Ridere, ludere, hoc est vivere.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

WBC 2014 Saturday and Sunday: WS&IM fleet action, Acquire semifinal, and demos

One quick go-back on my earlier posts recounting my World Boardgaming Championships experience this year:  The very first thing that Keith Ferguson and I did Thursday morning, on our way to the registration desk, was to bump into Josh Tempkin of Tall Tower Games.  He spent a good part of the convention demonstrating several of his games:

  • "WarTime," which I've written about before as a fascinating, innovative real-time wargame involving sand timers
  • "Throne Dice," which surprisingly I still haven't taken the time to play
  • "Commissioner," which I learned at UnPub 4 as "Lesser Evil"
I think there were others as well.  He was kind enough to give me a print-and-play copy of his two-player micro-game "Holmes and Moriarity," a martial arts card game that he demonstrated to me at UnPub 4 as "Skirmish 16."  I look forward to trying this one out with Kathy.

French Admiral Brian (standing, center) talking with
WS&IM GM Tim Hitchings (r.)
Wooden Ships & Iron Men Fleet Action
One of the highlights of WBC for me is the WS&IM fleet action.  It's an opportunity to gain tournament points toward the semifinal qualification, but really it's just a six-hour sail-fest orgy of 18th-century naval combat.  This year, Tim Hitchings had composed a scenario that was really a hybrid of two historical events.  A large but mediocre-quality French fleet encountered a smaller crack British fleet which would eventually receive reinforcements.  I led a squadron of two 74-gun Class 2 French ships-of-the-line with average crews.  Our goal was to do as much damage to the starting British fleet as possible before reinforcements arrived.  

My seamanship was true to my French character, as I managed to cause multiple collisions that should have been entirely avoidable.  I even broke the bowsprit from one ship and spent the better part of the game repairing it.  Worse, the ship could no longer rig full sails for greater speed, which really slowed down my progress trying to engage the British fleet.  

British (six yellow hulls at left) anchor in line and await the disorganized French approach.
My two ships-of-the-line are at the extreme top right of the photo, furthest from the action.
The French fleet started in a line abreast on a beam reach, directly upwind of and bearing down upon the British.  Unfortunately, due to our poor seamanship, our admiral was not confident that we would be able to switch from full sails to battle sails in a timely manner, so he had the French fleet approach the British in battle sails even though we were outside extreme gun range.  The British turned tail, managed to form themselves into a battle line on a broad reach in full sail to open the range, then settled in and anchored in the shallow water in wait for our approach.  The French fleet engaged in a most disorganized fashion, and we never formed any kind of respectable battle line for the entire action.  

British reinforcements arrive in battle line.
French fleet tries to react before being split.
The wind veered 120 degrees, which suddenly made our approach to the British much more problematic.  Just when the right end of the French fleet started to engage the closer end of the British line, a host of British reinforcements arrived to our left.  They arrived in perfect battle line on a beam reach and threatened to slice the approaching French fleet in two.  My position was especially poor at this point.  I was inadvertently blocked from engaging the original British line to the right by my fellow French captains, and I was directly downwind from the British reinforcements on the left and so forced to tack very slowly upwind to try to get into action.

In the end, my two SOLs never saw action, even after several hours.  Our tentative approach and failure to organize a solid battle line left much of the French fleet ineffective.  I had to leave before the end of the battle, but I was rather disappointed by the anti-climactic nature of how the action played out.

Acquire semifinal
With Acquire semifinalists (l. to r.) Mindy, Joel,
and Alex.  Mindy advanced to the final.
The reason for my premature departure from the WS&IM fleet action was to see whether I had qualified for the semifinal for Acquire (designer Sid Sackson, artist Kurt Miller, publisher Wizards of the Coast).  Although I was an alternate, there were enough no-shows that I got to participate in the semifinal round.  My opponents were Mindy, Joel, and Alex, and I enjoyed another intense round of one of my very favorite games.  Mindy did very well with early mergers, and that played out well for her when the rest of us ran out of money and left her with one or two turns of buying more shares than we did.  In the end she won with a comfortable total of about $46,000.  I had a respectable if distant second-place finish at $33,000, with Joel right behind me at $30,000 and Alex at about $20,000.

