Wednesday, November 25, 2009

1.23: Conventions and BGG.con Day 1

It's been a busy month for many reasons, but the most pleasant by far has been BGG.con, a boardgaming convention held just outside of Dallas by Aldie and Derk, the guys that run  

For those who are unfamiliar with conventions, it's simply a gathering of a lot of people with like interests.  Conventions are held annually for pretty much everything:  TV shows, story genres, some things you'd probably not want to think about, and, obviously, boardgaming.  Often there are special guests, events, and a number of other things related to the subject of interest.  One of the best parts of a convention, you're surrounded by a number of like-minded people; all the jargon, all the related head-space, it's all fair game.

This is our first year attending BGG.con; Jackie and I have attended boardgame conventions in the past including Gencon, which we've enjoyed every year for the past 5 years.  This, however, was a whole different monster.  Gencon is busy and huge, there are a lot of events, special guests, and hundreds of gaming companies showing their wares; attendance is around 20-25 thousand.  BGG.con had something like 6 vendors, less than 10 official events, and 900 attendees; obviously this is a much different convention, and just looking at the numbers you can tell it's much more intimate.

On arriving at the convention, we were met with two lines of around 100 people waiting to pick up their registration packets--this line moved quickly, and at the onset we were already in possession of four new games, thanks to Queen games and some of the other sponsors.  Once out of the registration line, however, Jackie and I were a little lost--here, too, we were pleased, as one of the staff noticed our "First Time" ribbons on our badges, and directed us to the library and main gaming hall.  After a quick pass through of the library, which is a portion of Aldie's collection and consisted of several thousand games, we went to the main hall, and within five minutes were invited to a game of Fluch der Mummie, followed by two games of Pack and Stack, both of which were taught to us by the couple that invited us over.

We also checked out a copy of Agricola, probably had a daunted look on our faces as we glanced over the 900+ pieces in the box, and thankfully Guy from Canada showed us how to play before he left for dinner, and another attendee (name forgotten) who had played Agricola before hopped into the game and made sure it ran smoothly.

I'll give a run-down explaining these games later, but here's a list of what we played on the first day of BGG.con:

Fluch der Mummie
Pack and Stack (x2)
Homesteaders (Just me, Jackie was doing homework)
Crokinole  (x3, and a lesson learned--don't even consider playing Jackie for money)

I'm estimating this at around 7 hours of gaming, just on the first day. Next post on BGG.con will cover days 1 and 2, including short synopses of the games.


Happy Thanksgiving!  Remember to play something good!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

1.22: Party games...hooray?

It's that time of year--Halloween is over, and three days before it all the stores put out their Christmas stock.  Yes, the holidays approach!  A time for friends and family, large gatherings, and, of course, an excellent time for gaming.  Large gatherings require a special class of game--the Party game!  *sigh*

Party games--they're games you play at parties, right?  Charades, Pictionary, Cranium, uh, Trivial Pursuit, Win Lose or Draw (do they still make this game?).  Party games are designed to be played with large groups of people or teams of people.  We're talking more than a standard boardgame which supports between 2-6, more on the order of 10-30 or more.  The rules are really easy, they're generally on pop culture or common knowledge items (especially if they're trivia games), and for play time...well, ideally it'd be an hour or less, but for better or worse that may not be the case.

I'm not a big fan of Party games.  Of those listed above, I'd probably play Pictionary and Cranium (though I'll never do any of the singing/acting cards), and I'd murder everyone in the room before I played Charades.  That said, I should probably point out some party games that I actually enjoy, and hopefully you will too.  As with Halloween, I imagine I'll post more than one of these.

First up, Scene It?  Scene It? requires a DVD player; during a team's turn, they roll two dice--one is the distance moved along the track, the other determines which type of question the team answers.  There is the standard "question on a card," but they also use the DVD player to great effect.  There are several different types of questions on the DVD, many involve playing a movie clip and asking a question afterward, but there are also screen shots with missing items, Wheel of Fortune type title puzzles, scrambled images and more.  There are also several types of Scene It?, from Friends, Marvel Comics, movies, television, Disney, blah, blah; basically, you should't have a problem finding something that interests you.  This game is available at most large retailers, and can range from $10 (travel edition) to $40 (licensed content).

