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Belgoludique V en Landennes 20-25th of February 2004.
(To see the photos, click at the index to the left)

Gaming convent ”Belgoludique” in Landenne
2004-02-20--25
   

Link to official site for Belgoludique

Friday 20th of February
Up at 4:15 in the morning and picked up by Mikael Svensson and his girlfriend Anna who drove us to the airport. We had time for breakfast after check-in. We flew quite cheap with Virgin-Express to Brussels and arrived a couple of hours later. A train into the centre of town for some sight-seeing as Mikael never had been in the city before. It was at chilly as at home with a temperature just below zero, but otherwise nice and sunny.
 

Started to see the famous but small statue Manneken Pis, a tour to Grand Place with the most beautiful buildings in the city. We ate a sandwich with hot chocolate on a café to warm us up before we continued. We found some lovely quarters, where there were plenty of restaurant. A walk up to the cathedral of Ste Gudule and St Michael. Not one of the largest I’ve seen, but it has many lovely window paintings. Then we continued up to the park outside the Royal Palace.

We continued by the metro to the station of Merode, which is painted with scenes from Tintin comics. I wanted at least to see if I could find some new interesting games in the shop Dedale, but didn’t find anything new. At least we found a place for lunch, before we went to Stokkel by the metro. After some strolling around the shopping centre, we went to “Chocolatier Marcolini”, which got the nomination of the best chocolate shop in the world 1995. It looked to be really nice, although expensive. Anyway it was a good place for some souvenirs to bring home.

After 17:00 we got picked up by Xavier Houppertz, who kindly brought us the one hour trip to Landennes between Brussels and Liège, where we should spend the next few days at the farm “La Ferme du Chant d'Oiseau” together with 68 other gaming geeks. The place seemed to be an old restored mansion, which mainly nowadays is used for school classes to learn more about farm animals, as there were quite a lot different ones. On the bottom were the hall with several shelves with plenty of games to choose from. Both from clubs and private persons attending the convent.

I started to play an old Sid Sackson game called Can’t Stop. A simple dice game, where you gambled on trying to reach the top of the mountains on 11 paths corresponding the dice throws 2-12 from two dice. Rated 4 of 10.

Afterwards we had the first of great three-course dinners and lunches. Even got some wine, but I had to keep low if I wanted to continue playing afterwards. We ate on long table in the stable building, which was heated by a kind of heater at one end of the room.

As a get together game, most people started to play a tournament with the game Coyote, which idea was to guess the sum of numbers all people had put on a band on their foreheads. You saw all numbers, except your own and as someone thought that your guess was too high, he could ask too count the sum. The loser got a point as a picture of a coyote to stick at their band and when you had got three of them, then you were out of the game. In our game the final was between Thierry and Etienne. Etienne started with a “max card”, which made Thierry win immediately and this really showed how much of luck it was in the game. A typical party game, which isn’t my cup of tea, but ok to get to know people. Rated 3 of 10.

Next game was a tournament with San Juan, which I was so curious about, that I had translated the rules a week before, so I felt really surprised that Philippe actually had printed this translation from BoardGameGeek to use! The game was as good as expected. As any card game there is a luck of draw, but the theme and double function of the cards as both buildings and money worked well. It was easy to see that there are different paths of strategy to explore, whenever I get the hand of a copy. Unfortunately I made a bad draw already in the first choice of cards (we used the advanced rules immediately, where first player got 5 cards, second 6 etc and all discarded down to 4 cards before starting to play). I choose 4 expensive buildings I wanted and forgot that I in this way couldn’t pay for the building when the first builder role was chosen. I had difficult to catch up from this and finally Vincianne won. At another table did Mikael succeed to win and continue to the final. No doubt it’s rated 8 of 10, which is high for a card game.

I was really tired when I went to bed just after midnight a 20-hour day. Still it was only Mikael who had went to bed before me.

Saturday 21st of February
Most beds were filled up in our 8-bed dormitory when we woke up at 9 o’clock. Mikael had already went down for breakfast, which was a continental one with bread, jam or chocolate and something hot to drink or juice. Maybe little according to Swedish standard, but enough to manage until lunch 12:30.
 

