Gamecation – The Middle

When we left off yesterday, we had just concluded the story of a May gamecation (or long-weekend vacation for the express and sole purpose of playing board games) and were resting up for our June visitor.  Today we continue our tale with that promised second round.

Leaving New York meant leaving a lot of board game friends, the kind of friends that understand why October is such an exciting month and that know why there’s a pastel camel on my t-shirt.  Fortunately, there are buses and trains that will bring them to my doorstep where I can make them play games with me for several days straight.  This particular gamecation was inspired by the Game of Thrones LCG, even though I don’t play it.  Another New York friend has apparently turned into an avid player since my departure and was eager to come down to D.C. for a labyrinthian tournament.  I was more than happy to put him up, so long as he spent every waking moment playing games with me when he wasn’t at the tournament.  I even made sure to put a curse on his performance to ensure as quick an exit as possible from the tournament.

Friday evening saw a handful of great games.  My New York friend had brought another friend in tow for the tournament, so we started with a three-player game of Evo.  My strategy of being a cheapskate in the auction is one that continues to work, particularly when introducing the game to new players (and teaching the game poorly).  This was followed with the latest novelties in the field of speed puzzles and pattern recognition – Panic Lab and Pick-a-Pig.  These draining games sent the friend of a friend off to bed, so we had time for some two-player gaming.  Star Wars: The Queen’s Gambit practically leapt off the shelf as it’s an old favorite from past times setting it up in a cramped Manhattan apartment where the three dimensional board filled an entire studio.  My palace guards were brilliant with their window ledge movement, but after showing initial promise Anakin was an utter disappointment and the Jedi fell flat on their face.  The droids were incessant and ultimately overran my forces.  The evening concluded with a game of Innovation using the latest Figures in the Sand expansion.  The figures are a wonderful addition to a great two-player game.  They change it just enough without changing it too much, which is a tough balance to find and a lot to ask from a handful of cards.

Day two of gamecation number two was abbreviated due to the aforementioned Game of Thrones LCG tournament, but thanks to my effective hex, there was still time for some decent gaming.  So in the late afternoon we kicked things off with Le Havre.  I warned that my skills in this particular game for no clear reason are peculiarly unnatural (further honed through iPad play), although it was ultimately a little too close for comfort with his meat sales almost matching my steel engine.  Netrunner inevitably followed, and then an old favorite that sees the table too rarely came out – Hansa.  Not of the Teutonica variety, but of the classic variety.  The only game I’ve been presumptuous enough to write a strategy article for.  We followed old with new and brought out The Convoy next.  This latest card game by Ignacy Trzewiczek set in the Neuroshima universe was better than I expected.  I’m not sure what or why I expected anything in particular, but the asymmetry of The Convoy was enjoyable, as were the challenging decisions.  I’ve since played it 9 times and would like to continue doing so, which I believe says all that needs saying.

Saturday evening concluded with three-player games of Ginkgopolis, Jungle Smart, and Tigris & Euphrates.  Ginkgopolis is a top three game from 2012 in my mind so one I’m always eager to introduce to new players.  Jungle Smart is an oddity that seems to make people hate me and my speedy Lo-Ni-Ki-Ma’s.  And Tigris is of course a classic, interesting and different at every player count miraculously.

The final day opened with Kemet, much like the final day of the prior gamecation.  This Matagot game continues to be fun.  Every time someone beats me with a different technology, I feel the need to try the game again with that power, only to find myself bested by a new one (whether it’s Prescience or Initiative or what have you).  I’m always one step behind, running out of money or movement actions just when I need one or the other most.  Next on the agenda was War of the Ring with the Lords of Middle-Earth expansion.  This time the free people pulled off the miraculous military victory by seizing a pair of the shadow strongholds when Sauron least expected it.  The ring was a mere side story to this epic military confrontation in which the equine forces of Rohan overran the second of two towers with blistering speed and efficiency.  This was followed by a pair of card games – Tournay and The Convoy.  Tournay is Troyes’ lesser known and far superior cousin, but I doubt you’ll get confirmation of that fact from anyone else you meet.

After dinner, it was time for a War of the Ring rematch as a gamecation could not go by without at least two games of this favorite.  This time the shadow swept over the land and established a military rule that would last for a thousand years.  Many of the free people were slow to recognize the threat of war, slumbering through half the battle even while their brethren nearby were besieged.

The gamecation concluded with Haba’s Polizei-Alarm, another round of Tournay, the latest Ystari game Myrmes, and a game of the Star Wars LCG.  All well designed games, but none could rival the magnetic brilliance of Polizei-Alarm – the one you’re least likely to have played but most likely to enjoy in a light-hearted, child-like way.  The end of the evening and of the weekend was upon us, and so concluded the second of three summer gamecations.  I had to wait a month for the finale, but you only have to wait until tomorrow.

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