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Games Played at the first Vul-Con 2012
Todd
United States
Phoenix
Arizona
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I attended a new gaming convention here in Phoenix with some old friends: Vul-Con. Check it out at: http://www.advancedgrafixonline.com/vulconsite/index.html

Though Phoenix is a very large city (#5 metro size in USA), we haven't had much luck with gaming conventions. So I am excited about Vul-Con as the folks behind it did a lot of things right and have laid the groundwork to grow the con. This year's VulCon was small but very well run and fun. The vendors row was similarly small but actually quite varied and well done for a con this size. There were some good deals on games but no amazing deals or special promos. Decision Games (I) were very nice and gave away a back issue of Strategy & Tactics or World at War to each attendee who wanted one. Thanks guys!

My buddies and I have had our reunions the last two years at Gencon and we plan to do it again this summer. But I managed to convince 3 of the 4 others in our group to join us out here in the desert to enjoy a break from their dreary winter lives.

Our group of 5 is: Me, Greg, Tom, Sean, and Brad.
Tom Glass
United States
Ohio
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Sean Turner
United States
Bexley
Ohio
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Brad Lang
United States
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Sean couldn't make it because of some school event or some such blather. yukshakesobluecrysnore

Tom and Greg aren't very active on the geek (yet), so they assumed all cons are like Gencon. So I had to do a serious job of lowering expectations before we entered. I think I did a pretty good job of it as they didn't complain.

Pluses were: Small deli had decent selection of pricy lunch foods, snacks and drinks and... BEER. More cons should sell beer. They go together like peanut butter and jelly.

In fact our only real gripe was that the Men's room was far far away from the gaming area. (Also the 11pm shutdown time, but I think the convention folks had no choice over that).

Otherwise the location was outstanding (downtown PHX convention center instead of some lame suburban hotel). Because it is "High Season" (i.e. winter) in Phoenix, no good deals on the nearby nice hotels, but if you looked you could find some decent places to stay near the airport and just ride the light rail down to the convention center.

Anyway, on to the games...

**Please feel free to comment, post, etc.
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1. Board Game: Bus Depot Diner [Average Rating:5.35 Unranked]
Todd
United States
Phoenix
Arizona
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The morning of the con, my buddies and I got up early and got breakfast. So of course I took them to Mel's Diner in the old industrial part of downtown Phoenix.


Yes, the same Diner that was the inspiration for the 70s sitcom "Alice." Alice: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0073955/


The food was great, the server was funny and sarcastic, and so we were off to a perfect start.
 
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2. Board Game: Monopoly Deal Card Game [Average Rating:6.28 Overall Rank:1463]
Todd
United States
Phoenix
Arizona
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We arrived at the Con a bit early and had to wait as the opening was delayed due to the typical miscommunication between the facility and our con organizers. But the Con folks were great about it and super-apologetic and everyone seemed to be in a good mood and feeling patient, so no problem. We got our badges and went in.

We were scheduled to play a demo game at 10 am so we played a quick couple of games of Monopoly Deal while we were waiting. This is actually a pretty good, light set-collecting card game --despite the dreaded monopoly theme. I recommend it as a filler. Greg won our game.

 
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3. Board Game: Ground Floor [Average Rating:7.24 Overall Rank:603] [Average Rating:7.24 Unranked]
Todd
United States
Phoenix
Arizona
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I got to know the designer of this game
David Short
United States
Tucson
Arizona
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at prior Phoenix game cons (the board gamers usually meet everyone else as there aren't a ton of us) and enjoy playing him on www.yucata.de. He agreed to drive up from Tucson for the con to teach us his new game.

After reading the rules I knew that he had a winner on his hands and I hoped game play would be as fun and challenging as the rules seemed to promise.

I was not disappointed.

His new game is outstanding. The four of us played a 5 player game with David and we all agreed that it was a fantastic game. David does a great job teaching games and made sure we understood everything. He was also very patient as our group are old friends and he had to constantly pause while we cracked jokes or teased each other or asked questions. He made it fun, even though the game lasted far far longer than it needed to (bathroom breaks were not quick due to the distance we had to walk).

The game is a heavy Euro that feels a bit like a Martin Wallace production game. But fortunately the theme is different for this one. While it could have easily been tweaked into another "kingdom development" game or a train/economic game, David chose to make it a corporate enterprise theme.

The mechanics work quite well as you feel like you are really trying to get your business going as you try to get your "game engine" going. There are several interesting options and tough choices every turn. Moreover, there is risk that can really hurt you if it doesn't work out. Late in the game I invested too heavily in expansion that I found I couldn't pull off due to some failed meetings earlier in the turn and I was cooked. (It felt a bit like when you over produce cars in Wallace's Automobile and get stuck without adequate demand.)

Despite my blunders I had a great time as did everyone. This one should be playable in under two hours.

