Long Gamehole con 2018 post

Got to Gamehole con Friday and Saturday to good effect.   Yet, again I think it’s the best con in Wisconsin aside from Gary Con, which is great on account of it’s location in Lake Geneva and it’s focus on old school RPG’s (which includes the current incarnation of D&D).

The dealer hall was small, but had a good selection. There was one vendor that had superlative deals on board games (like you’d see on Amazon) and that was a feeding frenzy. I had to get out of there without spending anything, but my friend’s certainly did.

Friday was all board games, all damn day and it was great. I like to try stuff either from my collection or from other people’s that I haven’t tried before so that’s what we did.  Saturday we played Numenera for half the day and then got back into the board games.  ALL of my events were apparently cancelled so I wasted some money on those.  Michael Curtis’s DCC events were all gone, so that sucked.

First up was a co-op called Batman the Animated Series.  Most of the time I despise the co-op games and avoid them as much as possible on account of the quarterbacking issue and most of them are pretty boring after more than one or two plays.  This was a decent game.  Moved fast, was not super quarterbacky and we were playing with the designer (Mike) who did give suggestions on what to do, but he wasn’t like I would be if I knew the game (i.e.: terrible).    Actions are definitive and you can really do a lot of crazy stuff in order to meet the Act’s goals.  The buildings are neat but they block line of sight to the other parts of the city a bit if you are sitting down.  I could see this ‘engine’ being great for a game of alien invasion (say the Invid from Robotech) BUT where each player has a secret goal as well as the goal of saving the world to shut down any possibility of quarterbacking.

Matt caught Eric Lang walking around and talked to him about Rising Sun (a great game) and other stuff.

Saga of the Norsemen.  This is an area control point salad game.  I remember them playtesting this up at Game Universe a few years back.  This is not a bad game at all, but has some typos that caused MASS confusion when we first started (Chieftains are heroes or?? what).   Overall though I think this plays solid with enough people.  You try to influence the Viking countries (by having the most influence in each which is handled by card draws) and direct where they go viking so you can get the spoils.  I’m not sure who YOU are supposed to be in the game (an arms dealer? a viking god?).   Matt did not like this one all that much, but better than the next one.

Bunny Kingdom.  This is a drafting area control point salad.  In fact it is probably the ultimate in this type of game. I liked it at first but as the game wore on there was a lot of maths and then more maths.  There are people that will love this game– trying to squeeze out point here and there and set up comboes, but near the end of the game it was obvious the winner had been determined during the third turn and there was no catching up.  Neither of the other players dug this much.  Very EASY to play though.  This made me simply want to play Feudality by Tom Wham.

Next up was Victory Or Death (a Quartermaster General game).  I have a thing for the long, terrible war between Sparta and Athens which ended up completely pointless and could have destroyed Western civilization as we know it.  This game pits Corinth and Sparta vs the Delian League and Athens in the typical ‘card deck is your economy and war powers’ quartermaster game.  Needless to say, if you like 1914, you will dig this game.  I enjoy the theme a lot more despite the fact that I got my ass kicked as the Delian League/Athens vs Justin and Matt.  I do take consolation that the Spartans were terribly frustrated during the game with all of their attempts to do anything shut the fuck down, and it was Corinth that eventually took Athens.  The supply rules in this game are a bit difficult to grok, but the rest is very easy.  Excellent game.

Colt Express.  This is a Robo Rally type of game where you play as bandits trying to rob a train and shoot each other.  Theme is excellent and the components are very interesting.  It’s not a deep game, and I can’t see repeatedly playing this, but it was fun.  There’s a mcguffin that you pretty much need to get in order to win the game and that can be difficult to figure out at first.  I knocked the shit out of the holder of it multiple times, but couldn’t pop it out of his possession.  I’d play this again with the kids.

