Monday, April 23, 2012

"Twilight Imperium": Phoenix, Pariah, Conqueror, King

Last Wednesday night we finally had a chance to finish up our first complete game of Twilight Imperium.  I'm happy to report that we suceeded in this noble goal.

Sort of.   

The great thing about running an epic game like this over the course of several weeks is that you don't have to do a rule book crash course every time you sit down to play.  You can just pick up from where you left off and jump right back in! 

For those of you who've been following along at home, last time we left off on a bit of a cliffhanger.  Dean was trying to consolidate his corner of the galaxy with a predatory eye on Twilight Imperium's answer to Coruscant.  Despite Chad's military might, he was having a rough time stamping out pockets of uncooperative rebels.  The lion's share of my navy got nuked after I drunkenly marched them off into uncharted space.  Then, in a major twist, Andrew barricaded himself alone inside the galactic equivalent of Fort Knox by sealing the vault door with a supernova.   

Should you require a slightly less esoteric recap, you can find Part One by enclickifying this link and Part Two roit 'ere

 Players & Their Races

Me...Naalu Collective (Blue)
Andrew...Embers of Muaat (Orange)
Dean...Mentak Coalition (Purple)
Chad...L1Z1X Mindnet (Yellow)


Strategy Card Selection

Me...Production & Warfare
Dean...Leadership & Bureaucracy
Chad...Assembly & Diplomacy
Andrew...Technology & Trade

With half of my fleet reduced to atoms, I decided that a defensive posture might be prudent.  Via a Movement Action I backed my Flagship, Merc and Fighters away from Andrew's beefy-looking fleet.   

Clearly incensed, Dean punished Andrew for daring to employ "stradgedy" by playing "Local Unrest" and killing most of his troops on Sem-Lor.    

On Chad's turn he played the exact same card, annihilating the rest of Andrew's garrison.  As you might be able to tell, Andrew was now drawing more aggro then Courtney Love at a Foo Fighters concert. 

Andrew dwoned his sorrows by staging a vicious assault on peaceful Garbozia.  After missing with an orbital bombardment, he set one Mech Unit and three Ground Forces to the task of subjugation.  They scored one hit but my settlers managed to strike back.  In the second round, Andrew's Mechs quickly mopped things up by scoring two solid hits after my defenders whiffed.

I played the Production Strategy Card and started slappin' shit together quicker then a Taiwanese assembly line worker.  By the time I ran out of shekels I'd constructed a Carrier, four Fighters, and four Ground Forces.  Dean quickly joined the riveting party and knocked out a Dreadnought, a Cruiser and a Mech.

He followed this up by playing Bureaucracy, which gave him a free Command Counter.  Unfortunately he wasn't able to claim any of the newly-revealed Objectives.  The rest of us balked at the idea of paying a Strategy Allocation Token at the risk of drawing a giant steaming pile of nothingburgers.

Next up, Chad played Diplomacy, forcing all of us to place Command Counters in Nebula V, instantly wiping it off the invasion radar.  Andrew was the only one to pay the Command Counter / Influence price to invoke the card's secondary ability and lay claim to a nearby planet.     

Andrew then pulled a Tactical Action and moved his ships out of the Supernova system, 'cuz apparently he can do that and I can't.  Fucking horseshit.  Andrew then proceeded to probe the bejesus out of a nearby Domain Counter but chose not to encounter it.

Risking blow back, I sent my last Cruiser into a hex of empty space between Dean's territory and my own.  When the Domain Counter turned up a free derelict Cruiser, Andrew took the opportunity to sow the seeds of discord.  

"Dude, that could have been yours!" he said, trying to bait Dean into attacking me.  "You need to get that shit back!"     

Cowed by the still-pitiable state of my fleet, Dean mercifully stayed his hand against me, choosing instead to spend a Movement Action to redistribute his Flagship and two Fighters.   

Chad's combat fleet (consisting of a Dreadnought, two Carriers and two Fighters) ventured into the Thibah system.  During the initial landing, his Mech unit missed and Andrew, gleefully representing the defenders, scored two big hits!  During the second round of combat they exchanged one hit apiece, but for Chad, it wasn't enough to eliminate the opposition.  Once again, the rag-tag remains of his landing force had to retreat back to the drop ship to lick their wounds.

Sensing blood, Andrew continued to put pressure on me by moving his Flagship and Dreadnought into empty space, just one hex away from my home world.

Fearing that Dean's fleet manoeuvres were a prelude for attack, I put my two Cruisers at the vanguard on "High Alert".  

Thankfully my paranoia was unfounded.  Dean played the Leadership Strategy Card, claiming three Command Counters.  Unable to resist the promise of additional CC's, all three of us paid through the nose to acquire two apiece. 

Andrew keen insights began to tell him that some of us might possibly be gunning for him.  As a result, he took a Production Action and hastily assembled a SnapTite® Dreadnought and a Destroyer.

Tapped out like a Texan oil well, I was forced to Pass.

Dean crossed into the last unexplored region of empty space with a Cruiser where he discovered an entrance to Wormhole "B".  Since the planet on the other side (Maluce?) had no Resources it ended up going unclaimed.

Chad played the Assembly Strategy Card and snapped up one Political and two Action Cards.  He then forced me to play one of my Political Cards.  Since he'd already encroached on my space and attacked me without warning, I had absolutely no problem jumping on the "Kick Andrew In The Cubes" bandwagon.  I merrily played "Forbidden Research", preventing him from gaining any Technology this round.  Needless to say, there are a few "poopidy-doo's" and "fiddle-dee-dees".

Andrew responded with the most vicious and heinous revenge: Trade.  And by vicious and heinous I mean generous and kind since I immediately snagged three Trade Goods out of the deal.  Piling on, Chad dropped "Ruinous Tariffs" on Andrew and confiscated half of his Trade Goods!  Andrew completed his turn by producing a loaded revolver, spinning the barrel and singing random lyrics from "The Man Comes Around".

Oh, and he also hired a Merc.

Dean took a Transfer Action and then moved a Dreadnought into the Arcturas sector.  Clearly he was massing for some sort of large-scale fleet operation and you didn't have to be Inspector friggin' Poirot to see that he had designs on Mecatol Rex.

Thanks to my timely card play, Andrew's Technology Strategy Card was a bust.  He looked on helplessly as Dean went shopping for Stasis Chambers and Chad used his alien technology to pick up the highly-coveted Advanced Fighters.  This last purchase was particularly noteworthy since all of Chad's ships instantly went from being sub-light T.I.E. fighters to hyperdrive-equipped X-Wings capable of deadly hit and run missions!     

With that everyone passed and went on to the next round!   

Strategy Card Selection

Chad...Leadership & Diplomacy
Andrew...Production & Assembly
Me...Technology & Warfare
Dean...Bureaucracy & Trade

I played the Warfare Strategy Card to put my fleet, now ensconced around my home system, on "High Alert".  Why?  I dunno...

Chad played the Leadership Strategy Card to acquire three precious Command Counters and then paid the Secondary Action's two-for-one cost to snag an additional deuce.  All three of us got in on that hawt auxiliary action by dropping two Production Points apiece.