Richard Borg, designer of M'44
One of the many things I enjoy about WBC is attending demos and learning about games I might not otherwise see.  This year I was treated to a real spectacle:  A complete set-up and demonstration of Memoir '44: D-Day Mega Overlord (Days of Wonder) was in full swing, with designer Richard Borg presiding.  There must have been 10 or 12 players around the table commanding different sections of the Normandy invasion.  The whole thing was very impressive, although I was reluctant to let myself get swept into the action.
Memoir '44: D-Day Mega Overlord:  More of an experience than a game

James Kramer demonstrated the old Avalon Hill card game Naval War (designers S. Craig Taylor and Neil Zimmerer), which was clearly a low-budget production but which has something of a following.  I found it to be a mediocre game in several respects.  It features player elimination but does not have a quick play time.  James indicated that reaching 75 points to win can take several hours.  The font on the cards for ammunition caliber and other game-essential details was really unnecessarily small.  In terms of gameplay, I was reminded of Enemy in Sight, which I bought from Lost Battalion Games at HistoriCon many years ago (when I had the opportunity to meet S. Craig Taylor, designer of WS&IM).  I've come to the general conclusion that there is no such thing as a good naval card game, with the possible exception of Pacific Typhoon (and even that one runs a little longer than it needs to).

Chris Yaure (r.) demonstrates Yspahan.
Some time ago I remember Chris Kirkman speaking very highly of Yspahan (designer Sebastien Pauchon, publisher Rio Grande), which I subsequently picked up at an auction.  I haven't broken it open yet, however, because the box cover bills it as a game for three or four players, even though boardgamegeek says it's for two to four.  So at WBC, I made a point of seeing the Yspahan demo by Chris Yaure.  I am not disappointed; indeed, I think this game looks like a really fun little Euro.  At the end of the demo, I asked Chris about its suitability for two players, and he described just a couple of rules changes that are unique to the two-player case.  In fact, he was surprised to realize that the two-player variant is not in the original rules, but he referred me to boardgamegeek to find it.  I will be looking it up soon.

Open Gaming
Keith and I met up in open gaming, and while we waited for Brian Greer to finish his Tigris and Euphrates seminfinal, we got in a couple of games of Confusion: Espionage and Deception in the Cold War.  We'd played it before, and I really like it even more now.  This game is almost a cross between backwards Stratego and Mr. Jack.  I had stayed away from buying it because Kathy doesn't generally like two-player abstracts, but more and more I'm convinced that the deduction element and the opportunity to get inside the other player's head would appeal to her, and I think we would enjoy this game.  Keith offered to have me borrow it so that she and I could try it out and see if she likes it.

About the time that Brian arrived, we also hooked up with Bryan Fischer and John Sizemore of Nevermore Games.  We decided to play Thunder Alley, a stock car racing game (that doesn't carry the trademark of a well-known national stock car racing association).  I'm reminded a little of Formula Motor Racing, because each player has a team of cars, and because card play drives the action and often causes groups of cars to move together.  TA is considerably more complex and interesting, though, and I thought it was a lot of fun.

About the time we finished TA, The Party Game Cast had just finished recording Episode 40 of The Party Gamecast nearby.  This was a special episode, because in the Jack Vasel Memorial Fund Charity Auction, TPGC had auctioned off the opportunity to appear on the show in a full episode and play games with the cast, joined by special guest Stephen Buonocore of Stronghold Games.  So after the recording was over, I went over to the table and introduced myself to Rocki, Chris, and Maureen, familiar voices to regular listeners of TPGC, and had a nice long chat with the unmistakable and irrepressible Bruce.  It was great to talk with them, and Bruce was kind enough to say that I'd actually made him laugh once or twice in my Party Gamecast shout-outs on Dice Tower News.  They really are a fun bunch.

