Most Anticipated Game - OCS Tunisia. I went in to this game knowing it would take a while to start internalizing, and sure enough it did, about five hours. By that time, however, I knew this was a game that I would enjoy while constantly feeling frustrated that I couldn't do anything I wanted with any units on the board, unlike the vast majority of wargames. I will be playing the Kasserine scenario solitaire in the near future to reinforce the ruleset.
Best Play Experience - As much as I liked Tunisia, it was a learning game and one that I didn't start to enjoy until later on. The most intense play experience, though was A Victory Lost, one that was in doubt right up to the last turn. Honorable mention goes to Manifest Destiny, when I played about as good a game as I could, holding off Chuck at the very end to take the win despite the entire field nipping at my heels.
Worst Play Experience - Thunder's Edge. This game taught me the most important lesson of the week - I don't like multiplayer strategy games in the stripe of Axis and Allies. At all. Throw in components that have a strong DTP feel, the potential for winning the game more or less after setup, and a subsystem that could have been left out of the game entirely to it's improvement, and the end result is a pile of MPS games that I own today but probably won't in about the time it takes for me to convince Mike to put them up on eBay. Attack!, Dust, probably a few more. I will hang onto Starcraft for now, mostly because of the interesting z-axis element and the action stacks, but it won't have much time to impress me.
Rookie of the Year - Ken wins this one, hands down. Bribing us with really good hooch didn't hurt. He was pleasant and a gentleman throughout, even that first night when I was having my Thunder's Edge meltdown. Ken, you are welcome back anytime, although I suspect you now understand just why schedule is so important.
Biggest Surprise - My endurance. I've struggled to keep mental and physical concentration over the course of the week in years past, in some cases hitting the wall only two or three days in. This time, possibly because of my regular Wii Fit exercise program (proving any exercise is better than none), while I had occasional lapses, I definitely felt alert and involved more or less continually despite four or five hours of sleep the first couple of nights. Honorable mention goes to our three-player game of The Napoleonic Wars, which I played to check out the new edition rules. This is a very good three player wargame, and probably a great two-player game. Ken felt like he was getting beat up as Austria/Russia, but to hold of a stronger French army for nearly three turns - that was pretty impressive. Austria got removed from contention on that third turn (I had incredibly great card draws), and that may have hurt him in terms of his chances of winning the last couple of turns, but to be honest the game should have ended on the third turn with the Peace roll.
Game I Most Want To Play Again Soon - Here I Stand, if only because I have yet to finish a full game. I will only play this three-player in the future, I can't imagine the downtime problems with six. Also the most likely to be played over a long period of time online (between Chuck, Eric, and myself). Honorable Mention to Nappy Wars 2-player.
Most Needed Player Aid - AVL needs a chart of ZOC and major river effects. I don't know how many times we had to look up various rules because of the delta - can't move from ZOC to ZOC across any major river space, but you *can* advance across a bridge with a mech and keep moving. Ack. The *only* knock on an otherwise classic game.
Biggest Disappointment - Actually, the game I most wished I'd played but didn't. This is a tie going to Pursuit of Glory (unpublished, so eminently unplayable) and The Burning Blue. Just not enough time to learn the latter, as I detail more below.
Things I'd Do Differently - The evening gaming was a bit of a mixed bag this year, and finding out that Mike liked almost none of them was frustrating, especially after we'd nixed Arkham Horror when he said he wasn't interested in playing that. As Mike is as certain to be there next year as anyone, I'm not sure what to do other than just look for games that will work well for the number we have minus two and have him play shorter and lighter two-player games. If it sounds like I'm picking on Mike, I'm really not. It's just that I'm trying to provide as comprehensive and fun an experience for everyone, and while I know I'm not going to hit the ball every time I go to bat, at the same time I'd prefer that everyone was playing games they liked. I'm fairly certain that Mike's experience this year was not what he'd hoped, partly because of the evening fare but also because of the Distortion Field wrecking multiple longer day games.
We had a lot of confusion going into the week about when people would show up, and even one last second dropout (I got the mail the day I left), although that wasn't nearly as critical as the player would have only been there for the last couple of days when the schedule gets a lot looser. Next year I will post specific entry points. People are welcome to show up between entry points, but if they do there is an excellent chance they won't have an opponent unless they get lucky and someone else shows as well (or we have an odd number). As always, only day games are applicable. The entry points will be Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. If you came on Monday evening, for example, you wouldn't be guaranteed a game or opponent on Tuesday, but you would on Wednesday.
This was a stickier problem this year than previously, so I'm just thinking out loud of how to solve the problem. If you have ideas, please contribute them.
For those who wonder why we put such an emphasis on schedule, it's very simple. These are complex, involved games that run for (at a minimum) three hours or so, all the way up to 12 or more. Preparation, both in knowing the ruleset and the operational situation, is critical to the enjoyment of everyone at the table. Had I not been boned up on OCS, my game with Mike wouldn't have finished. And just forget trying to *teach* a game that you don't know really well. I know that Dave enjoyed his game of Wilderness War much more than if he hadn't spent time getting familiar with the rules and situation ahead of time.
And our heads can only hold so many rulesets before they explode. I was considering bringing The Burning Blue, but decided against it at the last minute because I admitted to myself that I didn't have the necessary prep time in the game to allow it to be successful. That was another important lesson I learned this year, although fortunately before we got to the nanocon.
Of course, even with all of these great games, it would all be for naught if the people I played with were all jerks (and I freely admit that I did my best impersonation of one during Thunder's Edge). Fortunately, they are all smart, funny, pleasant, patient people who are there as much for the company as for the gaming. Dave asked me as we were packing up if I'd felt like I was hosting this year, and I was surprised (pleasantly) to say that I hadn't. We are getting to a point where the event runs itself once things start, and it didn't matter what game we were playing or who I was playing with, every game with one exception was great fun. I really liked going to the concert on Saturday as well, and I *really* like not having to drive - four hours behind the wheel tends to take it out of me.
I was also very happy to extend the week to a full seven days. We'll do this in the future, although if possible I might try to book the week from Saturday to Saturday to allow people a day to recover when they get home. I know I'm exhausted today, both physically and mentally, and if I had to work I think I'd fall asleep at my desk. The workmen with the compressor that started up at 8:30am didn't help, of course, but otherwise I probably would have slept in to noon.
Dave asked us for our final video blog question about what we'd tell people to do if they were putting on a similar event. After four years, I'd say the following: it's about the people, the environment, and the games, in that order. Like the people you play with, understand the limits of the space you are in (as well as your own) and plan accordingly, and pick games you like to play, although if the first are taken care of the remainder is a relatively minor point. You will best know what your group enjoys - maybe side bets make things more interesting, or tournaments (not something so important for us), or keep a running total of who wins what (also not so important for us). By far the most important thing is that at the end of the week, everyone is ready to go home but at the same time thinking about Next Year.
Next Year, there will be t-shirts.