Andrew played the Assembly Strategy Card and forced Chad to reveal a Political Card.  He put some sort of DEADLY SPACE-SADDAM EVIL LETHAL GAS ATTACK (D.S.S.E.L.G.A.) up for a vote, which he intended to play on Dean's ships in the nebula.  Although we really didn't harbor any ill-will towards Dean, we were all pretty curious to see what would happen when Dean's ships got sprayed with a D.S.S.E.L.G.A.  So naturally it got passed with flying colors just so we could all gawk like yokels at  the resulting slow-motion train wreck. 

We weren't disappointed: the D.S.S.E.L.G.A. wiped out Dean's Carrier, two Fighters and his Spy.


Just as Dean started bellyachin' about this tragic loss I took the opportunity to remind him that it could have been worse.  Like a one-way ticket on "Dave's Exploding Solar Caravan of Doom", for example.   

Undeterred, Dean forged ahead with his planned invasion of Mecatol Rex.  With Chad rolling dice for the defenders, both combatants missed with their initial Fighter attacks.  Dean's capitol ships fared much better, scoring three smacks in total thus wiping out the native air support.  He then plopped two Mech Units and two Ground Forces on the planet's surface.  Chad scored one hit for the Mecatol Rex Ground Forces but Dean was quick to retaliate with three successful attacks.  With that, he was able to claim the great hub of the galaxy!

Even though Andrew was essentially being curb-stomped into a foetal position by everyone around him, I was still concerned that he would blindly lash out at me like a rabid, starving wolverine caught in a bear trap and backed into a corner.  As such, I played "Armistice" on Tar'Mann to prevent him from exploiting the now-defenseless planet.

As if he didn't already have more cool gadgets then friggin' Batman, Chad played the "Alien Tech" Action Card and walked away with some Anti-Mass Deflectors.

Sensing that he was on the verge of being Order 66'ed, Andrew claimed the planet Ashroth in the sideboard galaxy, scoring four free Trade Goods in the process.

Dean endeavoured to recoup his losses with a Production Action.  He used a valuable new racial tech card to double the value of his Trade Goods and then used the profits to build three new PDS units for Vehor and Usis.  He also went after planet Bereg, landing four Ground Forces there.  Andrew telegraphed rolling for the natives, but Dean's aim was true and he successfully captured the planet!

Chad used the now-fashionable Transfer Action to shuffle his ships between Mirage and the Sakulag/Lazar system.

Since all the "cool" kids seemed to be doing it, Andrew exercised the same option to put two Carriers, two Cruisers and three Fighters into Sem-Lore.  Despite being assailed from all directions, it still looked as if he might strike out like some sort of Space Cobra.  But at who?  Say what you want about the dude, but he's certainly no fan of turtling.  

Dean played the Bureaucracy Strategy Card, picking up a bonus Command Counter.  He also flopped an Objective Card which doles out a Veep if you control eleven planets outside your home system.  Yeah, even after five turns into the game we were all still light years away from that particular bench mark.

I played the Technology Strategy Card and brought out "Emerging Economy" which would allow me to launch ships into systems adjacent to my Space Docks.  Andrew, making up for the prior turn's setback, purchased "Stasis Capsules".  Dean becomes the second proud kid on the block to collect his very own War Sun.

Plans still percolating in his noggin, Chad forced himself to abstain from buying any new Tech.  He did, however, play the Diplomacy Strategy Card to bring the planet Nercalor (?) under his sphere of influence.    

Still dreading the very-real possibility of becoming Ned Beatty in an intergalactic re-creation of Deliverance, Andrew used the Production Strategy Card to cobble together some big defensive fatties: a Destroyer, a War Sun and a Dreadnought.  I assembled a Cruiser and a Mech while Dean requisitioned a Dreadnought and a PDS unit.  

Dean played the Action Card "Advanced Re-Enforcements", shoring up his hold on Mecatol Rex with two bonus Ground Forces.

Now completely bereft of fundage, I was forced to pass.

Anticipating a potential dust-up with either Andrew or Dean, Chad dispatched two Dreadnoughts, one Cruiser and one Destroyer towards Capha.

Andrew got his newly-minted enforcers out on point by moving his War Sun, Destroyer and Dreadnought from Muat to Garbozia.

Dean initiated the Trade Strategy Card and also hired his own pet Merc.  Whereas my opponents only scored two or three Trade Goods, I picked up four thanks to my recently acquired "Micro Technology" card.

Then, from out of nowhere, Chad sent a single long-distance Fighter on a perilous journey through two hexes of empty space to blockade his only Space Dock!  Whatta twist!  Needless to say, Andrew was suitably unimpressed.

After everyone passed and the round ended we tallied up the new Veeps! 

I finally scored a Victory Point for successfully invading a planet and Chad earned points for cock-blocking Andrew's production on Muat! 


Strategy Card Selection

Andrew...Leadership & Warfare
Me...Production & Assembly
Dean...Technology & Diplomacy
Chad...Bureaucracy & Trade

With my fleet somewhat revitalized, I finally felt confident enough to send three fully-loaded Carriers and a Cruiser out to oppose Andrew's renewed incursion.

As if softening Mecatol Rex up for a future landing, Andrew dropped a "Plague" Action card on Dean's garrison there, killing four Ground Forces!

Dean used the Diplomacy Strategy card and paid Influence to sway the planet Oucen'n into his empire.  Andrew also scrounged up three Influence to tempt Industrex into his corner.

Chad procured three Goods from the Trade Strategy Card and hired his own galactic gopher.

I then totally ("Totally!") spazzed out on the Production Strategy Card, exploiting the Matriarch's capability to increase my Fleet Supply to eight (!).  This allowed me to push out three Dreadnoughts (!), two Ground Troops and a Space Dock.       

"Oh, I see what's happening here!" Dean shouted after I placed my Space Dock two hexes away from his turf.  "You're comin' after me!"  

"Are you fucking nuts?" I replied.  "I've got Andrew breathing down my neck and absolutely no ships in that area to attack you with!  I'm only placing it there 'cuz my 'Emerging Economy' card lets me place units adjacent to Space Docks and since I never got a chance to expand everything's adjacent to me right now!"

Fortunately this masterwork of Orwellian double-speak seem to confuse Dean slightly more then it confused me.  Unfortunately, it still didn't prevent Dean from building some insurance in the form of a War Sun.  Meanwhile, Chad quietly nudged his Flagship and two Fighter squadrons out into space while Andrew supervised two Mechs coming off of his assembly line.

Andrew played the Leadership Strategy Card to rake in three well-needed Command Counters.  Dean nearly broke the bank paying for three, while Chad and I translated two Production Points into one apiece.

Via a Tactical Action, Dean bolstered his defense by moving his War Sun, Carrier and Two Cruisers out to the front line.

Chad diverted his fleet to Tibah to have yet another bash as subjugating that hornet's nest of a planet.  After scoring two quick hits, Chad finally experienced the thrill of a cleanly successful ground campaign!

Next up I used the Assembly Strategy Card to take a Political Card, two Action cards and the Speaker Token.  I then obliged Dean to play "Colonial Redistribution" which would have forced Chad to destroy all of his Ground Forces on a single planet.  Naturally this resulted in Chad pulling some quick-draw veto action!

Meanwhile, in the sideboard galaxy, Andrew took a peek at the Domain Counter on Sauder and then promptly replaced it, all the while maintaining an impeccable poker-face.   

