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Luck in games, in measured doses, is the catalyst which enables shocking game-changers that you'll remember and talk about forever.
Let the Lord of Chaos rule.
This took place 3 months ago. I wrote most of the report in the 1-2 weeks after, then got into a rut, as my eagerness to write falls off exponentially the further removed from the game sessions. Was limping along eventually, so excuse the abrupt end.
In chronological order:
1200 - GMed Runewars (+expansion) for 2 people (censored).
1800 - Learned 1812: The Invasion of Canada from Jim.
2000 - 5-player 1812: The Invasion of Canada with Jim, Bay, Joe, Tom.
2200 - Taught Claustrophobia to Bay
2300 - Learned Ascending Empires from Bay.
0130 - Late-night Korean food run (kimchi pancakes are disgusting no matter who makes it, btw)
0230 - Bed
0900 - Taught A Game of Thrones: The Board Game (Second Edition) to Steve, Hal, Hal's friend, ?
1400 - 3-player Runewars with Craig, ChrisY.
1900 - Taught Eclipse to Arvin, woman. Hal, Hal's 2nd friend, Staci, AdamK completed the 6er table while Steve moderated.
1930 - 3-player King of Tokyo with Craig, ChrisY.
2030 - Claustrophobia with Joel.
2130 - Glory to Rome with Joel, Robert.
2300 - Learned SPANC: Space Pirate Amazon Ninja Catgirls from Joel.
2330 - Masques with Shanthi, Laura.
0030 - Learned Dragon Parade from Laura with Shanthi, Walter.
0130 - In-N-Out.
0230 - Bed
0930 - Taught King of Tokyo to an aunt and her nephew.
1000 - Learned The Castles of Burgundy from Sean with ChrisM.
1400 - Taught Flash Duel: Second Edition to Sean.
1430 - Eclipse with Sean, Joe (different), Brent.
2000 - Battlestar Galactica with Craig, Sean, MichaelE, MikeC, Ash
2315 - Left for home.
Getting the Bad Stuff Out of the Way First
I love the epic sweep and scale in Runewars, which has almost become a convention-only game for me, since it's too much work teaching and pushing people along at normal game outings that have time constraints (6 hours). This was my 4th convention in a row GM'ing Runewars, and I scheduled it on Friday at noon, since I am always stuck playing fillers on Friday afternoon as people slowly stream over to the con and "warm up" slowly.
This was the 4th time I hosted Runewars at a con, and I might have to rethink hosting games from now on, as I'm now batting .500 in successful games. It's a complete shot in the dark when you let anybody into your game without vetting them beforehand. For all the talk one of the players gave me before the game about loving Runewars, not caring about who wins, and just there to have fun, plus taking over my work and teaching the other player the game, his true colors showed during the game.
I, as usual, surged early, and after collecting one of my Rewards halfway through the game, he accused sharply, "You know you're really taking advantage of us, right?" No kidding, I warned you that I've played this game many times, know all the rulings, and invited you all to take your best shot at me early. But I've also reminded you of every tiny thing on your cards, shared every single piece of strategy when the situation comes up, and as we discussed beforehand, I don't care about winning, only that everybody enjoys the experience. "I think you're cheating. You have to be, I've never seen somebody get so lucky," he added a little later. Excuse me?? Is this guy serious?
Things got worse, as he challenged my rulings in spite of having nothing to back it up, and the fact that I've played far more than him and memorized all the rulings front-to-back (you have to if you host any game through play-by-forum, which I've done the most often for Runewars). He then started cursing and basically throwing a tantrum when he drew a bad card, muttering, "screw this shit!" as he dumped it on the table. If this weren't my game, it'd probably have been must-see to witness a 65-year-old grown man practically lose his shit. Instead, I started worrying about whether he'd start trashing my game (rage-quit was a given, I figured).
The friendly chatter I had kept up devolved into deathly silence. To his credit, the other player was fine and played the game the right way in building up a fearsome Undead army, and smacking me in-game with it. The Undead can get too strong in this game if the other players (especially the Elves) don't make a concerted effort to stop him, and of course I couldn't rely on the whiner in the other corner. I did my best to stop the onslaught, and ended up only making the Undead juggernaut stronger when I counter-attacked (since his Necromancers raised more of the dead). But fortunately, he didn't make too much of a dent in terms of dragon runes, because I had risked it by switching my dragon rune into a less-defended spot, and he picked the wrong spot in taking my stronghold.
You can see on the left how much of a dent the Undead made in my territories. I commented at one point that I had ways to obtain more dragon runes, but no more regions to place them. To which the whiner sharply retorted, "You're one to talk about luck, when you're sitting on so many Rewards there!" Huh... I just mentioned I could convert those Rewards to dragon runes, but had nowhere to place them... what is this guy's problem?
The game couldn't end soon enough, and guess who won? The whiner of course, after nobody messed with him.
I was reminded of Michael Barnes' blog post, Hell is Other Gamers. While I am nowhere near as jaded, this might be the straw that breaks my back in terms of GMing events. Runewars isn't even that mean of a game (and I even specified that gamers without sportsmanship need not apply -- aside, which gods of the English language dictated that the term 'sportsmanship' be positive and 'gamesmanship' be negative anyway?), but it takes some basic emotional maturity, things you can't take for granted when exposing your overfed white belly to be poked at by strangers. Far safer to stick to open gaming and the people whom you know are cool (who, not coincidentally, stick exclusively to open gaming).
Or maybe I'll host something pee-wee like the cooperative Gears of War: The Board Game or Middle-Earth Quest (where you're supposed to get mad at GM Sauron) next time. Now the players have nobody to get pissy at if a die roll fails or they, heavens forbid, lose 1 region they're holding.
Redeeming one of my Favorites
Bear with me here, as that's the only negative experience I had, and thankfully it was over with early, as the first game of the first day. The next day, I broke out Runewars again with Craig and Chris, proven Ameritrashers who play the right way, after we couldn't get a 4th for Age of Conan: The Strategy Board Game, and I was eager to redeem the game. Especially looked forward to introducing them to the awesome expansion (one of the best and most necessary FFG has ever put out, along with the StarCraft expansion and TI3 expansions), which they had overlooked, and having everybody at the table being very experienced ( > 10 plays) for once.
Craig was sleepy at the time and made a few errors early. They weren't game-breaking though; the thing that absolutely blew for him was that I got off to a phenomenal start and used Lost City to quickly get a stronghold in our armistice zone (since I had revealed a Dragon Throne there), then starting pumping out heavy units deep in his territory (heavy units like the giant flying eagles because in my good fortune, I had also acquired 4 ore early, and also took the Guildmaster of Merchants title). Chris and Craig looked wistfully at my massive army, with Craig especially worried.
"Don't worry, Craig. I'm just securing my borders. There is little benefit to me from attacking you," I reassured him, a season (turn) before I full-on smacked him in the front (I wanted a buffer zone in front of my hard-to-defend Dragon Throne to protect it). What did Craig do? He sucked in a huge breath, nodded, then rolled up his sleeves and prepared for war. Despite him being in last place early, the road to victory ran through his regions, and rather than complain, or keel over and 'squeak' (his term - meaning to throw the game), he dug in and fought me to the death. That's how it should be.
