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Sunday, February 20, 2011

SaltCon! Part One

This weekend, my wife and I attended SaltCon, a board game convention in Salt Lake City.  It was our first convention of any kind, so we weren't completely sure what to expect.  It ended up being a lot of fun, and we walked away with three board games, none of which we had to pay for.

They had a game library set up with over three hundred board games available.  The first game we tried was Dominion: Alchemy, the only expansion we haven't tried.  Another gamer, a fellow Dominion fan, joined us.  We played with five Actions cards from the base set and five from Alchemy.  I can't say I found it terribly interesting, to be honest.  Most of the Action cards require Potions to purchase.  I'd be okay with that if Potions were costed at, say, three coins or less, but four?  For a card that doesn't do anything except help me purchase four of the available Action cards?  Those Action cards had better be good!

But they really weren't.  The guy who joined us, Ben, picked up a whole bunch of copies of Familiar, which is "+1 Card, +1 Action, Each other player gains a Curse."  My wife tried Herbalist, which is "+1 Buy, +1 Coin," and has an ability that basically allows you to float a Treasure card on top of your library.  When you place Herbalist in your discard pile, you can place a Treasure card you have in play on the top of your library.  There really weren't any Alchemy cards on the table that I thought were interesting, so I went with a Mine/Remodel strategy, hoping to use Mine to turn my Coppers and Silvers into Gold and purchase as many Provinces as possible.  Towards the end of the game, I used Remodel to turn my Golds in Provinces.  I was also able to use Remodel to get rid of five or six of the Curse cards that Ben was so happy to put into my deck.  I still had nine Curses by the end of the game, though, which allowed Ben to edge me out by a few points for the win.  I was kind of annoyed; my wife and I tend to avoid aggressive strategies, in general, and Curses in particular.  It's just not fun to have a deck full of cards that do nothing but prevent one from winning.  At least twice that game, I draw a hand of a Victory card, three Curses, and a Treasure card.  What can you do with that?

Anyway, I didn't really see much in Alchemy that would encourage me to purchase it.  It doesn't innovate, at all, beyond making the Action cards more difficult to purchase.  Dominion: Intrigue made Victory cards more relevant and interesting.  Dominion: Seaside played with time with Duration cards.  Dominion: Prosperity pushed the power level with Platinum and Colony, and a lot of high-priced Action cards.  Dominion: Alchemy just doesn't do anything interesting or unexpected.

 My opinion of the expansion probably wasn't helped by the weird feeling my wife and I goy from Ben.  My initial thought was "child molester." When my wife mentioned it to me later, away from Ben, she suggested rapist.  Either way, there was something off about that guy.  

Anyway, we next joined a Munchkin tournament.  It was fun, but obnoxiously, the guy who won did so by playing a card that stole the monster I was fighting (to go from level 7 to level 9, I think) and caused it to fight him, instead.  He was at level 8, so defeating this big monster would win him the game.  He couldn't actually defeat it, himself, though, so he convinced a girl to help him out.  She was at level 9, and was an Elf, which meant that she would also go to level 10 by helping him.  They both won.  I didn't mind losing, and I didn't mind them winning.  I was just annoyed that I didn't even get to kill that big monster and go to level 9 before losing.  It was like my second-place finish was stolen from me, or something.  Anyway, I was annoyed.  Still, the Steve Jackson Games guy handed out a bunch of little prizes, including a cute little stuffed toy that my wife and I took home.

At about this time we discovered that my wife's name had been drawn to receive a door prize.  We were presented with a copy of Karnaxis, a modern economics game.  The designer and his family were there, demoing the game and selling it at a discount price.  We had chatted with them earlier and had planned to try their game at some point.  I had already decided that I wanted to buy it if it ended up being fun, but then we got a free copy.  So, we didn't have to buy it, which was cool.  We didn't have a chance to play it that day, though.  That would have to wait until the next day. 

View the game here.

After picking up the game, we then played Small World for the first time.  We played with gentleman whose name I cannot recall, other than it sounded French.  He had only played once or twice, before, but thankfully we had a volunteer from the con help us out and explain the game to us.  It was a lot of fun.  The idea is to draft from the available races and use them to take over as many sections of the map as possible.  At the end of his or her turn, the player receives coins for each section he or she controls.  The coins count as victory points, although they can also be used to draft the best races.  Cassie was lucky enough to smash face with Trolls.  Those things are really tough to move once they set up their defenses.  She ended up winning by a few points.  It was a lot of fun.  We may have to pick up a copy.

The last game we played that day was called The Resistance.  Apparently it's a lot like Werewolves, which I've heard of, but never played.  It's for five to ten players.  Each player is dealt a character card which they do not reveal; it tells them whether they are loyal to the resistance, or a spy.  All players then cover their eyes, and the spies are allowed to reveal themselves to each other.  Then, the resistance attempts five missions to bring down the oppressive regime.  Players take turns being the fearless leader.  The leader selects several other players to join him or her on the mission.  The exact number of players on the mission varies depending on the total numbers of players and on the mission.  All players then vote on whether or not they accept the assignments for the team.  (If the traitors know that a traitor is on the team, they will vote to accept the team.  If the loyal resistance members are certain that a traitor is on the team, they will vote no, although it's difficult for them to know for certain, so they will usually accept the team.)  On a majority, the team is accepted.

Then, each team member on the mission hands the leader a face-down card, either a red card or a blue card.  These are shuffled so that no one is certain who put in which card.  All the cards are then revealed.  If there is even on red card, the mission failed.  Otherwise, the mission is a success.  The players must try to determine who the traitors are before it is too late.  If they succeed in three missions, they win.  If three missions are failed, the traitors win.  It's a fun and interesting game, and really very quick, but it can get very "yelly" as suspicions are thrown about.  "You're a traitor!  You must be!"  "That's ridiculous!  You're only accusing me to throw suspicion off of yourself!"

I was a traitor, which of course my wife knew almost immediately, because she can read me like a trashy magazine.  Thankfully, not everyone else was as sure.  I was on the first mission, along with the leader (I think his name was Daniel) and one other person.  I can't remember her name.  One of the traitors had a temporary special ability that turn that allowed him to peek at someone's character card, and he used it on the female on the team.  He promptly and loudly accused her of being a traitor.  Then, I slipped a red card into the mission to fail it, so everyone assumed that she really was a traitor.  It threw suspicion off of me quite superbly.  Subsequently, I managed to get onto the second mission and fail it without anyone being sure if I was a traitor.

We almost had the game in the bag, but we got unlucky with the third mission.  One of the traitors--the only one that at this point everyone was 95% certain was a traitor--was the leader that turn.  He failed to accurately predict what the NEXT leader would do, and so he chose his team poorly and revealed that certain players were definitely NOT traitors.  Thus, the resistance was able to complete the third, fourth, and fifth missions and steal the game.

Still, it was a lot of fun, if a little too stressful for my wife.

We then left for a dinner appointment and to check into our hotel.  We hit up the con the next day, as well, but that's a post for another day.

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