Australian Games Expo 2010: The Attendendening
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GASP! as Melissa hits me with an inflatable caveman club!

THRILL! as my Mexican food arrives before I become blind drunk!

GROAN! as we lose some crucial tokens from Steve's new copy of Endeavour!

WAIL! as I forget to bring my copy of 1830 on the one day somebody actually wants to play it!
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1. Board Game: Australia [Average Rating:6.51 Overall Rank:1917]
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Ah, the fabled Australian Games Expo. Due to it being on in the middle of my exams for the past however many years, I had never been able to trudge its hallowed halls, surrounded by angsty lads in unfunny black t-shirts.

This year I was ready to go, having completed my last exam in November, so naturally the bastards picked this year to move it to January, when I could've gone anyway.
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2. Board Game: Shopping List [Average Rating:5.59 Overall Rank:12186]
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Prior to the con I came up with a shopping list that I thought was full of dignity and restraint. Namely:

1853
TZAAR
Dixit
Arimaa

I allocated myself a highly optimistic two hundred bucks of budget with which to obtain as much of the above as I could. How did I do? Read on, gentle punters...
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3. Board Game: The Great Australian Road Trip [Average Rating:5.00 Unranked]
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Friday. After a quick game of Mahjong with my work buddies, I returned home for a Vietnamese takeaway meal, then set off in the passenger seat of Iain's car.

We were scooting along happily enough to the sounds of NWA, Herbie Hancok etc, when the headlights crapped out at around 8pm. After some experimenting we worked out that the high beams could be made to function, so we continued on to Canberra, dazzling all in our path.

We got there in time for late night gaming at the Quality Inn, but opted to collapse instead.
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4. Board Game: Burst [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
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Saturday morning. Rested and full of vigour, we burst forth from our luxury accoms to seek gaming nirvana in the fabulous city of lights.
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5. Board Game: Roll Through the Ages: The Bronze Age [Average Rating:6.90 Overall Rank:573]
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After a leisurely breakfast, we drove into the exhibition centre and had a stroll around the con. I was seeking exciting new games, whereas Iain was seeking someone to help him get the headlights fixed.

As luck would have it, I ran into other Phil at the Caterpillar Games stand, and we had a rousing game of Roll Through The Ages with Simon and Max. A quick glance at Max's scoresheet revealed that he had not only changed the name of the game to Pastizzi Through The Ages, but had also changed his own name to Death Walker.

I forget exactly what happened, but I think Death Walker built the Great Pastizzi and crushed us all.
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6. Board Game: 1853 [Average Rating:6.99 Overall Rank:2533]
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Next I went shopping. I was so excited to see a copy of 1853 that I immediately bought it for $100 without checking if it was cheaper elsewhere. It was indeed slightly cheaper elsewhere, but the place I bought it from threw in some card sleeves with the TI3 lolcat on them, so it probably all evens out.

Anyhoo, 1853 looks really cool when you crack it open. Two big boards, a rulebook that suggests you use a German language MS-DOS computer moderator, warrior princesses on the tiles, and fabulous paper money that will never get used.
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7. Board Game: Dungeon Lords [Average Rating:7.44 Overall Rank:182]
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After my shopping episode, I took in a demo game of the hip new whatsit from that foreign guy, Dungeon Lords. Joining me for this game were ex-Gleber Terry, fellow Bic Camera cardholder Shingo, and... uhh... another chap.

So how was this much hyped new game? Well, Terry hated it, but I thought it was okay. It is yet another low interaction generic worker placement Euro. Iain calls these 'Aspies', in reference to our Aspergers pals who fear conflict and socialising, but don't mind counting matchsticks.
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8. Board Game: Treehouse [Average Rating:5.83 Overall Rank:5501]
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After my Aspy game I went shopping again, and found a pink Icehouse stash. I was super stoked about this development since they don't make single colour stashes any more, and I needed one more colour to play proper full size Volcano. Anyhoo, it was $22 reduce to $18, but the Milsims dude stole my change, so it was $20 in the end.

I showed them excitedly to many people who all said 'meh'. No, tell a lie, Gregor was mildly interested.

(When I got these home my girlfriend thought they were very pretty and began having arts and crafts ideas, so I've had to hide them with the hardcore pornography.)
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9. Board Game: Last Night on Earth: Growing Hunger [Average Rating:7.65 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.65 Unranked]
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At lunchtime I realised that I hadn't packed a lunch. Perhaps the cafeteria had vegan foods? Sadly no.

