Gencon just announced it’s cancellation, while at the same time scout camps are firing up and kids will be at camp in a couple weeks across the country- outdoor events in contrast to a major indoor one mostly in closed rooms with recycled air. What Gencon likely doesn’t want is to have a super-spreader event, however unlikely that is during the middle of summer, and have everyone go home and spread it around– a lot like what happens with Con Crud. Again, very unlikely, but I can see why they cancelled it. Indoors, people pressed together, people talking and yelling and getting real close. Sucks, but here we are. Gives me an excuse to finally not go after going since 1994 every…. single… time and instead stay home and game with almost the same friends that I game with at Gencon anyway. I will REALLY miss the auction though… fuck.
That said, a lot has changed in the last couple months and a lot will change in June and July. You have extremes of people who say they will never go to a bar again in 2020 and stay at home until 2021, i.e.:, the bed wetters, and others that are already out at the bars partying and going to underground speakeasy’s and secret restaurants, i.e.: the ‘get it in my body herd immunity folks’. We’ll have to see which extreme ages the best. Most will choose the middle ground, stick to small gatherings, look at the local situation and wait a bit.
My question is, will the cancellation of Gencon open the way for local cons at the same time to step up and fill the gape? They would have to be set up very quickly and frankly for the group of people most effected by the panic even more than your typical facebook Karen– nerds that are on the computers all day long with the horror of bringing every named death, every celebrity infection, every horrifying hospital and morgue story, every panic porn story about kids dying at age 9 (which was debunked, the woman was actually 94) right at their finger tips at any moment.
I’m hesitant to say yes. I think there will be small cons, maybe a beer stand, some tables at a game store an some stuff in the parking lot. There likely won’t be anything on campuses as they will sadly be closed most of the summer (and many won’t ever reopen anyway as they’ll be out of business), but it’s possible that in some places people set up conventions, especially down south where they are drinking a whole bottle of ‘I don’t give a fuck.’ If they do happen, and people divert this year to these cons, they may just continue to do so?
Would it be the year to bring Gencon back to Lake Geneva? Maybe as an all outdoor event in the summer heat? Maybe have age and health screenings in order to be able to go to any group events? You have to be under 40 and fit– and this isn’t really the demographic unfortunately– but FAR more so than when I went to gencon in the late 80’s/ early 90’s. You can’t age or health stratify any event, from sports to cons or even going to the grocery store. For liability: if you have the event and keep certain people out:litigation!, or if you have the event and someone gets sick: litigation!, all events will likely be cancelled regardless of the progress of the virus itself.
Having followed and played Root for almost a year now, I highly suspect from a thematic perspective that the much balance-maligned Vagabond is absolutely meant to be the strongest ‘faction’ in Root. I realize some of the vagabonds are stronger than the others, but for simplicity, I’m going to treat him as a singular faction.
First off, what is the vagabond mechanically?
He’s a timer. The way his points escalate and the fact that he can only be mitigated, never ‘beaten’ times the game. Whether it’s killing all meeples or doing quests the vagabond WILL win the game unless someone else does first. While this applies to all of the factions, many of them require certain board conditions to score that are opposed directly by other player’s faction goals, the Vagabond does not.
He has no board presence. When you look at a ROOT board, you see Cats, Cats, Cats and one area with a lot of birds. This remains this way until mid game where there are TONS of cats in one corner and quite a few birds (or moles or lizards) in other areas. The vagabond isn’t easily noticed on the board and doesn’t raise alarms because he can co-exist with other factions either in the forest or in clearings.
He’s a force multiplier. The vagabond can give other factions much needed cards and help in other ways if allied (move armies around for example). If you are friends with him, he can help you a lot– but at the cost of helping him win the game.
He has ridiculous action economy potential. While the vagabond cannot be stopped from winning eventually, the core issue is that mid to late game, he can take a shocking amount of actions, especially if factions have built items and the Vagabond has created spaces for the other players by exploring ruins (many experienced vagabond players don’t do this). Once he gets an item, unless he’s extremely unlucky with an attack on his turn, he can basically never lose that item.
He punishes the heavy crafters. While the other factions may be scoring points by building stuff (looking at you Alliance), they are also making the Vagabond that much stronger. If players don’t pay attention and suddenly two of them built swords in the same turn– watch out world.
