Tuesday, November 18, 2014

"Well Done, Emma!" - Cabin Con 2014

Seems like all I do lately is either teach people how to play games or write about games. Mercifully I have Cabin Con to look forward to every Fall, when the five core members of our gaming group sequester ourselves away for a few days in an isolated log cabin next to Lake Ainslie in Cape Breton to do some concentrated card floppin' and wanton die-rollin'.  It's the perfect opportunity to flip the script on my gaming-deprived existence.

As recounted here and here, we've been fine-tuning this event to the point where I think things are just about perfect. Last year we limited the number of games we brought along and made a concerted effort to prep everything so that there was very little down time. This year we added an extra day, giving us even more time to delve into meatier titles and/or re-play anything that went over particularly well.

My patient and thoroughly-awesome wife's birthday was that Thursday so I hitched a ride with Mike early the following morning. This worked out perfectly since the dude drives for a living and he made the four-hour trek in record time. Even after stopping briefly in Antigonish for some hootch and foodstuffs we still got there just a shade after lunch.


When Mike and I rolled in, Dean, Chad and Andrew were polishing off a game of Legends of Andor, which I'd have a chance to play later that weekend (see below). While we waited for them to finish up, Mike and I played a quick game of Marvel Dice Masters: Avengers vs. X-Men.

My Roster:

Beast - "Genetic Expert", Ghost Rider - "Johnny Blaze", Hawkeye - "Longbow",
Phoenix - "Ms. Psyche", Storm - "'Ro", Spider-Man - "Webhead", Thing - "Ever Lovin', Blue-Eyed", Wolverine - "Wildboy"

Mike's Roster:

Angel - "High Ground", Black Widow - "Natural", Captain America - "Natural Leader",
Gambit - "Ace in the Hole", Hulk -"Annihilator", Human Torch - "Matchstick", Iron Man - "Philanthropist", Nick Fury - "Mr. Anger"

Basic Action Cards:

"Gearing Up" (Red), "Power Bolt" (Yellow), "Inner Rage" (Green), "Rally!" (Blue) 

Acutely aware of how important it is to draw dice and get more Energy flowing A.S.A.P., Mike and I quickly cleaned out all of the "Power Bolt", "Inner Rage" and "Gearing Up" dice! Only the new-to-us "Rally!" Basic Action Card had dice left on it by the end of the game.

Armed with this surfeit of extra Energy, I did my best to acquire as many Phoenix and Wolverine Dice as possible, augmenting this with a smattering of Storm, Spidey, Hawkguy, Beast and Ghost Rider.

Mike piled on with a platoon of core Avengers: including all of his Iron Man and Captain America Dice. Into this mix he added three Human Torches; a solid move since they stack so well together.

I took an early lead but Mike's structurally-sound engine turned on mid-game, bolstered by the periodic appearance of Nick Fury, who made both Wing and Shell-Head completely free to Field. I stayed calm and weathered this assault with a few advantageous blocks.

After securing my own defenses I struck back with a nasty counter-attack, using Storm's powers to clear the way for a swarm of attackers including Beast, Hawkeye and some hot double-Wolvie action.

Winner: Me!

This game was ridiculously close; I only had five Life left at the end of the game!

I'm still really enjoying this game and would gladly play it every morning as part of a balanced breakfast. The jury's still out on how deep I'll go into the Uncanny X-Men set. I'll probably just buy a starter and enough boosters to collect all of the Common characters. If I get a super-rare in my travels, well, hey, that's just gravy.

Next up, Dean insisted on showing me his deck. His Magic deck, that is!

Keen to demo the new Magic The Gathering Clash Pack he had me play the "Fury" Deck while Chad gave the "Fate" deck a spin.

Right away I was impressed by this super-nasty, super-quick mélange of Red and Green fatties contained within this deck. Chad did his best to thwart the incessant tsunami of brutes I sent his way, but he just couldn't recapture the initiative. On the very last turn of the game, Chad used "Griptide" to temporarily set aside my "Arbor Colossus", but by then my Creatures had already spawned a veritable shit-swarm of counter critters.

I still had 13 Life left when I used a "Lightning Strike" to blast Chad's "Hypnotic Siren", clearing a path for my remaining counters to deal eight lethal damage all at once.

Chad had 6 Life remaining before I put finally him out to pasture. "Dead Man Walkin'!"  

Presumably because Dean thought that Chad had "used his 'Fate' deck wrong", he personally challenged me in the second match. But the "Fury" deck worked just as well for me the second time around!

Desperate to stay ahead of me in the arms race, Dean thumped all of my early Creatures, no matter how weenie they were. I responded by laying out "Kiora's Followers" with a quick "Lightning Strike" but he soon produced another one, which he immediately pumped up with a "Leaf Crown Dryad".