Dean played the Technology Strategy Card, picking up the fancy-sounding Magen Defense Grid for free.  I finally broke into the red Tech tree by constructing Hylar Assault Lasers.  Both Chad and Andrew invested in XRD Transporters.

Chad picked up two mid-round Victory Points by playing Bureaucracy and claiming the "five Tech advances of the same color" objective.  Jerk.

Then, as much as it pained me to do so, I had to pass.

Settling into his new home, Andrew constructed a Space Dock in Ashtroh.

Dean passed.

Unexpectedly, Chad lashed out at Dean in the Centauri sector with four Dreadnoughts!  In response, Dean played "Rule By Terror" which inflicted two casualties on Chad's attacking force courtesy of his War Sun!  As a result, Chad was forced to tuck his tail behind his legs and slink back to the homestead.

With last-ditch battles breaking out, Andrew fortified himself by playing the "High Alert" token from the Warfare Strategy Card.  His main armada, on point close to Mecatol Rex, was instantly made battle-ready!

Clearly chasing the Victory Point dragon, Chad's task force (consisting of a Cruiser, Dreadnought, Merc and Carrier) attacked Andrew's fleet in Sem-Lor (with two Carriers, two Cruisers and three Fighters). What followed was perhaps the most humorously inept single round of combat in the history of Twilight Imperium.  Or modern Italian military history for that matter.

In fact, the only ships that managed to hit were Chad's Dreadnought and Andrew's Carrier (which performed a successful "last gasp attack" after being felled by Chad's "Experimental Weaponry"). Andrew's wise original impulse to get the fuck outta Dodge was hampered by his compete and total lack of Strategy Allocation tokens.

The second round proved to be considerably more lethal, with Chad scoring four hits to Andrew's two.   In the third round, Chad's Merc earned his keep by delivering the final blow.

Although I'm tempted to indulge Andrew after he plaintively asks me "Sooooo, we're losing.  We may as well fight, right?" ultimately I deny him the satisfaction of a time-consuming scrap by using my racial ability to retreat from the Urta and Bereg system.  Secretly, I'm hoping for another full round so we can all get our collective mitts on Chad's throat.

Chad then played an Action card, allowing him to take control of the Wormhole Hex with a single Cruiser.  This one action alone reduced his Victory Point requirement to only nine points putting him even closer to victory!

In response, Andrew played a card called "Flank Speed" increasing the range of his ships by one.   Chad nullified this with a card that required the sacrifice of his Spy to cancel an Action Card.  Then, out of nowhere, Andrew pulled a second "Flank Speed" card out of his anus and then calmly proceeded to follow through on his original plan!

He sent his War Sun and Dreadnought into the contested Wormhole Hex and obliterated Chad's Cruiser, thus denying him the one Victory Point reprieve and extending the game!

Or not.

With this last action, the round came to an end.  I claimed two more Victory Points for building five Yellow Tech advances.  Dean followed suit for his five Red Techs.  Chad claimed a single Victory Point for destroying three ships in a space battle.

But with that we'd run out of time.  Again.  It was already very late, it was a school night and it would likely take another hour or two to complete another full round.

So, with that, we decided to pack it in and call it a game.  Given Chad's runaway lead, we concluded that he'd probably claim his tenth Victory Point before any one of us could possibly catch up to him.



So, with that, Chad was unanimously declared the winner of our first complete game of Twilight Imperium.*


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Davecon 2012

For a city its size, my home base of Halifax has seen precious few conventions, especially those which cater to tabletop gaming.  In fact, it wasn't until two years ago, when Hal-Con successfully rose from the ashes like a phoenix reborn, that we finally had an annual event to get excited about.

It wasn't always that way.  Back in the late-90's / mid-2000's there was Fleet-Con, so named because it was held at the Fleet Club Atlantic, a popular watering hole for our Canadian Armed Forces.  As Cons went it was always a pretty minimalist affair, though.

Typically you'd pay about five or ten bucks at the door.  Inside there'd be screenings of genre films. Talented model makers would proudly display their amazing handiwork.  LARPers, the 501'st Legion stormtroopers and klingons with obvious thyroid problems would all be in attendance.  There'd usually be some sort of Halo tournament and a spot of organized table-top gaming, often tragically centered around the inexplicable appeal of dreck like Munchkin*Eeeeesssh!*

Infinitely more important to us: all of the regional vendors would set up a table and sell their wares tax-in.  There was also a shit-ton of available gaming space.  So, honestly, Fleet-Con as just a thinly-veiled excuse to get a deal on board games and then play the crap out of them until we got kicked out.

For reasons still unknown to me, the original organizer of Fleet-Con packed it around 2003.  So, for many dark and depressing years, there were no all-day gaming events to look forward to.  In order to remedy the situation, I ran an event called Davecon back in 2007.  Why Davecon?  Three reasons:

(1)  I'd intended the whole thing to be a bit of a joke.
(2)  Anyone who knows me knows that I love board games and there'd be absolutely no confusion
       as to what would happen at a convention bearing my name.
(3)  I have a galloping-out-of-control ego.

There were only eight attendees that first year (me, Cheryl, Dean, Claudia, Audrey, Andrew, Sabina and Angela) and we managed to finish only three games (Betrayal at House on the Hill, Cave Troll and Bang!).  Nevertheless, much fun was had by all and a part of me seriously thought about doing it every year.  But you know how it is: you get busy, you get lazy and the next thing you know two years have got behind you (my apologies to Pink Floyd).

In 2009 Fleet-Con was resurrected for a one-shot charity event.  Although it turned out to be a mere  shadow of its former self, we were reminded of just fun it was to go to an all-day gaming event. Henceforth, I pledged to do what I could to give myself and my peeps one guaranteed day a year when they could forget all of their troubles and spend an entire day spazzed out on board-gamey bliss.

On March 13'th, 2010 the first annual Davecon was held in my teensy apartment.  This time we had ten people show up: me (I figgered I should), Cheryl, Dean, Claudia, Audrey (occasionally dual-referenced as "Claudrey" or "Audria"), Andrew, Sabina, Angela and new participants Chad and Mark.  I also put an emphasis on playing a bunch of shorter games simultaneously.  This strategy worked out nicely and we managed to cram in ten complete games that day: No Thanks!, Ingenious, Citadels, Blokus (and its Duo counterpart),  Ticket to Ride, Warhammer Invasion, Red November, Zombies!!! and a game which was destined to become a Davecon tradition: Ultimate Werewolf!

I also gave out ballots to people who played games and bonus ballots for winners.  In the end, Sabina proved to be the winner, scoring a free copy of the classic Bruno Faidutti card game Citadels!  This would come to be something of a tradition within itself!

The following year we had a turn-out of twelve peoples: me, Cheryl, Dean, Claudia, Audrey, Andrew, Sabina, Angela, Mark and fresh meat Mike, Dawn and Joe.  We blew away our previous record of "Most Games Played In One Day" with Blokus, Kingsburg, Survive: Escape from Atlantis!, Drakon and Lord of the Rings Trivial Pursuit plus three matches each of Apples to Apples and Roadztersand two games apiece of Shadow HuntersBuffy The Vampire Slayer and Ultimate Werewolf.  

