Belgoludique VIII 2007-02-16—21
Gaming convention near Landenne at Ferme
du Chant d'Oiseaux
(To see the photos, click at the index to the left)
Link to official site for Belgoludique
Friday 16th of February
Finally time for another gaming convention in Belgium. Christina drove me to the airport bus. The security was quite strict to get through. My flight departed 12:20 and arrived in Brussels at 14:05 and I took the train to Andenne. The weather was quite warm. At the station I met Philippe Kaeyerts who also awaited someone to pick him up. It was Brigitte who fetched us and we arrived around 16:30 at Ferme Chante d'Oiseau which is outside the village of Landenne.
As I was among the first I helped with the unloading of food and games. This year I was lucky to have a bed in the same building as most of the gaming tables although it was a big dormitory. This year the convention was smaller and invitation only for full 5 days. Still they hadn't filled, so some were there for only the weekend.
The first game I played was Kardinal und König (Web of Power). An area domination game which I never really like. Probably due to the reason that I really sucks at it, but it only took 35 minutes to play. Benoit 35, Vincent 31, Brigitte 29, Carl 23 and Stephane 20. Still my rating is 4 of 10.
As we only were about 60 persons we ate in the main gaming room, which is less cold than in the stable where we used to be. On the other hand we had to remove all the games in time for meals.
After a good dinner I played the new version of Viking Fury which is called Invasion (Fire and Axe in English). This is a really good risk management game where you are a Viking who is travelling around Europe trading, pillaging and settling. If you start your turn in the Wintering box (Scandinavia) you can load goods and crew on your longboat, one for each weekday. Then you might buy Rune cards, also one per day and then you can sail one region per day, but beware that you can only sail a few days before loosing crew or goods, depending on where you are on the map. You have three active saga quests to fulfil, which will score at the end. This is rather a game of racing and timing than conquering. But you need to have the probabilities of 3 dice on your side. I enjoy this game more and more for each play. After 2:15 the result was Carl 75, Patrick 67, Xavier G 56 and Michael 54. It was apparent that experience helps a lot in this game. It gets a strong rating of 7 of 10 in my book and I’m tempted to by the new version, although I have the old edition, just because it’s really a beautiful game
The first day ended by playing a new prototype by Xavier G, which he calls Manus Dei (latin for “Gods hand”). It is an interesting resource management game where you construct buildings in a manner like Caylus, but with a new interesting movement mechanism. The endgame suffered from a bit too much complexity, which he was aware of. In any case a game of my taste, which I'm looking forward to be published. Carl 75, Patrick 67, Xavier 56 and Michael 54. It took 1:45 to play. As it’s an unfinished prototype I avoid giving it a rating. Then it was time to go to bed at 4 am. I was already adjusting the day to gaming hours.
Saturday 17th of February
After breakfast I played a game of Justinian. This is a really annoying, chaotic and abstract game, where you try to move your corresponding personalities towards the upper scores. The pain was over in about an hour, which is the only good thing I can say about it. Ludovic 191p, benoit 174p, Christwart 157p and Carl 152p. My rating is 3 of 10.
Finally I got the chance to play one of my new favourites, Hermagor, with 4 player. The core of the game is a placement of the buyers of different goods on the market and with the bought goods, you may establish trading stations around the country of Hermagor in villages, which requires theses goods in the next phase. The games works unusually well with only 3 players, as the market is scaled according to the number of players, but I enjoyed it even more with 4. After about 2 hours the result was Christwart 102, Carl 91, Ludovic 90 and Benoit 77. My rating is 8 of 10.
A game which I really wanted to test mainly due to the theme is Silk Road, as I made a trip along it last year and actually visited nearly half of the cities on the game map. After reading the rules, I was quite reluctant that it was a good game, but I wanted to test it. The rules were in English, Durtch, French and German, so it was perfect for us to take one version each! Each round starts by having an auction of the Caravan leader and either the current owner gets the money or he pays the highest bidder the price. Then the winner moves the pawn on the board and takes one of the action tiles and then gives the pawn to any other of the players, which does the same thing. Finally there is no tile left for the last player, which only gets the caravan pawn for the next round. This happened to me several times and I soon realised that it was better to take the money than being first for the goods trading, partly because they probably bid too high. This made me richer than the other realised and as one good, as well as one gold is worth one point I won quite far ahead of the others without really doing anything in the game, which sucks a lot. The game took exactly 1 hour to play. Carl 51p, Benoit 38p, Christwart 22p and Sylvianne 20p. My rating is 5 of 10 and this is high mostly thanks to the theme.
