Gaelcon 2011 - The Annual 'Not Essen' List
Harvey O'Brien
Ireland
Dublin
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Gaelcon is the highlight of the Irish gaming calendar: consistently the largest event, and certainly the biggest held in the Capital. It comes just after Essen, which can sometimes mean we get glimpses of new stuff, but not always. South Dublin Boardgamers were out in force this year, and there was a pleasing amount of boardgaming in general amidst the usual minigaming, CCGs, RPGS, and LARPS. Nice to see our corner of the hobby gaining ground. Here's how it went this year from my perspective.
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1. Board Game: Arkham Horror [Average Rating:7.31 Overall Rank:246] [Average Rating:7.31 Unranked]
Harvey O'Brien
Ireland
Dublin
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Prelude

The gaming began with a late-call session for of Arkham Horror on Friday night to mark the weekend that was in it. Gaelcon was at Hallowe'en this year, and South Dublin Boardgamers have had kind of an annual sit-down with this one for the past number of years. In the end, I only got one other taker, but much fun was had with just two intrepid adventurers, Finn the gangster and the big, dumb, farmboy that ultimately seemed to blunder around and pick up an ungodly amount of injuries including one from, I kid you not: FALLING DOWN THE STAIRS. Sigh. We lost. Great fun though.
 
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2. Board Game: After the Flood [Average Rating:6.89 Overall Rank:1769]
Harvey O'Brien
Ireland
Dublin
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Unexpected Changes

The venue had to be moved last minute this year following last week's stunning floods on the East Coast. Stats suggest Dublin got a month's worth of rain in 24 hours. There was much damage, and two people actually lost their lives. Of less consequence but directly affecting both visitors and local gamers was that the original venue for Gaelcon was shut down and the Convention was moved to the RDS. We were concerned, but actually, the new venue was probably better. Bigger spaces, if not so much immediate access to food.
 
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3. Board Game: Monkey Lab [Average Rating:5.85 Overall Rank:8235]
Harvey O'Brien
Ireland
Dublin
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A Glimpse of the Future

Kids' games were the focus of the first half of day one, with several members of South Dublin Boardgamers bringing their kids and/or assorted relatives. First up was Monkey Lab, a firm fave of my own nephew. This was followed by Hey, That's My Fish, Poo: The Card Game, Pompeii, A Piece of Cake, Kids of Carcassone, and one or two others I didn't really see properly. All the adults, even those who didn't actually have kids at the venue, were happy to row in and play, making the next generation of gamers feel very much at home.
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4. Board Game: Discworld: Ankh-Morpork [Average Rating:7.21 Overall Rank:405]
Harvey O'Brien
Ireland
Dublin
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It's not a "Nice" game

Discworld: Ankh-Morpork has become a fast and steady hit with South Dublin Boardgamers. It is easy to learn, and demands a second play after you've had your first, when its true nature begins to emerge. I've reviewed it elsewhere on BGG. This actually worked as kind of a bridging game as it was also played by young and old, and in one case the victory went to the youngest player at the table and not because anyone was taking it easy on him. The game got multiple runs throughout the day on day one, and was highly visible on other tables, alongside Guards! Guards!, the Northern-Ireland designed 'other' Pratchett game of 2011. I've been interested in that, but didn't take the dip, even for the promo price of 40 euro being offered. I did get to meet one of the designers though.
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5. Board Game: Stone Age [Average Rating:7.61 Overall Rank:80]
Harvey O'Brien
Ireland
Dublin
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Don't mess with Mr. O'Gorman

Another mixed demographic game on this one, and the last involvement of the younger set. Again though, to suggest it was less competitive would be to do a disservice to the intrepid youngster who again took the laurels, I believe (I wasn't playing this one).
 
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6. Board Game: Blood Bowl: Team Manager – The Card Game [Average Rating:7.38 Overall Rank:245]
Harvey O'Brien
Ireland
Dublin
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It's called "Team MANAGER", Kieron

Again a recent buy, but quickly gaining multiple plays. A good Con game because it's quick to play and requires a degree of tongue-in-cheek that keeps the humours upbeat. Okay, so Kieron got a bit miffed that his Beastmen couldn't tackle to save their lives, but he later handed the Dwarves their tiny asses with his squad of humans in a two-player game where he won ALL of the tournaments. Like Discworld: Ankh-Morpork, this got several plays.
 
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7. Board Game: Intrigue [Average Rating:6.38 Overall Rank:1859]
Harvey O'Brien
Ireland
Dublin
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Brother, can you spare me gainful employment?

Children's Hour was over when this came out. A deeply unfriendly game of negotiation and unemployment that ran much longer than the projected 20 minutes. I hate games like this, but played to be sociable. Boy, was it anything but that.
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8. Board Game: Sid Meier's Civilization: The Board Game [Average Rating:7.46 Overall Rank:184]
Harvey O'Brien
Ireland
Dublin
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Day One Epic: Part I

South Dublin Boardgamers had such a presence this year that we couldn't settle on a 'unity' game that would accommodate the numbers (as has been our tradition), so we broke into two games for the evening session. This game has been out of a few times and is liked, but it ran very long on the night and didn't actually finish by the time everyone had to call it half an hour before the gaming room was to close. I believe it was Romans, Americans, Germans, and Russians. I don't know who was closest to victory. I was on the other table.
 
