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Tuesday, July 5, 2011

LibertyCon Part 1

My wife and I were invited to partake in a nearby home-based mini-convention this past weekend and had a wonderful time. The hosts Eric and Claire were fantastic, and I made sure to get in some games with each of them based more on their preferences than mine. Part of that is me wanting to see what they like about the games they like, that I can't get other groups I know to play, such as the 18xx games and the Empire Builder series of games.

Here was the games I got in on the first day:
   Daytona 500
   Thurn and Taxis
   Blue Moon City
We started off with Bohnanza, which I suggested. I have only played this once, many years ago, and remembered really liking it. Since my wife and I love Agricola and Le Havre, I wanted to revisit it. I once again enjoyed it, and appreciated the way the game makes everyone eager to trade without making trading a painful process. Maybe another group would play slower and trade more carefully, but our game had a nice smooth feel to it. I'm not really into buying light games like this anymore, but I would probably play this game when I felt like something lighter and someone had it with them. I ended up winning somehow, which was a nice way to start the convention!

For those of you who have not played Bohnanza, it's pretty simple to explain. You get a hand of cards that need to stay in order in your hand. You have two "fields" on the table where you can plant a bean, and you have to plant the same kind on that stack - so you can have three Blue Beans and three Coffee Beans on the table. When you have a certain number, you can decide to harvest the beans, and based on how many, get 1 to 4 points - you take that many of the Bean cards and flip them over and put the rest in the discard. The cool part is that means there are less of that kind in the deck, which gets reshuffled a number of times. So if you pay a little attention, you might be able to figure out which beans you are likely to be able to collect. There's a little more to how the beans get planted and traded, but that's the basic idea.

Eric suggested another light game next, a really old Milton Bradley game called Daytona 500. I was a little skeptical, but this game was fast and pretty fun. A basic racetrack with spots for the cars, with three lanes but only one around the curves which forces the cars to sort of squeeze in and made it feel a little more realistic. You get a hand of cards with a bunch of number-color circles on them, like Blue 6 - Red 4 - Black 2. That means that when you play that card, you move the blue car 6, the red 4, and the black 2. If a car is behind another when it moves, that car gets to move 1 space. You look at your hand and then pick which car you want. You play one lap around like that and then the first player moves and you do it again. It was kind of interesting how other people were moving your car for you, and sometimes even pushing you over the finish line!

Usually light games are a one and done affair for me, meaning I would play them again but just not in the same weekend. I actually found myself nearly suggesting this one to get my wife to try it!

We got in a game of Thurn & Taxis, a game that continues to be a good choice when I want something light that I know involves a lot of skill so there are things I'm still working at figuring out about how to play well. Since Andy L. hadn't arrived yet, I had a chance - he's a shark at this game. I did decently but not great in this one, as the cards just didn't quite agree with me. I had a weird game where at one point I had a three card route and five cards in my hand which didn't touch the route or each other!

Joe H. showed up, who is known among this crowd as the 18xx guy because his skills with Excel and quick math really speed any 18xx game up, and he suggested this game called Slate. It's a small, relatively quick game by Martin Wallace that was publishing in a German magazine called Spielbox. A nice, interesting Eurogame - you roll three dice on your turn, and they decide your actions - you can get a new worker (as in El Grande) on a 1 or 2, dig a mine on 2 or 3, harvest a mine on 4 or 5, and buy a special benefit on a 6. You cSome of the special benefits get you end game victory points, one of them lets you change one of your dice up or down 1 pip (and you can go from 1 to 6 or 6 to 1 as well), etc. You can reroll some of your dice ala Yahtzee, Roll Through the Ages, or Ra: The Dice Game. Pretty fun game - very interesting for the small amount of rules and playtime.

Andy L. did happen to show up at this point (and I was actually sad he missed Thurn, because I want to see more of how he plays it), and him and Eric's daughter Jo brought out Blue Moon City. I had seen this game at my friends house (D&D Andy) and took a quick read through the rules at some point there and it seemed interesting. Move your piece one square tile left or right on a grid, then hand in cards of various colors to complete the structures on those tiles, getting you rewards such as victory points, more cards, etc. For my money it was a little too abstract. While I enjoyed it, I wouldn't rush out to play it again or buy it.... probably rate it around a 5 or 6. When I first discovered designer boardgames, I would have loved this game. I'm more into heavier games nowadays and I guess I prefer a tiny bit more theme in my games.
I was trying to decide whether to play another game, when Joe H. said that he really wanted to play Rallyman. What I had read about it didn't sound that great, and I would have to say this is probably my least-liked new game in a long, long time. I generally at least like pretty much anything, but this just didn't cut it. It had an interesting take on pressing-your-luck with dice and planning out your upcoming movement, but it didn't provide any twists or changes in game play during the game. The staggered start was vaguely compelling, but the sum of it all was what I would call... tedious. It also really was pretty much the definition of multiplayer solitaire. Well, when you are trying new games, you win some and you lose some, so I'm not upset that I gave it a shot.

This first day of the convention was a nice, relaxing, and fun start - I went home excited and looking forward to playing heavier, deeper games over the next few days!

To be continued....


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