Games and Comments regarding the Gaming Hoopla in Lake Geneva
Clark Barthel
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St Charles
Illinois
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During 26 and 27 September, I spent most of the weekend playing games at the Gaming Hoopla in Lake Geneva, an event which raised a good chunk of money for the Cancer for Life relay.
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This geeklist attempts to capture all of my activities/observations/thoughts (surprising as it may be) from the weekend.

Alan Reeve also has a similar list with a slightly different perspective.
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Clark Barthel
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St Charles
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I want to credit Brent Cunningham for doing some nice work in putting the Hoopla together. He's a great guy for conversation and really committed to putting on a good event.

Bill Corey Jr (aka Mr. Public Address System) kept things moving without being too frequent in announcements. Just ask Bill about his yeast-men, who need a bit of leavening if you ask me.

The playing site was really nice, including lots of space and windows for outside light. Food was available on premises and the gaming library was fairly well stocked with titles.
 
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2. Board Game: Boxcars [Average Rating:6.47 Overall Rank:5784]
Clark Barthel
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St Charles
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Just getting to the Gaming Hoopla was the best fun. After turning off the main road, Club house road goes downhill... So, I'd take my manual transmission car and let it roll down the hill. It was steep enough to hit 45 MPH before climbing up the next hill. In fact, I then had to use the brakes to stop and park at the Hoopla! If you go there in the future, I highly recommend this boxcar derby.
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3. Board Game: Fairy Tale [Average Rating:6.76 Overall Rank:742]
Clark Barthel
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St Charles
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After registering and receiving my grab bag of stuff, there was some time before the Settlers of Canaan qualifier. So, Alan, Ken and I played a quick game of Fairy Tale. It was a learning game for Ken. I was doing just fine until Alan decided to flip all my cards in the last round, giving him the victory.
 
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4. Board Game: Catan [Average Rating:7.23 Overall Rank:279] [Average Rating:7.23 Unranked]
Clark Barthel
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St Charles
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First up was the qualifier for the Settlers of Catan Tournament. This was run by Bill Corey, Jr on the 3D Anniversary Set. It took about half of the game to adjust as the pieces are harder to distinguish, especially the clear numbers. I surrounded the 8 wheat tile with the 2:1 wheat port and moved out to an 8 point position. However, Ken went crazy with his 8 rock tile, scoring 5 points in the final round to leapfrog to a victory. The top two qualified for the finals which turned out to be Knights and Cities. Having never played K&C, I declined to participate (more later). Bill couldn't figure out why we picked on Ken when he only had 3 points for most of the game.
 
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5. Board Game: Race for the Galaxy [Average Rating:7.77 Overall Rank:48]
Clark Barthel
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St Charles
Illinois
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Since our Settlers game ended early, I talked Alan into showing me Race for the Galaxy which was available from the game library. Ken joined us. I missed a couple of key rules (more my fault than Alan's), so I finished miserably in last. Hard to even judge the game.

During the game, my wife called to say that the dog had eaten a bengay patch, so she was going to take him to the vet to induce vomiting. Turns out they couldn't get him to vomit and he probably was merely chewing on an empty wrapper anyhow.
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6. Board Game: RoboRally [Average Rating:7.12 Overall Rank:336]
Clark Barthel
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St Charles
Illinois
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After that, I was to conduct a LTP session of Roborally. No one showed up, so I guess everyone who was interested knows how to play. So I ate my lunch then went to the gas station and bought a paper.
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7. Board Game: Pandemic [Average Rating:7.66 Overall Rank:73]
Clark Barthel
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St Charles
Illinois
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While reading my paper, someone whose name I've forgotten (Anthony, I think) wandered by and saw me reading the paper near the Roborally game. We struck up a conversation and he offered to show me Pandemic. Tony was watching a nearby Notre Dame game, so I recruited him to join us. Matt was drafted once he returned from an errand and the game was on. Well, for all of 20 minutes as the epidemics exploded quickly.

