RogerBW's Blog

Handycon 7 07 February 2020

This boardgame convention was still at the larger venue in Maidenhead, but with more people booked in and much more of a crush, especially on Saturday.

In fact I heard quite a few people suggesting that they might not come back to the next one, in August: too many people crammed into the space (and people were being castigated for having brought "too many" games to play), the committee (many of whom are teachers of young children) start off by hectoring people when they want something rather than just asking, the head committee bloke loves the sound of his own voice and pops at length into a microphone several times a day, the hotel is very expensive for both accommodation and food and not particularly clean… and, frankly, there are lots of other boardgame conventions about with fewer of these problems. Though none of them is as close to my place as this one.

Still, for this show at least there were good people there and good gaming to be had. And a lady of excellent and discerning taste admired my beard, loudly and in public.

But I started gaming with Suburbia, where I managed to achieve my usual failure mode of not building up enough money and income early in the game so I couldn't afford most of the late game tiles.

On to Tobago, always popular except with people who've played it to death, which these two hadn't.

And then Firefly: The Game, still one of my favourites in spite of the mechanical crudity and over-long playing time. I had a superb non-moral crew in Womack, Holder, Busker, Foreman, Roberta and Barkeep (in the Artful Dodger), but took too long hauling around and doing jobs while someone else took the win. Still had a great time, though.

On to Letter Jam, with some extremely awkward letter combinations. I've worked out what I do wrong in this game: fixate on one solution to the exclusion of other possibilities. Now I need to avoid doing it.

Then Awkward Guests, a deduction game with a country-house mystery theme. I failed to understand that "only the murderer lies" doesn't apply to motives (i.e. even a non-murderer can give you false information about a motive), which really wasn't at all clear in the book, but it was still good. Might think about buying this at some point. Maybe.

On Saturday, I tried setting up Flamme Rouge for solo, and sure enough some people came along and wanted to play. (Third time that's happened? Fourth? One day I'll actually play the solo mode, probably when I'm at home.) I nearly pulled this off, but broke forward too soon.

Next Baseball Highlights: 2045, which I've picked up as a result of recommendations from the 1 Player Guild on BGG. The series broke entirely my way, with a 4-0 win, and I fear I may have put the other player off this game – though to be fair they aren't generally a fan of games with a lot of direct action against other players, which is pretty much what this game is about.

Automobiles next, definitely one of the "why don't I get it off the shelf more often" games: I have a good time every time I play it, so I should play it more!

I tried a Eurogame that I'd played once before, and didn't much rate: Sierra West. This time we used the second of its four modular modes. I still found it very flavourless, but I did have fun. (And I was involved enough that I didn't take any pictures.)

Another game of Suburbia, which went rather better for me than the last one.

In a quick break, I played an alternative scoring sheet for Ganz Schön Clever. (I enjoy this, though not enough to give house-room to a copy.)

Next I played ArtSee, in which you're adding paintings to an art gallery. There's a lot of Euro abstraction here, and it's vulnerable to card luck, but I had a good time losing.

Very briefly, Kluster, in which you're trying to place all your magnetic pebbles inside the string without any of them snapping together. Suffers a bit from a runaway loser problem (if they do snap together, that player has to take them all, which makes life easier for the other players) but I like the idea.

Point Salad next, in which you can take cards either as vegetables or to determine what those vegetables are worth to you. A bit fiddly but still enjoyable.

Then Xenon Profiteer, with one of my worst games ever – thanks to Vicky for making sure I didn't get lazy! (Also the first time I've ever played with the Tactics and Profiteers expansion. Not entirely convinced.)

Finally for the night, some good old-fashioned tomb plundering with Luxor. Yes, all right, rather a thematic disconnect, but it doesn't slow down as you go along even though you're sharing your moves among an increasing number of your meeples, and I'd look forward to playing this again some time.

On Sunday, we started with The Networks, including On the Air cards but no Executives. My 10×10 experience last year helped a lot here, and I walked away with the game by a substantial margin.

Then shelf-of-shame entry Shogunate, which I brought back as a demonstrator freebie from Essen in 2018. Like many small games from Indie Boards & Cards, it seemed to get absolutely no promotion… but it's rather a good game of hidden loyalties. I'll definitely be bringing this along to other events.

Next, Dice Hospital, in which another player and I managed to achieve a shared victory (same point total, and an empty hospital, which is the tie-breaker). First time I've seen that happen – and also the best game I've had, even if I did stick with my usual strategy of going for not-terribly-ill patients.

Finally, Kraftwagen, a relatively obscure Eurogame of early motor cars: you're improving the bodies and engines you can make, building cars to sell, and racing, with a highly abstracted but technically really interesting action-selection system. I had a great time coming last (by just two points).

So I had a good weekend, as did the people I played with, but we couldn't help feeling that it was to some extent in spite of the venue and committee rather than because of anything they were doing. Ah well. And I'm starting to enjoy long complicated Eurogames rather more than I did…

(I can't make the next one anyway, as it clashes with the renowned Continuum.)

[Buy Suburbia at Amazon] [Buy Tobago at Amazon] [Buy Firefly the Game at Amazon] [Buy Letter Jam at Amazon] [Buy Flamme Rouge at Amazon] [Buy Awkward Guests at Amazon] [Buy Baseball Highlights: 2045 at Amazon] [Buy Automobiles at Amazon] [Buy Sierra West at Amazon] [Buy Ganz Schön Clever at Amazon] [Buy Point Salad at Amazon] [Buy Xenon Profiteer at Amazon] [Buy Luxor at Amazon] [Buy The Networks at Amazon] [Buy Dice Hospital at Amazon] [Buy Kraftwagen at Amazon] and help support the blog.

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