Thursday, December 17, 2009

Overall Victories Updated!

I went through all the recorded games we played but that aren't yet summarized, and came up with the definitive "Overall Victories" list. The current running total is at the right, but as a basis for comparison, I took screen shots of the before and after totals.

Joshua just maintained his lead, but the gap closed, from 4.5 games over Allan to a razor-thin 1.5 games over Scott. Note that between them Joshua and Scott have more victories than all the other combatants combined (103.5 to 97.5). Allan slipped to third, but he and Mike C. have a solid toe-hold in the second pack. Anne is a surprising fifth (and looks likely to keep that position for some time), though Lori W. still games once in a while.

As for the rest of the names, I have no idea who Eric, Tony, and Kevin are. Lori K. and Mike B. don't game much any more, and Christine and Vishal are long gone. Though Vishal will always remain in our hearts -- stopped by to play two games and skunked us both times, then went out on top like John Elway.

Anyhow, this update is based on games from the following Conventions:
CombsCon 1998
CombsCon 1999
WrightCon 2000
CombsCon 2000
CombsCon 2001
WrightCon 2002
CombsCon 2002
WrightCon 2003
and WrightCon 2004.

The "Overall Victories" do not include any video game wins. Tie games with no tie-breaker (or no notation of who won the tie-breaker) are 1/2 win for each player, and communal wins (e.g. an allied win in Dune) count as a win for each player in the group that won.

Enjoy the update; I will enjoy the belly-aching at my methodology, the crying about how a Guillotine win shouldn't count as much as a solo Dune win, and the trash-talking.

Let the jockeying for "head boot-licker" begin!

- Scott

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

CombsCon 2009, Part III

Allan, Mike, and Scott convened on 11/28/2009 for a quick day of gaming, and it was a very interesting and enjoyable gaming session to be sure. But there seemed to be a theme running through the day: "Never throw in the towel." At least two games were marked by players not giving up in the face of overwhelming odds and coming out on top. More in the the updates, but the lesson of the day seemed to be that as long as the game continues you have a chance to come back. To wit...

We started with an 11:00 game of Taj Mahal, an enjoyable card and property game Allan found at a gaming convention. After a practice round, we got started, and Scott jumped to an early lead, getting three senators to Mike's one, while Al got the city. Al continued building cities and extra "goodies" to get the matches that meant more victory points, and Mike tried building a chain of properties that would connect and re-connect for extra VP.

All of us learned the lesson that sometimes it's better to pass early and get better cards for the next round. In fact, during the game, Allan said that you should always keep an eye on turn order so you have enough cards to play when you are the first to go. And of course, even though he said it, Scott had to learn the lesson on his own -- twice! Mike always had lots of cards, so he seemed to understand from the beginning.

The game was close, with all three players playing the role of "game leader" from time to time. But turn 9 or 10, Allan used almost all his cards to dominate a round, and he powered to a commanding lead. The scores were something like: Allan 45, Mike 30, Scott 28, and it looked like a blowout.

At that point, Mike actually said out loud that he was trying to decide if he should go after Allan or hammer Scott to solidify his own second place position. In the end, he played the last rounds to win, and it paid off. Allan was out of cards, so Mike mostly won the next round, with Scott keeping pace. So now rather than a 15-point lead, Allan led Mike by about 7 or 8 points.

In the last round, Allan tried to win some things with his five-card hand, but couldn't do much of anything. (Afterward, he said he would have scored eight points if he'd just passed, but he ended up with only three.) Scott was a non-factor -- just too much ground to cover -- so it came down to Mike's huge stack of cards and Al trying to squeeze out some points and hold on. In the end, Mike came through, winning by five points with an inside chain that surrounded the main city and had most of an outer ring, too.

The game notes say he "chain-ganged us to death" and that's how it felt. Again, Allan might have won if he'd dropped out first in the final round, but tried in vain to get something going only to get shut out after using up his hand.

The spoils of not turning on your fellow gamer and trying to win outright:

Mike 56
Allan 51
Scott 51

The game only took about 90 minutes, and would go even faster if we replayed it. Highly recommended as a three- or four-player game. Five-players might be interesting, too, as you'd have to compete for the five decent things you can win every round.

