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Gaming convent ”Belgoludique VI” near Landenne at Ferme du Chant d'Oiseaux 2005-02-04--09   
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Link to official site for Belgoludique

Friday 4th of February
A good morning to sleep a while, as the airport bus to Landvetter airport (Gothenburg) didn’t leave until 10:15 and the flight around noon. I landed at 13:30 and Stavros picked me up after 14:00 together with Oriel from Barcelona, who he had picked up earlier. The weather felt like an early spring day.

We made a stop in Andennes for an errand before we continued to Landennes and the farm “La Ferme du Chant d'Oiseau” where we should be together with over 80 other gaming geeks until Wednesday.

As we arrived quite early, we all helped to unpack cars and set-up games in the shelves. When this was done I played the dexterity game of Weykick together with Dom in my team against Thomas and Camille. This is a kind of football game, where you steer a player on the board with a magnetic thing under the board. This seemed to be a popular game during all of the days, but although Dom and I won, I can’t say this is my type of game. Rate 3 of 10.

Then I played a game of Attika with Dom and Camille. This is a favourite game among the smaller ones, although it’s normally would be a bit too abstract for my taste. Rate 8 of 10.

The dinner was late the first day, so we had time to play Ticket to Ride with, Alice, Karine, Frederic T and Jeff (another foreign guy, this one from London). I had unusually difficult to fulfil my tickets and my second draw of tickets was a catastrophe, although I took the chance as they partly overlapped, but I had quite a lot of minus points at the end. Karine won the game just n time for dinner.

After dinner we had a compulsory get-together game of Attribute with Stephane, Thomas, Manuel, Christwart (a German guy), Thomas and Oriel. This is a game of finding either the best fitting or worst fitting of word (depending on if you had drawn a plus or minus card in the round) to a played card in the middle. Actually I seemed to have some advantage, as the English word was original and the French words were written in the middle of the cards. Thomas won this game. Rate 4 of 10.

Then I joined a tournament of my favourite game of the year: Das Zepter con Zavandor. It was arranged by Laurent, who is a passionate player of this game and it’s predecessor Outpost. I played with Alice, Nicolas, Boulou and Thomas and it was the latter who won. I also got to know that I had misinterpreted the rule how phase 3 should be played. Actually it has to be played with all 3 part phases (in any order without splitting a part), before the next player may play. This prolongs the game slightly, but is more logical and probably gives a better chance to catch the leader. The game took 3½ hour, which really made me convinced that it should be played with 3-4 players. Rate 9 of 10.

The game ended 3:15 am, so it was time to go to the dormitory, which I shared with Yves and Xavier H. They didn’t return until I nearly had fallen to sleep around 4 am.

Saturday 5th of February
Even if it was a late night, I woke up before 10 am. I probably needed more sleep, as I had a headache, but it was of no use to try. I went up for breakfast, which was typical continental, but as we would eat lunch around 1 pm, it was okey.

I started the day by playing the fastest game of San Juan ever with Michael and Phal. The game was finished after just 20-25 minutes, which shows that with experienced players, this is quite a short game. Phal won with 34 against 29 for the 2 other of us, so it was quite tight. I didn’t build the best buildings, but most and I realised that I had to finish it quickly, otherwise the loss would have been bigger. Rate 8 of 10.

We continued Attika, which I really like, although it’s slightly abstract. One third into the game, we succeeded to encircle one temple each, so we had to play until someone had played all tiles on the table. I won the game quite tight after about an hour.

After lunch I entered a tournament of Memoir ’44 and I played two games with Benjamin, as the scenarios are slight biased you have to play both sides. This is definitively not my type of game, by moving around units and throw a lot of dice and play cards. It’s so bad that it’s not even worth the effort to describe it. Rate 3 of 10.

Finally I had the chance to test Himalaya with Jeff, Karine and Ann-Catrine. As I had played the non-published downloadable version Merchant of Empires a couple of years ago, I wanted to test it with the advanced rules, which all the other agreed made the game much better (at least two of then had played it before with the basic rules). I would describe the game as “RoboRally meets Dalai Lama with a scoring, which would make Reiner Knizia green of envy”. It’s mainly a transportation and fulfil contracts game. There are 20 villages with 3 type of building (=level of village). 5 villages are randomly getting orders and 5 villages are randomly getting resource cubes and then the players may select different villages among the others as a starting place. Each round is divided in 4-5 phases:

1)      Progress turn marker (12 rounds).

2)      Each player secretly programs his 6 actions (walk 1 of 3 paths, make a deal or rest). The deal choice is either to fix an order with resources you have or to pick up the lowest valued resource in the village.