Brian and Keith and I continued our custom of continuing to play games until a ridiculous hour of the morning, and Saturday was no exception.  I taught them Pergamon, my favorite Eagle/Gryphon game, which Kathy and I have played several times and really like.  Keith and Brian were lukewarm about it, though, so it won't be first on my list of games to bring to after-work sessions.  We played Bang: The Dice Game, which we agreed would probably be more fun with more people but which doesn't shine with just three.  We played Keith's "Legend of the Five Rings" edition of Love Letter, complete with crazy Japanese accents.  And we wrapped up our old favorite Citadels.  We incorporated the Wizard and the Navigator this time, and although I was the only one to complete eight districts, I think Keith had the high score and won the game.

Sunday morning open gaming
We didn't end up playing in any Sunday morning tournaments (although I'd considered trying my hand at the Yspahan heat), but instead just returned to visit the vendors one more time and then went in for some final open gaming.  We met up with two regular acquaintances who Keith and Brian regularly see in the Conquest of Paradise tournament, Brian and ... Brian and ... dang, sleep deprivation finally caught up.  Anyway, they taught us Mag Blast, which turns out to be a science fiction variation on Naval War.  Unfortunately, Keith was eliminated early (I think that was my fault), and it took awhile to eliminate the other three players, but eventually I won - which was very unusual for me at WBC this year.

(c) Victory Point Games
Used by permission
Brian and what's-his-name had to get on the road, but Brian G. and Keith and I stuck around for another game of Villainous Vikings.  After two plays, I think it's a pretty cool game, pretty quick actually, with some fun decisions.  I actually think it ends a little too early.  We also realized only after our second play that there are six points to be had for having the most money at the end of the game, which is a huge bonus (equivalent to winning Ragnarok or scoring most cards of different colors or most cards of the same color).

So all in all, WBC 2014 was a success, if not for the reasons I anticipated.  I really hoped to win the WS&IM tournament, but I didn't even win a single battle.  On the other hand, I just hoped to play Acquire but actually made it into the semifinal.  I learned a bunch of new games, I bought Concordia, and most of all I met up with a bunch of people that I love to see at these conventions.

Now to catch up on sleep...

Thursday, August 14, 2014

WBC 2014 Friday: WS&IM loss, Acquire victory, and EIC demo

(c) Rio Grande Games - used by
Friday August 8 was the day that the Vendors' Area opened at the World Boardgaming Championships in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, so Keith Ferguson and I headed there as soon as the doors opened to see what we could find.  I had a few specific games in mind, and I was fortunate to find immediately the one at the top of my list, Concordia, designed by Mac Gerdts and published in the U.S. by Rio Grande.  I was initially attracted to this game simply because the title, after the Roman goddess of harmony, shares the name of the protagonist in my wife Kathy's series of historical murder mysteries.  Reviews led me to believe that I would appreciate this game in its own right, so I look forward to giving it a try.

(c) Worthington Games - used by permission
I spoke with Mike and Grant Wylie of Worthington Publishing, which produced Trains Planes and Automobiles under the BlueSquare Board Games label, and we discussed possible modifications to TPA with an eye toward a release of a second edition.  I have to admit that I was pleasantly surprised that Worthington is interested in re-working the game, and we were very much of the same mind as to the weaknesses in the original version that could be improved as well as the strengths that we want to keep in place.  Once I have "East India Company" in a stable place (ideally in the hands of a publisher for evaluation), I'll start working in earnest on making TPA the approachable family game that it really can be.

I also spoke briefly with Stephen Buonocore of Stronghold Games, which is in the midst of a boom this year in terms of new titles and expansions released.  How this guy maintains such an aggressive pace of growth is beyond me.

