Once again, the group of gamers from across eastern Texas have gathered in Aggieland for an extended weekend of gaming.
This year, the 4th fell on Saturday, which could have made for a shorter weekend, but Texas A&M opted to close for Friday, the third, which gave us an extra day to get the gaming in. I hoped to try and get some of the folks from my local gaming group involved this year, so I rented the party room in my neighborhood and threw out a general invitation to the various local gaming groups.
We also invited a new person to the invite-only part of things. She jumped in with both feet and seemed to really enjoy herself. It's always gratifying to see someone "get it" and join in the festivities.
I'm not sure of an exact tally of games played, since we have grown to a point that there were many times when more than one game was going on. On Friday, with the locals added to the mix, there were times when three or even four games were going on at one time. For me, I got in 29 games, which made me very happy.
Folks who were there for either the open or invite portions of things - if you don't see a game you know that you played, please feel free to add it in!
I'm wiped out from the hosting duties (as is my wonderful non-gaming wife) I have to especially thank her - she put up with the gamers, their quirks, their obsession with getting "one more move" in rather than eating, and she entertained the non-gamer spouses and children. I'll post the remainder of the recap in the next day or so.
The first game of the weekend happened on Thursday evening, after dinner. At that point, we had two out of town guests and a couple of locals. We had watched a couple of episodes of Top Gear, then three of us - Mike, Zac and I - started breaking in my new travel Mah Jongg set. We got one full hand in before our fourth player was ready to start playing some games. One player was blessed to get a bouquet of flowers (he was also East). I was lucky enough to complete my hand a couple of draws before the third player would have.
For the interested, we were playing using the Wright-Patterson rules I grew up with. It was really nice to get a Mah Jongg game in, even it if was only one hand!
With our fourth player, we decided to switch to Qwirkle. Kong really likes this one, in spite of his color issues. I'm trying to figure out a way for a color-challenged player to distinguish between the various colors, but I don't have one that works completely (yet!). I pulled out to a huge lead, but Mike started pulling the tiles needed to complete sets of six with alarming frequency, which sealed the win for him.
Dexterity games are always welcome at the Gathering of Ags. I had brought Tier auf Tier to the winter GoA and had played it with Mike's daughters. Since then, I had picked up two sets of Tier auf Tier: Das Duell to add to the mix. We got into an epic game, with enough crocodiles being rolled to allowing us to expand out as well as up. The eventual collapse did not happen until each of us held about three pieces. Once the first collapse happened, we had a series of them, though. Mike was able to place his last piece before I did.
Note: later in the weekend, we discovered that we have been playing a key rule (pieces passed as the result of a hand being rolled on the die are placed right away rather than being added to the hand) wrong. This could have changed things, but we'll never know for sure.
The final game of the evening was Excape - the recently released re-theme (if you can call it a re-theme) of Exxtra. Whether the re-theme is meaningful or not, it's a good game and I'm happy to have it in my collection. Again, I pulled out to a huge lead, and then my dice rolling got very cold. Mike came roaring back, but he, too, eventually had his rolls fall off. Zac came from behind and passed the rest of us easily and made it to the winner's circle.
On Friday morning, I packed up some of my collection - concentrating on the games that need extra space - and hauled them down to the party room. We got ourselves situated and waited. I have to admit that I was a bit apprehensive - a fair number of the locals had told me that they were not going to be able to attend the gaming on Friday, but some had also told me that they would be able to join us. We did not have to wait long, though. People started showing up pretty soon after we had started setting things up. At the peak, we were close to twenty people, and folks came and went, so I know that we had more than twenty there over the course of the day.
One game that saw a lot of action was my Crokinole board. I know that I played it twice myself, and I saw several other games played on it, too.
The board pictured is my Hilinski brothers board - "Homefield Advantage"
I did not play this great game during the weekend, though I had hopes of doing so. There was a long and hard-fought game played by others, though. In the end, the good guys won and Wu-Fang was vanquished... for now...
While the Ingenious game went on at another table, I got a game of Bohnanza started. If I had been thinking, I would have picked another game, since the constant trading did not mesh well with having to hop up and let new arrivals into the game room. I came very close to winning this one, but the cost of the third bean field was enough to set me back into second place.