Wits and Wagers was released in 2005 by North Star games, a smallish company, but has had great success, and has been picked up by a large retailer (Target, I believe).  In this game one player asks a question that has a numerical answer, such as "How old did Mozart live to be?"  All the other players have a small dry-erase board, and write their answer.   When everyone has written an answer, the dry-erase boards are arranged in numerical order and placed on a mat which depicts betting values.  The middle value guess is placed on the center space (which pays out 2:1), and the remaining guesses are placed outward from the center (3:1, 4:1, 5:1).  Players then may place up to two bets; whoever places chips on the answer that is the closest gets their payout, plus the player with the closest guess also gets a payout.  This game is quick, fun, and best of all it's a trivia game where you don't have to know the correct answer--you can win by guessing the closest answer, or by making judicious bets--you may not know how wide a football field is, but if you place your bet on the answer of a football fan, you'll probably get a payout.  As stated before, this is available at a large retailer (Target, I believe), and goes for around $30-$40.

Lastly, let's do something different.  At home we've had some great success with Ca$h 'n Gun$.  CnG (I'm too lazy to spell that correctly again) supports up to 6 people, though you can expand this by an additional 6 by purchasing additional copies of the game, or you can buy the expansion that adds 3 players...but we'll get back to that.  In CnG you are a member of a gang that has pulled a heist, and it's time to divide up your spoils--however, you can't all decide on how to split it...and so the guns have come out.  The game lasts 9 rounds, each round five of the money tiles are turned over--the goal is to have the most money and be alive at the end of the game.  Each player has a deck of nine "bullet" cards, and chooses one of these cards and places it face-down in front of them.  There are three different bullet cards--Click Click cards do nothing, they're basically a bluff; Bang! cards do one damage and knock a player out for the round; Bang! Bang! Bang! cards have priority over Bang! cards, do one damage, and knock a player out for the round.  A card is discarded after its use, so you'rea free to use all your non-bluff cards early, but if someone is keeping track, you could be in a world of trouble.

The best part of the round, after everyone has chosen their bullet card, you pick up your foam gun, and on the count of three everyone simultaneously points and whoever they want to threaten (read as "shoot").  You know what's in your gun, but you have no idea what your opponets are doing--and the battle of wits has begun.  There will be another count of three, and every player has a choice here--either stay in and risk being shot (if anyone is pointing a gun at you), or drop out (usually if you suspect someone has a non-bluff card in their gun, or if several people are pointing at you).  If a player drops out, they get a "shame token" (worth -$5000 at the end of the game), but can't be hurt this round, but can't collect a share of the pot.  The remaining people reveal their bullet cards, and anyone with a non-bluff card does a damage to whoever they're pointing at, and knocks that player out for the round (that player can't collect a share of the loot).  Anyone left standing gets a share of the loot--if all or a portion of the pot can be divided without making change.  Any money left in the pot carries to the next round.

The last thing to consider, if a player takes a total of three wounds, they are dead--they don't participate in the rest of the game, and can't win, even if they had the most money.  It's commonplace for a person to collect a large pot early in the game, and the next round be faced with 4-5 gun barrels the next round, or receive a steady stream of barrels for the entire game, making survival difficult.

The base game also includes "Special Power" cards, which change how each player plays--you may be "The Kid," who is able to see where everyone else points before you decide; or you may take the gun of the first killed player, using two guns for the rest of the game; or you could just be friggin nuts and carry a grenade with you, waiting for someone to shoot you so you can pull the pin...  As for the expansion, titled The Yakuza, it adds three more players, all from a Japanese gang carrying throwing stars and swords, and turns CnG into a team-based game, with groups of 2-3 players attempting to get the most loot for their gang. 


That's it for this week, hopefully everyone will be enjoying their holidays, getting together with family and friends, and crushing them under your feet.  In boardgames; I'm not advocating violence, though I may partake in the literal crushing of family members over the holidays anyway.

Staying busy here, NaNo is kicking my butt and I've had to switch my novel, meaning I had to start over; 50k is in sight, but it's way, way over there.  Family obligations and all that have priority, as always, so finding time to write is difficult.  Oh, there's one other thing I should probably mention...

Happy Anniversary, Jackie!  Three great years and counting!

