Saturday, 22 November 2008
by Dave D at 16:02
Midcon is over, over the course of the weekend I played 16 games, including first plays of 5. Other members of the club present at various times included Mike, Dave & Ben, Julian, Andy, Steve Perkins and Paul. I also met a few new people and also saw many old acquaintances from other conventions. This is a brief rundown of what I did over the weekend and is based entirely on memory, so I will not rule out any errors in the following, also apologies to anyone other than regulars who may be reading this and who's name I may have forgotten.
I arrived just after 1 o'clock in the afternoon and had a wander around the Wroxton suite, where there were quite a few games going on even at this early stage. After wandering I approached the table in the corner of the room near the bar where Dominion was being played and asked if I could watch which was no problem. After one game one of the participants left and I accepted the invitation to join in. The previous game had been played with the card combination suggested for the first game and Chris who's game it was wanted to try a random distribution, I had no great problem with this so it was in at the deep end for my first game, although I did get to try with the "basic" set later on in the con. I ended up playing 5 games of Dominion during the afternoon, the first 2 being with Chris, Phil & Becky. Phil, who I believe was also new to the game was very impressed by it and also picked it up very quickly, winning his second game (my first) after coming close in the first game. I actually won my second game as well, in a strange selection of cards including the thief, but also (as Chris explained) a number of anti thief cards. Having had the fear of God put into us about the thief stealing our treasure, the game followed what, on the evidence of the other games I played was a strange pattern, with very little treasure taken and as result few provinces. The thief was also never taken. I won by using Villages with workshops to grab Gardens, the game being ended by running out 3 of the supply piles.
After 2 games of Dominion, Richard Dewsbury joined us and we played a lap of Powerboats. This is a race game involving a modular board representing a lake with small islands in it and you have to follow a course such that you pass by a number of buoys on the correct side, you have to thread your way between the islands in the most effective way. The boats are controlled using some interesting looking 3 sided dice, which were apparently made for it (these are very nice, but the same effect could have been obtained using 6 sided dice with duplicated sides). You start the game rolling one die and each turn you roll the same number or can add or subtract 1 die, in addition you can leave any number of the previously rolled dice on the same number, rather than reroll them, which adds a small amount of control. The problem I found (and Phil even more so than me) was that it seemed that to weave between the islands, rolling exactly the number you needed was often critical, one over or one under could result in crashing into an island or having to stamp on the brakes such that you lose vital momentum. I forget who won this one, I was fourth, the game is supposed to be played over 3 races, with each worth more than the previous one, but we knocked it on the head at that point Phil had had enough and I was not over impressed either.
More people had arrived at this stage was we now split into 2 groups, each playing Dominion, Richard moved over to the other table with his set, although he had only brought the "basic" cards. We played 3 more games during the afternoon with Julian joining us later on. After this people decided to stop for something to eat and, as I was not staying in the hotel that evening, I headed home at that point. What did I think of Dominion? Well it's OK, the secret is to put together a deck with combinations in it that will help you, while not clogging it with useless cards so your combinations stand a chance of coming up. The problem seems to me, that despite the multiple ways of getting there, it all boils down in the end to getting the scoring cards as this is the only way to win points. Also with 4 players (which all the games I played were), even at about 30 minutes length, some of the games played felt a bit too long. I can see playing this as a single game at the beginning or end of a session, but not multiples, like we played here. Maybe my opinion would be different for games with fewer players.
Ratings for Friday: Dominion – 7/10, Powerboats 4/10.
Arrived at about 10 o'clock and again joined up with Richard and Phil form the day before, this time to give Le Havre a try. I have been interested, but certainly on first play it did not seem to click. I'm not exactly sure what you are supposed to represent in the game, presumably some kind of entrepreneur in the town, but each turn you add certain goods to supply spaces and can then take an action which can either to be collect supplies or move your person disc into a building and take the action associated with that building, which may include building new buildings or ship, gaining further supplies or converting supplies into other types or into money (which is also VP). At the end of each round of which there are 12 in the 4 player shortened game that we played, there is often a harvest when extra cattle and grain may be collected as well as food from ships and then, whether or not there has been a harvest the workers must be fed. The amount of food needed starts low but by the end of the game has grown to problematic levels. The big issue I have with the game is the limited options. There is only 1 supply space for each type of goods and if you take supplies you can't use a building action. This is compounded by the fact that if you take supplies, your disc is left in the building it is currently occupies, so even though you are not using the building you are still blocking its use by other players. Both I & Richard found ourselves desperately scrabbling for food at the end of the game because people were already sitting on buildings we could have used to feed our men more efficiently. I have since realised that I could have improved my own situation by selling my own building, so turfing out the sitting tenant allowing me to use it myself, but the idea that I have to sell my own building to allow me to use it does not seem a good mechanic to me. I have to say that my first play was probably tainted by the fact that the game was interrupted several times, so probably lasted longer than it should have, but even so this was supposed to be the shortened game. I will give this one more play and if that is not a better experience that's it.