In fighting games like Virtua Fighter or Samurai Shodown, or miniature games like Warhammer 40K or Necromunda there is always imbalance and the designers have to decide what characters or factions are better than the others, because it’s nearly impossible to balance all the sides– so they must pick some to be stronger. They usually do this due to theme.
A great example is Ken and Ryu from Street Fighter. Ken is by far the strongest against the entire roster than Ryu is. However, Ryu is basically built to beat Ken.
In some cases, sometimes designers choose the factions with the most learning curve to be the strongest– IF the player is willing to put the time in to learn them. Izayoi from Blazblue Central Fiction is a good example– very difficult to play as a new player but in the hands of someone who has put the time in, probably the best character in the game. Akira from Virtua Fighter is a very difficult character to learn and use, and while VF has no tier list (it’s just that well designed), Akira is a good example of this.
The Vagabond is the most difficult faction to learn in Root with the most word-count in rules and very ticky-tacky. However, I would argue that rules mistakes with the Vagabond usually HELP the player of that faction rather than hurt them, which is different from the Alliance which needs all of the minutiae of their mechanics to work together for the win.
While there have been some tweaks to the Vagabond since the first printing, it’s nothing major DESPITE all the weeping and crying of players when they lose time and time again to the vagabond (especially Alliance players!). Why is this? THEME.
I think the designers very much want to have an extremely strong (strongest in fact) Vagabond faction thematically. The Vagabond is Yojimbo. Siegen Irako. Ryunosuke Tsukue. The man with No Name. Kibagami Jubei. Patrick Bateman. This is the essential protagonist (or antagonist in some cases) in the stories they inhabit. Bateman is literally trying to destroy people’s lives to draw attention to the absurdity of modern existence. Ryunosuke is so troubled by his past crimes and compartmentalized by society (literally and figuratively at the end of the film) that he just goes ahead and tries to kill EVERYONE. Yojimbo, Jubei and the man with no name waltz into control-machine factional conflicts and tip the balance so that the entire local system collapses onto itself. This is what the vagabond’s role is in Root– upset everyone else’s systems. If you ignore him, he wins. If you attack him, it’s usually to no advantage to your own faction and may even weaken you so you are at the mercy of the other factions. This is how it’s supposed to be.
I actually posted about Irako Siegen and ROOT on board game geek a while back after finding this quote while reading the Manga:
ALL of the other factions represent hierarchical societies and fixed class systems (yes, even the Covids and the Woodland Alliance). The vagabond, like Irako Siegen, is there to repudiated them ALL.
So, the next time you get your ass handed to you by the Tinker prancing around fulfilling quests and tinkering away or one of the psycho killer vagabonds wrecking the Lizard rabble for massive points and bitch about it to everyone: remember, it’s supposed to be that way.
2019 marks the end of the amazing career of Alan Moore with his final comic in the Tempest series of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. It’s easy to make fun of the comic industry and the thousands of comics that are well produced but absolute dreck each year and in addition to that, what I think Moore was saying with Tempest is that the characters that people create are more real than reality itself and will continue on long after the society that created them has been destroyed. While everyone knows Watchmen, do check out his run in SWAMP THING, which was my first exposure to his work as a kid. Him quitting makes me feel pretty old.
Anyway, League was a very interesting series. I wish he had one more block of comics that were more the straight story (like the first two volumes) rather than getting super crazy (Tempest, Century and Black Dossier) or speeding through stories (Rose of Berlin, etc.). What I love most throughout League are the thousands of literary and comic references in each series. It’s almost too much to try to follow on your own, which is why the comics are fully annotated here. With Moore done, is there a reason to head to the comic store at this point? Not too much at the moment.
Lighthouse, Godzilla. Pretty much runs the gamut of my tastes right there. Godzilla was campy and awesome and Lighthouse was freak out like A Field in England, Mandy, and Valhalla Rising.
Star Wars 9 was interesting to see how they worked around all the problems handed to them from Episode 8 which, like Song of The South and for the same reasons, Disney should put in the vault. Yet it was not a great film and definitely had the ‘just fucking end it’ feeling. I enjoyed some parts, but it’s not worth watching again. Kylo Ren, the most interesting character played by the best actor in the series, had the weakest arc and stupidest outcome. It’s ok for Jedi, like the samurai and warrior monks that influenced them, to sacrifice themselves in battle! Fucksakes. As mixed as the series was, Adam Driver carried the team all on his own. Anyway, I’m getting pumped for sitting down with the Mandalorian though.