The next game was a fairly abstract, but really interesting game called Alchemist. Every round you can make one action: Create an alchemy recipe on the board by putting 1-5 of your resources together with a remaining point tile 1-10 and an owner disc. Max two of each resource and you get one of each of the two forbidden goods on the square. You get the points on the point tile. Otherwise you can make a copy of an existing recipe and then one resource is given to the owner and the rest are removed from the game. You get the point fro the existing point tile. Otherwise you either take two hidden resources from the bag or one open resource of your choice from the open supply. The game ends when 3 of the 5 resource types are gone from the open supply. Then everyone get one point for each two remaining goods and then they were put in the general supply. Every player had got as secret goods tile at the beginning of the game, which gave bonus for the player with least goods of this type left in the supply. It was a tricky to give the right “price” in forms of the recipes to make the other use up your hidden resource on copying recipes. You got a new resource when someone else copied your recipe, but if you have created too many recipes yourself, you haven’t many choices to copy yourself, so there are several interesting strategies in the game. The game is an unusually good filler game, which I will buy. Our games took 35 and 40 minutes. 1st game: Carl 65p, Benoit 62p, Sylvianne 62p and Christwart 57p. 2nd game: Carl 69p, Sylvianne 65p, Benoit 54p and Christwart 45p. My rating is 7 of 10.
Sylvianne loves cats and she wanted to test a game called Cat Attack, which none of the rest had heard about, but we were prepared for a test. This was a simple family game, with a big amount of luck in the cards and even Sylvianne seemed to be relieved when we interrupted the game for dinner after 50 minutes of play. Sylvianne and Benoit 4p, Carl and Christwart 3p. My rating is 2 of 10.
After dinner I succeeded to convince a couple of fellow gamers to test the adventure game Prophecy from Altar Czech Republic. Some has described this as the game Talisman really had wanted to be. In any case you could plan, which monster you tried to kill and you never lost more than one life if defeated and the risk of being eliminated and restart is very small. The event cards, with which every player starts his turn, drives the game forward in an interesting way. It might be that you should draw new adventure cards to a certain type of area. These can be either monsters, which can give you experience points or opportunities, which you can use in special circumstances. Other types of event cards gives advantages to the player who are the least in gold, life or mana. An interesting feature is that when you loose life, then you loose strength and in the same manner that when you loose mana, you also loose the current magic level. These losses are of course temporary and you can get them back in several locations or with certain items. The 3:50 it took to finish the game just passed quickly and I really would love to get my hand on the new copy. We played a non-aggressive game, as it’s seldom worth playing with PvP battles and we decided that when all artefacts were taken, the player with most should be declared as the winner. Xavier H 3 artefacts, Carl 2 artefacts and Benoit none. My rating is 8 of 10 and this is a must buy when Z-man will release this in August this year.
Even if it was just before 1:00, I realised it was better go to bed as I was quite tired now.
Sunday 18th of February
As usual not many people up for breakfast and the first game was On the Underground, which has gotten a lot of good reviews, but only with 2 or 3 players. The game is driven by four destination cards each round. If there is one express destination and one local destination, then the tourist pawn first is going to the nearest express and then the nearest local destination, after you have built a couple of line pieces. The main rule is that the tourist is lazy and avoids walking as much as possible and secondly avoids changing lines. This means that everyone helps out to check which the shortest route to every destination is. It’s definitively interesting, but the luck from the destination cards seemed to be a bit too much, as Benoit several times never had an express destination available, which made him suffer a lot. The game took only 50 minutes to play. Renard 55p, Carl 49p and Benoit 46p My rating is 7 of 10.
