I’m back in Perth for work, for what is starting to become a trend of yearly work relocation. I was in Canberra for 3 months in 2011 and Perth for 2 months last year. I’ve been in Perth for about a month now, and still unsure of when I’m going to be back in Melbourne. Being away from my games and my regular gaming events has made me antsy for some board gaming and I’m quite bummed to have missed out on MeepleCon. I did manage to coerce my new housemate into a game of Smash Up at Café Myriade one night, but I’ve been jonesing for some more board games. So when I found out about WABA’s (West Australian Boardgaming Association) Decembacon 2013 this past weekend through BGG, I was pretty stoked. I counted down the days to December 14 and then caught a bus on a very warm Saturday to the Mt Claremont Community Centre for potentially 12 hours of hot wood on pulp action.
Mmmmmmmm. Feels good to put those damn uppity plants in their place.
I actually ended up arriving a bit later than the advertised start time of 11 am, so I started off with some lunch at the café attached to the community centre, and levelling up my Combusken to Blaziken. The community centre is a really nice looking building and looked pretty well equipped. It was pretty warm out, but luckily the room housing the con was well air-conditioned. WABA also organized some cheap drinks in coolers so you didn’t need to walk out to the café to get some more cold drinks. Good jooob.
I was greeted by a very friendly and tall man named Warren. Holy crap, he was tall. He looked like he could gain resist 5 to all damage until the end of his next turn as a minor action once per encounter, if you know what I mean. Since it was my first time at a WABA event, entry was free, but it’s only $5 otherwise. After giving me a brief explanation of the event (raffle, door prizes, tournaments, etc.), Warren let me run free to start some gaming. WABA actually maintains quite a large library of games, which were all neatly arranged in boxes at one end of the room. I also spied some more containers and bags around the room with other people’s personal games and even some boxes of newly arrived Kickstarter games for distribution . There was also a small table at the other end of the room with some games for sale or for trade. More importantly, all throughout the room people were playing all sorts of games on nice, spacious tables. I saw some Carcassone, Firenze, Rokoko, Memoir ’44 and the massive box setup to denote the Ogre tournament area. I was home.
After checking out the games in the WABA library, I wandered over to see a group of people setting up for Legendary, the Marvel Deck Building Game, and I was off to my first game of the day. If you’re not familiar with the game, it’s a semi-cooperative deckbuilding game (a la Dominion or Ascension) where you can send out SHIELD agents to recruit other heroes, and use those heroes to either recruit more heroes or defeat villains. There is a Mastermind which you have to defeat (similar to the Bosses in the Penny Arcade deckbuilding game) and variable scenarios called Schemes. We played a 5 player game with Loki as the Mastermind and the Superhero Civil War scheme. The Civil War scheme KO’ed all the heroes in the HQ for every scheme twist and the loss condition was running out of cards in the hero deck.
We got lots of wounds in the early game and ran out of wounds fairly early. This sucked a lot of the tension out of some of the late game villains, which is an issue I’ve noted in 5 player games, since the amount of wounds in the game is the same regardless of how many players are in the game. Coupled with a few turns where the HQ was full of high cost heroes and no really good way of KO’ing wounds, we got pretty slowed down. We got to a point where we had pretty much recovered and started taking on Loki, but we couldn’t make it in time and the Hero deck ran out, resulting in our loss. I went for mainly Thor for power and Iron Man for card draw and had a decent run, but I probably should have gotten a few more high power cards instead of the card drawing Iron Mans.
Next, I taught the group how to play Last Will, which is a fun game with the mind-bending goal of losing all your money. According to Daniel, it’s “Brewster’s Millions: the Game” but I’m not an old fogey like him and have never seem Brewster or his millions. If you’re as ancient as the first word that spoke the world into being like he is, maybe that would make sense to you too. I digress.
In this game, you start out with a pile of money and must try to be the first to get rid of all that cashish by making very poor investment decisions, and bringing your dog and horse to the Opera. It’s a light worker placement game, where you balance out the number of cards (which represent properties, activities, helpers & expenses and companions that help you spend your money) you get to use, your turn order, and the number of actions you can take a turn to lose the most money before the 7 rounds are up. I was pretty lucky this game as I managed to get all cards that would work well with farms, but it was a pretty close end game. I managed to win with $7 in debt as two of us ran out of money on the same turn.
I then joined another group to play a game that I’ve had my eye on for a while. It’s been appearing on the Hotness on and off at BGG and was just released at Essen this year and I was very excited to finally try a new game. Legacy: The Testament of Duke de Crecy is another light worker placement game that has you taking the role of a noble competing with other nobles to build the most illustrious family tree through 4 generations. You start with a nobleman or noblewoman, and you try to broker the most advantageous marriages for yourself, your children, their children, and their children’s children. Competitive eugenics, I like to call it.
