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Subject: GenCon 04 Has Come and Gone rss

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Michael Pennisi
United States
Carpentersville
Illinois
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What a fantastic four days I've had...

Thursday I arrived at GenCon and my overall thoughts. I played "Betrayal at House on the Hill" which was OK but not great (see my review). I got to look at Pirates of the Spanish Main which I suppose some people might like but it's just another collectible miniatures game. Then on to Twilight Creations to see The Haunting House which is a pre-programmed move game like Dragon Delta with a haunted house theme. It's light but fun. Also new at Twilight was a goofy game with windup Zombies, more on this later… Seeing all of these scary games gave me the idea to have a Halloween-theme game night.

Then I played a few Euro games, Atlas and Zeus is a solid 2-player game as is Phoenix which I bought (don't let the box fool you, it’s fun and lightly strategic) and I also scored Samurai for $30.

Next it was on to Rio Grande, Maharaja was busy so I played Marco Polo which is like a cross between Cartagena and Ticket To Ride. It was fun but then the whole C & C thing started which I already wrote about. Ohhh they made me sooo mad!

Then I went to Fantasy Flight to play and buy Colossal Arena, the Titan: The Arena remake. They added new creatures but kept the original intact as well. What a great game. I didn’t get to try any other FF games but Doom looks interesting and War of the Ring is pretty to look at.

A smaller company was selling a game called Succession and there was a line to play it only because they were giving away free stuff. I just wanted to see the game but I was shooed away. My impression was that is was a political game with overly complex mechanics. It also had a terrible color scheme…way too much bright purple and pink.

Then it was on to Out of the Box. I was a little disappointed that they didn’t have much that was new. It’s taking them forever to get Tutankhamen printed.

I can’t believe how time flew on Thursday. Before I knew it I had to leave to check in at the hotel and get food. We went to the Ram and Kudos to them for making gamers feel at home.

After dinner we went to the board game hall where we I played giant Pirate’s Cove. What fun. It was a giant map: three tables big! There were giant pirate ships and real doubloons too. I won but only because another player was a little too anxious. I had the carry-all hull with a load of 31 treasures (I was the El Dorado). I sailed to Treasure Island to bury and before I announced my burial intentions this woman plays a Consort card. Well I hadn’t buried anything yet and there is no rule that says you have to bury treasure so I buried nothing. Had she waited until I announced how many I was burying she would have won. Oh well timing is everything. Finally we played Samurai and Phoenix then ended our evening.


Friday started out bad. I played Boomtown which is just endless auctions to collect sets… not my cup of tea. Then I went to play Maharaja at Rio Grande Games . Uggh, one of the worst games I’ve ever played …too many mechanisms coming together and it seems like once you are ahead, it stays that way. I’m not sure where my day went but I found myself feeling hungry and it was 4 pm already.

Went to PF Changs for dinner. Fantastic dumpling appetizers, so-so entrees.

We went back to the game hall and played Anno 1503. Two guys were watching us set up and asked if they could play. Turns out one of them was the guy from Euro games who sold me Samurai the day before his name is Morgan. So we play and people keep walking by asking about the game or saying hi to somebody. The game took a long time and Morgan didn’t like the game at all but he stuck it out (I believe his exact words were “I’d rather die than play this game” oh well to each his own). Afterwards, Ron Magin from Euro games shows up and says “do you want to try this guy’s game” so all of a sudden I became a play-tester. Cool! The game was called Terraforming and while there were some cool things in the game, it still needs work. That’s all I’ll say.

After this game I moved for a change of venue and we went to the Ram. We played a Game that Morgan is working on with simple rules, a cool twist (a game will take exactly 30 minutes), and a universal theme, especially if you’ve gone to Catholic school. I liked it although I imagine it will change a little as it is developed further. So good luck to Morgan in getting published. Finally we started Giganten which Morgan brought because he owns it but hasn’t played it. We didn’t finish because the Ram closed (so much for staying open all night…) but all in all it was a good thing because I didn’t get to sleep until 3:30 had we been allowed to finish it probably would have been 4:30 – 5 .