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9. Board Game: Dominant Species [Average Rating:7.85 Overall Rank:51]
Harvey O'Brien
Ireland
Dublin
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Day One Epic: Part II

The other half of the evening session was filled by this group favourite. For some reason, a game that really should play quickly always takes epic time, but that's not inappropriate or unpleasurable. After the savagery of Intrigue, the titanic struggle for evolution with rampaging arachnids and ultimately victorious reptiles wasn't so bad, even for us hapless mammals, hanging out on the tundras and doing pretty well with it until final scoring. Ah, well.
 
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10. Board Game: Ninjato [Average Rating:7.25 Overall Rank:658]
Harvey O'Brien
Ireland
Dublin
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Oooh! Shiiiny!: Bought

Bought this year upon first sight on the retail stand. My hand didn't even have time to take instruction from the brain before it reached out for it. It got a 'trial run' on day two - not a complete game, but a few rounds and the first round of scoring to get a feel for it. I think I'm going to like it, but it has to be said, the very fun ninja stars used for marking your actions are ridiculously oversized for the game. Not one person has touched them without making little mini throwing gestures though.
 
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11. Board Game: The Climbers [Average Rating:6.92 Overall Rank:1113]
Harvey O'Brien
Ireland
Dublin
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Bought

I played this game in NY last year when I joined in with a group of gamers there during my visit to the city. I was interested in getting hold of it, but it seemed rare enough and prohibitively expensive when shipping came into it (it's a shoebox full of hard wooden pieces, after all). I did pass it by on the retail stand twice, but eventually grabbed it. 32 euro wasn't a bad price, and this is a game that might also work across the demographic divide. Bought.
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12. Board Game Publisher: Alderac Entertainment Group
Harvey O'Brien
Ireland
Dublin
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Free Stuff!

AEG had a very visible retail and demo table at the Con, and were shifting Thunderstone at very low prices (20 euro for the base game: regular retail 40 euro). They were also selling Infinite City, Nightfall (alas, not Blood Country, which I'm waiting for), and a few small box games they were literally giving away (yes, literally - one of the group bought Myth and was given the Island of Dr. Necroix (I think that's the name) as a freebie!)
 
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13. Board Game: Legend of the Five Rings [Average Rating:7.14 Overall Rank:1073] [Average Rating:7.14 Unranked]
Harvey O'Brien
Ireland
Dublin
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Banzai!

None of us were involved, but there was a highly visible Legend of the Five Rings national tournament on in the room next to the one we played in for much of the time. Occasional gongs and shots of 'banzai, banzai, banzai' had us a bit worried now and then, but hey, the CCGers seemed to be having a whale of a time in there.
 
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14. Board Game: Twilight Imperium (Third Edition) [Average Rating:7.89 Overall Rank:49]
 
Harvey O'Brien
Ireland
Dublin
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You're kidding, right?

There was a Twilight Imperium TOURNAMENT this year. I kid you not. I was tempted to sign up, but the very prospect of playing more than one game back to back was too scary. In the end, it boiled down to just one game in total, though that went on for most of the day. I checked in on them from time to time to see how it was going. Sol, Shadaak, XXacha, and the Winnu were in contention. Last I saw, the turtles were on top.
 
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15. Board Game: Race for the Galaxy [Average Rating:7.76 Overall Rank:47]
Harvey O'Brien
Ireland
Dublin
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Sold! Sort of.

I bought a copy of this in French back when it was the shiniest thing on the BGG hot list. I hadn't realised it was in French when I bought it, and was on the point of selling it at Gaelcon some years ago when Rory convinced me to give it a try. I didn't much care for it, but held onto it, and even bought two expansions. This year I decided it was time to let it go and I bought it to the Bring 'n' Buy. The expansions sold, but as far as I know the base game is still there. Anyone want it?
 
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16. Board Game: Warhammer 40,000: Assault On Black Reach [Average Rating:6.99 Overall Rank:3229] [Average Rating:6.99 Unranked]
Harvey O'Brien
Ireland
Dublin
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Take my Collection... please.

I decided to stop kidding myself about Warhammer 40K. I never had any real ambition to play it (some vague ideas), but I did fancy painting up the very cool Ork army I'd bought to expand Assault on Black Reach. After trying to pass the collection on to someone in the group that might be interested, I brought this along to give to Bring 'n' Buy, but then Niall and Kieron convinced me donating it to the Charity Auction was the way to go. It was a hefty pile of stuff, but I have no idea what it went for in the end, as we had gone to our evening game on Day Two when that took place. I hope it found a good home.
 
