Thursday, August 06, 2020

Our 2020 GenCan't Experience

For someone with over 1000 games in the house (if you count expansions), I'm not really a big gaming convention guy. The last open convention I attended was TN Game Days a couple of years back (700 or so folks) and the last BIG convention I went to was KublaCon around 2006. 

So, the yearly pilgrimage to Indianapolis to GenCon hasn't ever been on my schedule. Dealing with 60,000+ gamers all in one place just doesn't appeal to me - no matter how much I'd enjoy seeing many of the folks who attend. Instead, for the last few years, the boys & I have participated in GenCan't - an online convention for those who can't (or don't) attend GenCon.

This year, of course, GenCon went online due to the virus, but GenCan't went on as usual, with a great Discord channel for chat, a bunch of events & contests, and the fun of sharing our board gaming hobby with each other. (We even have badges!)

In that spirit, I present to you the story of our GenCan't (with a bit of sneaking in the virtual back door at GenCon to peek at some of the new stuff.)

DAY ONE: Thursday

Some great conversation on the Discord channel... and sadly, work got in the way of me play MegaKaruba with folks online. But after work, the gaming began in earnest.

A classic 2 player game from Kosmos that desperately needs a reprint... Collin (my younger son) took me on and gave me a run for my money. I have a long history of winning this game against most folks - but I edged Collin out with some selective weed placement. (This game also gets an award for Best Vaguely Off-Putting Box Cover with a willowy female flower/person and a short/rotund male flower/person.)

Downforce (Aloha Sands track):
This track from the newest Downforce expansion has quickly become our favorite... the jumps (a) just look cool, and (b) offer some very interesting decisions about when to make a break for the finish line. (Downforce is the cleanest and easiest to teach version of Wolfgang Kramer's excellent racing system... over time, I've owned Tempo, Top Race, Detroit/Cleveland Grand Prix, and Daytona 500. The only ones still left in the collection are Downforce and Daytona.) I won rather handily, thanks to spending very little on my cars and Collin betting heavily on my lead car.

Unmatched: Battle of Legends:
The first of three Unmatched battles took place later in the evening... and Braeden and I played while we watched the CGE preview of Lost Ruins of Arnak. (Which looks cool, by the way.) This was a battle to the wire, as Braeden's last Raptor took down my Medusa with only a few hit points to spare. I hate to admit it, but he outplayed me.

DAY TWO: Friday

Work once again interferes with boardgaming... sigh. But I did get a chance to watch/listen to the Restoration Games "Blueprints" panel/feed from GenCon - excited about all the love for Unmatched and the content of the upcoming expansions. Also jazzed that Return to Dark Tower is staying relatively close to the original schedule... and I appreciate the straight talk about Heroquest (getting the trademark is simply one element in making sure they could do publish it IF a lot of other things happen - but there is nothing definite.)

We also managed to win a copy of ThinkFun's Chicken War in a random Twitter drawing... hey, a new game to try - bonus!

Roll for the Galaxy (Orb)
: I love this slightly longer variant on Roll for the Galaxy (you play to 15 technology & planet tiles)... and this game was no exception. I posted my best score ever at the game... but, to quote James Ingram, "I guess my best wasn't good enough" as Braeden beat me by 16 points. (Related note: I'm a beta tester on the Roll for the Galaxy app - it's really well-done!)

NEOM (solo)
: The past two Essens have been very good to someone who loves drafting games - NEOM and 7 Wonders: Armada in 2018, It's a Wonderful World in 2019. NEOM has a great packet drafting system for solo games that works really well (as does It's a Wonderful World), so it's kind of my go-to solitaire game right now. I seem to be getting worse and worse at it, though, as I try some "lean into one direction" strategies that don't seem to work as well as I want them to...

DAY THREE: Saturday

The gaming begins in earnest... no live streams, no panel discussions, not even much chatting on the Discord channel. Just playing game after game after game...

Zauberschwert & Drachenei:
Playing with all the expansions thrown in (even including Poison, which inevitably got played on me)... this has been a long-time favorite of the boys. It's a weird little Adlung Spiele card game. Players are wizards attempting to defeat larger and larger enemies to amass fame - but the central mechanic is actually an auction to either fight an enemy or build up your tableau to gain power and artifacts. (The name, btw, literally translates Magic Sword and Dragon Egg.) Braeden slaughtered us... even my giant pile of black dragon eggs didn't make up for his awesome store of power.

Vom Kap bis Kairo:
Since we were on an Adlung kick, I taught the boys my other favorite Adlung game - an auction/race game about building railroads across Africa. I won... but in fairness, I've played before and the game is quirky enough that an experienced player is likely to win. (Note: other Adlung games I love - Meuterer & Adlungland.) I like the odd mish-mash of auction, press-your-luck, and racing... all packed into 30 minutes or so.

Shards of Infinity (Shadow of Salvation):
Shards reminds me of Star Realms... but there are more twists and turns in the design of the cards. The Shadow expansion adds a cooperative mode - so Braeden & I taught Collin to play and dumped him into the cooperative campaign on his first try. As usual, the first boss is interesting but not overwhelming, the second boss was a nail-biter, and the final boss was tough but beatable. I don't think it's the perfect cooperative system for the game, since it truncates building up your shard power, but it's enjoyable every once in a while. (I do think Shards is an excellent 1v1 or 2v2 game... and it's substantially better 2v2 than Star Realms.)