My favorite non-2019 movie this year was the LAST VALLEY. Never heard of it? of course you haven’t, but it’s got Omar Sharif and Michael Caine and set during the 30 years war. Among many excellent scenes, in one they play dice for a woman! 1971 had some awesome films.
I probably should have seen a lot more films this year, but just about everything seemed so boring, it’s more fun watching reviews than the actual films!
Root is my number 1 game for 2019. Played the shit out of it, forced everyone to play (many didn’t need it), ran a tournament at Gamehole con and I’m eagerly awaiting the expansion (though I did the print and play with the moles) which will spark up another frenzy of playing. This has killed so many games in my collection. I know this may sound strange, but it scratches the 40K and WFB itch as well.
Otherwise, my current favorites are the PAX series from Sierra Madre Games. I cannot tell you how much I love Pax Porfiriana– so much so that I haven’t even got around to Pax Pamir. Pax Transhumanity is good, but not compared to the other Pax games that I have (Ren, Pamir, Porf). Right now unfortunately for my gaming group (or fortunately if you also love these games), Pax is what I’m bringing every time.
Boardgames are in a really odd state at this point. There are amazing designs coming out, but there are so many design-by-the-numbers worker placement/engine/point salads games that are really all the same and, in general, super tedious. I don’t want to pick on Stonemier games, but they seem to be the Nickelback of boardgame publishers– just putting out the same thing: “multiplayer” solitaire, puzzle, tableau point salad games with a slapped on theme. I guess this is what people want these days. ZZzzzz…
While I’ve stopped doing boardgame kickstarters for the most part, we’ve had had some good times with Zombicide Invader but not enough to warrant the space it all takes up, so I’m on the fence with that one. My kids seem to prefer Massive Darkness anyway despite the fact that it’s much more complex. I like Invader with the kids because it’s NOT complex and I don’t have to explain tiny details all the time, or we get our ass kicked because they forget everything they have leveled up on their sheets.
I did NOT get in a bunch of games of Hate in 2019, which came out early in the year. I don’t know what to say about that one except that it is an absolute work of art from the rulebooks to the boards and especially the miniatures, which are the best that CMON has come out with by far. Seems like it may be a fun day to do a short campaign with 4-5 people, but hasn’t happened yet.
My game of 2019 goes to Samurai Shodown. I just got it, it came out this Summer and I should have picked it up on day one. My mistake.
The game I spent the most time on this year, which is incredible, was Kingdom Come: Deliverance. Simply an amazing open world game trying to be as historically accurate as possible. I really never expected anything like this to ever be a large, huge budget video game. Play it as soon as you can.
Lastly which is an honorable mention is RAGE 2. While the whole thing didn’t really come together, the shooting parts, as I noted in my review, are SUPERB and it’s a damn fun game with an uninspired story with the most unfortunate part being that the vehicle combat was uninteresting. I had a lot of fun with the game and will probably reinstall when there’s more DLC action.
Well there wasn’t an Aphex Twin record this year, and that’s OK because last year’s Collapse was all we needed for awhile, plus the live shows he has been doing the whole year have been incredible.
In 2019, I’ve been listening to a lot of Hadyn and some other random stuff, but I don’t think I listened to any new albums this year enough to comment. Nothing from Wisp (Dwallicht), Lord Huron, Squarpusher (he did a modern organ music thing that was pretty interesting but not on his own).
That said, I’m going to say my album of the year is Hadyn’s 64th.
This is from ’78, but also very interesting.
Last and probably least are Role Playing Games. This year I pretty much put everything RPG on hold due to other real life stuff. Next year will be better as I’m a community leader in a certain youth paramilitary organization that’s taking up quite a bit of free time but won’t be next Fall. I did get to run DCC and Feng Shui 2 this year and played in a good Call of Cthulhu one shot, but that’s about it. Most of my RPG stuff is gathering dust so I’m probably going to shed a ton of it in 2020. My three favorite RPG’s as of now are Mythras, 13th Age and of course, Dungeon Crawl Classics.
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 4th edition looks like it will have some awesome adventures coming out, including a redux of the Enemy Within, but after talking to some friends that played it extensively in the last year, the system has a lot of fundamental problems, which is really unfortunate in this day and age and especially after the mess that was 3rd edition by Fantasy Flight.
