BGG.con/2007/sedjtroll Day 1: Thursday 11/15/07
Seth Jaffee
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I woke up at about 8 to get downstairs to register and find a place to set up prototypes. There were some narrow tables along the wall in the corner of the Oak Ballroom, so I took out all the unpublished games I had with me and set them up as enticingly as possible along the tables. I went to the admin room to see about using a sharpie to make a sign, and Jon Theys did me one better - I had a big picture of my avatar, he took that and put it on a nicely made sign (computer vs my scribbling) and printed it out. I didn't realize it, but he put it up just about everywhere - in the Library, in the main ballroom by the sign up sheets for stuff, outside the Oak Ballroom, and of course in the corner by the prototypes. My avatar was everywhere! It was awesome, thanks Jon!

At about 9am people started to line up for Registration, and I didn't want to wait in a big line and then have a crappy pick from the prize table so I jumped in line before it got too long. I happened to be next to Mischa and Chester Ogborn (cornjob). Someone suggested we play a game while in line, and I said I had just the thing! I ran over to the Prototype table and grabbed 2 games to bring back...

BGG.CON 2007 - THURSDAY 11/15
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1. Board Game: Unpublished Prototype [Average Rating:7.02 Overall Rank:2001]
Seth Jaffee
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Brain Freeze by Seth Jaffee

I always like to bring Brain Freeze along to play while waiting for something else. The whole game takes about 1 minute to play, so it's the ultimate filler. On the down side, it requires a chess clock, so it's probably imminently unpublishable. The people who played it at the convention seemed to have a good time with it.

I showed this to Mischa and Chester and they played a game against each other. Then we moved on to a board game all three of us could play.
 
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2. Board Game: Wizard's Tower [Average Rating:7.02 Unranked]
Seth Jaffee
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Wizard's Tower was a big hit at the convention. I played it 7 or 8 times with a total of 8 different people, and I think they all liked the game very much. Chester said that he thought it felt like a real game (or something to that effect). The timing was decent too, as we were just finishing when the line started moving. We actually had to come back and take the last couple of turns after registering. The line went so fast that people were out of the way in no time! Congrats to the staff on that!

I had glanced earlier at the prize tables and saw some really nice stuff on the Red ticket table. Not much on the blue table I was interested in, but a lot of decent stuff there too. I figured if I drew a red ticket I would hope the copy of Khronos was still there. I drew the Blue ticket, and was unexcited about my choices. I was about to grab a copy of Rocketville, a much maligned game that I bet isn't nearly as bad as people say. However I didn't expect it to see much play. Then suddenly I noticed a baggie of Meeple just sitting there. Derk was nearby, so I asked him if that were in fact a prize, or if someone had accidentally dropped it there. Cynthia Landon happened to be right there, and it turned out she had brought them from MeeplePeople.com as a prize. Figuring I would more likely get use out of the Meeple than out of Rocketville, and considering the space savings in my bag, I opted to go with the Meeple. This is a departure from my old philosophy, which is when choosing a prize, weigh monetary value heavily. I think more recently the monetary value of things has dropped on my priority list.
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3. Board Game: Railways of the World [Average Rating:7.70 Overall Rank:83] [Average Rating:7.70 Unranked]
Seth Jaffee
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I wanted to find a game Brian would like, and I know he liked Imperial last year - but I'm not a fan of Imperial. So I figured either Puerto Rico again... then I saw the box for Railroad Tycoon. I like RRT a lot, and I thought it would be the kind of thing he would like, so I checked it out.

We went into the Oak Ballroom where the tables were big enough to hold this game's board, and we started to set it up. I wanted to round up 2 more players, because I figured a 4 player game would take just about the right amount of time. I wanted to get in on the "scheduled" game of Memphis at 2pm with Michael Cooper. Simon was wandering around, so I roped him in, and then I saw Michael. I invited him into the game, and he had someone with him - so we ended up with 5 players. Of the 5 I was the only one who'd played before.

