A Weekend with Vlad - Ubercon IV, Oct. 15-17, 2004
Gil Hova
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It is 1:56 am EDT as I write this. Ubercon IV ended today. I haven't been as involved with a convention as I had with this one. The regular boardgame director is expecting her first child any day now, so my friend Andrew and I were handed the torch.

I had a great time, and I think most of the people at the con did too. It was in a larger hotel than last time (thank the gods), and the atmosphere was quite relaxed and friendly.

I learned an awful lot about running a board game track, and I'm looking forward to UCV in March!
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1. Board Game: PitchCar [Average Rating:7.25 Overall Rank:314]
Gil Hova
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First things first: Set up the PitchCar table. I laid out my game on a double table, and left the pieces at the help desk for signout. There were typical issues with the pieces not fitting all too well, which is why, during the bustle and sweat of the con setup, I had a couple of volunteers flick the pieces around to make sure the track was fair. I hope nobody thought they were slacking...

On Friday, several people wandered over to the table, read the instructions I'd posted there, and wandered off somewhere else. Saturday was a different story - I had a few people ask me how to play the game, and I quickly taught them. I hung around during the game to monitor the track, and found a couple of improvements I could make.

As I expected, once the first game started, the table remained busy for awhile. People really seem to dig it. It's a shame the component quality isn't as good as Carabande (my rails keep popping out despite the gluing job my wife did a few months ago... she's since found a stronger glue), but I can't afford to spend over $150 on a game like this. I'm still glad I have it, and I think it left a good impression.
 
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2. Board Game: Puerto Rico [Average Rating:8.06 Overall Rank:15]
Gil Hova
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Well, what a predictable way to start off. Actually, I figured a couple of weeks before the con that I had an open spot just after it opened, and the current #1 game on BGG should be represented.

It's funny... every time I run this game, I wind up teaching it to people. It's okay, because I have a script set up in my head about how to teach it, and I really enjoy doing so.

In my post-con haze, I don't remember who it was I taught, though I do know that Matt from ConnectiCon won the game. Good show, Dangermouse!
 
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3. Board Game: Goa [Average Rating:7.62 Overall Rank:107]
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My game of Puerto Rico ran long. Fortunately, a great gamer named John, whom I had met and taught Goa to at Southern Exposure, stepped in and taught the game in my stead. Memo to self: schedule PR for THREE hours next time...
 
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4. Board Game: Power Grid [Average Rating:7.92 Overall Rank:28]
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I sat at the Goa table for awhile, and after watching John working with the other players, I realized that he had the event well in hand. I asked everyone if it was okay if I left the event in his hands, and they were all okay with it.

Excellent! I ended up playing Power Grid with a couple of people from the Pennsylvania gaming group I attend (EPGS), but had somehow never actually played with. They had made the trip up here, and seemed to be enjoying themselves. A shame they couldn't stay the weekend, but I'm glad they're not strangers to me anymore.
 
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5. Board Game: Punk sucht Lady [Average Rating:5.71 Overall Rank:10814]
Gil Hova
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One of the few problems we had in the con was a Munchkin tournament that was published in the schedule as ending at midnight, even though we'd planned for it to end at 1:00. Since I entered everything into the schedule, it's very likely that this was my fault. Sorry for everyone who got messed up by this. I was looking forward to running this game, but many of the pre-registrants were still hacking away in Munchkin-land.

Fortunately, I was still able to form a quorum, and we wound up with a great game.

I've prepared translated cards based on the cheat sheets I've posted here on the 'Geek, and I have to say that I do enjoy playing this game. I especially like to watch people getting into character as we pitch our clients to each other, and try to spin their attributes as wildly as possible to make a match. And of course, the "arrow" mechanic doesn't hurt...

Thus endeth Friday night, and I dragged my sorry corpse to bed.
 
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6. Board Game: Telephone Tag [Average Rating:3.00 Unranked]
Gil Hova
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Well... no, I didn't run this game. I've never even heard of it. But I had a Prototype Game Workshop scheduled for 10:00 am, in which various aspiring game designers (like myself) would kick around our game prototypes.