Once again Sabina's name was drawn for the grand prize: a $20.00 gift certificate.  We had so many ballots that year that we also decided to crown our first Davecon MVP right on the spot.  Having submitted the most total ballots for the day, Dawn was declared the first-time winner in this impromptu new category!  

Since this was clearly the most successful Davecon to date, a follow-up was certainly in order.  By the end of February we'd locked down the date of April 14'th but we still hadn't addressed one major problem: where to hold the event.  The chaos of the previous year made it painfully obvious that we'd hit the maximum capacity of our humble little apartment so finding a new home for Davecon was imperative.  

Mercifully a convenient solution soon appeared in the form of Quantum Frontier: an awesome comic/game/toy store in the North End of Halifax.  The entire upstairs floor (cleverly dubbed "The Danger Room"), a fantastic space dedicated to gaming, is available to rent for private functions!  As soon as I had a chance to peep it out, I knew that we'd found the perfect place.  Sabina was kind enough to make all of the arrangements and soon the only thing left to do was wait for the big day to arrive!    

I bombed into the store at around 11:30 am on Saturday to set up for the event.  I posted an orientation sign up at the back of the store leading guests upstairs and a welcome sign at the top of the steps.  I then set up my "registration table" where attendees could sign in and take a name badge.  Then I ran back downstairs with my video camera and did some establishing shots of the store as I waited for my peeps to arrive.

Lindsay (sp?) at Quantum Frontier was super-nice: friendly, helpful and accommodating even as I ran around the place like a whirling dervish.  After Andrew, Audrey, Claudia and Dean arrived, Patrick, store owner, popped by to introduce himself.

"So, is this, like...a tournament?" he asked, clearly amused by our enthusiasm.  "Will there be a winner?"

After explaining our ballot-to-play-and-win system Patrick said "Okay!  Hold on a sec.  I'm gonna give you guys a prize!"  

He took me downstairs and handed over a free copy of the board game Ninja Versus Ninja!  After thanking him profusely I quickly turned to greet more arriving guests.  By the time everyone was accounted for, we had twelve attendees in total.  Sadly, Cheryl couldn't make it, having come down with a particularly nasty case of what appeared to be The Andromeda Strain only a few days prior.  

By 12:30 everyone had arrived so I was quick to get my game-on.  Inspired by Wil Wheaton's inaugural episode of TableTop, Andrew S. had prepared Small World for our amusement value.  Intrigued by the colorful board and the bizarre fusion of fantasy races and special powers, it didn't take very long before we were joined by Davecon first-timers Matt and Andrew B.

I'd played Small World twice before and eked out a win in the first game so I was really looking forward to trying it again.  It's actually quite simple: players first select a traditional fantasy race that's been paired up with some wacky random special ability.  Your goal is to compete with your fellow players over a continent rife with variable terrain and resources.  Eventually you'll put your first race into decline and select a new one to play.  Picking a savvy combination of race and power, exploiting the map's terrain, sabatoging your opponents and timing the decline of your previous race will all aid players in their quest for victory! 

Despite some frustrating luck with the die, I managed to conquer the north-east corner of the board with my Forest Dwarves and hold onto it for most of the game.  The two mountainous and two wooded regions turned out to be the gift that keeps on giving, scoring six to nine points for me on every round!  

Andrew tried to dig in with Bivouacked Ghouls but Matt saw the danger inherent in this and ousted him with his Spirit Tritons.  Andrew B. cut a bloody swath through the southern regions with his Heroic Orcs, cutting down natives like cordwood.  After three turns I put my Dwarves into decline and snapped up the Wealthy Sorcerers.  Andrew followed suit not long after with a pack of Stout Halflings.
My Sorcerers were like a house on fire.  They stabbed right into the heartland from the north, replacing several of Matt and Andrew's single active tokens with re-enforcements from the supply.  Andrew B. and Matt played a great first game but may have taken their first races into decline a bit too late.  They also kept kicking game runner Andrew in the cubes, giving me a chance to fester unmolested.

Matt switched to Seafaring Wizards but had some trouble exploiting their abilities.  Andrew B. bounced back very nicely with his Berserk Elves, but his sketchy luck with the die seemed to work against him.  Andrew went for numbers with his final race,  selecting the multitudinous Ratmen.   

My final race was perhaps my weakest pick of the game: Alchemist Humans.  By this time, Andrew knew that I was the front-runner and cut deep into my Sorcerer turf with this Ratmen.  I responded by sending my Humans down from the North, claiming a couple of farmland regions with some bonus Alchemical points to boot!       

The final scores were me: 94, Matt, 83, Andrew B. 75 and Andrew S. 67.

I positively love this game!  It's like a quicker, simpler fantasy-themed rejiggering of the Avalon Hill classic History of the World.  

While all of this was going on, Mark proved victorious in a life or death struggle (not really) against Dean and Mike in the Magic-meets-Dominion-meets-Yahtzee dice-building game Quarriors!

Rollin' bones seemed to be the order of the day as the dexterity game Tumblin' Dice also proved to be a major hit.  In Game One, Audrey schooled her sister Claudia as well as fellow competitors Dawn and Sabina.  The final scores were Audrey 104 (!), Dawn 98, Claudia 59, Sabina 28.

Next the gals tackled the card-matchin' party game Apples To Apples with Audrey continuing her winning ways.   Over the course of the day, three more games were played, with Andrew B., Sabina and Angela all scoring big wins over various contendahs.

In Game Two of Tumblin' Dice, Claudia had her revenge with the best score of the day: 117!  Who says hate doesn't make you powerful?  Audrey was second with 78, Sabina came in third with 61, Dawn placed fourth with 60 and Angela was the last winner with 47 points.

In Game Three Dean proved triumphant in a squeaker match with 70 points.  Dawn and Mark shared a score of 63 and Mike had a tally of one less!  

Dean then proceeded to host a game of the dice-a-licious Kingsburg with Dawn, Claudia, Audrey and Mike.  Despite never having played the game before, Dawn managed to beat her more experienced rivals.

Being a sucker for a board games based on vehicular slaughter I was powerless to resist Andrew's siren call to try out Road Kill Rally.  After scoring a low roll to determine initial set-up I was surprised to find myself second to start, with Matt in first, Andrew S. in third and Andrew B. in the fourth and final spot.  I'd soon find out that, unlike other racing games, having the pole position in Road Kill Rally is akin to having a giant target painted on your rear windshield.  

Matt, being the first to start, was also the first to drive through the flaming barrier on the very next tile, resulting in a wipe out.  I barely managed to navigate past this with Andrew² hot on my heels.  Behind the wheel of a car armed with Machine Guns, Ram Plates and Targeting Computers, I felt reasonably confident that I'd be able to maintain my lead.  

I missed running over my first pedestrian but managed to plow through three suicidal cultists at the cost of nearly wiping out.  After passing by Satan's Summer Home, we were all fortified somewhat by a tile which gave us some desperately needed Rally Cards.  My lead was still intact as I vanished into the next tile filled with obscuring smoke, but it wasn't meant to last.  Even though my car's Ram Plates would have allowed me to smash through the subsequent rock slide and score a few more kills, I was going w-a-a-a-a-a-y too fast to navigate the accompanying red turn. 

