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5th Boardgame weekend of Varberg

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I’ve just finished yet another great weekend of boardgaming in Varberg. This has now become a great tradition twice a year in the nice and cosy little “hotel Gästis”. The best with this convention is that you always can sleep comfortable, whenever you have time for that, as well as eat the delicious meals. 28 persons in three small rooms with 7 tables is perfect.

As usual Johan had come up with a new interesting competition, but this time I had no chance. We should connect melodies with games. The games were easily recognisable, but my knowledge of music is terrible, so I didn’t even try to compete. But Christer made a great job and succeeded to connect most of them, although a few was long-thought and tricky as usual in the competitions of Johan.

The second competition was made by Sus, who had assembled 20 minor extract of different rules. I kept the rules in my pocket to try to solve them whenever I had too much downtime in any game, but apparently the games were too involving, so I never got around to try it.

Friday 6th of October

We arrived in Varberg and checked in around 1 pm and had lunch together with Peter, who just arrived by train from Stockholm. This year we had two smaller conference rooms and one larger and it had even been a queue of people who wanted to join us, but this is considered the most people who can join these conventions, as the hotel don’t have more conference rooms available. Myself I had brought two large boxes with just over 20 games, which I started to pack up. Altogether there was a choice of about 150 games.

I had some wishes, that I really wanted to test during the weekend, so I convinced some to play the new Italian game Leonardo da Vinci. It had got good reviews and it’s one of my favourite historical persons, so I really wanted to love this one. It’s a really interesting resource management game, where the goal is to get resources to build inventions, which gives you money. There are several areas where you try to get influence to get resources, new workers to get more resources in the next round, a second laboratory or upgrade a current one, you also could put a marker in the council to either become the next starting player, get a florin, buy a resource for a single florin or check the 4 next concealed inventions. The one with best influence gets the resource, worker or upgrade for free, the next pays 2, 3 and 4 and it goes round, so if the other with some influences don’t take all 4 resources etc, then the first player can take one more for the next price up to 4 florins. In all, the mechanics works very well together and I didn’t need to worry about being disappointed. I had a bad start and got screwed quite a lot in the beginning and had difficult to catch up, so I realised that 5 players are slightly too many. The actual gaming time was 2:15 plus half an hour to go through the rules, but Karin and Magnus had played before and it showed that experience is necessary to play well. The initial rating is 8 of 10, but it might increase to 9 with only four players.
Result: Karin 48p, Magnus J 36p, Joakim 27p, Michael 26p, Carl 24p.

Next game was an older game by Philippe Kaeyerts: Evo. Dinosaurs breeding and fighting until the meteor will come and end the game. The player with most points will win and those points are gained by counting the number of dinosaurs on the board at the end of each round. Tobias explained the rules and unfortunately missed that the initiative tie is decided through number of dinosaurs on the board, as the one with fewest goes first, so there were a lot of random decisions of order, but I’m not sure how much it affected the play. I managed quite well to keep ahead by buying feet and horn genes, but somehow I paid too much and Tobias passed me and kept the lead for the rest of the game. The gaming time was 2:05. My rating is 8 of 10.
Result: Tobias 58p, Carl 51p, Peter 49p, Stefan 48p, Karin 42p.

The final game of the day was Arkham Horror, which is a nice thematic co-operation game. We only got one rumour card during the game, which was pretty easy to remove, as my character just before had got an ally, and the quest was to sacrifice an ally. My character was Mandy, who had the ability to let any character once each round make a re-roll of non-hits, which saved us a few times. We also were quite quick to close gates, so no monsters were ever moved to the out-skirts, so after 12 rounds and a gaming time of 3:30, we successfully defeated Azathoth.
Players were: Carl, Staffan, Peter, Jens and Sandra. Still is my rating 7 of 10. It’s fun to bring it out 1-2 times per year and I doubt it will be better with the Dunwich expansion.

Saturday 7th of October

The Saturday started with a filler game, the new version of Löwenhertz (Domaine in English). I actually prefer this lighter and quicker version of the game. The game is simple, as you either sell a card and draw a new one OR you pay to play a card and draw a new one. The draw can be from the chancellor area, where you put the sold cards, but you can never take the card you just sold. The different actions are build one, two or three walls, place a knight, increase an area with two squares, take over a traitor knight from an adjacent domain and make eternal peace between two domains. Before I’ve played this game in about half an hour with 3 players, but now it took 1:10 in gaming time. Rating is 8 of 10. Johannes was the winner, with Erika, Carl and Karin, although I never noted the points.

