PrezCon: With Children
Derek Croxton
United States
Charlottesville
Virginia
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This is the year that my long-time tream of bringing my kids to a gaming convention actually came true. I have two boys, ages 8 and 10, who have been playing Pokemon for several years now. They have had some interest in other games, but were generally shy about them. In the past year, for whatever reason, both of them have become more interested in games, and both were looking forward to their first PrezCon. I had to sacrifice some of my gaming, of course, to keep them happy, but I was aware of that going in, so it was not an issue.

I have to begin on a sad note. The PrezCon Hall of Fame inductee this year was my friend of 30 years, Gerald Lientz, who was not able to attend because he is under treatment for brain cancer. Many on BGG have probably met Gerald at conventions over the years -- he has attended every previous PrezCon, as far as I know, and went to Origins almost every year from 1975 until fairly recently -- and I doubt anyone who met him had a bad experience. He is a strong gamer, a wonderful friend, and a nice guy, and he should have many years of gaming ahead of him. Get well soon, Gerald.
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1. Board Game: Race for the Galaxy [Average Rating:7.77 Overall Rank:50]
Derek Croxton
United States
Charlottesville
Virginia
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This is the other game my younger son has been excited about since I taught him about a month ago. I tried to teach him at the same time he learned Dominion, but he wanted nothing to do with it; now, it's one of his favourites. I don't know what changed in the last year. I got to the finals in this one, but lost out to Charlie Hickock -- and everyone else at the table. Sigh, another last place.
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2. Board Game: Dominion [Average Rating:7.67 Overall Rank:72] [Average Rating:7.67 Unranked]
Derek Croxton
United States
Charlottesville
Virginia
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My younger son got interested in this game a year ago October, and this is about all he wanted to play at the convention. Fortunately, there were plenty of opportunities. He even won one game; unfortunately, two victories were needed to advance. I also won a game, but finished dead last four other times. Apparently I need to work on my Dominion skills.
 
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3. Board Game: Richard III: The Wars of the Roses [Average Rating:7.44 Overall Rank:1233]
Derek Croxton
United States
Charlottesville
Virginia
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This is the first tournament I have ever run (along with Grant Dahlgliesh), if you don't count the Rommel in the Desert tournament a few years ago that only had one participant. We had a good turnout for this one, 18 in all. Unfortunately, the game is neither short enough to play many rounds, nor easy to score in case several people have the same record. We decided to change the format to single elimination, which disappointed some people who came for the second heat. I think they all got to play, however, as I yielded my spot, and at least one winner from the first round dropped out.

This is another interesting block game that I'm still figuring out. It doesn't play at all like Hammer of the Scots; the games I've played tend to resolve into fairly static engagements of large groups of blocks facing off. I'm looking forward to playing more and learning what strategies people evolve to deal with this.
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4. Board Game: Titan [Average Rating:6.95 Overall Rank:797]
 
Derek Croxton
United States
Charlottesville
Virginia
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While I was running Richard III, my younger son played Titan. We had only tried it once before, over a year ago, but he was so impressed that he wanted to give it a go. This worked well because many people from my home club in Charlottesville are still Titan fanatics. He played a two-player game with another (adult) beginner, and lost. We later played part of another game with my other son, who also loves it.
 
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5. Board Game: Colossal Arena [Average Rating:6.79 Overall Rank:754]
Derek Croxton
United States
Charlottesville
Virginia
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I'll be honest: I don't really like this game much. I feel too out of control in it, as other players kill creatures before I get a chance to influence the outcome, and then I'm left to open on the next round, creating the same circumstances over again. But my kids both loved it, and played in both heats (winning neither, unfortunately). I lost in the finals when one player arranged to kill the two creatures that I had my highest bets on early in the round; I got the mild compensation of returning the favour by seeing that his two best creatures were knocked out later. (Diplomacy lesson: it's best not to put a player in a position where he has nothing better to do that ruin you, unless you are sure he doesn't have the power to act on it.)

I knew this game got played at PrezCon every year, but I did not realize until now that it is worth $100 on ebay. Since I have a virtually unplayed copy that I picked up with prize money from AvalonCon back in 1997, this worked out well for me. But I'm sure I won't be selling it, because my kids want to play -- another win, because I got the game partly in the hope that my future children would be interested in it.
 
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6. Board Game: Axis & Allies [Average Rating:6.71 Overall Rank:1054]
Derek Croxton
United States
Charlottesville
Virginia
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I played Axis & Allies: Bulge once with my 8-year-old, and he didn't seem too interested. But I must have misjudged, because he was really excited to get a chance to play this version. I didn't really want to play, but helped him on the first few turns, and some other bystanders offered him some advice after I left. I was very impressed with his opponent, who not only tolerated playing a kid, but also allowed all this advice and offered some of his own along the way. He rolled terribly, and the judge eventually ajudicated my son as the victor when time ran out. My son duly played the next round on Saturday morning, but gave up after an hour and a half. I can't tell you how nice it is to have him taking an interest in wargames after all of the Pokemon I've put up with over the past three years. He even said once, "I think the games with the most strategy are wargames, because there are so many things to think about."
 
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7. Board Game: Memoir '44 [Average Rating:7.54 Overall Rank:118] [Average Rating:7.54 Unranked]
Derek Croxton
United States
Charlottesville
Virginia
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While my younger son was playing his second round of Axis and Allies, I played Memoir '44 with my older son. He had no experience in it, but Steve Lollis (the tournament organizer) convinced us to play, and allowed us to play each other. My son loved the game, and even beat me in our first game. Now I've got both of them hooked...
 