Once again, I surged to the early lead, and I had the chance to declare victory (and defend it for a year) in Year 4 Winter, when the Passage of Silverhorn allowed me to tunnel past Craig's defenses, emerge in his undefended stronghold, and take my 7th and 8th dragon runes (you only need 7 to win). This was especially brutal, since Craig's Recruit action would be half-wasted with the loss of 1 of his 2 strongholds, and I'd have the advantage once and for all. And once again, like with all my Runewars games, I choked away my blazing start.
"I'm attacking your home stronghold," I declared. "Hmm... gotta look out for Summon Lightning. I'll bring a few extra dudes. You're not outsmarting me here, Craig."
"Uh huh. You ready?"
"I'm ready to kick your ass!"
"Hah, knew it. OK, I'll kill these 4 guys off, and the result is... 1-1, and, hmm, defender wins ties...
That was the turning point of the game: simple arithmetic. To make things worse, Chris finally reached me during the same season, crossing a frozen river (I forgot about that) to take one of my undefended dragon runes, and engage me on 2 fronts (see right).
Then in Year 5 Spring, Craig removed any last vestige of hope I had in scoring a blitz victory, when he attacked my stronghold containing the Dragon Throne. I had a deft trap set up for him in which I used a Tactical Retreat, then launched my own counter-attack (which I had planned to be later than his) to smash his forces, but I could only watch helplessly as he razed my Dragon Throne to the ground before I could take it back.
The war of attrition between Craig and I went into full swing, while Chris' Elven horde gained 1 more area off me with his fast units killing me before I could get any shots off (but thankfully no dragon rune). Chris pants-ed me again when he used Teleport to go through another river and take another undefended dragon rune from me ("I'm ready for you this Winter, Chris. Teleport? In Summer? Oh great.").
Neck-and-neck in the final year (Year 6). I took back the dragon rune Chris took, while Craig meddled and made me unable to take back another one from Chris for the rest of the game. Since we all believed that Chris and I were tied at that point, it was fair play (especially with how badly I abused Craig all game). But turns out it swung the game when I lost by 2 to Chris' 8 dragon runes, and would have won the tiebreaker. Chris had surprised our counting by having neutral forces keep his dragon rune safe in response to Threatened Home Realms, when the traditional play is to move it to another friendly region. He reclaimed that dragon rune in the last year, and got another free one off the Winter event for the well-deserved victory.
Learning New Games
One of my regrets from the last convention was forgetting to learn any new games. Considering that I learned all-time favorites like Battlestar Galactica, Claustrophobia, A Game of Thrones and Gears of War at the local conventions, I pledged to find another home run this time.
To that end, I actually stuck to an event featuring a game I wanted to learn, instead of taking the easy route and playing Dominant Species or Battlestar Galactica with friends. This was GM Jim teaching 1812: The Invasion of Canada to me and... hmm, I was the only one who signed up, to both our consternation. No worry: Jim started teaching me, and I probably shouldn't have asked so many edge-case questions trying to sound smart, since it turned out to be way simple.
Too simple. I expected some kind of speed bump on my way to the holy grail of Here I Stand, using unique card decks for each faction to weave out a 3v2 game which teams mean more than just 1 person bossing and taking over. It turned out to be refined Axis & Allies. Very well-refined, but still too similar. Strategy is simply defending your regions equally, using cube diversity and tracking of opponents' cards (especially the naval movements) to trivially optimize your movements. Nothing wrong with a light dicing game, but the playtime is a tad long (90-120min) for something like this, and if you're going this route, might as well go the whole nine yards and provide plastic figures instead of generic cubes (who wants to play Risk or Axis & Allies with cubes? Ugh).
Couple of things to like in here though, especially this: the Truce 'mercy rule'. Every dice game or luck-infused game needs to sit up and take notice, and try to incorporate this: a mechanism for the runaway leader to cut short the game.
My 2-player game with Jim succumbed to this in only the minimum 3 turns and 30 minutes, though not because I was the runaway leader, but because I was accidentally forced into ending it, since I wasn't aware of that dangerous possibility.
Bay and Joe dropped by mid-game, which was ideal, because I was looking for Bay to swap games with him. He joined me on the American side, and the game was simple enough that Jim was able to show Joe the ropes on the Canadian side while he smashed me. After the lightning-quick game, Jim proposed a re-match since he had to stay there and host the event anyway. I agreed, not because I hoped a full 5er experience (we got another who also learned while playing) would be better, but because the aforementioned games of Dominant Species and Battlestar Galactica had just kicked into high gear. As I suspected, the 5er game was worse like Axis & Allies, further diluting a game with very little interesting strategic value, and simply adding downtime and disagreements between partners (every time I, the Canadian Militia, got overruled by the British on the correct cube-diversity decisions given the odds i.e. stop killing my dudes!, he'd roll all hits on his next volley, invalidating my point. Grrr, thematic in that way, I suppose. All I was good for in that game was ferrying my tyrannical British friends across the border).
Afterward, the other 3 players retired, while Bay assured me that he, like me, does not require sleep. He had a nice bag of out-of-print stuff, and I requested Ascending Empires. He was rusty on the rules, but I had fun figuring it out along with him. This would have been the bona fide hit for me if it weren't for the component issues. I unwittingly sat in the wrong corner of the galaxy, and had enormous trouble trying to flick my ships onto what I knew was a gray planet I needed, since the junction there kept causing my ships to fly off the board, no matter where I flicked from or how hard I pushed the board down (in case you aren't aware, an incredibly dumb, cheap decision was made for this game to have the board be split into puzzle pieces that don't interlock correctly instead of having a one-piece board). In the end, Bay felt so much pity for me that he gave me free flicks to that planet, but I was already too far behind.
Nevertheless, I greatly appreciate the chance to learn the game. It's the first game where flicking isn't the centerpiece (Catacombs says it isn't either, but no, it's still all about the flicking, dressed up with thematic rules), and is instead mechanically integrated into a simple empire-building engine that does require some strategic thinking in terms of how you want to focus. The thematic integration is tight, with flicks being a cool way to move your ships, and long-distance flicks representing the danger in risky flying. I have 2 notes of caution: 1) there is runaway leader syndrome with the techs, but it should be much less of an issue in multiplayer games, where the other player(s) balance the game; 2) the game can drag and be a little too long, especially if the players are turtling and not being aggressive enough (since it's timed by VP chips, and VP chips are primarily earned by killing and destroying) -- could probably salt to taste by tweaking the number of VP chips needed to end the game.
Ended up learning The Castles of Burgundy because Sean insists on teaching me a Eurogame every con (it was either this or Lancaster for 5). Our 3rd was Chris, a cool guy who demo'd some CCG all day, including during our game (he was that good at multi-tasking!). Like all Feld games, the central idea was nifty at first glance, but the game was unjustifiably long at 2 hours. I have no qualms about playing long games (especially at cons), but it felt like Castles of Burgundy is long without the game state getting any more interesting. It's just rinse and repeat what you did 5 times. Some better control of the game length, including using smaller player boards, would have been welcome. Feld seriously doesn't need another bone-dry 2-hour game that runs on a gimmick that's cute for 30 minutes.
A subsequent play after the con revealed to me that the first 30 minutes ever that you play of the game are interesting; not even the first 30 minutes of each play.