After that, another Race for the Galaxy, where a second explanation of the rules helped my comprehension. However, I had to bail out partway as the Power Grid Qualifier started. Tony took over my position -- hopefully, he did ok. Much better the second time.
 
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8. Board Game: Power Grid [Average Rating:7.92 Overall Rank:28]
Clark Barthel
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St Charles
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The first qualifier was Alan, me, Bill Sr, Jon, Chris, and one other. It was played on the US map with the second edition deck. (which by the way, I don't like). It was an interesting game. I ended up starting in the west, due to my initial plant purchase. Everyone else was crowded and scrambling over themselves in the east.

The final result? Alan, Jon, and I all had 15 cities. However, I had eight dollars less than the other two. I lost it in the last round due to buying extra fuel and poor last city choices. But I didn't feel too bad as Jon probably played the best game and deserved to move on. Alan leapfrogged forward in the last round.
 
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9. Board Game: Power Grid: The New Power Plant Cards [Average Rating:7.82 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.82 Unranked]
Clark Barthel
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St Charles
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So, since I really didn't have anything else scheduled, I played in a second Power Grid qualifier with Chris (from qualifier 1), Bill Sr (who filled in for another Chris, Steve, Kirby, and Ryan. Ryan played the unusual strategy of starting in Boise and then got three plants before building his second city. I played rather poorly, making several mistakes, especially related to city choices and plant capacity and purchases, so I was not a factor.

Despite having played in only his second ever game of PG, Chris won with Steve earning the second qualifier. Based on one of my comments (Sorry!) Bill Sr triggered the game end, despite finishing third. Post morteum analysis concluded that it wouldn't have mattered anyhow. The same result would occurred just a different way.
 
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10. Board Game: Hidden Agenda: The Dinner Party Game [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Clark Barthel
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St Charles
Illinois
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Needing a brain break, I offered to take Alan to dinner. Despite having food onsite, Alan is a vegetarian so hot dogs and bratwurst don't work. Power Grid tends to tax my mind so I wanted a refresher.

Before leaving I checked with Bill, Jr to determine that I had enough time to get back for the Settlers final. Halfway to dinner, I get a phone telling me that they are planning to start the final! Since I wasn't excited about it in the first place, I gave up me seat. I've not played K&C. I was due to run a Roborally main event at the same time as the final, also complicating things. So I opted out.
 
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11. Board Game: Manhattan [Average Rating:6.70 Overall Rank:992]
Clark Barthel
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St Charles
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After dinner, it turned out that most of the participants signed up for my Roborally event were in the Settlers final!

So, I noticed that Dave and Joann were looking for players, so Alan and I agreed to play Manhattan. They had not played the "Baby Kong" version of Manhattan, so I grabbed spin bot from Roborally. They really enjoyed this variant and it was quite a competitive game. Joann came from behind in the fourth round to eke out a win.
 
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12. Board Game: Guillotine [Average Rating:6.53 Overall Rank:999]
Clark Barthel
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St Charles
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The settlers final was still ongoing, so we taught Alan how to play Guillotine (the Manhattan was new for him too). Guillotine is just one of those games that you don't play seriously (at least I don't), but I enjoy it nonetheless.

Alan played a remove a noble on me as the last play, which removed a martyr, giving me a one point win!
 
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13. Board Game: RoboRally: Armed and Dangerous [Average Rating:7.78 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.78 Unranked]
Clark Barthel
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Finally, the Main event for Roborally! It was tricky preparing for this as I wanted a semi-challenging setup that didn't last more than an hour and a half or so. I went with the "Chop Shop" and "Coliseum" boards and three flags.

Dave and Joann were still looking for something to play, so we coaxed them in. Unfortunately, they had never played before, so they had a rough time. It finally clicked for Dave about halfway through, so I think he enjoyed it.

Alan jumped out to an early lead, ran into a rough patch of cards, then got to the first flag first. However, in going to the second flag, Bryan used his presser option to push him onto the double conveyor, killing a robot. This allowed Tony to pass Alan and get to the two remaining flags first.