Monday, November 2, 2009

1.21: Know your Gamer - Dice

I kind of aim this blog at fledgling gamers and people that might be interested in games and gaming, or could be if given a nudge. People that, for the most part, have only bought boardgames from conventional retail outlets such as WalMart, Target, or Toys R Us. The goal is to expose these people to the larger gaming world; I throw around and explain a lot of terms, and try to explain the social and ritual aspects within the gaming community. These "Know your Gamer" articles are going to aim at this last idea, explaining gaming concepts and social/ritual aspects of gaming. If you're interested in gaming, it helps to know the jargon, and like going to one of the many possible multi-cultural/religious ceremonies, you don't want to do something that would embarrass you.

With that said, let's start off at a familiar yet wholly foreign gaming accessory--dice.  I'm going to make the statement right now that this may be a strange post.

"Hand me that dice on the table."

"Dice, I've seen those before, the white cubes with black dots."  
"How many dice do you need?"

STOP RIGHT THERE.  Firstly, let's talk grammar before someone impales you onto a pile of d4.  Dice = plural; Die = singular.  Read aloud, and never forget this.  "I have one die."  "He has two dice."

Next, a point of terminology.  Well, let's first utter a phrase from the mouth of a new gamer looking down at the gaming table, "What are those?"  The answer, dice.  Look at the picture on the right.  Beyond the standard six-sided dice, you'll see a number of non-standard dice in a plethora of colors:  4-sided, 8-sided, 10-sided, and more.  As a result, there had to be an idiom, a simpler way to state how many and what type of dice to roll.  You may have noticed I used the phrase "d4" in the paragraph above--the number after the "d" refers to the type of die; in this instance it refers to a 4-sided die.  Putting a number before the "d" indicates a quantity of dice.  Thus, the "correct" way to state "Roll ten 6-sided dice" is "Roll 10d6."  Simple.  Now you know what I'm saying if I say 4d8, 2d20, or 15d1.  Okay, maybe not that last one is a little strange.

As for that last statement, "How many dice do you need?"  Let's just say you shouldn't ask this question, as it's marginally rude.  Asking how many a gamer has is perfectly acceptable.  Gamers can be weird about dice, which we'll get to in a minute, but most will have a good number of dice and possibly a "dice bag;" some gamers purchase dice regularly--once a week, a new set for every new game they play, a new set once the old one has started having problems.

Which leads us to the really weird stuff.

Gamers deal with problem solving, logic, strategy and a bunch of other multi-syllable words as a hobby.  However, when it comes to dice, that's all out the window.  Die keeps rolling bad, it must be tired, give it a rest.  Your set of dice causing problems?  Simply line all the dice around one of the offenders, and smash it with a hammer--the other dice will get the hint.  How to get rid of "cursed" dice?  Burn them, freeze them, smash them, ritually skewer them--just don't let them touch any of your other dice.  And heaven forbid you touch someone else's'll be lucky to escape with all your fingers.

Akward ending and transition!  Because I'm tired!  And have other things to write!  See below!


Before anyone says anything, yes, I missed one Halloween post; it was mostly done, so it may make an appearance in the future--oh, 12 months from now?  Ultimately I was busy and other things got in the way, like my daughters' boogers; we've got to have priorities.  As for Arkham Horror, that will be reviewed in the future as well; it's a great co-op game, but when attempting to refresh my memory, I downloaded the 24 page rule book and looked at my metaphorical watch and decided that I wanted to do something else with the 17 hours it would probably take to read and recall the game we played.  I do recall that we were facing Chuthulu and we still managed to win, so there. 

And, speaking of priorities, this blog is one, but November brings with it the madness of NaNoWriMo!  One 30 day month, one 50 thousand word novel, piece of cake.  Yes, November is a busy month, but NaNo's opinion on that:  You're already doing a million and one things, what difference does one more make? 
Blog posts should be on time, but don't be surprised if they're a little shorter than normal--these posts don't count toward my daily novel  word count.  Also, as I finish this, it's day 2, and I'm already 3k words behind, so that need to be amended.  If anyone is interested in joining, NaNoWriMo is free, it's all on the honor system, a great personal challenge, and it's fun to boot.  Or glove.  So you're a few days behind--so am I.