Winter Stabcon 2014

After missing the two previous Stabcon weekends I was determined to return and get back to the routine of attending.

I arrived just before registration opened at 2pm to give myself as much game time as possible over the weekend.

Being early gave me time to check-out my room and drop off baggage. When I entered the room I thought I'd been booked into a hostel by mistake.

I'd booked a single room for the weekend so imagine my surprise when I saw a double bed and two singles in my room. I worried that I'd accidentally ticked the "I'd like to share a room with complete strangers" box on the booking form.

After recovering from the surprise and feeling brave enough to leave the room I made my way downstairs to the main gaming area.

On my last couple of visits to this convention I'd missed a lot of gaming time because my anxiety/depression issues made it very difficult for me to interact with groups of people that I don't know very well - which is most of the attendees these days.

Don't think that the convention is full of mean, horrible, nasty, spiteful, anti-social people. It's full of amazing people who are all very welcoming and inclusive. The problem is in my head.

I decided that I would have an easy start and reorganise my special donut-tokens for Police Precinct.

This caught someone's attention, and led into my first game of the con...


Firefly : The Game

This session started with a revelation: I really don't absorb rules when they're read out to me cover to cover. I think I'd rather get an overview and learn more as I play through the first few turns.

The game is basically about running between planets to complete missions, getting crew and equipment along the way. You're doing this in order to complete some larger story goals.

I enjoyed pootling round the board picking up odds and ends as I went. I kinda sucked at the strategy and progression towards the ultimate goal and I was some way behind the two leading players.

Somehow it took us four hours to complete the 2-hour beginner scenario. It didn't feel like a long game so I would say that although it can be a long game it's not hours of sitting around watching other people strategise  for long periods of time. You can watch the action, or you can prepare for your move by examining potential purchases from supply planets.

Overall a relatively decent game that I would probably play again but wouldn't rush into.

I never watched Firefly. I might have caught an episode one time. I did manage to watch Serenity. I suck at being a Whedon fanboy. It might have taken a tiny bit of the excitement away about the game but I think the game would have played as well with 'any old characters'. I didn't feel like I missed anything by knowing next to nothing about the series.


Time to duck out

The first long game ended in time for me to source some food, realise how tired I was and give up for the evening. I could have tried to go down for more games post-pizza but I didn't want to push myself too hard and end up doing nothing at all.


A Study in Emerald

This was one of the first Kickstarter projects I backed. I didn't know much about the game. I hadn't read Neil's short story. I don't really know that much about Lovecraft's universe. It looked interesting so I thought I'd take a gamble.

I'm not really sure how best to describe the gameplay. The rulebook made my brain hurt. Gameplay wasn't too bad and made sense fairly quickly.

It's an intriguing game that I think will take a few plays to truly shine. I enjoyed a lot of the mechanics and concepts and suspect that it'll be a game that I dust off from time to time when people want to play something a bit more involved and challenging.


Mall of Horror

After 'Emerald' people were interested in something lighter with an element of 'being a dick'. I suggested my copy of City of Horror which I was hoping to break out of the shrink-wrap over the weekend.

Someone at the table said they preferred Mall of Horror, and I was interested to play it so I could later compare with 'City'.

This game has each player in control of three characters stuck in a mall being invaded by zombies. Each round characters die: sometimes because they're the only person in a location overrun with the walking-dead; sometimes after being voted zombie-food by other players.

There are cards that can help you keep your characters alive, but over time the numbers dwindle until there are only four characters left. Points are counted and a winner is declared.

It's a fun, light game. Quick to pick up, and fairly quick to play. I wish there'd been more begging, pleading, negotiating and back-stabbing during our play but I suspect that comes from playing with a group you know a bit better. We were all rather polite survivors of the zombie apocalypse.


Another fade to room...

Energy levels were low. Brain juice had all but dried up. I sloped off for lunch and then to my room for 'a short rest'. Which turned into a 4 hour nap. Oops.

I fought the mental battle with myself and returned to the gaming room.

Wandering round looking dazed and confused I was invited to join a card game that had just started.


Koryŏ

Koryŏ is an interesting game where you play a card or set of cards in each of the eight turns in the game. As the game progresses you're dealt fewer cards but the table limit increases.

The person with the largest quantity of each particular 'suit' allows them to take a special action for each one. This can bend rules, swap cards, steal points from other players ... basically making the game more than a "who has the most of X?" in front of them.

It's a simple concept, very easy to pick up and plays really well. Sadly it only goes up to 4 players otherwise this would be an immediate addition to my collection for gaming night at work. It's fun so I expect it'll go on a wishlist and appear magically one day.


Straw

This is another card game. Super simple idea and lots of fun to play. There's a camel. There's a limit to how much it can carry. You play cards on to the camel. Most things increase the load; there are a few items that decrease it - the magic carpet, for example.

You lose if you play a card that makes the values of items on the camel exceed the limit. Everyone else scores the total value of the cards in their hand.

There's one exception - the straw. If the card total is exactly the amount the camel can carry, you may play the straw and win the round.

Simple. Fun. Already ordered.


Flash Point : Fire Rescue

I heard this game mentioned when I was committed to another game. It sounded interesting but I wasn't able to play.

My luck changed later in the day; fortunate timing led to me being in the right place at the right time and getting a place in a game that was just being set up. Go karma!

The idea behind this co-operative game is that the players are firemen. A building is on fire. People are trapped. Get them out before they die or the building collapses.

I really enjoyed this game. It's a lovely idea, well executed and the board and pieces look great. It feels like a true collaborative co-op game. There's no "who has card X?" game-play here. Each player takes a turn. Fire spreads. Next player.

In the expansion/non-beginner variant there are different roles and building with multiple levels. I enjoyed this so much that I'd ordered a copy before the game was halfway through. At the end of the game I ordered the Extreme Danger expansion. By the end of the weekend I'd ordered another expansion.

The game's difficulty can easily be adapted for a chilled-out, family gaming session, or dialled up all the way to extreme-gamer-never-gonna-beat-it.

I played multiple games with varying setups and difficulty. It's a fun game even when you lose. I want to play this game lots.


Jamaica

After Flash Point people wanted something a bit lighter to play as the clock crept closer to midnight.

I knew just the game - Jamaica!

Pirates racing round an island, battling each other, collecting treasures and doubloons; each one hoping to cross the finish line first, but more importantly be the richest pirate when the race ends.

The game looks gorgeous, and game-play is fast-paced preventing people from getting bored. I'm glad I own this game because it's a great go-to game for something around to 60-minute mark without needing lots of explaining or complex rules.


King of Tokyo

King of Tokyo is a game I've played with the gaming group at work. It's a dice based game with power-ups for your huge creature trying to fend off other players' creatures and beat them to a pulp.

You can win on victory points but many players prefer to eliminate the opposition - anything less isn't really winning.

It's another easy to learn, fun to play game. Games are moderately quick and even if your creature dies early in the battle it's entertaining watching the other players trying to take each other out.

This is one I should probably add to my collection one day.


Overall

I had a great time at Stabcon. I did a lot more gaming than previous visits, and despite being beaten by the anxiety/depression a couple of times I had a heck of a lot of fun most of the weekend.

A conversation with the organiser made me realise that I've been coming to this event for something like ten years now. I had a couple of years where I was crap and missed it, but again, the fault was all mine.

It's a great event and I'd love to see some of my work-gamers join me one time.

I continued my new regime of tracking the games I play and uploading them to Board Game Geek. My plays for the weekend can be found on the site.

Video Reviews