Next up was a single game of Dominion, followed after lunch by Jet Set introduced by Richard with Phil, Mike & Julian. In this one you run an airline and I'm not actually sure of the thematic logic, but on each turn you have an action, where you can claim links by placing planes, claim routes (which give VP and income) by having planes on each link of the route (and then removing them) or claim income from routes you have claimed previously. You also have a final flight route card which is worth up to 20 VP (if you are first to claim yours), which can't be played until the second vacation card comes up. Once a player plays a final flight the game has 5 turns to go and those who have played final flight no longer have a normal turn, but simply add a plane to the flight, so that's a maximum of 5 planes each worth 2 VP. My view, only one action per turn made it far too pedestrian. It didn't take long until I was pretty bored, so I finished my final flight and then tried to force the second vacation card by drawing more short route cards. This worked and I was immediately able to play my final flight, starting the countdown. The fact that this also won me the game did not improve my opinion of it.
The rest of the game was known games, after a quick game of Dominion, a game of Power Grid with Mike, David Norman and 1 other (Richard I think). We played this on China, which I think may be becoming my favourite board (although Mike prefers Korea) I won on the tie break with 17 Elektros to David's 16 and Mike on 12, so quite a close game. We split into 2 groups with Mike, David & another playing Mykerinos, while Steve Perkins joined Richard? & I for Saint Petersburg with expansion. Again this was a close game with Steve beating me despite having 1 fewer aristocrat. Interesting play ensued, with Steve taking the Textile Factory into hand although it was worth nothing to him (he had no shepherds) to prevent me (to who it was worth 10 points a turn) from having it, but due to its clogging his hand he used Away with it! to discard after one Building phase and I was then able to pick it up in the following Building Phase using the Debtor's Prison. The expansion certainly adds a lot to this game and I have now moved it into my Top 10.
After that I played no more and spent the rest of the time wandering and watching, including Dave C game of Red Dragon Inn (this does look fun) and also World of Warcraft the Adventure Game on another table. I was interested in this as I have bought a copy for my niece and nephew at Christmas in an attempt to educate them that there is more to games than the computer variety (a forlorn hope I suspect).
Ratings for Saturday: Le Havre 5/10, Jet Set 3/10, Dominion 7/10, Power Grid 10/10, St. Petersburg 9/10
I don't think I got more than a couple of hours sleep in the night due to the traffic going by outside, so was up bright and early. After breakfast I grabbed a table in the Wroxton suite and filled with the Bolide board and sat studying the rules, which I suspect are not the greatest translation from Italian. When Dave & Ben came back from breakfast, we tried a few turns, before digging Nottingham out when Rob & Tony (see Dave's report) arrived. This is always a fund game and I think I've played it most at Midcon over the years; I again won on the tie break.
After that, Race for the Galaxy, again without the goals, which I want to introduce next time I get to play without new players. I had Earth's Lost Colony to start and an initial hand consisting of Mining League, Mining Robots and a couple of Rare Mineral worlds, throughout the rest of the game I was able to add Mining Conglomerate and more Rare Worlds, so Mining League was worth 13 points at the end and I was also able to make good points by consuming the goods at x2. I had a handy win from Tony, who got the hand of the game quickly and finished it by building a 12th Tableau card, although I only had 9 cards on the table.
After that Mike showed up, he had been playing 18GA in the Ariel suite and seems confident that it should play in an evening, so we must try that some Wednesday. We then all played the 6 player game of Bolide Dave mentioned. As I said in my comment on his piece, I think perhaps fewer players would have been better, unless everyone knows exactly what they are doing; the game certainly bears further play however.
After that it was time to pack up and go, it was an enjoyable weekend, but the new games I played seemed to confirm what I suspected before, that this year's Essen did not produce a vintage crop.
Ratings for Sunday: Nottingham 7/10, Race for the Galaxy 10/10, Bolide 6/10