After watching a little of the Werewolf session, back to the hotel.
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14. Board Game: Amun-Re [Average Rating:7.35 Overall Rank:260]
Clark Barthel
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St Charles
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Day 2

Well, only Alan and I showed for the Amun-Re/Oasis game. After chatting with Brent and giving him some suggestions on the Hoopla, we finally recruited three other people to play (they had just wandered in the door) -- Chris, Melissa, and Kirby.

None of them had played the game before. If you've played the game, you know that the rules explanation can be a bit lengthy and I could tell that was losing them. But we made it and began to play.

I had a good first kingdom as did Chris. The second kingdom was different. Two of the provinces had three pyramids on them, so bidding was quite fierce. My 15 with a block wasn't enough as Chris bid 28 for one of them, so I had to take the other from Alan for 21. However, he made up for it by cashing in three bonus cards at the end. My twelve points in temples was just enough to eke out a one point victory.

I think Kirby and Melissa liked the game, but I doubt they'll play it much in the future. We didn't play Oasis. No one was enthusiastic about playing.
 
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15. Board Game: Formula Dé Circuits 27 - 30: USA Track Pack #2 [Average Rating:7.33 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.33 Unranked]
Clark Barthel
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St Charles
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The Formula De' final was open to all, so we had a group of ten people. Karl, Colleen, Jon, Chris, Brent, Kirby, Melissa, Chris, Tony and I raced two laps around Elkhard Lake.

It was a game of attrition as several people lost cars due to blown up engines, including Karl and Colleen. Chris lost his due to excess tire wear. Kirby raced two thirds of the race one roll short of an engine blow up.

I started in 8th position, worked my way up to the front quickly, slid back to the middle, only to have the perfect die roll put me in the lead again. (I rolled a "30" in sixth gear, racing me down a long straightway, hitting a turn exactly. Then the engine check blew up Colleen's car [sorry].) But I, like everyone else, had some unfortunate rolls right at the end. This allowed Brent to sneak up from the pack and win in a close finish over Kirby!
 
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16. Board Game Designer: Tom Wham
Clark Barthel
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St Charles
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After the race, I stepped in for Alan who was playtesting one of Tom Wham's games. (The Power Grid final was starting). It's an interesting game with some interesting mechanics. Given that I stepped into the game, it's hard to evaluate it fully or fairly. But it was good to meet Tom.
 
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17. Board Game: RAFFLES: The Sophisticated Game of Chance [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Clark Barthel
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St Charles
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Thanks to the generous donations of the sponsors, the raffle was one of the most intriguing activities. So, for me, it was a bit of a metagame -- do I put all my tickets in one bag, spread them out, pick the best game or the least popular? I chose the spread them out tactic as there was no game that I REALLY wanted, but a few that I would like to have.

I threw a ticket into the Gurps package as no one else had. Figured my odds were pretty good. Near raffle time, it only had four tickets, but then Ryan put in a bunch of tickets figuring that he'd win. Well, he didn't and neither did I.

In fact, I pulled the big zero in the raffle. Ken, my father in law, won the game he really wanted. But you win some, you lose some -- the money spent was for a good cause.
 
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18. Board Game: What Will You Think Of Next? [Average Rating:5.00 Unranked]
Clark Barthel
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St Charles
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After the raffle, the Power Grid final concluded. The hall was basically packed up, so I shook a few hands and headed home. All in all, a good weekend. I'll be at the next one.

A few thoughts:
1) If they can keep the momentum going, they can continue to create a good weekend of gaming. They have the people and resources to do it.
2) The biggest issue was the continual conflicts that caused finals or games to be shifted around. People seemed to act like the system should accomodate them, making things difficult for others. This was clearly an unanticipated problem. I don't have many suggestions here, except to maybe enforce times, making people choose (especially if one doesn't have a prize), but then you run the risk of not having enough players in a final. (Many of the qualifying people were the same, regardless of game.)

Sunday was very different from Saturday from an attendance and energy point of view. Most people did not come back on Sunday.
 
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