Why Genghis Con?
I joined in the fun at Genghis Con for most of its 4 days last weekend. I live about an hour from where the con is held and it is not far from my office, so I stay at home instead of the hotel where it is held. I’m sure I am missing out on some of the con experience by doing so, but even with the long drive I probably stay fresher. This was my second time to attend, so I knew what to expect. Last year’s observations would have been more focused on finding out what the con was like, but that is lost to memory now. For 2015, here’s a brief summary of how I spent my long weekend.
A Bit about Genghis Con
Genghis Con is held by the Denver Gamers Association in the Denver area over the weekend prior to the Monday the US celebrates as President’s Day. As a sidebar, President’s Day is a US holiday celebrating two great presidents, George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. At least, that’s what the history books say, but in reality it is a silly holiday celebrating discounted furniture and appliances, but is the last official 3-day weekend for most US workers before the long slog to Memorial Day at the end of May.
Genghis Con is primarily a gaming convention. There is a relatively small vendor space with a few manufacturers present, but mostly local game and hobby stores represented. Genghis offers painting and photography classes, RPG games, a LARP or two, miniature gaming, Puffing Billy, and more, but I go for what is probably their most prominent feature, scheduled and open table top gaming.
There are basically two ways to get into the scheduled games; buy a weekend game pass or pay for individual games. This is the second year that I bought the pass and the second year that I wasn’t sure that was the best idea. The nice thing about the pass is you don’t have to decide in November/December what you want to play in February. The nice thing about the pay-per-play approach is you are guaranteed a seat. The bad thing about the pass is you basically spend the weekend begging for a seat for every game you want to play and you get a coin in your hat about 50% of the time.
Here’s a brief recap of the games I played in chronological order. I mention a little about the games, but am not reviewing them here.
Unfortunately, I ended up working late Thursday and to top it off, I ended up in especially bad rush-hour traffic. So my planned arrival of 4:30 turned out to be 6:30, which meant I missed the start of what I really wanted to play.
Royal Palace: This is a fine little area control game for up to 4. Although it is not actually very similar to Istanbul, it had a very similar feel – move your servants (workers) to locations on the board to use the action on that space. The winner is determined by points acquired through buying tiles, drawing cards, and leaving servants in areas that gain points. At its heart, though, everything is determined by majority. I played it with a perennial teacher and 2 others that I kept in touch with throughout the con. This was my first time playing Royal Palace and it was interesting enough that I played it again Saturday.
As planned, this was my biggest day of the con. With many people stuck at work, the turnout during the day was lighter than the weekend, so I had a better chance of getting into some games. Even so, pretty much every game was full and I was begging for a spot.
The Red Dragon Inn: One of my fellow players in Royal Palace had bought Red Dragon Inn I and II, so we broke it open and played 2-player. I imagine the game is best suited for more players, but we played our characters to the hilt and had a fun time.
Among the Stars: This is a quick game and although none of the 4 of us had played it before, we all understood and played quickly so we got 2 games in the slotted time. Each player starts with a main reactor and builds a space station around it, getting points in several different ways from the cards played. The central mechanic is pick & pass drafting (a la 7 Wonders). Cards kept are immediately played into the space station to achieve various goals, discarded for money, or discarded with money to buy a second reactor. My first game, I chose the Wiss race (of 2 possible) and regretted it. The Wiss start with 5 energy cubes on their main reactor, but cannot have any other reactors in the station. One of the objectives was to spend the most energy cubes and I thought there would be a way to recharge my main reactor. Although there are a few cards in the game that will do that, none came up for me. I’m not sure that this race ability is one I’d want in any game. All the same, this game is quick fun – as easy as Sushi Go with more to achieve. I own it and both current expansions, so hope to play it a lot.
Spurs: A Tale in the Old West: I played the prototype of this game last year and was excited to play the published version. Unfortunately, one of the players signed up had another game to go to, so the game end was set at a very low threshold. This is a relatively simple game (leveraging the age-old roll & move mechanic) set in the Wild West (thus my interest). Players assume the roles of various characters with different abilities. They wander the map looking for animals to take for hides, horses to break, outlaws to capture, or each other to rob. There are a couple mini games within it that keep play interesting. I picked up a promo character card as I expect to own the game someday. It is currently between printings.