Saturday was a free-form day.

I went to Rio Grande’s booth and played San Juan with someone who wanted to learn how to play. Somehow I managed to win with only 7 buildings… Then I went to Uberplay because I forgot to check out Sunken City. There was a game report from St. Paul there (I forgot his name) and besides being a really nice guy he taught us to play. I liked Sunken City after the first turn. We finished the game ( I got lucky and won) and I purchased it immediately. I ran into Morgan who invited me to play Die Macher that evening. I have heard great things about the game but I didn’t want to sink four+ hours on it. I went back to my room for a power nap then headed back with a suitcase full of games and dreams…

First off was Mutiny a game of repeated and endless bidding which turned me off. I so wanted to like it because it’s a pirate game but it just wasn’t fun.

The great hall was still open and fortunately I strolled back in because I checked out the Twilight game with the plastic Zombies and it turned out to be really cool. The object is to get your zombie to walk around the game board track first. You do this by passing cards and whoever has the most of a certain number ( 1, 2, 3, or 4) after the passing earns the right to wind their zombie that number of turns which then will advance the zombie. If the zombie walks off the board he has to return the previous quarter of the track so high cards may not always be the best. It isn’t out yet but it seems like it could be fun in a zany way. I forgot the name of this game but it will be out in October!

Meanwhile Christy played Elfenland and finished in a tie for most tokens but lost the tie breaker. I was happy for her because this was her first time playing games at GenCon. We then played a game of Colossal Arena with someone we met and he won handily but it was fun and I learned some strategy. Then we opened Sunken City and I discovered that there were missing cards (more on this later) we played it with a guy from Saint Joseph, Mi and he won his first time playing! It was my second play and I definitely like that game.

Then I ran into Rick Thornquist of Gamewire/fest who was finishing playing a Prototype of a game that Richard Borg is developing it appeared to have dungeon crawling theme but with German game mechanisms underneath. I could be way off on this but hey it’s my Journal…

Anyway Rick was up for a game so we played Colossal Arena again as we were setting up we grabbed a fourth player… this guy was just walking by, glanced down at the game, and I said “sit down and play with us”. That’s what I love about GenCon: you go and just wind up playing something with someone. Anyway I managed to win CA with my secret bet as most of my other bets were eliminated. I’m so glad FF reprinted that. BTW the cards are really thick and heavy duty so it’s a solid game.

The Die Macher guys were playing right next to us and I must say that it is the most intimidating looking game I have ever seen. Even if it is the quintessential German game.

Rick was up for another game and suggested Ra. I have never played Ra so I said what the heck. We played, had a good discussion about our backgrounds, and I must say that Rick is nice guy and fun to play games with. I wound up winning Ra although I thought that I had misplayed on several bids. Seem that there is a lot of luck to the game that can compensate for skill.

Well after that we were a little hungry so we went back to the Ram again. In this case the third time was not the charm. We were seated immediately but our waitress didn’t get to us for 10 minutes, after we complained. We then ordered two beers and were served in plastic cups. Plastic cups are for college parties and sporting events; since I graduated and didn’t see any Ivy-covered walls I was a little miffed about that. Then I look around and NO ONE else has a plastic cup. Everyone had nice glass mugs. Well that set Christy off. She called the manager over and complained. He replied “We don’t serve beer in plastic cups” so I said “Then what are these”. He said is your waitress “….”, and it was and he groaned and got angry. He then apologized profusely offered to pay for our beer and food but at that point we weren’t going to stay when our waitress knew we were pissed but I appreciate the attempt so I’m not writing off the Ram for next year.

