RogerBW's Blog

Stabcon 2015 05 January 2015

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.


Drove up this time, with fairly clear roads and not too much in the way of roadworks. (And finished off an audio-book, which have become my preferred listening on long trips.) Red sections are below 50mph.

Arrived to discover that my room this time was down a selection of twisty passages (fortunately, not all alike). Sharp left from the stairs and up the second set of stairs, through the doors at the top…

Down three steps and turn right, carry on down more steps and through a glass door…

Turn left at the end, turn right at the end…

Turn left at the vaguely suggestive painting (I think the Britannia chain must have got a job lot of vaguely suggestive paintings many years ago; they seem to have the same ones in each of their hotels I stay at), and left again.

More importantly, the room's window had been made thoroughly unavailable by what I can only regard as field-expedient double glazing. (Oh, and they'd run out of soap throughout the hotel. Soap? Well, I suppose. I ended up washing my hands with shower gel.)

All members were given a 25th anniversary celebratory box (and knife-shaped pen, and other goodies). That pen is now in my Dead of Winter box as the first-player token, replacing the one supplied with the game.

After quite a bit of chat, I started the gaming with a couple of rounds of Tsuro. I did medium badly.

Then it was time for Marrying Mr Darcy, a game that's had very mixed reviews – and I can see why. As a game, it's highly random, with little opportunity to form a strategy and follow it; as supplementary material to Pride and Prejudice, producing by random combination situations of the sort that might happen in an Austen novel which one can then narrate in a minor way, it's rather fun. I wouldn't expect to play it often, but it was certainly enjoyable as a one-off.

Each player is one of the eligible ladies of the book, and will score various numbers of points depending on which gentleman she snags, as well as more for her personal attributes. The first part of the game consists of drawing event cards, which may allow one to improve one's wit, beauty, etc., mess up other players' attempts to do the same, or produce entirely random effects (the parties are especially bad for this).

As Kitty Bennet, I covertly planned not to marry at all. I think technically that card is meant to be played face-up, but it was too much fun to increase my Beauty and Wit beyond all reasonable measure, and then spurn the advances of the gentlemen. Still came second by a tie-breaker.

And this was before I'd had most of the beer.

Splendor next, where a new player did altogether too well, though I pulled out a creditable second place.

And finally Fresco in its Big Box incarnation (made somewhat more confusing by having components for lots of expansions included with it). This has the usual Eurogame oddities: you're a master painter working on restoring a fresco, but if you get your apprentices up early in the morning, nobody else can get theirs up at the same time. And the bishop only comes over to look at your work when you pay him.

Usually this sort of thing is very much not my style, but as with Splendor, the theme was loose enough that I could look through it and just play the game. I came in second again, and was quite surprised and fairly happy with that.

And so to bed.


Breakfast included black pudding. No tomato juice, but if that's the trade-off I'm happy with it.

The large games company AEG is getting a little strange with its marketing. (A Spinal Tap tie-in? No, a Black Friday promotion, containing four games which weren't announced in advance: people were buying it blind, at least for the first few minutes until someone announced the contents on-line.)

Only four games today, but three of them were quite long, starting with my Firefly including all expansions. The scenario was Jailbreak, and we had five players, including three newcomers to the game.

Things went reasonably well for me at first, except for the whole no money, no easy way of making money, problem. With Blue Sun in play we had lots of Reaver attacks, but I was able to fend them off by "killing" the captain and then un-disgruntling him.

(All my pirating rolls went badly; all my opponents' pirating rolls went well.)

The poker chips (spotted very cheap at Lidl) worked very well as cash, though it seems a shame not to use the beautiful paper currency that comes with the game. For a properly seedy atmosphere one probably ought to use both at once.

Reavers, Reavers everywhere, as those of us who had no chance of winning helped gather them round the final goal to make life more interesting for the people who might win. The two more experienced players came last by a fair margin.

After that and a short break, I was able to try Eclipse, a game that was very popular here a few years ago when it was released but which I hadn't previously played. The player sheet is fairly cunning: one removes discs and cubes from the right-hand end of each track near the bottom to place them in play, and the leftmost number revealed is the score for something related. So each action disc played increases the cost of running your empire, while each population cube deployed on a planet gets you more money, science or materials.