The game is fairly simple, intuitive and integrates its theme really well, and I enjoyed it a whole lot. At the start you feel like you don’t have as many options, but as your family grows you slowly get more resources and ways to leverage them to gain more prestige. Although there isn’t anything really revolutionary in the game, there’s a nice feel of balance between all the different mechanics and resources. I liked that the costs for the actions tie in quite well thematically (eg. You can exchange friends for money, or lose friends to start a business with them – not a good idea to mix family and business) and even some of the special effects of the friends/family members were quite thematic (eg. The American Revolutionary makes you lose points if you have a British friend in your family).
I got the patron that gave bonus points for having a large family with lots of grandchildren, so I went pretty crazy. I managed to get some good marriages for that purpose (a doctor/scientist that let me take the fertility doctor action, and a daughter in law that birthed twins) but I was too preoccupied with my patron goal that I missed out on some opportunities to snag some key points from the other sources and finished last (missions/mansions/titles/contributions). The game ended up pretty close, with the other 3 within a point of each other, and I was about 5 points behind. Still, I really enjoyed the game and I’m looking forward to grabbing a copy of my own.
We also managed to get a few games of Coup (The Resistance themed Kickstarter version), but sadly I didn’t get any photos. It’s a really fun, quick game that is pretty much like a meaner Mascarade. You have two hidden role cards and every turn you can claim to be any role to execute its action. Other players can call you on your bluff. If you’re lying, you lose a card and if you’re not, they lose a card. Once you lose both role cards, you’re out of the game. You can also build up money to force someone else to lose a card, and the tension is trying to disrupt others before they can do that. I’m pretty bad at this game, but I really like it (and I’m sure Jin Wei will too) and I’m anticipating playing with my copy waiting for me back home.
While all that gaming was going on, there were also door prize giveaways that were done using two coin flips and getting people to guess the flips. There were some nice prizes given away like Incan Empire and Fleet. I mentioned the Ogre tournament, which gave rise to a running joke as the announcement for the tournament would always be accompanied by a display of the prize, which was a full bundled set of Flashpoin: Fire Rescue and all its expansions. There were also other tournaments like the Knizia Dice Decathlon and an Incan Gold Tournament.
Later in the evening, I joined a group of players playtesting some game designs. The first one was still in pretty early stages, and it was the first time being tested with more than 2 players. It was an auction-based game that is based on winning tenders for construction/manufacturing jobs and managing the workers and plant for those jobs. We didn’t manage to complete a full game, but I think it was still a useful playtest since we discovered some issues with the auction at 4 players and gave some feed back on improving that.
The second game that we playtested was an elegant semi-cooperative card game about building a city. The designer put a limit on using only 52 cards for the game and I think it was pretty solid. The basic mechanics seemed to work well, and it’s now a matter of balancing and improving on the gameplay. One of the issues we brought up was the “chicken” scenarios that often turn up in semi-cooperative games, where you don’t want to lose but you still don’t want to make moves that benefit others more than you. It’s a tricky one, which is why I tend to prefer either pure co-op or pure competition.
The final game that I playtested was Cogz, by Wesley Lamont of RAEZ. I played a 1-on-1 game with Jared, who crushed me so convincingly that he felt bad and offered to give me a lift (Kidding! He very nicely offered the lift. The part about him crushing me terribly is still true, though) It was the most polished of all the games, evidenced by its almost final production quality components. It’s an abstract-ish tile laying game where you’re trying to score points by matching up coloured cog parts. Not my usual style of game, but I enjoyed it. It has a cool push-pull feel, since you only score the lowest of the four colours of cog points that you’ve obtained (similar to Tigris and Euphrates) which encourages you to balance out the points you get from the different colours, but it also includes a bonus for focusing on a single colour. You also get a bonus for completing and locking in cog mechanisms, which also stops that particular set of cog parts from being scored. It really helps a lot to have nice components, since they enhanced the experience considerably, but the game is also quite interesting and fun. There were still some improvements that could be made to the rulebook and component finishes, but I could see this being ready for commercial sale pretty soon.
My final game of the day was a 4 player game of Glory to Rome, which I managed to win through some very timely Labourer and Merchant turns. It’s a little bit unfair, since two of the players were new, and it’s quite a hard game to get right into your first time. I would have played a less boring strategy, but we only had an hour to explain and play before the venue closed up so I played as efficiently as I could to keep things going quickly. I also didn’t want to keep Jared waiting. It’s still a favourite of mine and I hope to get a more leisurely game of it going another time.
Aside from my own personal gaming, there were lots of people and games being played throughout the day. There were some old classics being brought out, along with the latest releases from Essen and Kickstarter. Someone broke out a beautifully produced Kickstarter copy of Euphoria. I covet that version of the game so hard.
The usual suspects for conventions were out in force, with a large space set aside for X-Wing Miniatures and a very boisterous game of Battlestar Galactica.
I was also intrigued by Riff Raff, which looked very amusing.
…and many more which I didn’t manage to grab photos of, since I was busy gaming.
All in all, I had a really great day full of board games and meeting some very nice people at Decembacon. It’s been the highlight of my Perth trip so far, and I’m already searching for places that would sell Legacy and ship it to Australia for a decent price. The venue was nice and the event was very well run, so big kudos to WABA for putting it on, and I’m looking forward to attending more events in the future.