The bad news was that I couldn't find my prototype... I thought I'd seen it when I was unpacking my games! Well, that was okay, compared to the worse news that all the aspiring game designers I'd met had pulled out, and were in other events.

So why Telephone Tag? Because I used the opportunity to slip out, drive to work, pick up the cellphone charger and jacket I'd forgotten there, and return. My phone was running out of juice, and I HAD to know how the various LCSes and football games were turning out. Yeah, I'm a loser.

Perhaps I'll run this at UCV... but only if I get some of my friends in for sure.
 
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7. Board Game: Betrayal at House on the Hill [Average Rating:7.11 Overall Rank:422]
Gil Hova
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This game was one of the convention highlights. It was constantly being trotted out onto the open play tables, and I saw our various vendors making brisk business selling it.

We had about eight people or so show up for it, so I had my friend Harry set up on another table, and we split in two. His game lasted much longer than ours, as his group had demons to contend with, whereas we just had to deal with an undead fiddler.

This isn't a game that offers huge strategic or tactical depth, but the level of immersion it provides is incredible. It caught on very nicely with the "crossover" RPG and LAN crowd, and I think it might show Avalon Hill/WOTC/Hasbro that there is a market for new, unique game ideas for gamers in the US.
 
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8. Board Game: Funkenschlag [Average Rating:7.57 Overall Rank:1214]
Gil Hova
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And back to Power Grid, but this was a scheduled event this time, and with five players instead of three. No, it wasn't first-edition rules, but the 'Geek says no duplicate game IDs, so there you go.

Everyone was new to the game, so I sat it out (as I prefer to do with learning games, so no one can accuse me of forgetting a rule that might potentially benefit me, which happens to me more times than I care to think about) and acted as Banker and Power Plant Maestro. It lasted about three hours and change, but it probably would have gone awhile with experienced players anyway, as we emptied the power plant deck in Stage 3. The final scores were 17-16-15-15, which was quite good for a learning game.

Disclaimer: I know the rules say to go to 15 cities in a 5-player game, but I say fooey to that. 17 cities, IMVHO, makes for a much more fun game, albeit longer.
 
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9. Board Game: The Stock Car Championship Racing Card Game [Average Rating:6.84 Overall Rank:3883]
Gil Hova
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What a bummer - so few Northeast game geeks are into stock car racing! Well, I'm not that into it myself, though I grew up watching it. Can't say why, but I enjoyed it a lot more then than I do now.

Anyway, I have a soft spot for NASCAR, but it was tough scraping together a quorum for this game. After a few minutes of trolling, I had three other players who were slightly skeptical of this card game that was supposed to capture the feel of real stock car racing.

We raced 125 laps on a one-mile oval, and at the end, they were very impressed at the game's awesome blend of realism and playablity. I really enjoy this game myself, though I wish I could play it with more than four people on a regular basis.
 
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10. Board Game: Survive: Escape from Atlantis! [Average Rating:7.32 Overall Rank:232]
Gil Hova
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Another game that proved to be tricky to scrape players together for, even though I promised evil, childhood-scarring fun. I was able to scrape up a couple of people interested in cold-blooded fun, and we chatted awhile while we watied for my aforementioned friend and interim boardgame co-manager Andrew to finish his game of Samurai.

What a great game this is! It's got lots of nastiness and bloodthirst, but since so much of it is going on, you don't really wind up holding a grudge by the end of the game. Andrew was impressed by how quickly it played (though the volcano tile being the second Mountain tile flipped certainly helped shorten the game).

I rescued the most people, but was disheartened to see that they were all my 1s and 2s, with a couple of 4s. The high-valued pieces wound up in a sea-monster's belly. Still, a fantastic game, and one I'd play anytime.
 
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11. Board Game: Volcano [Average Rating:6.85 Overall Rank:2870]
Gil Hova
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Did I mention that the Looneys were there, running a Little Experiment? I've met them once before, and they always impress me with their friendliness, courtesy, and smarts. I'm not going to give 10s to all their games, but Volcano is one of my favorite Icehouse games, and I got to teach it to a couple of people.