To make matters worse, Andrew B. kept trying to blow the real spoiler off my car which I managed to avoid by playing a "You Missed!" card.  Meanwhile Matt and Andrew S. seemed quite content with the idea of ramming each other off the road.  Although I kept leading the pack I also had no available target in my forward sights.  As a result I didn't score any Victory Points for damaging my opponents nor did I get an opportunity to pilfer any Rally Cards from them.  

Although he'd been attacked several times in the early goings of the game, Andrew S. continued to play a highly disciplined game, picking up two adult casualties and a few damage tokens to boot.  Wisely he let the rest of us blaze a trail for him, putting the pedal to the metal only when appropriate.    

As the pack grew tighter, Matt effectively turned Andrew B. into a briquette with his Flame Thrower, forcing a wipe out.  Andrew quickly bounced back by getting up to speed and scoring several octogenarian hood ornaments.  Sensing his intent to nail me from behind (!) I tried to drop a few well-placed mines into his path but my attack rolls were horrendous.

Andrew B's subsequent assault inflicted my first wipe out at the worst possible time, merely two tiles away from the finish line.  By the time I got back up to speed, both Matt and Andrew S. had blown past me to take first and second place respectively.  Despite his well-timed attack, Andrew B. placed fourth.

But even more important then where you finish in the race itself, there's all of those points earned for kills and opponent damage to tally up!  When everything was said and done, Matt won with 150 points, Andrew B. had accumulated a healthy 130 points, Andrew S. surprised with 110 and I totally washed out with 70.

Some post-game advice: abandon any assumptions that Road Kill Rally is your typical racing game.   Even if initial placement puts you at the head of the pack, don't be afraid to drop back, especially early in the game.  Lead cars are a frequent target and really have little to no hope of dealing with crazy track tiles as they're being placed.   

I feel as if we barely scratched the surface with this one.  I love the speed/movement mechanic, the color-coded turn difficulty and the use of hand management to represent damage and wipe outs.  I also dig how almost every tile creates a new and potentially deadly driving challenge.  Component-wise the tiles are a very high quality cardboard, the art design is appropriately garish and the plastic figures are darkly amusing.  All of these things help to evoke shades of Death Race 2000 meets Mad Max.        

During our engagement with Road Kill Rally, Angela came away lording her manual dexterity over opponents Sabina and Mark in a wild game of Donkey Kong Jenga.  Just prior to collapse, the tower resembled something designed my M.C. Escher.

The trio then segued into a tense contest of Last Night on Earth: The Zombie Game.  Sabina (as Sheriff Anderson and his son Billy) and Angela (playing Johnny and Sally) managed to whack their fifteenth zombie prior to sundown without a single casualty in the "Die, Zombies, Die!!!" scenario.

Another rash of Tumblin' Dice broke out immediately after.  In Game Four Dawn nabbed first place with a score of 79 but Mark was nipping at her heels with 76.  Mike placed third with 52,  Audrey had a respectable 48 points and Sabina earned the dubious honor of posting the lowest score of the day with an inexplicably sad six points.  The hell....!?  

In Game Five Matt (53) bested rivals Sabina (46), Andrew B. (32) and Angela (11).  

Game Six saw the same roster flip scores, with Andrew B. (51) just barely edging out Angela (50), leaving Sabina (39) third and Matt bringing up the rear (37).  

Audrey triumphed in Game Seven with a score of 85, besting Sabina and Mike (both with 54) as well as Claudia's 50 and Dawn's 46.

Naturally I had to jump in and show these noobs in Game Eight how not to do it by scoring a mediocre tally of 33.  Surprisingly my score didn't hold up to Mark's 83, Sabina's 77, Dawn's 67 or Claudia's 60.   Man, it's pretty sad when the person who comes in fourth nearly doubles your score! 

Next, Andrew B. managed to steal a win away from Matt (42), Angela (37), Sabina (30) and Andrew S. (27) with a score of 45 in Game Nine.  

Finally, in the Tenth Game, Matt got the duke with a score of 65, leaving behind Andrew B. (46), Angela and Andrew S. (with 44 points apiece) and Sabina with 23.     

Then Dean expertly led us through a traditional run of Ultimate Werewolf.  Even before there was a single casualty, Matt he Construction Worker discovered a horrible truth about one of his fellow villagers.  Unfortunately, Mike the Slightly-Too-Chatty Minstrel immediately drew the ire of his fellow bumpkins just by opening his mouth.  As a result, Matt's warnings about a certain piqued old lady who's eyebrows meet in the middle fell on deaf ears.

Ironically, every word Mike uttered seem to escort him closer and closer to the gallows pole.  But when it came time to a vote, Mike pulled out a bravura performance of "Freebird" and managed to dodge the impending noose.      

Overnight, Matt used his unearthly gift of second sight and was pleasantly relieved to confirm Mike's innocence.  That same night, however, the werewolves conspired to nosh on Andrew B., the town's stalwart trapper.

Armed with the hard scientific evidence that I was being "too quiet", Sabina as Bria (a former adventurer until she tragically took an Internet meme to the knee) turned the harsh spotlight of accusation upon me.  This was immediately seconded without hesitation or thought by Andrew S. Jerkstore.

I failed to sway the court of public opinion with my dazzling defense of "You're wrong!  Case closed!"  It wasn't long before Yim the Swedish Yuggler was a-hangin' in the air like a limp windsock.  After I revealed my identity card, thus proving my innocence, I assuaged my premature demise by calling all of the conspirators a bunch of dumb-asses before taking a seat in the spirit gallery.

Spent after a long hard day of rank murder, the villagers promptly fell asleep.  During the night our intrepid Seer looked into Bria/Sabina's heart and came away somewhat surprised.  During the night, the werewolves enjoyed a penguin-flavored nosh, chowing down on Trenlow the Strong (Smelling), cleaner of horse-stalls (a.k.a. Andrew S.)

After her quick accusations resulted in the demise of two innocent villagers, Sabina/Bria (henceforth known as "Sabria") fell under scrutiny.  Whipped up into the sort of frenzy only seen in old Frankenstein movies, the villagers wasted little time on logic or reason, even as Matt kept underscoring the town's old crone (a.k.a. Dawn).  Soon, Sabina found herself swinging like a sixty-year-old Floridian with a Cialis prescription.

The surprisingly resilient Seer then learned the truth behind Gretchen the Barmaid's  The mornings tentative light soon revealed that Lance (aka Mark) had been mauled to death, leaving the town's privies nastier then Snooki's navel.  The villagers finally started to listen to Matt's strident warnings and strung Dawn up, who proved to be the first justifiably lupine homicide!

But the following night, Matt made the mistake of peeking into Audrey's hovel mid-transformation. The Seer quickly paid for his new-found wisdom by ending up as a human chew-toy.

Desperate, Claudia nominated the virtually mute Angela, a move that was hastily seconded by Audrey. With a defense even more lame then my own, it didn't take long before the town's exotic flamenco dancer (?) was strung up and beaten like a Mussolini-shaped piñata.

And with the death of yet another lycanthropy-free innocent, the wolves achieved parity.  Audrey was declared the winner, her second victory in Ultimate Werewolf!        

