Friday morning Shirley and I packed up, loaded the car, checked out and drove over to the Westin. Jon had gone over early as usual, and Bill was going to Proto Alley that morning to demo his role playing game. He had also done a demo the night before for people he had gotten in touch with before the con. The game sounds interesting with an unusual structure – no DM and an internal economic system. He got a good reception with useful feedback.
I collected all our Spare Squares cards and matched them into sets, and labeled them and the envelopes to turn in. At lunch, Jon scored all the entries to date. The one I did for Shirley scored well, we thought it wouldn’t look right if she won, but Jon said not to worry, there would be higher scores, and there were.
Shirley and I sat down at the Walnut Grove table and I finally got to play. A guy from Brazil offered to teach the game, then decided to stay and play because it’s quick, and another guy, who had played before, also joined. I like the game because there’s very little down time, it’s not complicated, but has good decision-making. The guy who had played before beat me by one point, if I had one more cube I could have cancelled my -2 point loan and won.
Later, when I was thinking about the strategy in the game, I realized that I played wrong on the last turn, and actually lost by 2 points. I wanted to make one more enclosure, and I needed one more wood, but I couldn’t enclose my wood area. So I enclosed a different wood area to get the last wood, forgetting that I needed a worker there to produce. So I should have expanded my wood area and lost the extra point for the enclosure. I had 29 points, the winner 31. I got 18 points minus 2 for a loan from having 3 building multipliers. I didn’t realize how they interact so that was good for my score, but probably won’t happen again. We had an advantage during the game because the double production sections came up first round. I may like First Sparks better just because of the graphics, I’ll have to think about that. Well, it’s also a meatier game.
I gave Mischa my game for the math trade, and later ran into him with the person, who preferred to wait for the game rather than carry it around. Jon tracked down most of his games also. He’s taking back a lot of games including 4 or 5 of mine.
Friday afternoon was a big rush, more than usual. We ran into a lot of traffic, we saw later that there had been an accident. We left at 3 to arrive at 4, we arrived around 4:15, Shabbat starts right after 5 in Dallas, not 4 like most places this time of year. Jon had the wrong address which delayed us slightly because we had unloaded the trunk and had to reload and re-unload, or rather Bill did. I was staying with someone else who wasn’t home yet, so I helped in the kitchen while the others were moving furniture and making beds. Then I wheeled my suitcase over, took it upstairs, made my bed, got ready, practically threw a gift at the hostess who had already lit, and rushed back for candlelighting and shul. We drove to shul which confused Bill and Shirley, they’re not used to the one-way drive system. No singing during Friday night services, nor dancing, I miss my shul.
I wanted to find out where my friend Joel Zeff was in Dallas, but his wife hadn’t known the name of his shul when I contacted her on Facebook. We were staying with David Elkin, I’d met him several times at Jon’s, he lives in Modiin but spends a semester each year teaching at SMU, and Jon always spends his bgg.con Shabbat with him. David was staying with Hanan Schlesinger, who lives in Alon Shvut but works in Dallas, not so unusual for Israelis. It turns out that Hanan and Joel work together; they had invited Joel for dinner but he was doing something else, he didn’t know that I’d be there. Joel gave two shiurim at shul they next day which I enjoyed. Hanan has met my kids in Alon Shvut through Joel though he didn’t remember them in particular. Eli is currently working with Joel’s son-in-law Micah Smith on set design for videos. At the tisch after dinner, playing Jewish geography, they discovered pretty quickly that the rabbi being honored had taught at the school Jon attended in West Hempstead.
Shabbat afternoon, Jon wasn’t feeling well and went to sleep. Bill, Shirley and I tried out London, with Hanan watching us struggle through the directions for a while. The rules weren’t very clear, even with examples, but we eventually started playing. Jon came down towards the end, right as we were trying to understand a card, which said that you’re exempt from receiving (negative) poverty points from hand cards, because we hadn’t been taking poverty points for those. Jon couldn’t understand how we missed such a basic rule. Which changes the game considerably, so we’ll have to try it the real way. In our game, Shirley won and Bill came in second.