Next was a quick game of Caribbean, with the same cast and crew, Allan, Mike, and Scott. Most of the action took place up north, with Allan and Scott butting heads over some ships early on. Mike was the game leader after two rounds, and it appeared that it might become a runaway. All this despite his apologetic assertion: "I'm sorry guys; there are three rules and I can only remember two of them."

When the southern booty showed up (no, not Gisele B√ľndchen -- Cartagena and Caracas!), Allan got back in the game with a nifty steal and delivery. Scott was back close a few rounds later, and all of a sudden it was a dead heat to the finish. Mike and Al blocked each other for an entire round -- and by that, I mean they had the exact same tiles in every single position. Scott sneaked by to hold the lead for just a moment. But he was out of moves, and Allan won with a right-side of the board delivery and a pick up in the lower left.

Final Score:

Allan 42
Scott 34
Mike 34

(Our second tie for head boot-licker.)

We broke for lunch and then Allan, Mike, and Scott came back to play Power Grid. This was a fascinating game. Al got semi-hosed by ending up first (thus getting the worst plant), and Scott jetted out to an early lead by placing his cities in an advantageous building area and powering two in the first round. Mike was close behind, and Scott went third for a while by keeping his bad plants but paying through the nose for of fuel.

Allan got a "green" plant and wasn't paying much for fuel. And he espoused the strategy that if you can't power a city, then don't build it. That led him into last place, but it was a very strategic move because last is best in the mid-game (you get to buy fuel and build cities first). Mike and Scott had more cities than Allan for a while, and the cost of coal and oil was through the roof. We even ran out of coal one round.

About the time we got to 10 cities, Allan moved back into the lead. He just couldn't help building, and Mike had no money because he spent $150 for the 25 plant. It was a bargain, as he ran it until almost the end of the game, but he was hamstrung when it came to building cities. At 12 cities, Scott could have won the game with a 5-city round, but he would have had to not buy any fuel in order to build those cities, and he was sure that would have been noticed. Unfortunately, that missed opportunity left him with the most cities but lousy plants.

This was the second time a player faced the "tank it or keep trying" dilemma. It looked like Allan was a lock to win, only one city behind Scott and lots of plant power. Scott even pondered aloud, "I guess I could just build to 17 cities and let Allan win so we can move on to another game." But for the second time, the player decided to keep trying, and in fact, Scott used the uncertainty of whether or not he would end the game to make the other players work to one-up each other whenever they could.

In any event, it was then that we hit the inevitable three-player Power Plant Lull. The plants available for auction sucked and would have done nothing for any of us, so we passed for three rounds. In another round there was just one plant bought, and Step 3 hadn't appeared, so our city-building opportunities were limited. We were in stasis with Scott at 16 cities, Allan at 15, and Mike at 12.

The last round before Step 3 the power plant logjam broke and all three players got new plants. At that point, it didn't make sense for Mike or Scott to end the game, and Allan spent all his dough on plants, so we went one more round. Then Step 3 arrived. Allan kept just enough cash to build two cities to get to 17, and he bought more plant power than the other players could match. Mike got the 50 plant (for $50, BTW) -- the first time that plant had ever been in a game of ours -- and Scott bought all the plant power he could but it only added up to 17.

But in a twist of fate, the last round went like this:

Allan could only build 17 cities, even though he could power 18, so his final score was 17.
Mike could only build 17 cities even though he could power 18, so *his* final score was 17.
And Scott could have built many cities, but could only *power* 17, so his final score was 17.

That's right, folks, a three-way tie for first. And with Allan and Mike lower in cash, Scott skated by for the win he might have gotten 8 turns earlier. The final tally:

Scott 17 cities (242,000 in Elektro -- i.e. cash)
Mike 17 cities (125,000 in Elektro)
Allan 17 cities (0 in Elektro)

It was another example of not giving in to the temptation to end the game prematurely. Scott could have tanked it, but ended up winning by staying the course.

Our final game was a quick one of Acquire, with Allan, Mike, and Scott playing again. Apparently this is an old game, going back to 1962, but we have a more modern copy (link). The game started okay, with no new companies for about five rounds. But once they started coming, it was fast and furious. We were out of companies quickly, and waited quite a few rounds to get our first merger.

