The May bank holiday weekend means only one thing - time to head to Eastbourne for LoBsterCon! This is the 17th instalment, of which I've made it to 13, and it's gradually grown to an attendance of around 150 while retaining a lovely cosy feel. Here are the highlights.
The main reason I go is to catch up with my oldest gaming buddies, some from back when I first started going to London on Board in 2008. As an added bonus, one of them (Adam) has recently moved close to Bristol and gave me, Sarah and Effie a ride down (let's not mention his car breaking down the day before or Effie's motion sickness).
This is the second time an American BGG buddy has made it to LoBsterCon while visiting the UK. It was fantastic to meet my fellow MeatballUnited States
New YorkMany painters are afraid in front of the blank canvas, but the blank canvas is afraid of the real, passionate painter who dares and who has broken the spell of "you can't" once and for all. --Vincent Van Gogh
and his wife Jen, and particularly to school them at their favourite game, Tichu
It would be all too easy to spend the whole weekend in the gaming rooms but we usually try to get out on to the beach for some Crossboule and an ice cream. This time something more extravagant was planned! LoBster Robin is an England croquet player and booked a couple of lawns at the Eastbourne croquet club to give us a masterclass. It turns out to be quite the strategic and interactive game. You need to think several shots ahead and co-ordinate with your partner while scattering your opponents. Great fun!
...and staying in
Back at the hotel, the marvellous organisers put on several activities and events. I missed the Dutch Auction and its incredible bargains this time but did have my name called in the raffle for the first time ever, even if it was for the very last remaining prize which wasn't even a game! But of course the biggest highlights of the weekend are at the game table.
Playing old favourites...
I try my best to stick to the games I know and love and learnt only one new one all weekend (The Bremens - it was fun!). Several of these are long-standing Eastbourne traditions: Innovation played as a partnership game; Tigris & Euphrates with experienced players (what a delight) and of course Late Night Cosmic. I count Cosmic Encounter as one of my favourite games but I only play it with this group on these occasions and that's fine with me. A more recent, but hopefully long to continue, tradition is the Sunday morning game of Time of Crisis, this time augmented with expansion.
...and introducing new ones
I might not want to learn new games at Eastbourne but I do like teaching them. This time I introduced my three highlights of the year so far: Senators, Northern Pacific and Maskmen. They all seemed to go down well!
As well as the aforementioned Tichu, croquet and Innovation, we had a fantastic 2v2v2 game of Ticket to Ride: Team Asia, definitely my favourite way to play. Sherine and Teri pipped me and Tom by two damn points out of 200, although they lost my respect by spending their first two actions of the game sharing tickets Oh and the brilliantly weird Twilight too!
...and Just One more
Just One turned out to be an absolutely perfect close to the (late) night on both Saturday and Sunday. Up to 7 players, zero rules explanation and several hilarious mess-ups, including not one, not two but three of us trying to clue 'climb' with 'Tichu'.
Here's to many more!
QWERTYmartin's Unabridged Insights On Play
Archive for london on board
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Got back yesterday from an epic weekend of gaming at the seaside with 60 friends from London on Board. Here's what I played (new-to-me in bold) followed by some highlights.
_8_ Port Royal x5
_8_ Quantum x4
_10_ Race for the Galaxy x3
_9_ Tichu x3
_7_ Abluxxen x2
_8_ Coloretto x2
_7_ Dungeon of Mandom x2
_8_ For Sale x2
_9_ König von Siam x2
_10_ Love Letter x2
_8_ A Study in Emerald x2
_10_ Tigris & Euphrates x2
_8_ Die Sieben Siegel x2
_9_ Cosmic Encounter
_8_ Kakerlakenpoker Royal
_9_ Liar's Dice
_7_ Magical Athlete
_9_ The Palaces of Carrara
_10_ Pax Porfiriana
_7_ San Quentin Kings
_5_ Sushi Draft!
A Study in Emerald
The table: Rich (woodnoggin, many previous plays), Paul (sorp222, several plays), Adam (two plays with me the other week), Rob (no plays, but one of those great gamers who pick things up instantly). This meant we had to teach, but that helped everyone else refresh on the details too.
