Mini boardgame convention in Varberg
18-20th of February 2005
(To see the photos, click at the index to the left)
NOTE! There will soon be a gaming report too!
Friday 18th of February
After a calm morning with just 3 hours of work, I drove to Varberg for a full weekend of boardgaming. I arrived around noon waiting for the guys from Stockholm. I checked in and went to the two nice conference rooms, where I unpacked to large boxes of games plus setup a contest of silhouettes, which I had brought from the Belgoludique convention. At 12:45 still the guys hadn't arrived, so I decided to go for lunch myself and missed them with just a few minutes.
Reluctantly the first game was Blokus, which actually seemed to be the most played game during the weekend. Probably because it's quite a short filler for either 2 or 4 players, when waiting for another game. Stefan won win 8, myself and Fréderic got 14 and Fredrik became last with 15. I was surprised that it actually went that well, as I quite soon felt to much enclosed. Rate 5 of 10.
Then I introduced them to Himalaya. Of course with the advanced rules, as they make the game much more tactic. Although it's randomness of distributing contracts and goods, I'm liking it more for each time I'm playing it. The rules (except the advanced one) seems to be exactly the same as it's downloadable predecessor Merchants of Empire, which I think still is available. I good description of this game is "RoboRally meets Dalai Lama with a scoring, which will make Reiner Knizia green of envy". It has a kind of elimination scoring, where the one with least influence in religion (stupas) is first eliminated, then the one with least political influence (delegations) and then the winner is the one with most economical influence (yaks). There are some difficulties with the graphics, as it's difficult to see, who is leader in each influence. This can be solved with a kind of table, which you update along the game. Also is one of the areas for the delegations slightly unclear. The game was played a couple of more times during the weekend and it seemed that most enjoyed it. Rate 7 of 10. Winner was Fréderic, followed by Fredrik and myself and last was Stefan.
Finally I got the chance to play Railroad Dice. Both Fredrik and Fréderic had played it before and the rules are more easy to penetrate with someone explaining them calmly. Actually it's quite an easy and nive game, although of course the rolling of all dice make it a bit too random. I like the game mechanic and will Rate it 7 of 10. I made early a mistake, by buying 3 stations in yellow, without holding a strong stocks of yellow, so Fredrik took it over quite quick and had many passengers the first rounds, although Fréderic succeded to build a strong economy and nearly caught him up. Fredrik started a boring strategy by hoarding dice, which finally became the end condition. Not until the game ended I realised where all dice had disappeared... Fredrik won with 54, followed by Fréderic with 52 and myself last with 40 passengers, so apparently experience pays of in the game.
At 7 pm we had a abundant buffet dinner with an entrance soup, although some started with the buffet before the soup... Afterwards had Johan, who had arranged the weekend, an inauguration speak and gave prizes for an Alea tournament he had held during the autumn at his place, which went to Magnus L (Alea teddy bear mascot) and Sanny (Alea T-shirt). Magnus introduced a contest, where you could feel 12 different pieces from different games in a box and I introduced my competition, before the gaming continued.
Another long-awaited game came onto a table: Starfarers of Catan, which I really enjoy thanks to the ambiance. I didn't even feel that it's slightly long, as the game develops quite well and changes, as you come farer away. I probably won, because I early utilised the traders, but I dislike the memory part, as you want to keep trace of which red-dotted tiles you discovers, but can't take care of for the moment. The resources are more abundant than in "standard Settlers", still we had quite a lot of trading in between us. The last turns, my opponents refused to trade with me, as I was quickly moving towards 15 VP. After myself came Elli on 11 VP, followed by both Bo and Mattias on 10 VP. Rate 7 of 10. The low rating mainly due to it's long gaming time plus it's randomness, still I'd like to have it more often on the table.
I started to feel tired, but a group started a 6-player game of Das Zepter von Zavandor at 11 pm (ended at 3 am, as I had predicted) and another group played Texas Hold'em poker and they were even later before they went to bed.
Saturday 19th of February
I went up at 9 am and Magnus J shortly after myself, although he had been up until 3 am. He said that he should sleep a while after dinner (which never occured...).