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17. Board Game: City of Chaos [Average Rating:6.75 Overall Rank:4557]
Harvey O'Brien
Ireland
Dublin
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More, please!

On Day Two we had a run at this goofy little rarity. Jimmy DMmed it most of the time, but we never even got close to engaging in the plot. It was more a trial run than a full session, and it became obvious how the game area was going to spread out if we ever did play a full game. This was actually a lot of fun, sort of a controlled RPG that doesn't require a lot of prep. I would have played longer, but we had other things to get on with.
 
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18. Board Game: Quarriors! [Average Rating:6.79 Overall Rank:709] [Average Rating:6.79 Unranked]
Harvey O'Brien
Ireland
Dublin
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Die hate me, but I don't hate this.

A relatively recent acquisition, this 'dice builder' has seen a fair amount of table time. I'm the worst dice roller in the known Universe, but the game is less cruel to those of us afflicted by that particular malady. Another good Con filler.
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19. Board Game: Arkham Horror: Kingsport Horror Expansion [Average Rating:7.45 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.45 Unranked]
Harvey O'Brien
Ireland
Dublin
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Bought

One of the best retail stands this year was a company from the North of Ireland offering substantial discounts by selling their games for Euros in the amount of the Sterling Price without conversion. A good way to move stock, and after wandering past Gears of War too often (there were two copies, and then there was one, and then there was none), I eventually picked up the last of the Arkham expansions that I didn't have. I do now.
 
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20. Board Game: In the Year of the Dragon [Average Rating:7.40 Overall Rank:225]
Harvey O'Brien
Ireland
Dublin
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I need to lie down now.

This is a tricky little brain burner that filled some afternoon time on day two. Disaster after disaster befell Andy's kingdom, but his scoring was far from dreadful. Meanwhile my kingdom was very well managed - each crisis being handled very well, but somehow the scoring got away from me, as it always does. Meanwhile Jimmy, consistently holding last place in initiative, won by miles, though he had to go lie down after.
 
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21. Board Game: Apples to Apples [Average Rating:5.88 Overall Rank:3391] [Average Rating:5.88 Unranked]
Harvey O'Brien
Ireland
Dublin
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Scary Ballerinas and other anomalies

South Dublin Boardgamers have tended to play a unity game, but with gaming room restrictions this year and last, we were a little concerned we'd run out of time for a 'big game' and so retired to one of the regular gaming venues (a member's home). Just to get things warmed up (and decide turn order) we played Apples to Apples, which threw up some fascinatingly bizarre combos as usual. Andy's victory made him player one for the next item.
 
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22. Board Game: Struggle of Empires [Average Rating:7.50 Overall Rank:354]
Harvey O'Brien
Ireland
Dublin
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It's called an 'alliance', you b******d: Day Two Epic

Calling it a 'unity' game belies the way this game is usually played in our group. 'Alliances' are very much in name only, and getting help for your cause isn't easy, let alone surviving the interventions of non-participant nations when you're in the midst of arguing the point with an immediate rival. Classic Martin Wallace tyranny here, and I hope others will add to the thread to describe their own experience. Mine was defined by the horror of watching the Prussian navy consistently fail to cross the Atlantic, where I had vested all my interests in the new world in the hope of cleaning it up, holding onto my alliances, and then, when ready, pushing out of the homeland. No such thing happened, though I did end up present throughout the New World and dominant in North America. Big deal. I do like this game, but I still do prefer Conquest of the Empire mainly because the combat is a little more flexible and the senate/political action is more fun than just grabbing tiles. Still a good game, and a fitting epic encounter for seven players on day two of the Con.
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23. Board Game: Twilight Struggle [Average Rating:8.33 Overall Rank:5]
Harvey O'Brien
Ireland
Dublin
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Day Three is always a problem because of the Dublin City Marathon, and I bowed out today, but as we speak there may still be action there involving SDBG members, whom I hope will add their experiences here. I know there was some hopes of two-player action today, and I wonder if there were better bargains to be had as the stands began to shut down. Almost tempted to sneak back in there...
 
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24. Board Game: Lost Battles [Average Rating:7.95 Overall Rank:3215] [Average Rating:7.95 Unranked]
jim maher
Ireland
Dublin 16
Ireland
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Eoin and I had a first go at this with the rule book on our laps. First impressions are very positive. For me it feels less gamey than Ancients in that you gain command points based on your army size and can be used as you see fit.Tactically I also feel it has more depth having said that I enjoy ancients very much.

Two downsides for me are the counters and the rule book. The counters are laid flat and it can be difficult to see who exactly you are attacking.The rule book is written more like a novel and as such is somewhat longwinded and not that easy to navigate.

All in all really enjoyed the first session of it.
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25. Board Game: Manoeuvre [Average Rating:7.31 Overall Rank:668] [Average Rating:7.31 Unranked]
jim maher
Ireland
Dublin 16
Ireland
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Brought this out and Eoin got his revenge! Still remains an enjoyable light war game even if very abstract and gamey!
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