PrezCon first thing Thursday morning to demonstrate Trains Planes and Automobiles (artist Sean Cooke, publisher Blue Square Boardgames) at 9:00 a.m. I shared the Promenade Ballroom with the Stone Age demonstration, but perhaps the hour was too early, because no one showed for either demo. I have two more demos scheduled this weekend - one for this afternoon, and one for tomorrow morning, so I hope to get a little more visibility for TPA in the next couple of days.
Randy Dean found himself running the Risk tournament, and he hadn't even brought his copy of the game (nor had I brought my son's), so he ran out to Target and picked up a copy of the current edition before yesterday morning's first heat started. I had assumed, since only two hours had been scheduled for the event, that we would play the new, objective-based rules. As it turned out, neither Randy nor any of the other players at the table had ever seen the new edition before. They were all surprised at the arrow-shaped armies and had no interest in playing anything other than conventional Risk. So we adapted the new-edition components to the original rules. Since the new-edition cards don't have the 19th-century infantry-cavalry-artillery symbols for reinforcement turn-ins, Randy established the rule for this tournament that four cards yields armies on the original progressive scale of four armies for the first turn-in, six for the second, then eight, ten, 12, 15, 20, and so on by fives thereafter.
The result was an old-style game in which I started with positions in South America, North America, and northeast Asia. Randy got knocked out of the game by Joshua S., who took Randy's cards and ended up getting two consecutive turn-ins for armies. In retrospect, I was in a position to try to knock off the other player at the table (whose name escapes me) to go after his cards and then face off Joshua in a super-power slugfest. Instead, I tried to knock down Joshua first, which I didn't yet have the strength to do. At the height of my position on the board, I controlled Europe, North America, and South America, while Joshua was holed up in Africa and the other player in Australia with a stronghold in southeast Asia. But I couldn't deliver the knock out, and Joshua was able to get another big turn-in, break out of Africa, and take me out of the game. At that point, the other player conceded the game, and Joshua won the heat.
Our game did in fact exceed two hours, so I was unable to make the first heat of Down in Flames. I expect to play that later this morning.
Although the session was fun in its own right, I stand by my often-repeated position that the newer edition of Risk is a much better game. I don't expect to return to any later heats of the tournament here at PrezCon.
Command and Colors Napoleonics
I attended a demo of Command and Colors Napoleonics in my effort to learn at least one new game and to play at least one wargame this year. C&CN appears to be a more complex iteration on the series of Richard Borg card-driven wargames. It includes the attached-leaders element of Battle Cry (as you might expect in a 19th-century wargame) as well as some of the command card innovations and unit-type specialties of Memoir '44. The handling of infantry vs. cavalry seems particularly interesting, as well as the counter-strike element of close combat.
Unfortunately, my schedule did not allow me to participate in the tournament itself. It may have been just as well. Again, the game master was thrown into the event at practically the last minute, so he made the decision that the tournament would be handled as a single-elimination event. My limited experience in competitive play suggests that a single-elimination format is not well suited for a two-player game, but I didn't stick around to find out how well it went.
A Few Acres of Snow
At the adjacent table to the C&CN event, my friend Keith F. was trying his hand at the hot new game A Few Acres of Snow. What was disappointing to him, though, is that the game master, Bruce Reiff, told participants that AFAoS is "a broken game," that the British player can not be stopped if he uses a strategy called "The Halifax Hammer," and that even three or four recent game modifications to mitigate the problem do not fix the game. Although Bruce felt that the game was not well suited for competition, he continued to run the event "for fun" and to teach it to newcomers like Keith to familiarize them with it. Keith ended up playing as the British against a very experienced player; I think his experiences with it were mixed. He said the comparison many people make to Dominion holds up as deck-building wargame. For my part, the bottom line of this event is that I am taking AFAoS off my wishlist.
I got very excited about Chicago Express when Kathy and I played with our friends Sheila D., Keith R., Rebecca E., and Jeff W. some weeks ago. It struck me then as the perfect capitalist game in which players invest in railroad companies and direct their development in an attempt to maximize income and make the most money.
I got to play in the first heat of the tournament here yesterday against Jim [missed his last name], Pat D., and Demy McB. As it happens, Jim and Pat had played once before each, and Demy had never played before (but is a quick learner, as I've played her in a number of other games over the years), so the level of competition was fairly even among us. I ended up owning three of five shares of the New York Central plus one share of the Pennsylvania Railroad, and I won the game in a fairly close finish.
[More entries to follow as time allows, and I will add pictures, links, and details to this entry as well. PrezCon continues...]