Unmatched: Battle of Legends:
Our second battle of the weekend...this time, my Dracula & King Arthur team managed to defeat Bruce Lee (Collin) and Muldoon (Braeden). I think the Baskerville Manor board from the Cobble & Fog box is really clever - the secret passages require you to pay close attention to how quickly you can get boxed in. (Pro player tip: proper use of Merlin - his "sidekick" - is vital to making the King Arthur deck work.)

The only game I own designed by Tupperware. Yes, Tupperware. It's a cute (and easy) dexterity game that we talked my wife into playing - Braeden mopped the floor with the two of us. Sadly, it's very, very OOP... but you can find Hop Hop Hurray pretty easily, which is similar. (The Hop Hop blog post I link to actually good descriptions of this and of Rein damit!, a HABA game with a similar bouncing ball mechanic.)

Race for the Galaxy (Xeno Invasion):
Braeden and I play a good bit of Race for the Galaxy - so to keep things fresh, we change expansion decks every once in a while. Last weekend, we switched over to the Xeno deck, which I like. We didn't use the extra Xeno mode (which adds an alien invasion that complicates the game) - we've found it doesn't add much to our 2 player games. (I'd love to try it with 3+ players, though!) I managed to slide by him for a 2 point win.

Jump Drive
: Collin's favorite game in Tom Lehmann's Race for the Galaxy universe is Jump Drive, so he and I finished off the day with a head-to-head match. I managed to create an Uplift planet behemoth that took me to my highest 2-player score ever (85) and the win. (You can see my final two turns in the picture...yes, that's 40 points on the final turn. This overwhelming win makes up for the horrible defeat I suffered at his hands a couple of weeks ago.)


The last day (sigh) of GenCan't... which still had a number of games and the conclusion of my Dice Puzzle game (during which one of the entrants managed to identify all 9 dice correctly!).

Unmatched: Battle of Legends:
The final game of Unmatched pitted Sherlock Holmes and Sindbad (me) against Alice (Braeden) and the Raptors (Collin). Sindbad managed to do five Voyages, followed by rotating the Voyages back into his hand and putting all seven down - that's hard to beat. Of course, winning against my boys is always satisfying. (BTW, I highly recommend the Cobble & Fog box to Unmatched players... the card play on the majority of the decks is tricky enough that I might avoid it for total newbies, but anyone with experience can have a lot of fun with these very creative decks and interesting maps. For new players, the base box and/or Bigfoot vs Robin Hood is the best starting point.)

Sentinels of the Multiverse:
Braeden & I hadn't played this in a while, so out it came. While Marvel Champions has cut into our playing time on this one, they are NOT the same game, nor the same universe. (Credit to Greater Than Games for developing such a rich backstory to their superhero world.) We fought against Plague Rat at the Temple of Zhu Long... Braeden had Void Guard Doctor Medico and Chrono-Ranger (Plague Rat's nemesis) while I ran Freedom Six Bunker and Mister Fixer. We smoked Plague Rat, even while dealing with the denizens of the Temple. Gosh, I love this game.

Baseball Highlights: 2045:
I'm not a big baseball fan... oh, yeah, I like going to see a game live, but I don't watch baseball on TV and I'm certainly not obsessed with the sport like I am with college football or Premier League soccer. But Mike Fitzgerald's Baseball Highlights is a spectacular design (even with the oddly disjointed rulebook) and a joy to play - every time. The combination of deck-building/drafting with smooth play is a winner. Braeden & I had a great game, with his L.A. team fighting back from a 3-0 World Series deficit to lose 4-2. 

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale (solo):
I bought Cartographers last fall because it looked like a good roll'n'write to carry with me in my suitcase when I was traveling for business. I was not wrong - it manages to scratch the old map-drawing itch from when I played D&D back in the day and carried around a pad of graph paper in my high school backpack to design dungeons with. At the same time, it's a clever roll'n'flip system that offers interesting choices with a varying set of scoring objectives each game. I've added the Skills expansion and a set of colored pencils... but that doesn't seem to help - my scores are actually getting worse. (But I'm still having fun.)

New Frontiers:
This was, bar none, the weirdest game of New Frontiers we've played. We were out of sync, meaning we were taking actions that the opposing player couldn't use. Braeden was building like crazy while I was just accumulating settlers/colonists due to my lack of military power. And then the game turned on a dime and I quickly settled planets and we ran out of colonists. We tied at 19 points each (a VERY low score) and I had more cash left over. 

Parting Thoughts

  1. I love the GenCan't vibe. (Thank you, Suzanne!)
  2. I didn't realize until I started writing this up that we played ALL of the Race for the Galaxy games this weekend.
  3. I'm working on a pretty massive review for the Opinionated Gamers of Unmatched. Watch for it!
  4. All the pictures here are taken by me... or one of my boys. Cool filters courtesy of Hipstamatic. 
  5. All of the links here are to stuff I've written about these games on my blog... or to reviews from the awesome team at the Opinionated Gamers (which, as you might infer from #2, I write for on a semi-regular basis.)

No comments: