Wednesday, September 24, 2014

More Game Night Weddings

A few years ago, I was able to attend a wedding between two close friends who were both Game Night regulars.  It was awesome and a ton of fun and appropriately geeky.

Now, it's been my pleasure to attend two more Game Night wedding events - both couples actually met at Game Night.

Barb & Andrew had a small family-only ceremony, but for their reception, they rented out the local game store and invited much of the game night crew. They didn't have a first dance - they had a first game.  They didn't have a Dollar Dance - they had a dollar game.  For their bouquet and garter, they had mini-tournaments.  There were open games on every table, and guests were encouraged to play.  There were signups so you could play games with the bride and groom.

All in all, it was well-done and a ton of fun. And I am very glad I was able to attend.

Barb & Andrew are the couple Steph and I occasionally get to play Mah Jong with, so we gave them a set (and a copy of the book I used to learn the game).

Derek & Selena's ceremony was a ton of fun.  The ceremony itself was in rhyme with a meter that was deliberately reminiscent of Dr. Seuss.

Selena used to attend Game Night since it was held in my apartment, more than a decade ago. Derek didn't start attending until after we'd moved to the game store. When Jim moved to California, Derek was my closest rival at Game Night. Even though he beat me at everything, it was usually a close match.

Neither of them are regulars at Game Night these days, and I miss them both, so I'm glad I was able to attend their wedding. It was good to see them again and spend some time chatting.

It was also good to see friends who I don't get to see very often.  I think one of the highlights for me was when one friend asked me, "You still doing that game thing for that publisher?"

"Dude," said another of his friends, "They're not that little. They just bought Days of Wonder!"

Either way, it's been two weekends surrounded by people I wish I could see more often.

Thanks to both couples for the invitations. I'm glad to have been a part of your celebrations.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Lords of Xidit

Last week, I finally had the chance to play Lords of Xidit.

I liked it.

Lords of Xidit is apparently a new version of a game previously called Himalaya. As with many new versions, there are a few changes.  Unfortunately, I don't know Himalaya, But there is a file that Libellud put together that lists the changes.

In Lords of Xidit, you will program your turn six moves (one year) in advance.  Each move, you can either move, take action, or pass.

Moves involve moving your piece along a colored road to the next city. Taking action is either recruiting the lowest-value troop in a given city or spending troops you have recruited to deal with a threat.  And passing is ... well ... doing nothing.

Lords of Xidit

The pieces are good. The board is bright. The rules are pretty straightforward. The only complaint I have with the game is one of player interaction: There isn't much.

Because you're programming six turns in advance, any player interaction is limited to timing things.  In fact, that's why "Pass" is an available action. Since you can only recruit once per city per year, and you always recruit the lowest-valued unit in a city, you will sometimes want to pass so that your opponent can draft first and grab that peasant.

Recruiting is easy. Just show up and take action.  Dealing with the threats, however, is a bit trickier, because each threat is a monster who is menacing that city. And each monster requires a specific set of troops to be defeated. Some of them are easier than others. And each threat gives you a reward for defeating it - more on that in a few minutes.

But if you defeat a threat two actions before I was programmed to go to that city and defeat that threat, I'll get nothing. My "Action" turns into a "Pass."  Which, as I'm sure you can guess, is a bit frustrating.

So the extent of the player interaction is trying to figure out who will be where and at what point so that you can either get there ahead of them to deal with the threat or just after them so that you can recruit the better troop.

Three times during the game, a census is held, and the players who have the most of each type of troop will gain a benefit of some sort. These benefits are identical to the benefits you'll get from slaying monsters, only toned down (usually).

Each threat tile has three specific benefits printed on it.  You can choose two of the three.  You will either win money, fame (in the form of bard tokens) or the support of the Wizards' Guild (in the form of a Wizard's Tower marker).  Early in the game, players will scramble for the Guild markers, because each city's branch of the Guild will only support one player. Later in the game, money and fame become more important.

