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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Day Two of Pre-Con Action!

Day two kicked off with the final heat of Through the Ages. Amazingly enough, I got paired with two of last year's finalists - Randy and Andrew who I had played Eclipse with the other day! Since it was almost certain that I couldn't qualify for the semifinals, this was the best thing that could have happened. I get a chance to play a game that feels just like being in the finals instead and hopefully play well while getting a feel for how the best players play this game.

I picked up Julius Caesar and St. Peter's Basilica in Age A. Julius didn't do much except get me to cycle through some military cards. I had what I thought was a pretty good Age I. I got Alchemy, Iron, and Irrigation, but missed out on Knights. Randy built a whole Legion while Andrew built some Knights, so I had to build a Legion as well to keep up in military. After that, I had a hard time keeping up in military. I was able to get Swordsmen to upgrade my Legion but never saw any tactics cards past that to switch to. Late in Age I, still with Caesar, I picked up Michaelangelo to go with St. Peter's. I believe he really isn't that good coming up late in the Age, but I don't think there was much else worth doing, so it was better than not doing it.

During Age II, I built up my infrastructure the best I could and felt like I was in good shape. I picked up the Eiffel Tower to give myself some culture points once Michaelangelo would die. Maybe it would have been better to save those rocks to build something like Multimedias or Movies?

In Age III, of course I got picked on. However, I did pick up Gandhi early which kept me a bit safe - however it also kept me from getting a leader that could generate a lot more points. Randy destroyed my two Alchemy, which I don't think actually hurt me that much - there wasn't much tech I needed to play but didn't. I was able to defend a 7 point steal aggression from Andrew on the second to last round. Amazingly, my lack of military didn't totally hose me. The Impact cards, however, gave Randy a convincing win, and Andrew a solid second over me. However, my score wasn't totally blown away relative to what I've seen happen to people at times.

My big takeaway seems to be that I really need to study the Impact cards. You need to really know them, and be aware of how many your opponents have put into the deck and what they might reasonably have put there. Randy was able to put my one seed as Impact of Agriculture, which got him something like 6 points extra by upgrading to Mechanized Agriculture on the last turn.

My two main possible errors: 1) not taking Warfare early. Randy said he thought it was the best Age I tech, but I'm not exactly sure why other than it giving you more military cards. The 1 strength pip rarely seems to matter. 2) Taking Eiffel Tower instead of waiting to build more infrastructure.

My main question: if you have a reasonable lead going into Age III and the lead in point generation (via Eiffel Tower in this case), do you take Gandhi? I had something like 8 military while the others had in the 30s.

A really fun game, and a good learning experience.

After that, I played a heat of Amun-Re, where I was faced off with Randy again! I don't really know Amun-Re and haven't thought too much about how to win it. My impression leaving it was that getting the most pyramids in a province is a huge deal. Obviously you also need to know how to value the provinces in the first place, which I am not 100% down with yet. My teammate Jeff, who I hadn't met yet (Eric added me to his team at the last minute) crushed the table pretty thoroughly.

I played a tight, fun game of Thurn & Taxis, but of course I went card dead at the end. Three turns of wiping the board to look for one of two or three cards each time and I couldn't find any of them so I missed out of getting the 7 carriage at the end. The score was something like 17-15-13-10, with me on a 13 that could easily have been a 17.

Believe it or not, I played two more games AFTER that.

Stone Age finally broke me into the win column. I had a great game against three super nice opponents. I was able to expand my family the first three turns and go for a pure starvation strategy. I rolled fairly well during the game as well, and on the last turn picked up the 3 x hut card. It turns out I didn't need it, and would have won anyway, but it would have been a lot closer. The end score was something like 204-175-160-111. Looking at the schedule, I might switch the second heat of Brass into the second heat of Stone Age and the first heat of Princes of Florence.

As a nightcap, I got to play Ra with Daniel, a regular WBC friend and opponent. Daniel is a really great guy and hilarious to boot. I told him I was coming for his Le Havre title, but obviously we are not Ra experts, as a very very young boy crushed us all. He was probably around 10, and said only the word "pass" during the whole game. He had everything: monuments, pharaohs, and a 3 long river. I think the final score was about 55-38-33-30-25. I had a terrible game and got the 25. I thought I was over being too conservative in bidding, but somehow the timing of this game threw me off and I couldn't get rolling before the end of each epoch.

A very fun day of gaming! I just woke up and did my Core Synergistic workout from P90X, which was part of my commitment for this year's WBC. I did Yoga yesterday and Kenpo Cardio the day before. I hope that keeping my body in gear will keep my mind focused! Tomorrow is another Kenpo day, but it is also a big gaming day, so I'll fit it in if I can, but I won't stress if I can't.