So we went to Hooters. The sign said please seat yourself and there was no hostess. It was midnight so we asked if they were still serving food. They said “yes til 1” so we went in. The place was only half full yet in 10 minutes not one waitress bothered to help us even though they were looking and inspecting the area where we sat. I guess you aren’t paying for good service at Hooters. We got up and left. On the way out someone said “I hope you enjoyed everything” to which I replied “I wouldn’t know since nobody gave us anything to enjoy”. We wound up at the Red Eye Café and in 10 minutes we had two beers and chili-cheese fries in front of us so kudos to Red Eye for knowing what service is.

We went back to our room and collapsed. BTW Indy has quite the night life and lots of Harleys.

On Sunday we had to go. I saw Morgan and said goodbye after exchanging emails. I stopped by Uberplay and they took care of us immediately. Janna was very nice and offered to mail us replacement cards ASAP. I also noticed that on top of their low prices they had a buy 2 get one free sale. What a classy outfit (as opposed to certain other vendors who shall remain nameless).

Well that was it …we needed to leave. We left Indy in good spirits but also in a bad mood because the next GenCon is a year away!

Phew.
 
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Colin Parker
Canada
Cobble Hill
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Great journal entry, lots of good info and an amusing read.
 
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Mikko Karvonen
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I sailed to Treasure Island to bury and before I announced my burial intentions this woman plays a Consort card. Well I hadn?t buried anything yet and there is no rule that says you have to bury treasure so I buried nothing. Had she waited until I announced how many I was burying she would have won. Oh well timing is everything.

Even though there is an obvious risk of seeming nit-picky, I'd like to point out that at least in Days of Wonder -version of Pirate's Cove, the Consort-card must be played at the end of the Treasure Phase. Which is the phase at the beginning of the turn where you turn out new treasure-cards to the islands. So you cannot play it right when someone is about to bury treasure, but you'll have to warn them about it at the beginning of the turn.
 
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Scott Russell
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Clarkston
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Food/consumables at Gencon
Last year, we preferred the Rock Bottom's beer and food to the offerings at the Ram. This year, the Ram was packed, so we didn't get to do a comparison. The service at Rock Bottom was good. (The porter, Brickway Brown, was my favorite this year, but the hefeweiss was also excellent!)

Your assessment of PF Chang (at that location) agrees with mine. We had the lettuce wrap appetizer which was excellent as always. The Dan-dan entree noodles were pretty good, but the Mu Shu and sweet and sour (I know, the latter is not really Chinese and I didn't order it), were only so-so.

For good takeout, try Champions (next to Westin). Five to ten minutes (enough time for a beer) and the sandwich and fries were ready to go. They also have the NTN trivia game if you want to eat there. Too dark to play games, though.
 
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S. Sauer
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Bloomington
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'Nuff said.
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Aweson journal entry. Wish that I could have been there.
 
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Steve Zamborsky
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Chicago
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"Ah, Denny, I've hardly seen you this episode."
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If you like chili...
there's a place called Hard Times Cafe which serves four different kinds of chili (they give you a little sampler platter of each to try when you first sit down) and some excellent microbrews. I'm an ale-lover, and this Something-Steam Ale they had was quite excellent.

Another plus: even on Saturday night (with the football game, GenCon and everything) right around dinnertime, my friend and I were able to sit down after a (short) 15 minute wait.
 
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Sheridan Hortness
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Ottawa
Ontario
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Every year I say that I'm going to go to a gaming convention (we have a small one here in Ottawa) and every year I get cold feet and don't go. I'm very casual about my gaming (ie. I don't care if I win) and I've always been afraid that I would get into a game with people who were very competitive and it would end up being a bad experience or something. Posts like this reaasure me that maybe it will be friendlier than I think.
 
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Michael Pennisi
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Carpentersville
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I would say that 99% of the people I've played with at Gencon are fun to play with and nice. I haven't played in any tourney games but all of the general gaming I have done there is pleasant and social. Ottawa isn't that far, you should come check it out next year.
 
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