As always, it’s hard for me to keep current with my reports and such, but at least this time I can blame a scourge of intestinal distress that has plagued my household over the last few days. Anyway, let’s talk about mini-mace, which took place at the Hanes Mall Golden Corral on January 31, and all the gaming goodness that ensued therein!
This was only the second mini-mace event that I’d been able to attend, but I had a great time on the last one, so I was looking forward to another great experience. In a bit of a deja vu moment from that time, I started the day with another play of Battlestar Galactica. The main difference was that I now own the game and have a few games of it under my belt, so I actually helped set up and explain the game to our new players. I chose to play Gaius Baltar, hoping desperately to be a cylon (since he gets an additional loyalty card at the start of the game), but alas, I was destined to be a regular old boring human. There were six total players, and from the get-go we humans were pretty screwed. In fact, on the second turn (and I do mean turn, not round… like, when the second player took their first turn), we were surrounded by frakkin’ toasters!
Apollo dove headlong into a mass of Raiders, buying us a little time to try and make the jump out. We still lost a few civilian ships and some valuable resources to the wave-after-wave of cylon invaders, but somehow managed to survive mostly intact as we eventually spun up the FTL drives and jumped to safety. Of course, it became very obvious from the first or second skill check that we had one, or possibly even two, skinjobs among us. Of course, there was also the slight concern over whether or not new players fully understood how the skill checks worked so early on in the game.
Moments after jumping into deep space, however, the cylon fleet found us again. I had some suspicions about who could be the cylon, finally wanting to use my once-a-game ability (to look at someone’s loyalty card) on Apollo, but in all the chaos with defending Galactica I didn’t think I could spare the action to use it. Before I could, the traitorous Apollo flew his little viper off to join the cylons and revealed his true nature to us.
And then, just as the game was getting even more tense, something terrible happened. It was worse than a cylon invasion or a prisoner uprising; more devastating than sabotage to the weapons control. Ron, the owner of the game and coordinator for the con, who was serving a “moderator” and resource for the game, knocked over his glass of water when reaching to build a new destiny deck. A flood washed over the Galactica and its hordes of cardstock and cardboard. In a frenzy of card-drying madness, we managed to save most of the components more-or-less intact, but were left with a mostly unplayable game that was silly soggy and a bit fragile. Fortunately, Jim Clark was there to rescue us, offering up his copy of the game and its dry cards for us to use.
Anyway, as time went on, we humans dodged certain doom time after time. Fending off cylon fleets, devastating crises, centurion raiding parties, and the meddling of Apollo the Skinjob, we watched our resources dwindle one by one. Against all odds, we found ourselves with 7 destination points and only two easy jumps from Earth! But then, all hope was dashed as Chief Tyrol slipped into FTL control and jumped us prematurely, scattering forever the last vestiges of the human race.
In all, we spent just over 4 hours on the game, only to end in the destruction of the human race. It was a bit depressing. Over all, I’d have to say that my appreciation of the game was mostly unchanged. I really like most of what goes on in BSG, but the best part is still definitely the way that it spawns paranoia and mistrust amongst the players. What I like least is that the game is only fun when the humans are losing. In the one successful game that I’ve played, things got pretty boring. In this game, where we got smacked around for the whole time, there was lots of excitement and intrigue. And the game just drags on a bit too much, which kinda sucks (especially when you’ve got someone with analysis paralysis playing).
One thing that I don’t really like about mini-mace is that it still clings to the “slot” format where certain games are scheduled for certain tables at certain times. For RPG’s, that works pretty well, but for boardgames I’d much rather just have an open-gaming area with no specific schedule. Anyway, as we finished up BSG (and stuffed our face from the buffet, of course), one of the players technically had a game of Cosmic Encounter in the next time slot. He had the Mayfair version, and I had brought along my new Fantasy Flight version, so we decided to play the two back-to-back.
I’ve come to appreciate Cosmic Encounter a lot, but it’s definitely a game where I have to just enjoy the experience rather than worrying too much about winning. I really like the negotiation and alliances part of the game, and it always feels fresh and new because you never have exactly the same mix of powers and personalities from game to game. The downside is that the game is incredibly random. Based on the fact that Chris Ingersoll almost always wins when we play at Hypermind, there is apparently another whole level of skill and knowledge about it that helps you to consistently do better competitively, but I’m no where near being like that, and so I’ll just keep playing for fun until I achieve such an enlightened state.
I then had the pleasure of introducing a table of new players to one of my favorite games, Pandemic. I played in the first game, where we won pretty easily. For the second game, I allowed a fourth player to join and took on the “moderator” role myself, where I planned to help with board management and give rules and strategy advice from time to time, but did not actually play in the game myself.
Through the game, they did really well in keeping the diseases under control. Using the Medic and the Dispatcher, they actually managed to eradicate three of the four diseases. Unfortunately, they spent so much time on curing disease that they waited too long to coordinate curing the fourth one, and ran out of cards about 3 turns before they would have won. But that’s the cool thing about Pandemic; that you can have a board that looks like this and still lose!
To finish off the day, I convinced some of the other guys to try out one of my as-yet-unplayed Christmas presents, Fire & Axe. Since I was new as well, it took me a little longer than usual to explain the rules (since I had to look up a few things to answer questions). While Larry, Jim ,and I started with a balanced approach of trying to trade first, then raid, and finally settle, Richard (called Cybertuna by his friends) instead loaded up his longboat with virile Vikings and began to sack and colonize ports right away. Quickly realizing how many points he was racking up, the rest of us did what we could to interfere with his plans and do some of it ourselves. The game ran a little longer than I expected, so we had to quit a few turns early to avoid getting kicked out of Golden Corral (a most embarrassing fate, I would assume), and in the end I came up a little short in overtaking Mr. Tuna (I was blue and he was black – see the picture to the right). All in all, though, I had a lot of fun with Fire & Axe, and I hope to give it another try sometime soon.
So, therefore, passes another fine day of gaming at mini-mace. There were a ton of people there (50 or more, so I hear), and it was a bit too crowded, so I hope that next time we can take over more space to spread out a little. Heck, it’d be great if there could be a bit of segregation between boardgames and RPG’s (like each having their own room), because there really is a big difference in atmosphere between the two types of games. Still, even with the little “incident” involving the drink on the table, the mini-mace model is still a great way to spend a day gaming (and eating), and I can’t wait until the next one!
We’ve even talked some about having a similar event sometime soon in Burlington. We were thinking about May, perhaps, but there’s a lot of stuff to work out before that time. Anybody else out there interested in a boardgame-only game day in central North Carolina?