But a few fortunate draws started to give me an edge. "Font of Fertility", "Voyaging Satyr" and "Elvish Mystic" quickly put me ahead in the Mana race while "Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx" gave me all the flexibility I'd ever need to cast stuff at will. Pretty soon I had an uber-nasty 5/5 Monstrosity called "Nemesis of Mortals" out and (!) breathing down Dean's neck.

Dean managed to take the thing out with two card-drawing engines: a 3/3 "Thassa's Emissary" and a Flash / Flying / Trample / Sarcasm annoyance called "Horizon Chimera". Undeterred, I just kept my nose to the grindstone and drew one incredible card after another. After plopping two 3/3 tokens down in front of me and seeding my next two draws, "Fated Intervention" quickly got me back on track.

From there on in every pull was perfect and I had more then enough Mana to table whatever I wanted. I gambled by tapping out with the casting cost of a "Genesis Hydra" but ended up with a Life-gaining 2/4 "Courser of Kruphix". My next draw: a freakin' 7/7 "Hydra Broodmaster"! On my next attack, Dean didn't have enough defenders to hold back the combined 9/9 tidal wave of doom that crushed what was left of  his two remaining Life points.

As for me, I finished up with 11 Life Points remaining. Huzzah!

By the time we were done it was late afternoon and I was craving meatier fare. Enter Stefan Feld's Bruges!  

Here's what publisher Z-Man games has to say about this recent release:

"Belgium, 15th Century. The first stock market opens its doors. All of Europe has set its eyes on the wealthy and influential city of Bruges.

"In this game, your objective will be to gather influence with the local merchants, bureaucrats, nobles, and the many others that rule this beautiful city. With their help, you hope to gain prestige, reputation, and power.

"But you must be careful, as disasters lurk nearby. Ruse, tactical thinking, and a little luck will allow you to pull ahead. And if that is not enough, the shadier denizens of the city will be more than happy to help.

Looking to chow down on the Waffle of Knowledge? Then click here to steer your gondola right down the ol' rules canal! 


Andrew...Red, Chad...Green, Me...Yellow, Mike...Blue

My timing was less then perfect as I procured the Jailor, the Earl and the Priest and, as a result, I ended up short-changing myself. Chad was way ahead of the curve, retaining the Juggler, the Mayor and the Princess. Andrew was also left in the dust and Mike seemed w-a-a-a-a-a-y too preoccupied filling up his Canals (?) with whatever shit was handy just to score those watery benchmarks.

Not only did Chad do a primo job recruiting staff for the city, he also scored well on the Houses, netting two each in Brown, Yellow and Purple and then one Blue and Red. In contrast I got ahold of only five structures in total while Andrew trailed with four and Mike only scored three.  

Chad and Andrew picked up some Laurel icon peeps such as the Mayor in order to secure a few exclusive Victory Point bumps at the end of the game. I lost out on this and the entire concept of tracking Majorities. Apparently I was so busy trying to compete (poorly) in every single freakin' category that I neglected to specialize in either Reputation, People or Canals. 

Speaking of Canals, Mike was obsessed with the friggin' things. If you know Mike then you know how much he loves to fill up 'dem Canals. Wow, that sounded bad. Anyway, Mike managed to hit two Canal-related benchmarks during the course of the game while Andrew and I scored one apiece. Chad, who was just having fun with his Medieval dance party, decided to forgo this route entirely. Mike was also richly rewarded with the acquisition of seven very rare Statue points. 

One downside: Mike's Canal fetish caused him to ignore the Reputation Track for all intents and purposes. I made a few half-assed plays in that direction, but Chad and Andrew were much more adept at co-coordinating Majority advancements with their dice.


People: Mike...3, Andrew...5, Me...7, Chad...15 (!)
Houses:   Chad...8, Me...5, Andrew...4, Mike...3
Benefits from People: Chad...6, Andrew...4
Majorities: Andrew...8, Chad...4, Mike...4, Me...0
Canals: Mike...6, Andrew...3, Me...3, Chad...0
Reputation: Andrew...4, Chad...4, Me...3, Mike...1
Statues: Mike...7, Andrew...6, Me...5, Chad...0


Me...34, Mike...38, Andrew...43, Chad...45


This was definitely one of my favorite games of the entire weekend. I loved the setting, the artwork and the components. I loved the variables provided by the different Building colors, the dice, the workers, the Guilders, the Reputation track, the Threat Markers, the Canals, the Majorities and the myriad of different People! And what makes Bruges especially awesome is that it's super-easy to pick up and quick to play.

During last year's Cabin Con I played another Feld game called Bora-Bora. At the time I referred to that one as "a veritable buffet of Victory Point sources" in which the "theme is rendered almost non-existent". And, honestly, after playing Bruges that opinion is solidified even more for me.

