Monday, October 25, 2021

Gamehole Con 2021 - Day 1

E and I spent the last five days either at, or traveling to and from, Gamehole Con in Madison, Wisconsin.  My wife doesn't go with us.  In part because she's not as into the board game scene as we are.  In part because it's almost a sausage fest.  In part because there's so much sitting involved.  In part because she was working.  This was our fifth year, although they skipped last year due to covid, so we've been going since E was 12.  That's a long time for something I decided to go to on a lark by looking up a midwest convention on the smaller side that was still well regarded.  It had a bigger impact on Klund when we invited him because we had extra bed space in our hotel room.  He's been going just as long and his life has a lot of board game centric threads to it now.

We rented an Air BnB with Klund, his kid Carson, his other kid K who was there for the weekend, and Apong/FrenchDip.  Proof of vaccination and fully masked at the Con was required [I forgot to take my wrist band off until this morning, although they seemed unnecessary because the lanyard and badge were proof you had at least proved you were vaccinated or tested], or at least the ability to front a convincing lie and forgeries, and most of Madison is even masked up out of doors at times because it's easier to remember your mask that way it seems.  Madison seems much more mask positive then Minneapolis, at least in the burbs where my trip to the grocery store today was a little bit startling given the lack of face covering.

I can not believe how busy this post and the next will be for the first two days out of four, particularly day two.  I think the second day we basically gamed from 8:00 a.m. to 1:30 a.m. not including time to the Alliant Convention Center.  I don't think I've gamed that much since my 20s.  On the way to the Con, we stopped at Norske Nook in Osseo for some lunch.  E's pancake was pretty much like their pancakes always are, big and delicious.  But my omelet and pie seemed a little less exciting than usual [passive aggressive Minnesota talk].  I talked to a local I've exchanged messages with before who said their food has been going downhill lately.  Presumably that's covid related as they have hiring signs up and we didn't see the waitress that was so nice to us last time we were there when my order got messed up [and she was paying enough attention that when we came back through she talked to us about it unprompted].  I hope she retired and wasn't a victim of the flu.

Still...even though it tasted like it had been on the shelf a day extra [same for E's to-go cookie which was dry], my banana cream pie to go was pretty tasty.

And the pies certainly look like something you'd want to eat...

E and I got to Madison about 1:00 p.m. [I picked them up from college, which was a first for a road trip].  It was an uneventful trip other than appreciating the traffic jam on the opposite side of the interstate and the number of dead deer littering the sides of the roads [stay safe Wisconsin night drivers].  We popped into the Steep N Brew in Madison to kill two hours, me by working and proofing my nephew's college paper on Millennial opportunity issues, and E by reading and playing games.  Shout out to Steep N Brew - that glass mug was big and your coffee was great. 

At three we met Klund at the AirBnB.  On the surface of things, very nice.  But it was a little strange.  I'm not going to put the pictures below in any narrative order, but if you look further down you can see it's got this Frank Lloyd Wright vibe on the outside.  Huge place, super long, bedrooms in the middle and off the ends, and a downstairs [only half finished; reminds me of our rental in Richfield].  But start looking under the covers and it's a bit dated and has the patchwork/rental vibe.  That stovetop takes forever to heat up.  I made spaghetti the first night and the gallon pot of water never really came to a full boil, even after an hour.  Klund had time to learn all the rules to Hadrian's Wall while I was working the stove. I'll let the fridge speak for itself. Be careful when you pull on that handle, very careful.  And don't expect to store much in the freezer. You have to use the downstairs fridge for that.

Outside was beautiful, although it was in the 30s and 40s and we were gaming, so we didn't get to take advantage of the porch.  Demerits for half-smoked cigarettes still out there because I did pop out long enough to check it all out.

The front room, which was about half of upstairs, was the nicest part.  Great place to game.  The tv went mostly unused and I think E was the only one who sat on the couch, mostly waiting for me to pack up the last day.

I did turn that fireplace on the second night, but with all of us in the house, it didn't need much additional heat.

The closet situation was downright weird.  Those run almost the length of half the house. I don't think you can see it, but there are even more closets down there at the end.    They were generally full of appliances and extraneous serving dishes and things we never considered as necessary for a gaming weekend.  My bed was to the left.  Klund and E said their beds were comfortable, but mine had some people divots that were extreme and you couldn't really settle into one without sort of rising up in the middle or toward the edges.  Not great, so I'm glad I can sleep anywhere.

