Saturday, October 16, 2010

Ramping Up For Sunriver

The leaves are coming down from the trees, so that means it's time for the annual Sunriver Game Retreat my group holds out in Central Oregon. This is an invite-only event that we originally held every six months, but with so many other weekend events in the spring (plus the creation of WBC West, our week-long wargaming nanocon), it's dropped back to once a year.

Those of you who read this blog regularly (and it has been anything *but* regular the last few months) know that preparation for WBC West with it's focus on wargames is an intense process that we literally begin in January for a May event. The "Euro" Retreat (which I will call the Retreat) is a much less involved process for many reasons, but there is occasionally some prep work involved. Here's a glimpse into the things I do (or try to do) in the run-up.

1) Who's Coming? Well, of course. I've learned not to start this too far ahead of time, as people tend to drop in and out. I've learned to ask simply if people are definitely coming, definitely not, or have a reasonable chance of attending. I've also learned to merge this with When Is The Retreat to try to accommodate as many gamers as possible. The Maybe's tend to be Definitely Not as time goes on, but to be fair a lot of the Definitely's change their minds and/or circumstances as well. The important thing is that at this stage we are simply trying to find the best date, as whether or not you attend is not as critical as with WBC West, where if you drop out at the last minute you are leaving a few opponents with no time to prep games (and worse, who have spent time prepping games they probably won't play now).

2) What Will We Play? Again, this is much more fluid than with WBC West, where prep time is so critical. However, it does happen to some extent. For both events, I've taken to creating a GeekList to allow everyone to post what they're interested in playing in a single location. This has the added benefit of using thumbs for people who are interested in playing something (as well as the comments). This year, I'm prepping Mecanisburgo, Container, and Sator Arepo Tenet Opera Rotas, as these are all games that I have not yet gotten to play but want to give them a try. For the occasional game (Mecanisburgo) this means a larger than usual amount of prep as the game has so many interconnecting mechanisms, much like Android, and it's critical that someone at the table has a clue about how the game works if I ever want it to get table time again. That said, there is no schedule set in stone, although we've learned to play the lighter and more experiential games in the evening, just like at WBC West.

3) Who's Coming When? The Retreat lasts from Thursday evening through Monday afternoon, and not everyone stays the entire time. As a result, you want to be sure to have games that will support the number of people you have on the fringes of the schedule, and also make sure that the people who will be there have brought those types of games! For some of us, that's not an issue as we'll play nearly anything, but at the same time I'm unlikely to get some people to play, say, Robo Rally or anything equally wacky and I don't want that to be the only game I've brought on Thursday night when it's just two of us. Since it's a four hour drive from Portland, where most of us live, it's also nice to know when people will arrive so you don't have to worry about them until it's time to worry about them. If we get over six cars, then it's nice to have carpools heading out if people's schedules permit.

4) What Are The Rules? Over time, we've had something like 25 WBC Wests and Retreats at this house, so most of the old-timers know the drill when it comes to preparing food, using the hot tub and/or sauna, where things are, and closing up the house. However, it seems like there's always someone who hasn't been there before and doesn't know that after having people leave cases of Diet Coke (which almost no one in my family drinks) that if they packed it in, they need to pack it out. That we have two bins for empties, one for the ones that have a deposit and one for the ones we recycle (if it had bubbles other than sparkling wine, it's returnable). Things like that.

5) Who's Bringing What? In addition to making sure you have a decent selection of games for those fringe times where you have a pretty specific number of players, it's good to not have everyone bring their copy of Le Havre, if for no other reason than you have a better selection of games. Back in the day, everyone brought three or four boxes full of games, and there would be close to 150 games stacked up on every non-gaming flat surface in the place. Now, it's more like one or two bins at the most, and a lot of people don't bring much at all, so it's important to be selective about what you bring. It's also important to bring a good mix of fillers and meaty games too, as often one group will be finishing up a game and needs about 30-40 minutes before the other group is done. Unlike WBC West, the retreat is all about flexibility.

This year we'll have seven people, assuming no drop outs in the next six days. That's actually a pretty good number, as you can divide into various combinations from 2-5. Personally, I prefer 9 as it allows people to play almost anything, even three groups of 3, but 7 is still a good number. It also lets everyone get a bed except for one unlucky person, which this year looks like it will be Alex who will get a couch as he arrives last. Priority for beds goes first to couples and women, who get one of the two suites, then to me (because it's my family's house - I started out letting other people have the bedrooms and then figured that I was not nearly as selfish as I needed to be), then to people who will be there the longest or arrive the soonest in no particular order. So this year, KC and Rita will get a suite, as will I, then Mike, Greg, and Matt can choose from the three downstairs beds, largely assigned based on who snores the most as two of the beds are in one room.

Of the people attending this year, Greg is the newbie. For the Retreat, not for games! We're excited to have him out at long last, but I'm looking forward to the inevitable "Maze Of Twisty Roads, All Alike" comments that people have after driving around the resort for hours trying to figure out how to get where they're going.

Which reminds me, time to send out the obligatory "Rules" email to the group...

Should be another good year, we have an excellent group of people attending.

I'll do a writeup here, but will post the running game list (at least of the games I participate in) on the GeekList that I'll set up in a few days, just look for Sunriver 2010 and my username, dcooley, to follow along over the course of the weekend.

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