Next up we decided to go with something a tad lighter. And what better way to decompress then to play a goofy dexterity game like Disc Duelers

Here's the (no pun intended) "pitch" for this one right straight from tha' Geek:

"In Disc Duelers, players control a team of 3-5 characters, which are drafted during the initial set-up. Each of the 52 characters is represented by a card and a disc. The card shows ratings for movement and attacks, plus a special ability. The game can be played on any flat surface, although a four-foot-square table is recommended. Players place everyday objects on the table to act as terrain.

"On his turn, a player activates a character. He may then move and attack by flicking the corresponding disc. A moving disc that hits terrain suffers no damage, but hitting other discs causes one damage to the active character. An attacking disc suffers a point of damage if it hits terrain and causes a point of damage to another character if it hits its disc. Knocking a disc into terrain or off the table inflicts an additional point of damage. A character is eliminated when it takes five points of damage. A character's ratings determine how many times it can move and attack each time it is activated. Optional item cards, if used, can be acquired during play and provide additional actions.

"Disc Duelers includes several play options, including classic elimination, point capture (points scored for eliminating a character, but that character returns to action), soccer or volleyball with a neutral disc representing the ball, and a race."


Andrew: Abarene, Cherri, Joal

Chad...Vanaah, Kehrolyn, Shekhtur

Me...Alexian, Jager, Magdolina

Mike...Demitras, Hikaru, Luc

Our arena consisted of the cabin's iconic sky-blue kitchen table, covered with a few citronella candles, a bottle of Big 8™ water, Dean's "Fate & Fury" Magic deck box, Hector the Diabolical Chicken™, and "Hometree" from the reviled landfill-fodder crap-fest Avatar: The Board Game.

The bodies started piling up pretty quick with Mike's Demitras being the first one eliminated. 

Cursed with the misfortune of having the one and only character with more Life Points than any other, Alexian was mercilessly hunted down by Hikaru and his pack of ruffians until he was killed like a dog in the street. 

Things continued to descend into anarchy. Seeking vengeance for my part in killing Demitras, Mike kept hounding me, eventually murdering Magdolina with a kamikaze Hikaru, who flew off the table and died in the attempt. Then, for the sake of sheer randomness, Shekhtur proceeded to plow Mike's last character, Luc, right in his wide-eyed, super-deformed face. Deciding that it was time for Chad to feel the harsh sting of loss, I used Jager to avenge Luc by polishing off good ol' Shekie.    

As per standard procedure, Chad and Andrew went after each other almost immediately. Vanaah made quick work of both Abarene and Cherri. Andrew quickly retaliated, living vicariously through Joal by sending Vanaah to her grave. Drunk with power, Joal went on a killing spree, ganking poor little Jager merely because he was within flickin' distance. 

With an inopportune miss, Chad left Kehrolyn wide open to be pinged off the table by a battle-frenzied Joal!


Disc Duelers is a perfectly suitable finger-flickin' dexterity game. I don't think I'd ever play with the Item Cards since this would probably add more book-keeping and general annoyance. As it is, the ethereal character powers and spacey collateral damage is more then enough to drive the average rules lawyer completely batshit nuts.

After cleansing our palate with Disc Duelers it was back into deeper waters, this time in the form of Hansa Teutonica! I'd heard about this game many times before and I was really anxious to try it. That is, until Andrew plopped the box down on the table in front of me:

Seriously? SERIOUSLY?!? Have you ever, ever seen anything so boring, dorky and unpalatable?

What is the deal with Eurogame box covers featuring Renaissance hipster assholes clad in well-appointed pantaloons and sporting the world's most prissy facial expressions? You just know that this guy hangs out with the dudes from El Grande and The Princes of Florence and all they talk about are valances, shoe buckles and how to make the best shrimp scampi.

Anyway here's what the Hansa Teutonica rulebook says about this one:

"Players attempt to increase their standing as merchants in the Hanseatic League by gaining prestige points. This may be done in different ways including establishing a network of Offices in new cities or improving trading skills. Players accomplish various activities during their turns. Traders and merchants (collectively 'resources') may be inserted on the game board, moved, or even used to displace other player’s resources. If they eventually occupy an entire trade route between two cities, a new Office may be established. Players may instead choose to develop their trading skills in particular cities, improving their abilities throughout the course of the game. The game can end in one of 3 ways and the winner is the player who has most prestige points when this occurs."


Both Andrew and Chad seized on the importance of maximizing their development in one particular category right away. By the end of the game, Andrew had improved all four of his Colors while Chad concentrated on hitting the top tier on all four of his Skills. Andrew also did great job earning tons of in-game Prestige by gaining control of certain hubs that he knew that the rest of us would visit over and over again to improve our own Skills. 