Final Score:
Brad 46
Greg 43
Todd 40
David 39
Tom 35

Tasty Minstrel Games plans to use kickstarter for this game, and I will try to be first in line as this one is a "must have" for me (top of my want list, along with Wallace's Aeroplanes: Aviation Ascendant). For those of you who don't like Martin Wallace games, don't fret -as this is significantly different from his stuff. You aren't really producing widgets, but instead growing your business and raising your profile.

Though this game will probably be on the more expensive end of TMG's games (it is a full-blown Euro with the usual bits, etc) I predict it will be a top-seller for them (I would be stunned if it didn't do as well as Belfort and Eminent Domain. My buddies aren't game collectors and don't know kickstarter from firestarter, but they plan to participate as well.

I should mention that the graphics for the game are also excellent. They have a "cool designer" feel as David and the artist have attempted to create the feeling you are working with business plans/blue prints etc. Unfortunately the art isn't finalized so there aren't any pictures that I can post.

David has done a great job with his game and I can't wait to play it again.

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4. Board Game: Pizza Theory [Average Rating:6.31 Overall Rank:2832]
Todd
United States
Phoenix
Arizona
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After that very long game of Ground Floor, we hustled out of the con to make it to Pizzeria Bianco for our reservation. Bianco is famous for its wood stove pizza and is very tough to get into any time -but particularly on weekends. New York Times rave: http://dinersjournal.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/02/15/its-pizza-...
and
http://www.nytimes.com/2004/07/07/dining/the-road-to-pizza-n...

Luckily I managed to get a reservation and the 5 of us walked over for fantastic pizza. The hostess has a bit of an "attitude" that one probably gets from tourists being stunned that they don't do carry-out and there is a 2 hour wait for a seat, but that was fine...

The pizza was as good as advertised --if you go be sure to ask for a "special" even though it isn't on the menu. They will cook up a pizza with ingredients they choose but it will usually have something similar to what you have ordered. Our "special" was fantastic.
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5. Board Game: Eminent Domain [Average Rating:7.17 Overall Rank:297]
Todd
United States
Phoenix
Arizona
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David was here for the day, so after he downed his pizza, he agreed to teach us Eminent Domain as well. We played four players (David just taught and checked out the con while we played) and David did a great job teaching this game. Despite this, because Greg had not played either San Juan type role games or deck-builders before and so it took him two games to really grok the whole concept.



While the game appears thematically similar to Race for the Galaxy it actually "feels" much more like San Juan. Of course it is much easier to understand and play than either RftG or Glory to Rome.

The graphics are perfect and the components are top-notch. We really enjoyed the game but my friends immediately notice a problem with the game that has been debated at length on the geek: The game is too short. Just when we were getting our "game engines" going the 2nd pile of cards was exhausted and the game ended. Dave pointed out that we were clumsy rookies and as we honed our strategies this wouldn't happen, but still --beginners should also be able to enjoy a rich experience playing the game. I don't want to rehash the debate here but that was the feeling we had.
(In contrast, the 2 player game is perfect in terms of length).

I will play this game any time as it is quite fun and much easier to teach than RftG.
My crafty brother won again:
Brad 12
Tom 10
Todd 7
Greg 6.
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6. Board Game: Skyline [Average Rating:6.08 Overall Rank:2440] [Average Rating:6.08 Unranked]
 
Todd
United States
Phoenix
Arizona
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After Eminent Domain, David agreed to teach us his newest game --Skyline. Skyline is a dice game partially inspired by TMG's Martian Dice and blended with his new big Euro --Ground Floor.

Another gamer,
Michael Tunison
United States
Tucson
Arizona
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, joined us for 6 player Skyline. Despite the number of players the game played quickly and there wasn't too much downtime between turns.

The game is light (of course) but full of interesting decisions on whether to go for the big scoring blue skyscrapers or play more conservatively. We all enjoyed it and played several times.

The game does not yet have a publisher but it is currently under review and I'm sure it will soon. I look forward to getting a copy.

Game 1:
I ended the game early by completing the maximum scoring (36pts) skyscraper, hoping that others could not catch me. No such luck.
Brad needed the equivalent of double sixes on his last roll of a pair of dice and of course got them to pull out an upset win over Greg.

Scores:
Brad 60
Greg 52
Todd 44
Tom 39
Mike 36
David 30.

Game 2:
Mike 57
Greg 52
Brad 32
David 24
Tom 24
Todd 12 (lots of bad rolls).
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7. Board Game: Escalation! [Average Rating:5.67 Overall Rank:5407]
Todd
United States
Phoenix
Arizona
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It was getting late and we had 6 players so we didn't have time for a big Euro or war game or the 5 player game we had played to play (Fairy Tale).

So we agreed to play Escalation. This Knizia game is fun and a bit silly but has just enough strategy and choices to keep it interesting.

Game 1:
Mike

Game 2:
Greg edged out Tom by 1

Game 3:
Tom edged out me by 1 card

Game 4 Tom edged out me by 2 cards

Mike had to go, so we broke out a "quick" 5 player game.
 
