Friday, November 16, 2012

Hal-Con 2012 - Day Two

Given the scarcity of open gaming tables at Hal-Con this year I made sure to be in the lineup at 9 AM sharp on Sunday when the doors opened.  I managed to secure the same table we'd used the day before and waited patiently for my peeps to show up.  Although Sabina, Chad and his family were out for Day Two Dean was in, giving us a four-person player pool.    


Immediately after Andrew purchased Lords of Waterdeep in the vendor room the previous day I began a concentrated campaign of naggery to make sure he prepped the game for Sunday.  Although he didn't get around to digesting it completely, he offered to lock it down while the rest of us played something else.

It was the perfect opportunity for Dean to run a game of Kingsburg.  Although we'd played it fairly recently, Dean had recently acquired the game's highly-prized To Forge a Realm expansion, which was supposed to patch up some of the game's minor gremlins.

Encouraged by this (and looking to avenge my craptacular showing in the last game), I wholeheartedly agreed to play.

Since I'd been clobbered in the final Winter battle right at the end of the last game, I decided to pick the General as my Governor Card, giving me an immediate +1 defensive bump.  Dean opted for the Sculptor, which gave him free Stone and the ability to swap out Gold for Stone when building.  Mike was the buxom Princess, granting him the King's Envoy (!), a Gold (!!), a Victory Point (!!!) and an extra die (! x 4) before the game even started!

Needless to say, the Governor role was kinda weak-sauce in comparison.

Overall, Mike orchestrated a considerably more efficient version of my strategy: going for high Victory Point buildings only after setting up a solid defense:

Dean also played a more focused game then I did, following a military track all the way up to the Wizard's Guild.  He also wrung a lot of additional production flexibility and bonus Veeps out of the "Embassy" path.   

Despite telling myself at the beginning of the game that I should concentrate exclusively on a military tableau, I still got lured in by high Victory Points along the "Religilous" track.  By constructing "Barracks" and "Improvised Defenses" I got lulled into a false sense of security, especially considering how conditional those bonuses are.  Overall, my strategy was way too scattered.  

Although my rolling wasn't universally awful like last game, but it was wildly inconsistent.  I rolled under eight a slew of times, causing me to pull a "Chad" and go for free Victory Points.  Then, all of a a sudden, I'd roll a consistent streak of ten plus for awhile.  Hells, I even hit the eighteen jackpot once and claimed the King.  Still, I didn't have any surplus cash to spend on soldiers at the end of the game like Mike and Dean did, which ended up being my downfall.  Again.  

Actually, I'm probably being be a bit too hard on myself.  After buying the Cathedral (for nine whopping Victory Points) I was actually still right in the middle of the pack as we began the end game.  Unfortunately this exhausted all my resources and I really couldn't do anything after Dean took a peek at the final challenge and promptly started levying troops like a madman.

Right at the end of the game, Dean and Mike parleyed their superior rolls into five and three bonus soldiers respectively.  Even though I couldn't afford any mercenaries, I knew that if Mike rolled anything but a one on our defense we'd all be safe.

Well, guess what?  He rolled a fucking one.  Again!

It was the exact same fucking finale as the last game I'd played.  Mike and Dean beat the challenge, getting a Victory Point bump while the seven-strength Barbarians broke into my Cathedral, stole everything of value, lit the place on fire and then gang-peed on the ashes.        

Final Scores
Me...a dismal 30

Even though Kingsburg keeps fucking me in every available orifice, I'll keep coming back to it like a battered spouse, hoping, just hoping, that this time the game won't push me down a flight of steps at the last second.  Although the expansion offers a metric shit-ton of new options, I really wish that they'd addressed the fact that a single shitty die roll can still completely dismantle your efforts.

By the time we were done, Andrew was ready to table his new purchase:

Lords of Waterdeep is like Stone Age by way of the D&D campaign setting Forgotten Realms.  Players are influential landowners fighting for dominance over the vast city of legend.  Via the strategic placement of Agents, you retain a host of Adventurers to complete Quests, earn rewards and broker influence.  Through the purchase of new buildings and the well-timed play of Intrigue cards, you must improve your efficiencies while hindering your opponents.

The player with the most Victory Points earned during and after the game is declared the winner!