Wooden Ships & Iron Men: Ship-of-the-Line duel
In my quest to qualify for the WS&IM semifinal, I found my good sailing acquaintance Rob McKinney, whom I've faced across the decks in years past.  We each took a 64-gun ship-of-the-line and engaged each other immediately, exchanging volleys of chain shot right from the third turn in an effort to knock down each others' masts.  Unlike my frigate duel with Tim Hitchings the previous day, we never got quite close enough to load up doubleshot and really pound each other.  Rob managed to open the distance enough to spend a few turns repairing some of the hull damage I'd done, and that may have been the difference in the game.  When time was called, neither of us had forced a surrender of the other, so we totaled points for damage, and Rob won with 59 points to my 54.  The difference of five points could be accounted for by the three hull squares he had repaired - and in fact, if he had not repaired his ship at all, I would have forced him to strike his colors before the end of the game.  Instead, Rob was the victor.

Lunch with Avalon Hill - sort of
Keith and I sat down for lunch and found ourselves across the table from Richard and Carol Hamblen and (I think) Rex Martin of Firaxis Games.  Richard Hamblen is best known as the designer of Merchant of Venus, Carol Hamblen worked as an administrative assistant at Avalon Hill during its heyday, and Rex Martin designed many Advanced Squad Leader scenarios before moving on to Firaxis as a senior writer and historical researcher.  I was an unabashed eavesdropper as these three old hands from Avalon Hill talked about games and people in the industry.  I asked about the cancellation of the Charles S. Robert Award presentation (a regular event at WBC), but none of the three of them knew why the ceremony was canceled, other than that the selection process had run into some kind of snag this year.  The award was not, as I had believed, originally an Avalon-Hill-sponsored award but had always been presented by an independent committee of devotees.

Lords of Baseball
Max Jamelli had demonstrated "Lords of Baseball" at WBC last year and again at the UnPub Mini in Chantilly last June, but I had missed out on seeing the demo both times.  So I made a point of catching it at WBC this year, and I was not disappointed.  Max, in partnership with his father, has designed a brilliant card game that mimics many of the factors that govern the general management of a professional baseball team.  The game includes considerable flexibility in terms of game length and complexity, and as we worked our way through the early- and mid-season rounds, I really felt as though I was faced with the same kinds of decisions and options that a major league general manager might see.  He has really captured the flavor of the "meta-game" of baseball.  I have seen nothing like it.  My good friend Glenn Weeks would absolutely love this game, and I sincerely hope that Max can bring this to production soon.

East India Company
I'd arranged to meet with a publisher on the open gaming floor Friday afternoon to show him "EIC," and Keith Ferguson was kind enough to join me to help with the demo.  Instead of just a 15-minute pitch, we ended up playing a full three-player game.  I was very pleased with how it went, and the game ran about 75 minutes or so, well within my target of 90 minutes of playtime with the recent modifications.  We agreed that a cap on insurance would probably be a good idea to prevent players from abusing the opportunity to gain a boon from being struck by pirates.  I was pleasantly surprised when the publisher used the term "digestible" several times to describe the way the game struck him, which meant that he was not overwhelmed with the nature of the game and the decisions.  In fact, I felt afterward that I have some room to re-introduced some of the options I'd removed recently.  (In fact, on the drive back to Virginia the following Sunday, Keith and I brainstormed about how to bring tariffs back into the game without interrupting the flow of gameplay, and I think I now have a good idea how to do that.)  In the end, the publisher accepted a copy of the rules to show his partner.  Although no commitments were made and he didn't take the prototype with him for further evaluation, he left with a very positive impression, and I was pleased overall with how the demo went.

(c) Rio Grande Games
- used by permission
Open gaming - Saint Petersburg
Brian Greer later joined Keith and me for some open gaming.  I broke out Saint Petersburg and started to re-acquaint them with the rules, when we were joined by a fourth (whose name I didn't catch).  Our new acquaintance was apparently more comfortable explaining the game than listening to an explanation, so he did me the favor of going over the rules for us.  He ended up winning the game with a strong noble position, although Keith gave him a run for his money with some high-value buildings early in the game.

