Okay, I know what you’re thinking – a convention report in the midst of a pandemic? Well, this was a very exclusive con. In order to attend you had to live in my house, and total attendance was capped at two. Back in December, we were talking about the fact that we both had some vacation days to use, thanks to not travelling or going to our usual game cons throughout last year and I jokingly said – too bad we can’t have a 2 person game con here. We laughed, but then thought “wait – why can’t we have a 2 person game con here?”, so we blocked off three days in our calendar and Nose Con was born. It was held in the currently very-exclusive den of the Noseworthy residence and for three days we ignored almost everything else to just play some games.
Day 1 of Nose Con was deemed Long Games Day, although really it should be Long Game Day, because we decided to play all four eras of The Colonists, and since it had been a while there was some rules review and a lot of thinking time.. You can read Dale’s full review of the game from back in 2017 here. You are a mayor of a town, and your goal is to fully house, clothe, educate and entertain your citizens. It’s a really interesting, well-designed game; there are a lot of different ways to achieve victory, and each era builds up really well from the previous era. That said, it is also possible to play fewer eras for a shorter game and still have a very enjoyable experience.
The downside? Well, there is a LOT to think about and look at. The text and icons on the buildings are small and can be hard to see as the board continues to grow. You have a lot to think about on your turn, and a lot of planning that needs to happen. There is no interim scoring, so there’s no automatic gauge to let you know how you are doing, so analysis paralysis can be a big problem. The game claims to take 20 minutes per player per era, which means our game should have been 160 minutes but it took closer to 7 hours. When we were playing it more regularly it tended to be closer to 4. So, it took longer than expected, but since our whole day was dedicated to gaming, it didn’t matter!
After The Colonists was finished and we’d had dinner we decided to spend the evening playing shorter, lighter games.
First up we played two games of Rajas: The Dice Charmers. It doesn’t look like we reviewed this one yet but we should, because it’s a great game. It takes most of the elements of Rajas of the Ganges and turns it into a roll-and-write. It works really well as a 2 player game. There are 6 dice in 3 categories – goods, palace actions and roads. The active player rolls the dice, chooses one and puts the matching die to the side. The other players all then choose a die, marking off the appropriate area on their sheet and taking any bonuses they trigger. It’s a tight game and while you are subject to the luck of the draw as to what dice are available you need to plan and try to chain your bonuses together for maximum effect.
Our final game of the night was Second Chance. This is a fun little flip-and-write by Uwe Rosenberg. You flip over two cards with different shapes on them (think Tetris); all players simultaneously choose one of the shapes and draw it onto their grid. If you cannot fit one of the shapes on your board you get the chance to flip one additional card; if you can draw that shape play continues as normal. If you cannot, the other player(s) continue until they face the same situation. The player with the fewest empty spaces wins. I bought this to round out a game order, figuring it would be good to play with non-gamers, but we’ve actually played it several times because it’s a great closer for those times that you want one more game but don’t have a lot of time or a lot of brain power.
Day 2 of Nose Con had no particular agenda, other than to break out a copy of a new game, Monasterium, that had just arrived. You can read my full review of the game here, but it is a fun resource management game. We liked it enough to immediately play it a second time; that’s something I rarely get to do, but that I find helpful because it really helps solidify the rules as well as allow you to explore a new strategy now that you know that you know what you are doing.
After 2 games of Monasterium we decided to break out Crystal Palace. This game had been on my to-try list since it came out, and I was all set to learn it at a con last spring, which of course did not work out. So, when I was looking for an anniversary game for my husband last fall (15th anniversary is crystal) I picked this one up. I love a good worker placement game and this one does not disappoint. I like the balance of luck with the dice and strategy of planning where to place them and when as well as how to manage the costs. It also works quite well with 2; the designer has included adaptations for different player counts.
Up next was Big Easy Busking, a game I picked up solely based on its theme of music in New Orleans. One of the many things I love about New Orleans is the number of musicians busking all around the city; no matter where you are you can hear music. I had low expectations for this one after reading the rules, but it turns out to be pretty fun. It’s a light resource management/area control game with cards that deserves a more detailed review at some point.