House: Red Sashes
Lord: Durnan the Wanderer  

House: City Guard
Lord: Brianne Byndraeth

House: Knights of the Shield 
Lord: Piergeiron the Paladinson

House: Silverstars
Lord: Sammereza Sulphontis

Since Andrew was shooting for Commerce and Warfare Quests, Fighters, Rogues and the odd Cleric were his bread and butter.  He patronized his own Fetlock Court to keep him in a good supply of warriors and visited The Three Pearls to parley a surplus of useless minions into what he needed.  Indeed, his vast tracts of real estate served him well, netting him bonus Victory Points and Gold from the Heroes Garden and the Golden Horn.  He also popped into Mike's Waymoot (?) to augment his in- game Victory Point haul.

Given my focus on Skullduggery and Arcana, my Agents were tasked to frequent seedy spots like the Grinning Lion and build my own dives in the form of the Rogue-a-riffic Tower of Luck.  When funds began to dwindle, I opted for the more lucrative deals offered by the Golden Horn versus the fixed cache at Aurora's Realms.  Towards mid-game I really began to lean heavily on Andrew's Heroes Garden and chained together the completion of several quick four-point Quests.

Dean tried to avoid buying his own buildings, opting instead to exploit the ones that his rivals had purchased.  In his attempt to close as many Piety and Warfare Quests as possible, he sought out Fighters and Clerics via my Tower of Luck.  He also tried to keep the coffers full with several visits to Mike's Stone House.  This strategy was supplemented by the Cliffwatch Inn, which allowed him to cherry-pick Quests and earn a bit of coin on the side.

Seeking the completion of Arcana and Commerce Quests, Mike was constantly trying to retain a veritable Rogues Gallery of adventurers.  After falling behind a tad on construction, he surged back mid-game, building the very popular Waymoot and Stone House, both of which provided periodic windfalls of Gold and Victory Points.  Unfortunately, he was also forced to rely heavily on the basic Waterdeep destinations which let some inefficiencies creep in.      

At the end of the game, Victory Points were scored for extra Adventurers, bonus Gold and Lord Card "Secret Agendas".


This game was a genuine revelation.  Much in the same way that Castle Ravenloft stripped dungeon crawls down to the bare bones, Lords of Waterdeep manages take deep worker-placement Euro-fare like Agricola, Stone Age and Pillars of the Earth and distill it down into a completely immersive, compulsively playable hour long experience.

The components for the game are awesome.  The sheer volume of artwork used on the Intrigue and Quest Cards is impressive.  The building tiles and counters are made of a heavy-gauge cardboard and actually feel substantial.  The game board is gorgeously illustrated and the old-world style map is a joy to behold.  Even the game box storage tray represents a quantum leap in design innovation!  

Is the theme tacked on?  A bit.  Sorry, but whenever I turn in an allotment of tiny colored wooden blocks, I really don't feel as if I'm completing a "Quest".  The funny thing is, the flavor of the game would probably have been improved greatly with the inclusion of plastic figures or accurate meeples to represent Agents and Adventurers.  In fact, the way it is now, you could make a pretty lethal drinking by taking a shot every time someone refers to a Cleric, Fighter, Wizard or Rogue by their respective cube color. 

Nevertheless, I absolutely loved this game and it's gone right up on my "wish list."  Indeed, I can't help but reward Lords of Waterdeep with a perfect score!  

While Andrew prepped a proposed run of 7 Wonders, Dean, Mike and I got into a quick game of Magic: The Gathering.  Even before the turn had a chance to get all the way around the table, Andrew threw down his 7 Wonders rules sheet and dealt himself in.  

I played a Black Vampire deck, Dean played Red Haste, Mike played a Speedy Godzilla Deck and Andrew played an Elvish Piper deck.

As the more experienced players, Dean and I immediately went at each other like Itchy and Scratchy, giving Mike and Andrew an opportunity to consolidate their holdings.  Dean threw everything but the kitchen Sinkhole at me: Lightning Elementals, Raging Goblins and Viashino Sandstalkers assaulted me at every turn whilst my Acolyte of Xathrid and Guul Draz Vampires were felled mercilessly by Shocks.  