I made a point of entering the Acquire tournament because it's one of my very favorite games and yet I get so few opportunities to play it normally.  My opponents in the Friday night heat were Richard, Paul, and Ip.  Richard and Paul were clearly quite experienced with the game, although Ip was a relative newcomer.  The nice thing about WBC is that the gameplay is always friendly, so that even a novice like Ip can feel comfortable in the same game with such aficionados.  Still, the competition at both WBC and PrezCon is quite high, and it is a genuine pleasure to play at this level, even though I feel as though I am in over my head sometimes.  Surprisingly, I played my best game ever, and managed to win the heat with some strong merger positions.

More open gaming
I found Brian and Keith at a table with Bill and Laurie of Nomad Games, who were breaking out Spurs (designers Sean Brown and Ole Steiness, artist Jason L. Carr, publisher Mr. B Games), a western-themed game.  Each of us was given a character, and I played as the bandit, with a Wanted bounty on me at the start of the game, compensated by a little extra luck.  I got right into character and had a great time playing this game, which is rich in all the tropes of the old West.  Best line of the game:  "The saloon is always more fun when you have money."  Bill and Laurie apparently had fun watching me getting in character and enjoying the game so much.

(c) Mr. B Games - used by permission
Combat is handled by tile bags, in which each player has cardboard bullet tiles of various colors in his own bag, and chit pulls determine the success or failure of an attack.  The best part by far was when Brian came after me in a duel because I had two bounties on my head and a desperado in custody that I hoped to return to the sheriff for a reward.  A duel between players is conducted in real-time:  Each player holds his bullet bag in his left hand and places his right hand on the table.  When the player being challenged (me) calls "draw," each player starts drawing bullets out of his bag one by one and places them on the table as fast as he can until he gets two bullets whose colors match those of the weapon he is using in the shoot-out.  It's amazing how clumsy I became when suddenly my survival (or at least my money) depended on how quickly I could draw cardboard bullets out of a bag.  Brian got the better of me - "D'OH!!  You got me!" - and confiscated my desperado captive.  He also collected $40 in rewards on my head.  Brian ended up winning the game, but we all had a complete blast, and I would love to play Spurs again.

(c) Victory Point Games
Used by permission
After Bill and Laurie left, we played Villainous Vikings (designers Jeremy Stoltzfus and Graham Weaver, artist Brett Mitchell, publisher Victory Point Games), one of Keith's acquisitions in the Vendors' Area that morning.  This game turned out to be a fun filler in which each player has a viking captain with some special ability and a longship whose crew provides dice to roll in combat - and the more casualties a player suffers, the fewer dice he rolls.  Players can travel around Europe raiding cities, bribing citizens, or trading to bring cities under their control.  The mechanics and point system are fairly elegant, and the game played quickly.  I actually felt that my own viking captain "Ragnar" was a little overpowered, inasmuch as he always added two sword icons in combat whenever a third or more of the longship crew was lost.  I ended up winning that game running away.

So Friday was a really fun day, with an unexpected tournament victory in Acquire, a successful East India Company demo, and some fun discoveries in open gaming.

Next post:  The Acquire semi-final, the WS&IM fleet action, and The Party Game Cast

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

WBC 2014 Thursday: TPA and a day of not winning

Last week I conducted my fourth annual pilgrimage to the World Boardgaming Championships in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, the summer highlight of my gaming year.  I had a fairly loose schedule in mind, with only a few key tournaments that I specifically wanted to hit.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Second annual List of Shame: The Unplayed Games of 2014

Last year about this time, inspired by Chris "GamerChris" Norwood, I posted my "secret shame" - a list of unplayed games sitting on my shelves.  When I did that, I thought surely, I am now motivated to work my way down this list and play all these games - or pass them along to someone else who will.  Surely, in the next year, say, I will have played nearly all my games and the list will be shorter.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

