Sunday, June 04, 2006

50% Of A Good Thing

With Shari & the boys out of town (visiting family in TX), I had the opportunity to attend Kublacon for the second time. This is a well-run gaming covention held in San Francisco (well, Burlingame) every Memorial Day weekend.

BTW, the title of this post refers to the fact that I was only able to attend on Friday & Saturday of a 4-day con, not that I only enjoyed myself 50% of the time!

Thanks to Doug Garrett & Greg Parker who made this trip possible! (And George, whose last name escapes me, who kindly slept on the couch in the hotel room so I could have the hideaway bed!)

Here's a rundown of the highlights (and lowlights) of my Kublacon experience.

General Comments
  • I only saw The Mighty Khan once - and he wasn't handing out stuff.
  • The dealer room was cool (I got to talk a bit with Mark Kaufman of Days of Wonder) but I didn't actually break down & buy anything.
  • OTOH, the frenzy of the flea market Friday night sucked me in - I bought a copy of Heroes, Inc. and just missed picking up Techno Witches. (The amazing score of the night: Scott Alan Woodard got an excellent condition copy of Descent for $20... grrrr.)
  • The boardgaming area is growing... games were going on pretty much the entire time I was awake.
  • The first game I played after I arrived was Nacht der Magier (Magician's Night), which was just nominated for Spiel des Jahres Kinderspiel (the German Game of the Year for children). But there wasn't a kid in sight when we were playing it! This is a great little 10 minute "dexterity" game that has the added bonus of working both as a "normal" game AND as a game you can play in the dark. (Some of the pieces glow in the dark!) I played twice over the weekend - winning both times - and the game has entered my "must buy"list.
  • I played in the Uberplay-a-thon for the second time... and came in just out of the "money" for the second time as well. But I had fun!
  • Part of the Uberplay-a-thon was playing China for the first time - while I'm a huge fan of Web of Power, I hadn't had the opportunity to play the "chip off the old block." I liked the double-sided maps (allowing us to tighten the game for the number of players involved) but I don't like the 4 card draw display. I can take or leave the fortifications and only scoring the provinces one time. What may well convince me to purchase a copy, however, is the expansion maps, Border Fights, which Doug Garrett had printed & mounted - very cool. (I wish the designer would think seriously about doing some alternate maps for the original game!)
  • We played two "fillers" as the Uberplay-a-thon drew to a close: For Sale and Double or Nothing. I approached the "new" version of For Sale with a bit of trepidation, as I'm a huge fan of the original... but I was pleasantly surprised at how well it worked on it's own. (I still like the original better, but the new edition is a worthy game.) Double or Nothing felt a bit random - Knizia in "filler" mode - but it played smoothly. I'd rather be playing Zirkus Flochati, though.
  • I had the chance to bring a number of oddball games from my collection to the table: Dorra's Marracash (where I was edged out by some savvy play from Bonnie), Teuber's Gnadenlos! (which I won after starting very slowly), Riedesser's Route 66 (which I won in a closely fought battle) and Jochen der Rochen (which I lost, but had fun playing).
  • In the "kid's games adults like" department, I got to play two games of Haba's Maus Nach Haus (I won both of them!) and a game of Leinen los with Aldie, his lovely wife, Michelle, and Richard Irving (which I lost miserably).
  • Early Saturday morning, Scott Alan Woodard & I played Zig Zag, a real time/memory game that I really enjoyed. Scott was, to put it charitably, less enthused than I was.
  • Later that morning, I got in one of the highlights of Kubla-experience: playing Descent: Journeys in the Dark for the first time. Early reports about long games had scared me away from playing it before, but one of the rare pleasures of game cons is trying those insanely long games you wouldn't normally try in "real life." Aldie (of BGG fame) was running the event, and we ended up with enough players that we needed two tables. Thanks to Scott's flea market find, we had two copies - and I ended up being the Overlord (read: gamemaster) at the second table. In fact, there's so much I want to say about Descent that I'm going to save it for a post of it's very own!
  • Once again, I ended up on somebody's podcast - this time around, it was Garrett's Games & Geekiness in a round table discussion with Aldie, Doug & Doug's wife, Shelley. The three of them had been knocking back a couple of bottles of wine - so while the discussion doesn't devolve into "I never noticed you beautiful you are before", it is well-lubricated. (I'm the designated driver.) I also managed to use the word "fondle" in a non-sexual context... and then did an absolutely inadequate job of making a joke about being forced to play games while speaking King James English. Otherwise, it's a fun listen.
  • My last event for Kublacon was Greg Parker's "Rare Gems" event... which means I got to play Der Untergang von Pompeji twice (lost the first game, won the second) and Jenseit von Theben once (and lost). Both of these are over-the-top expensive to acquire... and yet they are both on my "want 'em bad" list. Pompeji is "Survive for adults" while Jenseit is the best excavation game ever. Sigh.


  • I really don't like Alhambra... but it was the Uberplay-a-thon and the folks at my table wanted to play. Not only did I get stuffed (I was in 4th place), I had to play with 5 players, which makes the game even slower than usual. Sigh. (I've commented at length in other places about why I think that the parent game, Stimmt So!, is vastly superior to Alhambra.)
  • California, the new game from Michael Schacht, was just OK. There's nothing really wrong with it - but there's nothing compelling about it, either. It seemed a bit random with two players - I can't imagine how out of control you'd feel playing it with 4-5 folks! (One good note on this: I got to play it with Greg Parker, whom I enjoy immensely.)
  • And that's pretty much it for lowlights... not bad for two solid days of gaming, eh?

Other Stuff I Did At Kublacon

I also played:

  • Ra
  • Ark of the Covenant
  • Motley Fool's Buy Low, Sell High (which is Palmyra redux)
  • Meuterer


Anonymous said...

Great report! Sounds like you had fun, although I think you should have gone with the family to Texas instead. :-)

I'm looking forward to your thoughts on Descent. Our copy sits unplayed as of yet. We did play a family game of Doom and enjoyed it although I wasn't crazy about the sci-fi theme.

I got to play Der Untergang von Pompeji at Gulf Games and it was a hoot with that crowd. Adam Spielt still has it for a reasonable price of 22 euros. The only reason we haven't gotten it yet is that Mayfair was supposed to be putting out an English edition.

And finally, here's an upcoming expansion that I know you'll want to get:

Anonymous said...

Hi Mark, it was great fun seeing you again and getting to game. You are always welcome to crash on my floor ( or roll away bed). I am glad to find another person who loves Jenseits von Theben. I hope we get to play some games again soon. Greg Parker