RogerBW's Blog

Summer Stabcon 2014 07 July 2014

This long-running games convention started off as a Diplomacy gathering. These days it's a blend of board-gaming and roleplaying. With images; cc-by-sa on everything.

Friday

I had a pretty easy trip up by train; it took about as long as driving usually does, cost vastly more, but at least meant I didn't get caught in the huge crushes on the M6 and M62 that seemed to affect many people. And I could read.

Most of Friday afternoon and evening were spent chatting, but I did get into a late game of Firefly. I turned up just as ship selection was being completed, persuaded the owner that I did know the rules and wouldn't slow things down too badly, and took a standard Firefly over the Artful Dodger. The story card, picked randomly after we'd selected ships, was Jailbreak.

Early game Firefly

We all had some fairly poor luck all through this game; mostly nothing really terrible, but lots of Cruiser and Cutter contacts and some fairly poor die rolling. Also, nobody got much in the way of good crew. Here I (yellow) have just been Cruisered. Though they never spotted the concealed Simon Tam, whom I'd picked up on the first turn.

Cruiser on Interceptor

On the other hand bringing the Cruiser down on the outlaw Interceptor just had to be done. And I got paid five hundred credits.

Cruiser on me

And, fair enough, it hit me just before I was going to pick up the bounty on… Simon Tam, who'd just jumped ship (thanks to a Misbehave card). But instead I got stopped one space short of picking him up at Persephone, and the bounties got reshuffled. Bah humbug. (As last time, nobody actually collected a bounty in this game.)

With a time constrant, since we didn't want to try to move the game, two of us tried for the rescue on the last round. The player before me made it; I didn't. Ah well.

Saturday

Started the day with Tinners' Trail, a Martin Wallace design with some lovely bits. It's rather more abstract than my usual preference, but the actions one can take do make sense in the context of the game's narrative: building a port, hiring on miners, improving drainage pumps.

Yes, drainage pumps, because this is a game of tin and copper mining in Cornwall, in the early 19th century before African metals became cheaper. You're pushing cubes around, but those white and orange cubes represent deposits of metal ore, and when you pull some out you put in a blue cube to represent the water that floods in. The more water, the more expensive it is to get the remaining ore out, but you can also take actions which assist with drainage.

There's a lovely time-based mechanic: an action generally doesn't cost you money, but does take up time slots, of which you have ten per turn. If you do a long action, other players may be able to do several short ones before it's your turn again.

The only bit I don't really like is the bidding, but that's because I'm very bad at bidding games.

Early days

Opening moves. Plenty of metal still in the ground, and the first ports set up. Note the thin black adit leading south from the yellow minehead.

Towards the end

Getting towards the end. All copper long since mined, and only two small (and in one case distinctly soggy) tin mines left open for the tourists.

End game

The end of the game. Money doesn't score points directly; at the end of the turn, you buy other investments, which are in effect victory points. You're scoring based on how much money you could take out of the business while leaving it viable. And the earlier you do it, the more points you get for it.

We moved on to Eldritch Horror, one that I'd been meaning to try since I heard that it had fixed several of the things that annoyed me about Arkham Horror. It all started so well…

Setup

The bold adventurers set out to smite Yog-Sothoth. There's just one zombie in Rome. How hard can it be?

Diana Stanley, Redeemed Cultist

I was playing Diana Stanley: "I got into some bad company, but I'm (twitch) all right (twitch) now". An interesting challenge: lots of knowledge, but quite poor mental stability. (I may try to work someone like her into some future adventure that I run.) As it turned out the latter wasn't a huge problem, and I rarely even got near monsters. This may have been part of why things didn't go well.

Zombie Horde

All right, so we failed to kill the zombie and now there's a horde of the things. And a Shoggoth in Istanbul. Which isn't a port. Um.

Oceanic Clue

I went off looking for a clue in the Indian Ocean, and alas not finding it. All at sea, without a clue. Yes, well.

Useful kit

I did end up with a decent set of equipment, and only a little bit of madness.