It was getting late but we managed to sneak in a few more games before running low on time.  First Matt and Sabina scored three ballots apiece in two games of the buzzer-happy, verboten-word party game Taboo.  Andrew lured Dean, Audrey and Claudia into a game of Stone Age and then proceeded to annihilate them without mercy.  Being completely enamored with the wacky world of Kaiju films, I was an easy mark for Matt's demo of the Richard Garfield dice-fest King of Tokyo.

In King of Tokyo players assume the role of a giant monster trope and attempt to earn Victory Points by beating up on each other and occupying poor, beleaguered Tokyo (not for political reasons one can assume).  While alone in the city, monsters can dish out the hurt all across the board but can't heal until they surrender their prize to an opponent's beastie.

Every turn, players roll eight customized die and then mix and match the results like a poker hand.  They also have the option to use two additional re-rolls.  The numbered faces (marked one to three) score victory points when matched in multiples, the heart symbols heal your patron monster while outside the city, the claws can be used to attack the current occupant of Tokyo and energy bolts can be exchanged for cool cards that improve your chances and/or hinder your rivals.

Matt's giant ape (appropriately named "The King") was the first to score some Veeps by wading into Tokyo but he had to clear out after Mike's Kraken came a-knockin'.  He held onto the prize as long as he could but eventually had to surrender the title after getting knocked down to a single Life Point!      

Andrew B. didn't stay in the city for very long, choosing instead to pursue a few interesting strategies via the power-up cards ("OooOooo, an 'Extra Head!'").  It kept his monster (Meka Dragon?) relatively intact but it didn't net him a ton of Victory Points.  Meanwhile, I patiently waited for my chance to pounce by rolling modest doubles and triples and generally staying clear of the city core.

I tentatively moved into the city after my monster Giga Zaur finally managed to evict current occupant Andrew.  My trepidations were instantly justified after I got the shit hammered out of me in short order.  I could only hold on to Tokyo for a turn or so before slinking away to lick my wounds.  After healing somewhat, I used my energy reserves to purchase a card which allowed me to change a single die roll to whatever result I wanted.  Unfortunately I was forced to play it on Mike instead of myself in a vain effort to delay his rampaging ways.

Revitalized, Mike returned to his old stomping grounds and tossed the competition out on its ear.  Not long after he turned his creature dial to twenty Victory Points and the Kraken was crowned the new King of Tokyo!  The final scores: Mike 20 points, Matt 18, me 16 and Andrew B. had 12.

As a fusion between a Halo "King of the Hill" death match and the dice-chucking mechanics of Mmm...Brains! or  Zombie Dice I thought this was a deliriously fun little game which made a very strong case for purchase.  I can't help but think about how much more awesome it would be to re-skin this with Toho monsters.  Wouldn't it be so much better to be using Godzilla, Rhodan, King Ghidorah, Gigan or even that pansy Mothra instead of the copyright-friendly generic wannabes included in the game?  Sadly the Toho license always seems to go to virtually unplayable crap like Godzilla: Kaiju World Wars.

While Andrew was finishing up Stone Age, I led Mike, Dawn and Mark in a match of Shadows over Camelot.  In this thematically rich co-op game, players take the role of King Arthur and the noble  Knights of Camelot.  Collectively they attempt to complete quests for legendary items of renown such as the Holy Grail, Lancelot's Armor and Excalibur.  If successful, they can claim and use these helpful artifacts in game and also score victory points in the form of White Swords which are displayed on the Round Table.

At the start of every round, each player's Knight takes one of three unpalatable actions which advances the Forces of Evil.  This often comes in the form of a Black Card draw, which frequently complicates a quest or hampers the efforts of the heroes in some way.  Soon, the Knights will find themselves scrambling around the realm, trying to put out a slew of fires that come in the form of Saxon and Pict invasions, challenges by the diabolic Black Knight and catapults laying siege to Camelot.

If a quest is failed, Black Swords are placed to symbolize the defeat of the Knights.  The game ends when the twelfth sword token is placed on the Round Table.  Successful players will need to know who should quest solo, when to collaborate on a callenging task and how to share valuable resources.  

Before we got started Andrew S. goaded me into including the Traitor rule.  When you invoke this option, each player is dealt a Loyalty Card.  Seven of these dedicate the recipient to Arthur's cause but one card will command the player to sow the seeds of discord amongst the Fellowship. Naturally, these roles are kept secret until the Traitor is exposed or the game ends.  If a Traitor stands unrevealed at the conclusion of the game, two of the swords on the Round Table are flipped to their black side!     

Since I had three new players to the game, I probably shouldn't have played with this rule since the game is challenging enough without it.  I'd played Shadows over Camelot only three or four times before and never with a traitor in our midst.  But I have to admit that I was curious about this unknown X-factor so I let Andrew twist my rubber arm.

As Arthur, Mike kicked off the game.  For awhile he mostly stayed in Camelot, drawing a surplus of White Cards which we used to complete quests and tilt the odds more in our favor.  Mark as Sir Tristan used his ability to depart Camelot as a free action and went right after the Black Knight.  Dawn as Sir Percival ventured forth to try and prevent the Holy Grail from slipping into oblivion.  Alarmed by Excalibur quickly fading away from us, I raced to the quest and started playing Fight cards as soon as I could.

Mark won his quest against the Black Knight and finished off the work I'd started in recovering Excalibur.  I tried to aid Dawn in the Grail Quest but the two of us could do little to stop the oncoming deluge of "Despair" cards.  Dawn did manage to stem the tide of invading Saxons but seemed horrified when she found out that the invasion would soon begin anew!

Despite our setbacks, things were still running fairly smoothly as we approached the endgame.  Then, the thought of an unrevealed Traitor began to nag at me.  Mike in particular was doing some odd things, like using Arthur's power to pass along some m'eh cards all the while just kinda hangin' around in Camelot.  Even more suspicious: he began to play every single Black Card face down.  Granted this gave him a free bonus White Card in return, but it also kept Quest opposition completely unknown; a common tactic used by the Traitor.

So, naturally, I accused Mike of being a rat.  Aaaaaaand, of course, he wasn't.  Double dumb-ass on me.  Because of the false accusation, one of our White Swords was turned to black, swaying the match towards the Forces of Darkness.  Naturally, since I'd pointed an accusatory finger at Mike, suspicions were immediately leveled at me (and deservedly so).  My genuine display of contrition seemed to excuse me from any further inquisitions.  

But things were looking dire.  Unfortunately a revitalized Black Knight and the surging Picts quickly put us right back behind the 8-Ball.  With all but a few slots still vacant on the Round Table, we were trailing the Forces of Darkness by one Sword.  Undaunted, Mike gave us a fighting chance by jumping into the field, winning Lancelot's armor and then using its ability to banish the worst of the Black Cards to the bottom of the deck.  This gave us a glimmer of renewed hope.  Could we still pull off a win?!?

Our only hope now would be to try and slay the Dragon, which would have allowed us to flip a Black Sword to White in the final tally.  Unfortunately, with the Excalibur Quest done and the Grail Quest lost, each matching Black Card drawn was now being translated into a Siege Engine!  I managed to destroy one, freeing up a vacant spot, before a Black Card ordered us to place two of them on the board, bringing the total to twelve.  The game was over and we'd been defeated!