Now hopelessly outnumbered, you can probably imagine my elation when I drew my ninth Swamp, giving me the ability to cast Plague Wind and annihilate all of my opponent's creatures.  This effectively hit the reset button, allowing me to regain the initiative.  I did so in style, using my Gatekeeper of Malakir's Kicker cost to remove Dean's sole defender.  After my Gravedigger exhumed a Fear-driven Severed Legion, I knew that I had a lock on Dean.  Not long after, Mike trampled him to death with a few attackers, getting revenge for an earlier Lava Axe to the mush.  

Since Andrew was stagnant under a crippling Mana drought, I focused exclusively on Mike, dropping him down to five Life Points before some Llanowar Elves and a Yavimaya Enchantress came to his defense.  I dropped a Contaminated Bond on the Enchantress and then promptly kicked myself as a big, fat, hairy Emperor Crocodile came waddling out of nowhere.  

And then Mike played this beast:


Since my Plague Wind had eliminated all of Andrew's big fatties, Andrew was instantly killed.  Biorhythm was certainly was decent equalizer, dropping me down to three life points to Mike's five.  And since ,  wiped off the board, he hit a crippling Mana drought and I was  quick to perform a mercy-kill. 

Unfortunately his timing was a slightly off.  After bringing out a Zombie Goliath to hold off Mike's attackers, my unblockable Severed Legion eventually did him in.

We quickly dealt a new hand for a second game.  This time Dean had no help with Mana draws and quickly became the first victim in our survival of the fittest.  Meanwhile, Mike was having the opposite problem and quickly sprouted the equivalent of Germany's Black Forest in front of him.  This allowed him to effortlessly push out some big critters like a Trained Armodon and the appropriately-named Enormous Baloth.

Like Dean, I was also experiencing serious Mana issues and could only conjure up a woefully inadequate Mindless Null and Acolyte of Xathrid to block for me.  Needless to say, it wasn't long before Mike's Baloth stomped a colossal mud-hole in my ass.

At the same time, Andrew was using his own Mana avalanche to protect himself with a Traproot Kami and bring a dangerous Elvish Piper onto the battlefield.  With no way to inflict direct damage on the Piper, Mike soon sound himself hip-deep in Elvish Archdruids, Greenweaver Druids and an Avatar of Might whose already-obscene Power and Toughness was needlessly inflated with Blanchwood Armor.

Mike couldn't compete with this one-sided arms race and eventually he was over-run, giving Andrew the duke.

As a debate broke out regarding what our final game of the day should be, I took a stroll around the convention hall, first pausing to admire yet another stellar "History of Dungeons & Dragons" display set up by The Gelatinous Dudes:

And me without me glass-cutter.  Damn!

I also made an eleventh hour purchase in the vendor room, picking up a copy of the recent Dungeon! reprint from Monster Comic Lounge.  Although I know it's a pretty simple game, this one holds some sentimental value for me.  And not from playing it as a kid but from not being able to play it as a kid!

Y'see, in the late Eighties / early Nineties, I fell out of board gaming and ended up passing on several prototypical dungeon crawl / adventure games like HeroQuest, DungeonQuest and Talisman.  I'd also passed on The New Dungeon and The Classic Dungeon reprints so I wasn't about to let that happen again.  Hence, for twenty measly bucks, I finally managed to snag the one that got away!

When I got back to the table, the general consensus was that we were gonna give Smallworld Underground a bash.

Small World Underground is a variation on the original Small World, which we've played several times before.  This version gives players oodles of variety in the form of fifteen new races and twenty-one original special powers.  During the course of the game players use a draft-style mechanic to take command of various creatures and powers and then use these combos to conquer regions on the new subterranean map.  When your chosen race's ability to expand has been all but exhausted, you can put them into Decline and pick a new race.  Timing this option well is a sure key to victory.

Dean had just picked up this expansion, so he was super-anxious to give it a try.  Unfortunately he also didn't have a lot of time to prep it, so we went into the game assuming that it was nothing more then a cosmetic re-theme of the original game.  Man, were we wrong.