The first annual Wisconsin Root championship is in the can and I had a ton of fun running it. We had a full group with 16 players and four tables, which was a great turnout. About 3-4 of the players were new to the game so it was also fun for everyone to introduce the game.
I’m going to go through the rounds, then the winners and then some stats at the end. There were some beautiful and vicious games throughout the tournament but I couldn’t watch them all.
I just want to say that I did pull out a crushing win with the Otters while the final was going on and I hope to see more Otter players next year– they really are easier to win with than the Lizards!
Players rolled dice and the highest down got to select their factions. This allowed players to play to their strengths but also forced players to play factions they weren’t great at sometimes as well.
I did a two round swiss (~2 hours each) with a final with the five players with the most points. All other rounds were 4 players. 1 point for a win, 0.5 for a second place. We had a very large group of people tied for slots in the final, basically because we had so few rounds (only 2), so I would not do it like this again.
The Cats pulled off a win at Table 1 (Joe S) with the Vagabond in 2nd place (Graham).
Table 2 was won by the Eyrie (Courtney) with the Alliance in second place (Adelheid).
Table 3 was won by the Lizards (Chris K) with the Alliance in second (Chris S). Dan G went for a Cat dominance victory in the game and was crushed outright!
Table 4 was the Alliance for the win (John R) and Lizards in second (Matt T). IIRC Matt had 29 points as lizards again in this game.
I put the winners and second place all mixed up together and the rest of the group on the other two tables. We didn’t have any drops between rounds which was great.
Table 1 the first Vagabond victory by Wyatt dominating the game with Beth taking second with the Eyrie.
Table 2 Brad Z pulled out another win with the Cats with Dan G in second place with the Eyrie.
Table 3 was won by Joe S who played as the Alliance with a couple of the other players tied for 2nd place (Courtney and Adelheid).
John R won table 4 with the Alliance and Chris S took 2nd with the Eyrie.
This is where my point system didn’t work out well, as we had three people that had either multiple wins or took one win and a second place who were for sure in the finals, but four people that had a single point. Matt T and Wyatt decided not to continue in the final round so we had our five. Again, I would be more granular next time with this few of rounds so this didn’t happen.
The final Table was:
Brad Z – Eyrie Chris K – Vagabond – Tinker John R – Woodland Alliance Joe S – Vagabond – Scoundrel Courtney – Marquise de Cat
I was playing in another game during the final (these guys all knew how to play and didn’t need me much at all to arbitrate) so I don’t know how it went play by play, but it looked like everyone was at parity early and the Tinker jumped ahead and then got it done.
Kris K pulled out the win as the Tinker Vagabond with everyone else in second place except the Eyrie.
And below are our winners. I had a first and second place prize (the BGG Root bags for each faction) so I told Kris I would owe him some bags since he doesn’t own the game yet and gave the prizes to John, Joe and Courtney.
While the winning faction was no surprise to anyone (and probably got a few groans from experienced players), there were some surprises for me in terms of what factions were picked, and which ones won games.
Another heavily favored faction to win, the Alliance was selected in 7 games and won 3. Selection to win ratio was 0.43.
Marquise de Cat
Assumed to be one of the weakest factions in the game, nevertheless, the Cats were a force to be reckoned with yesterday. Games without the Cats get very strange for other factions and really turn the faction ‘tiers’ on their head as well. The Cats were selected in 7 of the games and won twice. Selection to win ration was 0.29.
While the winner of the tournament and heavily favored in any given game, the Vagabond was only selected in 8 of the games (twice in the final) and won twice. IIRC we saw a Tinker, Scoundrel, Thief, Ranger and the Possum played. Selection to win ration 0.25.
Considered the most difficult faction to win with, the Lizards were selected in 5 games and won once for a ratio of 0.20. I noticed a few players were playing them wrong so watch the rules carefully.
The birds were selected in EVERY game of the tournament and there were some very good bird players. However, they only won once with a selection to win ratio of 0.11. The Eyrie took second in almost every game they were in so watch out!
The Otters were only selected once (by a player new to the game) and they didn’t pull out a win. I did score a victory with them in the game I played while the final was going on. Trust me, they are MUCH easier to win with than the Lizards!
