RoccoCon 3: Neo-Takoma is about to E-X-P-L-O-D-E
For this year's RoccoCon, my wife and I decided to try flying instead of driving. Believe it or not it only cuts 33% of the travel time off, once you include getting to and from the airports, going through security and so forth. However, driving can be pretty annoying itself, so I think it was worth it overall. The big drawback was that it would be hard to bring a lot of games. I put four games into large sized ziplocs and put them into one backpack, leaving the boxes at home: Goa, Stone Age, Brass, and Automobile. Goa and Stone Age sadly went unplayed, but Shane did try to get Stone Age on the table. I've promised him a game of it soon. I've started to really like Stone Age a lot more, once I started to play it on BSW.
Here's a rundown of the games I personally played in:
I actually played Brass twice over the weekend. In the first game, I think my explanation of the rules almost made Christian and Rocco lose their minds. It's always hard to know whether you should give basic strategy tips/concepts out when teaching a game like Brass that has enough going on with the rules. About 3/4ths of the way through the game, Rocco made the realization that level 1 tiles only score once, while level 2+ tiles score during both phases. This is definitely an important strategic consequence of the rules, but I'm never sure whether to keep talking or just get people playing. I won the first game pretty handily, and over the course of the weekend Rocco started to clamor for a rematch. We got that in on Sunday night, with Brandon taking Christian's place and my wife retaining the fourth spot. I definitely did a better job teaching the game to Brandon, and he's a computer/iPhone/iPad game designer, so he caught on pretty quickly. This game ended up being closer overall, and Rocco took me out. The score was something like 125-115-105-95. I never know whether it's worth teaching people games if they won't have a chance to play it again soon, even if I think the game is incredible!
It seems like there is a game of Vegas Showdown every year at RoccoCon, and a game of it played at WBC by people I know there, and somehow I've never tried it before this. Vegas Showdown has a reputation as a light, solid auction game that is unlike the Ameritrash that is most of Hasbro's library. I would have to say it lived up to its billing. It has everything you want in a good auction game... a solid auction mechanic and different evaluations for items based on individual players' situations. The mechanic is reminiscent of Amun-Re, where you can bid on a selection of different items, and if you get overbid you can bid on another one, and the bidding ends once everyone is bidding on a different item. In Vegas Showdown, there are more items than players, and anything that wasn't bought has an automatic minimum bid drop for the next round. It definitely would take a few plays to get the hang of the scoring system and how that interacts with prices. You get VPs based on completing various parts of your casino (the items you buy are mostly rooms such as a slots room, a restaurant, etc.), having nicer parts of your casino near each other (the fancy places have special symbols near the corners that line up), connecting the two ends of your casino together, and so on. The game had a lot of depth for a pretty short play time, and I'd love to play it again soon.
I'm still not sure how I feel about the whole cooperative game genre, with the exclusion of D&D, my eternal love. (I've been playing D&D on and off since second grade, which probably explains my feelings about it!) I think the game can't be purely cooperative because then it's just a shared puzzle to solve... which I guess can be fine if you think of it that way. However, these games seem to shine if they have some kind of twist. The most common twist is the traitor mechanic, although it's worth pointing out another game that has a great twist, Space Alert, where the key idea is that it is real-time, and each player has secret cards, so you need to really communicate as a team.
I was happy to be President Roslyn for this game, and I was "Not a Cylon". We figured out pretty quickly that Mark was one, so he revealed himself before we were able to deal with him in any other way. Rocco was the head of deduction on that one, and it turns out that he too was a Cylon, and thought it would be a good idea to frame another player - it just turned out that he was framing one of his own! Unfortunately, with their machinations, the humans had made too little progress, and we were rendered extinct by our toaster betters.
I have to admit the game was much better than I expected it to be. A number of the players had played before, so the game play was pretty smooth. The accusations and deduction was interesting and fun, although I can imagine that depending on the group. The voting mechanic works well to provide some evidence of who the Cylon(s) might be - for a number of game effects, each player submits as many cards as they want, and two cards are taken at random from a "destiny deck", so you don't have perfect information. Rocco agreed with my assessment about finding the game more fun than he thought it would be, and he hasn't even watched the show yet. I hope he watches it over the course of this year and we can play again at RoccoCon 2012!
During our 1870 game, we took a break during which some of us decided to break out Castle Ravenloft, which I had never played. I've been nervous about this game, since I love D&D and was afraid this would disappoint. Overall, it was fun but not amazing. I could definitely see how a few house rules could make a big difference. It just seems weird that you can move up to the edge of a tile and not know what is five feet in front of your face, then all of a sudden you see an entire room with a monster in it. I guess I would prefer something that was just a little bit more realistic or more like regular D&D. I did really like the components and concept of the game. We won the scenario we played, which involved leading a fledgling vampire to a magical pool and dunking him in long enough to reverse his vampirism.
There is definitely some fun stuff happening in this game, which is basically a collect resources and trade them in game. One nice idea is that you can trade things in on another player's turn by giving them "time tokens". You can get time tokens by traveling to certain locations, while others cost time tokens. From what I could tell, the more lucrative contracts tend to be associated with the locations that cost a lot of time to get to. In our game, no one was really in danger of running out of time tokens. In addition to the points you get from completing contracts and getting more prestigious ones, you can also buy victory point "building cards". A few of these are related to how many time tokens you have. The one thing I am curious about in this game is how far you can really plan ahead. Should you be looking at the contracts that are coming up and use that information somehow? (They are in face-up piles.) I would definitely play this a few more times.