The week has slowly grown in popularity with our group, and this year we expect seven people to be present at the peak, with three or four who are unable to attend. At some point we'll need to consider renting an extra place, or make sure Ken can make it as his family owns a place out there as well. For most of the week, though, it will just be four or five of us.
I've discussed some of the aspects of this retreat in the past, and will almost certainly cover the same ground again here, but it's worth mentioning for those interested in doing their own nano-con, especially one based on wargaming. In this installment, I'll discuss what we intend to play.
Unlike most of our "lighter" retreats, the nature of wargaming requires more familiarity with a given game to enjoy it. That's not to say that we don't play games for the first time at "WBC West" (as we call it), but we've learned that having at least soloed the game and a passing familiarity with the rules helps immensely in terms of minimizing brain burnout. As such, we not only start planning what we'll play, but even start planning how we're going to ramp up for the big event, usually as early as two months out.
The problem I have is that if I don't play the game immediately after learning the rules, I'm going to be about as lost as if I hadn't read them at all. That means I have to be very careful in how I phase in learning games over the weeks leading up to the event. Making things a little more interesting this year is that with the exception of the first 48 hours, we'll have an odd number of people present. As you'd imagine, this presents a challenge or three (ha).
Another factor to avoid brain burnout is to play "lighter" games in the evening. In the past, that's meant multiplayer strategy games such as Manifest Destiny or Arkham Horror, but this year with a few of us having demonstrated that that sort of thing isn't our cup of tea, we're going to try having people play a mix of MPS games as well as lighter 2-player wargames such as Combat Commander or C&C: Ancients, among others.
With all of the above in mind, here's a list of what I expect to play and how I'm ramping up in preparation. These are just the day games, I'll cover the evening games as a group further on.
Monday - Kutuzov
Eric doesn't arrive until Tuesday noon, and because the "travel" day is also Mother's Day, we're leaving later than usual (we're usually on the road by noon in order to get in an evening game). Chuck and Dave have played this adaptation of Wellington (which is itself loosely related to The Napoleonic Wars), so things shouldn't be too difficult. Except that there are extensive rules for attrition, morale, and the victory conditions literally take two full pages to describe. We expect to take the entire day to play this, and I'm looking forward to it simply because I'd like to get in a multiplayer session to see if it's worth bringing out more often.
Prep: This game will require me to run at least one or two turns in a solo session, probably best if I'm playing four hands. The rules are pretty thick for what is really a pretty straightforward CDG of the Welly stripe, so I may hope to get in a real ftf session, but it's unlikely. Since it's multiplayer and others are familiar with it, it's near the low end of my priority scale.
Expected High Point: Mike rolling a bucket full of 1's and 2's in the critical battle. He does that.
Tuesday - Flying Colors
One of my goals for 2009 was to play a tactical naval game. Earlier in the year, Eric and I played the Wake Island Relief scenario from Second World War at Sea - Midway and enjoyed it, but I'm looking for something with actual naval movement rather than the heavily abstracted system Avalanche uses. I scored a used copy of this game recently, and it looks like fun. Dave and Chuck played last year, this time Dave will be my opponent. If I like this, I may try to figure out War Galley, which I'm told is like football, whereas FC is like basketball.
Prep: This one has relatively brief rules and I'm told it's pretty intuitive. There are several one-on-one ship scenarios that I'm sure I could get through pretty quickly, but I'm not sure how much hidden information is critical to the game (such as plotting movement, a la SWWaS). This may be a game I talk Jesse into playing over the coming weeks.
Expected High Point: Me boarding my own ships.
Tuesday - Friedrich
While this is a fairly light title, it can arguably be called a wargame simply because it does require you to move historical units around a board. The combat system is also extremely novel, essentially using a deck of cards where you can only use a single suit to fight a battle based on the region of the board you're in. Eric, Dave, Mike, and I played this a few years ago, but Dave's French were kicked out within 40 minutes because of random events, Mike's Russians went not long afterwards, and I managed to hold out against Eric's Austrians to duplicate Frederick the Great's exploits. I thought it was fun. I think this is Dave, Eric, and myself, but I'm still a little fuzzy on this.
Prep: None. I don't own the game and it's not terribly complicated, plus Eric knows it well.
Expected High Point: Three turns and out for the French and Russians, which will probably be me.