Allan loaded up on America and Hydra, whereas Mike bought up Quantum and small amounts of three other companies, and Scott went with America, a minority in Quantum, and two other small companies. Unfortunately for Al, America would never merge and Hydra went most of the game without buying or being bought by anything.

Quantum swallowed three companies in succession (Phoenix, and two others), with Mike and Scott trading majority/minority status. Allan was left out in the cold, and since he was cash tight he would never get back in the game. Mike and Scott continued to restart companies, and soon we were corporation tight again. And that was sort of interesting, as players tried in vain to place tiles that wouldn't start companies and wouldn't add to companies they wanted to have acquired.

Scott broke the corporate logjam by having Quantum take over Saxson and Zeta in successive turns, and Allan owned some Zeta so he got a little cash to play with. America was takeover-proof by then, with Scott now the majority shareholder, and when America finally acquired Hydra, Mike was majority owner in *that* too.

If you hadn't picked up on it by now, Mike was in on all the mergers and was the clear majority owner in the Quantum behemoth. And so it is written; the rich got richer and the game ended thusly:

Mike $60,100
Scott $48,900
Allan $34,600

We discussed whether there should be some mechanism for feeding money to players who are out but don't get in on mergers. It seems like a game flaw that if you happen to buy three companies early and they all get too big to be acquired, you are not only out of the game, but it is extremely boring to continue playing.

The best plans we came up with to remedy this were:

1. Give an $500 extra to each player when a merger happens. This would not imbalance the game, since everyone would get the same extra money. And with this rule, if you are out of the merger and out of money, you can get back in the game -- or at least *play* the game.

2. When a player is about to buy stock, if s/he has less cash on hand than it costs to buy a single share of stock, that player would get a set amount of money (perhaps $500). This might imbalance things, since one player could get thousands of extra dollars in a game. But honestly if you are out of cash and sitting on mountains of un-acquriable stock, you are basically in last place no matter what else happens.

3. There was another plan, but I can't remember it. Perhaps one of the players will post it if he remembers was we discussed.

It was a very close day of gaming, as evidenced by the two ties for second place and the three-way tie for first in Power Grid. But in the end, the Grand Champion of CombsCon 2009, Part III is Mike with the final wins tally looking like this:

Mike 2
Allan 1
Scott 1

With his two victories, Mike vaulted over Scott for third place on the Overall Victories tote board. But I think I'll go through all the gaming sessions that aren't counted yet and get that total *really* up to date.

Congratulations on both victories, Mike, and on your new status as Assistant to the Head Boot-licker on the Overall Victories list.

And thank you for hosting -- it was a lot of fun!

- The Eye in the Sky

PS. As always, I look forward to everyone's corrections and amplifications of what *really* happened.

Monday, August 3, 2009

WrightCon 2009

After a scheduling mishap early in the month, we finally worked it all out for a day-long session on July 26 up in the land of cheap beer (New Hampshire). Al hosted, so the day bears his name as the 'Con of the moment.

The usual suspects, Al, Joshua, Mike C., and Scott (Four Horsemen of the "Awww... I Just Missed!") attended, along with the most famous Phil Collins I'm ever likely to meet. So we had five players, which was great; though sadly we didn't take real advantage with a game of Dune.

In fact, we started the day with Railroad Tycoon, which has a game board as large as its payouts are small. My bad luck started the night before when my car battery died, so we didn't get started until 11:00 am (Mike kindly drove an extra hour to pick me up). All five played this game.

With 13 advantage cards to start, you'd expect the two-operations card to show, and of course it did right away. Joshua realized the value from the practice round they'd played earlier, so he bid high and won the right to go first. He took full advantage, connecting two cities in the northeast and delivering a good before the rest of us realized what happened. By the end of the first round, he had about nine victory points to second place's two or three.

And of course, that meant more income for Joshua which meant more track which meant more points which meant more income which meant more bonuses which meant... sigh, which meant that it looked like a runaway after about 15 minutes. Which, if you read this blog sounds about right for this group. But things don't usually stay that way for long.