Fredric Taton had brought his old edition of Silverton, so I could test it, as I had seen a copy available in Sweden. It seemed to be a reasonable good economic game, with a nice theme of building railroads and mines. But you could easily see that it is very luck dependant of dice rolls, as the mines might close already at the second operation trial, due to bad rolls. The other thing was the die rolls to change the market price of the goods. If I can get a cheap copy of the new Mayfair edition, I wouldn’t mind to try out a long game. The components from this edition are really awful and Frederic had chosen to use poker markers instead of money in the game, due to the bad quality. We interrupted it just after lunch after just playing a few rounds, as Frederic had to go home for a while, but I appreciated that I could test it. Too short play to rate the game properly.
The it was time for an amusing game of Bang!, which we had the perfect number of 7 to participate in. As I got a character, which could use “bang cards” as “missed” and vice versa plus I got the weapon to fire many times a turn and sat just beside the sheriff as an outlaw, I started the game by shooting him 3 times in a row. He succeeded to avoid all shots, but was nearly out of cards. The next was Brigitte, who also was an outlaw and she could play a weapon to reach him before she shot, so it was getting sweaty for the poor sheriff Jeff. The game continued in a quite fast pace end ended after only 15 minutes with the sheriff shot. After my last play with analytical players a year ago, this turned out to be a really fun experience. Winner was the outlaws with Carl, Brigitte and Jean-Loup. Xavier H was the renegade and Martine and Nicolas were deputies. My rating is 7 of 10.
Another game I’ve wanted to test for quite a while is Il Principe by Emanuelle Ornella. This is an auction game. The resources gained are used to build cities, to be displayed to gain roles for the next turn. The main goal is to gain as many victory point as possible. The money is very tight and I had a feeling that a lot of the auctions were too high, so the players buy cities as much as they ought to. This game is not really forgiving for newbies and requires a second play to give a fair rating. It’s a good game, but not one of his best. The game took 1:15. Carl 69vp, Karine and Xavier G 52p, Marc 47p and Nicolas 39p My initial rating is 7 of 10.
I heard that Marc had brought a copy of Kampf um Rum (Struggle for Rome) and convinced him to play it with me and a couple of others. This was a really different and interesting variant of the Catan series. In every round the players get resources from 4 different die rolls. Then every player can build and trade with either the bank or each other, although the trading was rarely done. You could either build an army for the warrior and rider tribes, or a wagon to either tribe or buy a development card. The gained resources are ore, wheat or a random horse or cattle card. It seemed as the most sought resource was the horse in the beginning, but you could always buy development cards for gold plus cattle. My first three development cards happened to be the three 1 VP cards! Then each player first moved their rider tribe and then their warrior tribe, either to loot a city, which gave them some income and if they got a bonus (card or extra gold), you also lost an army for this tribe. The looting was possible if you had as many armies in the tribe as there are towers on the city. Otherwise you can just move the tribe to get a better position for the next resource roll. The movement can be done for free whenever you only pass one arrow on the road, but by paying wheat or gold, you may move further. Whenever a tribe has looted cities in at least three different regions, you may choose to settle down this tribe and expand through conquering new cities instead. This also increases the resource, as you get resources around the cities instead, but the game is less dynamic then when you move around. The most important decision is probably when to move into this phase, as if it’s done with good timing, you quickly start to collect the remaining victory points to reach the goal of 10. This is the best variant I’ve played since Settlers of the Stone Age and it’s a must buy for me. I was really sure to win, but Laurent caught up with me in the final round and won with more gold, which is the tiebreaker. It took exactly 2 hours to play. Laurent 10vp+13G, Carl 10vp+8G, Marc 9vp and Nicolas 7vp. I will rate it a strong 8 of 10.