Fairy Tile.  I had my daughter with on Saturday and so we busted out some lighter fair.  This is a game where you try to move three pieces on a board in order for you to play cards from your hand. You have 10 cards and you win if you are able to play them all.  It’s a tricky little game that plays fairly fast.  I like the tri-hex board (I use that in my upcoming game as well) and the components, art and the miniatures are top drawer.  I can’t see playing this with adults much, but with kids– great.

Keyforge-this is our the game of the con.  They should have had a lot more decks/stuff available for people to buy instead of this pre-release BS!  This was at a game con for fucksakes four days away from the game’s release– just sell the stuff.  Anyway, we got some decks after the demo and were pleasantly surprised at how good it is. While the TYPE of game that it is is nothing really crazy, the fact that you collect DECKS instead of cards is something really special and frankly, sort of insane.  My kid said: “out of five stars the game is a six.”

I will be doing a post just about keyforge shortly after playing 10-20 times for the two readers of this blog that may think they want to buy it.

Gamehole con and Game of Thrones: Iron Throne

Gamehole con in Madison is growing.  Though a local Wisconsin con, it’s very professionally run an organized, with good swag and lots and lots of gaming.  This year was definitely bigger than last year.  It seemed a little crowded last year, but it was actually crowded this year.    We were there on Friday and Saturday for most of the day.   We got in a meh 5E game (it was for new players, so we probably should not have signed up) and a game of the new Game of Thrones: Iron Throne FF game on Friday.  Saturday was all Tom Wham, with 2 games of Felician Finance and a 5-player game of Feudality (with my 6 year old kid).  I got some food poisoning on Friday night, so felt like shit for part of it.  The food trucks at the con were great (I don’t think my food poisoning was from them).


Game of Thrones: Iron Throne

Matt picked this up the day it came out in stores.  Iron Throne differs from FF’s CCG and strategy board game takes on the game in that it uses a modified version of Cosmic Encounter to resolve the conflict in Westeros.  It’s not heavily modified, so Cosmic Encounter players will have little problems picking it up.  People that have never played CE before may have a bit of a brain shift as there is no map to fight over and the win conditions are different from many of the other GoT games.

How does it play?  We got in a single game on Friday and I can speak to the changes from CE but not too much on how a big 5 player knock-down drag out game will be as we only had 3 players.  First, your planets in Iron Throne are your characters and they can get killed.  Second, you have a faction and a leader of that faction chosen from your characters. Depending on the leader, your faction will have a different uber power.

Unlike CE, your goal is not to put your influence on characters (planets) but spread all 5 of your influence to other player’s faction boards.  While this is similar to CE, it’s worth noting that, as far as I can tell, there is no way to remove influence once it’s placed.

Characters each have 4 power on them to start (like CE ships). This can go down and up, but unlike CE, if the power on a character ever goes to zero, that character is out of the game.  They can no longer attack or participate and their character cards in your deck only count as a zero attack card.  Power flows back and forth from the faction’s leader to the character based on what’s happening in the game.  Factions usually have 24 power between the leader and characters, but this can change.


The Flares from Cosmic are now included in a faction specific deck that each player has.  The faction deck has your attack and negotiate (called Truce) cards like CE, but has a set of what are essentially Flare cards that are tied to each character in your faction.  Each attack of defense must involve one of your characters, and in each encounter, you can play that character’s ‘flare’ card, or that of your leader, to effect the outcome.  The powers on the cards are pretty wild.  My favorite during the game (as Baratheon) was the Onion Knight who allowed me to change my played card for any attack card in my hand instead.

Other than picking your faction, you have to choose one of that faction’s characters as your leader.  That character cannot die, and his or her ‘flare’ cards are always playable.  The rest of  your leaders can be killed during the game.

Challenges work similar to CE with some subtle differences.  Offensive and Defensive allies can choose to join either side with one of their characters, and the helped player can decline the help (rather than the other way around in CE).  Attack cards and Negotiate cards are in the game, but no other types (no Kickers for example).  The number range caps out at 20, and doesn’t hit the higher numbers like 30 and 40 that CE does.   This means that what you bring in terms of character power is a lot more important at times than the cards played.

