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November 28, 2005

T'Con Plus One

Packed and gone.

Currently typing on the train from Cary to Greensboro, not really ready for four days working at company HQ before finally getting back to home (after 15 days away). My games (and non-work clothes) are all loaded into Julia and Lou's van (with a new, 3rd bin added by Grant; it'll be brought back empty at some future date) and off on their own trip, which will take an extra week or so.

Amtrak isn't providing connectivity on NC trains (no big shocker there), so this will likely be posted from the hotel this evening [and, indeed, it was]. But they do provide one free drink and one free snack as part of the ticket, so I'll be supplementing my coffee and yummy homemade cookie breakfast after the Durham stop.

And after that, back to work.

Posted by ghoul at 07:38 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 27, 2005

T'Con Day Eight

Game shopping happened at noon, finally getting to the shop closest. There, I found several products I was looking for, including Hansa, Technowitches, and Wings of War - Burning Drachens, plus Knizia's Pickomino and King Arthur.

Shadows Over Camelot was played, though to two losses. First time, we fell behind early and didn't quite make it back, then the second time we suffered from a traitor in the form of Lou, showing himself only at the last minute, just in time to place the 12th siege engine out and cause the lose.

Beowulf was the last of my major list we could get to (Descent had already fallen off the list for lack of time), but it was not to be as we made time for Formula Motor Racing, a regular fave. Of course, the game is highly random, more noise than anything else, and this game proved no exception. In the end, Ryan decided to maximize his score with his last play, putting me into a win over Lou, who would have managed a 2 point lead over me before Ryan's last play.

And now, it's all over... tomorrow morning, I have to get to a 7:15 train toward Greensboro and the working world...

Until then, I have to pack.

Posted by ghoul at 09:22 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 26, 2005

T'Con Day Seven

Another game or two today...

Several games of Cloud 9 were played, as none of us are good at refusing this random brinksmanship play. Then Luc, Grant, and I sat down to try Caracasonne - The City, a stand-alone Carcasonne game with new rules for building a wall around the city starting around 1/3rd of the way through the city tiles. I took an early point lead, then Luc caught up. Grant was convinced he was all but out of it (at one point, he had barely half the score Luc and I had), but when we reached endgame and scored all the things that only score then, we ended up at 134 for Luc, 129 for me and 127 for Grant. It could barely have been any closer.

Then we went out to Ruth's Chris Steakhouse for the traditional "as if you aren't eating enough Thanksgiving week" steak dinner. Yum! Now, we're all going to succumb to meat coma and perhaps be awake for some games tomorrow.

Shadows Over Camelot and Beowulf remain atop the list to come next, with Descent slightly behind because it both will take longer and is more familiar in its nature (if still unique, pretty, and updated in its mechanics). We'll see what actually happens over the next 26 or so hours, before we have to give up and admit that T'Con 2005 is ending...

Posted by ghoul at 10:42 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

T'Con Day Six

And, two of the big games get rolled out...

Battlestations was played to a very successful conclusion, an Outstanding Success by the crew on their Boot Camp mission, which everyone succeeding quite regularly (with a couple fumbles, since they were fresh from the academy, not experienced crew). Everyone was surprised how successful characters can be with proper planning, preparations, and assistance. Everyone seemed pretty happy with the results, though it was a bit dry on the RP side for for Luc (who was the pilot, which is one of the dryer roles, doing the same thing over and over).

Arkham Horror came out later, with printing of aids starting around 8 PM and actual rule training starting around 9 PM. We did know the game was long, and that proved true, with a long grinding "figure out what we're doing" phase, then a sudden rush to try to make up for lost time. In the end, we did a great job of monster management, keeping Arkham to only a Terror Level of 1 before the Doom Track filled, which meant Hastur was relatively easy to fight when he did arise (his combat strength is the Terror Level). In the end, it was almost a 5 hour game, ending just before 2 AM. And while everyone had fun, it's just too long. I really worry what this game will become when its expansion set (announced for next year) is added!

Descent still lurks in our plans, with Grant offering to play Overlord for us since I reffed Battlestations. Once he's read the rules through, that is.

Posted by ghoul at 09:18 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 24, 2005

T'Con Day Five

Yum. Turkey!

And, after turkey and digestion, we set up a game or two. Run For Your Life Candyman was a silly, highly random sort of lark, with Luc and I taking early leads, but quickly dragged back to the rear for Candy Cage Matches before Lou rocketed to a win by more than half the track.

So, looking for something still light but with a bit more meat on its bones, I pulled out Niagara. We got one rule wrong (we didn't charge a gem to buy a canoe back after going over the falls), but everyone still had a good time. Lou won again, but this time it was quite close, with Ryan just a move away from a VERY early win before I stopped him. The sliding disk "water" caught about one move in 10, which was annoying but seemed to become less so with use. And all of us are now sure we know how to "do it right next time". Which we probably won't manage this year, but we'd all like to.

