The Plucky Plank

A recap and my opinion of games tried at various game gatherings or conventions.
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I-con what? Not I-con, it's U-Con.

Kearn Reif
United States
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U-con originally started at the University of Michigan in the student union building from 1988 - 2010. I personally didn't care for the union building, the multiple floors and poorly labeled rooms gave everything a disjointed feeling. I believe the amount of attendants also forced then to find a new location. The last two years, the convention has been in two different hotels, the Metropolitan of Romulus Mi in 2011 and the Marriott of Ypsilanti in 2012.

Now before I go into the games I played, I want to make a few critiques about the convention this year. First, I didn't like the poorly labeled and laid out convention. As you entered the lobby, there were no signs to direct you where to go, only the front desk for sign up. Second, ill informed employees/volunteers of the convention. When asked questions about the location of the board gaming area, I was directed upstairs and also to the left of the front desk. There wasn't any board gaming on the second floor, only role-playing and miniatures. Third and final, was once I found the board game room, there were no open tables for free gaming. We ended up taking over a table with an event that had passed and had nothing left for the day we were there. These are all fixable but I had to vent about them none the less.

Greeting you as you entered the center was a huge balloon dragon created by Tim Thurmond, The Balloon Sculptor. As you can see, this massive dragon winds its way up the staircase. On the landing above, Tim was blowing more balloons and making what I assume were swords for a few children. It was also great to see so many familiar faces from my local gaming groups. Especially since it allowed me to capture a picture of Skaboy dressed as a french maid for the costume contest.

Here is a teaser, if I get over 10 thumbs up for this blog, I will post the picture for all to see and sorry Dave, you have no say. Muhahahaha! On to the games I played and my thoughts.See the post below in the comments!

Rapa Nui
One of my other favorite areas of U-con is the free gaming area. Tom brings a stack of the latest and greatest games for all to try. I dragged my friends along and we started the day off with Rapa Nui. The interesting part of this card game is the four stacks of cards. Each turn you must remove a card from the piles but the revealed card underneath scores. For instance if a goods card is revealed then any player with the same good in front of them would gather the good. If it is a priest or a statue, the player is awarded points instead. The other optional task on your turn is to play a card from your hand. The card has costs to play but if you can play multiple copies it allows you to take more than one card for the turn. The game continues until the stack of cards is depleted.

This game falls into the light category as your options each turn are simple. You also can't plan to far ahead each turn since you don't know what cards will be available. Although it does become obvious what cards will be taken by the other players. In our game, the other players stopped taking the cards above the priest card. I was the only player with priests in play and it benefited me greatly. Other cards avoided during play would have benefited the player following the current player. Such as if I take the woodsman, it would leave a rapa nui for the next player.

It is a shame this game is only available in German because it would be a nice family game. I would also like to try it with two since it might become more strategic.

Play time with rules: 45 minutes
Final Scores: Chad-21,Gregg-28,Kearn-46,Christian-35

Seasons has the feel of a collectible card game with drafting and could easily be my new addiction. I really enjoy the subtle nuances of the game. Players start with drafting cards by taking one and passing the hand to the player on the left. There is a preset hands recommend for new players but honestly anyone who played games like Seven Wonders or Magic the Gathering can pick this up easily. This draft probably is one of the longer moments of the game as players read the text and decide on which cards to keep. With repeated play, I can see this going faster.

Courtesy of cnidius

The seasons have these great chunky dice that are rolled and each player drafts a die. The symbols become second nature as you play, the symbols represent energy, extra cards and crystals. The different seasons have different colored dice and during certain seasons some of the energies are not available on the dice, so plan accordingly. After 3 years pass, the game is over and the player with the most crystals wins. After several plays and a few online plays, I really like the flow of Seasons. I could see this game sticking around and with a few expansions.

Play time with rules: 60 minutes
Final Scores: Brian-85,Gregg-106,Kearn-159,Christian-165

At this point, I wanted to play a heavy game and Vinhos fit the bill. Vinhos at first glance is an overwhelming game and then a half hour of rules. Tom did a great job explaining everything but after some point I just want to play and figure things out. As you do play, you see the beauty in the layout of the board.

It's kind of a rondel.

As you can see the board has a square that you move your pawn to and take the respective action. It varies from buying a winery, exporting wine, selling wine or going to the bank or banco. Then you also have to prepare for the wine show where it pays to show a good wine.

My winery

The complexity of the game eventually unfolds and becomes easier to understand. I found myself scoring better each turn and planning ahead to maximize my points. Now there were a few areas I neglected like the exporting area, which would have helped my overall score but to me that will be the joy of more plays. I also enjoyed that the theme fit the game and it is a theme I haven't played before. The game is a bit solitary as most of your interaction comes in the wine show but I was okay with that. I want to also thank my friends for playing this with me and slogging through this lengthy game.

Play time with rules: 3 hours 20 minutes
Final Scores: Tom-70,Gregg-49,Kearn-55,Christian-76

Smash Up
My brain needed a cool off and I suggested my other new favorite, Smash Up. I enjoy how different this game plays every time just by having different combos each game. I drafted the tricksters and ninjas, Christian had pirates and zombies, Gregg went with wizards and dinosaurs and finally Tom had aliens and robots. My goal this game was to be annoying with the tricksters and sneak a few points from the ninjas.

I would have gotten away with it to if not for those resurrecting zombies. I would do my best to put them in his hand but a turn later they were back. Everyone seemed to enjoy the game but we didn't get to finish because the hall had to be closed for the night. I look forward to the new factions but even without them, Smash Up has plenty of replays in the base set.

Play time with rules: 35 minutes
Sort of Final Scores: Tom-9,Gregg-11,Kearn-12,Christian-14

At this point it was after midnight and the crowd started to thin out. My two friends called it a night but Dave was not about to let me go. He said we had to play a game together. Somehow we managed to get 5 people despite the Werewolf competition. Nikki suggested a game of Livingstone and gave us a quick overview. The game is just about having the majority of tents in a row to score endgame points. The other part of the game was digging for stones. The plastic pieces are nice a chunky with a good heft to them. Just avoid the white stone.

Two other game pieces to explain are the cards and treasure chests. The cards allow you to break rules and place more tents or score more points for your gems. Treasure chests are where you deposit money for the queen. You must give money because at the games end, the player with the least automatically lose. It's pretty harsh and Suzette suffered a crushing loss because of her lack of donations. Livingstone is an okay game and falls more into the family game category. I wouldn't say no to another play but I wouldn't suggest it myself.

Play time with rules: 40 minutes
Final Scores: I forgot to write them down.

That concludes my day at U-Con and despite a few problems, it is a nice local convention. I doubt I would ever go more than one day but the day price is reasonable and you can play a variety of games. So if you ever find yourself in Michigan around late October, come and join us.
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