Trust Knizia to put the wrong theme on the wrong game. The dragon parade in Dragon Parade makes no sense, but this game would have functioned well as a simulation of the stock market. Not interested in playing again, but I'd use it in a heartbeat to illustrate signaling in a class about stock markets. I was glad to try it too, now I have a base to compare Hab & Gut (which is still in shrink) to.
And speaking of SPANC: Space Pirate Amazon Ninja Catgirls...
Don't Judge a Book by its Cover
I thought I'd seen some of the images (of questionable taste) from this game. I'm not one to turn a game down solely because of theme or artwork, but this game didn't look like it'd pass the Mom test either ("will I be proud of letting my Mom see me play this?"). And what's that on the side? STEVE JACKSON GAMES. Hmm. But Joel and I were waiting on others to arrive, and were up for a quick 2er that could be mutually aborted at any time. I relented after he promised that the game was less than 45 minutes (for a Steve Jackson game... really?).
Setup was disturbingly Munchkin-esque since you have your own tableau of stuff, and there's a "Caper" (encounter/dungeon) deck and a "Toys" (treasure) deck. Similarities ended there. This was very Diamant/Incan Gold-esque, with push-your-luck on completing each caper first. SPANC is really SP (Space Pirate), Amazon, Ninja and Catgirls, providing 4 arenas/stats for dueling, each with its own benefits and consequences. And the humor was the best of retro-Munchkin: I laughed when I encountered the Zen Master, who decreed that in order to succeed, I had to fail (the die roll). I put on and took off my spiffy Bandana to help opportunistically with die rolls, until Joel started a catfight with me and ripped it to shreds. And POOLBOYS. A pity we didn't get any poolboys down (we aborted after 10 min when the other guys showed up), would have loved to rip one of them apart like a pinata.
I expected this to be a sexploitation game, but turns out it was about female empowerment, with Amazons ruling over the spaceship while thong-wearing Poolboys in bunny costumes serve drinks. I entered the game feeling pervy and I exited feeling emasculated. In a good way, since that was a new, powerful feeling to get after trying a game (instead of simply like/dislike/indifferent).
Another example of appearances meaning nothing sometimes: I brought my copy of A Game of Thrones: The Board Game (Second Edition) to help out with Craig's event, since I wanted to play it anyway. When I got there, Craig was in the midst of explaining, and waved me over to the overflow table, where I saw a bearded guy, and... hmm a father (Steve) and 2 kids who looked 8-10 years old. I looked for the exit while the dad assured me that his kids loved the books (on hindsight, hey should they be reading those at such a tender age?) and they played Diplomacy all the time. That helped, but... hey, that kid is having a rule confusion in Formula D right now!
I shouldn't have worried. The kids were delightful to be around, took as much punishment as they dealt out, and Steve constantly reminded them of manners and rules. The 5th player privately noted to me that he felt like the son was trying to get away with cheating, but I never noticed anything, and even if he did, sportsmanship is a much better and rarer quality to have at that age than ethics (which get ironed out).
As for the game itself, I continued my abysmal record when teaching A Game of Thrones. Though this time, I, as Lannister, had Steve/Greyjoy on the ropes in Turn 3, before Stark interfered and attacked me first. That one crucial moment put me on the run all game, scraping between 1 and 2 castles, and cemented my pet peeve with this game (the Lannister-Greyjoy axis only requires 1 event to tip over and veer into elimination). I was glad it turned out this way though, since I didn't want his first experience to be marooned on the Iron Islands and doing nothing. The game went quickly and down to the last round, where Greyjoy, Baratheon and Tyrell all had a shot. Tyrell was too conservative with his last set of orders, with both his siege engines failing to make the front lines. Greyjoy and Baratheon exchanged the lead multiple times, and in the end, I got a chance to hand the game to Baratheon, by popular opinion, in retaliation for a full-game torture by Greyjoy. The son (Hal) defeated the father (Steve)! Everybody was delighted with the outcome, especially Steve.
Always heartening to see young players get the right guidance on their way to becoming seasoned but easygoing gamers.
Good Games with Good People
I got involved in two teaching games of Eclipse, and lost 2-3 people who got intimidated by the rules explanation (especially the ship customization)... hmm, their loss. On the game I did play, I was proud of my performance, amounting to 'here's how you answer all the overblown complaints about this game on BGG'. I had 'crappy' Explores,
finding a lot of double-Ancient systems, but quickly tooled my fleet to take those systems and their rich rewards, while simultaneously setting pinning traps for Joe the newbie, who had turned into Galactic Badass by taking the center early. Joe got into Missiles to pair with the Ancient Computers he found early, so I went heavily into Interceptors, as we stared each other down from Turn 4 onwards, under the guise of 'diplomatic interactions'.
Crucial move when I passed on Turn 7 right before Joe did to nab the Monolith next turn (Joe the newbie groaned audibly when it happened, good on him for catching on quick!), but Joe managed to get a Monolith anyway in Turn 9. In Turn 8, I did something cool which didn't occur to be before, shutting down my Science production completely via the Influence action and a white planet to push everything into Materials (and Monolith spam in Turn 9), which I maxed out. I had a stack of discs on the INF action that was at least 6 levels high!
The dominoes finally fell on Turn 9, and as always, it only took one move to start it. Brent the newbie rightfully moved against Sean, but Joe moved against me. I pointed out repeatedly that Sean was the clear leader, but this was hard for the newbies to see (especially with Planta's bonus VPs), and I eventually decided to keep quiet after the other 3 got annoyed and chalk up the 'sub-optimal play' to a learning game (I thought it was a little wonky for Sean to misrepresent the VP situation to newbies, but learning game is learning game). My missile defense was ready, as my interceptor swarm flooded into Joe's much richer systems, including his home hex, which had a Monolith on it. While Brent tried to jump into the center. It was an entire clusterf***, but not much bothering Sean unfortunately, and he pulled out the win by 7 VPs (scoring 46).
There were a few hard feelings in the end as we got caught in the moment, but nothing best encapsulates the session than newbie Joe staring past me as I asked him to clear up his side of the board, then finally him realizing it after a full minute and apologizing, "Sorry. Mind. Blown." I got to witness his mind.blown face!
After dinner, it was 8 p.m., which as Sean always says, is BSG time. Craig and I agreed on the condition that everybody is experienced, since we wanted to leave soon. Funny situation when Craig and I were in a hurry to set up, and Craig told Sean he didn't bring his copy but Sean misheard it as he did, while Sean told Craig he was going to call his kids but Craig misheard it as him going to his car to get his copy. So Craig and I sat at the table, watching the clock, wishing Sean's kids would hurry up and go to sleep... 10 minutes later, we finally got to setting up, and the game wrapped in a cool, smooth 2 hours. It was once again a treat to match wits with a table of experienced players, with the game being lightning-fast as everybody knew the cards by title. Session report here.
Sun Aug 26, 2012 11:28 am
Luck in games, in measured doses, is the catalyst which enables shocking game-changers that you'll remember and talk about forever.
Let the Lord of Chaos rule.
For the first time ever, I didn't learn a single new game at a convention. That's what happens when you bring your copy of the newest piece of hotness that previously sold through its initial printing like hotcakes, and people keep asking, "Hey, are you going to play that?", and you can't resist not spreading the joy of 4X in space, even if it's 1 hour per player in a teaching game. Ended up teaching it twice. No bites on my Mage Knight Board Game however, which I had hoped to explore further after logging just 1 play prior to the con.