Beowulf, Descent, Shadows Over Camelot, and Battlestations remain atop the "try to play these" list, with Descent and Battlestations probably needing to play tomorrow or not likely to get table time (both are fairly rules-heavy and longish). Of course, since we're not mad enough to venture out of doors on Black Friday (not after the "quick visit to Wal*Mart to snag a Zelda game" two years ago), there'll be more gaming density on the next couple of days.

Posted by ghoul at 11:19 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

T'Con Day Four

A couple of games of Street Illegal and a trip to see the new Harry Potter filled the day.

The list of main "want to play" titles remains untouched.

Posted by ghoul at 12:39 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 22, 2005

T'Con Day Three

Another day of game shops and good food.

We did 3 more game shops, with me purchasing only a handful of things (mostly discounted RPG titles, though I also picked up Berserker Halflings From the Dungeon of Dragons and Let's Kill!), including one store where I bought nothing (only because I was tempted only by things too large to easily get home) while others did buy things... and I'm not sure that's ever happened before!

We did set up Santiago for a play, just Grant, Lou, and I, and had a great time. The end was fairly close to a casual glance, though Lou had a clear advantage and, indeed, won by more than a dozen escudo. I had worried that 3-player play would not have the delightful water shortages of the 5-player game, but that was unfounded, and also ignored the cutthroat bidding that you get at only 3 players. This is a very solid game, getting stronger with each play. It may just get pulled out again, though there's a lot of titles still on the stack to play.

My personal list for the near future... Beowulf, Run For Your Life Candyman, Descent, Shadows over Camelot, and Battlestations (which we already made characters for; I'm re-familiarizing myself with the rules before we try playing for real). Several other titles lurk in the next tier.

Posted by ghoul at 11:24 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 21, 2005

T'Con Day Two

Quiet, rainy day.

We made a trip to Chapel Hill and Cerebral Hobbies for a quick game store stop, and I picked up Igles, Dungeonville, and Vegas Showdown. Then we came back and napped away the gloomy day. I also spent some time learning how this program works and how to get my character for Lou's new bi-weekly game coded in.

After dinner, we made characters for Battlestations (we have a full 4 person crew of pilot, engineer, scientist, and marine. We'll actually play the game tomorrow or Wednesday...

Other than that, not much to report. We'll be doing 2-3 more game stores tomorrow during the day to finish that part of the week, then probably playing a game or two in the evening (the first where no one has to be up for work or school the next day).

Posted by ghoul at 11:58 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 20, 2005

T'Con Day One

I was a late arrival this year, but my games mostly arrived before me with Julia and Lou...

Even though the first day is traditionally a slow, relaxed one, I made a push to get at least one game in, so Grant and I played Dungeon Twister. I lost 5 to 0, but it was fun.

We've also assembled a list of all the games, with everyone encouraged to sign on where they would. So now we know what to unpack from the tubs tomorrow...

Posted by ghoul at 11:59 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Leaving The Wedding

David and Melinda are now married (actually married again, because they'd done a civil ceremony for insurance purposes earlier), and I should have a link to photos before too terribly long (many were taken, and much of that digitally). I must complement the couple's taste in tux styles... I think the groomsmen looked quite snazzy despite having me as part of them. Thankfully, David was unable to burn down the church, though not for lack of trying.

The after-party consisted of games. Ahh, gamer weddings! While there were Jenga, Apples to Apples, and The Great Dalmuti games played, my role at the party was the bring and teach new games, so I focused on that.

(Details of gaming lurk under the fold.)

Then I spent some time re-packing, asking to ship some things home rather than bringing them along (including my copy of Web and Starship, an astonishing game David had borrowed from me around 8 years earlier, at last on its way home). However, I still failed to get under 50lbs on the main suitcase, so I paid extra again for the 2nd flight... But, as I type this at gate D4 of the Indy airport, I'm ready to head to Raleigh for TCon!

Santiago won first try, after many people had heard me rave about its elegant structure (and this Indy crowd are fans of that sort of game). And no one was disappointed. Subtle bidding and location strategy took the first 3 to 4 turns to settle in, but by the end of the game we were carefully calculating each move. I likely made a 2-4 pt mistake on the last turn, but it would only have made the difference between 3rd place and 2nd, as the Groom won with 102 (mostly from one huge banana plantation), followed by a 98 (who gained 2 by my mistake) and my 96. It's nice to have a game that tight (though the other 2 players were 75 and 64 pts). This game certainly lives up to the hype with which it was sold to me at GenCon and to my own hopes for the game after reading it. Don't miss this one!