The map is set up with no contact between players, but rapidly starts to fill up.

Sectors have worlds, aliens, strange artefacts, and so on. There's a very limited supply of sectors away from the centre, to force players into conflict.

Before long they were all gone, and we were running short on useful resources.

Then two of my neighbours suddenly started arming. To beat the aliens, of course, not against me.

Still, I was able to spread out a reasonable amount in my own arm.

Black ramped across the centre, though there wasn't any player vs player attacking. Just as I'd finally got together some ships tough enough to go after the aliens near me, Yellow moved in to attack them instead.

So once he'd done that, I went after him (it was the last turn and I hadn't fought anything).

I won that fight (though he'd sneaked round the back and bombed some of my colony worlds). More surprisingly, Black sent one of his dreadnoughts after my forward starbase, which managed to beat him off: he'd loaded up on weapons and targeting computers, but (deliberately) neglected shields and armour.

I still came last, which is fair enough. I did enjoy it, but I feel no great need to buy a copy; once in a while will be enough. (My games collection, while large, is gradually converging on games that I almost always feel happy to play, more than ones that I only want to play once in several months.)

Michael Cule's GURPS Action game was next, and it's a bit silly to photograph RPGs. Suffice it to say that there were worlds within worlds, and loops within loops, and (as is proper in a caper story) everyone was being played. Still, playing as an Impulsive Overconfident face man, I think that greeting a patrol of obvious bad guys with "aha, you must be our escort" was a good moment. Some very haunting imagery.

I finished off the evening with 7 Wonders, another game that escaped me first time round. It reminded me somewhat of the more recent Among the Stars with its hand-passing mechanic, and similarly to the two-player game of that the fact that one would never see any given cards again meant in effect that one couldn't do much in the way of planning.

It would have been nice if I'd had a better idea of what would be a prerequisite for what, but I still ended up with a plausible enough city/wonder, including vastly too much military strength (I think we probably call this the Hanging Motte and Bailey of Babylon), and came a surprising fourth out of seven players. Luck? Probably.


Lovely frost-flowers on the car as I was loading. (And melted by the time I was driving. Who says early is good?)

Mostly chat today, but I got in a couple of games: one of Quantum, which I got for Christmas.

I played against two novices, and beat them, but not so thoroughly as to make it un-fun for them. It's a game one can pick up quickly, which I rather like. Unfortunately it's made to appeal almost exactly to my taste (don't care about the pretty visuals, do like the sense of space empires in the balance, but also like a game that plays fast) so it will almost certainly fail in the market, as things I like usually do.

Finally four-player Revolution! (therefore no expansions). After a very rough first couple of turns, purple came from behind to win by a fair margin over the experienced orange player. (I was, well, in there somewhere. Ish. OK, not actually last.)

(At the same time, some other people were playing with my copy of Dead of Winter, since apparently most of the non-Kickstarter stock was destroyed in a warehouse fire and although they're reprinting it's very scarce at the moment. Hadn't realised…)

Home by car, with a detour through Stoke-on-Trent to avoid long motorway queues that cropped up for no obvious reason; the mist started at Birmingham, and was fog by the time I reached Wycombe.

  1. Posted by Michael Cule at 02:53pm on 05 January 2015

    I got a ground floor room and didn't even have to deal with the antique lift with the cage-like doors that keeps getting stuck on the top floor when people don't close them fully. Clearly turning up ludicrously early is sometimes useful. (I did have to put up with an upstairs neighbour on the Friday night who kept talking on his phone until gone one in the morning but it's better than having someone hold a party in the room next door that I had a couple of years ago.)

    Glad you enjoyed the game: yes, bluffing your way past the German patrol is just the way to go and the dice were with you. I felt better about the way the two GURPS newbies enjoyed the game than I did about the one I did at Worldcon.

  2. Posted by RogerBW at 03:00pm on 05 January 2015

    I got in around 4.30 having had a slow start to the day.

    Annoyingly, my room was pretty much directly above where most of the games were happening, and right next to a fire escape. If only they hadn't put alarms on the blasted escape door, I could have got between bedroom and games in about half the time.

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