Game 1: M/P/A Loyalist, R/R Restorationist (heh, weird)
I was delighted to draw a Loyalist as I'd only played them once before. My basic plan was to grab some good AA agents and go on a killing spree. I got Wilhelm Stieber early on and had a bid on Ezno Asef but didn't get round to claiming him. Then Moriarty came up and Paul and I got into a huge pissing war. With around 6 cubes each involved, Rob calmly placed a blocking disc and then overbid me on Asef.
Rich had grabbed Devil Island (permanent effect - playing a city card from hand lets you remove all of one player's influence from it) and Bismarck (lock a city for your sole use). So he went about taking cities, while making it very hard for us to contest them since we knew he had cards that could neutralise us. I started to put my plan into operation and used Stieber and my initial assassin to kill two of Rob's agents and Asef when he claimed him too. I also removed some cubes from Moriarty eventually allowing Paul to remove the blocking disk and claim him. Unfortunately for him, one turn later I noticed how weak Moriarty's defences were in Cairo and offed him too. This may not have been my best move, but it was fun I also hid a minor Royal and claimed the Necronomicom, so I was building a platform of points.
Rich's score was getting ominously high but between us we knocked him back down. But what us Loyalists were forgetting to do was to get a Restorationist into last place. Adam fatefully took a city from Paul rather than from Rob, and that let Rich make his move. Thanks to me assassinating Rob's agents every time he claimed one, Rich was able to take out his main agent to end the game, winning by a single point with Paul in last.
Game 2: turned out to be an oddly similar setup with M/A/Rob Loyalist, P/Rich Restorationist
This one wasn't as good as both Paul and I hit a wall of fatigue during the game and Adam made a crucial rules error early. With us all on zero points, but me known to the authorities (due to assassinating an agent), he attempted to assassinate my main agent. He figured that if I was a restorationist, the game would have ended and he would have had a point for the kill to everyone else's zero. But he'd misheard the tiebreak for last as favouring Loyalists rather than Restorationists, so this wouldn't have worked even if I was a Resto. Instead the result was that we were both outed very early on.
Nevertheless, some fun stuff happened. Rob got Vampires and an Airship, which sounded terrifying but didn't really get up and running. I was trying to put together a plot to hide Gloriana with the Infernal Machine, and Adam was pushing the war track with Golovinsky. But I forgot to score any points and Paul was able to send himself mad for a pretty early win.
This is going to need regular play to avoid forgetting what I've learnt each time, but I really did feel like the promise was delivered on this time, particularly in the first game.
This was the best game of Pax I've ever been part of, and one of the best games full-stop. Three player is always the most brutal, and my compadres here were the experienced and bastardly Adam and Rob.
I was gearing up for a quick Revolution and used the first Topple to force Rob to flip to pink to stop to me. I was $1 short of winning on Topple 2 (which was the dollar Rob had stolen from me on the previous turn when he nationalised the Plantation I was about to slave revolt!), but instead Adam used it on Loyalty to flip me to green. I'd just completed my next turn and then had the horrifying realisation that there was a green/red strife headline in the market. I desperately hoped no one would notice, but it wasn't that kind of table. In one fell swoop I lost my rebel troops and two pink partners, including the Catholic Church, which I'd invested all my money in prior to triggering a 'discard half your gold' headline!
To make things worse, we then went into the first of two depressions and with no Enterprises or Hacendado income left, I actually went bankrupt, losing the only remaining card in my tableau. I still had enough pink cards left in my hand to challenge but after the short-lived depression I had to spend a few turns just buying, selling and speculating.
In the mean time, Adam and Rob got into a huge Loyalty war, building up long rows of partners and enterprises. Adam barely missed out on winning on topple 3, including me playing the Mexican Communist Party and paying the $8 to change the Regime to Anarchy. Once that topple had gone, we went into full tear-down mode. The highlight was when I bought a headline that forced both Adam and Rob to discard a Bank and half their gold, lose a partner to Strife and triggered the second depression.