After twelve years, a winner is determined through a knockout. One of the three victory conditions (which are tied to the three possible rewards) is calculated, and the player is last place is eliminated. Then the second condition is calculated and, again, the player is last place is eliminated.  Finally, the third condition is checked, and there will be only one player left standing.

If you have five players, then the first condition eliminates two players instead of one.

The order the conditions are checked is random, and changes every game. However they are set up before play starts, so players know which conditions are most important to avoid elimination. But you can't ignore any of the conditions.

Your first play of this game will - like many games - be a lot of random flailing and looking for the strategy.  After multiple plays, you'll start to look at the "upcoming" part of the board, where you can see where the next few threats will appear so you can be there and ready before they are even on the board.

Long-term, I think the game has legs.  It's not the best game I brought back from GenCon, but it's a long ways from the bottom of the pile. I don't expect this to hit the table every week, but I do think it's going to be a regular fixture in my car so that we can play it if we want to.

And it looks like I'm not alone in that train of thought, either.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Black Fleet

One of the games we brought home from GenCon was Black Fleet.  It's a simple pickup and deliver game with a couple of "Take That!" elements. And some of the cutest/best bits I've seen in a while.


The goal of the game is simple: Rescue the Governor's Daughter by raising enough money to pay for her ransom.

Black Fleet

Each turn, you'll play a card.  This card allows you to move three ships - your merchant ship, your pirate ship, and one of the navy's ships. The card may also allow you to draw some other cards that do a variety of things.  The goal of the merchant is to haul cubes from one location to the next.  The goal of the pirate is to steal cubes from merchants and then bury them.  The goal of the navy is to sink the pirates.

Merchants start with and can carry three cubes, pirates can carry one cube, and the navy doesn't bother with these goods cubes.

Hauling cubes to a port gives you money.  Attacking merchants gives you money. Burying treasure gives you money.  Sinking pirates ... gives you money. Surprising, no?

What is surprising is that the money is metal coins.  Small metal coins, but still metal coins.

Each player has a bunch of upgrade cards in front of them, too.   Every player has a different set of upgrades, too.  One upgrade that I had allowed my ships to move across island spaces. Another gave me extra money when my merchant sank a pirate.  One of my opponents had a merchant who was capable of sinking pirates. You need to purchase all of your upgrades before you can pay the ransom for the Governor's daughter.

As I said: It's not a difficult game.  In fact, it's quite simple. You could play this with a ten-year-old.

It's not a game that will hit the table every week for me, but it's also not a game that will be banished to the garage.  I look forward to playing this one some more.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

In Days To Come

We have a long weekend coming up here in the US, and I'm going to try to take full advantage by digging out my cameras to grab some photos of some of the games we brought back from GenCon.

Games I especially want to photograph due to awesome bits:

Cyclades: Titans
Lords of Xidit
Black Fleet

And then I'm going to spend a few weeks here talking about these games. And the others we brought home.

I've also been asked by several people already for my thoughts on Asmodee buying Days of Wonder.

It's big news. Two titans merging.

I'm in favor, and it can only help both parties. As you read this, please keep in mind: I have not seen the contracts. I'm speculating, here. I don't have any actual inside information about this merger (and didn't beforehand, either).
  1. Both publishers have presence in some of the big box retailers - Target, Wal*Mart, Toys "R" Us - with only some overlap. The buyout strengthens both publishers' positions with regard to the mainstream toy-buying public.
  2. Both publishers have dabbled in electronic/video games.  Days of Wonder has dabbled more and has been very successful.  Now their video game publishing partners may get access to a much larger library of very good games. Depending on the specifics of the contract.
  3. If you look closely, there's a note in the post (and in every similar post I could find) that indicates that Days of Wonder will continue doing its thing as-is. Initially, the only difference DoW employees will notice is the signature on their paycheck will change.  In fact, it sounds like the latest game - Five Tribes - was pretty much already a collaborative effort with Asmodee.
  4. I trust Asmodee. After ten years, they haven't let me down. Seriously. They're one of those companies who are putting out good games instead of just flooding the market to see what sticks.
In unrelated news, I should be at Origins next year. And GenCon. And maybe BGG.con, if Asmodee isn't tired of me by then.  It's going to be a good year to be me.  It's been a decade since I went to Origins, and Stephanie has never been. And we have friends in the area that it'll be good to see again.  I've never been to BGG.con.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Getting Your Stuff Home From The Convention