Rules and Arbitration
Root is not an easy game to learn and many players (including myself) get small rules wrong, especially with the Vagabond, Otters and Lizards. The main thing I was looking out for was that the Lizards must discard a random card when they lose a garden, and it’s critical that they know what actions they take require a DISCARD and which ones are just REVEAL. The Vagabond is very ticky-tacky with a lot of rules. I reminded players that if you exhaust and item that’s not in the satchel– it goes immediately into the satchel (like tea).
We had one set of boards that didn’t have the 3rd printing update on them, so we had to layover printed sheets. Hopefully for next year we will have that all squared away.
I only had to look up stuff a couple of times. One question was whether or not you could play multiple Ambush cards in a single battle. You cannot.
So thanks to all the players and Gamehole Con for hosting and of course Leder Games for making Root in the first place. Thanks Matt, Dan and Brad for letting us use your sets of Root!
Here we go for another fucking Gencon. When oh when will I learn? The overpriced everything, the MASSIVE crowds (and I mean that on every level) and the constant hunt for the awesome thing– when really this year I would be fine staying at home with a bunch of friends and playing a whole lotta ROOT instead.
That said, I’ll be able to see some homies from across the lands (not as many this year are going), and play some stuff that I wouldn’t ever have a chance to, so that’s good. I think until our kids are old enough, gone are the days where a whole shitload of us would ditch the kids for the weekend and go down for all four days. It may be better to go back to what I used to do: drive down Friday, stay saturday and leave Sunday. Ahhhh well, in a moment of weakness and Maat’s prompting, I’m in it for all four days.
Events! I’m in what should be a very cool FASERIP miniatures Free For All battle. I’ll post impressions and the rules and all that shit when I get back from the con. Second I got into the Keyforge tournament, which should be ridiculous. RPG-wise we are in a Mutant Crawl Classics game and a game of Mythras on Saturday morning at 8 AM (let’s see if we make this one).
Most importantly though is the self run SHADOWFIST DRAFT! I got together all my remaining boxes of Shadowfist and we have a few people ready to draft and play. It’s going to be a real shit swarm of decks as we are starting with:
Standard Starter – Absolute DRECK of cards, the lowest of the low. When I look at this stuff, I’m shocked that Shadowfist survived after it’s first Limited run…so much garbage.
Boosters of the following:
Standard Booster – More of the same crap and still no hitters to find…
Empire of Evil – everyone will be hoping for the best with their booster here
Netherworld 2 – good stuff, just need to get lucky
Throne War – great set, but pretty big… so chances are slim
Boom Shaka Laka – in for the LOL’S. Maybe someone will get a good dragon card or…?
This should be enough to get a semi functional deck out of and we have pods of feng shui and foundations. Should be a great time, if we can only get a couple 3-man tables anyway.
So see you after with pics and other nonsense. Luckily I can’t spend much money on anything, so there won’t be the horde of crap I come back with this year. Hoping to find a decently priced John Company, Conquest of Paradise or Fire in the Lake, but that’s it.
For those of you that like dungeon crawls and like SOLO dungeon crawls, Bloodborne is probably a ticket to dungeon crawl heaven. Frankly though, there are a fuckload of these types of games, almost a new one like this every month from various manufacturers. From CMON alone, if you’ve already got Zombicide of some sort, The Others, Rise of Moloch or the excellent and insane diablo-esque crawl Massive Darkness why would you even look at this one? Also take into account Games Workshops excellent forays into the dungeon crawl realm as well as tons of others (including Dungeon Degenerates!) I think BB is CMON’s answer to Kingdom Death, you probably love Bloodborne, and look at those miniatures (as always from CMON).
You have to ask yourself, as I have, what to do with all these big ass boxed games and all the miniatures. I picked up The Others, Massive Darkness and HATE and can attest that the first two are excellent but holy shit does the Others take up a lot of shelf space, Hate isn’t all that bad which is odd because of all the miniatures it has in the box (which are CMON’s best so far, even if the game doesn’t have mass appeal).
Given that you have the means and board game addiction to pick up some of these big ass games– what do you do with them? You play them of course, but how many times? These are similar to games we played in the 90’s and early 2000’s that took years to acquire (or even get released) miniatures of this amount. For Necromunda or Bloodbowl, you could build up your teams over time rather than this huge blast these games require even with their base sets.
