Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Sunriver Casual Gaming Retreat 2009 Wrap-up

Another year, another Sunriver Casual Gaming Retreat. I call it that to distinguish between this retreat, which focuses on Euro and Strat games, and our annual wargaming retreat (which we call WBC West in honor of the muchmuchmuchmuch larger and actual convention held in late summer in PA). It's a mouthful, and I guess I'll need to come up with another name. Gathering of Friends, Nano Edition? RCGCon? I dunno.

I've posted a list of the games I played and short impressions in a Geeklist, which you can find here. The list is now complete, and runs to 25 titles. I figure that I played well over 30 games over something less than four days, most of the time not starting until 9 or 10am, and often finishing before 11pm. I even got in a bike ride for a couple of hours. I'll also go out on a limb and suggest that this was a particularly good retreat in many ways - good games, a good mix of people in general, and almost everyone had a bed to sleep in (and the one person who slept on a couch had the choice to sleep in a bed) thanks to my good friend Ken's generosity (he owns a house at Sunriver as well). We didn't play any games over there, but I think that will change in the future.

So what were the high and low points of the retreat? We'll start with the highs:

  • New (ish) blood. This was the first time I'd invited Lorna, from sort of nearby Eugene, to come out and play. I've known Lorna in a largely peripheral sense from attending her EGG microcon for the past two years, as well as the one day she made it to Chris' beach retreat last December, but I hadn't gotten a good sense of just how much fun she is until this weekend. Lorna, you're welcome any time. Plus she brought that wacky Make You Gunfighters game that was such a hit. Also to Ken, for whom this was a first casual retreat, and it was certainliy nice to see Michael again.
  • Getting out more. OK, getting out. At all. We've made breakfast at Sintra's the first morning and dinner at a local restaurant part of the fun the last few years, but this was the first time I actually went out and did something radically different. In this case, it was allowing Ken to try to kill me on an off-road bike ride. I think this will become a tradition for me as well, weather permitting in the future. I may well have a different bike by then, as the Schwinn I had showed some major issues (such as those rotary shifters mounted right on the handle where you grab them as you bounce along). 
  • Great new games. The winners here were Endeavor, FITS, Make You Gunfighters, and Middle Earth Quest. 
  • Timeframe. We've typically held this retreat twice a year - April/May and Oct/Nov. The former was typically cool weather, the latter occasionally snowy to the point where travel over the Cascade passes was problematic. Now that one of those timeframes is taken up by wargaming, we only have one casual retreat and thus only one time of year. I realize that for some September is not a good time (Chris is in the middle of football season as a coach for one of his sons' teams), but it's an excellent time for me and a great time to be out there - the summer crowds are gone, but the weather was gorgeous. The drives back and forth were also beautiful, but always better with company, and KC was excellent company on the way out. 
  • Sleeping Space. Ken, I cannot tell you how nice it was to not only have people staying at your place. As an unexpected side effect, that also meant less stuff scattered around the great room/bedroom. Of course, it also meant gamers who were in a better mood and wide awake. 
  • Me No 'Splain. I tend to be the 'splainer much of the time in our group, for reasons I don't fully understand but I'm fairly certain it involves me having a pathological need to explain pretty much everything. I did do some 'splainin', but I tried to focus on the important stuff before the game started and let the game fill in the blanks as we went. I also had considerably less 'splainin' to do as  other people were doing the work or else people already knew the games. Surprising how much energy that consumes.
  • Great Old Games. Power Grid remains firmly in my top five games of all time, one that I not only enjoy but can play competitively (if I'd just kept track of that garbage a little more closely...) I liked the additions to RftG in the Gathering Storm expansion, and will need to try this game solitaire. BStarG remains my favorite semi-coop game by a large margin, the most fun you'll ever have being paranoid. 
  • Chicken, jalapeno, garlic, green pepper, and extra cheese pizza. Zowie. Thanks to Alex C for introducing us all to this gastronomic assault on my senses. Hottest jalapenos I've ever eaten, usually I don't sweat these at all.
  • Best "I'm A Deputy" moments ever. This time, in BStarG, with Mike taking the honors for his clever imitation of a human. For the entire game! Kudos to the designers for giving Baltar, the one character with an excellent chance of discovering a Cylon, an extra 50% chance of being a Cylon himself. Brilliant. Mike, I will never trust you again, but that was perhaps the high point of the entire weekend for me and we played it up well. I hope everyone else had as much fun with that as we did. 
Now for the bad:
  • Dud games. Ad Astra. There, that was quick. Alright, I was also not taken with Thebes, Ghost Stories strikes me as nearly impossible to win without considerable luck, Chicago Express is very unforgiving, as is Automobile. The difference was that I had fun playing those games, while Ad Astra was just depressing, although very very pretty. Sort of like dating a very stupid supermodel with an annoying voice. Like I've done that (actually, closer than you'd think). I'm quite surprised that this is the flagship product in a line intended to honor designers, as it's a terrible design at first blush. Perhaps others can disabuse me of this notion, but you'll have to work at it. 
  • Driving home alone over Santiam. I don't know how they do it, but after getting past every RV in the world on the hill going up the pass and about 15 minutes of unimpeded driving bliss, it seems that every time I make this trip there's a constant host of trucks, seniors, and RVs (sometimes two of the three) going 10 miles under the speed limit right around Detroit and from there to Stayton it's a slog. You can't even look at the gorgeous scenery around Detroit Lake because everyone is constantly slamming on their brakes every 20 seconds. If driving over Hood didn't add between 30 and 60 minutes to trip time, I'd go that way on the way home. I guess the trip out was so pleasant just to balance this part out. I put this item in just to make Ad Astra feel better. 
  • Missing Friends. We all missed you and hope you can make it next time. A special shout out to Dave, whose iPod and unique humor were particularly missed, but everyone else was a very close second. 
That's it for the wrap-up. The next event will be Chris' Beach Blowout sometime in or around December, which seems like a very long ways away right now. Even after playing 30 games in less than 90 hours. That's one game every 3 hours around the clock. Yikes. 


dave said...

"A special shout out to Dave, whose iPod and unique humor were particularly missed"

Unlike, say...

Glad y'all had fun! But since when are RftG and BSG "old" games? The mix was a bit "cult of the new" for me... I'd have burnt out halfway thru on learning new games.

Dug said...

"Old" = "Played Before"