3)      Resolve actions.

4)      Add goods and orders randomly, if less than 5 of each type.

5)      Inventory in round 4/8/12, where majority in each 5 resource types, gives economy bonus = 3.

Whenever a contract is resolved, you can choose 2 of 3 things:

1)      Build a stupa (if none in the current village) to get religious influence

2)      Barter, that is keep the order in front of you and get economic influence

3)      Send out delegations in the region around the village to get political influence.

At the end of  the game, you first check the religious influence and the player with least gets eliminated. Then you check the political influence and the least gets eliminated. Finally the winner is the one of the last 2 who have most economical influence.

The advanced rules is only 3 extra markers, which everyone get a set of. They are to either hinder a path, make a path slower or open up a market in a village (take whichever resource you want) during a single turn. The first player may first choose and continue clockwise. Nobody may choose anything already played in the round. All used markers are out of play. These rules gives a better control of the game, not least to be kept as a threat. When reading the rules afterwards, I noticed that we had missed the inventory part of the advanced rules.

I like this game, although the random distribution of goods and orders, make it a bit too luck driven, as it depends on in which village you happen to be and how far from the resources you are. Still the fact that half of the villages always have either a contract or resource cubes in the beginning of each round, makes you always be able to do something. The randomness is the reason that it only gets Rate 7 of 10.

After a 3-course dinner in the stable, we went back to the tables. I played Goa, which has became one of my favourites of the year. Some people complains that it’s too much doing in everyone’s own corner, but the auction phase is very crucial to the game and this was one of  the most played games during the convention. Patrick, who was very experienced won by smashing 53 points, with myself and Alice on 37 and Iris last with 31. Rate 9 of 10.

Time for an early night, that is I went to bed just after midnight.

Sunday 6th of February
This day started with a long awaited game of Age of Steam. Since I played it last year here and even had bought a copy in Essen, I never got around to play it again. I played it with Anne (who won with 107 vp), Alice (97 vp) and Karine (76 vp, although I think it was her first game). Myself I ended up with 97 vp. I started with engineering, which made me build tracks between two red cities in the West, which had altogether 3 red cubes initially. I choose to build it through a town, to get income 2 immediately. I continued to keep the West more or less for my self, except a small try by Karine to intervene, as the other mostly were on the East side. Anne probably won because she succeeded to keep the borrowed shares down. I made a mistake late in the game, as I had counted that I needed engine=5, which was upgraded instead of transport goods. In the next round I made the highest bid in the game (10 copper) and took the engine upgrade anyway. This miss was probably a major mistake, as well as I late in the game had too much money left after each round (one reason for the high bid was possible). Rate 9 of 10.

We also had a visit during the day by Solange Taton and her 2 month old son Brieuc. They were in the gaming room up in the tower for quite a while and the women joked with me as I was hearing a lot of female secrets, but they didn’t realise that I long time ago had disconnected the French chatting and focused on the game instead…

As the game took over 3 hours, we had a break for lunch, where the first game lottery was as well. I won a game called Tuchulcha, which I later read that it is described as a mixture between backgammon and Parcheesi. A bit too abstract for my taste, which I realised later.

After the long game of game Age of Steam, I continued to play another game of Goa with Dimitri (52), Yves (37) and Alice (31). Myself I got 32 points.

10:20 pm we started a player game of Das Zepter von Zavandor, which shouldn’t be too late with only 4 players. Dimitri was the only newbie in the game, although he won with 70 points and Nathalie ended with 58 points, Ludovic with 56 points and myself last with 41 points. The result was more or less due to the fact that the game took 3:25 (an hour too long for a 4-player game) and Dimitri spent more time thinking than all of us other together. Ludovic closed his eyes now and then and at one auction we thought he said pass, but a few minutes later, when it was to late to back out, we realised that he had just grunted in the sleep. I and Nathalie did some actions in parallel with Dimitri, whenever we knew this couldn’t interfere in the outcome of his play to speed up the game a bit. This was the worst one I played during the days, but it made me discover more of its depth.

The clock was around 3:30 pm when I content went to bed. Only 3 games on a day, but 3, which I rate as 9 isn’t bad!

Monday 7th of February
I started the day to play Puerto Rico, this time with the expansion, where we randomly draw violet buildings according to their building cost. It wasn’t bad with some changes, but the game is so good in itself, so I still don’t see the need of an expansion. I won the game with 43 vp before Jean with 38 vp. Patrice and Alexis both had 35 vp and Benjamin came last with 32 vp. The game is still the only game I rate 10 of 10.

