Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Prezcon 2012 AAR

On the weekend of February 22-24, I was lucky enough to get the chance to go to Prezcon again this year. I have often thought of changing my "off-season con" to something else. I would like to support my buddy Ric and go to the Block Party in the Louisville area, but it's so far away for an extended weekend. I would like to go to Winter Offensive, but I'm so rusty at ASL. I would like to go to WAM, but there just doesn't seem to be anything there that's really compelling.

And this year, around November, the cry to go to Charlottesville began. Owen was old enough to go and was excited about it. The Sudys would be there. Tom the Tinker was going to be there. Joe was going to be there. Heck, even Scott might come. And, of course, TJ had moved his permanent home there last summer and was even suggesting that I stay at his place. So I commited!

Of course, as seems to be the case in my life these days, as soon as I commit, I pay a price. TJ was the first to drop. He had a business meeting and wouldn't be able to make it. Joe dropped. Even Owen dropped, and he's my son! But a reserved room and the chance to play with Tom the Tinker and the Sudys, not to mention whoever else migh tbere, enticed me to keep my commitment. And then, about a week and a half before departure, Paul, one of my newest gaming buddies, sent an email asking when we would all be there. Things started to fall into place.

I arrived on the night of the 23rd. I rushed out of school in order to make it with as much time as possible. I had time all right. Time to see that Kevin and AJ Sudy. Time to watch Paul and his opponent set up their game of Breakout Normandy. And time to watch Tom the Tinker play his warm-up game of Eastfront. Well, at least it gave me time to watch some back episodes of Mad Men on my iPad.

I was also able to begin scheduling some games. The Sudys and I agreed to meet on Friday morning and I finally got the chance to play. We played Theos, AJ's prototype. In this game, each player represents a world religion spreading its influence across the world. In our particular game, I was Hinduism, Kevin was Buddhism and AJ was Islam. The game involves some interesting mechanics. You have three main characteristics, "Lore" (I believe - basically the idea of the central tenets/text of the faith), "Faith" (your ability to spread within a territory that you already occupy), and "Missionary" (Okay, get your mind out of the gutter. It's the ability to spread your faith around the world). Each of these acts as a different currency, allowing you to perform certain actions and controllling the way you spread. At this point, the prototype also has a multi-option track where you gained cetain bunuses (more missionary points, a higher ship value, more VP).  You cold spend your points on this track or use them to spread on the map. It was surprisingly quick for a game that resembled History of the World. There may have been a brief balance issue with Islam, especially as Islam had to compete with Hinduisim and Buddhism. We talked out some options about changing gameplay then headed over the vendors.

The pickings were sparse at the vendors. I ended up only buying one game (!). I feel bad, like I let down my collector brethren, but what can you do? I noticed at the Z-Man games booth the game Junta:Viva la Revolucion! As I turned the game back and forth in my hand, admiring its design and pricetag, the clerk in the Z-Man booth said "Oh, that game -- it's basically a beer and pretzels versions of Junta." WHAT? I blinked twice. Junta WAS a beer and pretzels game.It was kind of like saying "It's a Will Ferrell movie, but this one is a comedy." I couldn't quite wrap my brain around it, but I was good buying it anyway.

So I did get to play the game a couple of times during the con. It was light. It was more beer and pretzels than the original. Really, they removed the wargaming element. And what did we play Junta for? It was for the betrayals, the fun of illegally stashing away your embezzlements from the banana republic and the fun of trying to catch each other off guard for an assassination. While stashing away the ill-gotten gains has been changed thematically from squirreling it away in a swiss bank account in the original to an investment system in the current game, those key elements remained. Honestly, the wargaming component of the original Junta was overblown. It actually could cause the game to crawl (I remember the last time I played the game we launched a coup every turn. It was brutal and it pretty much made the game dead to me). So, this is light. It's not a great game, but it's not that bad. We played it with three players, which caused some weirdness with assassinations, but I would like to play it again with more. It is filler material, not the main game of the night, but it will probably find my table again.

I also got to play the new Academy Games offering, 1812: Clash for a Continent. Walking away from my disappointing excursion to the vendors, we encountered a "bonus vendor" in the hotel atrium. I'm not sure who exactly the booth belonged to (sorry, vendor!), but it catered to Academy Games products and Defenders of the Realm and its expansions. The best part about this particular vendor was its stragegically placed location next to the open gaming areas.

I was probably going to buy 1812: Clash for a Continent any way. The game looked somewhat interesting. It was a hybrid (one of my weak spots these days). And, of course, I have an addiction to buying games. But I stayed in a state of denial about this purchase just long enough for one of the salespeople at the booth to offer to teach 1812 to me and my friends, Kevin and AJ.

Not a bad game! The game is a standard, Risk-style, move and shoot game. EXCEPT each army involved has its own special dice - the Brits are good at killing and not running away, the French are good at killing, but may run away, and the militia might kill, but are more likely to run away. Oh, and the game is card driven. EXCEPT you will play every card in your deck once and only once. And did I mention that the game could be played with 2, 3, 4, or 5 players? There has been some criticism about how effective a multiplayer game it is because you play in teams. But I have played it with 3 and 4 players, and it seemed to work fine, certainly no more awkwardly than Middle Earth Quest. Bottom line: the game played fast and had some interesting decisions to it. It's not an incredible game, but it is definitely one I will play again.

Speaking of Middle Earth Quest, Kevin and I were able to squeeze in two games at Prezcon. We introduced a newbie to the game (sorry again, forgot your name and should have recorded it somewhere). He went running off to the vendors to buy his own copy of the game, so I guess you could say it was a success. We seem to be seeing a rise in the powers of darkness lately, with Sauron becoming more and more difficult to defeat. I think it just means that we'll adjust the way we play the heroes in the game and the game will balance itself again. Of course, if it ends up being a game where Sauron wins most of the time and the heroes are scrambling to prevent the triumph of evil, that seems to work thematically so it's okay with me.

The last game I want to report on is my third play of FAB: Sicily. This was an extra cool session for two reasons. Reason One: I got to play with Rick Young. Rick is a good friend with whom I love to play and with whom I don't get enough chances to play. Rick convinced me that Point 2 Point is NOT dead and that people would still like to hear from me, even if it were twice a year (a post-WBC year in review and a Holiday Special). I might be able to do that. I'll at least try it for Rick's sake.

The second reason was I finally played it right! That's not to say my son and I were playing it completely randomly or anything. Far from it. The majority of the game we were playing correctly. But there still were minor things we had been doing wrong, and Rick was able to point those out during the course of play. Needless to say, Rick's Allied forces crushed my Axis ones, but it was not immediate and it was fun to play. Verdict on FAB: Sicily? It's a good one. It's its own game, like all Rick Young games. This one focuses more on choosing invasion sites and using your airborne troops effectively and less on getting your armor to where it can exploit (which is one of the main focal points of FAB:Bulge).

So that wraps up the first in what I hope will be a series of blog posts in the coming weeks. I needed to get the Prezcon AAR out of the way. I am sorry it took so long. Bottom line on Prezcon: it's small, but a good time. There is something of a personal touch to it, which I love, and the venue is one of the nicest I have ever been in for a con.

Stay tuned and subscribe at I have some more to write, including: a series of zombie posts (another on the AMC series, one on Romero's movie series, and one on boardgaming with zombies - which I'll crosspost to BGG), one on an 80's fantasy television series I've been re-watching, and more on gaming - not sure what this one will be, maybe on the disappointment of hex and counter gaming (say it ain't so!).

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