Golem Arcana: I wasn’t expecting to play this game, but as I was looking at the fantastic minis (if you can call them “minis”) and the guy demoing the game asked if I had time to play. It is essentially an arena death match game with different races and abilities. This is one of the recent games that leverage a tablet or mobile device to do the CRT math and movement allowance. I am not a huge fan of arena games, but enjoy Summoner Wars, so they are not out of the question for me. We played just the introductory battle and although it went fairly quickly, it was losing its appeal before the end of the game. I think my biggest dissatisfaction with the game is the device. I am not a naysayer with regards to incorporating electronics into board games (Dark Tower being one of my fondest game memories), but it just didn’t work well in this game. When I would expect to be looking at the battle on the board, I was looking at the application, which caused the experience to be too disjointed; like I was playing a game, but had to keep turning my attention away to this other thing that wasn’t part of the game.
Nuns on the Run: Since I am currently studying how hidden movement and hidden objectives are used in games, this was a must-play. In this game, most players take the roles of novices sneaking around an abbey to achieve various goals. I played one of the sisters trying to keep the novices in order; catch them sneaking around and sending them back to their rooms. This is an entertaining game and the group was really engaged which made it a great experience. It is funny toward the end of the game when all of the novices start running back to their rooms. You know they are running because they have completed their goals, but you don’t know where they are.
Ultimate Werewolf: Inquisition: Last year I participated in the con perennial Ultimate Werewolf: Ultimate Edition with about 30 participants. It was a valuable first-time experience, but one that I didn’t want to repeat. However, I was still up for a more controlled werewolf experience, so I joined this game. Unfortunately, there were only 4 of us, which doesn’t make for a great social deduction experience. The rest of the group was all con veterans that have played together for many years. So they played well together and the young lady who was the werewolf did a great job of disguising her motives.
Since this was Valentine’s Day (an even sillier US holiday than President’s Day – worse because it isn’t a holiday from work), I had a late breakfast at home with Lori and headed to the con a little later. I was going to play Gloom, but I had over an hour the blow before it started. As I walked around the gaming area, I saw Royal Palace hitting the table again with two of the guys that I had played with on Thursday, so I joined in and a 4th also joined. The guy running this game was also running Master Thieves immediately afterward and this was a game I really wanted to try. Unfortunately, it was booked and no one backs out of the opportunity to play this fascinating game.
Caverna: The Cave Farmers: I was looking forward to playing Caverna and, realizing that it is a big game and the closest I have played so far is Stone Age (not so close), I watched an excellent “How to Play” video on BGG by queenpenel on my phone while I had a little dinner. This proved to be good preparation because the lady running the game and all of the other players had never played it before. The teacher did a surprisingly good job for not having played, but I was able to catch a few missed rules, hopefully tactfully. Caverna is attributed as being a friendlier Agricola, but I haven’t played Agricola so can’t make any comparisons. Although there is a ton of bits and huge variety of things to do in this game, it actually plays very smoothly. I didn’t have any difficulty learning it, but I think it will take a few more plays to develop a winning strategy.
Euphoria: Build a Better Dystopia: I love the theme of this game and have been dying to play it – Euphoria didn’t disappoint. This is a worker/dice placement game where players try to maintain their influence over workers and gain resources to peddle their influence in the world. The great thing about this game is every mechanic plays into the theme; too many workers in one place will gain knowledge and rebel, simple artifacts (like a teddy bear or a board game) are treasured, the factions try to infiltrate each other, etc. The dystopian humor is also a big win. I own this game and now hope that I can teach my game group to play it.
Shadows of Brimstone: City of the Ancients: Fortunately, as the weather turned cold and the snow started to fall, con attendees started their exodus a little earlier than usual, so I was able to get into the game. We played for about 4 hours and had a great time. Again, drawn by the Wild West theme and the chance to play a big game that I don’t have, I really wanted to play this. This is a dungeon crawl with many layers and surprises. I could see how a group that met regularly would really get a lot out of this game.
Genghis Con provides an opportunity to play many games that I do not have and otherwise would not be able to play and to test drive a few that I might want to buy. One of my player goals for 2015 is to play some of the heavier games in my library, so this year I particularly took advantage of the opportunity to play some of those that I had not been able to play yet so I can be a better teacher of those games. I was able to play with some really nice folks that I hope to see again at the game table and did not have a single bad experience. I certainly plan to attend again next year. The Denver Gamers Association also holds another convention (Tacticon) over the Labor Day weekend, but I am always out of town that weekend.