The second round of bidding for pole position got a lot more interesting when Scott blurted out that a bonus was easily available to the first player. And Joshua's long-winded explanation of how valuable the bonus was brought about the quote of the day, courtesy of Mike: "Josh, you put the 'agony' in agonizing every move." Trust me, that was not the last time we heard *that* quote on the day -- and it probably won't be the last time we ever hear it, either.

Allan won that bid and completed a link that put him in a solid second. But the bidding cost him a bit too much so he had to borrow an extra $5,000 from the bank... and gave us our next quote of the day: "No, it *wasn't* worth the buck!"

As the game progressed, Joshua was in the mid-Atlantic, with Mike down south and Allan up north. Track was built and rebuilt to avoid using any else's rails. Scott had an east-then-midwest strategy and Phil strictly midwest (with a nice run through the center of the country). In fact, going west looked good for a while, as Phil and Scott kept their debt to a minimum and still made significant inroads. But there was too much "red" to deliver out there and too many tiles to build to Chicago (the only "red" city in the area) and those two butted heads ended up canceling each other out.

For a while it looked like it would be Joshua or Allan for the championship, though Joshua maintained his lead. But Mike made a lot of hay in the south and kept delivering and delivering among three cities. And a late push by Phil made a possible track bonus a big deal. However, even with Mike's late surge, it was Joshua who kept racking up the bonus points (first to use a three-train, first to buy a four-train, etc.), and he did end up with the win. After a two-hour game, here were the results:

Joshua = 49
Mike = 40
Phil = 34
Allan = 28
Scott = did not finish (actually, an embarrassing 21 points -- yuck!)

We broke for lunch at a great local rib joint (Goody Cole's Smokehouse -- try the frito dish; it's outstanding!) before heading back to beat each other into the ground.

Next up was a five player game of Caylus, one that we'd tried before but thought was unnecessarily complex. But Joshua arrived second so by tradition he got to call second game.

It started out simply enough, with Scott building three tiles and heading out to a commanding lead (about 18 to 8, I think). Mike got screwed by a few rules that he didn't think were made entirely clear -- you know, little things like not pissing off the King... TWICE! All the while, Phil and Allan built some stone and green buildings for decent VP and mounted their comeback.

Al passed Scott about halfway through by taking chances necessary to get some gold for large buildings and used very strategic placement of "the provost" (and late "passes" for good position on the bridge). Phil kept building small stuff, while Al and Joshua started converting pink buildings to VP-laden ones. VP for them, that is... naturally. And Joshua and Mike were still very far back, but Joshua hording goods, stacking them in sets of threes that looked destined to build the King's castle. But that wasn't his strategy, as you'll soon find out.

Turns out some of what Joshua was hording was gold, and on the very last turn, he went first and built the 25-VP building, which vaulted him from waaaaayyyyyy back into first. In fact, between that play and some other stuff, he scored at least 29 of his 69 total points on that turn alone! Which means he scored at least 42% of his points on one turn in a game with 15 or 16 turns.

So how did it all end up? Well, Scott did his best but couldn't overcome the combination Karama/Guild Hall/Emperor for Life scam that Joshua sniffed out. And so the final standings showed yet another victory for Joshua. "Curse you, Red Baron!"

Joshua = 69 (victory points)
Scott = 65
Mike = 56
Allan = 55
Phil = 52

Phil had to leave, so we finished up with a four-player Starfarer's of Catan, which might have some of the coolest pieces of any game ever. And let me say up front that Joshua's luck finally ran out -- he was dead last from the get-go. Of course, my luck hadn't changed since the dead battery, so I had high hopes for this one.

We started at 6:30, and by 6:35 Mike bemoaned not following his *own* strategy. He thought you should have a spaceport in the front row to enable easier ship launching, and then ended up with none there. He did okay, though, getting two trade ships out and landed (though with a bad event card one ended up taking forever). Joshua puttered around with lasers and boosters, as the resources just wouldn't come to help him build ships.

Allan and Scott were tooling around the universe, looking for decent places to land. And then it happened -- the oh-so-friendly Travellers gave space-jumps to Mike and Joshua. Josh's was lame, giving him a trade ship that he couldn't land. But Mike leveraged his to a landed trade ship (just ahead of Joshua), and before you knew it he had three of the "friend" disks (worth 2-VP each), and had vaulted out of the charity area to the lead.

