RogerBW's Blog

TringCon 5 April 2014 06 April 2014

This small one-day boardgaming event happens twice a year in a village hall in Deepest Buckinghamshire, and has been going for quite a few years. This was my first visit.

The regulars seem like a pretty hard-core bunch, who consider something like Agricola to be a gentle warm-up before a serious game. I generally prefer lighter and shorter games unless I'm in the right sort of mood. This may well have been why my Firefly didn't get takers at first – though quite a few people stopped by to admire the components. I did eventually get a two-player game in, which I won in about an hour and a half. We didn't get the same feeling of a runaway winner that I had last time I played, which is good; part of my rules briefing is an emphasis on spotting the things one can do to make another player's life less happy, since there aren't many of them, and I think my opponent took this to heart. This is one of those games like Hex Hex that I don't get to play nearly as much as I'd like. There's something very elegant about the way the various attributes and keywords fit together to make things work.

I fell in with low company and we went on with King of Tokyo, a fairly abstract dice game in which I was the first eliminated. I'm not generally a fan of player-elimination mechanics, but this game goes by so fast that it scarcely matters.

One of the players had just picked up a new edition of Acquire, now over fifty years old. It's mostly about tile placement and card purchase, though the dress is mergers and acquisitions among hotel chains; the key tradeoff is that when a smaller chain is bought by a larger one, there's great benefit to the players most heavily invested in the smaller chain, but nothing special to those who own the purchaser, except that its value at the end of the game increases. (It would be trivial to re-dress this as tech companies: to maximise gains from shares, you want to be bought by Microsoft, not to be Microsoft.) While it's obviously fairly abstract, a couple of mechanics did break immersion for me: when a chain is acquired, people who hold its shares can choose to retain them in the hope that one day the chain will be re-founded elsewhere; similarly, you can trade those old shares for shares in the new larger chain, but only if there are enough share cards left. This means that being bought out late in the game is much less valuable than the same thing happening earlier. It makes for an interesting game, but I think if I were designing this I'd probably try to work out some way of using the old shares as lower-grade shares in the new company. But then, that would be a different game. Which I probably won't write. Anyway, I came third out of five players, not bad for a first game (ahead of the player who came fourth by the smallest possible margin).

Dixit was next (I believe it was mostly the "Dixit Origins" version); I was entirely in tune with the way one player thought, but I was very bad at coming up with descriptions that were sufficiently generic (possibly because I didn't know what else might be on the cards). I'm not really a fan of the art style, but the game was still fun; I came third, I think, but gave away the winning points. I think I'd rather play it with people I knew a bit better.

Other games that I saw included a superb house-ruled Wings of Glory, with custom components including miniature smoke and fire trails for damaged aircraft that could be clipped onto their flight stands with miniature clothes pegs; and the new version of Pandemic with In the Lab, for which the components are getting increasingly pretty and bulky (coloured "serum" bottles about an inch across).

I also watched some Chronology, in which one tries to insert historical event cards into the right place in one's timeline of cards going only by their descriptions. This starts off easily, with only two cards each, but to win you have to get up to ten. It's a quick and simple game, which may work well as a gap-filler as long as I don't bring it out too often. Might well pick up a copy of this at some point.

I would definitely recommend future events to people on the more serious end of boardgaming (and even for people like me). Do be aware that you need to book in advance, as the capacity of the venue is limited. (It was also quite warm and noisy (bare walls); take appropriate precautions.)

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