I'm learning how to use the camera and video capture in my new iPhone 3GS, so image quality is not as good as I would like in this video or the photos of the PitchCar tracks - my apologies!
This track was built with 3 sets of the base PitchCar game, 2 sets of the first expansion, 3 sets each of the second and fourth expansions and one set of the extra long straights. Once again, the custom pieces I have a local craftsman (and gamer) working on were not yet ready.
There are a couple of new ideas for us on this track - first, we had not done anything with the fourth expansion's split level tracks before. Second, we built alternates to a couple of jumps (including the insane jump bypass of much of the middle portion of the track), which could be used in the event of failure to make a jump after a number of failed jumps. This helped an already slow track from getting any slower.
We had planned on doing two (or possibly even three) laps, but halfway through the first lap we all agreed that one would be plenty! I started pretty far back in the pack and worked my way up to the second spot. I had a chance to win it at the end, but I was a bit timid on my final shot and fell short.
At another table, several games of Dominion with Dominion: Intrigue were played in succession, using a wood chip set that some local gamers had made and lent to me for the weekend. I have no idea how many games of this were played, but I suspect it may have been as many as ten.
Special thanks to Unmil for lending me the Dominion chips, so that people could play Intrigue, even if it wasn't in stores yet! Every year, it seems like the game that I am most anticipating ships right after the 4th of July - it was really nice to be able to have the hot game even if I did not go to Origins!
After the PitchCar run (and a quick game of Crokinole, while the first and second place players waited for the rest to finish), five of us sat down to sling some serious dice. Zac wound up edging me out. While we were playing this, the remainder of the expected out of town guests for Friday arrived - just in time to grab dinner.
The final game (for me, at least) in the game room was Diamonds Club. I had been wanting to play this one ever since it was described at Essen last year. I had thought about including in my list of wanted games from Essen, but I trimmed it to let others add more of their own wants.
So, I finally got a chance to play it and I love it. This may be my discovery of the weekend. While we were winding down, the caretaker came in and told us that we needed to vacate.
While I was off playing Diamonds Club and others were playing Dominion, several folks worked on sorting out the parts for PitchCar. Three owners, each owning different numbers of sets, made for a lot of work. Thanks for cleaning that up, guys!
At another table, two of the late arrivals were playing this excellent die-roller. This would not be the last time it got played during the weekend (or even during the evening).
As we were packing things up, Jae handed me his real birthday present for me - a copy of this classic SPI game. I bought a copy when it was first released, having sent my hard-earned $4 to SPI directly (I think I got three others at the same time) when I was still in high school. During a fit of unemployment a good while after college, I had culled my gaming collection to help pay some bills. This was one of the losses I really regretted (Borderlands being the biggest), so it is nice to have a copy of it again. Here's hoping that the quality of the game lives up to my nostalgia!
Back in the smaller confines of my home, we got a five player game of Witch's Brew going. I am very happy with this under-appreciated (in my opinion) alea game. I also managed to win it by a hefty margin this time!
The final game played on Friday, as the various guests and friends departed and/or headed to bed, was a quick game of Shanghaien with Mike. He had not played before, but he was rolling well and got a good enough handle on the mechanics to win the game.
We started Saturday morning with breakfast at a local landmark, the Hullabaloo Diner in Wellborn (once featured on Food Network's Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. After getting completely stuffed, we returned home to get on with the gaming!
I guess it is wise to come clean at this point - I stopped twittering my games and only used the BGG app on my iPhone to record plays, so the order of these may not be 100% accurate...
The first game played on Saturday was a lot like the last game played on Friday. In fact, it was the same one! I was playing a different opponent, but the result was the same - I lost.
While we were working on building the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, some of our fellow gamers went off to sea in the ever-dangerous Red November. I checked in on them from time to time, but, ultimately, they were doomed.
Thomas, Miguel and I were joined by Becky, who wanted to learn this game. It had been a while since I had played it, but it is a good, well-produced game. Miguel, who had not been as interested as playing this as his wife, wound up winning the game.