Just enough time for another even better filler game before lunch. One of my new favourites Blue Moon City by Reiner Knizia. Even if there is a luck of draw, there are really good tactical possibilities, even with bad cards, not least is one of the most difficult choices to discard 1-2 cards at the end of the turn, which are replaced together with two new cards. The theme and the mechanic fits well together, but I’ve never played the corresponding card game. One of the most important things in the game is to avoid build a building by yourself, but to get help from the other players. Bringing the dragons to the tile is a good incitement to help. For each tile you complete, you will get crystals, dragon scales and/or cards. Whenever the dragon scales are finished, the one with most get 6 crystals and the other get 3. Whenever you move to the central place you may pay crystals to make a sacrifice, which increases in prices during the game. The winner is the player who succeeds to make 4 sacrifices (in a 4-player game). The game took 1:05, so it’s a perfect and interesting filler game. The race was very tight at the end and the other thought it would be either Peter or Johannes who would win, but I took the win just ahead of their turn. My rating is 8 of 10 and I’m eagerly awaiting my own copy.
Result: Carl 4, Peter 3, Johannes 3, Karin 3.

Fredrik had just got a fresh new copy of Gloria Mundi a few days before and he had brought it on my request even if hadn’t had time to read through the rules. They are pretty short and easy, but the part regarding the “Goth movement” is really crappy, so he had to check BoardGameGeek to get it clarified, but still it was blurry, but we believe that we played correctly. You start with one each of the production buildings: Farm, City and Temple. Each turn you play a new building and all players can use all their buildings of the same type. For each production building, you may choose to either take a basic resource or use the building, which you might have built upon it. Then you may build a building on it, which gives you better advantages instead of taking a basic resource. Finally you end your turn by either paying tribute to the Goth or let him move. If he moves, then you start to destroy one building corresponding to one of the tributes resources and then the next player does the same thing until all resources are handled. Beginning with the active player, you then get one each of the resources until all are taken. First this mechanic seemed to be very weird and we were very unsure that we had interpreted the rules correctly, but it turned out to work well. The worst problem in the game was that we didn’t really understand when to pay the tribute and when to let the Goth move, so when finally Stefan let him move, we probably went around 5-6 turns, before every tribute had destroyed a production building. The estimated gaming time without rules checking was about 1:30 and my initial rating is 8 of 10 and it’s on my buy list now. Christina’s rating was 7. I also liked the fact that everything except the rules is written in Latin on the game board and the cards. The icons are slightly confusing, but won’t be a problem after a couple of plays.
Result: 1=Karin, 2=Christina, 3=Carl, 4=Stefan, 5=Fredrik.

My third requested game was Emira, which I had anticipated to play since I heard of it the first time. The theme seems to be very provocative to Americans, so it is slightly changed to be more politically than historically correct. Th game is about princesses, who chooses a sheikh, depending on his status, palaces, status or appearance. Every player must try to be the best in one or more of these areas during each turn, depending on which princesses is on the board waiting for the sheikh of her dreams. All players have their own goal of abilities among the princesses and as every princess has an upkeep cost for each round, you want to try to get the correct ones. As an example in a 4-player game, you win with either 5 with the correct abilities or any 7, but this differs depending on the number of players. Each turn starts as every player may play one event card, which can be quite strong. Then you get income from both the plantations and a basic income. After that there are auctions to choose one of several actions: Buy a Status card, a Palace, an Appearance tile, a Big or Small Plantation to gain income during some rounds or a Camel to get reduction of auction payments. When the first player has chosen a tile, a new auctions starts for the rest of the players. The last player can take one of the remaining choices for free. Still everyone must pay a standard cost for the choice plus the auction cost. In the next phase, the princess of the round chooses the sheikh, which is best in her major choice and if it’s a tie, she chooses her minor choice among the tied players. If there still is a tie, the princess remains for a round to see if any of the sheikhs will fulfil her dreams solely. After a player has got a princess, he checks if the winning condition is fulfilled. The last thing is that every one may draw 2 event cards for 150 dinars or 3 event cards for 250 dinars, but in both cases only keep on card. After some rounds we noticed that it was very important to buy and play these cards. There are a lot of auctions and it’s quite fiddly to prepare the boards, but I really enjoyed our game, which had a gaming time of  3:15. But the interpretations of the German text probably took an hour altogether, as we now and then had to go and ask someone what the German text on the event cards meant. But with a card list, it wouldn’t be that much trouble, but I will buy an English edition of this game, as I really enjoyed it. I started to get camels to have cheaper auctions, which ended up that I started every auction at the end with 600 dinars and everyone else passed, except the turns when someone played an event card, which made the camels void. Karin went for getting good income through the plantations and was the only one to challenge me. But we seemed to have forgotten the real goal of game was to be enough good at the 4 attributes and Magnus had 5 princesses, without being able to finish the game and Christina won by having 5 princesses, but with the correct abilities. Karin and myself only got 3 princesses each. Magnus tried to control the game several times through an event card, which gave him the possibility to change the order of the top 4 princess cards, as well as the top status cards, but it didn’t help. It is really a good game, although this learning game was slightly too long and it’s a must buy for me. My rating is 8 of 10, Christina only gave it a 6. Also Magnus expressed some dislikes for it, mainly due to the many auctions.