We finished the game after lunch and then join a tournament if Skåål, a game of dwarfs, which are looking for gold and drinking beers in the taverns. My expectations was low, but this tactically game it actually impressed me. Instead of points you gained respect for finding gold nuggets and selling bear to other players in your mobile taverns. There were a lot of tactical decisions to do. The dwarf and tavern figurines are cute, but the major drawback is the extremely bad material for the gold nuggets and the oops markers (used to mark that a region is emptied of gold – when all regions are empty, the game ends). It’s extremely difficult to see these markers on the board and everyone needs to fix something else to use as markers, to make the game playable. With better material, I would rate it higher, but it will be rate 6 of 10. One funny thing I noticed is that probably all of the regions are named after “cheers” (at drinking) in different languages, The game name “skål” is actually the Swedish word for this (I don’t understand why they have added an “å”). A region is called “Kippis” (Finnish) and another is called “Nazdravi” (Russian). The game has a great ambiance. I shared the first place with Patrice with 32 respect points, Alexis got 27 and Benoit last with 18.

Then I played another French game called Ys, which has a half-blind bidding system. It’s a game of influence to collect points, stones and cards to use in later rounds in 4 different neighbourhoods. You also need to influence in the market, so you may increase the value of the gem stone colour(s), you have most in and try to force the other to have a lower value. You also bid for being the winner of tie-breakers. Apparently my former single play at home with my own game helped to give me the win with 91 points. Benoit got 82, Benjamin 78 and Dominique 76.  The bidding works well, as you every time places one visible and one blind, but the counting of points due to number of stones in each colour and their relative values, make it difficult to see who is in the lead, except a general feeling of it. I must admit an “analyst gamer” can actually count the actual point all the time, but that would bog down the game tremendously, Due to this I can only rate it 7 of 10. Luckily we finished just before dinner.

For the dinner it was a gangster theme this evening. As I wanted a light packing, I had just brought a nylon stocking, to draw over my face, but many were fancily dressed in 20th decade style of Al Capone. Most of the gentlemen in black suits and a couple in white, but there were still a few without any themed dressing. Just when the dinner had finished, the organisation theme had a small theatre scene, where the police (Boulou) cleanup town, but was killed by Al Capones bodyguards. Nicely done!

Then we went into the main gaming room, where they had prepared a game of buying contracts and estates, which you could build and get income from 3 tables, which were guarded by Al Capones armed guys. The estates and table boards gave a feeling of the game “Acquire”. I didn’t realise before it was too late that we were supposed to have coalitions with one or more of the others, to be able to succeed to collect enough money, as I went around to exchange estate cards with the others. I ended up in the auction room, where Cedrick was great as a quick auctioneer. It was amazing just to see the performance and I’m sure that he has done some real exercises in this difficult art! The prices went actually to high for most of the cards and contracts, but I was able to buy a contract that fitted my estates and later on I sold my last contracts, which in practice put me out of game with only money left. In the cellar was there even a dice game, where you bet money and could win estates and contracts plus have a glass of whisky. Even if this isn’t my type of game, I really enjoyed the ambiance which was created and I loved to just walk around.

When the game was finished, there was a prototype game called Reservoir Guns, which was played 6 and 6 at several tables. You were gangster fighting for money and on call you pointed at one of your opponent gangster, who on call had the possibility to hide (each costs 5 million dollars at the end) himself (particularly if many guns was pointing at just him), but without possibility to share the money. Then you checked the played cards (2 bang, 1 first bang and 5 threat only cards). Everyone who got hit by a bang card, got a hit cube to mark this and after the 3rd hit you was out). It is a nice game that works well, but still not my type of game, so I will rate it 4 of 10. Cédrick and Ludovic are going to publish this game.

Just after 11 pm we started a great (exactly) 2-hour game of Funkenschlag (Power Grid) on the German map side of the board. Damien won it with a great play with 17p, followed by Yves at 13p, Michaël 12p and myself at 11p. Damien seemed to be doing everything right, but first of all he succeeded to first buy was a power station to handle 3 cities, which he used while building his network and I think this was the only power station he ever had to throw away, as he had money to fight for the big power stations as soon as they appeared, so he spent his resources well. I probably made a mistake to buy the eco station for 1 city in the early stages plus that I got nailed into the Southern corner of the map. Apparently I should have moved Northwards earlier and taken “my corner” later on. I think I got a lot of experience from this game. Rate 8 of 10.

This night I at least was in bed before 2 am.

Tuesday 8th of February
After breakfast next day I started by playing 6 Nimmt! Twice with Xavier G, Thierry, Michel, Damien and Boulou. For the second game did Dominique join us too. I nice little filler, although not really exciting. Xavier and I succeeded best in the games. Rate 5 of 10.