Scott was sort of middle of the pack, using a space jump and spaceport strategically to enable ship launching from the middle of the board. But in the end, he didn't have the freight rings to land trade ships, and his strategy petered out. Maybe he was there just to make Joshua not feel entirely lame; I think Joshua was actually in VP deficit at one point :)

But Al mounted a furious comeback, building a laser-and-freight ring laden ship that blasted through "red" planets, getting VP for it. He even got a space jump (after much wailing at the cruel universe), and appeared poised to take the game.

However, in the end, Mike's lead was just too great, and when he bought the fame ring to end the game, Al thought he was two turns away. Final standings looked like this:

Mike = 15
Allan = 14
Scott = 10
Joshua = 9

So that was WrightCon 2009. Only three games, but still a heck of a lot of fun. Thanks to Al for hosting, to Mike for driving me up, and to Joshua for driving me home.

Be well, and I'll see you in the sand,

- Scott

Monday, May 25, 2009

CombsCon 2009, Redux

After months of planning and a few fits and starts, we finally got a game session together for last Saturday. Mike and Anne were our gracious hosts, and we played two three-player games and three four-player games.

We started at 10:00 with Allan, Mike C., and Scott playing Power Grid, though the start was interrupted when the CEO of Scott's company lost email access. But we got rolling quickly enough, vowing to play by the actual rules this time. Which somehow we did.

Even with the correct plant replacement rules, Mike scored an early 7-city plant and Scott snagged an early 6-city plant. Allan missed out on those, but ran three wind-power plants for much of the game. This had a curious effect -- it was a boon for all. Allan didn't have to buy fuel, so he had more money on hand, and Mike and Scott got to buy *cheaper* fuel because there was one player out of the fuel market.

Anyhow, Allan initially had the second-most cities and try as he might he could not fall behind Scott, so Al got railheaded out of cities and that cost him any chance for a victory. Scott couldn't keep up with Mike's powering capacity; just too many 2- and 3-city plants available and nothing he could upgrade. So in the end, Mike squeezed out a victory in a very quick game (by our standards). The game was 2.5 hours, and the final standings went like this:

Mike 15 (powering capacity)
Scott 14
Allan 12
Note: Joshua called to say he'd be there by 2:30. There were some skeptical eye rolls, but I'm not at liberty to say who's eyeballs were rolling.
Our second game was Puerto Rico, which we highly recommend, as it plays great at three-, four-, or five-players. It was a strange one, with Mike bolting to a big lead in victory points and looking for all the world like he'd run away with a second win. He produced lots of different types of goods and had a Factory to take advantage of it. But in the mid-game, his lack of a Warehouse cost him lots of goods during shipment phases, and that probably cost him the game. Lots and lots of tobacco was lost -- and that is a very valuable commodity.

Meanwhile, Allan produced lots of corn and he and Scott used Quarries to build, build, and build. Unfortunately for Al, his corn wasn't worth anything with the Trader, whereas Scott was trading of coffee at four-ducats a throw. And Scott had an Office to boot, so he could always trade Coffee no matter what.
Note: at 2:30 Joshua called to say he'd be there at 3:30. More updates as they become available.
Riding the money from all that coffee (and his Quarries), Scott got three of the 10-ducat buildings and nearly got a fourth -- Al just edged him out. That made the score closer, but Scott eked out a win at the 90-minute mark:

Scott 57 (victory points)
Allan 54
Mike 44
Note: Joshua showed up just as this game ended at 3:30. He then claimed that he could have been there at 3:00. And even though we prefer to be charitable, we can't think of any reason why you'd put off getting to the game table. Perhaps Joshua will post his reason in the comments area.
After a 15 minute set-up, we started Pillars of the Earth at 3:45 -- all four of us: Allan, Joshua, Mike C., and Scott. Not that it mattered much; it was a runaway most of the game, with Mike hitting a big lead around the third turn. Others might remember this one better, but Mike had some huge Victory Point machine; it depended on Stone but he had plenty of it.

Allan went for some metal but never made it really pay in the end, though he ended up with a very good showing. Joshua avoided some *very* bad news early on, but his strategy got bunged up when Al edged him out of two things he needed. Scott had a money-making machine, but took too long to optimize it for Victory Point production.

