After some checking at the Pheasant's Nest rest stop we made a mutual decision to continue down to Canberra with the lights on high beam, with Phil sitting on the bonnet yelling out "WHAT WOULD YOU RATHER BE, BLIND OR DEAD?" to the motorists in front of us.
We got into my brother's place about 11:30pm, too wacked to consider playing games (with Chris and his brother who were just up the road at the Quality Inn.)
My brother and I have inverse relationships to clutter so I think Phil was rather taken aback by our lodgings for the next three days. Its minimalism, its vast emptiness - it was like walking into a Vogue Living photo shoot.
The miles we had travelled weighed heavy upon us, and so we slipped into sleep, precious sleep.
(or tried to, as it was effing hot and I didn't know where the air conditioning was.)
To find Tommy and Damian setting up Runewars - Fantasy Flight Games' revision of Battlemist.
Okay, I was ready to plunge in. The online previews sounded interesting, it has lots of plastic bits and it had GEOMORPHIC TILES! - but it also had Fantasy Flight Rules (tm) so I was expecting a long slog through the setup and the game as we tried to locate where each and every bit was and what it did.
And it wasn't that bad - in fact, despite the overwhelming components (Plastic Troops, Faction Sheets with Dials for Resources, Counters out the Wazoo, Cards of Every Shape and Colour, and did I mention the GEOMORPHIC TILES?) it actually plays quite quickly and smoothly. It would still be a 3 hour game, but 45 minutes of that would be setting up, until you'd got everything sorted. Experienced players could probably play it under two. Maybe it should be an Olympic event - Speed Runewars?
Every aspect of the game (resource management, orders, event cards, troop movement and combat, hero movement and combat) was so streamlined I was starting to get worried that we were actually playing a Euro instead. What's happened to FFG? By the second year things were starting to make sense. My god - have they actually invented a big box game with, dare I say it, clarity and efficiency of game mechanics. I'm not endlessly fiddling with my resource dials - in fact, I choose to change them as my action for the turn. I recruit just by looking at them. I fight by drawing cards for my troops and seeing what happens. My vision swam, brought on the lack of sleep and the long drive, the plastic dragons started to turn into grey cubes, the flavour text into German, but the icons at the bottom of the season cards remained resolutely understandable. And then I came to a terrible realisation:
This wasn't a redesign of Battlemist, this was FFG's redesign of Cities and Knights of Catan! They've smuggled it into stores by draping an epic fantasy theme over it. But don't be fooled - underneath the faction sheets and the plastic miniatures and the tactics cards and the fate deck lies the cold beating heart of a Euro.
We abandoned the game at the half way mark (at the end of the third year) and Tommy and I looked at each other across the table and, together, made a stern and terrible resolution.
We must get someone else in Sydney to buy this so we can play it again.
By the time we'd finished half a game of Runewars the cafeteria had run out of anything remotely edible (in fact, by the time AGE had opened the cafeteria had run out of anything remotely edible.)
So I settled for an $6 burger out of homesickness for the Emerald City (though normally you would have to go to a harbourside suburb to pay something like that, hamburgers in industrial estates tend to be somewhat cheaper.)
I ran into my old friend Kevin so we could finally have that game of Glory to Rome that we were promising we'd have at the last AGE. Tommy joined us, as he'd never played it before and Tim, a friend of Kevin's.
Kevin was appalled at the state of my Glory to Rome cards. For a start, they were still in their original packaging, but worse, they appeared to be in immaculate condition, as if they'd never been played. He somehow fought back the bile that was rising in his throat and managed to hammer home a convincing win, with a combo that effectively allowed to play cards into his vault through the Craftsman action (of course, I could be missing out a few steps.) I played my bog standard strategy, relying on the latrine and the sewer, but my dreams of a victory were quickly flushed.
Oh well, one day I'll win a game of it - one day....
(hey, that's it! Kevin was shocked because the cards weren't marked! Oh, but he still won.)
Okay - I finally got in a couple of games. One I hadn't played before but wanted to, and one I always want to play. Now to the serious business of AGE - buying new games.
First off, Leacock and Lehmann's expansion to Pandemic. I really want to play the Bioterrorist variant, it's just unfortunate that I no longer have access to biohazard suits so we can play it as it is meant to be played. In isolation.
Whilst waiting for Steve and Phil to finish their games so we could go off to Francisco's for dinner, Kevin roped me into a quick game of Dominion. I think this may be the first game I played with Brian (whose BGG name I don't know, but I played with him a number of times and wish to repeat the pleasant experience, hint, hint) and someone else, who I can't remember.
I bought a Chapel, trashed my Estate cards and used my Laboratory and Moat to fill my hand with copper, to buy silver, to buy provinces. I was managing to buy a province pretty much every turn at the end.
Steve thoughtfully provided Phil and I a lift to the restaurant but, being unfamiliar with Canberra, didn't realise the roads were non-Euclidean.
Being a former local, I was able to direct us there through a series of shortcuts, taking us briefly through the Dreamlands and R'yleh. Fortunately, the car had blinds we could pull down during our brief sojourns through non-Euclidean space so we were able to arrive with most of our sanity intact.
Having successfully eluded the gugs and ghasts we found at ourselves at Francisco's Mexican Cantina where everyone was engaged in a furious game of How Long Can We Moderate Our Drinking Until The Food Arrives
Some of the players:
Sharp eyed readers may notice that Melissa was falling behind.
And the view of the other side of the table - with Phil showing Steve the photo he took for his geek list while Alison and Max indulge in hand jive.
Of course, other games were being played around the table while waiting for the food to arrive: Fraser and those around him were rather pessimistically playing Friday the 13th whilst we were engaged in a rousing game of -
Phil went off to club people over the head (footage at 24) whilst Steve, being the manly man he is, pulled out his tulips.
Tulipmania, that is.
Gregor had played it before and so we entered the pulsing hot 17th century Dutch floral market joined by Paul and Richard.
This is a great, tight, clever economic simulation. An economical economic simulation if you will (but I know you won't.) We had a great time as the tulips prices slowly rose and then plummeted to earth like so many tech stocks.
Definitely one of the hits of AGE and a game that's gone straight onto my wish list (as Steve seemed to have bought the last copy at AGE.)
Big props to Scott Nicholson for bringing this into the world.
We then succumbed to Phil's entreaties to play Aargh!Tect.
One player is encouraging the other player to build a structure (known only to them) - what makes it difficult is they're both cavemen (or rather, cavepeople) with a vocabulary of six words, six gestures and an inflatable club. It's very similar to how Sydney City Council makes planning decisions.
With that in mind, here's Phil hitting people on the head with an inflatable club. With guest appearances from James and Melissa
And my last game for the evening was my favourite gimmick game, joined by Steve, Phil, Gregor and Brian (I think - accounts vary.)
I managed to get completely screwing up the cd player out of the way early, so with a quick restart we were away (using the English rules, which Phil prefers, rather than the more chaotic German rules, which I prefer.)
Steve could just not pick a winner while it seemed Phil was destined to be the next Simon Cowell but, suddenly, there was an upset in the last round and Gregor got to host American Idol in perpetuity!