By the time topple 4 showed up, I had enough revolution points to win, but not enough gold. Adam's huge economic empire fuelled by his Loyalty row and British financier Lord Cowdray was going to give him the win on gold the next turn, so I bowed out with a flourish. My final turn was to sell my last three hand cards (for zero) and discard my final tableau card to the depression expenses.
New to me
Played five times and really enjoyed. It's an unusual combination of fairly basic tableau/engine-building and push-your-luck card-drafting. The active player can keep turning up cards from the deck unless they reveal two ships of the same colour, which busts their whole turn (similar to the dangers in Incan Gold). Once he chooses to stop, he can buy one card from the row, but then other players get the chance to buy cards too if they pay an additional gold to the active player. It's worth pushing your luck to find the card you want and also because if you reveal 4 different coloured ships you get an additional buy. The cards include gaining money instantly, tableau cards with special powers, expeditions (big VP cards that need prerequisites to be claimed) and tax increases (which penalise players who are hoarding gold). First to 12VP wins and there seem to be several viable approaches.
I'm not often that excited by engine-building games but the PYL card-drafting is just fun and makes the engine-building more interactive than most. I also really like that it's just a deck of 120 cards - face-down cards are used as money - and the setup is as simple as making a draw pile and giving each player three gold. And since every card comes into play through the public draft, you can pretty much teach as you go, rather than having to give everyone a reference sheet for the iconography.
I enjoyed this a lot too. The cards are just 8 each of 1-13 (no suits) and 5 jokers. The idea is to play sets of the same number in front of you and to get rid of cards in hand, since your final score is one minus the other. But when you play a 'better' set than the last set another player has in front of them (the same number of cards but a higher value) you can steal those cards to your hand (to form bigger sets to play later) or force them to take them back into hand (or alternatively discard them and replace from a face-up pool). Seems like the first half of the game is about accumulating sets in your hand so you can get lots of cards played, and then switching at the right moment to playing them out so you don't get stuck with them when someone else goes out!
San Quentin Kings
Nate Hayden's first game, about prison gangs, looks home-produced and features somewhat disturbing artwork. With this theme, it could have been crass, but there's actually an interesting mechanical core. There are 7 possible actions, and when each is chosen all get to participate, Puerto Rico style. But instead of the actions being producing and shipping, they're fighting for drugs. And knives. And cigarettes. The fighting is implemented with card play reminiscent of Beowulf: the Legend, where you can either play a safe card from hand or take a risk with a draw from a public deck. The most amusing action is the gym, where you can turn your small cubes (weedy but smart gang members) into bigger ones. At the end, points for various achievements are distributed (a bit like Dungeon Lords) - most gang members of each type, most drugs of each type, most fight points and so on. An unusual and enjoyable game - I'm glad I picked it up now.
Dungeon of Mandom
The best of three Japanese Hipster Games (as we affectionately refer to them) I learned. It's another bluffing/push-your-luck microgame where players are daring each other to enter the dungeon and take on the monsters that lurk there. On your turn you can look at a monster card and either add it to the dungeon deck or throw it out and also discard one of the vital pieces of armour that the eventual adventurer will need to protect themselves. Different monsters are repelled by different items and you each have partial knowledge of what is and isn't the dungeon. When all but one players pass, the other player has to reveal the dungeon cards and decide his fate.
Odd trick-taker with only 17 cards, each with a unique power. Without knowing all the powers it felt completely random. And I don't think I could be bothered to invest that much effort when there are so many brilliant tricktakers that don't need that level of complexity.
Weirdly, two games with 7 Wonders style drafting to collect sushi were published last year. Unfortunately, this one is even more bland than Sushi Go. You draft to try to collect the biggest set of each type of sushi or most different types. And that's it.
Other notable plays
This was probably the hit of the con, seeming to be in constant play. I got 4 plays in and loved all of them. It plays much better with bastards who revel in the aggressive nature of the game. I was starting to worry it might be *too* aggressive and degenerate into tit-for-tat. But then I saw some fantastic wins with great combos, and we also tried a bigger map which opened things up for different approaches.
