This summer I managed to cajole, pressure, and persuade four friends from afar to travel to our nation’s capital, not for a weekend of sightseeing but for a weekend of game playing. One traveler dubbed this his “gamecation” and the name stuck. This is what comes from uprooting your life and moving to another city, finding yourself needing to transplant former neighbors for a weekend of reliving a year’s worth of lost game nights in a few days of non-stop gaming. It’s intense and exhausting and exhilarating. I had to space out these visits to keep from passing out. I also had to keep a buffer between my many – and I mean many – War of the Ring defeats.
It all started in May when a friend from New York and another from Texas both converged on the District of Columbia for a long weekend of game playing. It was half-way between BGG.CON’s and high-time for a dedicated board game weekend. The Texan arrived early, presumably for the express purpose of corrupting Frodo. But I’m getting ahead of myself; we started slowly with a game of Crokinole in which I demonstrated my extreme flicking prowess, followed by a couple games of my latest addiction Android: Netrunner (hereinafter Netrunner). Then we took a left turn down memory lane and did a two-person Rochester draft of my retro 1994-1999 Magic: The Gathering cube. Much to my chagrin, I never drew my Vesuvan Doppelganger. Six games of Magic later, it was time for the heavy hitter – War of the Ring, with the latest and greatest Lords of Middle-Earth expansion and a newly flown in Treebeard promo to round it out. Frodo fell to the lure of the ring and it was time for a night of fitful dreams on the error of the hobbit’s ways.
In the morning, before Mr. New York arrived, there was just time for a War of the Ring rematch, but incomprehensibly Frodo succumbed yet again to Sauron’s charms. I do like the new paths for Gandalf in the expansion, but I’m not yet sold on the rest of the complexity introduced by the other layers of the expansion. Thankfully our third arrived so I had a good excuse for packing up Mt. Doom and turning our attention to a pair of three-player games – Kemet and Byzantium. We marched around both maps killing and being killed with plastic figures and wooden pawns, and had a blast both times, even if some people are remarkably (some might say overly) intent on taking down Constantinople.
Saturday turned out to be a beautiful day, for staying inside and playing board games. We didn’t waste any time and jumped right in with Through the Ages. This may be the very best of games, even if a former game group member turned me into an obnoxious, militaristic, Napoleon-grubbing… person. I used to live for the glory of Michelangelo and the artistry of Shakespeare, but now I just hope for the perfect tactics to pair with my armed intervention. And yet, I’ll never tire of tracing history from Aristotle and the Hanging Gardens to Gandhi and Space Flight.
The day was rounded out with Tigris & Euphrates, Biblios, Power Grid: First Sparks (the good one), the game formerly known as Age of Empires III, and Wallace’s quixotic gem God’s Playground. These were all good, even if the newbie T&E player trounced the experienced players and even though I wasn’t quite able to close that AOE3 gap in the end. I’ll take any chance I can get to bring God’s Playground to the table as it’s a rare pair of friends that will put up with your fascination for 400 years of miserable Polish history.
The final day saw Kemet back on the table. This is a fun game, not necessarily a good one, but objective quality feels pretty irrelevant in the face of subjective enjoyment. As one friend had one foot out the door, we ensnared him for a final game of Biblios followed by the novelty that is Pick-a-Pig. With all the pigs having been picked, he made his way home from a memorable gamecation. And with our numbers reduced, it was inevitable that War of the Ring would hit the table one last time. Epically, this was the time that Frodo managed to actually destroy the precious and liberate the free peoples, who were apparently not truly free until the story’s conclusion. In the final hours of the gamecation, there was just time for a few more games of the cube-drafted Magic and one more game of Netrunner. Netrunner is wonderful, but much of the wonder comes from facing new opponents with their very own bluffs and deceits and tells.
As Sunday drew to a close, it was over for those two friends, but just beginning for me. My next victim was arriving one month later in June and there was much resting and recuperating to be done.