Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Prep For BottosCon

I've been doing some prep work in anticipation of attending BottosCon, a small wargaming convention just south of Vancouver, BC. This will be my first international convention, meaning that I will leave the USA to attend, and aside from WBC West the only multi-day wargaming-specific event I'll attend this year. Going somewhere out of state to wargame (and I can't count Vancouver, WA, it's 30 minutes away) was a gaming goal for me this year.

The con is a little more than two full days, running from around noon Friday until 5pm on Sunday, although I will need to leave by 2pm to get through customs. I'm mostly playing games I've played only a few times, although they are all games I'm happy to be playing.

Because part of my goal is to meet people in the hobby, many of which will be from the Seattle area but a few from Oregon, I'm also trying to play games that are relatively short, meaning up to six hours. We are also prohibited from using the hotel's meeting space during the wee hours, but I'm hoping to get a lot of quality gaming in regardless. I'm too old to stay up all night anyway, especially with a seven hour drive home on Sunday.

Here's the list of games I'm playing (and bringing) in chronological order, followed by a list I'm hopeful to squeeze in somewhere...

Up Front Tournament - I've had this game since the late 90's when AH when down. I'd tried it out in the late 80's but it didn't really stick with me, and I bought it more because of it's imminent monetary value than anything else. Considering I also bought the now highly sought after Banzai/Desert War set as well, I could almost certainly see $300-$400 for the set, which is in excellent shape. But I'm not selling, as I've discovered a pretty cool game once you wade through the ruleset and grasp some of the basic concepts. I suspect that playing Combat Commander has helped, as I had little experience with tactical systems the first time I saw the game and CC took a few things from UF. Regardless, I expect to be roundly thrashed as there's a trophy involved and I've played about four games ftf and another eight or so solo, and I have no idea how guns or vehicles work. Still, should be fun. We start this around noon on Friday.

Hearts & Minds - Worthington Games put out this CDG about American involvement in the Vietnamese Civil War a few years back, and it's never quite come out. Turns out the first edition of the rules were not what you would call "clear" so I guess that was a good idea. There are second ed rules that are still in need of a bit of better organization, but at least they make sense now. Chuck and I played the first two turns before we realized what a difficult job the Blue player has in terms of keeping Political Will up. In the first turn alone, thanks in large part to a coup in the South, Chuck went from 10 Hawks (essentially -10 points, good for Blue) to -3 points. I played a Mekong Delta campaign the next turn that got me down to 3-4 Doves (good for Red, essentially + points) which was enough to win an auto-victory. Part of the problem was the large loss of ARVN units that drove the coup, which is a 3 point swing, so Chuck should have been trying to avoid battles with large numbers of enemy forces while pacifying as many areas as possible. I'll be playing the Red side in my game against an experienced player, so I will get a good sense of how to play the game well. I'll be playing this on Friday late afternoon into the evening.

Urban Sprawl - Brand spanking new Chad Jensen game on zoning regulations. Really. I've set the game up and run part of a turn, and while it seems to be a pretty "thin" game in some respects in terms of theme, at the same time my experience with Herr Jensen's designs is that they are more than the sum of their parts. Action points buy planning cards (a type of money) to build buildings that produce money and prestige and also give vocations that can also generate money and prestige. There are also local elections involved. Not as sexy in theme as Dominant Species, but that game is so brilliant that I've got to give this a good shot. One minor concern going in - end of turn can result in a lot of computing of position relative to other players. That may work out well, it may not, but I'm expecting the early game to be a little slow with new players. This is Saturday morning.

No Retreat! - I've played the first nine turns of this game a couple of times now, and like it more each time. The cards make this a tense affair for both sides where it's critical to pay attention to what might happen. I also really like the way the evolution of the Red Army takes place over time in an organic and (once you understand how things work) elegant way. This is my Saturday afternoon game.

Dominant Species - This may end up being a different game, as I'm not sure playing with six will be a satisfying experience, but at the same time I have yet to try it with that many (so far it's been three and, usually, four players). The game was the best "heavy" game to come out of 2010, and in my opinion it took out the previous title holder in that position, Die Macher. This is Saturday evening for me.

PQ-17 - I am teaching this game on Sunday morning into the early afternoon. I do not expect to finish, but I do expect the other players to know how things work. I am reviewing the rules and the extended example of play in preparation as I've only played three times and this game has a lot of subsystems and a ruleset that can be difficult to parse at times. That said, the heart of the game is really quite elegant and a fresh take on naval search rules (the designer took a page from The Burning Blue and uses cards to determine the outcome of a search) that works quickly and smoothly. Initial reception to the game was it was too fiddly to learn, so it's become my pet project to get others interested in it.

Other games I am bringing that might see play:

Fields of Fire - There's a teaching game of this fantastic if poorly developed solitaire game going on, and I'm bringing my copy as I think it's much better to have players learning as they play rather than watching others. Doubtful I'll be involved unless PQ-17 falls through

Gears of War - Awesome "shooter" game similar to Descent or Doom but fully co-op and with a very clever AI system that is very effective. Others have expressed interest in playing, but my schedule is a little full.

Combat Commander - My first pick for what to play if I'm at loose ends for a couple of hours. I'm bringing the whole shootin' match with this one, all of the battle packs and boxes.

Ottoman Sunset - On the very off chance that I find myself with nothing to do and no opponents, I'm bringing this cool States of Siege game that plays in about 45 minutes.

Not much in the way of heavy games, but that's OK. All have interesting choices to make and a lot to think about with fairly "breezy" gameplay. I think that's a good choice when a good part of my focus is on meeting other players.

Because this con takes place out of the country, I don't plan to blog about the experience until I'm home, but there *will* be bloggage. Assuming I get through customs.


Tripp said...


I am interested to hear your take on Urban Sprawl. I've played thrice now and I still don't know what to think. I do know that in all three games the leader creamed the rest.

I adore Hearts and Minds though, that one is great.


Rob Bottos said...

Doug, it was great to meet you and play some games with you at the convention. I'm glad I was able to help you to get to a convention, and I have to chuckle when you refer to Bottoscon as an international convention. Hopefully it won't be another year before we're able ot game otgether again.