Shadows Over Camelot came next, initially with 5 players but another needed to do some packing (he'd be leaving right after the game and driving homeward overnight) before joining in around the 4th turn. Fortunately, this game allows this! I took the Tristan role so I'd be able to jet off to quests cheaply, and was quickly on the Grail quest, but stymied by a very bad run of cards that hammered away all my progress then trapped me in the Black Forest, unable to progress. While other knights came to my rescue (Galahad and Palamides having fought off the Picts while Kay handily defeated the Black Knight in tourney), Gawain fought a losing battle of attrition trying to rescue Excalibur. We were able to save the Grail, and thought we'd have an easy time recovering Lancelot's armor, but a terrible turn of cards meant the armor slipped our grasp. With only one artifact collected and 5 black swords on display (the Black Knight had regrouped himself unchecked), hope was fading. Arthur had joined the quest (the late player), and he sent valuable cards around to allow us regroup. We focused on slaying the great dragon, realizing that success there would be just enough to edge out a victory. Arthur went to face the regrouping Picts, but they overwhelmed him and we were at 6 black swords and 9 siege engines (7 black swords and 12 engines would mean our end). Arthur and Galahad stood in Camelot fighting back the besieging forces while the rest of us marched to the dragon's lair. At game's end, we had 6 knights only one of whom had more than 1 life point left (Galahad had 2), we were at 11 siege engines, and we played the final card to slay the dragon. But even with an enhancer that made the Dragon worth 3 white swords rather than 2, we were just at an 8 to 6 score, so if there was a traitor, we would still lose (as the score would change to 6 to 8 when he was uncovered). But, to our amazement, the Traitor was one of the 2 unused loyalty cards, and the battered knights emerged with the honor of Camelot intact. Huzzah! I've heard tell of runaway games that are obviously wins or losses early, but this one was a perfect nailbiter.

We'd hoped to play more (I'd wanted to try Beowulf with this group, and Dave was interested in Formula Motor Racing based on how popular it is with the T'Con gaming crowd), but getting pizza, enjoying old jokes with new people (which is almost the same as new jokes), and the massive tension of the end of that Camelot game (we were all sure we were going to lose, and would have done so had we needed to take just one more player turn to slay the dragon; we turned over the next card to see and it would have completed the siege), we decided to call it a night.

Also a plus of the weekend... my groomsman gift is a copy of the new Knizia release Palazzo, a great looking game of bidding and building. A quick read of the rules during breaks suggest it's going to take a spot on my "let's try this" primary list for T'Con this week as another very elegant Knizia design.

Posted by ghoul at 10:38 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 17, 2005

Gaming Beats Sleeping

Got up fairly early (given how late we called it a night last night) and turned to gaming to get the blood flowing.

Won 2 out of 3 Duell (aka En Garde) matches, including a solid 5 to 0 middle game. Dave had played Duell before but really hadn't internalized its strategic complexities (because it really looks so simple). A true fave and a nice way to start the weekend.

Then we took to Dungeon Twister and Dave more than paid me back for that 5 to 0 match. He leapt out to a rapid 4-0 lead (the game is played to 5), but had over-drained his combat cards. I caught one of his characters carrying out a wounded character within a fireball, then blasted his warrior with the other fireball wand to get to 3 points, but just as I started to close in and take advantage of his drained combat deck (mine was still quite solid), he found a route that exactly took his Cleric off my side of the board, scoring his last point by a hair. My next actions would almost certainly have killed that Cleric, his only character advanced at all toward the exit, but I never got the chance. I like this game, but I wasn't prepared for just how carefully you must manage resources. Wasting an action is irrecoverable (and I wasted several).

Posted by ghoul at 12:12 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 16, 2005

Semi-Positive Flight Chaos

Manchester was sufficiently socked in with fog that all flights to Phily were delayed pretty much indefinitely. In fact, so far as I know, it still hasn't taken off.

But thanks to the delays and a clever ticket clerk, they were able to put me on a flight to La Guardia that actually got me to my final destination, Indianapolis, almost a full half-hour earlier than expected.


Almost makes up for being charged $50 extra for over-weight luggage. Too many books and games packed, I guess. I'll have to move a good bit (about 15 pounds!) over to a carry-on for the next legs Sunday. But I think I can manage that.

Posted by ghoul at 06:27 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 14, 2005

Almost Packed And Gone

The tubs o' games are in Fall River now, with just a couple of additions from the prior posting (Boomtown and Street Illegal were added and the Mare Nostrum Mythology expansion set arrived and fit easily into the original's box). And yes, space was made for Descent even though it's too big for the tubs.