The first game of the day was one of my favourites of the year: Attika. We played it twice and both times it was a temple connection win. First by me and then by Thierry. This is still rated 8 of 10.

Next game was the hyped homemade game Kogge. A logistic game, where you transport goods and establish offices in 9 cities around the Baltic Sea. One of the interesting mechanics were the route markers, which could be used both as money for auctions and to determine routes from one city to another or as trading goods if you are in the same city as the Guild Master. The mechanism work really well and I don’t hesitate to give it an initial rating 9 of 10.

Then it was time to test a prototype by Xavier Georges, called Kansas City. (The photos of the game are published with his permission). It is a mix of logistic, resource handling, trading and negotiation. It worked smoothly at the beginning, but unfortunately lost tempo at the end, so it’s apparently not finished, but with some rework it has a good chance to be much better. Anyway it’s promising. It’s unfair to give it a rate before it’s finished.

Finally I had a chance to test the “yellow game” Magna Grecia. Although slightly too abstract it was really interesting in the beginning, but the two last rounds (of 12) ended up so that most of us only had city tiles remaining and it wasn’t really worth playing them, so it might have felt better if the game had been shortened (there’s a variant with only 8 rounds). I had a feeling that even if I had control of 4 of the oracles, I should have established more small cities instead. None of us couldn’t really figure out what went wrong with the game. Anyway the game didn’t suffer much of analyses, which have been a big critic to this game. Rated 6 of 10.

I wrapped up the evening with a 2-player game of San Juan with Thierry, which was as good and interesting as the 4-player game. The main difference is that the Governor takes the 1st and 3rd role before it changes player.

Sunday 22nd of February
Up just before 10 and both me and Mikael went out for a short walk after breakfast to meet some of the animals just around the farm. The farm seemed to be a place for school classes to learn about the country life It was even more quite this morning in the gaming room.

The first game was Pueblo, a game I have passed before due to it’s abstract nature. Just as I suspected it wasn’t much for me and I will get rated 5 of 10.

As I love adventure games, I had looked a long time at Dungeoneer and now had the chance to play the variant Vault of the Fiends with Mikael. Luckily that I had the chance to play it before I bought it. Even for an adventure game it was very luck-driven. If you had a quest and yourself was able to place the room it was connected to it was a huge advantage, as well as it was a disadvantage with the opposite. I won fairly quickly due to the luck of draw. Still the levelling up feature gave some good feeling of the game. Rated 5 of 10.

After lunch we had a first prize table draw, where winners in the different tournament got a first choice. I got the game “De l’Orc pour les Braves” (“For a Few Orcs More”). A game by Alan Moon and Bruno Faidutti. Mikael got a Reiner Knizia card game, “Crazy Derby”.

After lunch I started a long game of Vikingatid with Mikael, Michael and Frederic. I would say finally, as it was the second time in more than 6 years I had the chance to play it. The disadvantage of the game is that it naturally splits in two parts, which at least in the beginning cooperate, as players belonging to the same kingdom are not allowed to war. The Swedes who go Eastwards and the Norwegians who go Westwards and Southwards. Probably it’s better with 6 players, so you can use Denmark too and the board is getting more crowded and more diplomacy is required. On the other hand it will probably take even longer than the 6 hours we used. The initiative rolls, which are made before each trade or war journey starts, makes the game unique. We tried to quicken up the game sometimes by saying that we would not interfere with each other and made the movements and local wars simultaneously. The rules felt less messier than I remembered, but the event cards together with the die rolls make it quite chaotic. Still it’s very fun to play and none of us felt how long the game was. I will still rate it 7 of 10.

I would say that indirectly Vikingatid is the reason that Mikael and I were there, as I exchanged this for Elfenland and Elfengold 6 years ago with Frederic. This contact was kept when I went to Essen 1999 for the first time and he introduced me to several other gamers from all around the world.

Frederic and I ended the evening with a couple of games of Scarab Lords. A small Reiner Knizia game from FFG. I like this little 2-player game, although I still haven’t played it with the advanced rules. The first one was an easy win for me, but after a really tough second game, Frederic succeeded to win it.

The time rolled on until 2:00 before I went to bed, although it seemed to only be one another in bed at that time…

Monday 23th of February
Still not many up for breakfast at 10:00. Mikael, Vincianne and I started with a game of Maka Bana. The first published game by Francois Haffner. A quite abstract bluffing game. Even if I had won, I doubt that I had liked it. The maximal rating is 3 of 10.
 

Finally it was time for the next foreseen long game: Roads and Boats. I have played a single game on BoardGameGeek plus started a test game with Frederic T, so I know quite well the rules, so Frederic explained the rules to Thomas. The 4th player was Dimitri, who had played it before. Fortunately Frederic had already set-up a scenario, which is pretty easy for beginners. After lunch we started the game and I really love this game of logistics and the first 5 hours passed quite quickly, although it was quite a lot of analyses, particularly by Dimitri, but sometimes also by Thomas. I didn’t mind it much as Frederic and I sat chatting in between the moves. The problem was rather that sometimes I didn’t keep track in which phase we were. It’s really pity that it takes so long time, because this is probably the best game ever that I won’t even try to find a copy of, as I won’t find any player at home to join me, less 2-3 of them.

We interrupted the game 18:30 to change clothes for the Western themed evening. Myself I just had jeans trousers and shirt plus black and white cow horn, with pink ears. It’s a pity that I couldn’t pack all of the dress… During the dinner I sat beside two nearly unrecognisable Mexicans, Anne-Cathrine and her husband Dimitri. When we spoke, it turned out that she works on the same company as me, but in Lille and one of their best friends works on the same company as myself in Sweden! The world is sometimes small.

There were many lovely disguise as cowboys, Indians and Mexicans. There was a scene where the sheriff and his duties came in and dragged out Boulou because he hadn’t any disguise and after a while he came in with a lovely dress covered with feathers. A super show!

After dinner we went back to the main room for some small get-together games. First we got a hand of 9 standard playing cards each and we were supposed to trade with the other so we had collected one sort only to be declared a winner. First time I made a lousy job and twice I was tricked by a couple of guys. It also took a while before I know the French words for Spades, Hearts etc. Mikael on the other hand was one of the first 5 persons to collect a hand. Second time were we tied up in pairs with different backs on their card hands and both had to collect a full hand. This time I nearly made a full hand and my partner got it. Lastly we got mats, alternatively coloured markers on the floor to follow a kind of country dance. Funny that they played the song Kathmandu by the Swedish group Rednex, although none of the Belgians were aware of this.

Afterwards there were some tournament with Western themed games, but we went back to our Roads and boats for another 4-hour session, which finished at 2:00. A couple of times I and Fredric had some contact, as I was blocking him. The other two had much more conflict. Apparently this must have paid off including all of the analyses, as Dimitri won win 619 points and Thomas came 2nd with 449 points. I finished with 393 points, but came before Frederic with 373 points. This game will be rated 8 of 10, but would earn one higher if it had been shorter. Just like Vikingatid, the game passed on smoothly and never felt quite long.

Tuesday 24th of February
I started the day with another adventure game called Dwarven Dig. It worked much better than Dungeoneer. Particularly I liked the function where every bad die roll gave you a “grit”, which you may use later to ameliorate your chances on other die rolls. There were a lot of events before we all three reached the treasure chamber nearly simultaneously. I was the first to get the treasure, as I had got two secret passage cards, which made it possible to go through walls without digging. There were some conflicts when they hunted me, which I succeeded to win and finally I just had one of Yves dwarfs against me before I succeeded to win. A bit too luck-driven to be rated more than 6 of 10, but it gave some enjoy anyway.

I gang up with some in the inner room and played a game of Santiago. A real interesting brain-burner, despite this it is too abstract too appeal to me. The decisions were tough how to bid and evaluate the others bids. I liked the bidding mechanism where the first who passes get suggestions where to bid the canal of the round and he got the money for the chosen place, alternatively he had to pay one more than the highest bid to place it elsewhere. I can only rate it 6 of 10, due to it’s more or less non-existent theme. I funny thing was that when Yves explained the rules (as he was the only one to have played it before), I told him that I had difficulties to understand his French, although I understood both Stephan and Veronique without problems. They laughed and said that it must be that he is a Frenchman and not a Belgian…

We continued a game of Müll und Money (Industrial Waste), which I realised that I haven’t played more than once before, although I own the English version of the game. Yves made the best result, through both maximum production and minimum pollution and all of the time said he didn’t like to fire any people, as it is unethical… Anyway the strategy succeeded. I will still rate it 6 of 10, but it was growing this time and might get a higher rating after more plays.