I explained the game, and we used my groups variants - remove the Railroad Executive cards, as well as a couple other cards at random from the deck, start with the starting 3 cards plus 5 face up, and each round add 2 cards instead of 1. We do this to try and make the auctions more interesting, otherwise the initial auction is sometimes interesting, but after that only once in a while a card comes up which more than 1 player wants, and so further auctions are often dull. Also if you're not interested in the new card, then the whole card aspect becomes kind of dull. With 2 new cards a turn, more often it's worth looking at the cards and sometimes even bidding on the turn order. We also deal out 2 Tycoon cards per player and let people choose which they want between the two.

I paid $6000 for the right to go first because there was a Service Bounty in Toronto and a purple cube 1 city away. After that there wasn't much doin' in that part of the board, but I thought the income boost from a 6 point first turn would be worth it, and I was able to do it with just 2 shares. I didn't take another share the rest of the game. 1/2 way through the game I realized what I should have been doing with that income boost - upgrading my train and taking the first 3-link delivery and the level 4 train bonuses as well. But I didn't think about it in time and Brian beat me to both of those. That wasn't so bad though, as I was still doing things... my fatal mistake was not building out of Chicago one turn (while also making it obvious I wanted to). Brian was after me, and he built out of the penultimate open link to Chicago. Michael, who already had 2 links and who I guessed (correctly) had the "2vp per link out of Chicago" Tycoon card, then jumped on the last link, and I was shut out. That error on my part was horrible, as I had several late game Red cubes to deliver for 6 or 7 points apiece, and instead had to build a whole bunch of track just to deliver some cubes for 5 points.

Brian went into debt immediately, and didn't stabilize until he had issued 13 shares of stock. I was worried he wouldn't finish well due to all his stock, but he ended up in 2nd place by only 2 points!

Simon ended up winning, fighting Brian for deliveries in the Northeast. I think the reason he came out ahead was just that he only had 3 shares.

It was an exciting and close game, and I made a fatal mistake that cost me any hope of winning the game. It was cool to see the top 2 scores, only 2 points apart, 1 player only having 3 shares of stock and the other having 13! Brian picked this one up quickly, and except for a few shares he may not have needed, he played a great game.

I taught this one other time during the convention as well, and while I told that group about the real rules, I also suggested my variant rules which I believe they used.
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4. Board Game: All For One [Average Rating:7.07 Unranked]
Seth Jaffee
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I had planned on playing in Michael's demo of Memphis, but I managed to be in the middle of something after the game of Railroad Tycoon. Brian had left, and I had about 2 hours before I was scheduled to demo Terra Prime. Jennifer Geske had signed up for several of my games, and she was interested in the Three Musketeers one, so I recruited 2 more players and we sat down to play All For One. The recruits were Dan and Kelly Manfredini, who I met last year. Dan is also on the Board Game Designers Forum, so I sort of knew him even before BGG.con 2006.

The reaction of the players this time was less enthusiastic than I'm used to. The thing about All For One is that it's pretty hit or miss. Either you love it or it falls flat. The players said they liked it alright, but I got the impression they were just being polite. I still think it's a solid game, and looking at all the feedback I've ever gotten from players at cons, its been overwhelmingly positive. So that's good...

I sent this one home with Zev Shlasinger from Z-Man games, I'm hoping he'll have a chance to play it again. He's played it once before, and he had some comments, some things he would have liked to see addressed. There have been some recent changes which will (hopefully) serve to address those items, as well as improve the game overall.
 
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5. Board Game: PitchCar [Average Rating:7.25 Overall Rank:299]
Seth Jaffee
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Aldie drafted me into a game of Pitchcar, which I enjoy but never play and am really hit or miss on. Sometimes I can't keep the car on the track, other times I flick like the wind!