Tigris & Euphrates
I had 4th seat both times and lost on a bloody tiebreak both times! The second game was interesting because the one new player did unexpected stuff we had to respond to. No monuments were built and it ended on treasure rather than tiles. My last turn was to cause a black conflict that took me up to 5VP and handed a treasure to Rob to end the game, hoping it wouldn't be crucial. My final score: 5/5/6/6, his: 5/6/6/6. Damn!
Our first-round tournament game was nuts. We went around 400 points behind, then I pulled out a Grand Tichu, followed by one of the craziest hands I've seen. I had a 6-7-8-9-10 bomb dealt then got passed the 4-5 of the same suit! So my hand was a 7-bomb, a run up to Ace, a King and the Dragon. And *then* my RHO called a perfectly reasonable Tichu holding three Aces and the Phoenix. That did not end well for them Sadly in the second game we got utterly smashed and I didn't even feel like we did anything wrong. Sometimes the cards love you, sometimes they don't...
Anyone played with the variant scoring card where bigger sets are worth fewer points than medium-sized ones? It's weird.
My favourite Cosmic opponent sadly couldn't make it but we still had a great 6p. My power allowed me to heal people's ships in exchange for cards, which let me build up a massive hand. Very helpful when I drew a flare that let me get +1 in conflicts for each hand card! The most amusing moment was when Soren and I agreed to negotiate in order to gain our last colony for a joint win. Of course I didn't trust him so I played a Morph (copy your opponent's encounter card). Unfortunately he did exactly the same thing. We had to look up the rules (there's only one Morph in the base game!) and it turned out we both lost the conflict. Fortunately I won on my own a couple of turns later
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Friday to Monday saw 65 gamers descend on Eastbourne for 4 days of gaming heaven. Here's what I got up to.
Friday: Day 1 of LoBsterCon!
Hanabi x2 - on the train, with all experienced players. We managed a best-yet 24 in the first game and were so close to completing it. 19 in the second with a tough card draw.
Coup - just time for this before we pulled into Eastbourne. Rikki, who designed it, was in attendance for a couple of days too - lovely guy.
Rise of Augustus - played the 'what shall we play' game for a while before Ronan dragooned us in to a new light Euro. Kind of a hybrid of 7 Wonders and Bingo (!). I found that you couldn't keep sufficient track of other players' tableaus and also play it at a suitable speed. So I played fast and badly
Pax Porfiriana - two experienced players, two new ones. They picked it up well and it was hotly contested with a narrow victory for one of them on gold.
Cosmic Encounter - first of four excellent bouts of Cosmic (only one dragged slightly) thought they've all slightly blurred into one into my mind.
Equinox - this is a lovely little game.
Kakerlakenpoker Royal x2 - first of the tournaments was hilarious fun.
A Fool's Fortune - underwhelmed by this Rummy + special powers game, but we only played the basic version. Eminently mockable art and flavour text.
Nefertiti - don't get this out often but always enjoy it. I scored nothing during the game, but would have pulled off second without a silly mistake in the last turn.
Die Dolmengötter - my latest acquisition and my favourite new-to-me of the weekend. Brilliant lightning-fast abstract with elements of player collusion.
Hey, That's My Fish! - a 3p was setting up so I jumped in and almost won.
Battle Line - a crushing victory, my first of the day!
Sharp Shooters - fun, mostly brainless dice-roller, perfect for the time of night. I ended with fewer points than I started with...
Subbuteo - and what better to play until 4am? I can't have played this in 20 years but I managed to score a hat trick in a 4-1 victory.
Saturday: Day 2 begins after a hearty fried breakfast
Primordial Soup - I'd only played this once since buying it quite a while ago and so it was moving towards my trade pile. What was I thinking? This was one of the highlights of the weekend, both for gameplay and banter. I went the aggressive route and came from behind for the narrowest victory by munching on all of Adam and Tom's defenseless amoebae.
Infarkt - a case study in 'theme matters'. If this had a generic medieval theme pasted on to it's action selection/resource management framework it'd be utterly without merit. But with the advancement tracks named 'obesity', 'blood pressure', 'cancer' etc. and the players trying to rush each other to an early grave it's cynical and hilarious. Alec through a 'sausage and vodka' party which killed Soren, but when Alec couldn't afford the funeral expenses he died of depression too.