After a big breakfast, it was time for the "big games day". I started with the last Warfrog game Struggle of Empire, which luckily Stefan had played once, so he could explain the rules, as well as giving some tips. I won a cheap bid (1 gold?) to place myself first in the first war. Myself and Bo went for the colonies to the West, plus a "slave ship" in Africa. Stefan started with India and the corresponding "income tiles", which gave him uncontested 6 gold per war (each of 3 rounds), although he had problems to catch up with points in the beginning. Simon and Magnus J contested for central Europe and later on Stefan tried to invade Europe through the Baltic Sea, which made him catch up with points. I got a quick start, with 13 VP in the first war through first place in Carribean, South America and Africa. Bo got hold of North America and struggle to overthrow me first in Carribean, which failed due to my defensive play and then in South America, which succeded better, although not until the third war, where I struggled to get him in the same alliance in the bidding, so I could concentrate my forces on Indonesia. He suffered in both the first and second war of playing after me, as I counteracted him every time. When I lost South America, I shared Indonesia with Stefan, while central Europe seemed to avoid wars, and in the last round were the two main forces in the same alliance. In the final round, I took the last slave in South America, so I at least would get 3 VP in second place. Stefan had the chance with 3 dice rolls (one re-roll tile), to get them instead with a 50-50 chance, but failed all 3 rolls. These rolls was the only difference between myself getting first and Stefan getting in second or the opposite. Even if I won the game, this gave a bad taste, which at this moment dropped the game to a rating 6 of 10. Still I admit that there is a lot interesting going on in the game. The random occurence of the country tiles, will probably give the game a large replayability. As it was the first or second play for everyone, it suffered of a lot of downtime. Mostly I felt it quite natural what to do, especially as I followed a quite defensive strategy and only initiated 1 single attack at the very end, so I mostly could do my round in less than a minute. Result: Carl 41, Stefan 37, Magnus J 36, Simon 35 and Bo 26. The game took 4 hours to play.
Next game was finally Age of Steam with the Scandinavian map (expansion #3). With 2 beginners this is not a map to recommend, as this is much more of a brainburner and more narrow than the original map of America. There are actually a few hexes, which I can't see any reasons to build on and they were there probably only to get a realistic map. I succeded well in the first round, but at least two of the other suffered already a lot, so we decided to make it a "try round" and restarted the game, which were more even. Stefan went through the rules, as he had played it more than myself, but we discovered that 5-6 rules he had played wrong before, so he said he was eager to play the standard game soon again! I've been luckily to learn the game from people who already had played the game, as the rules are poorly written, although basically the rules are quite straightforward. I made a few mistakes and missed to consolidate my economy, so I had to borrow 1-2 shares each round, which I suffered from in the end. After a few rounds, we realised how strong the new action "ferry" actually is on this map and sometimes the only possibility to transport goods on a long link. Actually it sometimes was stronger than "Urbanization". I was mostly in the centre (Southern Sweden), but I also built a link between Germany and Northern Denmark, which only gave me some income in the last round, so it was probably too expensive and this showed in the final result, which was Bo 63, Magnus J 46, Stefan 44 and Carl 33. Still the rating is 9 of 10. I would recommend this map for 3 players in the future. The game took 2:45 to play, interrupted by dinner.
I ended the evening with my new favourite game Das Zepter von Zavandor. Magnus J had played it twice before and Stefan once, but Bo was a beginner. Stefan probably got the most difficult starting knowledge: "Fire", as it's difficult to play without "Gems" and then you rather prefer to start with this knowledge. He also felt far after the other of us when he reached 15 VP, so he then quit the game. The game developed well for everyone else and I succeeded an intentional strategy to keep just behind the leaders, which made the artifacts cheaper and I got one of the charismatic masks, which seems to often be important, as it gives a reduction of 20 on the sentinels. The game was extremely close. 3 of us ended on 51 VP and Bo became the last one on 48 VP. I could have won, if I hadn't made a "psychological jump" on a sentinel bid in the last round. I started with 120, followed by 121, 122, 123 and I got it at 130. I could have gotten it for 127 according to Magnus. After a few transactions in my turn, I could have won with 52 VP, if I had had ONE more energy, which shows that the game can be very tight! Bo said that he could have won it with a slightly different play in the next last round. Actually, I will now increase rating to 10 of 10, only compared by Puerto Rico, which only is slightly better due to a shorter playing time and that it's easier for beginners to start. The game lasted 2:55. When I went to bed around 2 am, there were even more people tonight playing Texas Hold'em.
