Tuesday, July 10, 2012

AAR: Pseudocon 23

We had a huge turnout for Pseudocon this year. Twenty three gamers on Friday and twenty two on Saturday crammed into my humble abode to play games and visit with each other, some of us for the first time in about a year.

Before I get started on my reports, I have to make a quick note. The hits of the con were the space 4x game Eclipse and the new sequel to Here I Stand, Virgin Queen. I probably should learn to play both of them, but I had read some negative things about Eclipse that made it a game that, while I'd like to play, I had enough reservations that I allowed the many players who seemed much more interested take priority. As for Virgin Queen, there were two problems. The first is my mixed history with Here I Stand. I want to like the game, but I feel like every time I play people have to tell me what to do. It's very similar to criticisms of co-op games where it feels like I'm an actor in a play produced by one of the other players. I really believe that, were I to play it regularly, I'd end up really liking the game, but I just always move it down on the list when I'm selecting games to play. The second reason was that Pseudocon is about playing as many games as I can with as many people as I can. So I was reluctant to play a longish game. Maybe I'm just getting soft in my old age.

Any way, here's a quick(ish) rundown of my plays for the weekend:

Friday was a day for evil to triumph.

The first stop, of course, for Pseudocon, is the Game Selection Game. Everybody stands around, waiting for something to play, and it usually takes a few stronger souls (in our group, one of these is usually Scott) to commit and get a game going. Last year, TJ came up with a great idea - using index cards. The idea is simple. If you wish to, propose a game by putting it on the central table (in my case, this is my dining room table). Everyone then has an index card on which they've written their name. They place the card on the game they would like to play. It leads to some funny moments with people moving three games together and placing the card on three games at once, but pretty quickly it becomes clear what has support and what doesn't. People then migrate their cards accordingly. Usually, one game fills up and moves off to get started, then another, then the poor two souls who have chosen Dominant Species either play a two player game or change their votes and play one of the other games being offered.

The first round of this led me to play Runewars with the Banners of War expansion. Kevin, AJ and I were the players (this led Kevin to say "why do we do this again?" because that is our usual summer gaming group). I like Runewars a lot. I think it does the medieval fantasy wargame very well. It solves the multi-player problem by making player elimination an outlier as far as options go and one that will inevitably lead to an immediate victory if you're able to conquer one player, which is much more difficult than the other options available. It also does a nice job of folding in the idea of "heroes" and "questing," making it a key component (the easiest way to get new dragon runes) while not having it take over the game. I think it definitely belongs on my "hot list" and may make it to my top ten one day. The expansion adds some excellent options, especially for the weak elves and I love the new "title" card in the game that profound affects your ability to manage your resources. Great game. Kevin won, unfortunately.

A five player game of Battlestar Galactica, Scott's latest favorite game, was the next one out of the chute. Owen and I turned out to be father-son Cylons (kind of an oxymoron - don't they come from resurrection ships?). The game was fun with Scott recognizing my Cylon nature immediately (this isn't saying much, I don't think he's ever had a game where he didn't accuse me of being one). But due to a great run of luck and a great "megacrisis" or whatever those things are called, Owen and I were able to take the population meter to "0" and win the game. Of course, that makes it a Pyrrhic victory because we without any population, who were we going to crush under the heels of our shiny chrome boots?

Next up was Middle Earth Quest. Scott has now decreed that the game is "a quality game," which is pretty high praise from him. We played a three player game, and I, as Sauron, recorded the win. I've documented my love for this game a number of times. It is my truly guilty pleasure. 

We ended up playing until about 2am and then turned in early (for Pseudocon!). 

Saturday brought a few more plays for me, along with one of those games no one really likes to play.

After everyone arrived (around 10am), we again played the Game Selection Game. I tend to lurk around on the edges of this until the very last minute, jumping into whatever game needs a player that I have at least a passing interest in. Willing to play? Passing interest? Sounds like 1812: The Invasion of Canada. We played a five player of this, ending in, of all things, a tie! I have come to really enjoy playing this game, but, for whatever reason, it is one that I am happy to play, just not excited to play. A lot more games are falling into this category these days.

After this came what can become the most painful "game" of the con or any con which you host, The Lunch Game. This is one of those games that's not really a game, like the Game Selection Game. But, if not done properly, it can really go downhill quickly. I thought it would be great to order subs online, get payment, and go and pick up the subs between games. But a major storm had run through the area the night before and knocked out power to the area (except for Fortress White). This meant that the sub shop was packed with people without power AND that their online order taking system was down. Not the order-CREATING site, just the order-CONFIRMATION. So, after placing the order and arranging payment, the sub shop NEVER received the order. Brutal. Two hours down the drain. Thankfully, Joe jumped in and put together a pizza order (phase two of the Lunch Game). Next year, it's back to paper menus and every man for himself (or at least every "sub group" for themselves). It's the problem to be worked out for next year.

After the lunch craziness, we ended up playing Seven Wonders. We played with a number of new players. I like Seven Wonders as a 30 minute filler. It's fast paced and I love the "pass your hand" mechanic. I can't say I play the game well at all, but I still enjoy it. But over an hour of it? Ugh. And that's what I got on Saturday. The main problem was a large number of players (I think we had 7) playing a game that was new to them. Seven Wonders, though, is fast paced! ... Unless you have extensive kibitzing and strategy talk, and that's what we had. I'll still play the game, I just won't play it under the same circumstances. 

Next up was a round of Battlestar with Scott being a Cylon and the incompetent humans never even reaching Cobol. It wasn't really our incompetence as much as it was some really bad luck from the Fate deck. Battlestar is another guilty pleasure. It's quick, too, which helps.

Next up Scott and I played a game of Hannibal. Hannibal (me) made it into Italy, but wasn't agressive enough. Then he was kicked out and pinned a consul up in Gallia. But that wasn't enough. As Scott pointed out, I needed to use Hannibal aggressively, rather than just using him as a threat with no follow-through. Scott slowly accumulated power and fended off my lesser generals and I forfeited right before the arrival of Scipio.

The last game of the con for me was a five player Age of Empires III. Another interesting game. I think, in a lot of ways, it is a better version of Dominant Species (it's tighter and shorter, which I like). And it's also one of those games that I don't own and, consequently, don't play very often. I thought I was making decisions but I didn't triangulate all of the variables very well. And I ended up coming in dead last. Oh well. 

So, the con on the whole was a huge success. We had the largest turnout ever. The T-shirts were something of a success (we'll see how often they get worn), and, when I was lucky enough to be evil, I won a couple of games (one as Sauron, one as a part of a Cylon team). Next con, WBC! I've already started my scheduling of games. Contact me if you're interested in setting something up in open gaming. 

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