Although I take full responsibility for virtually assuring our loss, a tie wouldn't have won us the game and an unrevealed traitor would certainly have lost it.  Having said that, I probably should have discussed my intentions with my follow Knights before blurting out an accusation.  I promise, guys, we'll try this again real soon, only this time we'll play it without the paranoia-inducing Traitor rule (at least at first)!

Our day ended around 8 pm with the draw for our two prizes.  After Claudia expertly explored every nook and cranny of the Dark Lord of the Sith for errant ballots, Andrew B. pulled his own name to score the $55.00 Grand Prize!  He then drew Matt's name which allowed him to take home Ninjas vs. Ninjas!  This couldn't have worked out better since he'd been drooling over the game ever since it came up as a possible prize!

All told, Davecon 2012 proved to be a rousing success.  The venue was perfect, the new-to-me games totally rawked and the prizes this year were better then ever!

Although I now have a full year to ponder tweaks and improvements for next year's event, I'm left a bit cold knowing that we may not have another full-day gaming even until Hal-Con rolls around in October.

Honestly, I really started Davecon in the hopes that everyone in my circle might end up creating their very own customized eponymous event.  Just think of the possibilities: twelve attendees this year could translate into one mini-con a month!

Who knows, maybe one of these days I can attend back-to-back Andrew-Cons!
Photos by Michael Chiasson and Angela Wiwczor.


Friday, April 13, 2012

"Twilight Imperium": The Galaxy Strikes Back

Two weeks ago we were supposed to continue our epic Twilight Imperium game but Dean had to cancel.  Something about "chaperoning a vendor while he fixes a refrigerated centrifuge".   *Pfffftttt!*  Whatever!  That's, like...the oldest excuse in the book.

Despite only getting three hours of sleep the night before and slogging through an eleven hour work day, Dean forged on like a trooper and had us over this Wednesday past to continue our epic galactic struggle.  Fortified by our stellar company, Dean actually acquitted himself quite nicely for someone who was vaguely delirious.

Part One right here, BTW.

    Players & Their Races

Me...Naalu Collective (Blue)
Andrew...Embers of Muaat (Orange)
Dean...Mentak Coalition (Purple)
Chad...L1Z1X Mindnet (Yellow)


Strategy Card Selection

Chad...Technology & Bureaucracy
Andrew...Leadership & Assembly
Me...Production & Trade
Dean...Diplomacy & Warfare (OoooOooo...ironic!)

The "pricky"ability of the Naalu allowed me to act first.  I played the Production Strategy Card and hastily riveted my flagship, the Matriarch together.  I also blew a Trade Good to create a Production Facility on one of my planets.  Dean built as well but Andrew and Chad had to pass.  

Andrew played the Leadership Strategy Card, collecting three new Command Counters.  He also bought three more via the card's secondary action.  Chad and I followed suit, four Production Points worth of planets to purchase two Command Counters apiece. 

Dean attacked one of Chad's well-guarded systems with a single cruiser, obviously motivated by some sort of secret agenda.  Chad countered with "Skilled Retreat" allowing him to cleanly extricate himself  from the besieged system.  Not only did this foil Dean's plan but it also set Chad up nicely for his plan to swarm the system with a massive invasion fleet.  Betraying his exhaustion, Dean later realized that he'd missed a prime opportunity to use his PDS units against Chad.    

Chad then played the Technology Strategy Card to acquire a mind-blowing racial technology called "Inherited Systems", allowing him to purchase new upgrades regardless of prerequisites!  Although it does jack up his costs quite a bit, the general consensus around the table was that the other racial improvements looked like a fucking abacus in comparison.  Andrew purchased "Nova Seed", a seemingly inexplicable move at the time.  I employed "Corporate Sponsorship" to shamelessly plaster my "Stasis Capsules" with pictures of the Quaker Oats guy.  

I then threw down the Trade Strategy Card and picked up three Trade Goods.  Dean and Chad knit their own Trade Agreements back together after their little tête-à-tête.  

Andrew then proceeded to attack Chad's lone Destroyer which he discovered on a prior turn.  His Anti-Fighter Barrage failed to be very barrage-y and Andrew's interceptors quickly made short work of Chad's solo ship.

Dean took the opportunity to shuffle his fleet around.  Chad tried to assemble an invasion fleet but realized that he needed to recruit more ground forces.  After what felts like and endless spate of logistical wrangling, I finally sent my fleet through the wormhole into the sideboard galaxy.  After activating the system I moved my armada in to encounter this:

That's right, folks.  The unexplored area of space that I'd just moved a third of my fleet into suddenly went Supernova.  In the blink of an eye two Carriers, six Fighters, six Ground Forces and my General were all erased from existence.  Instantly, Andrew became the only player to have access to the ripe-for-the-plucking sideboard galaxy.  Three of us exchanged knowing looks, confident that Andrew was about to go crazy Broadway style in his own personal sector of the universe. 

In his mindless pursuit of Victory Points, Andrew attacked my fleet in empty space from the Urta/Bereg system with a Carrier, four Fighters, and a fucking Warsun!  Hideously outgunned, I took a cue from the Desert Fox and used my racial ability to retreat from the space battle and pull back to a neighboring sector.

"But I just wanted to destroy one of your ships!" Andrew protested, acting as if I'd just done something unreasonably inconvenient.  He also promised to withdraw his fleet from the contested region on his next turn, giving me a chance to showcase my world-famous "skeptical face".       

Dean used the Diplomacy Strategy Card to lay claim to a nearby planet.  Tapped out, the rest of us just couldn't abide the steep cost of the card's secondary ability.  

Chad's armada finally managed to coalesce, challenging Dean's lone occupying ship in the Capha system.  Dean missed with his initial pot shot but hit with one of his Cruisers!  Chad fired back with his two Dreadnoughts each scoring a hit and eliminating the opposition.  Andrew, representing the planetary defenders, drew blood which Chad sustained on a Mech unit.  That same Mech successfully counter-attacked but Chad's Ground Force whiffed, despite having a +1 bonus.  A few more rounds of spitball fire occurred before Chad delivered the coup de grâce with a Mech unit!  With that, the long-contested planet was finally his!  

With the shadow of Andrew's invading fleet on my front step,  I used a Command Counter to perform a two-pronged counter-attack.  My final assault fleet consisted of my Flagship, two Carriers, a Destroyer, three Fighters and my Merc-For-Hire.  After passing up the opportunity to play any pre-battle "Space Rape Cards", I drew first blood with my Destroyer's Anti-Fighter Barrage and Andrew was similarly fortunate.  His Destroyer also hit in regular combat.  My Flagship then blasted away, landing two solid smacks!  

Andrew responded with a solitary strike from his Carriers, but I quickly countered with two successful attacks of my own!  Armed with a +2 bonus, my Fighters outperformed Andrew's counterparts with a two-to-one hit ratio.  Finally Andrew's intimidating Warsun underwhelmed with only one hit, leaving  well-compensated Merc to deliver the death-blow.  All told, thanks to my lucky rolling, I managed to inflict seven casualties to Andrew's five, successfully wiping out the incursion.  Of course, it came at a high cost: a crippled Flagship, annihilated Carriers and the loss of most of my Fighters.

Desperate to rebuild, Andrew hastily cobbled together a Carrier and two Fighters on his turn.

