough forces alive to justify buying any of the super-big hitters. Mike won the game rather handily.

After a quick game of Yetisburg with Mike, we called it a night at around 1:30 am. We planned to get an early start on the next day.

However, before turning in, I checked my mail and BGG stuff. Discovering that I had already owned the 2 Runebound expansions I had purchased in the Flea Market, I sold both, at my cost, to Mike so he could bring them home to his set.
 
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