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8. Board Game: Frank's Zoo [Average Rating:6.62 Overall Rank:1209]
Derek Croxton
United States
Charlottesville
Virginia
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As usual, a friend from the local club dropped by just to play pickup games. This is always welcome, because there are bound to be down times. I got into a game of Frank's Zoo with my older son. I had never played, and I was impressed with it. The game probably has a lot of luck, but I love some of the mechanisms, especially the partnership rules. My son crushed me and three other players.
 
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9. Board Game: Pack & Stack [Average Rating:6.43 Overall Rank:1618]
Derek Croxton
United States
Charlottesville
Virginia
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One of the few relatively new games that I got to play, courtesy of Luke Koleszar. You get a random collection of blocks from one to five units long, select a truck, and try to fit your blocks in. You lose points for each empty space in the truck, and double points for each length of block that doesn't fit. It's fast, it's original, and it's fun, and I say that even though I was clearly the worst one at the table. (Luke won, my younger son was second.) It has the advantage that it is incredibly simple to play, and apparently being an experienced gamer is not a major advantage.
 
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10. Board Game: Bridge Troll [Average Rating:6.06 Overall Rank:3939]
Derek Croxton
United States
Charlottesville
Virginia
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Keywood Cheves taught this game to his daughter, me, my older son, and one other player. Although the game has a great theme (that is not just pasted on) and cute artwork, I don't think the kids were too engaged. I liked it, but I don't think I would be likely to play it too much because it contains my least-favourite game mechanic: the blind bid.
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11. Board Game: Endeavor [Average Rating:7.44 Overall Rank:202]
Derek Croxton
United States
Charlottesville
Virginia
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I had been dying to play this, so I was excited to get in a game with my older son and a friend who knew the rules. Although my son grew bored with the rules explanation (he was also very tired by that point), he managed to win by freeing the slaves. It's a fun game that I find somehow more interesting than something like Puerto Rico, perhaps because I like the theme more. (I also don't like having to count money if I can avoid it.)
 
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12. Board Game: Can't Stop [Average Rating:6.85 Overall Rank:631]
Derek Croxton
United States
Charlottesville
Virginia
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I can understand why they started this game at 11 pm every night, but I wish they hadn't; it's one of those games that's simple enough for any kid to play, and the rounds I saw had lots of kids. My older son advanced to the finals, which were won by the only adult playing. I think my kids generally found this game too random, but that didn't stop them from playing both heats.
 
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13. Board Game: Ra [Average Rating:7.47 Overall Rank:134]
Derek Croxton
United States
Charlottesville
Virginia
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It's always interesting to see which games have a lot of staying power. I am surprised to see Titan: The Arena still being played, and I'm amazed that Merchant of Venus continues to attract enough people for a tournament. Ra is probably less surprising, but, out of Knizia's many games, one can probably think of many that would come before it. Of course, Ra is short, which is an advantage in a tournament setting. It is also intriguing, not so much for the bidding mechanism, but because of the fact that one is bidding on a money token as well as tiles. You're not so much giving up money as one of your three opportunities to bid -- although, of course, you have to be careful with the value of the money tokens that you exchange.

My younger son got into the Ra tournament when I was doing something else, so he got it explained entirely by strangers. I thought he might like it, but in fact he found it strange. Perhaps, like his dad, he prefers more straightforward games in which the object is simply to kill your opponent.
 
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14. Board Game: PitchCar [Average Rating:7.25 Overall Rank:317]
Derek Croxton
United States
Charlottesville
Virginia
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The only game that my kids had played in previous years, and one that they skipped this year. There really aren't many events targeted to "juniors" at PrezCon, and some of them were scheduled in conflict with each other. Considering the number of kids I saw, there is plenty of opportunity for more kids' games.

The one amazing thing for kids was that someone gave away tokens worth $40 at the dealer's area. My younger son didn't get one, because he was busy playing Axis and Allies, and didn't want to leave for what he figured would be another game. We will pay more attention next year if they repeat it.
 
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15. Board Game: Roll Through the Ages: The Bronze Age [Average Rating:6.90 Overall Rank:574]
Derek Croxton
United States
Charlottesville
Virginia
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This game was the hit of the Gathering the last time I attended, which I believe was two years ago. At that time it was only a prototype, but it was obviously a winner -- one of those games that you don't have to convince people to play, because they were always asking for it. (Dominion was the other big prototype that year.) Other than giving it a horrible name, the publisher has put together a package worthy of the underlying concept, including all-wooden pieces. It's basically Civilization with dice, but it just works so well -- always different, always interesting choices. The Catan Dice game was okay, but not nearly as interesting as this one. My older son got this for his token (see previous game) and, fortunately, he loved it immediately.
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16. Board Game: Star Wars: The Queen's Gambit [Average Rating:7.55 Overall Rank:548]
Derek Croxton
United States
Charlottesville
Virginia
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We didn't get to play this game, but it is on our list for next year. Every time I see The Queen's Gambit, I am amazed by its intricate parts that work out into such a cohesive and fun game. It may also hold the distinction as the only game better than the movie that it's based on. It's such a pity that there is no hope of ever seeing a reprint.

The convention really worked out way beyond my expectations. My kids loved every minute of it, and can't wait to go again. I can't give enough credit to all the people who played patiently with them.
 
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