This time I started out strong, in the top 3 for maybe 1/2 a lap. There were 2 players who just took off after that and were way ahead of the pack. They ended up lapping some of the back of the pack, and won by a landslide. After that first 1/2 a lap I really started sucking. I ended up in the back half of the pack, I forget where exactly, probably 5th or 6th out of 8. Disappointing after such a good start. My teammate, who had a lousy start, finished 3rd or 4th! Just goes to show you, Pitchcar doesn't have a runaway leader problem.... unless you're one of those 2 guys!
 
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6. Board Game: Terra Prime [Average Rating:6.32 Overall Rank:3259]
Seth Jaffee
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At 5pm I was supposed to demo Terra Prime. Like most things at a convention, the timing slipped a little. I think it was about 6:00 when we finally started. I taught the game and sat out to let Gil Hova (IngredientX), Kevin Felker (kevinfelker42), John Lopez (Godeke) and his son (Son_of_Godeke) play the game. Gil had played once before at the Spielbany gathering (http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/20173) and had liked it at that time. Some minor changes have been made since then. Noone else had played it before.

Based on their comments in their BGG.con report geeklists or on the game itself, it appears everyone really enjoyed the game! While playing they all seemed to be having a really good time. It was exciting to see how easily they understood the rules and how much fun they appeared to be having.

I believe Terra Prime is about as done as it's going to get except for whatever fine tuning a publisher might require. I wouldn't mind the game end trigger being a little better defined, but I think I actually know how to do that with components - basically an Exploration track which advances whenever a Yellow or Red tile is explored (the Red tiles are worth 2vp to explore, the Yellow tiles aren't). When it hits a certain number (currently 12) then the game is over.

On the one hand, the game has a space/Sci Fi theme, which could be a difficulty for a publisher since at least in the Euro market, I hear Sci Fi doesn't sell well. On the other hand, Race for the Galaxy, Galaxy Trucker, and Starcraft came out this year, which are all Sci Fi themed. Last year there was Space Dealer and Battlestations. Does this mean the market is flooded with space games? I personally don't think so, but then I'm not the publisher. Does Terra Prime provide something that the other space themed games don't? I think it does - a solid, medium/heavy Eurogame that encompasses Exploration, Colonization, Alien combat, and Resource delivery, all in under 2 hours. It has proven to be a good mix of theme and euro-style mechanics. Some will discount the randomness of the die rolls for Alien attacks, but you can better your odds by preparing, and you can play the whole game without rolling a single die. Some will discount the swingy scores as you score 13 or 15 points at a time, which is why I refer to it as medium weight (if it were heavy then people would expect 2 point victories) - its a silly point, but people argue it. From my perspective, if you win by 1 colony, or 1 delivery, or 1 Alien kill, that's a close game, whether it's 4 points, or 14.
 
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7. Board Game: Unpublished Prototype [Average Rating:7.02 Overall Rank:2001]
Seth Jaffee
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Once I got the Terra Prime group started, I started a demo of Blockade Runner on the next table. There were a lot of people interested in trying this Firefly themed filler, the players this time were Sterling Babcock and his wife Marcia, Rick, Dana Nichols, and Mike Cooper. I explained the game using the new "Pilot Training" mini-game which Bo (the co-designer) came up with - it's a miniature version of the game that only takes a few minutes and teaches the game by going through the turns without explaining it first, so instead of having to listen to an explanation, then try to remember it all as you take your first turn, you sort of learn-as-you-go. It goes quicker, it's more fun, and it works well! After Pilot Training they played a full 5 player game.

The 5 player game can get a little crazy, as at the beginning everybody is grouped together and the Alliance Cruiser is there too, so there can be a lot of shooting, and if you get shot a couple of times, or if one player doesn't get shot a couple of times, there can be a player that gets out ahead of the pack. If that happens, sometimes there's not much you can do about it, that player might simply win by merit of not having to shoot or shield anymore. That happened in this game, and it seemed to sour the experience for Sterling, who seemed certain that would happen every single game. He had some interesting ideas to try and reign in a leader in that sort of case, which were variations on something we'd thought of but dismissed because we couldn't think of a good way to do it. Sterlings suggestion might make that work, and we've got another idea as well which might help that kind of thing. However in most of the games that I've played (and I've easily played over 50 games of Blockade Runner) it really hasn't seemed to be an issue.

