Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Gameholecon 2022 - Day 1 and 2

Last year Aeryn and I got a great start on GHC2021 and left early on Thursday.  This year, Aeryn had a midterm that was inescapable and didn't finish until almost 6:30 p.m.  So by the time we were all packed up and finished with dinner at Blue Door, we weren't on our way until 7:30 p.m.  Madison is roughly a four hour trip, so we rolled in just before midnight.  I know there are sometimes games that are running that late, but we were knackered after the drive in the dark.  So it was straight to bed at the Air BnB.  Klund did the house procurement again, which generally means we're going to have something with a bit of character.  He did not disappoint.  It almost looked handmade.  I swear I wouldn't want to be particularly heavy if I was on that upper floor.  The wood was slot planks.  What you usually think of as finishing for a ceiling, not the full floor surface.  There's a sauna tucked up there behind the fireplace and projector televisions in the bedrooms.  But we didn't really use any of that because GHC chews up most of your time playing, not enjoying the accommodation extras.  Even in the hotels near the convention, most folks seem to be holed up in an RPG room rather than spending time in their rooms and you can almost always find a game already underway when you walk through in the morning.  Or that never ended.  Gamehole is generally too much gaming for just lounging about, even if this year was shortened for us in that department.

On to some gaming on Friday.  Aeryn had an 8:00 a.m. Kokopelli, a game they said they really liked and would definitely play again now that they've got one under their belt and know the strategy.  Me....I went for a walk. It didn't come into play as much this year as last year, but I've discovered if I manage to sneak in a few long walks, so I hit the 10000+ step range, I can game a lot longer and a lot better.  My mind just strategizes a bit better under those conditions.  I roused myself at about 5:30 a.m. each day to ensure I walked the neighborhood and got a good base going. There was a nice arboretum nearby, but it wasn't much fun in the dark.


My first game was Khora: Rise of an Empire.  I enjoyed it. I think I'd drop it firmly in the 7/10 rating.  Some good mechanics: you're basically trying to increase your culture, military, and religion [I'm definitely wrong in the nomenclature] capabilities which you use to increase the amount/reserve of each of those you have in separate pools.  You can then spend those 'collections' on grabbing achievements and collecting three similar tokens that allow you to increase your base or buy cards for effects/objectives.  The objectives give benefits of their own as well as potentially allowing you to earn a victory point multiplier end of game.  

Each turn you're rolling two dice [three if you get the right level] and then playing two of six action cards that are equal to or lower then your die rolls, although you can spend citizens to bridge the number gap.  There's one of the random aspects that I wasn't particularly keen on.  Bad rolls make it a bit of an uphill battle. And bad cards with lots of stipulations/costs can make your cards worth considerably less use than another player's cards.  It took me a few turns to realize as a player with more military than anyone else at the table I could leverage that to create a battle/attrition/restock loop to really start driving points.  But late in the game, when I could have paid for a level for my troops, and then increased a level for free by increasing my overall empire footprint, I reversed my action order and cost myself a level because I couldn't afford it as a second action, only a first.  It was definitely a matter of playing the actions in the wrong order and if I had played the game before, I think I'd have been experienced enough not to do that mistake.  I actually made two major action mistakes. I don't think I'd have beat our coach without them, she didn't make any missteps that I could see and had a much more well-balanced board, but I think I'd have been within a few points.


While I was at Khora, Aeryn was at Qwirkle. I was excited looking over because a table of no dudes is rare.  But apparently it was way too loud for Aeryn.  There was a lot of screaming of QWIRKLE that was headache inducing.  I think that's the best part about a slightly more 'complicated' game - everyone is spending all their time thinking and not making noise.  That blue thing in the foreground with seven legs, one of them placed a bit sus, is a Flumph from Dungeons and Dragons.  Cool fact, on Saturday we met the guy who created the Flumph, and the guy who created Forgotten Realms.  Dungeons and Dragons and roleplaying aren't a big part of our Gameholecon experience - almost no part of it at all since our disasterous experience at our first GHC, although we've had a session most Wednesdays since Covid lockdown - but we've been to some talks to learn from RPG and board game creators and hear how the industry works.


Fleet was a good game, although I wish the table covering had been blue like the ocean instead of red.  We played with an expansion that let us play six players at the table, and I suspect that's the absolute optimal number.  It made it much more interesting.  Not slow with that count though, as we could really do some things at the same time [like launch boats and play captains].  In general, you're bidding on fishing charters [worth victory points] and using those charters to launch matching boats, put captains on those boats, and using abilities on the charters to process your fish for money, keep them for points, or process them for additional cards in hand, which is a BIG driver [as captains can be face down cards, but that costs you a card].  Additionally, cards double as cash, so every action that takes a card out of your hand costs you.  There are some specialty charters for retiring captains for points, getting extra fish points, leaving boats at the marina for points, and more.  This is my hand.  I won by a point.  My tactic was cheap fishing - cod - and lots of it including even turning my wildcard boats into cod boats.  There were a couple of processing charters to make sure I could generate lots of cash and cards.  Toward the end, I knew the guy to my left was going to overtake me, so it became an issue of fishing out the ocean [cubes in box] to end the game early.  There are some other bits and pieces: there are boats with captains built in, but limitations, you can only have four fish on a boat, you get achievement points for first boat full of fish of a certain type, you can 'pass' and get some free money or victory points, etc.  I enjoyed this more than Khora.  Easily my second favorite game of the weekend at the Con tables.