But that realization didn't hit us until much, much later.  Right off the bat, my Mining Cultists swarmed the south-eastern corner of the map, snapping up as many mines as possible while keeping my Great Ancient marker away from the front lines.  Dean's Drow were contained to the central riverbanks while Mike's oxymoronic Stone Mudmen launched incursions from both the north and southwest.  Andrew went full-tilt with the Wise Spiderines for only two rounds before wisely dumping them in lieu of a  Shroom surge.

I declined my Cultists and quickly snapped up the Immortal Iron Dwarves, who drove all the way to the banks of the river from the northwest.  The aquatic Muddy Kraken not only occupied the actual river, they also ousted some of the defunct Drow from their warrens along the banks.  Undaunted, Andrew's stealthy Vampire Lizardmen bypassed the river blockade to took over almost the entire  peninsula.  Meanwhile, Andrew's Royal Flames ran riot in the south.        

The Flames and Lizard men went into decline, joining remnants of the Cultists, Mudmen, Kraken, Drow and Shrooms.  Armed with their Silver Hammers my Iron Dwarves continued to drive deep into the heartland.  Andrew sent a fresh onslaught of Tomb Shadow Mimes in from the northwest, seriously impacting my Dwarves.  They also got a swift kick in the chops from Mike's Will-o'-Wisps, which sprang out of the river and earned bonus points for occupying the nearby river banks with their Fisher ability.  Finally, my lingering Cultists got done up a real treat by Dean's mob of Mystic Mummies.          

The final score of the game seemed inordinately high yet well-in-line with the players who'd declined the most races.  Dean won with 103 points, Andrew had 101, I scored 95 and Mike hauled in 85.

While we were playing the game a fellow conventioneer (and massive Smallworld fan) came over periodically to watch us play.  Each time he stopped by, he seemed increasingly agitated by something.  Eventually he felt compelled to speak up, cataloging a litany of rules that we were were fucking up.  Such as:
  • Ignoring the customized Underground rule regarding Relics.
  • Failing to implement the Places of Power option.  
  • Dwarves who can apparently tread water longer then Michael Phelps.  
  • Worst of all: we somehow telegraphed the rule that prevents players from having more than one race in decline at a time.  This could explain why Mudmen, Shrooms, Drow, Flames, Cultist and Lizardmen where all still loitering around at the end of the game.  I guess that explains the ludicrously high scores, huh?  Heh, heh.  
At one point in time I thought the spectator was gonna call designer Philippe Keyaerts and have Days of Wonder's rules lawyers arrest us for gross negligence.  And frankly, we wouldn't have had a leg to stand on.

Despite fucking up out last game to the point of parody, we all had a great time at Hal-Con 2012 and agreed that it was the perfect venue for unfettered gamery.  Next year, please Vishnu, more of us will be back and this time we'll be there for all three days.

Keep a table free for us, Hal-Con!  We're already counting down the days!


Can't wait 'til next year?  Click on the images below to order the games featured in this post and help out ye olde blog all at the same time!



  1. Hey David,
    Glad you gave Kingsburg another try but the expansion does certainly address the die roll you don't like. It's the tokens included for each player I mentioned in your last review. It's a simple addition that takes away the most annoying part of the game.
    I'm also a big fan of Lords of Waterdeep.

  2. How do you acquire the tokens, Kris?

    1. They're in the box with the expansion. Everyone gets a set of tokens from 0 to 4. Instead of rolling the die at the end of the year, you pick a token before revealing the threat. That number is added to your military for the year. Because there are 5 tokens you will have one left at the end of the game. That token adds bonus VP's equal to its value. So if you go hard on military in the game you can keep the 4 for 4 bonus points. A very simple addition that has a big impact. Totally removes the dice screwage of that king roll.

  3. Oh, man, I'm totally gonna kill Dean for not telling us about these! Thanks, Kris!

  4. For the sake of full disclosure, here’s Dean’s rebuttal:

    “At the beginning I explained that we were not playing with that particular part of the expansion. The expansion is actually five mini expansions in one. I thought playing with them all was too much.”

    Translation: I really gotta clean the shit out of my ears because if I'd known that we weren’t playing with this particular rule I would have lobbied hardcore for its inclusion.

  5. It's probably the simplest of all the mini expansions. I've actually never played with any parts other than that and the expanded boards. I'll have to try the characters and events sometime.