Dean dropped the Warfare Strategy Card and pondered the pros and cons of attacking me.  After equating this to "kicking a legless puppy", I managed to persuade him to use his "High Alert" status to do some strategic redeployment instead.  No one else could take advantage of the card's secondary ability, so on we go.

Chad played the Bureaucracy Strategy Card, receiving a Command Counter, one of the two new Objectives, one Political Card and one Action Card.  The rest of us were forced to pass on the expensive secondary action.

Without an available Command Counter to spend, I had to pass, wasting an opportunity to re-build.   Grrrrrrr!            

Andrew played the Assemble Strategy Card, nabbing one Political and two Action Cards.  All the while he continued to rail against my unmitigated gall for defending myself, claiming that his attack on me was nothing short of "harminous".  Notwithstanding the fact that he mispronounced "harmonious" I was quick to point out that root of his fictitious word was "harm".  

"I was just trying to bring some light to your dark part of the galaxy with my Warsun!" Andrew proffered. 

"Yeah, well, if by that you meant to give me a 'Golden Shower', then yes, I believe you," I spat back.  

Andrew signaled the end to the debate by playing the Political Card "Holders of Mecatol Rex", which turned out to be moot since Mecatol Rex had no holders.  He then gave the Speaker Token to Dean who proceeded to construct a Spacedock with the Political Strategy Card's secondary ability.  

After we all passed, Andrew claimed a blood-covered Victory Point for the Pearl Harbor job he did on me ("Destroy an enemy ship adjacent to it's home system").  Dean scored a Veep for attacking Chad, an opponent he had a Trade Agreement with.  The Chadinator managed to construct his fifth Dreadnought so he also clocked a Victory Point.  With my plans dashed to ruins by an ill-timed stellar explosion all I could do was look on enviously.

Just before we picked our Action Cards, Chad played "Master of Fate", distributing them as he saw fit.  Dean and I used the Refresh ability inherent to our specialized systems and gained two free Trade Goods.  



Strategy Card Selection

Dean...Leadership & Assembly
Chad...Diplomacy & Bureaucracy
Andrew...Production & Warfare
Me...Technology & Trade

I used my racial ability to gain the initiative and play the Technology Strategy Card, scoring "Sarween Tools" for free.  Dean brought out his racial tech "Mirror Computing".  Although it was clearly killing him, Andrew forced himself to pass on the option.

Dean dropped the Leadership Strategy Card, claiming three shiny new Command Counters in the process.  Andrew and Chad chose to opt out of the secondary action but I couldn't resist purchasing two more Counters to bolster my Fleet Supply up to four.  

Chad immediately went after the first of three planets hoping to score another Victory Point.  Of course, since it's Chad, the Lesab system turned out to be booby-trapped with "Automated Defenses" causing him to lose one ship and one Ground Force.  Despite the casualties, he still managed to stake his claim on the planet. 

Completely unopposed, Andrew ventured through the Wormhole, ended up on the Gravity Rift tile.  He immediately landed on the planet Cormund and his ambition was rewarded with two free Trade Goods.  

I blew a Command Counter to start cranking ships out like fortune cookies.  In order to construct three Carriers and four Fighters, I was forced to tap nine Production Points from my systems.  Meanwhile, Dean quietly assembled yet another Spacedock.

Next, Chad jumped on his second planet like Rosie O'Donnell on a macaroon.  Finally, he came away with a positive result, discovering an Abandoned Ship Factory which earned him two free Resource Points worth of ships.

Andrew used the Warfare Strategy Card to shuffle his ships around but no one else opted for the card's supplemental action.

I moved into the Tar'Mann system and experienced a Peaceful Annexation (which, in my imagination, immediately translates into gaggle of hot n' loose alien chicks).

Dean snapped up Gral and Centari.  Snagging his own Peaceful Annexation, his captains apparently got lei'd just as soon as they climbed out of their ships.         

Inspired by our good fortune, Chad went for a three-peat but encountered a horde of homicidal savages that made the Dothraki look like bunch of Mormans.  Andrew hit for the defenders, forcing Chad to retreat.  Again.  

Unable to afford his Flagship, Andrew had to be content with building a Carrier, a PDS and a slew of Ground Forces.  Chad then spent five Resources for three ships but Dean and I, being completely tapped, had to take a painful pass.  

In tabling the Trade Strategy Card I immediately made with the exchange of Generic Commercial Units (of Commerce).  

Dean played the Political Strategy Token and gave me the Speaker Token after told him that such a donation would be considered tax deductible.  We all voted against Dean's Political Card which had the negligible impact of limiting production to only one of our Spacedocks for the remainder of the turn.  

Chad picked up a Command Counter via Bureaucracy.  He also flopped an Objective Card giving a Victory Point to anyone brave enough to tap ten Influence or ten Resources.  Interpreting this as end game move,  no one seemed crazy enough to go an entire round without doing anything.  Except maybe me.        

Andrew used the Warfare Strategy Card to evoke a "High Alert" and swarm Garboza.  He also landed on Sem-Lor and encountered a bunch of Lazak Survivors.

As the turn came back to me I found myself spent, like a man forced to use his genitals like a pendant.  I had to pass and Dean found himself in the same space boat.  

Chad asked the age-old question: "Which planet can I claim that won't kick the shit out of me?"  True to his luck, he encountered a Single Fighter defender but managed to overcome it and claim Ragnaron, right next door to Mecatol Rex!

Speaking softly and carrying a club curiously shaped like two fully-loaded Carriers, Andrew attempted to invade Garbozia.  After running into some "Settlers" he rolled low, forcing his Ground Troops to go back up to the ship.  I was then given an opportunity to place two of my very own Ground Forces down for free in defense of the planet.  Unwilling to pass up a chance to be a pain in Andrew's rectal cavity I quickly jumped on this.  

In a smooth move, Chad played the Diplomacy Strategy Card to claim the same planet that had irradiated Dean had run afoul of earlier.  Way back in Round Two, Dean had landed on the planet, flipped the counter, watched in horror as his troops got microwaved and then apparently blocked this horrible memory out of his mind and never back.  Yeah, did I mention that our illustrious host was working on only three hours of sleep?    

It was then Andrew's turn to reveal his own brilliant scheme, planting a "Nova Seed" in the Cormund System.  Although it cost him a Ground Force in the process, he also succeeded in collapsing the Wormhole, effectively sealing himself up in a galactic playground loaded with a shit-ton of resources.  This immediately prompted Chad to utter the deathless line:

"We either have to get Andrew now or collectively take it in the ass later."

I passed, Dean passed and Chad passed leaving Andrew one final build action to construct a Dreadnought and two PDS units which he used to re-enforce Lor and his home world.  In a final act of defiance, Andrew then proceeded to pull out his Flagship.  And, no, that's not code for something.  

At the conclusion of Round Four, Dean made a fateful proposal:

"So, guys, whattaya say we all gang up on Andrew?"

Chad claimed a Victory Point for finally completing the hard-fought "capture three planets in one round" objective and I finally managed to get on the board for constructing my third Yellow technology.  So, at the end of our second session here are the the Victory Point standings:

Chad...Four Victory Points
Dean...Three Victory Points 
    Andrew...Two Victory Point
Me...One Victory Point  ("Yay!")
Stay tuned for session three...coming soon!