Friday, the Carleton U. Strategy Club picked up the biggest bulk order in memory from Fandom II: over $4500 after tax and 25% discount. About $500 of that was for me, and I had another $500 worth on behalf of martin V. Now I have much piece-punching and rule-reading to do!
Saturday and Sunday, LudOutaouais ran a boardgames convention in Gatineau, and I spent most of the weekend there playing all sorts of neat stuff. Here's a list of the games I played (as best I remember, since I didn't keep a log as I went), my rating of the game out of 10, and my finishing positions/number of players:
- Railroad Dice: 7, (3/4) A medium-longish (2-3h) game of stock trading and railroad building, quite different from the 18xx series. Interesting rules for railroad extension and resource management, ends surprisingly when the "bank" of dice runs out (not by accident!), somewhat aggressive.
- Pitchcar (formerly Carabande): 9, (1/9) A dexterity game! Crokinole-style disc-flicking, but formula-1 racing instead of curling. Martin V.'s home-made board parts add a lot to this already good game. Qualified third, finished first by getting an early lead and escaping the pack's infighting. About 1.5 hours for the tournament, thanks to Martin's double start grids allowing two players to move simultaneously.
- Wizard: 8, (2/6) A perennial classic, best and shortest (45min) with the full 6 players. A trick-taking game in which players try to take exactly as many tricks as they bid, no more and no less. The deck is a standard 52-card pack with 8 extra cards: 4 Wizards (first Wizard always wins) and 4 Jesters (Jesters lose to any other card), for a total of 60 cards, so it plays smoothly with 2 through 6 people.
- Die Sieben Siegel: 8, (5/5) The best you can do in this game is finishing with a score of 0; I was drilling for diamonds in the bad end of the negative 20's. Neat extension of the Wizard idea in which players bid not only how many, but the suit of, tricks they will win, with one player usually taken the role of a traitor whose task is to force other players to take tricks they didn't bid. Again, best with more players, and about 45 minutes.
- Vom Kap bis Kairo: 5, (2/4) This was the one game I didn't really like. It's an auction card game about racing to build track from the Cape to Cairo over various terrain. The last couple of rounds were interesting, but there is a sense of having little control at that point, and earlier decisions seemed somewhat arbitrary. Maybe I just don't Get It, but it wasn't special enough to make me too keen on trying again.
- Kasl: 7, (1/4) The designer was demoing this new game. It looks a lot like Risk, and that impression continues up until the victory conditions are understood. It isn't really very Risk-like at all (at least in the "advanced" version with secret bonus objectives), although war and conquest are part of the fun. Longish, 2-3 hours, and in need of one mechanical fix: combat between knights, the game's most powerful units, takes a tiresomely long time. The designer knows, and he's working on it.
- Kaivai: 9, (3/4) Heavy-duty thinking in this one. Villages of huts on stilts, and a fish and shell economy. Very strong multifaceted game that we were all playing for the first time, and about 3-4 turns in, realized that our earlier strategic choices were perhaps suboptimal. One I want to play again, but needs a lot of time (2-3 h) because of the thinking.
- Thurn and Taxis: 9, (2/4) An excellent game I'd played once before in which players build stations in cities a bit like in Elfenland, but victory points come from multiple sources: best carriage, connection to all regions, complete region coverage, and long routes. Another game with an abrupt finish when a player obtains the top-level carriage (having gotten all the others previously). Tied for points with the winner, but tiebreaker was the player who got triggered game end (not me). Not terribly long for such a multifaceted game: about 1 hour.
- Rukshuk: 8, (3/7) Another dexterity game, even weirder than Pitchcar! Players get rocks (okay, I think they're fake, but they're good fake rocks), and have to build miniature inukshuks against the clock. Colored rocks are harder to use (more awkward shapes) but score more points, and the target structure can specify bonus points for particular color placements, or other conditions (use only non-dominant hand was tough!) I came in half-way through, taking over for a player who had to leave. It takes longer to score and draw new rocks than the minute allowed for the actual construction, but the downtime is welcome. Total game time is probably just over an hour.
- Mr. Jack: 7, (2/2, 1/2) A fun, but unbalanced, detective game in which one player takes the part of Jack the Ripper, masquerading as 1 of 8 people, and the other is a detective trying to catch him by deduction and maneuver. Each of the 8 characters can be moved by either player, and Jack's aim is to avoid capture, either by escape or by lasting 8 turns without being arrested, while the detective's aim is to identify Jack and use another character to arrest him before he escapes. Mike S. and I played twice, switching sides, and agreed that playing Jack was pretty nerve-wracking, as the noose draws ever tighter. The game seems to be somewhat biased against Jack: so far, Jack hasn't won in games we know of. Tough and interesting, though, with lots of tactical and strategic brainwork; a game runs about 45 minutes.