Mike rode his big early lead to a comfortable win. And even though Al and Scott were closing the gap, it would have taken at least two more turns, and that's a lot in a six-turn game. The final standings:

Mike 49 (victory points)
Allan 45
Scott 45
Joshua 42
Note: If you haven't figured it out, Joshua was at the game table by this point, so there will be no more updates on his whereabouts.
Next up was another round of Power Grid, and I'd like to reiterate that it is *so* much better when you play by the rules. Scott waited to buy his first power plant and ended up with the best one, which of course meant he went last in all the important phases. That lasted two rounds and cost him dearly (missed an early build round by a BUCK). He never recovered and was only a factor in how he could screw other players.

Speaking of which, he screwed Mike in a build phase and then helped Mike screw Joshua that same round. Never got around to Al, but I'm sure he had his eye on him. And when Mike aced Joshua out on that build, it set Joshua back and he never really recovered. So it became a two-man race: Mike and Allan.

Al chose the best spot on the board, with seven cheap cities he could build with no interference. And he used that to get us to Phase 2 quickly. Then he slowed his building and let Mike catch up, which gave him cheaper fuel and a shot at better plants in the auction. And he used that strategy to stockpile money and wait until he had more plant capacity than anyone else -- at which point he built 5 cities (getting to 17) and ended the game with an impressive win (though it did come in a tie-breaker):

Allan 12 (plant capacity), and $25 cash
Mike 12 (plant capacity), and $21 in cash (the tie-breaker)
Scott 11
Joshua 10

We started our last game at 7:45, a "quick game" of Merchants of Amsterdam. Everyone started with a strategy of not overpaying for auction items. That lasted until the first auction went for $160,000. Just something about the possibility that others might win the auction rubs us the wrong way. It's the same reason we never made any money in Ransom; but that's a story for another day.

This game was dominated by those who had actual strategies: Joshua and Mike. Both got multiple bonus payments, both played their cards just right before payoffs, and both ended up at the top of the leader board. Joshua had spots sewn up on the commodity market, and first or second in just a few other places. Mike had some commodities, but was more dominant in the world market. Allan was probably most dominant in the warehouse strategy. And Scott... ummm, he brought Girl Scout cookies, so I guess that's something.

Anyhow, time moved too quickly for Allan several times, and Mike took an early loan that was costly to repay later (though he said it was totally worth it). And though it was tough to give up some of the perks in the later rounds, Joshua managed a fairly comfortable win, joining the $500 club three times over:

Joshua 1,650 (Guilders)
Mike 1,480
Allan 1,290
Scott 1,070 (and Thin Mints!)

The final tally (which has been added to the Overall Wins tote board) was as follows:

Mike C. 2 wins
Allan 1 win
Joshua 1 win
Scott 1 win

In any event, a good time was definitely had by all. In fact, it was so much fun that we're gonna try that whole "playing by the rules" more often. Pinky Promise!

- Scott

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

CombsCon 2009

Hi all,

Allan, Joshua, Mike, and Scott got together on Saturday to eat bad food and play bad games... er, that is to say, play games badly. We got in five board games, and played exactly *one* of them without blowing at least one major rule. That's right, wicked experienced gamers mess up basic rules and throw the entire session into chaos; film at eleven. Oh well, when will we learn the most often given advice on this blog: "Read the rules!"

Anyhow, our first game was just with Allan, Joshua, and Scott (Mike was on a conference call). We played Caribbean, a light little game where you have pirate ships pick up and then deliver plundered booty. Seemed simple enough, with only a page and a half of rules, so what's to mess up, right? Well, turns out that in addition to getting paid for delivering the booty, you are supposed to get paid for picking it up! I guess that's what we get for being pirates.

It only took an hour, Allan won:

Allan 32
Scott 26
Joshua 24

The three of us promised to play it again by the actual rules. It was the first of many promises to be ignored on the day.

When Mike joined us, we tried The Pillars of the Earth, where you play builders in medieval England, trying to construct the most beautiful cathedral in the world. It started out well, with advice from the most experienced player simply not working out and lots of hilarity at bogus random events and such. Wasn't until the end that we realized that the most precious commodity in the game, metal, *cannot* be purchased at the market. But by then, it was too late -- and Allan had such a store of metal that the rest of us couldn't even benefit when the king decided to hand some out.