After dinner there started a poker tournament in the main gaming room, so I moved down into the cellar to play Venedig, which is a new game Klaus-Jürgen Wrede, who designed Carcassonne. It’s a building game, here different buildings gives different points. The unique with the design is the usage of the scoring track, which is in between the islands of Venice. Whenever you or another player builds something on island where your gondola (scoring pawn) is placed, you get a treasure, which you may replace with scoring any time. As whenever you scores you just jump over occupied spaces, this could be a good way to catch up points. You can also finish a building someone else has started, but it’s only the player with the majority who decides where to place it. It’s an interesting but not overwhelming game, so I won’t buy it. It took 1 hour to play. Benoit 45p, Natalie 39p, Carl 37p and Renard 25p My rating is a weak 7 of 10.
The next proposed game I already had assumed was a terrible one, due to its theme. Vegas Showdown is an Avalon Hill game about auctioning and building a hotel with a casino. It actually turned out to be a good strategic game, with some puzzle aspects, but still nothing for me. It took 1:30 to play. Renard 63p, Natalie 60p, Benoit 57p and Carl 53p. I’ll rate it 6 of 10.
It was midnight when I was asked to join a game of Railroad Tycoon, which I couldn’t resist. The game started with Anne J bidding a ridiculously high amount to be the starting player, but she had a plan and took a card of extra actions and had a good start in the North-East corner. Myself, I started by taking a card, which scored extra every time someone delivered to Atlanta and started to build around it. This turned out to pay quite well. As most players kept themselves to the Eastern coast, except Anne-Cat who mostly was in the Northern part, although she connected New York and Chicago. I was the first to deliver a good to mobile, which gave me 4 extra points and I could peacefully continue to build the net around Atlanta, so I never needed to bid for starting player, as I had very little competition. The game was fairly quick in exactly 2 hours, as all players had played it before. Dim 52p, Anne-Cat 51p, Laurent 44p (more money than me), Carl 44p and Anne J 37p. So even if I had no competition, also nobody used my line, to my disadvantage. Still I rate it only 7 of 10 and consider the original Age of Steam far superior, but enjoy this now and then. Time for bed around 2:30.
Monday 19th of February
I started the day by playing the hyped deduction game Mr Jack with Frederic T. It was a fight where I kept in the light as much as possible and Frederic as the detective was frustrated as all his alibi cards showed characters he already knew were innocent. In the last round he tried to accuse one of the three remaining characters, but failed. It was nice to have Ludovic Maublanc, one of the co-designers, at the table beside us to ask questions. I will rate it 7 of 10, as it’s not really my type of game, although a good one.
I got the chance to replay Kampf um Rom today. It still felt like a solid game on my “must buy” list. Today I succeeded to win after 1:40: Carl 10vp, Marc 9vp, Gil 7vp and Fred 3vp.
As it wasn’t much time left for dinner I then introduced Alchemist to a couple of fellow gamers, as it only took 35 minutes to play. Carl 73p, Iris 68p and Stephane 59p.
For dinner did everyone change to the thematic evening, which this year was B-movies, with a lot of zombies, mummies, vampires, FBI agents, X-men etc. We got some money each and then it was an auction to bid for doing one of 6 different movies with crazy titles. Finally I went in a group of 4persons creating a movie called “Saingleur d’agneau”, which means something like “the bloody lamb” but with a different spelling would be “lord of the ring”. Although we were few, we succeeded to make a spectacle, which we could be proud of. We really intended to make a B-story with the hero killed by the innocent guy at the end. The movies were presented after half an hour or so in front of everyone else and afterwards everyone had one vote each on the best actor and the best movie to win the “B-movie Oscar award”. It was a really fun and different theme. The intention was the it should be done twice, but it took too long time, so it was interrupted towards 23:00.
I sat down in one of the upper rooms playing Yspahan, a light and nice new game, which I enjoy although it’s not brilliant. It uses dice in an innovative way. The active player throws nine dice and they are sorted according to values, which will give either camels, gold or placement in one of the fours souks. The camels and gold can be used to build buildings, which help you to generate more camels, gold, points etc. It took 1:25, which was unusually long, as this normally only takes 1 hour to play. Carl 69p, Vincent 49p, Dominique 53p and Benjamin 43p. My rating is 7 of 10, but nothing I will buy, although I probably had done it a few years ago.
