Sunday, May 18, 2008

Sunriver Retreat Wrapup

I type this from Sunriver, where Mike and I have been enjoying a pleasant evening just relaxing and chatting after three full days of gaming. We've got a couple of things we plan to play tomorrow as we close up the house and get ready to head home, but for all practical purposes we're done. 

This was the first year that we started rotating the retreat to Chris' beach house at Salishan in the winters after giving up on bad road conditions coming over the Cascades in late October and early November, so it's been a year since a retreat at this house (not counting WBC West, of course). It was a bit disappointing to have so few people coming out this time (five gamers, plus Chuck's wife Jody who joined us for a few things). Still, it was good fun and I accomplished pretty much everything I wanted to. 

Here's a short breakdown of how the weekend went. Sorry, no detailed game descriptions. It's simply too difficult for me as the host to blog and play and be the host, so I'm doing most of this from memory.

Tunes - Definitely a quieter sound than in the past. Jeff has good taste in music, but he dislikes heavier instrumentation, so not nearly as much Death Metal this time out. Lots of bands I hadn't heard before, which is always good. I would go so far as to say that Jeff's taste is to mine as mine is to Dave's, which doesn't really tell you much unless you're Dave, I guess. 

Crowd - A different feel, although everyone was a very savvy and quick study in most of the games we played. In the past there's usually someone not "getting it" and a good chunk of the time that was Mike or me this time out, so it seemed that we were getting a lot of new things on the table with relatively little pain. Except that WoW CCG Raid deck, where I really should have boned up on the rules ahead of time. 

New Games - I was quite pleased wrt how many of the new games I brought were played. Blackbeard was the holdout - I have little hope that this will ever see multiplayer table time in this group at this point, as there really wasn't much interest. Otherwise, even though some of the games were not terribly well received, they were on the table. Here's a quick list:

Dust - Has promise, although I'm not sure that this is going to be the right game for this group. We just don't play big world conflict games like Axis and Allies, and this is where this game fits in. Some nice ideas and mechanisms, though, although it doesn't really evoke the franchise terribly well as it's too broad a brush.

Mission: Red Planet - I really liked this relatively quick Faidutti game, especially the whole "Victorians in Space" theme. Cross area control with the psychological game of Race for the Galaxy or Citadels, and you'll get the idea. Not quite as well received by others, but I thought it was a good hour game if you don't mind relatively little control.

Last Night on Earth - Wacky Zombies Eat Brains game spoiled by vague rules (I'd thought you replaced "play immediately" cards in your hand, which is clearly not the case - the zombies rolled over us). Taken with the right group and the right attitude and this is a great late night game, but probably not great for serious gamers. This would have seen a lot of play in college.

R Eco - With three, this game is delightful, but I hear it's a mess with five. Good light filler, and one I'll pick up.

Stone Age - Similar to Caylus, Pillars of the Earth, and quite a few others, this DALOTGALOP game was intriguing but probably not enough for me to pick it up. 

El Capitan - Having not played Tycoon, I may look for the previous title as EC's map is dark and hard to parse. I won, but really have almost no idea how other than trying to get onto every port on the board. Marred by Mike not hearing or understanding that unplayed pieces from previous rounds carried on to later rounds, resulting in a major play error by Chuck at the game end. 

Pompeii - A decent screwage game with a weird little volcano you set up on the board. One I'll play with people who can handle this sort of thing, but not one I'm going to add to the collection. 

Kingsburg - OK, I played this one at Lorna's party in January, but I haven't gained any love for it. Play was *much* brisker in this session, but after six rolls of 8 on three dice in a row (I could reroll if I'd had seven points or less), this game simply doesn't grab me at all. Perhaps it's the ridiculously overproduced board (which would fit in half the space), or the constant dice rolling. Not for me. 

As for heavier games, we got in a few of those. I managed to win our game of Imperial, and I'm really not sure how other than that I had the right stocks in the right countries by the time we finished. I came in second in Die Macher, not bad considering it was the first full game I'd played (one "short" game and one aborted game). 

I got in a surprising number of wargames as well - Hannibal (played against Mike, who I've decided isn't right for the lighter card-driven titles as the literary elements of a game don't really grab him), Totensonntag (nice smallish wargame marred by a cardstock map that doesn't lay flat), Manoeuvre (won two in a row with the Austrians, beating the Turks badly when I kept getting the opportunity to attack surrounded units that couldn't retreat). We will probably play Wizard Kings tomorrow just so I know what I'm giving up when I sell my copy.

Disappointments - The WoW CCG raid deck definitely comes in first. I am completely to blame for this, but I also realize that you must have WoW CCG players to appreciate and enjoy the game. I felt the raid deck did an excellent job of evoking the feel of a major dungeon boss, but forgetting such critical rules as taking damage as the attacker in combat and allowing for a mulligan if your initial hand isn't great (plus having quickly cribbed together player decks) made for a lot of frustration. I suspect I'll have to give this up unless the right people (again) are playing, as there's nothing worse than watching people completely lose interest and knowing that your lack of prep is to blame. 

The other big disappointment was not being able to find a weekend when more people could come. I may move the time back to early May or late April, although I suspect that for many people a full weekend away simply is no longer viable. The good news is that I'm hoping to make Chris' weekend in December more easily now that I'm not in a choir anymore. 

Perhaps the biggest delight of the weekend was seeing three Macbook Pros in use (Matt, Jeff, and Mike) and I didn't even bring mine! The other nice thing was getting a good night's sleep on a regular basis - we got a very nice king bed last summer, and sleeping in it is a joy as it's the same bed as I have at home. Very comfortable compared to the other beds in the house, even if the shades in that bedroom aren't blackouts and I wake up at 6:30am and have to fall back asleep. I'll be extremely tired when I get home, but not as bad as some years. 

Another May, another Sunriver gaming retreat. I'm looking forward to WBC West more than ever now.

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