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8. Board Game: Dungeon Raiders [Average Rating:6.73 Overall Rank:1472]
Todd
United States
Phoenix
Arizona
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None of us had played this one before, but I had read the rules. After a few false starts we had the cards set up and the 5 level dungeon ready to explore.

We managed to make it through the first level of the dungeon but ran out of time and had to leave because the convention center closes at 11pm (D'oh!).

This is not a particularly deep game, but for its simple structure the 1-5 cards for each player create some interesting choices. I'd like to play it again to see if it holds interest after 3 or 4 levels have been completed.

With that, we took David back to his hotel and then went and crashed at my house.
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9. Board Game: Eminent Domain [Average Rating:7.17 Overall Rank:297]
Todd
United States
Phoenix
Arizona
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Sunday morning we had breakfast and then the four of us headed back to the con.

We all really enjoyed Eminent Domain and wanted to try again, so we started with it. The games were longer but still felt a bit short. In the first game I tried (and failed) to use a warfare strategy but didn't have enough research to get the 5pt cards needed to make it work before the game ended.

Final scores:
Tom 21 (got his engine rollin')
Brad 16
Greg 16
Todd 11 (sigh).

Game 2 was close:
Brad 19 (snagged good 5pt research cards).
Tom 17
Greg 15
Todd 9 (yeesh.)

We all enjoyed this enough to skip lunch to keep playing. We did enjoy our beer though.
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10. Board Game: Catan [Average Rating:7.35 Overall Rank:156]
Todd
United States
Phoenix
Arizona
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We finished Eminent Domain just in time to join the small Settlers of Catan Tournament. I edged out Greg to finish 2nd at my table and make it through to the final. In the other game, Brad smashed Tom early and made it to the finals, despite Tom's reminder that "Top Two Make it Through!"

While Brad and I played in the final, Tom and Greg played Greg's just-purchased copy of Zombies. They had a blast wailing on each other in that game.

The Catan finals were very tight and well-played despite the odd rolls. Brad was hurt by the fact that his primary production area needed 8s and none were rolled in the first half of the game. I managed to wall off my edge of the board and grab longest road and build a wood factory late --but it was enough to steal the win from our early leader.

Final score:
Todd 10
Christopher 9
Daniel 8
Brad 7.

Please call me the Lord of Catan. Thank you.

I think Brad should buy me this shirt: http://www.meeplesource.com/proddetail.php?prod=MP18c to go with the sweet award I received.
 
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11. Board Game: Ascension: Deckbuilding Game [Average Rating:7.10 Overall Rank:353] [Average Rating:7.10 Unranked]
Todd
United States
Phoenix
Arizona
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Brad, Tom, Sean, and I play Ascension online (via our Ipad apps) and so Brad and I decided to try the "real" card game while waiting for Greg and Tom to finish their epic battle of Zombies.

We really like the online game, and while the card game is fun, I have to say I'm a bit spoiled by the online version. Brad is quite good at this game, but I was winning when we closed up shop at the end of the con.

We had a great time and the organizers really made several good choices. I'm looking forward to next year.
 
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12. Board Game: Zombies!!! [Average Rating:6.00 Overall Rank:2608] [Average Rating:6.00 Unranked]
Todd
United States
Phoenix
Arizona
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After a break for dinner and hanging with my family we settled down to a 3 player game of Zombies to finish our weekend. Tom crashed in his room, so it was just Greg, Brad and I.

This is a fun thematic game and I enjoyed blasting zombies and sending the hordes after Greg and Brad. But unfortunately our game went on and on and on as we kept getting sent back by our opponents due to the tough exit
"tunnel" we had managed to assemble with the game boards. After two hours I was done and soon after Brad managed to make it to the helecopter before Greg could stop him. I'd play this light game again but try to figure out a way to finish it in under two hours.
 
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13. Board Game: Eminent Domain [Average Rating:7.17 Overall Rank:297]
Todd
United States
Phoenix
Arizona
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Brad stayed longer than the others and so the next day we found some time to play two-player E.D. and we loved it. The game is meaty and fun with lots of decisions and time to get the empire engine running.

The first game Brad got his colonizing planet-hoarding strategy working well before I did and he destroyed me.

But finally after 4 straight losses over the weekend, I managed to get everything working in my research heavy strategy and after grabbing most of the 5pt cards and two 7pt cards, Brad conceded and I obtained my long-desired, yet elusive victory (get it?).

Usually 2 player versions of games that work for 3-4 players are not as good for me, but I love E.D. for 2 players and look forward to nagging persuading my wife to play.

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14. Board Game: Lords of Scotland [Average Rating:6.83 Overall Rank:1328]
Todd
United States
Phoenix
Arizona
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Brad and I decided to finish the weekend by playing a card game I had just received in a math trade. We went from hating the game to really liking it once we figured out that you don't get new hands after each skirmish. Not sure why Z-Man kept the mediocre art for its edition, but I assume it is more "authentically Scottish" whatever that means.

Fun game. Brad pounded me and then I beat him to even things up.
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