Where Klund slept.  This later became the site of Bonsaigate.  Apparently the little jade bonsai tree down in that sunken office is a precious sixteen-year old loved plant and someone picked leaves off of it while we were renting the place.  But in the accusatory photo the owner sent, the blinds are up, and cleaning was there before and after were were, and Kevin never really went down there except to put his stuff at the other end of the table.  No one spent time in that area, let alone went down just to pick leaves off a random plant [I do admit to throwing away the leaves and bugs that fell off the succulent art that hung over the toilet and fell on the tank, although that was natural shedding].  Advice...don't leave your precious bonsai in the AirBnB.  For all we know proximity to the window and the overnight freeze or the cleaners were the problem. As of today, this is an unsettled issue.

The outside of the place.  Very nice, although I wouldn't want to live in that low spot between all the other houses.  Seems like flooding is only a matter of one big rainstorm, particularly with the more frequent storms in the Midwest.  Carsen assured me his ass enhances this photo.

Another photo of outside, right in front of the living room.  You can appreciate how low it is compared to the other house.  That's the same on the other side and on the front driveway.  Maybe a little less on the backside.

And here we are prepped to game, although this is probably an end of weekend picture.  That said, it didn't change much the whole weekend other than a game would migrate from these stacks to the table or a game would migrate from the scratch and dent sale at the Con to this pile.  We brought a lot of games to play beyond what we were scheduled to play at the convention center.  We never did get to the Midgard expansion or Flamme Rouge or most of Klund's games.

Klund did come prepared with social lubrication.  I brought lots of dinner foods, although I also took home a lot of dinner food.  Time was tight at the convention so unless folks wanted a 10 p.m. [or later; I think I ate post-11 p.m. one night] dinner it meant eating out.  Usually that was food trucks at the Con, although I entirely avoided the food trucks this year and ate at Liberty Station [a real meal sat better for me], eggs at the AirBnb, and a very late dinner of chicken or whatever was easiest to make in a hurry. Apong and the others managed to schedule in some gaps to get to downtown for ramen or otherwise, which was a wise, or at least fortunate, bit of planning.

We started our gaming weekend with Spicy, a great game I learned about from Actualol in his video on games that are suited to drinking, although that wasn't our primary intent.  Apong liked it enough he picked up a copy from the scratch and dent bin at the Con.  A great find. Basically the idea is you play a 1/2/3 face down and then everyone lies about the next higher card they play, either suit, number, or both.  You can call someone on number or suit, but only one.  If you get it right, you get the cards and they count toward a win, and the liar gets two cards and starts a new run.  If you get it wrong they get the cards and you draw two and start a new run.  If you exhaust your hand of six, you get a ten point card that counts toward the win, although if you get two of those cards it's an automatic win.  Very interactive.  Beautiful deck of cards and art and the theme of lying big cats having a spicy eating contest is amusing.  Couple of variants exist in the rules, although we haven't played any of those yet.

This is Hadrian's Wall.  Great game, although the bit in the rules about people rewriting history and leaving in slaves is important is a bit dubious.  Klund's observation, and the agreement after a playthrough, was that it didn't matter one bit what those meeples represented.  

Note that the Romans did have slaves at the wall, but for the usual domestic and administrative purposes, not to build the wall itself.  "...the Wall was built by the skilled Roman legionary masons, with thousands of auxiliary soldiers providing the labour and bringing the vital building supplies to the construction area..."  That said, there were agricultural slaves that were shackled ["fettered"] and so it's accurate, just probably unnecessary.  We discussed the exclusion of them from Five Tribes which has a thread on boardgamegeek.  I was unaware of the whole yellow train in Ticket to Ride incident.

After a few seconds you only consider them as their color.  Basically you're selecting where you want to place your effort and everything interacts and drives mini games, although there are whole swaths of the card you may not, or almost not, play.  That double record sheet is daunting at first and copies of it make up like 80% of the game box contents [hefty box because it feels like a ream of paper is], but once you get going you can put in a good showing even if you're not completely sure where to put your effort.

Carsen enjoying Hadrian's Wall.  E wasn't so interested in this one and skipped, but it's not really their board game jam.

Afterwards, Klund and I played Power Grid. Him for the first time.  Me to reacquaint myself with the rules [I don't think I've played since the mid 2000s even though I own a copy.  I almost bought an expansion this year, but the China/Korea map wasn't available].  Despite the fact that our two person run through was suboptimal from a play perspective [you always know what your power selection is likely to trigger / provide for the other player if there are only two of you], it was a good run through in preparation for the next two nights with more players which were a total blast.'ll see me show photos of it in other posts.  It's a default game for me to take along to the brewery or anywhere else because it's fast and works with two people [but is much better with more].

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