UnPub Mini Chantilly Recap

Last Saturday, Keith Ferguson ran an UnPub Mini event at Game Parlor Chantilly.  (I helped a little.)  We had about twelve designers and about 20 gamers playtesting over the course of the 11 hours that the store was open that day.  It was about as successful as we could have wanted.  For my part, I got to playtest "East India Company" and "Reactor Scram" one time each, as well as to play about four other games, though there were many more I wish I could have played.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

More designers for 21 June UnPub Mini in Chantilly, Virginia

As I mentioned in a post on May 8, there will be an UnPub Mini event this Saturday 21 June at
Game Parlor
13936 Metrotech Drive
Chantilly, VA 20151
We now have a full slate of eleven designers lined up, so we have plenty of opportunities for gamers to come and try out new game design prototypes and provide feedback to the designers.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Leaner, meaner "Company"

I've been giving some thought as to how to streamline "East India Company."  There are a few approaches I can take.  The scientist in me wants to make one change at a time and test each change independently.  I've heard at least one designer specifically recommend that approach so that you always know the effect of each specific design change.  But my gut tells me to identify the essential core elements of the game, eliminate everything else in one big purge, and then see if anything should be added back in, painstakingly, one element at a time.

Monday, May 26, 2014

East India Company returns to the shipyard

Last February I mentioned that I'd submitted a prototype of "East India Company" to a publisher at UnPub 4 to evaluate for publication.  I just heard back from them, and they
do not find it to be a good fit for our upcoming releases. At the end of the day, the play time and complexity does not create a conducive product for a broad success, as the trends are leading away from complex play and longer play times.
I can certainly accept that evaluation.  Game length has been a challenge with "EIC" since its inception, and it certainly is complex.  Given the nature of today's game market, I agree that its appeal as it currently stands would probably be somewhat narrow.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Friday, April 25, 2014

Luck, skill, and research

Last week I opened a discussion on my effort to quantify game characteristics.  I had in mind that I would explore this question on my own, somewhat in a vacuum, based on my own experience and opinions, as something of an exercise to see what defensible conclusions I might reach.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Thoughts on quantifying game characteristics

Gamers tend to characterize games in terms of luck vs. skill, replayability, lightness vs. depth, and so forth.  These qualitative assessments help us to evaluate what we might like or dislike about a game before we've played it ourselves, or help to consider which games might be appropriate for a specific social, tournament, or convention setting.  These characterizations also help in establishing design goals and parameters as well as assist publishers in determining which potential titles will fit within their product line.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Reactor Scram: early playtesting

I have finally started working in earnest on a co-op idea I've had percolating in my mind for the last few weeks.  The theme is that the players are workers in a nuclear reactor plant whose maintenance has been neglected, until finally the bad day comes when everything seems to break at once.  The goal is to get the plant into a "safe condition" without melting down a core or irradiating any of the workers.

First prototype of "Reactor Scram"
I ran a couple of solo playtests.  I won one and lost one, which made me think that I've got the initial balance at least coarsely in the right neighborhood.  What surprised me was how quickly each game completed - roughly ten or fifteen minutes per game.  I usually have the opposite problem with the games I design - play times that run way too long.  Right now I've got a game that takes more time to explain than it does to play.  So I want to figure out some way of extending the gameplay as well as the "story arc" so that I'm not just "making it longer" for the sake of making it last.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Winter photos

A quick gallery of games played over the last three months:
Agent for one of the Lords of Waterdeep in the Jester's Court to recruit thieves...

