Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Minneapolis Board Game Marathon (October 12th)

Writing about things on the internet can be a lonely gig. or a hobby in this case. I got som really top quality time in some board gaming this last weekend and it really recharged my batteries. One night with my friends, but then another entire day with complete strangers at the Minneapolis Board Game Marathon.

The post about game night (will feature Rex and Dungeon Petz) is still perculating.

But I can kick out a few thoughts on the "Marathon."

First off I have never been much of a convention guy. Conventions are typically ok, but the ones I have experience with are 90% vendors. And once you are out of spending money, there's really not much else to do.

What this little conference room, about 20 people total when I showed up, provided was a cornucopia of game playing pouring everlasting (or at least until 10:00, when the hotel needed the coference room back). I felt welcome and among my peers.

A place you can sit, drink coffee and play board games: sounds like heaven to me.

So on to the games!

1) Tragedy Looper

It took a long time for me to wrap my head around this game. The teacher was patient in what, looking back now, must have been an avalanche of questions from my corner. Constantly interupting! But he persevered and eventually I got it.

In Tragedy Looper, a crime is going to be comitted. Or multiple crimes. You kinda know what's up by way of an informational sheet you are handed at the start of the game.

You look on the board, and you see various character cards who move about the board. One of them might be a killer, one of them is the person you are trying to save. All the players cooperate to solve the mystery and stop the events, except for one. One player is the evil mastermind who wants the events to happen, and he has a full arsenal of tricks in the form of cards he can play.

Eventually, and probably sooner rather than later the person you are trying to save will die. And you will gain some info based on what happened when he or she died. You will know this person had some importance in the story. And then the game rewinds (loops!) to the beginning and you start all over again.

You go through these loops, but you don't go through them forever. If the group fails to prevent the crimes, eventually the mastermind player is awarded the victory.

So after the first loop, you and your fellow time agents huddle up and try to suss out who the bad guys and good guys are in this little puzzle of a story.

One of the more satisfying things our group accomplished was getting one of the bad guys to kill one of the other bad guys, and hence reduce the level of the stuff you are trying to avoid considerably.

And the entire time we deliberated, the mastermind at the table was trying to figure out how to sneak around our suspicions, and juse any of our false assumptions against us. I can only imagine its an intense experience.

I played the introductory scenario, which is about half as long as the normal game. And comparing it to the info sheet given out for the full version, half as complicated too as far as characters and plots. But at the tend I had invested my mind entirely on the task at hand, and I found the conclusion very satisfying. Would play again.

2) Caverna

This is an incredible game in its scope and complexity. I was told it is similar to Agricola, and I have no reason to doubt it. I was reminded somewhat of Le Havre, only there were many workers with the obvious, always-in-demand family growth spot. You harvest crops. You collect stone and wood. You breed animals.

Despite the magical dwarves and cave dwellings, Carvena felt a lot like real life. Your house is never big enough. You work all day collecting resources. Then just as you think you have enough to finally put that gold-tinged victory point room in and earn a bunch of rewards, feeding time comes around again and all your carefully acrued good stuff gets gobbled down.

The other 3 people at the table were seasoned pros. And it was interesting to look over in contrast at their experience.

Making the rought moves, in the right places allows an incredible number of different strategies. You can get lots of points for animals, for vegetables, for rooms, for rubies, or just earning lots of victory point chips.

There are a lot of things to upgrade. Forests can be cleared for fields and pastures. Pastures can be fenced in for animals. Caves can be changed into to mines, and mines can be turned further into ruby mines. Rubies are really nice to have.

I wasn't doing much of any of this. But the stuff other people were doing looked really cool. I might start to get into Caverna if I play it about 3 more times. But those 3 extra times I predict will be the same mad scramble for just enough food to subsist off of...until everything finally clicks in my head.

3) Fresco

Ahhh! The game of the conference room! This is more of a family-level game and learning the rules leaves you with a clear idea of the strategy. You can see what you have to do right from the start, and you just bang everything out. All the victory point goals are right in the middle of the board. You can see what you have to do and you just have to do it.

The mind-blowing part...since Fresco is about painting all the resources are colors of paint. You know what colors you have because they are the same colors as the cubes. Creating new, better resources is as simple as mixing 2 colors of paint together. And of course the king color is brown. You have to mix a lot of colors to get brown, and consiquently painting things brown get you a lot of victory points.

Placing all your workers happens on a little card you hide from other players at the beginning of the turn, and then everyone reveals at once. You hope to grab certain paints, paint certain areas of the fresco, grab certain special powers and more but your oppents are trying to get there first. So the tactical action gets intense if someone does something you weren't anticipating.

Finally, at the end if you are like me you end up with a bunch of primary colors you never got around to mixing. And most of the fresco is done. And the game ends and everyone had a good time. This is the kind of game I immediately want to go buy the first time I play it. Or find someone else who has a copy. Again, a real winner.

A pretty good time

I really want to go back next time they do one of these. Perhaps even on a Saturday/Sunday type experience so I get the whole deal. The coffee is hot, the games are there and the people are friendly. What more could you want?

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