I think one solution is to have a community of gamers buy these together or share them, play through the campaigns in each and then sell them off or keep them if there is absolute love. Many of these dungeon crawls especially do not have reasons to play through them multiple times as it’s always the same missions, path, etc. Sure it’s fun to try a different character but if you are the judge/Overlord and you have to run people through the same missions again… ZZzzzzz… So these are big games, take up a lot of space and have limited replay value. Yet the games themselves are worth playing and in some cases, owning if they are really important for you to keep.
Lots of times with gamers in a group that all have the fever for board game collecting will duplicate the SHIT out of each other’s collections: most of the time for no reason at all. For example, we all love Eclipse. When the new kickstarter came out, we had 3-4 people (out of about 8-9 gamers total) who bought into it…why did we do this? One or two people could have picked it up and that would be fine for many plays.
When I was in college, and very, very poor, I had Talisman 2nd edition at school, along with Jyhad and some MTG and at home I had basically Cosmic Encounter and a few other games like Saga or Awful Green Things. If you wanted to play, say, Wizard’s Quest, you went over to the guy’s house that had that shit– you didn’t go out and buy the fucking thing at the store!
While it’s tough to imagine as a collector and I have my weak spot for some of these games (anything Adrian Smith is involved in for instance), it’s best if one person in a group picks up these big ass fucking games– for sure go ‘all in’ so you aren’t scrambling for that expansion you missed in the kickstarter that you really want later–make the investment knowing that your group has committed to play, that you will sleeve that shit so it stays in good shape (print the rulebook rather than using the one that comes with the game– that will get fucked up for sure) for later sale and then the next big ass game like this that comes along– which it WILL–have someone ELSE buy that, you guys play it and then ditch it when you are done. Otherwise you are just chasing the dragon alone– maybe don’t.
Here’s the Bloodborne gameplay video of interest. Note he is playing SOLO:
I couldn’t help myself and printed out the PnP of the The Great Dutchy of the Moles from the new Root kickstarter and we got in a couple games with them plus the base four factions (Cats, Alliance, Vag, Eyrie). Here’s my view of the Moles so people can see if they fit their play style.
The Moles start with a single tunnel on the board that connects to their off-board ‘cave’ where the moles swarm from. The mole cave connects to ALL the mole tunnels, so the more tunnels you have out on the board, the easier you can move your guys around. Moles have a terrible action economy at the beginning of the game with only two actions to take (cats have three in contrast). Their actions are similar to the Cats: Move, battle, recruit, build (factories or citadels), dig (add a tunnel) so if you are familiar with the Marquise, you will easily pick up how to play the Moles.
Despite their weak and slow start, the Moles can elect members of their underground species to parliament by revealing matching sets of cards (2, 3 and 4 depending how far you are up the parliamentary track), which begins to increase their action economy. This is a bit like the bird’s decrees… and is also fairly unstable. Once officers are placed in parliament, you can take their action every single turn. Most are Move or Recruit, draw cards, etc., but three of them score points off the buildings on the board, which is the main mechanism for scoring for the moles. Other than crafting and destroying stuff, the Moles get points for electing officers and using officer actions to score points. Unfortunately if you lose buildings due to battle, you also lose officers permanently (much like the Riverfolk’s trading posts).
The Moles need to control areas to build buildings, keep lots of cards in their hands (and not use them!) in order to get parliament filled up as well as watching their scoring to not alarm the other players…
Like the Cats and the Birds, the Moles are useful to police the forest against the non-area control factions (Vag, Lizards, Riverfolk and Alliance), so you need to stake your claims on the board and then kick the crap out of those little bastards if they come around. You will need to likely make an alliance with one of the other police factions or you’ll both end up losing badly.
The Moles are an interesting design, basically a new take on the Marquise de Cat but with a little of the Alliance and Eyrie mixed in. I’ve played twice with them so far, and in one the Cats pulled out the win in the end, with the Dutchy in second place, the second place (5 player game) the moles ended up lagging mid game and in 3rd place. They are very much about take-and-hold with them being pretty useless scattered around the board since they really really need to protect their buildings once they start scoring points.
Garycon was this past weekend and I was able to go Friday and Saturday to game the fuck out of it. Always a great time, it’s one of those cons that I very much hope does not get any bigger because the venue, the attention you get from the staff, and the small but cool set of events are not something that should be forced to change due to overgrowth. While I really dig Game Hole Con, that thing is going to get bigger and bigger until it’s rival to Gencon itself. Garycon, hopefully, not so much.