Awards and Prizes
Saturday night is the main con meeting for everyone, where they announce the bgg game of the year winners and raffle prizes. Jon was also announcing the Spare Squares winners, entry deadline was 5:30 Saturday. When that was planned, he hadn’t realized that Shabbat ends at 6:07, so it was another rush to pack up after Shabbat and get back in time. We made it with 10 minutes to spare, and they didn’t start right at 7. It’s fun to see the game winners announced after reading about it for years on bgg, same for many aspects of the con.
The guy sitting across from me won awards for artwork on two games.
In the end there wasn’t time for Jon to come up so Aldie announced the Spare Squares winners. Jon got the envelopes later, there were a lot of entries, and perfect scores where they drew for the winner. I hadn’t understood the tracks, I thought they were by letter, but they were by card section.
We had our raffle tickets but didn’t win any prizes like this lucky person.
Occupy bgg.con showed up with signs about Meeple rights.
Jon had planned a game of Agricola with friends of his, Jim and Chris. I’d played Puerto Rico with Chris when he visited the group in Jerusalem. Jon had said more could play, Bill decided not to, Shirley was going to work on her laptop, and they also went out to get some dinner. We played in a side room, very calm and quiet. We selected 7 out of 10 for the cards. I had bad cards, and played poorly from the start. Jim was doing really well with tons of food, but then stalled. Jon was doing well, he took actions I wanted a few times, mainly because he was going before me; it didn’t matter since I wasn’t going to win. Jon ended up winning by two, we were the only ones with all our spaces filled, but he had animals and points, I had to kill most of mine for food and never got offspring.
Sunday morning we packed and checked out again. Bill and Shirley were leaving to drive back to KC, they dropped us off with our luggage so we could take the shuttle from the Westin.
I wanted to play the new game by the Agricola designer, but the games were in progress, I didn’t have that much time, and another game looked like it was starting. I had seen it and it looked interesting, Last Will. It puts you in a counter intuitive situation where you’re trying to spend money rather than save it. As we were starting, a fifth player asked to join, he had played before but not a full game. I asked questions and thought I understood the game, but I got the victory condition wrong. I thought you need to be at zero by the seventh round and then there’s an end game mechanic. But it’s actually a race to see who finishes first, at that point it’s the person with the least including negative money. I don’t know if I could have done better if I had gotten that; I would have done better if I understood everything from the beginning. I came in third, I had two left, the guy who had played before had minus 6 and another one had zero. I don’t think I like the game, it doesn’t feel very strategic, rather tactical and limited control affected by turn order.
I took the shuttle at 11 for a 1:35 flight to SF which was actually scheduled for 1:48, I didn’t have time for another game anyway. People on the shuttle said there were fewer locals this year, to me it seemed like mostly locals at the con, counting Kansas and Oklahoma. I went through checkin and security in half an hour, it took that long because one self serve kiosk didn’t work and the one I used didn’t print my luggage tag so I had to wait for an agent. I’m used to Newark where everything takes forever.
I found a plug and chair at an adjacent gate, so I couldn’t see my flight info. And I couldn’t get up without packing up my laptop. It needed to charge, and if I got it fully charged I could use it on the plane. At 1:35 I went to see and found out that the flight was delayed at least an hour due to bad weather in SF. So I plugged in again and tried to keep an eye on the far gate. One gate close to me was Chicago, the other one another SF flight. When I heard the SF announcement, I thought it was that flight and not mine, but then I saw people boarding at my gate. We took off at 3:30, with my laptop finally fully charged so that I could finish writing most of this on the plane.
I enjoyed the whole trip with great friends. I had expected to play mostly games that I knew already because it’s harder to learn new games, but learning them with other people at the con worked well, and it’s fun to try out new games. People were very friendly and supportive, and most of the time someone who knew the game explained it which helped. Playing new games is a different challenge than ones you know, and I have more of a chance to do well because focusing on one or two strategies is more likely to work when players haven’t grasped everything.