After this I explained Keythedral, which actually Yves owned himself, but he had never played it. I was finished just in time for dinner, but afterwards it was a tournament of Time’s Up – special Belgoludique edition, with card having names of more or less well-known publishers, designers, reviewers and game names. I played in couple with Patrick and we were quite content with the result, although we were last due to my bad French. It was impossible to follow when Vinciane quickly spitted out one suggestion after the other. We took cards and guessed during 30 seconds before the next couple got the card deck. The first part was making full description without saying the name on the card with no limit of guessing. When all cards were found out, the next part was to say one single word and only guess once and in the last part should we describe the cards without word and just with the hands and sounds. The two funniest things were when Mik Svellov was described as “Jagger” and Greg Schloesser was described as the millionaire (Greg in the television show Bachelor?). Maybe most funny for me, as I was the only one who had met those guys in real life. With the gaming theme it was quite fun, but as a game I can only rate it 4 of 10.

The people who wanted to play Keythedral were spread out and I finally instead got the chance to play Age of Steam. Alice had played it before, so she explained the rules in French, so I had to translate to Mikael sometimes, although he seemed to follow the explanation quite well, as everything on the components of the game are in English. I had played Volldampf a couple of times before and had quite easy to understand the mechanism of the game. Some friends of mine had said it’s just an unnecessary complex version of this game, but I found that the game was much more interesting and intriguing with more choices, not least the bidding of different actions, like first move, locomotive upgrade, urbanization etc. Even if 4 of 5 players were beginners, we ended the game in about 3 hours and not 5-6 hours as some of my friends had done. Afterwards we saw that everyone, including had made a few really bad mistakes, because we didn’t understand the mechanism. We should all upgraded the locomotives faster, as well as used the town hexes much more to increase the income. On the other hand we succeeded to avoid the beginner’s fault to go bankruptcy in an early stage of the game. This is a must buy for me now and I will rate it 9 of 10.

It was bedtime around 3:00

Wednesday 25th of February
Up for breakfast at 10:00 and as usual quite quiet. I played a game of Java with Damien and Xavier H. It was the second time and still it felt to abstract and having too much of analyses to appeal to me, so it will remain rated as 6 of 10.
 

After dinner did we pack our bags and then went to the main room, where we had a quiz in 4-player teams. We didn’t do badly, although I missed both my questions, even if I got translation help, as it was difficult to understand the French in the general buzz. The winning team got to choose first from the second prize table. After that Mikael and I got the chance as the participants who had travelled longest for the convention. Mikael picked “Richelieu” on my advice, as he wanted a 2-player game and I picked a pair of starter sets of “Legend of the Five Rings CCG”, as it looked interesting and there were no other interesting large game. I also needed to carry it in my hand luggage.

After saying goodbye to our new friends we got a lift with Pierre, who drove his friend Yann to work in the middle of Brussels. We were left at the central station and took a train to the airport. We had quite a lot of time after check-in, although we too tired to do any special. An hour before departure we met a friend of us, who we knew should take the same flight home.

We were back at Gothenburg airport at 22:00 and Anna picked up us again and we were at home around 23:00, ready to work the next day.

Summary:
The best games during the convention were Kogge and Age of Steam.

The worst was Maka Bana.

The highlights of the days were the possibility to play long games like Vikingatid and Roads & Boats.

Most wanted game to play, but never got around to: Marco Polo and Giganten. 

Mikael said that he never felt outside, although his knowledge in French is very small. Maybe even our Belgian friends tried to take better care of him because of this. Most people attending the convention were either good or very good at English, although there were a few exceptions, so there is no problems for foreigners to attend the convention in the future and I hope that I’m able to come back another year, because it was really worth it when it’s 5 full days and a quite a cheap flight to Brussels.

Carl-Gustaf Samuelsson

 

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Carl-Gustaf Samuelsson