Truces and Negotiation work a bit differently in Iron Throne as well.  If your opponent plays an attack card and you tried a Truce, you lose but you get to take  a hostage from all the players on the winning side.

Hostages are cards taken from another players hand or their deck.  Sometimes you will get trash, but other times you will grab a character card or one of the high attack cards.   In our game, Dan was sitting on Matt’s 20 attack card the whole game.   Hostages can be traded as part of a deal or any type of discussion.  Hostage character cards give leverage over characters, as they can be used to do 4 damage to that character, which in most cases will take that character out of the game.  This is good to do to the clear leader, but in Iron Throne, as in CE, your enemy today will be your friend tomorrow, so ham-stringing a potential ally later in the game may not be the best idea.


There are also mechanics to reduce a factions overall power by cutting down the crowns that they have in their pool, either on their leader or on their characters.  This is a bit like removing ships from a game of CE, except it has the added effect of making characters more vulnerable to being killed.

The main factions are all represented in the game, and there is a good sense of asymmetry with the leaders and the different flare cards that characters have.  This is not as variable as CE, but I think that’s just fine.  The factions are internally diverse, with 5 potential leaders within each faction (so about 25 ‘aliens’ included in the game).   No, it’s not a new DUNE, but Iron Throne is a keeper.

Felithian Finance

We got in on one of Tom Wham’s game sessions during the con and played Felithian Finance.  Great game, should be officially published!  It’s essentially a stock market game which seems super boring to even imagine, but it’s not.  It reminds me of a goofy version of Sid Sackson’s Acquire with a lot more randomness and fun.  Where Tigris took Acquire’s concept to mechanical perfection, Felitihan takes the abstract concept of ‘companies on a grid’ and turns it into something definitely Wham-esque.

The basic play is buying stock (secret or open) and then starting or increasing the size of companies on a board.  Dice are rolled and if the number comes up on top of a company, it starts paying dividends.  Players get the stock price (which they control to some extent) and dividends (which they don’t control) at the end of the game.   The game has a lot of interesting choices and is very quick for the depth– only about 45 minutes each game we played.


Gamehole Con!

Matt and I made the trek to Gamehole Con yesterday in Madison, WI and it was a fine time.  Due to no planning on my part, we didn’t get into any scheduled games, like the bolt action tournament or any of the 5E or other OSR RPG games. However, for me this was just a ‘check out’ year to see what it was all about, so walked around and painted stuff and I busted out BLOOD RAGE and got a few games of that in.


It is not a huge con, maybe twice the size of say Plattcon or Hooplacon.  Yet it is a huge OSR con–there were tons of Dungeon Crawl Classics, Swords and Wizardry and other OSR stuff going on.  If you count 5E as in the OSR style, the entire con was mostly OSR RPG’s.  Absolutely there were Pathfinder games there, but they were in the minority.

We spent about 3 hours at the free painting table where I found an old Talisman Rogue and just had to paint the fucker.  They had BOTH of the Kevin Dallimore painting books there was well, so I was able to pour over those.  Matt got stuck on painting some sort of samurai and though he spent awhile on it, it was still not finished.  The lady that runs it had a ton of great tips so highly recommended.

Matt about to explain why he had already lost the 5 player Blood Rage game.
Matt about to explain why he had already lost the 5 player Blood Rage game.

Stuff I saw:

  • Tom Wham.  He was running Feudality and Dragon Lairds at the con.
  • Lots of Bolt Action.  The tournament brought at least 20 people playing. I should have brought my shit… (and painted it beforehand…)
  • Rob Heinsoo.  One of the designers of 13th Age.  He was running a game that we didn’t get into– needless to say it was sold out months ago.
  • One really fucking hot girl.  No joke.

Otherwise it was extremely well run and organized. They really have their shit together and I will be definitely attending again.  Likely I will run something next year as well.