Most years, I post a pic of our GenCon Loot. I didn't this year, because it was all Asmodee games which I've been talking about (and a few that I need to talk about) with one RPG exception and a couple of T-Shirts. And one piece of #PonyWar ammunition.

But my friends at home will sometimes ask me how I got all that stuff back home "in one suitcase." Because when we leave home, we only have one bag and a couple of carry-ons.

So let me de-mystify this for you.

I have a couple of advantages when it comes to getting things home. I travel as a couple and my GenCon employer provides me with a uniform.

When packing, I grab the bare minimum necessary to survive without smelling. I don't pack soap or shampoo (the hotel provides those). I don't pack razors (I can buy disposables in Indy and then leave them there). Having a Kindle means I don't have to pack books to keep me entertained on the trip (even though I make sure to have one or two).

Clothing-wise, I grab half as many shirts as I should plus one or two, just to be safe. Because I'm wearing an Asmodee shirt all day, it's not like I'm sweating into my shirts and I can get away with wearing them for two evenings. I actually make sure I have extra pairs of socks to reduce the number of blisters that I get (which is still excessive, but much better than it could be).

Stephanie does more-or-less the same with her packing.

We then take all of those clothes and put them into our big dufflebag.  We then take another dufflebag, fold it up, and stick it inside the first dufflebag.

We also don't completely fill our carry-on bags. And, in fact, we're allowed one carry-one and one personal item by most airports. On the way out, Steph and I don't usually have one personal item. We just have our carry-on.

This means that - out of a possible four small bags and two larger ones, we ship out with two small and one large. But we return home with two large and three or four small (as needed).

Do our games get banged up in the boxes?  Sometimes. But if a game is in regular play, the box will get banged up anyhow. I'd much rather the box were banged up than its contents. And books are tough. Crazy-tough. Realistically, we've only had one box banged up to the point of needing tape - and that was Abyss. This year.

But that's how we get home with a ton more stuff than we left with.  We occasionally hit the weight limit with the big bag on the way home, but the airline's overweight fees are usually less than what it'd cost to ship the same stuff via UPS or FedEx.

Speaking of: UPS has a presence at the convention. Some of the hotels downtown have "business centers" which often ALSO include a presence for UPS or FedEx or even the USPS.  Get a quote at the convention center. Then get a quote from your hotel. Sometimes a bit of extra walking can save you some money. Especially if you can get a written quote from them - UPS and FedEx are competitors, and sometimes they'll work to beat each others' quotes.  Your employer may have a UPS or FedEx account you can use for shipping, too. Check with them and see if you can get permission to use it, because (depending on who your employer is), you may have access to a premium rate for shipping that is less than you'd be quoted as a member of the general public.

But that's how we manage to get all that stuff home while shipping out with "just one suitcase."

Tuesday, August 19, 2014


I'm glad to be home.

Really, really crazy-glad to be home.

And I'm back at work already.

But I wanted to take a minute to show you all what the best team in the history of GenCon looks like.

Thanks to Christophe A. for sharing the pic on FB.

These are the folks I've spent the last four days with.  And, as usual, one or two folks are missing from the photo. But this mob ran demos, tournaments, and sales this year.

As usual, thanks to Asmodee for the opportunity.

I'll see you guys next year.

Sunday, August 17, 2014


It's all over, now, but for the flight home.