It was just before dinner at this point, so we finished up with 2 games of Mistkafer. Mistkafer is not a game I would have thought I would like at first glance, but I am glad I gave it a try. The only reason I did is because on our second day at Essen in 2017, we were wandering around with no real agenda, having failed to get into a demo of anything we wanted to try and feeling overwhelmed by the crowds, when we were beckoned over by a Schmidt rep who offered to teach us, so we said sure. We enjoyed it, immediately played a second game with someone who had come up during our first game and then bought a copy. It’s a fun press-your-luck game; it has a small element of hosing the other players, but it’s not enough to make the game feel mean or unfair. This is another game that we can get our non-gamer friends and family to play.
Post-dinner we decided to keep the light games going. Up first was Schwupps, another closer/filler game that we had picked up in Essen, because I am a sucker for an Amigo card game. Here you have a hand of numbered and colored cards that you are trying to get rid of by playing as many as possible to the four piles in the middle of the table. Those four piles all have modifiers – +1, -1, same color, same number etc. You play as many as you can from your hand, draw back up to 4 and continue until all your cards are gone. If you can’t play any you are forced to draw a card, which you can then play if possible, as well as switch out one of the modifiers. There are also Schwupps cards that allow you to switch out a modifier, but require your opponent to draw a card. This is a pretty light game, but it’s fun, easy to teach and works well with any number of players.
Next up was Qwixx gemixxt. Qwixx is one of our go to pub games, since it is very portable and easy to play, so I had picked up this new expansion, which adds two new sheets. One pad has the colors split across the rows of numbers while the other sheet has the numbers in non-numerical order. It added a fun little twist, but it isn’t necessary for this beer and pretzels type game to be fun.
We ended with Noch Mal (aka Encore), a game that I have been playing on my iPad for quite some time, but didn’t own until recently. It’s a roll and write. Both players have a copy of the same sheet. The active player rolls the dice, half of which have colors and half of which have numbers. The active player chooses a color and a number and fills in those spots on their sheet, and the other players choose from the leftover dice. You score points for completing columns and for completing all of one color. Simple yet strangely addicting, especially as an app.
Day 3 of Nose Con was the last day, since we couldn’t ignore our responsibilities for much longer. We started it off with a game that has been sitting unopened and unplayed on our shelf for several months – Kraftwagen. Your goal is to build the best car company in Germany by developing cars, testing them and then selling them to the general public. You have limited actions in which to do this, and every turn I felt completely stressed out trying to do everything I needed to do. It also felt very dry to me, and I just couldn’t get into it. I have several friends who really like the game, though, so I need to give it another try.
We have a tradition with a friend that we always play an Uwe Rosenberg game at every con we go to, so we had to make sure we got a Rosenberg game. We broke out Fields of Arle. This does not see as much play as I would like due to its sheer size versus the size of our current-but-soon-to-be-replaced gaming table. It is a terrific two player game (or 3 player game with the Tea and Trade expansion) with a lot of depth. Sure, it is another game about farming, but it has a very different feel from Agricola, It can be overwhelming at the start to narrow down what you want to do since there are so many options, and you really need to focus, but you are rewarded for putting the time in to learn it. Every game is different, since there are so many different strategies to pursue. The setup seems to the reason this doesn’t hit the table more, so I just bought an organizer to both help with that and fit the expansion in the original box.
We followed up with another game of Monasterium and then, due to the hour and our brain fatigue in learning new rules, decided we needed something lighter. We settled on Ghost Fightin’ Treasure Hunters. When we opened the box we realized we had never played with the expansion that makes it more strategic, so we decided to include it. I am sad to report that, despite our best efforts, the ghosts were victorious. I did like the expansion though and will probably default to that in the future; it added a little more strategy and made it a little harder, at least with 2 players.
So, was Nose Con a success? I think so. It’s certainly not going to replace cons with more than 2 people, since part of the fun of a con is seeing so many of our friends. We do play games regularly, but usually not for extended stretches of time as other responsibilities interfere, so it was nice to have that feeling of an entire day of games ahead of you. It was a nice diversion to distract us from the quarantine, and it gave us something to look forward to. Depending on the course of the pandemic there may be a second Nose Con to get us through the spring and/or to christen our new game table when it arrives, but I am hopeful it will be taken over by larger cons going forward.