(P.S. Although I have never played the game pictured, I am convinced that a) it is not an Aspy, and b) it probably sucks anyway and takes 5 hours to play into the bargain.)
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I now cast around trying to find a game to play, but everyone was in the middle of a three hour Aspy of some type, leaving me at a loose end. Since the protospiel was coming up the very next morning, I invested an hour or two in carefully cutting out my fiendish 18XX prototype.
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11. Board Game: Just Add Friends: We Supply the Rest – Mexican Fiesta Version [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
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That night BGG admin and all round rad sheila Melissa had organised a BGG Mexican dinner. Since approximately 85,000 hungry boardgamers had descended on the cantina in question, the kitchen was overwhelmed, and for the firs two hours we could only get booze (on an empty stomach from lack of lunch, even). Death Walker and I got totally smashed.
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12. Board Game: Ugg-Tect [Average Rating:6.31 Overall Rank:2143]
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Later that same evening, I went to the late night gaming at the Quality Inn. Big ups to Jay and Rio Grande for sponsoring this -- everybody go buy an RGG game to show your thanks.

Anyhoo, while rummaging through crates of games I found an in-shrink German copy of Aargh!Tect. Melissa was kind enough to de-shrink it and translate the rules for us, and I had a game with her, James, and James's buddies whose names temporarily escape me.

This is an excellent game which is pretty much Make 'n' Break with savage beatings.
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13. Board Game: The Aristocrats [Average Rating:6.00 Unranked]
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Next, Iain produced his beloved print and play copy of The Aristocrats. The pair of us joined Richard, Steve, Paul, and Gregor to spin a tale of a midget hermaphrodite, about which the less said the better.
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14. Board Game: Schrille Stille [Average Rating:6.50 Overall Rank:2660]
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The same group minus Richard then had a rousing game of Schrille Stille. We had a false start when Iain couldn't drive the CD player right, but after that it was smooth sailing, and I believe Gregor was king of payola on this occasion.

Stay tuned for day two...
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Sunday was protospiel day, so I went off to the fabulous Pelican Room overlooking the expo, and set up my fiendish 18XX prototype. Said prototype is an attempt at a 2-player, two hour game. Fraser and I played for about 90 minutes, but we didn't get onto the brown tiles, so I think it is a bit long still. I'm going to jack up the train rush and reduce the bank for the next iteration. And the green tile mix needs some tinkering with.

The next protospiel session was me and two other gamer types trying out a roll-and-move game. This was a bit frustrating, but obviously it's the roll-and-move folks who are most in need of playtesting outside of their circle of friends. In the end we suggested that the game could be made more like pachisi by adding additional pieces, so that having rolled, the player could then have a couple of choices as to what to move. Anyway, it looked beautiful and would probably do well in tourist gift shops as is.
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16. Board Game Designer: Craig Browne (I)
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After lunch, mass market party game designer and this year's Best Australian Game winner Craig Browne gave a fantastic lecture on going from the prototype stage to international release. Although most of the protospiel participants were aiming at the hobby end of the market, Craig's wisdom about components, rules, and wholesale prices was very applicable. Despite shifting 50,000 - 100,000 copies of his various games each year, landing TV gameshow deals etc, he said he was still just breaking even in the game design business, and was holding on until he had a big Trivial Pursuit or Pictionary type hit. Sobering news for anyone in the crowd thinking of quitting their day job.

Having worked as a developer for Crown and Andrews he also had an interesting take on intellectual property. It was trivial to steal a game designer's idea, he said, but since game designers got less than 1% of the sticker price anyway, it was less hassle just to licence stuff. Why would a business bother stealing a few hundred bucks? It's petty cash to the mass market publishers.
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17. Board Game: De Bellis Antiquitatis [Average Rating:7.17 Overall Rank:1841]
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As the last session of protospiel, I played a 12mm miniatures game designed by an 11 year old kid. As you can imagine, I was a bit apprehensive about this, but the kid turned out to be super knowledgeable about game design. "What's this on my army list", I asked? "Ignore it, it's just fluff", he replied.

Anyway, he said that Igo-Ugo was antiquated and boring (amen brother!) and produced an electronic timer and a stack of order chits. A fiendish simultaneous action thingo ensued. It was a bit unbalanced but the theory was very sound, and I hope Games Workshop hire him to fix up their games one day.