Most years we get in some RPG games (mostly DCC) at garycon, but this time it was all board games. Matt went Thursday and mentioned that the game library was very small (they didn’t use Milcog which is at Gencon and Gamehole con) so we had to schlep a ton of our games to around the place. Luckily, unless we have an event, we go to the same spot every year, park our sweaty asses there and don’t move for the whole fucking weekend.
FRIDAY. I’m going to call Friday exactly what it was: eurotrashday. Now I like a good euro, and I generally like to try new games, but this was a bit too much worker placement for a single day.
We started out with the excellent but messy (and poorly graphic designed) Terraforming Mars. This took a long time, but the experience of playing was quite fun, and we were fresh and not drunk. While not super easy to learn, it was easy to relate the systems and mechanics to what was going on on the board quite a bit more than the next few games. I’d play again.
Between the Euros we did get a game of ROOT in. I pretty much told everyone that I would be satisfied to play ROOT all goddamn weekend, and that I needed to play it at LEAST once per day so people were aware. Root is not a euro (it’s only called that by eurofreaks who couldn’t possibly lower themselves to play an ameritrasher) so there was a bit of a reprieve. The game that day was a Vagabond, Lizard Cult, Cats and Birds game. It was surprising win for the Lizard Cult, even more surprising when after the game we realized that Matt had not been discarding his cards whenever he scored garden clearings. It’s a wee bit more difficult to score with the Lizards than that! People are starting to get better with them though and that’s excellent because they are nasty.
The next euro we got the wooden cubes out for was Gugong : a game where you play a faction trying to get the most influence in the Forbidden City for reasons I’m not totally sure of. This is a worker-placement-point-salad-solo game with very little interaction between players but a neat looking board and peices. Gugong was really difficult for me to learn after playing Terraforming Mars (and playing Root), but was basically placing stuff on the board to generate points, either inexpensive and late, or expensive and early and hope that whatever you were doing generated more points by the end of the game that the other players doing the same thing. This game seems to have about 30% more crap on the board to do than needed with an area where you could float your cubes around on boats and ride a little horse around as well as trying to complete a wall, moving up a track through a little village… it was incomprehensible thematically to me and just seemed like a mess of linked mechanics. Gugong wasn’t terrible, but just has nothing to recommend it over tighter euros.
The last game of the day was one I really did not like, but it had some great art and graphic design: Coimbra. I’m not sure what to say about this one except I wished, based on the theme, that I was playing Princes of the Renaissance instead. I did not know what was going on in this one, and just chose the tiles with pretty girls on them most of the time. One incredibly annoying thing was the variable turn order. I wanted to switch seats with people but of course you have this big tableau of tiles in front of you. I’d likely play the others again if pressed (especially terraforming mars), except for this one.
SATURDAY! This is the day we played the good shit, but it was loooong. We got to the con pretty late in the morning and immediately started a massive game of Eclipse with likely too many expansions and new races and shit. It’s a great game, but they pumped out the expansions there for awhile and unless you play A LOT of the base game, I just don’t see the need.
This was a slog, and a very low-tech game so battles took a long time. I hope the second edition consolidates some of these expansions and just keeps the good shit. While I appreciate a game where a bad hex pull can ruin you for a couple turns, with the ‘moving ancients’ your whole game can be fucked for good. With a game this long, that’s not good.
Next up was the amazing game of the CON: DUNE. I brought my old set that I’d had since high school, that has no more player aid sheets and has pubes in the box that are older than my kids (hey, we played on the floor some times…). We had a full 6 players and lest you forgot how good this game is, or never knew, let me remind you. You see where the storm goes, you see where the spice lands, you bid on cards (the only tedious part of the game) and then each player lands stuff on the planet and moves one army. That’s the whole game! Yet in those simple phases is one of the greatest war games that also fundamentally nails the feel of the conflict from the book perfectly.
I drew the Bene Gesserit and immediately wanted to get retribution on the game of Dune and all players after a loss years ago to them in a game when I destroyed everyone as the Harkonnen’s on turn 2 AS PREDICTED and lost.
