RogerBW's Blog

Handycon January 2018 28 January 2018

I missed the second instance of this because it clashed with the Worldcon in Helsinki, but made it to number 3. Given how far I travel for other games conventions, one that's just on the other side of High Wycombe is a pleasant change.

With images; cc-by-sa on everything.


The usual problem with these things is connecting people who want to play games with people who have space available in their games. This time more rooms were in use for general gaming, so there was no obvious place to look for games that were getting together, the noticeboard was just a flip-chart that got flipped frequently, and as always people forgot to take down their "players wanted" signs when games had started (I'm guilty of this too); an on-line announcement system didn't seem to be in heavy use.

But I started with a playtest version of Realm-Master, which while it has a fantasy theme feels a great deal like King of Tokyo. If you're outside the realm you can attack the one person in it, if you're inside you attack everyone outside, but there are different parts of it with different effects. It's very swingy, and I got up to nearly enough points to win twice (then got knocked down again) before finally making it. Nothing was blatantly broken, but it didn't have much to say to me.

Played some Pirate 21 next, largely with the same people who'd shared the playtest with me - I think mostly because I wanted to show them something completely different, and they enjoyed it. It went pretty well, though I came nowhere near winning.

A friend had brought along John Company, in which you're families trying to dominate the East India Company while keeping it running. We failed fairly dismally at the latter, never mind the former. The rules were well organised but extremely poorly written, and the core mechanic is one of those "buy as many dice as you can afford, but you can never get to 100% success" ones like Elder Sign or London Dread. Still, I think it would work better with four or more players (leaving out the NPC family), and I'd like to try it again in such circumstances even though it is at heart a very dry cube-pusher.

One of my Shelf of Shame games was Illimat, and we gave this a go next. The stockpile mechanic is the most complex bit, and not well-explained, but not only is this a lovely artefact, it's rather an enjoyable game even with only two players.


I set up Aeon's End and a couple of players turned up to try it. Some bits worked better than others, and we all lost, but they had a good time and I think may now be looking for a copy to buy.

We tried The Captain is Dead next, and nailed it – with Tactical Officer, Hologram and Scholar (no Engineer at all). It's a surprisingly good combination.

Some more Illimat, this time a three-player game, though it was cut short by food.

They wanted to try Mysterium, so we did (without the Motivations section). I did a fairly poor job; they did better. So that's good. I suppose.

Into the playtest zone and a copy of Nightlancer, a competitive cyberpunk game in which you're trying to do various illegal missions, earn money, and build up resources before society collapses. This suffered from terrible graphic design (very small and similar icons on the mission cards), but more subtly there just seemed to be too many resources; a lot of games thrive by keeping the players hungry, never giving them enough to do everything they want, and in this it seemed one often could do everything. (Mind you, having been ahead for most of the game, I didn't win.) It looks promising, though I'm not convinced of the replay value, and I wouldn't buy it as it stands.

I joined a different group and played Discworld: Ankh-Morpork, which is apparently now very rare. It's not as Martin Wallacey as most Martin Wallace games; it feels a bit "greatest hits" at times (worker placement, secret victory condition, etc.) but I quite enjoyed it.

We played Welcome to the Dungeon, but only got two rounds in…

…because some more people turned up, which was too many for that but enough for Colt Express. As usual I played the Marshal and directed the game; this time I only got three goals, but more importantly everyone had a good time.

Another round of The Captain is Dead ended in ignominious defeat as the shields collapsed. Even with the chief engineer on the job! (Plus tactical officer, janitor and counselor.)

Last game of the evening for me was Villages of Valeria, a tableau-builder with multi-use cards. I didn't do as badly as I expected to, and even quite enjoyed it. If I hadn't already paid for Star Realms: Frontiers


As the snow fell outside, we settled in to Potion Explosion, which looks increasingly subtle and challenging the more I play it.

Another List of Shame game, Simon's Cat Card Game: not bad, but there's not an awful lot to it. Decent as a filler, though, or with people who don't want to have to think too hard.

Some more players joined us, and we switched to Splendor, which I clearly haven't played for too long as I did abysmally.

More Potion Explosion, with a last-moment play suggested by someone else… but I'd have had the victory anyway.

Palazzo next, described as "like Alhambra but better"; there were some elements in common, particularly the currency system, but it seemed quite distinct to me. For me, not coming last in a game like this counts as victory.

Revolution! next, and my worst game of it ever. Last place, and lapped by two of the players.

Last game, and the third Shelf of Shame entry played this weekend: Ogre: Objective 218, which certainly encourages one to think in terms of the utter futility of war; it's one I'd like to try again when I'm in the right mood (though, since I mostly play in the local boardgames club, two-player-only games don't come out very often).

If you're going to make a game look good, go all-out… it's not the miniatures, it's the metal coins and the sandtimer. (Mechs vs Minions.)

The next one of these will be over the weekend of 10-12 August.

[Buy Aeon's End at Amazon] [Buy The Captain Is Dead at Amazon] [Buy Mysterium at Amazon] [Buy Welcome to the Dungeon at Amazon] [Buy Colt Express at Amazon] [Buy Villages of Valeria at Amazon] [Buy Potion Explosion at Amazon] [Buy Simon's Cat Card Game at Amazon] [Buy Splendor at Amazon] [Buy Revolution! at Amazon] [Buy Ogre: Objective 218 at Amazon] and help support the blog. ["As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases."]

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