Things get worse

But things gradually got worse. One of us got semi-permanently Delayed in Arkham. Dark Young overran London.

Bad dice, no dice biscuit

And when with an effective Lore of 5 I can't get even a single success (needing a 5 or 6, so about an 87% chance of its working)… yeah. It didn't go well.

I had to leave to run a scheduled session of Firefly, for what turned out to be four novices to the game, so I set up First Time in the Captain's Chair. We managed to blag one of the big tables; this helps a lot.

Setup

Things started off reasonably well, with a fairly spread-out setup. I had Sash in the Walden, which is getting to be my favourite ship even if I rarely do particularly well with it.

Piracy

"Oh, were those your fuel and parts? So sorry. Mine now."

Win

One of the players managed to pull out a win about five turns in, which I found pretty impressive. (Even if he had to leave his crew unpaid to do so, so that they all jumped ship.)

Cruiser stop

Of course I got stopped by the Cruiser on my way to a big payoff. It's become a requirement when I play this game.

I got a couple of good pirating sessions in, particularly with Sash as captain and a Bandit crewman who between them got me a bonus theft of $700 per piracy job. (The only other crew I hired on was Inara, who must have thought herself in fairly odd company until she got eaten by Reavers. But I ended the game with only about three Fight, five Negotiate, and one Tech, way below what I usually try for.)

The player with the Interceptor took some bad hits, and was pretty hacked off; I blame myself at least in part, for not explaining more about how that ship has to be played in order to work. There's probably a blog post in there somewhere, but I'll have to play a few sessions to get the hang of it in the early game.

Apart from that we'd had a good time, but particularly with the heat of the rooms I found myself quite tired; after supper and a fair bit more chat, I retired relatively early.

Sunday

Sunday began with a role-playing session: UNIT in the 1980s investigates an odd case of murder in Leeds. I played Sergeant Benton

Sergeant Benton

and tried to run him in the style of John Levene, though perhaps with a bit more humour. (In the background of one scene I gave him a flip-chart board, on which he was crossing things off as we learned more: Androids (Kraal), Autons, Axos…) Good fun.

Then, oddly enough, more Firefly. Not that I'm obsessed or anything; it's just that it's the "big" game I'm really enjoying playing just at the moment. This time we went for "Respectable Persons of Business", though since we were going to have to bail out and go for trains we didn't expect to make it to the $12,000 mark.

Starting positions

I was going to go for the Interceptor this time to try it out, but one of the other players beat me to it (she'd been playing a regular Firefly in her first game, the previous day).

An early bounty

I got a good start with a bounty. That was about the best the game went for me, alas.

A fighty crew

My crew was talented at fighting, not so much at other things. I was hoping to be able to risk some Misbehave cards, since fighting shows up more often than the other options there. Also, I just didn't get any useful Tech or Negotiate crew or equipment; my sole Tech was a Lawman and wouldn't work on illegal jobs.

A bad misbehave

But, in the end, I think pretty much every card I drew turned out to be one that had to be resolved by means other than fighting. (Maybe there was one that wasn't.)

More crew, and upgrades

The crew kept growing. Some jobs went well, but I picked up a warrant on one failure, and another when I needed to dodge the customs patrol.

Interceptor and Cruiser

Nandi in the Interceptor, and Corbin in a Firefly, stayed on good terms with Harken. When we ended, we were fairly spread out, which is usually a good sign.

Ending interceptor

The Interceptor generally had half its hold space given over to fuel and parts, the other half for cargo, and stayed largely with legal and moral jobs (not surprising given the moral crew, though Nandi was able to use her recruiting ability to swap people in and out as needed for particular jobs). This worked remarkably well, and this player won.

Ending Firefly

Corbin in the regular Firefly came second, and Mal in the Artful Dodger (me) came last by a huge margin. Ah well.

Home by bus, train and car, and fall over.

Another excellent convention, a bit Firefly-heavy perhaps but it's what I felt like playing this time and other people did too.

Still looking forward to Dead of Winter, which I pre-ordered and which should arrive any day now…

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