Aeryn and I have always done a True Dungeon run.  We are so all about the single run that we don't even bother to parse our existing tokens for the game.  We just use what we have in that run and rely on the charity of strangers.  We are perpetual noobs.  Our team this year was wonderful.  Truly a joy.  We had an older experienced guy, a dad and his daughter on their second run in two days and two runs ever, and....the Fung Brothers.  The Fung bros are the sash-wearing, play a lot, probably drive their hobby on token sales and swaps, and there to have fun with others types.  You can picture them.  They looked exactly like the long haired hero or villain twin pair from a Shaw Brothers production. I don't particularly know if fighting long-haired twins exist in a particular Shaw Brothers movie, but once you think about it, you're pretty sure they must exist [LOL....yep, The Proud Twins....it exists: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wXHv2Qm8mwY].

I played a Dwarf Fighter this year and the Fungs leveled me up, gave me extra treasure draws, and made sure I had a better then average weapon and ranged weapon.  The hand weapon was a +3 turkey leg.  I liked the imagery.  Although I failed to get any crits outside of the practice zone.  Palpable hits, just not crits, would would have been optimal with my character.

The dwarf fighter has a taunt skill to haul attention away from weaker characters and I played it up a bit this year, accusing one enemy of having a smaller than average sword, another of not singing as well as a rubber duck [Aeryn told me 'that's mean'], and even mocking the animatronic/robotic monster by mimicking it. I told everyone to imagine I was a real dwarf because the effect was funnier than I could achieve at six foot two.  Aeryn played a druid, which involves memorizing lots of leaves.  I'm so glad no one makes me play spell casters.  We had an excellent run and in one of the puzzle areas the two teenagers [Aeryn and the other guy's daughter] powered through the math involved in a heart beat.  I think the more experienced guy with us actually felt a bit vestigial when they solved it so fast without the rest of us and took an action before we reasoned it out that hurt us so he could participate. But it didn't hurt much, and he was super nice when I bumped into him the rest of the con.  If I had to guess, he felt more I'm-old left out than I'm-masculine or I'm-experienced-at-this left out.  I know I did and I think I contributed the "those must be equivalent so you know where to start" observation first.

I will share one image that does not matter and creates no spoilers, a scroll from Nine Toes Tom.  I sent a photo to my dad to ask if he knows him because Dad only has nine fingers.  It certainly seems like Nine Toes Tom and Nine Fingers John would run in the same Nineteen [or less] Digits Guild.


Lunch was at Liberty nearby and this is actually a photo I took last year.  But it looked exactly the same.  I approve of their brisket chili and a beer for roughly what I'd spend at a food truck without the beer.  Aeryn leveraged my experience this year and ran over there to have fish and chips which seemed to be a big step up as far as they were concerned.  If you sit at the counter and sort of have your order and credit card ready, I think the turnaround time is all of half an hour so you can fit the walk and food between gaming events.

This cow statue, Miss Madison, is near the convention center. I passed it on one of those walks I mentioned.  I'm not sure why the marital status of the cow is a necessary detail.  Maybe Wisconsinites just gotta know.


Aeryn hung out with some of the LARPers and was excited about the win-a-match/win-ice-cream challenge, as they've attended and worked at Cardboard Camp since they were little.  They made sure the rules were obvious for people like me who are just flailers [sorry, I didn't take the challenge, so there's no video of me getting whacked over and over by an expert].


 Aeryn got to pick the competitor and he was gooooood.  Really good.  I think he was literally trying to wear Aeryn out dragging that match on and staying out of range.  The match lasted for what seemed like more than fifteen minutes.  And as someone who fenced for a few classes in community ed when he was first at the U of MN, that is exhausting.  It still stands out as one of the most tiring things I've ever done.  Aeryn lost, but it was really fun to watch.  Lot of banter.


 If you click into this one, it's a video of a very small portion of the match.

 GHC 2022 Aeryn Fights 

We had a shared Tumblin' Dice game end of day, but bailed.  The kid running it was related to the Quirkle lady and we've played with their family before.  It can be loud and confusing. Not a good end to a day if you're a bit worn out from a long drive the night before. Instead, we bugged out and headed over to the capitol square area [or whatever shape the capitol area is in Madison] for sushi and ramen.  Usually we go to Morris Ramen over there, but decided to try something different.  Probably a good move.  Morris was visible from Umami and had a crowd outside.  Not surprising.  Even when we went sort of out of band in previous years, it was pretty full.  I had the Shoyu chicken ramen with a spice bomb, that got hotter and hotter the deeper in the bowl I went, and Aeryn had a sushi bowl where the sashimi sat on the rice.  Good way to finish the day.  We headed back to the AirBnB to play some Wingspan and Calico while Klund and offspring hung with Kane at the Con.  But I'll post pictures of that tomorrow.

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