The rest of today is open gaming. I hope to try to get a game of either Troyes or Dungeon Lords in. They are two games I own that I haven't played much but would love to learn more. I would also be curious to get a game of Amun-Re in. The other thing I would be interested in was playing a game of Agricola with E draft or I draft to prepare for the tournament. I would welcome a 5 player Princes of Florence for the same reason. Later, the official tournaments start up again at 6 pm. Power Grid (my team game! also note the green font in honor of FF) at 6 and Le Havre at 9, what a night!


Monday, July 30, 2012

WBC 2012 Begins!

I'm back in Lancaster for my sixth year at the World Boardgaming Championships!

We arrived Saturday at around 3 pm. I decided this year to skip the Hannibal tournament so as to not have to wake up at an ungodly hour which usually ended up with me being braindead on Sunday and Monday. Even with that, the drive was surprisingly tiring. Bronwen and I played a two player game of Through the Ages while waiting for people to show up, and then Randy and Andrew showed up around 7 and we played a four player Eclipse.

I'm not really sure why Eclipse is currently ranked at 5 on BoardGameGeek, other than it fits a niche that people have been wanting for a long time: the space civilization game that doesn't take all day and actually has a good rule set. It seems like a fine game, but very fragile: small differences can put you out of a game very early and you have to sit there for the next few hours getting punished. We played with the alien races, and it appeared to be even more the case with them. Maybe when people get better at the game it will seem less luck-driven, but the tile flips seem to be ultra important. My problem is that I am often playing games with 1 or 2 new people. Eclipse is somewhat "fun" from the theme standpoint, but I don't really love the kinds of decisions I'm making. For some reason I don't find them really interesting. Even though it's a short game for it's genre, I wish it were even shorter!

Anyway, yesterday was my first official entry into tournaments. I played two rounds of Through the Ages. In the first one, I was paired against two-time champion Jason Ley and Derek, a guy who had never played the Full Game version of the game. Jason got a ton of points with Michaelangelo, and I tried my best to pump military to take him down. Derek couldn't get his military going, so Jason entered Age III with a huge lead. I was able to get it down a bit, complete First Space Flight, and seed a few good Impact cards, and ended the game only 10 points behind Jason. As my first serious tournament game of TTA ever, I was happy with the result.

Unfortunately round 2 was much worse. I got Michaelangelo and Hanging Gardens, but I wasn't in a dedicated Michaelangelo strategy. I tried to get military set up, but my food production was a problem - I didn't really have a great chance to get a farm improvement until the end of Age II. I ended up way behind in military and got punched in the face. Repeatedly. Clearly the good players in TTA win consistently, but I haven't quite figured out how. I'm still learning my way through the variance of the card draws. I wish we could re-start the tournament and see if I've learned anything!

Today is round 3 of Through the Ages, then Amun-Re, Thurn & Taxis, Stone Age, and Ra!


Sunday, July 29, 2012

Welcome Back Me

This is how blogging works apparently. You get wrapped up in other things in life while your blog starts to just sit around, waiting patiently for you to reappear.

I guess I'm going to try to once again get back into the swing of blogging about my boardgame experiences!

Most recently, I've gotten really into trying to get good at Agricola. I was able to play two games of it this week online with this fantastic website: while using Ventrilo to voice chat the other players. What a fun way to play! We played with draft so it took a bit longer to play than usual. I came in third in one and second in the other, which I was happy with since these were more experienced players than I usually play against.

Last week the TotalCon people had a one-day event at the same hotel TotalCon is in February. I got to play a game of Tigris & Euphrates which I hadn't play in a LONG time. Rob K. barely beat me - if the final conflict of the game had worked out, I would have squeaked by him. I played the new Agricola: All Creatures Big & Small, which was cute but not that interesting. I got to play Andy in Labyrinth and I clearly still am not sure how to win with the Jihadists.

Andy then taught me and two others The Castles of Burgundy. I liked it but didn't love it, and would be psyched to play it again. Andy's assessment that it's a bit long in playtime for what it is seemed on the mark to me. You don't really get a sense of building up - there's a lot of sameness over the game, but it has some cool mechanics and ideas. It enters the category of "Euros that I might consider buying, but I'm not convinced yet" alongside Egizia and Macao.

I also got in a game of Puerto Rico with Andy, Richard, and his son Rich. I took it home with unopposed coffee leading into a maximized Guild Hall. A good warm-up game in case I can squeeze some heats of Puerto Rico in at the upcoming WBC.

The week before that was SNEWFest, a yearly get together for an all day wargaming extravaganza. I'll put a retroactive report on that up here some time soon!

Also, I am currently at the WBC and decided to play Through the Ages instead of Paths of Glory or Hannibal. I'll report on my two games of TTA later tonight!