1500 - 4-player Wiz-War (eighth edition) with Tom Jolly.
1700 - 7-player 7 Wonders
1800 - 6-player A Game of Thrones 2ed with Clay, Thomas, Andrew, Sasha + friend.
2100 - 6-player A Game of Thrones 2ed (teaching game)
0100 - 2-player Wiz-War with Mike.
0130 - Bed
0900 - GMed Runewars, hosting Charlie, Jon, Daniel, Lu, Mike.
1600 - 4-player Eclipse with Daniel, Mike, Sean.
2130 - 6-player Battlestar Galactica with Sean, Mike, Clay, 2 others.
0200 - Bed
0900 - GMed Middle-Earth Quest, hosting Gary and Valerie.
1400 - Best game in the world with Craig.
1715 - 6-player Eclipse with Craig, Sean, MichaelB, MichaelF, TimothyB.
2400 - 30-minute drive home.
Two Plays: Frustration vs Redemption
I was starting to cool off on Eclipse, feeling like all my 4-player games tended to be some exploration at the start, a race to get the necessary strength to take the center (with lucky discoveries often determining the victor), then turtling in the center while making sure you have no other chokepoints or they're all securely guarded. 1 or 2 betrayals. Rinse and repeat.
I taught Sean (Terran), while Daniel (Hydran) and Mike (Planta) had only played 4 times and once respectively. Sean grabbed the center after getting the +3 Computers discovery tile, then went into Missiles to cow Mike and me (both allies) into submission. But he did not move against Daniel since the latter had massed ships on his only chokepoint, and all of us turtled all game long.
I, as Eridani, was too busy fighting my own economy, and could have been wiped from the map if Mike and Sean wanted to (but wouldn't, since that'd leave their flank open). I came into the game determined to move early toward the center with my nice ships and only colonize good hexes, but still ran out of steam around Turn 4, mostly because Sean took the middle, Mike and Sean both fenced me out of Ring II with explorations, and my throwing away a 2-Ancient tile didn't help. A first-turn Advanced Robotics wasn't adequate and was probably too expensive.
In the end, Mike betrayed Sean on the last turn in a kamikaze move as a desperate attempt to stop him from winning, and I, with my last move, used 2 ships that had been guarding against Sean's rear all game to bust through and take a 3-VP hex. Still nowhere close as Sean won handily.
My opinion of the game was at an all-time low at this point, since it had just been a race to get to the center, and the rest of us cajoling the other to make the first move and mutual destruction. Playing Eridani didn't help; I need to stop handicapping myself just to see if I can win with them.
My opinion of the game was revived when I taught it again on Sunday, this time in a 6-player affair, where you couldn't stretch your leg without hitting an opponent. Battles were waged starting from Turn 1, a player was eliminated in Turn 3 (MichaelB likes to attack first and ask questions later), and the Traitor Card changed hands at least 7 times, with me being the only player to never betray an ally (not within the rules anyway; Tim rightfully grumbled that my swooping in to take the hexes he had to vacate to fend off MichaelB before he could re-colonize them was a betrayal in all but name). It was a long 6-hour game, but tense and full of "OMGWTF" moments throughout, and I barely held on in the middle as the other 4 players kept squabbling about how to nip away at my 4 fronts. In the end, MichaelF on my right betrayed me out of desperation but got his entire fleet murdered in the process, and I immediately allied with Tim instead, arguing that he had to defend against Craig, while I had to defend against both Sean and MichaelF, then held on tight for the victory. Great way to end the con.
Love the increased conflict and betrayals a lot more with 6, and will be trying to play this with more players if I have the time.
Two Plays: Experienced vs. New Players
I always hit conventions on Friday ready to go, but they never seem ready for me. Whatever few early goers seem to stick together, and I have trouble identifying cool people to dive into a 3+ hour game with. Hence, I waited impatiently for the Game of Thrones event at 6 p.m., sitting through a 7-player game of 7 Wonders (not the best use of time, but there was nothing else to spend my time on!).
It was worth it when it was finally 6 p.m. We set up a 6-player game with experienced players next to the 6-player that the GM was teaching, and having 6 experienced players in A Game of Thrones is a luxury I've never enjoyed. The game flowed very smoothly, and we were done with 8 rounds in 2h15min (!), while the learning game was still stuck on Round 4. It was a refreshing respite to not have to look out for newbies, or pause to explain something all over again, and just bunker down and play the best I could.
I took Martell, determined to atone for my last pathetic attempt, when I was bent, bowed and broken. This time, I stayed aggressive, pushing into Tyrell territory despite his better positioning on the tracks, after I had secured the requisite 4 castles and mustered all my ships. A few back-and-forth battles, including a satisfying one where Doran Martell condemned the Tyrells to the bottom of King's Court, giving me the raven (though of course A Clash of Kings immediately came up).
On Round 8, I had 5 castles, and my rivals were Stark and Greyjoy, each at 4, who had profited from their non-aggression pact. I marched from Highgarden to take both Oldtown and The Reach, leaving Tyrell with 0 castles, and with Lannister's help unable to stop my siege engine. Greyjoy hesitated and decided not to push my navy away, which gave me a route for re-taking Highgarden. Then Baratheon tried to drive me from Storm's End, but I luckily drew a skull icon on my Tide of Battle card, making him unable to occupy the castle after he had driven me from it. Then on my next march order, I marched from Sunspear to take Storm's End, Yronwood and Highgarden, all unoccupied, for the win.
Absolutely fun game with very cool and fast opponents. Tyrell and Lannister, who both got absolutely crushed, bowed out, and the rest wanted to play again, but we got 4 new interested players. I stupidly forsook this great group to bring a newbie to another 4-player Game of Thrones that was setting up.
...and this was a learning game. I kicked myself for running away from a good thing. To their credit, they started getting the hang of it mid-game, and the action started heating up in Round 6, to the point that I, as Tyrell, got absolutely crushed. Martell was my bane, twice wasting my Loras Tyrell (the best Tyrell card) with Arianne Martell. The 2nd time, I had carefully monitored his discard pile, making sure I strike with Loras before Arianne returned from the discards, but he participated in 3 quick battles to take his previously used House Cards back.
It greatly helped that Jefferson read the rules beforehand, and could function as my "rules assistant", instead of me having to shout across the table over the din of the room (I also had a rules assistant in each play of Eclipse and Runewars, which helped me focus more on the game instead of having to talk the whole time). And he won in the end with 6 castles, having totally smashed Stark. Lannister finished with 4 after playing nice with Greyjoy, Martell with 4, and I was 4th with 3.
Now I have to keep using Tyrell until I win once with them!
Two Events: Sparkled vs Fizzled
I put my events at 9 a.m., so they don't get oversubscribed (and I might get a chance to play). Didn't work for Runewars (with expansion): I had to turn 4 or 5 away, and had to spectate. No matter, since it's exhausting enough to teach this game and keep the players constantly planning ahead and getting their move/card ready without being in the fray yourself. And I was geeked about the new multi-tier business card holders I brought to keep everything neat and tidy.
