RogerBW's Blog

Stabcon 2016 26 January 2016

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.


Another easy drive up, though I left pretty early so as to do it mostly in daylight.

I paused on the way out to have a look at the famous Stockport Pyramid. (Fame may not be available in all areas.)

I was in a Leaving Earth sort of mood, and got into a short two-player game with:

  • Artificial Satellite
  • Man in Space
  • Lunar Survey
  • Lunar Lander
  • Venus Lander
  • Man on the Moon
  • Man on Mars
  • Venus Sample Return

We found a couple of physical changes made play easier: keep 25 spacebucks in your own player area, just turning them face down when they're spent, and only moving cash to or from the bank when you have extra money or change to worry about. (Actually a score-style track might work pretty well here, perhaps something like a cribbage board.)

Also, we removed planets and areas that aren't being used, in this case Ceres and Mercury. The chance of a "valuable minerals" result wasn't going to be worth a zero-points sample return mission.

I ended up doing a lot of mission planning, but kept switching goals, which was a major error. It became clear that Man on Mars wasn't going to happen before the end of the game.

My opponent had picked up most of the early goals, and I'd wasted the money on false starts. I ended up with an Ion-driven Venus sample return that just squeaked in under the deadline to give me the win.

Observed elsewhere: Swinging Jivecat Voodoo Lounge, where you're trying to run the most popular Fifties cocktail lounge. Yes, you hang cocktail monkeys on the side of a Martini glass to keep score.

Star Wars: Armada, very pretty (especially the fighter stands) but still not for me.

Churchill, a three-player game in which the leaders of the Allies try both to win the war and to attain their own goals in the division of the spoils later.

Lots of chat, and to bed.


Some Stabcons have lots of short games; others have a few long ones. This turned out to be the latter. Leaving Earth again in the morning, with three players and:

  • Sounding Rocket
  • Man in Space
  • Artificial Satellite
  • Space Station
  • Ceres Sample Return
  • Mars Lander
  • Phobos Sample Return
  • Mars Station

There was rather more interaction in this one, as we traded rockets, made a joint development of ion thrusters, and even sold each other spare payload space.

We removed the unused Venus and Mercury tiles, but left the Moon in place: apart from anything else, lunar orbit is a convenient place to shuttle back and forth to while testing ion drives.

In the end I lost through poor planning. I (Blue) and White were racing for the Mars Lander+Station missions, both using ion-powered minimum-time paths and arriving on the same turn, but I brought my Ceres sample (arriving while the missions were en route) back to Earth rather than leaving it in orbit; thereby had more points than White; and thereby came later in the turn order. Something to remember for the future.

(Also: letting other players take those early missions, for the cash boost, is all very well but victory points are useful too!)

We did find that in the late stages we had very little to do: there was no point in launching more missions, or spending or acquiring money. Also, when several goals were clustered together (like the two Mars ones), it was clear that the best way of achieving them was in a single mission.

I wonder how it would work to have all the goals up for grabs? Clearly the game would get a bit longer, but it would remove some of the randomness from the game setup.

There were lots of games being posted for sale this year. I really should remember to take some I don't play very often along to the next one!

The rest of the day was taken up with RPGs: first, Michael Cule's 40th anniversary of starting role-playing with Dungeon World (which I now feel I understand a bit better, and even wouldn't mind playing again; I particularly like the way it makes players complicit in coming up with bad stuff to happen to their characters without removing most of the sense of involvement).

Then, after supper, TRUANT INKWELL iteration #4. Thanks to some extremely suspicious, not to say paranoid, players they came out of this with no deaths, though also not quite as much information as they could have gathered.


Sunday morning was for Firefly. I'd put up a signup sheet and got three more players, but two of them didn't turn up and the third was new to the game (though he knew the series), so we ended up playing Respectable Persons of Business with a standard game setup.

(The business card stands drew a lot of admiring attention.)

I took Marco with the Artful Dodger, while my opponent had Nandi aboard Yun Qi. Most of my initial reasonably-balanced crew got arrested or killed during one bad run across Alliance space, but I eventually got back a decent collection.

Then, while buying fuel on Persephone, I had a sudden urge to take a third new card rather than considering something from the discard pileā€¦ and turned up River Tam, having already had Simon from the first Buy draw. With a sacrificial Tracey to throw to the Alliance if I got stopped again, it was time for crime.

Why yes, I shall, thank you very much. (Particularly when River rolled three Tech when I was opening the vault.) So that was a clear victory for me, but I think the other guy enjoyed it, and the whole game was done in around two hours.

I was a bit wiped after a late night with some noise, so decided to drive home in daylight.

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