Then I found Frederic who proposed to play a 2-player resource management card game called Union vs Central from Winsome Games. The goal is to play a railway line, which is 8 track long. You have two equal, but shuffled decks of cards, which can be used in 3 ways: As a building, as resources at your town or as a railway track. You start with a depot, which you can upgrade first to a town and then further to a city. You start with 4 cards and in every turn you can play one single card and then draw a replacement card from the deck or you discard all and draw 4 new cards. You play new terrain cards beside your initial terrain and on those cards you can play buildings or mines to get more resources. Except from your initial depot, you have to move one or more trains along the board, max 5 steps to move resources to where you want to build something. You could also build one add-on on each terrain card, but that was normally done on the opponent to make it more difficult to continue, but we avoided it to keep the game shorter. Although it’s really not interactive, except the add-on cards and a few special cards, it was very interesting, but towards the end when we got a log of resources, whenever we chose this option, it became quite repetitive to move the trains and all the time remember to have one coal and one worker for the trip back, as it was longer movement. We declared it a draw after 2:15 hours of playing, ie at 4 am in the morning. Then Fredrik had gotten one track left, but a difficult one and I had two easy one left. With a more streamlined mechanic and better components, this could have been a really good game, but now I rate it 6 of 10.
Tuesday 20th of February
This was of course quite a late morning. First I got the chance to test a game I’ve been very interested to try before: Celtic Quest, which is a mix between adventure, trading and logistics. I really liked the idea of the game, but the drawing of two tiles from a bag at the start of each turn made it a little bit too luck-driven, even for my taste. You had different characters, which gave you different advantages and you probably need to play it a few times to understand how to use them. My characters gave extra experience points at every trade, but I forgot to trade in the points to victory points before the game ended. While both Thomas’ and Frederic’s characters only gave bonus at the end of the game depending on certain conditions, which apparently was easier to handle. You moved around hex terrains and collected goods, which you sold I different villages. But the villages got more and more difficult to reach when the Romans (tiles from the bag) guarded the roads and the game ended when a village was fully conquered. The game finished in 50 minutes. Result was Thomas 68vp, Frederic T 27vp and Carl 6vp. My rating is 6 of 10.
After lunch I played a new French game called Les Cabanes de M’sieur Robinson, where you draw tiles and build on three tree houses for monkeys. You got separate points for each cabins you built on and the one you were in the score lead on certain occasions gave you extra points and at the end you first counted points for each cabin and the leader on that got full point, the next one got half etc. It wasn’t an easy game, although a lot of games, so we discussed the choice of drawing on the game box, as it looked like a children game, but was far to complex for young kids. The pain was over after 55 minutes. Valerie-Anne 15p, Thomas P 13p, Carl 10p and Christwart 6p. My rating is 4 of 10.
The weather was really sunny and warm, so when a game of Hermagor was suggested we went outside and played it in the courtyard at a table. It was the first time I played it with 5 players and the dynamic is quite different than with fewer players. It was less control and more people who got money from someone else building a trade station where they already had built. I was pretty sure that either Natalie or I would win, but Patrick had somehow sneaked up for a win. The game took 2:05, and the last hour was getting a bit too chilly. It’s without a keeper, as one of the best recent games. Patrick 121, Natalie 119, Carl 113, Delphine 97 and Renard 95. This is still rated 8 of 10.
In the warm cellar I started a game of the new version of RoboRally, which was a pleasant surprise. It was a long time since I played it last time and then with 8 players and a timer, which I really hated. Anyway in the new version you can choose different scenarios, which have a described playing length and we choose a short one. It also has a starting board, so the virtual robots don’t exist any longer. I seemed to have a really good quick start when I planned, where I knew I would reach the first checkpoint and then even continue a bit. But when should start to move I realised that I had looked at the wrong robot and with a sigh I had to move anyway and to my surprise I ended up at the checkpoint on the last card anyway! But then I made a bad choice to circumvent the problem and didn’t get the right curves, so I was far after the others to the second checkpoint. We had a break for dinner and continued so the real playing time was55 minutes for this scenario. 1st Renard, 2nd Carl and 3rd Natalie. Still a solid 7 of 10 in my book.