For Sale - preliminary round of the Euromania tournament, which I managed to sneak through thanks to some cash in hand.
7 Wonders - round 1 proper was a 4p game of this. I had a huge pile of blue but little else (and zero on science, yellows and Guilds). It was enough for second.
Ra - round 2 was game I regard myself as rather good at. So of course I came a disastrous last. At least it meant I didn't have to play Stone Age!
Jackal & High x5 - finally got to play a game with Paul and it was this neat little Zoch dice game. A lot of similarities to Vegas but I found the decisions more interesting, and taught it to several more people over the course of the evening.
FlowerFall - warm-up for Sunday's dexterity tournament
Cosmic Encounter - game 2 happened at some point.
Ginkgopolis - it was a mistake to learn this after midnight in a 5p game. But at least I managed to just about master the actions (and take some entirely tactical decisions) before we finished. Unfair to judge it now, but I definitely didn't hate it.
Tichu x2 - both with the same partnerships, the second going 'til 4am. This was another of the con highlights, especially the second bout in which Charlotte and Scott had SIX straight-flush bombs and Alec and I still beat them 1115-385.
Sunday: Day 3, dominated by the Dexterity Decathlon!
Expedition - jumped to a game of this as they were just about to start. Really like it though it was an odd game in which the expeditions pretty much happened sequentially rather than in parallel.
Dobble - a brilliant first round and disastrous second put me in 2nd place in my heat.
Animal Upon Animal - and I was second in event 2 as well, despite a shaky hand from all the coffee at breakfast!
Tumblin-Dice - a lucky first thanks to another player knocking one of my dice into the 4x on its 6 face with the last roll of the game!
Ricochet Robots - my first time playing this mental puzzle game and it nearly broke my brain. My only lower than 2nd finish in the tournament.
FlowerFall - second place again in round 5, Rich and I both had imported copies and it was a bit of a hit.
Ubongo 3-D - I hate this game. Fortunately the utterly stupid scoring system let me steal 2nd by being good at drawing red tokens from a bag.
Crokinole - there was a table set up for the most of the weekend which was a delight. I won this heat.
Bar Skittles - having decided to skip two events for time reasons, the top 8 on points went through to a bar-skittles shoot-out. We each had four goes, with the total added straight on to our cumulative score. I moved up from 3rd to joint 1st with two throws that knocked all but one skittle down. But then a calamitous 4 and 5 on the final two throws dropped me off the podium.
Hacienda - I bookended the tournament with another Kramer game, which I hadn't played for years. I enjoyed it but I'm still not really sure Through the Desert needed an economic element.
Extrablatt - over dinner Rich asked if I could teach him this, so we got it to the table when we got back to the hotel. It was brilliant fun and I don't know why I haven't played it since the last Eastbourne. Ended up a very close 400/400/380/370. Rich and his girlfriend Kate dominated at games all weekend (top 2 in the dexterity tournament!) and this was no exception.
Pax Porfiriana - three of us were just setting this up when Rich asked to be taught it too. This may have been a bridge too far for him at that time of night on Day 3 but he played on manfully
Love Letter - I realised just how tired I was when I was unable to shuffle without scattering the cards all over the floor. But somehow I came back from 2-2-2-0 behind to win three in a row and the game!
Cards Against Humanity - the night ended with a hysterical game of CAH. I wish there were more 'pick 2' cards though, they're so much funnier and more creative than the singles, which tend to just be won by the most outrageous card rather than anything clever.
Monday: day 4, the comedown.
Crokinole x2 - anyone want to buy me a board?
Die Dolmengötter - having the benefit of one game under my belt, I crushed the field, but they all really liked it too.
Cosmic Encounter x2 - and what better way to finish than Cosmic with five great guys. The first was alarmingly quick, the second rather drawn-out, but both huge amounts of fun.
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Over the weekend, 50 LoBsters headed down to a hotel on the South Coast for three days of (lots of) gaming, (very little) sleep and (highly variable amounts of) drinking. The Eastbourne weekend happens twice a year and it's the highlight of my gaming calendar. In November I managed to play 37 games over the weekend and I was aiming for 40 this time round. Thanks to advance planning putting a dozen of us on the same train there and back, I was just able to manage it!