Sunday 20h of February
Magnus J, Fréderic and myself started this day with a game of San Juan, which still is one of my favourite card games. Fréderic won with 39 VP, with myself as a close runner-up on 38 VP, partly because Fréderick built 12 buildings and I had 11 and both of us had at least one bonus building. Magnus hadn't build that much and finished on 29 VP. It still has the rating 8 of 10.
Then it was time for Magnus L and myself to present the winners of the contests. Sanny had succeeded to identify 11 of the 12 pieces in the box, which was incredible. I was happy to have found out 6 of them. He got a game of "Honeybear" as a prize. My contest was won by Magnus L with 21 correct answers (of 36), closely followed by Fredrik, who had figured out 20 of them. Even with some extra clues compared to Belgoludique, they had worked alone here and some were French games, which rarely can be found in Sweden, so I was impressed by them. There were also 3-4 persons who had got 12-16 answers. Magnus got the game "Tuchulcha" as a prize.
Some misunderstanding with Johan, who had setup Australia especially for myself and Magnus J to test, made us continue to play Goldbräu with Fréderic. I felt that I never would really understand this game. It was a bit too much dependant on the draw of cards for my taste, although you had 3 different choices every turn (21 turns, where you got paid out every 7th turn). True that you could choose if you should draw a blind card or one of two open ones. I should probably also had expanded more on the restaurant I was the boss in. It was very hard to take over a restaurant or brewery from another player and it only happened twice in the game. Maybe it's swings much more in a 4-player game. Magnus won with 149 golds, Fréderic a close runner-up on 141 and I'm far away on 91. Initial rating 5 of 10.
After lunch I got a chance to play Through the Desert by Reiner Knizia, which I had wanted to play for a long time. Unfortunately, this game was even drier than the desert it was themed within. I thought I was without any chance, until the final scoring was done. Mattias won with 76, Bo got 56, Kristina 53, Carl 50 and Magnus J 48. Magnus probably suffered from the fact that he didn't have the longest caravan in any colour. My rating 5 of 10.
The last game I got to play was Leo Colovini's Submarine. He uses to have quite dry games and except for Carolus Magnus, I rarely seem to enjoy his games. Actually I've played a prototype card with himself once and that was a pretty good one, but I don't know if it ever has been published. So my expectations was quite low, but it turned out to be a quite nice and tricky game, where the theme works very well. The draw of cards is slightly random, as well as the initial placement of the treasures, but the games doesn't suffer much from that. I liked the mechanism, where you pay cards (=share the treasure) to your opponents, which are on equal or higher level than yourself and a lot of the tactics is to place yourself so you get a refreshment of cards, but if it's to expensive, nobody will take the treasure anyway! This surprise gets a rating of 6 of 10.
Most people were on their way home already around 4 pm, so I was actually back in Borås around 6 pm.
I'd like to especially thank Johan Berglind for an excellent arrangement. Even if he said that the most difficult was to make the telephone call, someone actually needs to do it! It's easy to use a conference package and is comparatively cheap for a weekend and I won't hesitate to join next time.
Good organisation, more than enough food, a couple of contests as fillers and the possibility to play some longer games makes this an unforgettable event, which I hope will continue. We are apparently on the limit of people to remain on this hotel, on the other hand I think it would be good to keep the number of participants to 20-30 players.
The best games during the convention for myself were Das Zepter von Zavandor, Starfarers of Catan and Age of Steam. I really appreciated the opportunity to play longer games, although it might be that I won't play with everyone during the weekend.
The least fun game was Blokus (I just can't find the pleasure in this kind of abstract games any more).
Most wanted game to play, but never got around to were Australia, Mare Nostrum and Age of Mythology.
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