It's been nearly a week since the Sunriver 2010 Retreat ended, and time for me to wrap up how things went.
First of all, if you want a breakdown of all of the games I played, you can find it here. There are 27 entries, two of which are not actually board/card games, but a couple of them represent multiple plays of a game. I hit 30 games in three and a half days, including a long game of Mecanisburgo.
High Points: As always, the company. We had seven people present, which is not a bad number. I personally like to see eight or nine as it gives you a little more flexibility in terms of number of players (we were constantly in a 3/4 split with seven), but it was a particularly good group and we seemed to do a pretty good job of syncing up to mix up the players, although we weren't really trying all that hard.
Most Entertaining Game: Sticheln with seven the first night. Maybe it was the alcohol, maybe it was that everyone was so happy to be there and have the drive over with. Regardless, it was a hoot.
Game I Looked Forward To The Most: Tie for Alien Frontiers and Mecanisburgo. I'd put quite a bit of time into figuring out Mecanisburgo, even though there were parts I forgot and had to relearn on the fly. While the human factors and some poorly translated rules made this a more difficult game to learn than perhaps it should have been, at the same time this is a very cool game dripping with theme and you take every agent placement very seriously. It is not for the faint of heart, or for those who want a game they can learn quickly or play well in their first few games, but I agree with many of it's fans that putting effort into this game will reap rewards. Whether or not my game group will embrace it as I have remains to be seen.
Alien Frontiers ties because of the excellent buzz leading up to it's release. True to the buzz, it is indeed a much better Kingsburg, with the main difference being that you can get cards that allow you to control the vagaries of the dice to some extent. I felt that it was good with both three and four, although the downtime with four starts to approach the limits of my tolerance (although to be fair, this was a learning game for three of us).
Biggest Surprise: Getting through a three-player game of Le Havre in two hours. I have to admit, by Sunday night I was a crispy critter between the ears, and I was constantly surprised to find I had to make a decision every minute or so while playing this game. I made a few early decisions regarding high-value buildings, but then (as usual) I focused on the ship-building aspect of the game with occasional forays into culinary management. To have been only three points out of first place at the end was not only a surprise, but a delight. I'm not sure that the Le Grand Hameau cards added much, in fact they seemed to be either wildly powerful or largely a waste of time, but when you only get four or five of them it's really hard to tell as a full expansion.
Second place goes to Zooloretto Exotic, which was much better than I expected. Which is not to say it's a must-own expansion, especially at it's price point. It is, however, a very different take on the game that i found very appealing and would play again - very different from the buzz I'd heard that it was one of the less interesting expansions.
King of the Hill: The game genres that got a huge amount of play this year seemed to rely on either deck-building (Ascension, Thunderstone, Gosu, Dominion) or dice (Alea Iacta Est, Alien Frontiers, Lords of Vega$). I'd brought Heroes of Graxia with me as well, but it never saw table time. I'll have to try to grab Gosu in the meantime.
Weakest Games: This goes to Samarkand: Routes to Riches, which seemed to take longer to set up than it did to play, and Toledo, which didn't feel like a Martin Wallace game at all but rather a Caylus rip off with fewer interesting decisions and more randomness. We also felt that Sator Arepo Tenet Opera Rotas needed a fix to what was a potential set up issue where someone's books could be placed close to the center compared to others, making it too important for everyone else to fight against them constantly. I'm not a big fan of games where you beat on the leader from the very beginning (Britannia excepted).
Favorite Non-Gaming Moments: Breakfast the first morning at Sintra, Dinner on Saturday night at the Grill, and playing Buzz! Quiz World for two rounds with the entire group. I'm always fascinated how people who play quiz games seem to take questions that they don't know the answers to personally - "How on earth would I know that?" Ahem, it's a *quiz show* game. You aren't supposed to know everything, you're supposed to know some of it. Like most multiple choice tests, you can improve your odds by getting rid of the one or two clearly incorrect answers and go from there, even when you don't know anything about the answer. Anyway, *I* had fun (although I also won both games, seemingly handily).
Worst Part Of The Retreat: As always, the trip home. We had good company with KC and Rita, but we went the long way home when we chose not to go over Mt. Hood during possible bad weather, and the Gorge was a car wash complete with one detour that surprised me by taking me through a surprising amount of Hood River when the right lane suddenly just got off the freeway. The trip home took about six hours total, including stopping for lunch in Bend and dropping off KC and Rita, which makes for a long day after a long weekend. I also made the mistake of booking myself up for the next three days, and by Thursday night (after two rehearsals, two game sessions, a shopping expedition, and sitting my granddaughter solo for several hours), I was toast. Note to self - next year, don't book *anything* for two days after getting home! After WBC West, make it four! I do not love getting old.
I do think it was wise to go to only one of these sessions per year. With WBC West, Chris' party at the coast, Lorna's party in Eugene, GameStorm, and what I hope to be a few more trips to out of town cons next year, we have plenty of chances to get out and game for a long weekend. Now I just have to remember not to hold the retreat when the first snows hit the passes...
Thanks to everyone who attended: Mike, Matt R, Alex, KC, Rita, and first-timer Greg. I hope all of you had a great time, and we'll do this again next year.