The outcome was preordained, and Allan converted that metal store into a four-point victory:

Allan 51
Joshua 47
Scott 45
Mike 44

Having blown a second game, we decided to play The Pillars of the Earth again, this time with the proper rules. Allan got seriously hosed by bad randomness. You don't roll dice in this game, but it was like hitting snake eyes four rounds in a row. Somehow he overcame that to come back strong. But Joshua edged Scott out for the Glassblower, and rode that to a shocking come-from-behind victory:

Joshua 50
Mike 46
Allan 43
Scott 37

Having seen enough of this game, we agreed on Power Grid next, a game of power plants that had us mostly sitting in the dark. You see, there's an auction for new plants, and for most of the game, when the auction ends you move the highest priced plant to the bottom of the deck. This guarantees that you don't get too much power capacity or spend too much money early in the game. Except, of course, when you are us and you forget to do it.

So in our version of the game, Joshua had three permanent plants before we finished a third of the game, and when we realized it, there was just no way to correct it. We concede the game to Joshua, though I am not counting it as a win. It was just too egregious of an error, so sorry Joshua, you'll have to forgo the victory on this one. Maybe we'll give *two* wins to whomever claims victory in our next game of Power Grid... the one where we READ THE RULES before starting :(

Next up, Starfarers of Catan, the space version of the classic Settlers of Catan. Starfarers has some of the coolest bits of any game in existence. Space ships that accept expansion boosters, lasers, freight rings, and fame rings. Very cool looking and very well thought out. So you might ask what mistake we made here. Well, in the very first turn, I was instructed to play without getting my free resource and without rolling for additional resources. So when I had to face a challenge, I decided not to give a resource (since I had so little) and my ships were grounded. They corrected Joshua when he did the same as I had done, but never went back to redo my turn -- which hamstrung me from the beginning.

There is some controversy about whether or not that constitutes a rules violation; but if they'd made Joshua go with his mistake I could have accepted it. But when he got a do-over... well, I vowed to use the blog to get my final say.

The game itself was a lot of fun, and even though he didn't realize it until we pointed it out, Joshua ended up winning:

Joshua 15
Allan 14
Mike 10
Scott 10

So all-in-all that is two victories for Joshua and two for Allan -- and a totally botched game of Power Grid. We never did get back to Caribbean, but who cares. If the rest of the day was any indication, we would have botched that one, too.

Besides, the best part of the day was the food -- that's all that really counted. Allan brought homemade salsa and the planet's best root beer, Capt'n Eli's. Scott brought homemade chocolate cookie dough and cooked it up during Starfarers. And Mike provided dinner. Of course, all Joshua handed out was ass-whippings, but that's about what we expect when playing with him.

A big "thank you" to our hosts, Mike & Anne. I had a great time and hope others did, too.

- Scott

PS. I updated the Overall Victories tote board.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

The CombsCon Email that Started it All

In 1997, some of the gaming crew and I considered a trip to the annual AvalonCon board gaming convention in Baltimore. But after reading the game schedule and closely inspecting hotel prices, etc., Mike sent an email, and that is how it alllllll started.
Subject: CombsCon 1997

Does taking 3 days off work and flying to Baltimore for gaming sound fun but hard to justify to your boss?

Were you disappointed to find that in three days at AvalonCon you'd only get to play 5 games you really liked?

Do you have better things to do with your money than pay for airfare and a hotel?

Try the local alternative: CombsCon!

Conveniently located in Cambridge, CombsCon 1997 offers more!
-- More gaming time
-- Less time away
-- More of the games you want to play
-- Less expensive (no fee, no travel time)
-- Gaming celebrities, including:
---- Scott O'Neil, star of the infomercial "Make a million with the
Canadian Pacific RR"
---- Allan "I never rolled a 6, unless it was bad" Wright
---- Mike Combs, master of lose-lose negotiating

Friday, August 1st at 9am through Saturday, at midnight. 39 Hours!