Meanwhile, I've added Pizza Box Football and Five-Dragon Ante to the case going to Indy, primarily because I didn't have them in time to find space for them in the tubs (since I picked them up on the drive down to Fall River last Friday). PBF looks to be a surpisingly fun and quick football game (I'm only somewhat a football fan, but I'm betting I'll get Alex to play this one) with a focus on a rock-paper-sissors play-calling mechanic to influence some rather random (but not too complicated) resolution.

Now I need to find a minute or two to create a priority list for these games, since that worked quite well last year, and to gew the last half-dozen tasks done before I can be absent from home for 15 days or so. You know, stuff like make sure the cats will be OK, mail won't stack up, etc.

As with last year, I expect I'll end up posting more when I'm away than I do when I'm home.

Posted by ghoul at 03:52 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 07, 2005

First November Trip Completed

And I'm back.

It was a crowded weekend, but great fun. I've never gone to U-Con before, though since it's in Ann Arbor, there's a lot of overlap with the AmberCon crowd. This year, I was lured out by the offer of ShadowWorld gaming, and in particular the chance to game face-to-face with the two characters mine is closely linked to (Gail and John), which had actually never happened before this weekend.

Friday, I was out of work early and on a (crowded) flight to Detroit. A quick drive in (thanks again, Malka!!) and one more phone call for directions than I really should have needed to make and I was dropping in late to my first ShadowWorld game. It wasn't really a mission that called for Starchild's skills overmuch, but there was some interesting interaction, particularly with a couple of major agents I hadn't previously met.

Friday night was time for a GURPS-based Firefly game, and I got to play Kaylee (and a bit of Wash later on). She was easy to drop into after Starchild, and had plenty of chances to be sweet, charming, and see the good in people. And, when it was over, I was tied with another player for the prize, so I ended up with another set of the DVDs. Shiny!!

As is only appropriate for a Gail-Stella ShadowWorld weekend, I was staying with Rain, so we headed to the apartment, I met Cynthia the roommate, and I took to a surprisingly comfy cot. Of course, it helps that I was really, really tired.

Didn't get up too early on Saturday, since I wasn't doing anything before 1 (and, as I said, I was tired). That was a chance to play some Formula De, this time with enough players we could actually get a good feel for the game (which really wants to be on a crowded field). I made a few mistakes, but had managed to break away to a lead toward the end of the first lap, only to fall victim to an ill-timed roll that blew out my engines, leaving me dead in the water just one player before I was going to shift down to 4th gear and out of risk for engine damage. Still, it was great fun.

And than, Saturday night, more ShadowWorld. In fact, this was the fateful Starchild, Gail, and John together for the first time game, though there were 5 other players, and none of the three of us were in charge. We were given missions, and we chose to all but ignore them and chase after one of John's personal goals (with permission), which meant a lot of what happened here was story-important for the three of us. Many secrets were uncovered, a couple seriously bad choices were made, and we just barely managed to hold things (including John) together. But we learned quite a bit (I think), both about John's background and about the potential (and dangers) of the powers and connections Gail, John, and Starchild share. Tons of interesting potential new actions were revealed!

Still very tired after, the cot still surprisingly welcoming.

A slightly earlier morning on Sunday because we had to get Cynthia to an early game. Rain and I puttered around the dealer's room. I didn't have the luggage space to take back too much, but I found two discounted board games I just couldn't pass up (Tom Jolly's Camelot and Vanished Planet for a total of $15). Rain picked up a light zombie footrace game that proved to be more fun than I'd expected, and we played a couple rounds while waiting for... you guessed it, yet more ShadowWorld!

Third ShadowWorld game (fourth for Rain, who had played in a non-Mainline ShadowWorld game while I was playing Firefly), and we still had the missions from the previous night on the table, as John's personal quest hadn't resolved them. The mission took us back to Australia, back to the place that, on her last visit three years earlier, had proven the seed for a very bad period of Starchild's life. She avoided any of the problems she'd have had then this time, but they managed some all new ones. And things got unexpectedly large-scale, when an investigation in a barren Australian desert ended up leading to the re-discovery of Atlantis, the final destruction of the same, and the sealing of the Bermuda Triangle. Oh, and a couple very interesting additional facts (or suggestions of the same) about the more personal issues as well, including some powerful new information that Starchild's Dreaming power is more complex than I'd though.

Rain and I had plenty to talk about for Gail and Stella that night and all day Monday, with a few breaks to talk about some cool indy RPGs (including my own concept-project, exposed to another player in detail for the first time there; no hints here as of yet, sorry). As usually proves true, no amount of ShadowWorld is enough, and there's a ton of new things we need to start investigating as a result of what we've now found.

A ton of new, interesting, and certainly dangerous things.

My gaming-heavy month is underway, and starting off strong!

Posted by ghoul at 11:33 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack