Tuesday, October 11, 2011

WrightCon 2010

To honor WrightCon 2010, I thought I'd write it up before we have WrightCon 2011 (this weekend).

After a the usual back-and-forth on dates, we chose December 30, 2010 as our last gasp to get in a gaming session before the end of the year.  Just squeezed it in.

We met at Casa Wright, which is close enough to the whole crew while having dual advantages of being in the Land of Cheap Beer and is close to fantastic barbecue (link)!

We started sort of late; 11:15, with a game of Endeavor contested by Alan, Joshua, Mike, Ross, and Scott.

I waited waaaay too long to remember details of this game, except that it has dozens of playing bits that are frankly not that cool. But the game was good, a close contest (as the final scores will attest) where Scott came from behind in the last two turns to pull out a victory in just about 2 hours.

The final tally:

Scott = 55
Joshua = 52
Mike = 51
Ross = 48
Allan = 43

We had to break for lunch then, and IIRC it was subs instead of BBQ -- which has to be a "booooo" even though the sandwiches were very good.

At 2:00, the same five players played the new and improved version of Acquire, Lloyd's Rules with the wild-card pieces.  In this version, each player gets one "wild card" piece to start the game, and it can be played on any open space on the board.  The idea is that it pretty much guarantees every player can cash in on an early merger, which means no one is stock-rich/cash-poor for too long.

It worked out pretty much as expected, and not all of the wild card pieces even got used. Allan and Joshua enriched each other with two mergers, alternating majority and minority shares and both getting the big bonus and the small bonus once each. Ross then gave both of them another merger with minority share, putting them even further in the lead.

No one got cash tight, although there were several complaints about the continual stock trading allowed in Lloyd's Rules. It seems to give players incentive to calculate how to skim out another $100 or $200 a round, while they wait for the right time to merge and get the big payoff. This rule was intended to make sure no one got stuck with all shares and no cash, and thus nothing to do for most of the game -- but somehow in our hands it became another game strategy.

Anyhow, as we hit mid-game, Scott locked the majority in what would become the game behemoth, and Mike had the minority share mostly protected. Then Ross and Scott happened to pull off the same "Allan/Joshua majority/minority" gambit three times in two turns. Scott was the beneficiary, holding the majority stake two of those times. And he combined that with the majority in the largest company to scoot by for the win at 3:45.

The final tally:

Scott = $48,800
Joshua = $44,800
Allan = $42,300
Ross = $37,300
Mike = $30,500

Ross had to leave, so Allan, Joshua, Mike, and Scott played Pandemic, which was really the game that made it all worth while. We played it four times and the game beat us every time... that's what made it worth the trouble. It was hysterical to play, as the game continually kicked our ass and we theorized on how to play better the next time, only to start up and get pummeled again in minutes.

Here is the tally, with Panedmic winning every time:

Started at 4:00, lost at 4:15
Started at 4:15, lost at 4:35
Started at 8:45, lost at 8:48
Started at 9:00, lost at 9:50

All told, we played four games in 88 minutes and the uber-experienced gamers couldn't win a single time.

But the funny part was Mike told us his kids beat the game more than 60% of the time. In fact, we were playing the easiest rules, and his children beat the game on both easy and medium, and almost beat it on hard. We all thought he was misplaying it at home, missing some crucial rule that was kicking our ass. Joshua made the argument that the game was mathematically impossible to win, and the company should be paying us for play-testing it.

Allan didn't want to play it any more because it was clear we sucked at it. And Scott said the game constituted false advertising because it said "takes 45 minutes to play" and we averaged just 22 minutes a game.

But the bottom line is that Mike has played over a dozen games since then, and his children continue to win on a regular basis. So maybe if he brings it up we can try it again -- with a little tutoring from the kiddies.

In between the second and third games of Pandemic, we took a break with a nice relaxing game of 1830, which is a fantastic game, but it's one we played to death years ago. Joshua called for the game, because he wasn't in the group when we played it before, and we agreed only if we played the short version.

Again, it was Allan, Joshua, Mike, and Scott, and the game of 1830 started at 5:00. I confess it has been too long for me to remember the game in the kind of detail I'd like to give, but here's my best shot.

In a four-player game everyone should be able to start their own railroads on the first turn, but that did not come to pass. Allan bought the Pennsie small railroad, but then started the B&M, which meant he couldn't get it fully started until the third time we came back to the stock round. Once he had the B&M, he ran it like a champ, getting into New York and paying huge dividends. His was the stock to own; but that initial mistake cost him too dearly.

Scott got the small stuff to start the CanPac (or as we like to call it, the "Hopes and Dreams" railroad). He ran it well, paid out nice early dividends and even got some additional investors. But his fateful mistake was forgetting to sell in his small stuff at the end of an operating round, and thus having to wait until the next turn to start his next railroad. And Mike beat him to the New York Central, leaving Scott with the Erie, which languished for a few turns and never really paid much.

Joshua started the B&O and had the southern side of NYC all to himself for a long time. But his second railroad was the C&O, which was just too far away in the short game to do him much good. He made a good run of it, combining to further hold down Allan after he finally started the Pennsylvania, but in the end, he came up short of the juggernaut.

That would leave Mike, who started with the New York New Haven, ran it for good money and sold in his small stuff at the right time, and then combined it with the New York Central. With all those railheads and the early lead in combining railroads in high-priced real estate, it was almost certain that he'd win.

But just for fun, he spend one stock round buying up shares of our stock and dumping them just to pound the price. And when Scott tried to swing into NYC for a last-gasp, of course Mike was there to thwart him with a carefully placed railhead. I guess when you're the king you can beat up whomever you want -- even if it's everybody! He wrapped up the win at 8:30 -- just 3.5 hours, not too shabby.

(Not bad recall for something that happened months ago, eh?)

The final score:

Mike = $3,020
Allan = $2,866
Joshua = $2,124
Scott = $1,989

Last game of the day/night was Dominion, with the same four players, starting at 10:10. This is a card game, and this was our first time playing, so I won't have any of the terms right. But it sort of went this way.

Allan pulled to an early lead, developing a strategy that converted gold into VP, and Scott followed a similar one, converting something else into VP. Mike and Joshua were lost at first, with Mike collecting too many cards to protect him from things that didn't happen very often, and Joshua immediately stocking up in one area instead of being diversified.

Scott noticed that Joshua's "hoarding two items" strategy allowed for an early game-end scenario, so he started buying the same thing once a round. And after he and Joshua emptied that pile, the game was over at 11:15, and Scott had correctly calculated that he was slightly ahead of Allan.

The final score:

Scott = 21
Allan = 18
Joshua = 7
Mike = 5

Scott was declared the WrightCon 2010 Champion, with three victories to Mike's one -- although there was some joking that Pandemic beat us four times, which should make it the Grand Prize Winner :)

The victories did allow Scott to eke past Joshua in the "Overall Victories" tote board (check it out at the top-right of the page). And that is about it.

Hope you enjoyed reading about it as much as we did playing!

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