Wednesday - The Napoleonic Wars
This is Chuck, Dave, and myself. Not sure who will play what role. I played this last year with Ken and Chris, neither of whom will be joining us this year (next year you guys get to pick the date). I was the French, although I'm not excited about being the English if Chuck is the French ever since he pulled the Wind Gauge card on me and invaded England successfully several years ago. Me, I say we give the French to Dave and let him eat cake. I'll also note that last time we only played a couple of years, even though the Peace die roll had been engineered after turn two to let me win (I rolled a 1, the only result that kept the game going).
Prep: Light, mostly re-scanning the rules. I taught this to Chris and Ken last year, and the second edition is very streamlined vis a vis diplomacy. Since it's a close relative of Kutuzov, and I've played a few times, not a heavy load. Also low priority.
Expected High Point: Hopefully I will take the Austrians and Russians and repeat Ken's repeated miracle battle results against the French (took me two full turns, and I do mean full, to knock the Austrians out).
Thursday - Here I Stand
This will be Chuck, Eric, and me. Again, a game we played last year, although I'm pretty sure we didn't get to the end of the full game because it was a learning game for Dave. This time I plan to be the Protestants/English, and I think Chuck will be the Turks/French. We are planning for the full game - the last time the three of us played (at Sunriver), we played the tournament game and Eric spanked us as the Protestants.
Prep: Even though I've played a few times (and Eric, who knows this game well, will be in), each power has it's own thing going and requires a refresh. Also, no "Living Rules" that incorporate errata, so that will be a bit of a chore as well.
Expected High Point: Playing the correct rules regarding Protestant conversion (Chuck had a pretty free ride with this last year because we screwed up a rule pretty badly. That and he rolled crazy and I rolled crap as the Papacy).
Friday/Saturday - OCS Case Blue
Another one of my 2009 gaming goals was to play a multiplayer monster game, and Eric and Mike really want it to be OCS. Mike and I played Tunisia last year, and I started to enjoy it a lot right about halfway through. Despite some wackiness in the mountains around Tunis, I enjoyed the system and am looking forward to a more mobile game, although the scenario we are going to play has extremely limited supply on both sides as it takes place in the Caucasus. The challenge for us is going to be the map - it's 44" wide and 72" long. Long we can do, wide is going to be a challenge as the Big Table is 42" wide. On the plus side, all we really need is a very large sheet of plywood, and maybe I can get someone to deliver from a local hardware store. Mike and I will be the Russians, while Chuck and Eric will take the Germans. I'm not completely convinced that my head will be able to handle the supply situation (which is the meat of the game), but here's hoping.
Prep: Chuck hasn't played in a while, if ever, and I really need a refresher. At some point, he and I (with some help from Mike) will sit down and play a few turns to get the system into our heads. On the plus side, the teams are set up so that the newbs are with old hands, so things should go smoothly even if we *don't* prep. I do plan to read the rules, but they're going to be the last thing I read because this is not an easy system to solo to learn - too many rules and too many ways to screw things up.
Expected High Point: Someone leaning on the plywood *just* right early on Saturday morning and the entire region thrown into chaos.
Sunday - Nada
I'm always so busy getting the house packed up that I probably won't be gaming on Sunday. However, I do know that Chuck and Eric are considering the most recent SCS title (Bastogne), and maybe I'll get into a side-by-side game of this with someone else.
While these are less structured in terms of scheduling, I know we're going to take a stab at a rolling session of Combat Commander: Stalingrad with everyone getting involved (at some point) of playing the campaign game. This will likely start on Sunday night. I'm also hoping to get in sessions of Halls of Montezuma, Texas Glory, and Unhappy King Charles on future evenings. I have yet to play HoM or TG, although neither is terribly difficult. However, these will both require a certain amount of prep in the form of solo sessions ahead of time.
As for multiplayer, the favorites look like Age of Conan, Battlestar Galactica, Through the Ages, Manifest Destiny, and Arkham Horror. I've played all but AoC, which I've soloed a couple of turns but it's a difficult game to do that with as there's a bidding mechanism. I'm hoping that a session with Jesse in the next month will solidify the rules, as I'll be the 'splainer.
Astute readers will note that I've named nine games, and I only have seven nights. I figure at least a few of these will go quickly and I'll be able to get in a couple of games.
Prep: AoC will require a two-player session. HoM and TG will need solo sessions, but I'm pretty comfortable with UKC. The multiplayer stuff will be a breeze.
Expected High Point: Me winning Manifest Destiny again. It's like it's my... fate. Or something.
Only four more weeks. That seems like a lot except for all the prep...