Ridere, ludere, hoc est vivere.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Third day at World Boardgaming Championships

Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson
Saturday was all about Wooden Ships and Iron Men.  Tim Hitchings set up a fleet action in an engagement between British and French fleets in a hypothetical scenario with several players on each side in which the British fleet attempted to intercept a French fleet leaving port.  Tim gave me command of the British fleet.  The entire action ran about seven hours, with a short break for lunch.  A number of people dropped out, and others dropped in over the course of the scenario.  The battle itself was exciting and engaging, as the British became almost completely surrounded by the more numerous and better-reinforced French.  British superior crew quality and gunnery, however, helped the Royal Navy withstand the onslaught of the French fleet.  Despite one or two of the British ships having to strike colors under heavy rakes from multiple directions, we were able to sufficiently bloody the French that Tim declared the Royal Navy team to be the winners.  He gave me a prize as the best captain in the British fleet.

Later that day, I faced Evan Hitchings in the semifinals in a very even match-up of two 74-gun SOLs.  Again I was able to practice my tactical doctrine of concentrating fire on the rigging of the lead ship to reduce maneuverability, then focusing all squadron fire on a single ship's hull to take it out of action before turning to the other target.  In relatively short order, I had taken out the mast of the lead enemy ship and forced the second ship to strike her colors.  My ships had suffered a lot of damage in the process, however, and after some amount of time, my opponent was able to force one of my ships to strike her colors.  He had also inflicted a waterline hit on the other ship that induced flooding, so that a third of my crew had to be taken out of the gunnery teams to operate the water pumps and keep the ship afloat.  All else being essentially equal, my remaining ship - down one crew section - was not able to keep up in the battle of attrition that followed with the remaining enemy ship.  When the timer was up, it was clear that Evan had inflicted more damage on my ships than I had on his, so he won our semifinal matchup and advanced to the final.  We both agreed that it was one of the most exciting battles either of us had played in the tournament.

Keith and I met Chris and Cherilyn from dicehateme.com in the open game room, where they invited us to playtest a game in development called Viva Java.  The premise is that players collaborate to invent blends of various coffee beans that will be profitable on the premium coffee market.  The game involves a number of innovative mechanisms, the most interesting of which is the formation of players into temporary teams who try to combine their resources to come up with the most optimum blend on the market.  Players can invest in each others' projects if they think they will be profitable.  The cooperation is always transitory and self-serving, so there's a constant interplay to juggle benefits of collaboration with the game goals of beating your opponents.

I have been reading the Dice Hate Me blog for quite some time, so it was great to meet Chris and Cherilyn and discuss their game projects as well as share Trains Planes and Automobiles with them.  Their energetic enthusiasm for gaming is infectious.  Likewise, Josh Tempkin of Tall Tower Games shared some fascinating insights into how he and his partner developed a carefully researched and tested set of design principles on which they base all their game projects.  The results speak for themselves in the gameplay of their project Wartime, which I consider to have the potential to be a groundbreaking development in table-top gaming as a fundamentally new paradigm.

Keith, Brian, and I got together afterward for a number of games - Tikal, Citadels, and 7 Wonders.  Keith had competed in the finals for Conquest of Paradise, and Brian had made the finals for Tigris and Euphrates.  So, in short, there's been a lot of boardgaming going on this week...