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Subject: Days 1 & 2 BGG.CON rss

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I have been very much looking forward to attending my first BGG.CON, not just for the gaming, but also to meet the people who are central to the board gaming movement in the US.

Ok. Ok. I have been looking forward to it mostly because it represents board gaming nirvana: several days of non-stop gaming with an almost limitless supply of games. I have also looked forward to my first trip to Dallas (that I can remember). My wife decided to come along (even though she is a party gamer at best). I suspect she was looking for some well-deserved R&R. Perhaps she can get in on a little gaming before the weekend is over.

THE TRIP

The trip started out well as we boarded the same smaller jet plane from Salt Lake City to Dallas as Thurl Baily. I couldn't help but wonder how he managed as the plane did not have first class seating and had a low ceiling. I just figured this was going to be one of those famous people citings, but, as it turned out, he sat near us on the bus to the car rental agency and I have to say our impression was that he is a class act. A young girl wanted his autograph and he graciously pulled out a Jazz player photo and signed it. As we got off the bus, my wife mentioned to someone that she loved his singing and he came up to us, shook our hands and gave my wife one of his CD's. It made her day.

BGG.CON

After checking in to the hotel we registered and were nicely surprised that we would each get to choose a game from the price tables (after reaching in a giant D6 and pulling out a ticket). My wife chose Duel of Ages Wordspanner (because we already had most of the other games available) and I got a hold of a little jewell I had not heard of before: Venus Needs Men! After reading the reviews on this somewhat obscure game, I am really looking forward to giving it a play. It seems like the kind of crazy science fiction game I have been looking for.

San Marco:

After registering, it was already late afternoon, so I decided to try out some new games. Bay-Wei and Ted invited me to play a game of San Marco. After a short explanation of the rules we were in the heat of battle. I can't believe I have let this fantastic game sit on my shelves unplayed for so long. It has the great mechanic of letting one player divide the cards for the other two to choose from first. The area control feels a little like China, but so much of the game is unique. This was an excellent game that was close all of the way through. Ted pulled out the win in the end. Several people commented that San Marco is not as good with 4 players. What I can report is that it will get a lot more play.

Space Dealer:

Next up was Space Dealer (with Jeff, Bay-Wei and Danny), a new game this year that has generated a lot of good buzz. Essentially, the game is about generating and trading goods in space. What makes it unique and intense is that each player is given two sand timers to use in completing the different functions of building up his technology, increasing energy, mining resources and building cities. The game is also timed: it plays for exactly 1/2 hour. My experience was that it was a very intense and exhausting 1/2 hour. With repeated plays and after I have figured out the different strategies, I am sure that I will enjoy it more. I was able to pull out a win and look forward to it (hopefully) being published in the US.

Canal Mania:

I read the rules to Canal Mania on the plane and was hoping to find someone who had played before to help us learn the game. As soon as I walked in the room with my copy of Canal Mania, Robert (who just arrived in Dallas a day earlier from Ibswich, England) found me, wanting to give the game a go. I thought that this was good fortune having someone from England to help with the geography of this game about early canal building in England. We were soon joined by Bay-Wei and Paul (from Retford, Nottinghamshire, England). Paul knew that game and did an excellent job teaching us. It was a very enjoyable railroad-style game that included delivery of goods and construction of canals using card drafting (somewhat similar to Ticket to Ride in this respect). Comparisons have been made to Age of Steam, but Canal Mania is much more enjoyable to me because it does not require as much attention to trivial detail. Took a couple of hours to play, but Paul assured us that it is about 1 1/2 hours with experienced players. Robert dominated the center of the board and pulled to a comfortable lead. The rest of us were grouped within 3 points.

Midnight drawing:

Since it was nearing midnight I stuck around for the midnight drawing sponsored by Thoughthammer.com. There will be a drawing again Friday and Saturday at midnight. We were not lucky enough to win tonight, but still have a chance for future drawings. After the drawing I decided to call it a night.

Day 2: Friday, November 10th

I decided to sleep in and enjoy the trip, so I didn't start playing games until about noon.

Roads & Boats:

I have been looking forward to playing this and had the pleasure of learning it from Sterling Babcock, who takes his Roads & Boats seriously. He designed the scenereo we played for beginners to make required resources available and minimize conflict. This is often billed as a 4 hour game, but we finished in just under 2 hours, including rules discussion. The reason for the speed of the game was that we focused too much on building the wonder (which forces game end) and too litle on developing our areas. Since it was a learning game, I didn't mind it ending early as we played long enough to understand the rules and understand where we screwed up. While the game is involved, Sterling has designed a couple of player aids which simplify learning the game and which can be downloaded from boardgamegeek. My initial impression is very positive. I can't wait to try it again.

Other games played. Since I am writing this in the wee hours of the morning, I am going to briefly summarize the other games played.

Thurn & Taxis:

Excellent game with 4 players. It moves very quickly with experienced players. This game is growing on me even more.

Perplexity:

A trivia/puzzle game with random movement. Components of the game are a little strange, almost as if they just included a lot of unrelated pieces to cut costs. Not much new here. Our team won, but since I do not enjoy trivia games, I was glad to have it end.

Puerto Rico:

I know, I know.... Why come here and play that? The answer is very simple: they needed another player. Besides, it won't hurt to bone up a little on face-to-face play in advance of the PR tournement at Game Night later this month.

Texas Hold 'em Tournement:

I never do well at Texas Hold 'em because I am just too aggressive. This tournement was no exception. I had 5 good, but not great hands and never won a hand. All was not lost as I could go back to board games.

Gra Gra Company:

Scott Nicholson of podcasting fame wanted to play one of his recent Essen purchases from a Japanese designer. Gra Gra Company was a strange dice rolling/dexterity/stock combination game that didn't look like much in its tiny box. It didn't look like much after the box was open, either. I was pleasantly surprised by the way it played. Basically, the players invest in one of four companies the value of which is measured by the number of wooden dice are stacked in front of it. Each turn you roll the number of dice equal to the number already stacked and stack additonal dice on top in a particular order. You can change cos in which you invest and can sabotage a stack of dice as you are leaving in order to make it difficult for more to be stacked. You earn money at various times for stacking more than 5 dice, or for taking over the smallest company, if you control the largest company and are able to stack the smallest stack on top of yours. There is a fair amount of strategy in the game in addition to the required dexterity. I would like to see this published with nicer components.

Mall of Horror:

Zombie battles brought us to the midnight drawings. The 6 player game was difficult with all of the expected backstabbing. Scott Nicholson won easily. His strategy was simple: just be completely honest with people about all of the information you have (he was often the security guard). Well played Scott.

Midnight Drawing:

Another midnight drawing with a lot of great prize. We didn't win, but that only means that our numbers are still in the bucket for the even larger prizes on Saturday night.

Werewolf:

Werewolf with 21 people, most of whom I didn't know, was very interesting. It was more difficult than usual to pick up on the subtle clues you may see in people you know. It was also more difficult to keep track of all of the potential werewolves. This is a great game for large groups.

That's it for today.
 
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Yehuda Berlinger
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Re: Day 1 BGG.CON
Thanks for the report. Keep em coming.

Yehuda
 
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