Later in the convention both Sterling and his wife Marcia stopped me and told me how much they really liked Blockade Runner, despite the issue that we'd talked about. In theory, Blockade Runner will be published next year by Shifting Skies Games, so I've got that to look forward to I ran two games of it at the con, and the reactions were positive.
 
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8. Board Game: Homesteaders [Average Rating:7.31 Overall Rank:440]
Seth Jaffee
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I always enjoy this game, and the game of it played at BGG.con was no exception. Homesteaders is a heavier game, along the lines of Puerto Rico or Caylus in complexity. There are a bunch of different buildings, and you auction off the right to build one type or another, then you choose which building of that type you want to build. The buildings have a resource cost, and they have some income and or special abilities. There are 9 different resources to manage including cubes, cash, actions, and debt.

John Lopez (Godeke), Gil Hova (IngredientX), Michael Cooper (Thosw) and I played a 4 player game and the reactions were mixed.

John seems to be disenchanted with that type of game, in his BGG.con geeklist he said he was getting "burned out of the more abstracted out victory point engine games: while enjoyable, I preferred Terra Prime for the "fun factor" during the game. This would probably have more replay value, but would also very easily allow an experienced player to run away with the game and never look back. Recommended for experienced VP engine builders."

Gil called it a "wonderful auction resource management game."

Michael said he'd "play this again once it was published, but I don't think I'd buy it."

Having played before, I had a distinct advantage and ended up winning with 61 points, but John was right on my heels at 57. Gil and Mike didn't fare as well, scoring 45 and 35 points respectively. In general since people were unfamiliar with the game, bids were low all around. As a result, I was able to avoid passing almost every round without accumulating a lot of debt. I have a tendency to overpay for things rather than pass sometimes, but the bids were low so I wasn't overpaying. The game would have been much different if the experience level of the players was more equal. John did seem to catch on well though, as evidenced by his score.
 
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9. Board Game: No Thanks! [Average Rating:7.04 Overall Rank:387]
Seth Jaffee
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Late in the evening I wandered around the room looking for anything interesting. A group was about to start a game of No Thanks, so I jumped into that real quick. I think we actually played 2 rounds, and in one of them a player had 2 sets of consecutive cards, and the 1 card that joined them came up, without noticing it, the guy sent the card around and nobody wanted to take it. I thought i was doing very well that game, but when he got it back and noticed it connected all his cards (and now had 5 chips on it), he couldn't pass it up! He ended with a big negative score.

In retrospect I tried to figure out whether I would have won had I taken the card when he passed it to me. I don't think I would have. It was pretty funny in any case when we noticed what had happened!
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10. Board Game: Unpublished Prototype [Average Rating:7.02 Overall Rank:2001]
Seth Jaffee
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Brain Freeze by Seth Jaffee

After No Thanks I went into the Oak Ballroom and pulled out the chess clock again. I played a few rounds of Brain Freeze! With Shannon, and with Edward, and they played against each other. When playing with a new player I usually handicap myself by putting less time on my clock, but if I'm still way faster than the other player it's not as much fun. I found a much better handicap to use... I tried playing with my left hand.

My left hand is horribly uncoordinated compared to my right, and this turned out to by a much better equalizer.

As we played, they were setting up Guitar Hero, so I left Edward and Eduardo to the Brain Freezing and played a few songs. Evidently Edward and Eduardo got pretty good, they had to shave time off of each of their clocks so as not to run out of cards before time was up. I think they played for 40 minutes or so... the game only takes 1 minute to play. That's a lot of games of Brain Freeze!
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Seth Jaffee
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After another late night Guitar Hero session, in which I learned how to "Battle," I finally went to sleep at 5 or 6 in the morning.

My BGG.con experience will continue with Day 2.
 
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