Benoit joined us for a really fun game of Lord of the Ring, which I played for the 14th time now, which makes it to my top 10 list of number of plays.Renard played Frodo, Natlaie was my real hero Sam, I had Merry and Benoit Pippin. Already at the first board it went bad and Sauron (who started on 12) approached quickly, but then we could start to fight back On the next last board Sam died heroically, but Natalie continued to be engaged in the discussions on the last board, where both Merry and Pippin was killed near the end and after 2:25 Frodo finally succeeded to put the ring over the edge to Mount Doom just in front of Frodo. It was really exciting as it was a really close win. This remains rated as 9 of 10. Natalie and Renard who were newbies continued to play it with another group, with all expansions, including a new one which had been released a couple of weeks before.
Myself, I had to think about going to bed in reasonable time, so it would be possible to work on the Thursday.
Wednesday 21st of February
Up at nine to pack everything and down for breakfast and playing a few more games before it was time to leave. One of my new favourites is Die Säulen der Erde (The Pillars of Earth, which is based on a novel by Ken Follett, which I can recommend), which I even have tested a few times on BrettSpielWelt. This is definitively my type of resource handling game. You collect resources during six turns and convert them to gold or victory points. Normally you have 12 workers each and in the first phase you either place them on resource cards to get sand, wood or stone or you buy a craftsman card for gold. You can do this in turns until either all workers are placed or you pass and put the rest of the workers on the windmill to get one gold for each. In the next phase you randomly draw master builders from a bag. Each player have 3 each. The first drawn costs 7 gold to place, the next 6 gold etc. You may pass and place the builder after all are drawn for free. The placement is done on the board in different locations, which all players visits in number order in the next phase. The next phase starts by drawing the event card, which might be positive or negative. The player who has placed a builder there is protected against this or may get a resource.The next place is Kingsbridge, where you can take one or both cards with your builder. These give you either a resource or a future advantage. At the monastery you “only” get 2 or 1 point, which isn’t bad at all. Hen you pick your resources, which you paid for with your workers. Next place is the tribute to the king to avoid the tax, which is decided by a die (2-5 gold) and the first there get a piece of the rare metal. Next are two craftsmen and then you can get two extra “gray workers” for the next round. In the market you may buy and sell resources and the one who placed a builder beside the cathedral is first in next round. In the last phase you are using your initial and new craftsmen to convert resources to victory points and in a few cases to gold instead, which is a scarce resource in the game. In each round there are 4 craftsmen available and they get better for each round, that is it requires fewer resources to generate more victory points, so it’s good to know these quite well. This is definitively one of the best games from the last year, although sometimes the drawing of master builders from the bag is a bit frustrating. It took 1:40 to play and it was very tight at the end when I won thanks to more gold: Carl 41vp, Camille 41vp, Marc 40vp and Benoit 39vp. My rating is 8 of 10.
Before lunch I played an old favourite: Attika, which is a nice tile laying game. It was a hard fight, although I succeeded to block off Camille quite early in two directions. Benoit had surrounded the temple in his corner, so it was quite impossible to reach and he came towards my corner slowly, but I had some luck drawing the correct “free tile” to stop him and succeeded just after to connect to the corner of Camille. After 40 minutes I won with a temple connection. My rating is 8 of 10.
The convention ended with one of the best and quickest card game I know: San Juan. It just took 40 minutes, but there was a lot of confusing during the victory point counting at the end, as Pierre mixed the price of the buildings with victory points. I started of early with the Prefecture and took the Mayor several time and got two cards of 5 and later of 8, as I built the library. I had a good combination of buildings, which gave me a lot of income during the end. Pierre was the one who was ahead of building and despite the confusing we won. Pierre 31p, Carl 29p, Benoit 25p and Xavier H 24p. My rating is 8 of 10.
It was time to say goodbye yet another great convention and Frederic drove me to the railway station, so I could take the train to Brussels airport and a direct flight back home.
Summary: During this intense week I played 31 games, thereof 27 unique, although three were interrupted before the end. Games I likely will buy after testing them are Prophecy, Struggle for Rome, The Pillar of Earth (which was decided before) and maybe Alchemist.
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