Another game of Goa would soon enjoy my day. I felt that much more went my way and the game is growing for each time. Damien, partly aided by Patrick, won with 49, followed by Thierry on 43 and myself on 40. Camille came last with 34. Both Damien and myself was strong on the expedition card and colonisation tracks, although Thierry followed the path of ships and spices. Many of the auctions were unusually tight, still I fall in the end-game, without really had done so badly. I won the starter tile less than usual and Thierry finished with 4 extra action cards in the last round. The game just took 2:10 and ended just before lunch.

Afterwards it was time for another game of Das Zepter von Zavandor, which this time only took 2:35, which seems to be normal for a 4-player game. Thierry won with 71, just before myself who had 66 (my best result ever), Alice ended with 55 and the newbie Jean-Philippe only got 43. I followed a diamond strategy plus one ruby card this time, but never got a chance to buy a sentinel, on the other hand I bought most of the last high-value artefacts and finished at least 4 knowledge tracks. My big mistake was probably, that I should had consolidated my energy during a single round and at least bought one sentinel in the end. Both  Thierry and myself started with “Artefact” and “9 sages” tracks, although I continued with the “Gems” and followed with the “Accumulation” track. I also nearly finished the “Fire”, but probably I should have avoided this one and save the money for the Unicorn sentinel (diamond points), should probably had given the win to myself. Thierry had plenty of emeralds, including cards and followed the strategy to save energy every second time, which apparently paid off. Alice, who started with “Fire”, had a feeling of never catching up, but in the final last rounds had rubies, but it was to late to get the really huge income. This is really an intriguing game, where you discover you tricks every time. Next time I’m interested to test the possibility to early go for “Gems” and then as soon as possible for rubies, but “Fire” doesn’t seems to be a good starting track, a you need to have a high knowledge in “gems”, to make it pay off early. Of course the random start of knowledge gives you different views how consider your strategy.

Finally two guys from Asmodée in Paris had arrived with the game Dungeon Twister. Then arranged a 4-player game tournament, but we were 6 persons, so I and Serge played a learning session and both of us felt that even with a nice theme, this felt very fiddly and abstract. There is in principle no luck at all, except guessing where the opponent has put different stuff during the set-up. Already here we both made severe mistakes. Then it was most like a logical puzzle to figure out how to get as many characters as possible through the maze to the other side. Serge won with 5 against 3, but we were both convinced that we wouldn’t continue with the tournament. Rate 5 of 10.

During dinner, Véronique asked if we could play Keythedral, which I had taught last year, but never got around to play. But somehow we lost each other afterwards and she was engaged in a standard deck logical card game puzzle called Eleusis, which would take another hour, but I was happily joined by Camille, Sergé and Benoit. The game seemed to have quite a lot resources available, which made hotter auctions than usual. I made severe mistakes in the set-up, as none of my houses became surrounded by fields on all 4 sides, which I suspect I suffered from. Somehow Sergé succeeded to collect resources to take both 5-tiles in the end, which made him a superior winner on 16, followed by myself on 11, Camille with 10 and Benoit last with 9. This really shows that the new edition scoring must be used, with 4, 6, 8, 10 and 12 instead of 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 for each cathedral line, as the 5-tiles has too much value during the scoring, especially if one single player takes both of them. In principle, you may save up to take these 2 tiles plus one 3 or 4 to win! Still I love this game, which still is rated 8 of 10.

I went to bed around midnight, to collect my stuff, so I could leave around noon.

Wednesday 9th of February
Before breakfast I met Oriel, who told me that he would leave with a train an hour earlier than he decided before. I thought I better go with him, both for the convenience of a driver, as well as for the company, so I hurried to get some breakfast before Thomas drove us to the station in Andenne. Oriel told me about how he succeeded to make a living on gaming, by writing game books to get a well-known name and then work with gaming conventions and other game related events. He has also developed an abstract game by himself. Seemed to be a nice life!

We changed train at Bruxelles-Nord and went to the airport, where we had some lunch and played a small card game called Musketeers, although it probably could have been better with 3-4 players. Still too abstract for my taste, but a nice filler on a café. Rated 4 of 10.

After check-in we separated and my plane landed at Landvetter airport around 18:20, where my partner Christina picked me up.

The best games during the convention were Das Zepter von Zavandor, Goa and Age of Steam.
The worst were Memoir ’44 and Weykick.
The highlight of the days is still the possibility to play longer games.
Most wanted game to play, but never got around to: Australia and Heart of Africa.

No doubt that I will come back another year, although maybe not next year….

Carl-Gustaf Samuelsson


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