I really don't like endings.  Our Dresden Files RPG game ended a few weeks ago, and I kept trying to write about it - but I couldn't find words that did it justice. Because I really loved that game - even though we'd hit the point that we'd intended to hit, I wanted to go on.

And now GenCon has ended for the year.  We had the best crew ever in the history of ever. With tons of new people whose names I still don't know (but I'm sure I'll get some names when the photo appears on Facebook and people start the tagging process).

I saw friends from home (Bruce and Barbara and Andrew and Katie). I saw friends from Indianapolis (Nate and Todd and Chris). We saw some regulars (Eric and Sabrina and the Kids and a few others).  I chatted with game designers and artists and illustrators (Bruno Faidutti, Bruno Cathala, Antoine Bauza and several others).

And then there are the team members who are there every year. Christophe, Stefan, Carol, Jules, Choukri, Giancarlo, and Aidan just to list the full time Asmodee people. And I know I'm forgetting people, too, which makes me feel bad later ...

GenCon for me is the biggest social event of the year. It's like weddings and Christmas and the good parts of my birthday all rolled up into one four-day package of awesome.

Every year, I go home not wanting to go home.

There were some real highlights this year:

Remember a few years ago when Asmodee turned me into a contest? It was because they were apparently having trouble getting photos of me smiling while demoing games.  Barbara inadvertantly made me laugh really hard this weekend with one simple question: "Why don't you smile this much at home?"

Watching Bruno Cathala playing Win, Lose, or Banana at the post-convention team dinner was an absolute joy. He's one of those people who loves to have fun and will let the fun show through every fiber of his being. It made a funny game even more entertaining.

Giancarlo is one of my favorite people to just hang out with. Stephanie likes hanging with him too, because he makes her feel tall. Or, at least, closer to average. He and I love exchanging insults as a sign of respect. Any time spent with Giancarlo is generally a good time.

We were setting up when I heard my name being called by someone with a British accent.  It was Aidan.  "I just want to thank you for turning me on to Brandon Sanderson," he told me, before raving about the books he'd been reading.  I really love it when my recommendations are on-target for someone.

There was the shocking realization that "the kids" are - some of them - now old enough to vote. They've been coming to our booth for demos for the last seven years.  Since we were demoing Senji.

I love it when I can learn someone's kryptonite, too.  Apparently Elizabeth's kryptonite is Peanut M&M's.  Now we can add that to the list. Washington Wine for Christophe, Seattle-area chocolates for Gil, and now Peanut M&M's for Elizabeth.

Seeing Nate and his wife and daughter was a real joy on Sunday, too. The little one is a crazy-hardcore Whovian, and has been dressed like one of the Doctor's companions every time she's been to GenCon. And that's not all Nate's influence, either.

I had someone bow out of a Cyclades: Titans demo because he had an event to get to, "And I'm not going to win with this setup."  I stepped in and won on the next turn. Apparently I know Cyclades a bit too well. I need to be careful to only use this power for good.

I was able to teach Concept to a ton of folks. The best thing about teaching that game is watching for the light bulb. Because you can see when it clicks for people, based on how they fumble for the markers.

Ben, who worked on tournaments with me last year, is now the North American Champion for Netrunner. 

At one point, I had started a Cyclades demo. There were people stacked three and four deep waiting for an Abyss demo, and I talked them into a Splendor demo while they waited. "You won't lose your spot in line for Abyss," I reassured them.  They ended up buying Splendor and Abyss.

I realized after the dinner this evening just how much some of the team appreciates me. And Steph. Just based on how they reacted as we said our good-byes.

Christophe: Thank you for inviting me on this ride so many years ago. We started small, but the sky's not limit, and you have taught me every single year that there is more and better yet to come.

I may not have a post up this Wednesday, but I now have a ton of new games to play and write about, so I doubt I'll take more than one week off. I'll see you when I'm back.  And thank you for continuing to read.