Charlie (2nd play, Daqan Lords) vs. Jon (1st play, Latari Elves) vs. Lu (2nd play, Uthuk Y'llan) vs. Daniel (Waiqar the Undying, 5th play). Lu had to step out halfway, but no matter, since Mike, a cool dude I gamed with the night before who enjoys spectating as much as gaming, was lined up as a sub.
Jon declared a 6-rune victory early in Year 4 after early cooperation with Charlie, which would have been all kinds of anti-climactic without the expansion, since not a single meaningful PvP battle had occured. But with the expansion, he had to defend his dragon runes for a year, and thus started the fall of the Latari. Daniel abandoned his brewing war with Lu to march all his forces forward, but was too late as Charlie stopped the win first. Instead, Daniel's two 8-stacks were utterly destroyed by Jon and Charlie, leaving him with no units at one point, and scrambling to reclaim his dragon runes instead of laying down his 6th and 7th. Then Charlie declared a victory in Year 5 Fall, poured in all his influence in Winter to get everybody a dragon rune and make his lead more formidable, then pulled his only forward dragon rune back behind his lines. The others were weakened from constant fighting, and did not come close to stopping him.
Fun game, but I do hope to play this with experienced players some time. This dragged at times as newbies would accidentally stare into space instead of constantly skipping ahead to the next move, and it took 6 hours in total.
Middle-Earth Quest on Sunday at 9 a.m. did not go as well. I like the interesting ideas in this somewhat obscure game (as obscure as a 2009 FFG release can be) a lot, and think it'd have more mindshare with a much-needed expansion. Only 1 of the 3 registrants showed up (should have done MEQ on Saturday or during prime time), and nobody else was interested (one said, "Oh, I thought you were going to play Munchkin Quest", ughhhhh!).
We only got started at 10 after Gary, a Tolkien fan, called his wife down, and roped in an acquaintance. I took Sauron, since Sauron needs to know what he's doing and set up the traps correctly for all players to enjoy the experience. Rules explanation in just 5 minutes, since all the complexity in this game is procedural (when to draw cards from which deck, which card to resolve etc).
The game hit a snafu on Turn 2 when the acquaintance asked, "Do you mind if I leave this game? I wanted to leave right after you explained it (then do it!). It's the exact kind of game I hate. And I'll only get more and more irritated and annoyed if I keep playing." So much for asking when you've already threatened to hold the game hostage unless we endorse your poor etiquette and let you quit. Though honestly, I didn't mind too much since she had been bogging the game down, and this game runs a lot faster and has a lot less downtime when playing with 3. It wound up finishing in a tidy 2 hours.
But my increased number of traps had already been set in the first 2 turns, and the game ended up being a bloodbath before I realized too late that I should remove some of them to account for the 1 fewer player. They picked up a lot of corruption, while Favor was hard to find, and couldn't get anywhere without picking up more corruption, to the point that both Thalin and Eometh were completely neutered. I tried to lay it easy on them since it was their first time, deliberately choosing less harmful cards to resolve, and not playing super harmful Shadow Cards, to try and balance the game a little. It worked out a little as the end came down a climactic final battle that I won. They didn't like the game ultimately though, finding it too similar to Descent, which they find too long and complex.
Once again, geeked about seeing my business card holders and domino tile racks in action! They really help streamline the action and keep the board and table tidy.
Two Plays: Both Didn't Work
My first game at the convention was Wiz-War (eighth edition) against 3 others, including the designer. Amusingly, this was one of Tom Jolly's first attempts at playing the new edition, so I ended up being the rules lawyer.
My first play of Wiz-War had been awesome, and I was right in expecting that this would not live up to it. Two of the players, despite having played the 1st edition to death, took a long time to take turns, resulting in a 90-minute game (at least 45 minutes too long!). This game shines when you just let go and do funny stuff.
I broke out Wiz-War again when I met Mike at 1 a.m. and we both wanted to play a game. 2-player did not work out well, as only 1 person is out there to screw you over, and it was anti-climactic as I drew the right cards to run away and bring the 2nd spellbook home after just 15 minutes.
Two Cylons Finally Get the Job Done After 4.5 Hours
Sean always refers to Saturday night as BSG Time, so that's what he, Mike and I set the board up for after the draining Eclipse session and dinner. I'm played out on BSG, especially after the design failure that is Battlestar Galactica: Exodus Expansion, but as Sean noted, we had a good group going.
Clay, as Cain, was trustworthy early, picking a useful 3-distance for our first jump. He made a somewhat justifiable move to take my (Tory) Presidency away instead of doing other bad stuff, which the other players supported since I'd been a bad President that loses them resources (hey, when I have to choose between lose 2 food or lose 1 morale, of course we have to lose some resources!!!). I made a mental note to ask Cally (Mike) to shoot Cain immediately after sleeper if she wouldn't use her Blind Jump OPG.
All doubt was removed when right after Airlock and Admiral's Quarters were both damaged, Cain slammed Cally in the Brig with an Arrest Order and smirked. I got Cally out with Political Prowess, but she couldn't shoot Cain yet since she couldn't move directly to Colonial One. Then we jumped against our will (wanted to take the Admiral title away from Cain before we did so), and ended up on a Remote Planet, leaving us with 3 fuel to travel 3 distance.
With the first turn after Sleeper, I rolled the hard six by XOing Cally to shoot Cain, and she proved her mettle by not betraying us. Then Cain took a split second too long in passing off her other Loyalty Card to me, and I knew it before I read it: I was now a cylon!
Spoiler (click to reveal)
Clay knew he was taking too long, and ended up just randomly passing me one of the cylon cards. As it turned out, he gave me the wrong one (Centurion reveal instead of Jump Track reveal), since Anders was in the game.
I lay low, deciding that I should use a Presidential Order to grab the Admiral title right before we'd jump and further drain Fuel, but the timing never worked out and my pleas for an XO right before we jumped never got answered. I riskily spiked a -2 morale crisis, but a suddenly treacherous Six (Sean) covered it up for me.
Then right before my turn, Ellen borrowed the Admiral title from Anders and activated FTL, and drew an Icy Moon, the worst destination in the game. I had a field day with this, yelling that we had found our 2nd cylon. I struck up another handshake agreement with Cally, and XO'd her, my personal executioner, to throw Ellen out the Airlock. But she got cold feet -- argh!
Cally XO'd me back, and I used my OPG to find no more mischievous Quorum Cards were on deck. After promising to play a useful Quorum Card, I had to follow my ruse, and Consulted the Oracle to check the bottom of the Destination deck (it was another Icy Moon), and cleared Ellen's name (didn't want to antagonize her too much since her turn was right before mine). Instead, I cast suspicion on Anders, the new player in the group, after he rightfully sat out of several skill checks in a row (he'd just been to Sickbay).
But the humans were too timid, and after Ellen gave ma a neXt-O, I went to work, using 2 Quorum Cards to tank morale to 2, then used a bunch of Strategic Planning to get the raiders to aim better. I staved off the first Airlock attempt against me with Political Prowess, but couldn't defend the 2nd, but it was okay: I like off-turn reveals.
