RogerBW's Blog

Midcon, November 2019 20 November 2019

I went to Midcon, a long-running boardgame convention in Derby.

Getting there took a while; parts of the town centre were flooded (the waitress at breakfast on Saturday gleefully told us that the bus station and the main road out of town were both closed), and certainly the Derwent was up to the top of its banks as I drove in.

It's a pleasant old-fashioned hotel with large rooms – and longer corridors than I've been down for a while. (Modern hotels tend to have a smaller footprint and to go up further; this one only has three floors in total.)

I spotted a certain theme in the decoration of the room, too.

Gaming is split among several rooms, and I was glad I'd made arrangements to play with particular people – not that anyone is unfriendly, but even more than somewhere like Handycon or Stabcon (where most of the gaming is in one big room) it would be hard to turn up at the right time to get into a group. Especially with my trolley of games.

(And boardgaming is huge enough that out of a 200+-person convention I only knew about ten people there by sight. I think it's a more local crowd than those other conventions.)

The gaming began with Essen acquisition Bloom Town, which unlike most city-building games doesn't leave you with a completed board at the end; in fact I think we ended up with less than half of any board filled. Definitely one to try again, with some interesting mechanisms, though I don't think it'll be a passionate favourite.

Dice Hospital next, a close and hard-fought game where almost nobody died.

I don't think the real beer completely ran out on the first night, but it was close. Certainly these were the only bottles I saw all weekend.

I tried out Qwixx which seems to require hard choices before one sees how the game's going to develop (one can go for a fast completion that'll end the game quickly or a slower but higher-scoring one).

Then Stone Age, which I'd never played before; coming third against three experienced players seems all right to me.

Finally for Friday evening, Dutch Blitz, which was too frantic for me to take any pictures.

On Saturday I wandered along the road to see what the flooding was like. (The hotel is just south-west of the station.)

There was fog.

Sure enough, the river was flowing fast, and the path along the bank was distinctly underwater. (But I think this was probably about as high as it got.)

The gaming day started with Encore! (aka Noch Mal), another roll-and-write; I could see a bit more potential for strategy here than in Qwixx, and I'd like to give it another try some time.

Another Essen acquisition next, Mental Blocks, where on reflection we thought that both the potential traitor mode and the restrictions might be more trouble than they were worth, but we very much liked the core idea.

Practically-themeless Eurogame Spyrium next, in which I managed a decent bit of engine-building (automated mines plus a good factory = 15 points per turn for two meeples) and was very happy with my second place.

We split into smaller groups, and I played Mystic Vale, a card-modification game (with cunning sleeves so that as you buy more stuff you add it to your existing cards). I never seemed to hit the right symbols for the "Veil" cards that allow big points, and did very badly; fun, yes, but oddly flavourless, not to mention clearly not taking full advantage of the potential of the system (for example, there was no card that would overlay and cancel an earlier improvement). There are expansions, and other games using the same basic idea, but I didn't feel tempted. Alternative name: "Vegetable Love".

Another Essen acquisition next, Lovelace & Babbage, aka "Mental Arithmetic: The Card Game": you're trying to reach target numbers by using the various arithmetical operations available on the board. Three of us tied on 35 points, which was… impressive.

In between these games I'd been interacting with the Bring and Buy, which was quite odd. For reasons of tradition, there's a 15-minute checking-in slot, followed by 30 minutes of shopping, followed by 15 minutes of checking out unsold items and getting one's money; then after several hours' gap the same thing happens again, but checking in now includes changing prices on things that didn't sell in the first session. This year was the first time they had a public web site for the database of items for sale, and it more or less worked, though there was a lot more queueing than there needed to be since everyone had to cram into the same short time slots. (The obvious advantage is that you only need people working on the bring and buy for about two hours out of the Saturday, rather than all convention.) Still, I got rid of one large and one medium box and bought one medium one, so a net benefit.

Over on the Tapestry table their game came to an end with mixed but mostly positive feelings.

After supper, we played FUSE while waiting for the quiz to begin. I very much enjoyed it, and I think I may look for a second-hand copy.

The quiz itself was quite fun, but very sports-orientated by my standards, and oddly with absolutely no board-game content.

Breakfast was odd. Competently done, but I think they were rather short of people (apparently the dining room at the hotel across the road, owned by the same chain, had just been closed) and they operated a system such that you'd be greeted and led to a table while the next member of staff stepped up to greet the next person. (Most convention hotels that try this give it up as a bad job by Sunday and just let people find their own tables.) I got up earlier on Sunday morning to avoid the rush (also having been woken by the sound of torrential rain which turned out to be the shower in the room next door; unexpected, because the room had been pretty quiet until then).

Since I was up early, I snagged a table and played some Hostage Negotiator while waiting for the others to arrive. One success, one failure, two plays ticked off my 10×10 list (which is now looking like an 8×10 since I've sold two of the games I put on it).

I played some two-player Illimat to give an idea of what the game was like, but this was cut slightly short by more people arriving.

So we went onto Alchemists, great fun even if you do need either a gamesmaster or an app to run the logic puzzle side of it. (Personally I could have done with more of the logic puzzle and less of the Eurogame resource management, but I still enjoyed it and I wouldn't mind playing it again.)

And then home, the floods having mostly gone away.

[Buy Dice Hospital at Amazon] [Buy Qwixx at Amazon] [Buy Stone Age at Amazon] [Buy Dutch Blitz at Amazon] [Buy Encore! at Amazon] [Buy Spyrium at Amazon] [Buy Mystic Vale at Amazon] [Buy FUSE at Amazon] [Buy Hostage Negotiator at Amazon] [Buy Illimat at Amazon] [Buy Alchemists at Amazon] and help support the blog.

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