It went over very well, and one of the players agonized over the fact that he would purchase several Icehouse stashes (or wait for the forthcoming Volcano box), were it not for the fact that he had two conventions' worth of unplayed games back at home.
 
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12. Board Game: The Princes of Florence [Average Rating:7.57 Overall Rank:116]
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After finishing Volcano, I noticed that the fellows from NerdNYC had cracked open a new copy of Princes of Florence. I'd met them at UC3, and went over to say hi. Turns out that none of them had played PoF before, so I gladly put on my teachers' hat again and showed them.

They're brave souls, taking on a new game of this depth past midnight, but they were up to the task. On the other hand, I forgot about the 3 VP for buying a building until the middle of the game (BAD GM! BAD!), but that didn't really mess anything up. Oh, and I didn't notice some of them drawing one Profession card from the deck when they should have drawn five and picked one (BAD GM! VERY BAD! NO COOKIE!).

But they loved the game, and with their Gotham Gaming Group starting to pick up, I'll hopefully get the chance to play with them again.

I chatted with a few people after the game, and went to bed at 4:00 am.
 
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13. Board Game: Wheel of Fortune [Average Rating:4.52 Overall Rank:15238]
Gil Hova
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Okay, okay, I'll admit it. Andrew and I came up with the intricate prize system at UCIV. It involved winning tickets and badges in events. Tickets could purchase smaller stuff, whereas specified combinations of badges could be traded in for raffle entries in a Chinese Auction.

The verdict seemed to be split; some people really enjoyed the intricacies, trading, and button collecting. But quite a few people were really confused by the whole thing, so Andrew and I will probably tweak it a bit to simplify it.

But the highlight of the prize system was a spinning prize wheel that my company (audible.com) graciously lent me, along with a goodly amount of prize support. The wheel was constantly going the whole convention, and I got a kick out of seeing that a couple of security staff had pasted pictures of fish onto the wheel (hint: "What's in the box? Absolutely nothing! You're so stupid!").
 
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14. Board Game: IceTowers [Average Rating:6.44 Overall Rank:4404]
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I've been meaning to learn new Icehouse games. Prior to the con, all I knew was Zendo and Volcano. Oh, and Andy and Russell had tried to teach me Homeworlds, but it went in one ear and out the other. Tough game to get a handle on.

Alison taught me this one and I enjoyed it, even though she handed me my tail, along with all those learning with us. There's a great mix of real-time action and tactics here. Real-time games are difficult to learn, because their first playing usually benefits from a referee (i.e. "You can't mine a tower that you've capped," "No minebacks," "No two-handed play," and so on). I'm looking forward to trying it again.
 
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15. Board Game: One False Step for Mankind [Average Rating:6.31 Overall Rank:6131]
Gil Hova
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Andrew and I make a pretty good team. Andrew runs a lot of the more "populist" games, like Settlers of Catan and Munchkin, that always prove popular at cons in the Northeast. Being the arrogant elitist snob that I am, I'm always looking for the more interesting stuff that may slip under the radar. This Cheapass game gets better and better every time I play it, and I really don't think it's gotten its just due yet.

I played it with two new players and someone from my regular Friday gaming group. When I first taught him the game, he beat me. And he did it again... by one point, 30-29, because I failed a Guidance System roll. I can see how some who don't like the randomness of the dice-based moon shots, but it really doesn't faze me. Great game.
 
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16. Board Game: Icehouse [Average Rating:6.66 Overall Rank:2640]
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One thing I'd been meaning to do is learn the original Icehouse game, and after another teaching session of Betrayal at House on the Hill, I wrapped up the con by haraunging Andy into teaching a group of us Icehouse. He seemed a little self-conscious teaching it, and I think it's because his game development group has come up with much more elegant and obvious games than their progenitor.

Hey, I don't think it's a bad game, and I can see why people like it. But I'm not particularly good at negotiation, and this game really requires lots of that, as well as the ability to look for things to negotiate about. So I'm grateful for the experience, but I think I'll stick to IceTowers, Volcano, and Zendo for now.

Oh, and if you see Andy at a convention near you, give him some chocolate.
 
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