After packing up the protospiel, I crammed in one last prototype game with a game design student from Swinburne Uni. Computer game design? No, just game design. Did he do a lot of maths and game theory? No, just the prisoner's dilemma and some basic probability. Programming? No, not really. Whatever the degree entailed, it seemed to be pretty good, because the guy's prototype was a solid abstract game with a cool plastic board. He had designed it in CAD and had it made rapid prototyping style using an industrial 3D accretion printer. Awesome! The game itself was pretty good, certainly better than most moulded plastic abstracts I've played, but not as polished as the Gipf series. Still, even being mentioned in the same sentence is a fine achievement. I'd probably buy it if it came out looking nice.

I said it would make a good iPhone game, and the designer said that might be a nice loss leader for the board game version. Clearly he'd missed Craig's lecture.
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18. Board Game: Merchant of Venus [Average Rating:7.17 Overall Rank:703]
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After protospiel we grabbed a meal at the vegan restaurant near the Quality Inn, then headed to the late nigh gaming. Iain had brought Merchant of Venus and Kremlin, and I had brought Dune and 1830, so we set up an Avalon Hill shrine to attract punters. Soon a clean cut young couple direct from a church yoof group joined us for Merchant of Venus. I had always wanted to play it and was pleased to discover that it was pretty good. I reckon Z-Man should do a scaled down reprint of this with Universal Head design.
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19. Board Game: Endeavor [Average Rating:7.45 Overall Rank:202]
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After MoV, Iain, Steve, and I played Endeavour with (I think) Paul. Immediately after setting it up we realised we were short two tokens and began panicking, but they were eventually found under the board. We all thought Endeavour was a pretty cool game and quite interactive for a Euro. It's basically a mixture of something like China and Puerto Rico, except you can attack the other players, which is very refreshing.
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20. Board Game: Tulipmania 1637 [Average Rating:6.18 Overall Rank:3525]
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Aaand for our final game of the evening we took Scott Nicholson's flaming tulips for a spin. It is a cruel and nasty economic game that feels a bit like a cross betwixt Intrigue and Shark. All the Sydney crew who played it were quite taken with it, and for many of us I think it was the best game of the convention (apart from The Aristocrats, obviously).
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21. Board Game: Crokinole [Average Rating:7.79 Overall Rank:75]
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Monday morning, and after only a few hours sleep we staggered back to the expo for the final day. I was sick of lugging my rare and valuable copy of 1830 around only to be rejected time and again, so I left it back at the apartment. So of course, as soon as I got to the expo, Chris appeared and was super keen to play it. Iain had given me a lift, so I begged him to turn back and get 1830, but he was in the middle of a game of Priests of Ra (his verdict: not as good as regular Ra), so I had to wait. I hovered around, pacing and generally being a nuisance, until I joined a Crokinole game with Steve, Chris, and Edwin. Chris and I teamed up, and I use the term loosely, because he contributed nothing but hamfisted gutterballs to our effort, making us lose. Booo.
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22. Board Game: Nexus Ops [Average Rating:7.24 Overall Rank:336]
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I still had some agonising time to kill -- would I get 1830 early enough to give me 4 hours to play before the expo closed for the year? During this turbulent time I indulged in a bit o' retail therapy, picking up Nexus Ops for $20. At that price, who could refuse?
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23. Board Game: Wyatt Earp [Average Rating:6.87 Overall Rank:823]
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For my final purchase, I also grabbed a copy of Wyatt Earp from Julian's stall. The great man was absent, and had left his boutique in the care of a bemused woman. "And how many games do you have?", she asked. "Uhhh... one hundred or something... no, don't pity me... I brought it on myself."

I've since played the game and it is great, and you should all buy it.
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24. Board Game: 1830: Railways & Robber Barons [Average Rating:7.83 Overall Rank:166] [Average Rating:7.83 Unranked]
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Ashfield
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I've got an 808 and a 303 and a record collection like the ABC
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Iain finally finished his endless game and took pity on me, and we got a quick felafel lunch and picked up 1830 from the chateau. Chris, Edwin, and I enjoyed a gripping game of same. Edwin had never played before, so by way of example, I looted the B&O, stuffed it full of crappy trains, and dumped it on Chris. He responded by surrounding me with shitty track that could not be upgraded. After four and a half hours of the two of us trading blows, he emerged victorious with $8600 or thereabouts to my $8500. Aargh! Edwin came in with a very respectable first game score of anything other than bankruptcy.
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Thanks, AGE. I'll be back next year, where, as always, the real winner will be gaming. Oooooh yeah.
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