The game should have been over quickly with morale at 2 and fuel at 2 (to travel 3), then population quickly tanked to 1 as the raider swarm became too much. But Cain and I watched in disbelief as Ellen the aggressive President kept boosting morale (it went from 1 to 2, to 1, then to 4!), and they made it to Distance 8 with Barren Planet, then a successful Tylium Planet (3-2-1-1-1 jump game), with the fleet jumping right before another raider activation could destroy the last 3 civilian ships. But Cain and I carefully manipulated the Pursuit Track so they couldn't get away from us at Distance 8, and population finally caught up to them there. Having Anders as the only pilot (and him being a new player at that) definitely crimped their ability to protect the ships.
It was a looooooong (4.5 hours) game that should have been over a lot earlier if the humans hadn't had some luck at the gallows, evidenced by the 3-2-1-1-1 jump pattern, and all the resources about to deplete (Fuel: 2, Food: 2, Morale: 3, Population: 0). I was disappointed by my reveal since it wound up not making a significant impact (Cain's was a lot cheekier). Six had the hardest agenda in the game: Convert the Infidels (humans win and all resources at 3 or less), and came the closest you'll ever get to accomplishing that near-impossible agenda.
Two Players for the Game to Rule Them All
Craig and I don't know of anybody else in the area who owns War of the Ring Collector's Edition besides each other, and we always eagerly recount new War of the Ring stories when we see each other at the local cons. But we'd never actually got to play it with each other. So when I saw him roll in after my Middle-Earth Quest event, and when nobody else seemed open for a game, we had to fix that problem.
I tried playfully to tease out some spoilers for the upcoming expansion -- which he's helping beta-test -- from him, to no avail. Learning that all the playtesters owned a Collector's Edition and would defend its sanctity in the face of expansion$$$ (as opposed to being online-only sharks, which I had feared) was good enough for me, in any case. As we set up the game, I was reminded again how War of the Ring is always the game that attracts the most curious onlookers who wish they knew how to play.
Rolled for it and determined that I'd take the Free Peoples. Could see early that Craig was a seasoned vet, as he readied for DEW and mustered Saruman and all the factions to war. I had a couple of cards to defend DEW and waited for him to commit before playing them.
But disaster struck in Turn 2 or 3 -- earliest Aragorn death ever! I split him and Boromir from the Fellowship to command the Rohan garrison at the Fords of Isen, ready with a Shield-Wall for insurance, in preparation for bunkering up in Helm's Deep, then leaving with the aid of the Dead Men of Dunharrow to Pelargir and crown Aragorn. But Craig played Onslaught, giving him an extra round of dice rolls after the battle, and of course he rolled 0 hits in the actual combat and 3 hits in the post-combat. Noooo! As Craig cheerfully reminded me for the rest of the game, a warg-rider dragged Strider over a cliff edge, and Brego the horse never managed to find him...
Things were going well to that point, but such an early loss of a potential die made the situation very grim for me. Split Gimli off to rouse the Dwarves (and later regretted not sending Legolas too to fortify the Woodland Realm) with the Book of Mazarbul, and charged the Fellowship. Craig engaged Helm's Deep, subdued the Woodland Realm quickly, then engaged Erebor, Dol Amroth and Minas Tirith. The Fellowship skipped Lorien and got to Mordor at this time, and I did some sneaky annoying things like playing Imrahil, Prince of Dol Amroth and The Eagles Are Coming! (which postponed an Erebor siege attempt for 1 whole turn since he had no more Character dice left). But the dice disadvantage was too much for me by this point, with Erebor falling to continually downgraded Elites (could've rolled better there, grrr, especially when Gimli's Heroic Death didn't work against an onslaught of 6's) and Dol Amroth falling to Grond.
On the last turn, I was 3 steps away with little corruption and had 3 movement dice, but took it slow (post-mortem showed I would have come up against a Reveal anyway). That was enough for Erebor and Helm's Deep to fall, then the Warg-riders charged across the plains to take Edoras for the 10th VP.
It was a great pleasure and rare treat to take on somebody with more experience in this game than me. Our play was very smooth, and wrapped in 2h15min.
The con was over far too quickly, and I wish I got in a few more games (only 3 each on Saturday and Sunday!), wish I got to try Sid Meier's Civilization: The Board Game (which Sean would've taught, but 4 others wanted to try Eclipse). But I was very happy with the quality of each play, got to know several cool people (Mike, Clay, Daniel, MichaelB, Sasha etc), got to know Sean better, and got in 2 games with Craig (I've played at least once with him at every convention I've been to, so it doesn't feel complete anymore unless I get into a game with him). The board games played at DunDraCon were also more to my taste (Ameritrash), and I'll definitely be back.
Luck in games, in measured doses, is the catalyst which enables shocking game-changers that you'll remember and talk about forever.
Let the Lord of Chaos rule.
3rd time at Pacificon (2008, 2010, 2011), 2nd time staying overnight. Intimate location with lots of improvements every year.
Here's the chronological order of what I did.
1405 - Arrived and missed Mansions of Madness and Glory to Rome by 5 minutes. Walked around, sat in the open gaming room and twiddled my thumbs.
1530 - Learned Three-Dragon Ante: Emperor's Gambit with Brandon and his father.
1600 - Learned Arkham Horror, hosted by James.
2000 - Played Twilight Struggle with Gary.
2300 - Flea market on Friday night seems to be the official curfew.
2345 - Done for the day after In-N-Out took 35 frickin' minutes to give me my order.
0900 - Played Twilight Struggle with Matt.
1300 - Sold games at the flea market for 45 minutes.
1345 - Quick bite.
1400 - Tried out Gears of War: The Board Game with Craig and Sean.
1630 - Sean taught Pantheon to Craig and me.
1800 - Quick bite.
1830 - Battlestar Galactica with Craig, Sean, Chris and two other guys.
2215 - Another spin at Gears of War: The Board Game with Craig.
2330 - Taught Biblios to Shanthi and somebody else.
0000 - Gears of War: The Board Game, 4 of us.
0245 - Last ones out of the place!
0900 - Ran a Runewars event, hosting Loyd, Michael & ???.
1300 - 15-min break in the game, quick bite.
1415 - 2 plays of Gears of War: The Board Game with Michael
1700 - Headed home.
Best New Game
Each convention I've been to has featured a game I greatly anticipate, learn, then obssess over. Last year, it was Battlestar Galactica, at Kublacon it was A Game of Thrones (first edition), and this time, I learned and played Gears of War: The Board Game 5 times over the weekend.
I waited to buy and try this at the convention, and on the first day, one of the dealers offered a generous $20 discount off the MSRP (he quickly sold out a whole table of them by the end of the night. First game I've ever bought at a convention! I paraded it around, hoping somebody would take the bait, and that was the first thing Craig saw when I dropped in at the game of Battlestar Galactica he was running. Craig and I always get together for fun Ameritrash games at every convention I've been to, and I wasn't surprised to find out his copy was already waiting at home.
On Saturday, I saw him, Sean and 2 others finishing up Rune Age, so I lurked nearby and got my wish. But it was an exceptionally rough game, as I had only read the rules once, when they were released. I had hoped to read it the night before, but was too exhausted after answering a midnight fire-drill from work. I did warn them it would be rough, but it was rough. I set the map up wrong, some rules felt weird to us (until we implemented them correctly after long look-ups), and it didn't feel right until an hour in, whereupon we quickly died. Craig seemed to enjoy it, but Sean seemed burned out by the experience (he didn't have video game fandom to keep his patience going).
