HeavyCon: Day Four

Here is a photo of a pink fungus I saw 3 years ago.

Largely the only criteria I used to pick a college years ago, was the diversity of courses offered, and when I took a class on Japanese tea ceremonies and Zen aesthetics, there were several ceramics majors in the class, taking it for research purposes. I simultaneously took three ceramics classes the next semester, and in one of them, when the professor lectured on certain topics, the slideshow always included images of plants, rocks, blight, or other experiences that he felt had undoubtedly directly inspired his creativity, even if unconsciously.

This was not something that was happening in my core mathematics or chemistry classes.

So when I saw that pink fungus on a hike one day, I asked my friend Shane if it had insprised some of his works -as the resemblance was astonishing.

When I said the other day that Packen Wir’s was “probably” the title I most looked forward to playing, what I meant was because I may never have another chance to try it -but I wasn’t expecting a groundbreaking experience. The title I was most looking forward to in a more traditional sense, was Captains of the Gulf, planned for Essen this year from Jason Dinger and Spielworxx.

The game is a multi-use card game about, well, fishing in the Gulf of Mexico, with rondel-ish action selection. In general, you’ll be upgrading your fishing boat by playing cards as equipment (e.g. fuel tanks), staff (e.g. deckhands), or fishing licenses. A card can also serve as a way to tell which fish you’re able to catch.

On your turn, you’ll move around the rondel, selecting from actions such as fuel, sail & fish, sail to port, play upgrade cards, and sell fish. I said rondel-ish, as for the first four rounds you’ll have a bonus action you can take which will allow you to sneak some of those actions into other turns, and in the last four rounds, you’ll have two bonus actions each round. Some actions require you to be either in port or at sea to execute them.

Bonuses can be earned by selling to the same port repeatedly, as your reputation there increases. Overfishing (and none of the times I’ve said “fish” did I mean fish -its crab, shrimp, and oysters) in a certain area will delay the respawning of additional fish.

This was a prototype play, so things are certainly subject to change.

The quasi-rondel has some interesting tactical and short-term strategic implications as after a specific number of pawns have passed a certain position, the round ends and if a player hasn’t used their bonus marker, they lose it; the timing affect on your decisions there is interesting.

The respawning mechanic is interesting. After ageing the overfished markers on the board, if the last one is removed, a card is flipped which determines how many fish are added; it moves two rondels that determine the type of fish and the direction from the current hex in which they are placed.

The respawning mechanic does not feel disjointed or jarring, but there is a sharp contrast between the more euro-ish multi-use card play and rondel feel, and the more unpredictable respawns. I find it an apt and audacious choice to stick with a more simulative representation of it rather than rounding off all of the corners.

Jason is a treasure, and there is something special about designs that are so palpably inspired by the creator’s experience: Jason’s grandfather ran wooden hull shrimp fishing boats, and Jason worked in the Gulf around the fisherman.

Looking forward to it’s final release.

OpinionatedEaters break.

I didn’t leave the hotel for many meals, and relied more on UberEats type services, as the hotels’ food service left something to be desired. For dinner on Saturday, I had ordered some curry, and it was delivered without utinsels, and then I realized I didn’t have a bowl to eat it in, so I used one of the mugs from the coffee service. That photo is Sunday’s lunch; different restaurant, same result.

The play of Captains was a package deal with a playtest of The Throne of Allegoria, a planned 2019 Essen release from Spielworxx. It’s still a work in progress, so my comments will be briefer and more general.

At it’s heart, it uses a blind placement mechanic, such as Ys, Stockpile, Sternenhimmel, or Don Buriko: you are placing workers on action spaces to execute once all pieces are placed, but they have a range of values, and these are hidden until all are placed.

The actions execute in the prescribed order. You’ll do various things to move up some tracks which can earn you points, but you are also able to consume those points to earn additional actions. (Captains also has this calculation: if you spend your money on upgrades, will you have time to get a sufficient return on your investment?)

You’re (currently) adding and moving spies, troops, and merchants to and around the board to execute certain actions, and attempt to complete various objectives.

The central core of this game was quite enjoyable, and I look forward to seeing what happens with it. What I may have enjoyed even more was listening to Uli and Jeroen discuss the game from a needed development standpoint. It was enlightening to hear their perspectives.

Then somehow it was 6 o’clock. Not sure what sort of Wizard took all the time away.

I tried a new Ganz Schön Clever strategy, and, uh, well, since I like sharing my poor scores with you, here’s a real goose egg.

I’m still convinced that it was a perfect strategy, and was just one roll short of turning a huge corner. I promise.

Yesterday, a table of 18xx next to me was playing a version which included the city of Strasbourg, and the repeated incantation of its name made me hungry to play it, so we did. Full review was already scheduled for late this week.

We played Q.E. next. This was my second play, and first non 3 AM play, and I was pleased to find that I liked it even more than before we should have a full review on it soon.

Up next was another Spielworxx game- ok, I know what you’re thinking. I must’ve gone to HeavyCon today with three titles from Uli, but where was I all week?

Here’s what I meant to do. On Saturday, I wanted to walk around once an hour to count how many tables of games were going on, and at a general level, what types of games were being played. I meant to do it.

If I had to guess, the average was around 23 tables of games at any one time and maybe 15 of those were 18xx, erring on the low side. Exactly one table was playing titles like the ones I have discussed. I took a small survey of the people on the airport shuttle this morning, and we were at 67% 18xx players.

Anyway, we played Colonialism, but it was rough, as it had been a long con, things were getting loud, and the con was being packed up around us. At one point we picked up our table mid-game and moved it hoping for better conditions.

We closed out with some more Passtally, Don Buriko, and Time’s Up.

One of the great things about what Edward and Amanda have put together is how much it feels like family, and not just friends. There is an intimiteness and openness that they facilitate which makes it all feel very comfortable. Having such a small con concentrates your interactions with folks who were previously strangers and are now friends -less bredth and more depth. Small cons.

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