For the prediction, looking at the board and players: newer Harkonnen player, totally new Emperor and Guild player, strong Atreides player and experienced Fremen player. I chose the Fremen on turn 4, which is a bit of risk since the game can be over (with a worm appearance) on turn 2/3 after alliances are made. The Harkonnen and Atreides were hammered off the board by the Fremen, Guild and Emperor in the first couple turns and based on the board positioning, I got lucky and a worm wasn’t drawn until turn 4. The Fremen made an alliance with the Guild, both of whom had strong board presence and it was all over but the yelling and crying as the Bene Geserit again snatched victory from the jaws of defeat (I think I had 2 pieces on the board at the end).
The last game of the day was another game of ROOT, this time with 6 players! This was an awesome game and took place during the Goodman Game’s free beer and chocolate bar party in the same area, so people kept coming round to see how things were progressing. We were intensely into the game and even with that, it went until 12:30 or so AM where I was able to squeeze out a win with the Riverfolk with the Vag and Lizard Cult nipping at my heels! I was able to put away the win because of a single, unprotected garden that had been ignored in a mouse clearing far away from the action (remember Lizards control any clearing where they have a garden no matter what) allowing me to place a trading post and hit 30 points. Great game, lots of shit talk and yelling of the word fuck.
There’s also a ton of radical pictures I took of the miniatures area I’ll throw into another post.
First off, the second expansion was just announced:
Looks like the mole people (which was hinted at last summer) and another bird faction (Corvid conspiracy) which looks like Rooks, Crows, Jackdaws and magpies. Also a new board and what the heck would a second game deck be? Maybe different types of clearings/animals on the board?
March 14th and then possibly in our hands this Summer or into the Fall.
Getting tired of playing Root yet? Not me! Tonight I played my 20th game with Maaat and the childrens. While I’ve only had a couple five player games, I’ve had a great time with 4, 3 and some good 2 player games (some bad ones too) as well as playing 2 players vs the mechanical Marquise de Cat, which is pretty brutal.
I want to say straight off that this is a VERY addicting game. Much like Blood Rage, Study in Emerald and Talisman– you just don’t know what’s going to happen and how things will play out. Sometimes you get your ass kicked, other times you get lucky and other times you find some strategy or tactic that really pays dividends BUT you try that same thing in the next game and it doesn’t go anywhere! Take that you euros!
Why is this game addicting? It’s the play of the game which is a combination of very easy mechanics (while varied) and tons of tough decisions along with a surprising amount of freedom of action on the board. Root has both excellent Flow as the game’s pace is fairly quick (until it gets to the Eyrie player who has a puzzle every turn to figure out) as well as constantly creating these interesting moments of narrative and conflict.
Let me talk about a game last week. The VAGabond won handily with the Woodland Alliance nipping at it’s heels and all others dragging behind. I was the Cats again and I did not fair well– I think with 5 players it’s very difficult for the Cats to win since the board is so crowded with enemies but that’s a topic for another post.
So this vagabond had a tactic I hadn’t seen before, they were the Scoundrel which is a VAGabond that starts with no sword, but a crossbow, boots and can blow up an entire clearing once per game by permanently expending his Torch. The fact that he has no sword to start seems like it would totally suck and that would be the first thing you would go for in the ruins. However not having a sword as the Vag means that unless they intentionally use their crossbow to kill a warrior or fires off the Scoundrel’s pyro bomb in a clearing, he cannot become hostile to the other factions, even if they attack him and damage his items since he cannot “remove a warrior,” which is a prerequisite for him becoming hostile. Instead of attacking and scoring via killing the other player’s warriors, he kept a sword he eventually got in the damaged box which allowed him to go the alliance route. This allows the Vag to score 2 points for every card they give to allies. This can wrack up 4-6 points per turn still only using one boot per clearing move. What’s more, he could drag his allies armies around the board, exposing their buildings to other enemies.
While other players tried in frustration to hammer the vagabond down, it was very difficult because of his mobility (due to not being hostile and having to spend 2 boots) and no one could shut him down before he won.
This is very different than the typical Ranger vagabond that starts slow but then goes on a kill crazy rampage until the board is a warrior free wasteland. It’s this type of play, things you definitely won’t see in every game of Root, that makes the game so amazingly varied and addictive.
Advice to new players– be mean and smash the vagabond (or vagabonds) as early as possible. This can be very difficult as the Cats because each action is so precious at all times and nearly impossible for the Lizards who are stuck messing around only in the outcast clearings.
I got completely tabled in one game as the Marquise de Cat and had a lot of problems playing the ‘main’ factions in the game on account of the scoundrel vagabond. You want the definition of murderhobo– that’s it.