Saturday, March 29, 2014

PrezCon 2014 Part 5: Finals

(c) Rio Grande Games
Used by permission
Saturday of PrezCon was a wonderfully full day of gaming.  It started at 9:00 AM with a game of Power Grid (designer Friedemann Friese; artists Antonio Dessi, Lars-Arne "Maura" Kalusky, and Harald Lieske; publisher Rio Grande), which I love but really don't play well.  We played on the original map of Germany, and I started in the north, where I found myself immediately in competition with Henry Ho.  I think the two of us beat each other down pretty aggressively, stealing cheap connections and forcing each other to leap-frog one another in order to expand, so we both ended up finishing poorly.  James Henderson, against whom I'd also played Acquire earlier in the week, narrowly won our game over Joe Rudmin in second.  I placed third powering 12 cities.

Monday, March 24, 2014

PrezCon 2014 Part 4: Social gaming

Part of what I love about conventions is re-connecting with gaming friends as well as meeting new people.  This year at PrezCon, I got to meet in person Dan Patriss, whom I'd heard many times on the Geek All Stars podcast.  He was with Chris Kirkman of Dice Hate Me Games, and Friday night we got together with Stephanie Straw, T.C. Petty III, and Darrell Louder for a couple of late-night games.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

PrezCon 2014 Part 3: Pillars of the Earth final

As I mentioned in my previous post, I ran the Pillars of the Earth tournament at PrezCon again this year.  I had two heats totalling 14 different competitors in five games.  Four of the five qualifying winners showed up for the final:  Shane McBee, Philip Shea, Jeff Thornsen, and Tom Snyder.  I have really come to enjoy watching tournament games, because I get to see some real high-level play.  This year's final was no exception.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

PrezCon 2014 Part 2: Friday

(c) Rio Grande Games
Used by permission
Continuing my recap of PrezCon from a couple of weeks ago, Friday turned out to be a long and eventful day.  I started with Saint Petersburg (designer Michael Tummelhofer alias Bernd Brunnhofer, artist Doris Matthaus, publisher Rio Grande), a game that I never get to play as much as I would like.  I finished third in a heat of four players - not surprising given the level of competition I typically find at PrezCon for this game.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

PrezCon 2014 Part 1: Thursday

A couple of weeks ago, I enjoyed four days at my favorite gaming convention, PrezCon.  There were several hitches this year, a few things that didn't go right, but nevertheless I had a great time.  The next several posts will share some highlights.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Lorton Monopoly Tournament

By way of background, Lorton Community Action Center (LCAC) is a local charity that looks after the basic needs and means to self-sufficiency of low-income individuals and families in our area.  In support of LCAC, the real estate agency Ron and Susan Associates sponsors an annual Monopoly tournament as a fund-raising event.  I had the opportunity to participate in Ron and Susan's Seventh Annual Monopoly Tournament last weekend at the Workhouse Arts Center, a converted prison facility that now houses an art gallery and studio spaces for local artists.  Ron Kowalski (of Ron and Susan Associates) worked for Hasbro at one time and is something of a Monopoly enthusiast.  The event was very well run, and the setting in an art gallery was very pleasant.  Lunch was catered by Glory Days.

Thursday, February 13, 2014


About three weeks ago, my friend Paul R. invited Grant G., his brother W.J., and myself to his house for a game of the classic Caesar: Alesia (designer Robert Bradley, publisher Avalon Hill).  This hex-and-counter wargame revisits the Gallic attempt to break the Roman seige of the fortress at Alesia in September 52 BC.  I'd read an English translation of De Bellis Gallicus by Julius Caesar, so I was somewhat familiar with the battle and its context.  The interesting aspect of the battle is that the Romans had formed a double ring of fortifications around Alesia - an inner ring to keep the occupants of Alesia from escaping, and an outer ring to defend the Romans from other Gauls attempting to break the seige.

Monday, February 3, 2014

UnPub 4 Part III: Sunday publishers

Publishers' Panel
Sunday of UnPub 4 opened with a pancake breakfast sponsored by Eagle and Gryphon Games and a panel discussion featuring eight publishers in a question-and-answer format.  UnPub convention director Darrell Louder moderated the panel.  Panelists included