You can see everything I played here, but I'll pick out a few highlights.
I wanted to run a Kniziathon last time around but didn't get organised. This time there was sufficient interest to make it worthwhile and it proved to be a fun way to persuade people to play my extensive collection of Reiner games! Some healthy competitive spirit was on show but no one took it too seriously. As the great man says, "the goal is to win, but it is the goal that is important, not the winning".
There's a full report on the weekend's geeklist, but to summarise, I was beaten by one point with a game that took place after I'd left. Gah!
Eastbourne's a good occasion to make sure you play your all-time favourites. I had two marvellous games of Tigris & Euphrates as part of the Kniziathon (second in both, damn!), and three of Cosmic Encounter, including a weirdly relaxing session very late on Saturday night away from the chaos of drunken Werewolf in the bar.
A game of Tammany Hall has already become an Eastbourne tradition, and it was just as brutal and curse-strewn as I'd hoped. I had to take a stroll along the beach afterwards to allow my blood pressure to return to normal! And both nights ended (for me) at 3 or 4am with 10-player rounds of 6 nimmt, each of which we dealt absent friend Alec into as a random element.
New kids on the block
I got the chance to play both the new Hunger Games tie-ins that I rules-reviewed in a previous blog post. They're both good, and pretty much as I expected them to be. The Hunger Games: District 12 Strategy Game is quick enough that the brilliantly thematic Reaping rule (one player randomly loses) isn't annoying, and The Hunger Games: Jabberjay Card Game seems to be a great spin on The Resistance that would be even better once we get the rules right.
New to me
Including the Hunger games, I played 10 new-to-me games, and my favourite was the very last game I played on the train home. I mocked up a Hanabi deck a while ago and hadn't had the opportunity to get it to the table. But with a captive audience I finally got a game, and even though I don't normally like co-ops, found it utterly brilliant. So many games feel kind of samey, but not being able to see your own cards, only those of other players, is so different and so disorientating. A lovely information theory puzzle that I really want to play again soon.
A weekend like this needs a dexterity game hit and this time it was the ingenious Hamsterrolle, in which players place pieces on the inner surface of a mobile wheel. I played three times and won once.
I also played the recently reissued Kingdoms, one of the highest-ranked Knizias I'd not yet tried. And unsurprisingly I enjoyed it, even it is one of the games that deserve Knizia's reputation for being dry and mathsy.
Eastbourne also offered the opportunity to tick off another couple of games on my Trip Through Time 1996 edition, both by the reliable Kramer.
Detroit-Cleveland Grand Prix is a decent race game, but Expedition was the real surprise hit for me. I described it as 'Transamerica on steroids'. Like Transamerica, players have a hand of locations to visit, and take turns to add to a shared network. But there's loads more going on in Expedition: three point-to-point 'expeditions' instead of a single network; face-up location cards that can be claimed by anyone; tokens that you can spend on special actions; the possibility of upping the stakes on some of your locations by revealing them to everyone; and an ingenious mechanic for dealing with loops in an expedition.
I've also been on a bit of a Dorra kick recently, and Kreta turned out to be a slick little area control game.
It took me until Tuesday to recover from the sleep deprivation but I already can't wait for the next time. November seems so far away.
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Tomorrow, instead of going to work, I'll be heading down to Eastbourne (on the South Coast of England, overseas readers!) for three solid days of gaming with London on Board. This is the third bi-annual LoB away weekend, and my second. Around 50 of us are going, and many have booked the same trains so the gaming can get started early!
I managed to squeeze 40 games into my suitcase, 22 of them card games crammed into a shoebox, and 11 Knizias to get our Kniziathon kicked off!
Merchants of Amsterdam
Before the Wind
Sushizock im Gokkelwok
Let's Take a Hike
Lords of Scotland
Scripts & Scribes
Coachride to the Devils Castle
Die Sieben Siegel
So, no blogging from me over the weekend, but look out for the geeklist of everything we played after we all make it back on Sunday night.
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