Later that night, Craig and I tried it again 2-player, and it was fast and furious like the game's meant to be. It was fun and we played a lot better. But just as he prepared to seal the emergence hole, a Wretch unexpectedly dealt me 4 damage and downed me, and he was swiftly overwhelmed afterward. I had 4 health, but wrongly played that I bleed out when I hit 0 (it should be when you hit negative). One of many more wrong rules that snuck past my 5 plays during the weekend.
3rd time was not the charm, and this is the one I'd most like to have back. I found 3 young guys looking for a game Saturday night (I think they were the only ones still looking for a game, since Pacificon attendees are on the older side), and taught it to them. Here, my mistake (all weekend) of not taking out AI Card 7 (the most notorious rule mistake for this game) was intensified with 4 players, making the game downright impossible. Initial high spirits eventually gave way to boredom and disillusionment as the game stretched for 2.5 hours, 1.5 more than it usually is. We finally gave up after it became 2:30 a.m. and half the players were asleep. We had terrible luck all game sealing emergence holes (let alone sealing the 3 extra that popped up), and gave up after we had used our last grenade with the grenade box all the way at the start. "Sorry David, we like you but your game sucks."
Got in 2 more plays with Michael in open gaming before I left on Sunday, since we were both free after my Runewars event. First play went well, until he got complacent and decided to make a run for ammo, out in the open. All the Drones and Boomers immediately activated, and his blood spattered all over the place. I charged in to revive him and the Boomer had fun with his RPG.
Second time, we charged, and only just managed to sidestep the AI Card 7 issue by sealing the emergence hole in the nick of time (and AI Card 7 was the 3rd-last card from the deck). Then I was quickly downed as all the locusts suddenly charged us. I wrongly thought that the remaining locusts don't target him (and kill him) now that I was downed, but frankly after all those misplayed rules favoring the Locusts, we deserved the damn break. Against all odds, he held out against 2 Boomers and 2 Wretches with just 2-3 health, moving out, then throwing a grenade into the spot where everybody (including my corpse) was. "Screw you and your corpse, David!" he shouted gleefully as he tossed the grenade. Then miraculously, the Boomer didn't move against him after 2 consecutive locust activations. "Help me..." I groaned as I dragged my burnt and scarred body into his space. "Screw you, David! I have no time for this!" as he went on a killing spree on the Wretch and Boomer, then Guarded against the last Wretch with his last card/hp, concluding the bloodshed and winning us the game. Woohoo! Ended the con on a high note.
I never get the free time to play Runewars, so I usually host it at conventions, especially since very few people seem to play this game. At Kublacon, it did not go well as a very combative player was rude to all the other players and then up and abandoned the game 2 hours in, so I was prepared for the worst.
I set it at Sunday 9 a.m. as usual, since there'd be lower demand, and more chance that I'd get the 3-4 players I need, nothing more. At Pacificon, I shouldn't have worried, since there never seems to be enough players here. Loyd and Michael were new to the game, and somebody else had played a few times, but was still inexperienced. After
End of Year 4 Spring, when we took a 15-min break. Game was near an unexpected20 minutes of rules, we were off and running. We played with the Battle of the Ru Steppes pre-made map.
conclusion. Unmarked-up image here.
In coaching them through the first year, I completely messed mine up. I Mobilized an attack before taking a neutral city, causing the neutral unit to retreat into the city, ruining my Rally Support plan for the whole year, and preventing me from getting 8 Food to complete my objective. Then I was the only schmuck who played Harvest in Summer, right before... Bountiful Harvest.
The good news was that I, as the Undead, was shielded from them at two chokepoints by two formidable neutral armies, which gave me time to build up. The first player-on-player conflict happened in Year 2, as the Daqan Lords clashed with Uthuk. Daqan Lords grabbed the early lead in dragon runes and surged. Latari soon got involved, causing a 3-way standoff. It would have been a 4-way, but I cowered behind my neutral bodyguards.
I became the only one with a full roster of heroes (others had 1 each after attrition) after I used Coercion on one of Uthuk's heroes. Daqan and I also completed our objective early, and he sat on 5 dragon runes, me on 4, Latari at 4, and poor Uthuk spun his wheels at 2 despite playing well and having a sizable army.
My first conflict came only in Spring of Year 4, but it was a ridiculously effective one. I used a Magic Portal to tunnel through and whack Daqan Lords hard after they got to 6 dragon runes (we were playing start with 2, play till 7 as a compromise between the normal game and epic variant). I then used Horrific Rumors to make my newly taken region, right outside the Daqan home realm, invulnerable, then had the evil plan to Fortify in Fall to build a stronghold there and move the dragon rune to safety, followed by a Recruit in Winter to start pumping out Undead units deep in Daqan territory, which was rife with dragon runes. I was sitting on 5 at this point, had a Timmoran Shard and was only 1 Reward away from using Captain of the Heroes' League (I had Political Control) to pick up the 7th. I actually had a chance to get a Reward in Summer with one of my 3 heroes, but it was too risky, and I decided to play it slow in favor of my evil plan to rape the Daqan lands.
But a shocker happened. Daqan Lords made an ill-advised move to attack Latari with roughly even forces, since the latter was the Commander of the Warriors' Guild. Latari then counter-attacked in the Fall, and gained 3 dragon runes, since that region had both a dragon rune and a dragon throne, and he completed his objective with it. Loyd, a newbie, scored the upset victory!
It was a fun game (just look at the picture I took!) that took 4 hours, with a 15-min food break in between.
6 p.m. is "BSG Time", since Battlestar Galactica always seems to be run at that time. Craig, who's probably the most prolific and patient BSG teacher at local conventions, Sean, who was part of my first-ever BSG game, and I roped in Chris, whom Craig and I often play BSG with, and 2 other guys who played games with Sean all weekend. All of us were experienced with the all-expansion game, which doesn't happen often, and this boded well for a great game.
1 – Apollo
2 – Baltar
3 – Cally
4 – Cain
5 – Tory (me)
6 – Starbuck
Pre-sleeper went well. Early suspicion from me was that Apollo (Craig) was the cylon, since I’ve played several times with him and feel confident that I can catch his little “tells”. However, I’ve always had a hard time convincing others that he is a cylon since he’s always teaching the game and guiding newbies, making him seem like an angel to the other players (though I know better!!!). I resolved to throw him out the Airlock the instant I nabbed Political Prowess.
My cylon radar beeped even louder when I said that Chief the ally was safe to visit, then Apollo shared me a knowing wink and said that he would be fine (because of his Alert Viper Pilot ability). Later on, when somebody asked if Chief was safe to visit, I recapped that he wasn’t, but Apollo could visit him no problem, and then he seized on it, asking why I’d try and sabotage him by making him land in Sickbay. What the…?? Another contentious moment came up when I suggested we FTL at -1, which I always do, and Apollo, a veteran of hundreds of BSG games, complained loudly on why we should jump away and risk 1 pop. Thankfully he was overruled, Cain played Strategic Planning on the FTL roll, and he grudgingly followed on with the wishes of the group.
More cylon signals when the Detector Sabotage crisis came up (if failed, players can no longer look at Loyalty Cards, which harms Baltar’s OPG). This is a very frustrating crisis, because I feel like this should always be tanked since no resources are at stake, and who knows whether to trust Baltar anyway (especially when he wastes an action peeking at somebody’s loyalty). Apollo protested loudly, along with Baltar, and I shook my head, saying those two were looking awfully cylonic. Fortunately, Cally and Cain came to my defense, and agreed with me.