When we finished the game, both Christina and Karin retired for the evening and Magnus and myself came in the middle of other games, so we went for a game of my favourite 2-player game: Starship Catan. We both chose to start with the sensor scan module, to always check the top 2 cards in the chosen card stack. It was the first time I tried this strategy, but Magnus who had played it more then me said that it was the best strategy. I never got around to get that many trading planets as usually is required, but with my own diplomat outpost (buy any one resource for 3 astros) I managed to get the resources I needed anyway and it was tight when I won by building a colony to get the last needed victory point. When we played Michael came in and looked at our boards with the question why neither of us had taken the trading module, as he considered that one the strongest one to start with, but both of us disagreed. Magnus ended with 8 vp and I won with 10 vp. My rating is still 8 of 10. The gaming time was 1:45.

I had requested that Magnus should bring the odd little deduction game Old Town, so he suggested that we should try it as the last game today. After picking up the first cards, we realised that we missed the rule that both should choose two buildings, which should be our own and most cards were related to them. But I succeeded to place both my buildings quite quickly and Magnus did this soon after and then we more or less only discarded cards to either confirm or contradict the buildings already placed on the board. We both stated that this game is unplayable. When I rechecked the rules at home, I realised that as soon as you had placed a building on the board, you had to choose a new building as your own, which made much more sense to the game and makes me want to test it again. I will leave the rating until next playing.

When we left the conference rooms for the night, some other had started to play poker and other light games,

Sunday 8th of October

After breakfast we played Viking Fury. Due to the theme, Christina had especially requested to play this game during the weekend. It was the second time I played this “risk management” game. Every turn you may start by loading goods and crew in Scandinavia, plus buying rune cards, which may be played any time during your turn and then set sail to get points through trading, raiding or settling, as well as completing quests in the form of sagas for the 3 Scandinavian countries. As the sagas are taken by the player finishing the last part of the quest, there were a lot of blocking in ports and timing of doing them. If the quest was to trade in 3 neighbouring ports and you succeeded to do it in two of them, another player could take the saga by finishing the trade in the last port. One of the best strategies in the game is probably to try to do something else then the other players to avoid loosing tempo. The game draws out the worst of the players and when Archie played a mean card on his partner Sandra and I commented that he’s not kind to his partner, she quickly said, “you mean his ex-partner...” Everyone really enjoyed the interaction and nastiness of the game, although the rune cards, as well as the usage of dice for raiding and settling made the game a bit random. The gaming time was 2:30. My rating is 7 of 10, as well as Christina’s.
Result: Carl and Archie 146p, Christina 137p, Magnus J 124p, Sandra 94p.

The last game during the weekend was Giganten. Four players drilling, transporting and selling oils in Texas. The game was nominated for “German Game of the Year 1999” and I’ve only played it once before. Each rounds starts by throwing one die for each of the three oil companies, to see how much they will pay for the crude oil during the round. Then the starting player deals one action cards more than no of players. One of the cards shows how many steps, the black train moves, which also is an end timer. From the starting player each player chooses one card. The cards show different actions, which all are done: Taking licences, moving the oil price for one of the oil companies up or down, moving the player train and/or the lorry and search for oil. Then you may build an oil tower beside an oil well on the board. All oil rigs will produce one single oil crud, which must be transported back by the trains to one or more of the oil companies and be stored in the users oil storage tank. If your train isn’t as far away as your oil rig, you might buy transport with either the black train or a competitors train. Finally you are using the licence cards to bid for the right to sell in each of the three oil companies. In this phase it is allowed to bluff, but if you are caught and everyone is passing and you can’t pay, then half of you licence cards are removed randomly and the auction is redone for that particular oil company. This was probably the most interesting part of the game, otherwise it’s mostly a racing game and the player order was very important to be first to the best oil wells. The worst weakness of the game is the randomness of the cards, which forces the other players train to back 3-4 steps. The game ended after 1:55 and took 8 rounds. Archie’s comment during the game was that during this convention he had mostly played new games and all of them had been more or less good. My rating is 6 of 10. Nice mechanic and theme, but not a great game.
Result: Sandra 90.000, Magnus J 87.500, Archie 69.500, Carl 64.500

Around 5:30 Christina and I had packed everything and went home after yet another great gaming weekend. My trend to play more long game was accentuated, but I prefer heavier or more thematic games, than short abstract games and consider games below an hour to be a filler game, avoiding the small card games. This preference also made that I probably only played with about half of the other participants. A pity, but the strength with such a convention is that you always can find some players for any kind of game you love to play, even if it’s one of the “freaky relational” games of Sus.... :-)

Carl-Gustaf Samuelsson


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