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Monday, February 21, 2011

SaltCon! Part Two

SaltCon touts itself as a family-oriented game convention, which is cool, I guess.  What this meant for Cassie and I was that the con didn't open until 10 am or so on Saturday.  We slept in and had a killer breakfast at the hotel's buffet.  We had planned to visit the Hogle Zoo while we were in Salt Lake City, but alas, the weather was pretty terrible.  So after breakfast (and a brief nap to take the edge off of our respective food comas--we ate a lot of food), we headed to the convention.

There was another Munchkin tournament in just a few minutes, so we signed up.  This time, it would be Munchkin Fu, the Kung Fu movie-themed Munchkin game.  Neither of us had played that particular version before, but we figured the basic rules would be the same, and indeed they were.  The only major difference is that Munchkin Fu has Styles and Classes, rather than Races and Classes.  I never did get an interesting style, but my wife got one with a really long name that game her a +3 Bonus for each empty Hand.  This was important later, when some of the players tried to stop her from reaching Level 10 and winning the game by stealing the weapon she held in her hand, not realizing that the +3 Bonus from the weapon wouldn't actually go away, thanks to her Style.

There were six players in the tournament: myself; my wife, Cassie; three people who were blood relatives of some form or another; and a fat guy who was friends with the three relatives.  I got the feeling that they all wanted someone they knew to win, because then they could all take home the prize (the copy of Munchkin Fu that we were playing) and play it with each other.  So it felt a bit like it was four players versus two.  Hence why I didn't feel bad when I helped my wife win.

Here's how it went down.  Cassie shot to Level 9 fairly quickly, and had a good assortment of equipment to give her a lot of power in combat.  The guy across from me--the nephew of the guy in the opposite corner from me, a teenager supposedly playing Munchkin for the first time--had managed to reach Level 9 on his last turn and was banking on winning the game his next turn.  He just had to stop my wife from winning, first.  He thought he had it in the bag.  When she kicked open the door and revealed a dinky Level 1 monster, he threw down some kind of magic mirror that would have made the monster disappear.  Fortunately for Cassie (and me), the guy's uncle also threw down a Wandering Monster card with a small Level 8 monster.  His nephew tried to tell him that he didn't need to do so, but he said he'd already played it, so it stayed.  I'm not sure why he did that, but it worked out.

What this meant was that Cassie still had a monster that she could kill to reach Level 10 and win.  So everyone threw down everything they could to try and stop her.  One person stole her dagger.  Another destroyed her armor.  Another pumped up the power of the monster a bit.  It still wasn't enough until the nephew, the other guy at Level 9, used a card he'd probably been hoping to save for himself to make the monster even bigger, just enough to tie with my wife's combat strength.  So I finally got involved.  I tossed down a potion that made my wife even more powerful. 

No one else had anything to change the combat, so my wife killed the monster, reached level 10, and won the game.  Everyone else was at least a little disappointed, but the guy who had played the Wandering Monster did the most grumbling.  Not sure I really understand that.  It was his fault that she was able to win that turn.  I'm convinced that she would have won the next turn, regardless; I had stockpiled a bunch of cards to stock people from being able to win, and was pretty confident that they wouldn't be able to stop her a second time.

Anyway, we got to take home the Munchkin Fu game as a prize.  So that made game number two that we received without having to pay for it.

After that we hit up the Opportunity Games table to try out Karnaxis for the first time.  A young man we'd met yesterday while playing Munchkin--Taylor, I think--joined us, as well as the designer's wife.  I believe her name was Morgan.  The designer was Andrew, although I remember that better because it's on the Karnaxis box.  Andrew set the game up and explained the rules, then acted as banker so we could concentrate on learning the game rather than doing lots of arithmetic.

It's a straight-forward enough game in some ways, but there are a lot of options at every turn, and each decisions can have great consequences.  For example, I hesitated to take out a loan to start a business until the fifth turn, while Taylor and Morgan did so two or three turns earlier, and subsequently were able to grow their respective businesses significantly more than I was.  Additionally, the two of them managed to make a killing on the stock market.  So they kind of creamed my wife and I.  Kudos to my wife, though.  She didn't bother starting a business or investing in the stock market.  She just put herself through school and got a job, and still finished the game with more money than me.  And apparently this was one of the few times when trying a new game for the first time didn't stress her out, so you know it's good.

See the game here or here.

We were both pretty worn out by then, so we decided to do one more game and call it a day.  We selected Forbidden Island from the game library and snagged a fellow named Daniel to play it with us.  It's a quick cooperative game where players take on the roles of explorers trying to snatch priceless artifacts from a sinking island.  The island is represented by sixteen tiles.  Players are represented by wooden tokens.  There is a deck of cards, each card corresponding to an island tile.  Each turn, a player is able to perform up to three actions.  These actions could be to move one space (horizontally or vertically, but not diagonally), to "shore up" an island tile, to give artifact cards to a player on the same tile, or to gain an artifact.  After those three actions, the player draws cards from the artifact card deck.

Then, a certain number of cards are revealed from the top of the location deck.  (The number of revealed cards is equal to the water level, which in our game started out at two and quickly rose to three.)  The tiles that match the revealed location cards are then either flipped over (the opposite side having the same picture and title, but in muted blue tones) or removed from the island completely, if they have already been turned over.  This represents that part of the island becoming partially submerged and then completely flooded.  Shoring up a location means flipping back to its normal state, which can buy the players some time.  Mixed in with the artifact deck are cards that cause the water level to rise, so as the game progresses, the island floods even faster.

The goal of the game is for players to acquire four cards of a given artifact, reach a location that has an icon that matches that artifact (there are only two locations per artifact), then use an action to discard the four cards and gain the artifact.  Once all four artifacts have been acquired, players have to reach the helicopter pad and escape the island.

Each player has a different special ability that helps them.  For example, I was an Engineer.  I could shore up two tiles per action instead of just one, which came in handy.  I went around shoring up the important locations--the ones that had the artifact icons on them--while Cassie and Daniel were lucky enough to rapidly draw the cards necessary to acquire three of the artifacts, after trading some cards back and forth.  They snatched up those artifacts while I grabbed the fourth, then we booked it to the helicopter pad.  With planning and luck (and, admittedly, forgetting to begin flooding the island until the second turn) we were able to beat the game together.

It was fast-paced, exciting, and a lot of fun.  And I hear that the game is pretty inexpensive.  Daniel looked it up on his fancy-pants iBerry or BlackPhone or whatever and found that Walmart sells it for twelve bucks or something.  Cassie and I may have to pick up a copy. 

Before we left, I managed to find a guy willing to trade some of his board game he'd brought for some Magic cards.  I'd brought a whole bunch of them, since I'm trying to get rid of them, and I knew I'd be surrounded by gamers.  The guy wanted to get back into Magic so he could play with his kids.  I gave him enough cards to start two or three decks.  He gave me Ticket to Ride, the one with the German map.  Cassie enjoyed it when we played it at my brother's house last Christmas. 

That made the third game that we didn't have to pay money for.  Even accounting for the used condition of two of the games, we're looking at something like seventy-five dollars worth of games for nothing.  Well, not NOTHING.  Tickets for two people for two days cost us sixty dollars.  Still, I feel like it was totally worth it, and fortunately, my wife agrees.

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