That was not the first time I suspected Baltar was in cahoots with Apollo. Baltar always made the most comically screwed-up faces when his turn came up and he pondered his action, and he was hmm-ing and haw-ing too much for my liking whenever it was his go. Even more damning for him, he sucked up 2 XOs by drawing 4 Quorum Cards (with a different aw-shucks face for each Quorum Card he saw), in spite of everybody reminding him repeatedly to play something so I (Tory) could benefit. “You don’t want me to play these Quorum Cards at all!” he said stubbornly.
On the mitigating-circumstances front, Apollo was utterly flawless in his duties as a CAG (I half-hoped he’d reveal whenever we XO’d him), and Baltar was generous with the XOs and drawing green with his Delusional Intuition ability. He also made the right choices on Water and Food Shortages, albeit only after Cally threatened to cap him after he chose to lose food on the first Water Shortage we saw. In fact, Cally repeatedly making death threats to Baltar was the most amusing part of the game pre-sleeper. She even offered to support me for President, but I didn’t want to appear too power-hungry.
I got sent to Sickbay later, and as I wailed for an XO, Apollo kept saying there’d be time enough to XO me out (nooooo what the hell!), and the turns slipped by as I languished in Sickbay. I really wanted to get out, because Sleeper was coming up, and I feared nobody would trust me with an XO at that point. No dice there. Sleeper came and went.
And I was a cylon.
That turned my world upside down. I had been so convinced that Apollo and Baltar were pre-sleeper skinjobs. Then I hid a smile when Baltar was revealed as the Sympathetic Cylon, giving the President title to… me. I cleared Baltar in my head, after seeing he was speaking the truth about the Quorum being cylonic: Arrest Order, Execute Prisoner, Encourage Mutiny, Resignation, Food Rationing… wow. I thought about lying and saying that Baltar was dirty, which meant Cally (whom he gave his other Loyalty Cards to) had to be a Cylon, but sealed my lips when I remembered that Cally had the first post-sleeper turn.
Cally was fully aware of the danger of XOing somebody immediately after sleeper, and had second thoughts about giving me an XO after she had promised me she would on the preceding turn. “Hey, you’re making me visit Cottle in addition to getting frakked in Sickbay!” I complained, after she announced she had placed a bad trauma on the doctor.
On hindsight, I should have taken the XO and moved to President’s Office and played Food Rationing to gain their trust, which would allow me to keep drawing cards with Tory’s ability and do sneaky things. Thing was: I had forgotten I was playing Tory since I never got to use her ability all game. And it didn’t help that when Cally gave me the XO, the player’s eyes were wide and pleading, and he said, “I’m taking a leap of faith here. Please don’t make me regret this.” How can you not pick up naivety like that, crush his soul with it, then throw it back in his face? That plea, more than anything, made me move to the Research Lab and play an Arrest Order on Cally.
Unfortunately, Cain’s turn was up, and I was under the gun. Investigative Committee was played, and Starbuck spiked it heavily, revealing herself to be the 2nd cylon. Still, the result was 10 or more and Cain had the option of leaving me to rot in the Brig (with Cally) or execute me. Executing me was good since I was the President, but bad since I was the next player. Eventual decision was to execute, especially after Baltar spoke up strongly, since he knew I had an Execute Prisoner.
The rest went largely to script. I used Caprica to play a crisis that Starbuck could spike maximally, then she revealed on her turn, which was right after me. Baltar the Sympathetic Cylon helped the humans mostly, and was forced to make an inefficient move to Infiltrate before we reached the Ionian Nebula (he had too much Benevolent trauma) instead of working on his agenda, which he failed (Convert the Infidels). Fuel and Population emerged as the constraining conditions, both reaching 1 after the Crossroads Phase.
Apollo got sentenced to death at the Ionian Nebula for consorting with skinjobs after the Opera House (and many more things, perhaps) was Revealed to him by Starbuck. I got the first turn out of the Crossroads Phase, but with jump prep already at 1, they got a jump prep on Baltar’s turn, and Engine Room on Cally’s turn. The fleet token was at the 2nd blue space, but with population at 1 and 2 consecutive cylon turns coming up, they made the right decision to take their 50-50 shot at winning before it dwindled to nothing. FTL Control was activated, Strategic Planning was played, the result was a 7, and the humans won by the narrowest of margins.
I toyed with the idea of playing in a Twilight Struggle tournament, but couldn't stand the idea of playing the same game over and over for the whole day. The tournaments were poorly attended (6 players or fewer) too, making it less tempting.
Played two games over the weekend, once in the practice event on Friday and once in one of the two tournaments on Saturday. I was U.S. in both. On the first, Gary Couped Italy with his first action, and curiously forewent his stronger starting positions in Asia and Middle-East to chase Europe. All the scoring cards came out in the first turn, and I was up 6, which boded terribly for USSR. My advantage slowly snowballed into a 20-VP win on Turn 7.
In the second game, I held an early 2-4 VP advantage, but the USSR clawed back in the mid-game. I had a nifty turn where I had both Central and South America, and got Domination in Central (failed at Realigning Cuba) and Presence in South (I had Allende, so he couldn't get into South America). I then broke the game wide open with Control for Africa Scoring (10 VPs when the VP marker had fluctuated between -2 and 2), which came out on the last possible turn, by staying out of low-stability countries and ensuring he couldn't Coup my battlegrounds.
Matt, my opponent, was friendly and chatty, and we had a good rapport early. But he spent a lot of time checking on his kids and getting distracted, which resulted in us being unable to finish the game (6 Turns after 3.5 hours), despite the GM's repeated reminders. The kicker was that, 30 minutes from the end, after some curious onlookers asked about the game, he proceeded into a 10-minute rules explanation of how to play the game while the GM and I watched in disbelief. He was a fun and challenging opponent, but I wish he could have respected the time limit more.
I sold in the flea market for the first time, and got rid of nearly 20 games at fire-sale prices. The annoying thing with this is that on every single sale, after offering my very fair prices, the buyer would always ask, "Can you knock it down 5?". Then while he pulls out his wallet and brandishes a 20... "No change, could you just round it down?" I won't allow negotiations next time.
Learned Pantheon, almost as appeasement for Sean after dragging him through the mud in newbie Gears. Simple and pedestrian, like a Ticket to Ride with open information. One of those games where you could scratch your butt and still score points. Close win for me (58-56-52), after I focused on getting insta-points with gods, and had a big response to Sean's huge last-turn movement phase.
Arkham Horror, which I learned, was a huge disappointment. A huge sense of "do random things and have random things happen to you" without a way to tie everything together. Didn't help that I learned on James' heavily modded copy + 3 expansions. Never really read the spaces on each board, and never bothered to. I love games with a strong narrative, but not at the sacrifice of strategic options.
It's hard to get into a game at Pacificon, and it was especially so on Friday afternoon. I sat around for an hour and asked people in Open Gaming to no avail, and when I finally got to play, it was Three-Dragon Ante: Emperor's Gambit. Harmless enough filler, some sort of Poker for an alternate universe. We played 30 minutes, then called it to see who was ahead on money (playing till all but 1 were eliminated would take way too long).