Games! Each attendee gets to name the games they want to play for a 4 hour period.
LaserTag! We'll go Friday AM for the discount rate, and longer play times.
Bolo! Bring your Mac for a massive network Bolo session.
Food! Lori has offered to create a special treat.

Tell your boss now that you're taking next Friday off.
Send everyone on this list an email to confirm.
Let me know if you want to stay the night.
Bring a six-pack of your favorite beer.

See you there!
Mike Combs
When replying with great enthusiasm for CombsCon, some of us showed off our ultra-geeky signature files.

"How will it end?" -- Centauri Emperor
"In fire" -- Ambassador Kosh
==== don't miss babylon 5 ====

You fell victim to one of the 'classic' blunders!

"WE must play some time."
"Certainly we must -- by POST!"
- Live from the Green Dome...

Then began a debate over whether to play certain games.
Joshua: I'm in (as long as we try to get at least some sleep).
PS. So are we going to play a few Dune games a few Railroad games and Bolo or are we going to try to squeeze in one game of Civilization?

Mike: If your requirement is that we get some sleep, then we probably can't play Civilization. CombsCon 1997 is only 39 hours long, you know. Actually, Scott has a new game, Age of Renaisance (sp), which is supposed to be Civilization with the rules improved.

I'd also like to play a game of Republic of Rome. Every time I go to a
game shop and tell them which kind of games we like to play, they
recommend RoR. The game deserves another chance.

Scott: This would be a great opportunity to play Age of Wren-Uh-Sance (sp?), if anyone wants to set aside 4 hours to try it out. It'll probably take longer than that to play, but if it's any good, we could just continue with it. I'll bring it, in any case.

Allan: I've seen Age of Renaissance played at a con - I'm interested in trying it.

Mike: I bought Air Baron today. Here's a list of games we own, that we haven't played much, that are worth revisiting:
* Air Baron
* Age of Renuhsawnce
* Ransom
* Mediteranian
* Republic of Rome
* Lords of the Sierra Madres (Just like RoR, people keep recommending this highly. With the rules clarifications Allan found, we should try it again sometime.)
* Speed Circuit (well, i thought i'd try to sneak this in)

Allan: Don't forget Eurorails!

Then the celebrity guests chimed in.
I'm proud to be one of the celebrity guests at the inaugural CombsCon, and even prouder to announce that I've chosen CombsCon 1997 to preview my new 1830 book: "Why It's Called 'The Erie': Strategies that Win You Praise When You Lose the Game." Program note: during the autograph sessions, I do NOT sign body parts.
Scott "Make a million with the Canadian Pacific RR" O'Neil
Well, I went to HistoriCon, gamed for three days straight with 'normal' luck (instead of my usual bad luck), wow what a great three days... The van I rented for the trip died in the middle of the Tappan-Zee bridge at 5:00 in the middle on Sunday rush hour traffic. We had to get three rental cars and leave the heap in NY. I was supposed to get home at 8:00 p.m. but instead got in at 3:00 a.m. the next day. Looks like my Karma is back in balance now.
- Allan "I never rolled a 6, unless it was bad" Wright

The first deal of the 'Con was struck.
Mike: Allan, please bring me two six-packs of Oregon IPA at NH prices. I'll reimburse you. (Unless you'd like to die roll for it.)

I'll gladly do that and import additional beer at NH prices upon request.

One of the core crew bailed out, but still made a contribution.

Mike B: Mike, It's wonderful you're doing this. I must, reluctantly, stay away and work. I hope to hear stories. I have Republic of Rome here. If you need it, just let me know and I'll drop it by on Thursday evening or Friday.

Mike: Yes, can I get RoR from you? Drop it off whenever is convenient. If you pick Thursday evening and we're not home, put it on the back porch. Do not try to slide it through the mail slot. The SlobberDog thinks that everything that comes through the slot should be treated as food.

And with all that, we were off and running. IIRC, I was less than three weeks away from a new job, so taking that Friday meant saying I was too sick to work -- though I wanted to say I was too *well* to work :) -- and then giving my notice less than a week later.

Over the years, we not only learned how to spell "
Renaissance", but the group morphed from gaming every other weekend to occasional mini-convention style gaming. CombsCon 1997 was the first of many of these, and I'll post what information I have about them, including who won the 'Con and updates to the Overall Victories tally.