I don't know if Chad had played this one before but he certainly acted as if he did. Maxing out all of his abilities certainly gave him the power to chain several actions together. By the time we picked up on his strategy, he'd already left the rest of us in the dust when it came to controlled Cities. Needless to say, he was sittin' pretty by the time we got around to counting up chained routes.

Knowing that I wasn't going to come anywhere close to unlocking all of my Activities I concentrated on ramping up my Privilege. I followed this up by placing a Merchant on an empty field in the Prestige Point tableau next to Coellen instead of opening a new Office. For purely experimental reasons I also picked up a Switch Officer Bonus Marker which I barely took advantage of in-game.   


Maximized Skills: Andrew - 4 Points, Chad - 4 points
Bonus Markers: Me - 1 Point
Merchants in Coellen:  Me - 8 Points
Controlled Cities: Chad - 25 Points, Me - 8 Points, Andrew - 6 Points, Mike - 6 Points
Largest Network: Chad - 5 Points, Andrew - 3 Points, Me - 2 Points, Mike 2 Points






I gotta confess: I was pretty freakin' skeptical when I sat down to play Hansa Teutonica but after a quick briefing from Andrew I was completely engrossed. Despite the deceptively simple mechanics, you have plenty of interesting choices to ponder during the game. Here are just a few tactics to consider:
  • Do you want to develop the largest network of connected Offices, paying particular attention to heavily-trafficked routes? 
  • Should you max out your Activities so that you have access to the maximum amount of actions per turn?
  • Do you tap into the black region of your Privilegium, gaining access to every City and making your acquisitions more economical? 
  • Do you speed-read the Book of Lore in order to perfect your flexibility? 
  • Will you improve your income in order to displace the rivals that are constantly in your way? 
And this is just you over-arching strategy. From turn to turn you'll struggle with plenty of interesting decisions. Plus it doesn't hurt that the game board is absolutely stunning to look at:

Even though I was pleasantly surprised by Hansa Teutonica, it was also completely and utterly devoid of theme. As such, I thought it would be the perfect time to bust out one of the contrasting games that I'd brought along with me: the Tom Jolly spell-flingin', treasure-snatchin' classic Wiz-War.

Here's what publisher Fantasy Flight has to say about this one:

"Wizards wage no-spells-barred magical duels deep in an underground labyrinth in Wiz-War. This classic board game of magical mayhem for 2-4 players pits players’ wizards against each other in a stupendous struggle for magical mastery. Win by stealing other wizards’ treasures and hauling them back to your base, or just score points by blasting the other wizards. The last wizard standing always wins."

Assuming that I was the biggest threat at the table just because I own the fucking game, Andrew immediately waltzed into my zone, helped himself to one of my Treasures, gave me the finger and then casually tried to stroll away, whistling while he went. I immediately snapped, perusing him like a spell-flinging Terminator. I busted down doors, destroyed walls and fired an endless barrage of offensive spells at him. When my mystical tank ran dry I resorted to plowing him square in the mush several times. Hey, the classics never die.

By then, Andrew was thinking that he might have made the wrong call. He tried to fight back but I had a counter-spell, shield, or insta-wall available every time he came at me. By the time I dropped a "Slow Death" card on him he was proper fucked: he had to draw cards in order to defend himself but every time he did this this nasty spell chipped away at his life total. Any way you cut it, this curse definitely accelerated his demise!

Meanwhile, on the other side of the board, Mike and Chad were engaging in some light skirmishes. Mike didn't put up much of a fight as Chad "yoinked!" one of his Treasure, concentrating instead on pilfering his own little windfall. Nobody paid much attention as Chad squirreled away his first Victory Point and then ventured back into Mike's sector to try and nab another.

Having killed Andrew and claimed one permanent Veep, all I had to do was snatch up one of his undefended Treasures and then beat feet back to my Home Space for the win. Armed with the perfect combo of "Wind Rider" and an Energy boost I had plenty of mobility to accomplish this all in one turn.

Unfortunately Chad was still encountering minimal resistance, so after grabbing another handful of Mike's jewels (?) he dropped an Energy boost, played a "Pass Through Wall" spell and then cruised eight spaces back towards his own Home Space! Since I'd used up all of my best majiks to murder Andrew I had nothing left to prevent Chad from stealing my hard-earned victory away from me!

As detailed in this recent entry I missed out on buying Wiz-War when it first came down the pike but when Fantasy Flight released its swanky new reprint I jumped at the chance to buy it. And I'm so glad that I did since it's freakin' awesome!

Granted the game isn't for everyone. If losing in the same manner described above would inspire you to jump over the table and murder your opponent in cold blood then this is definitely not the game for you.

But for me Wiz-War does exactly what it says on the tin: you run around a maze, jacking treasure and chaining a massive catalog of spells together to creatively murder your opponents. I absolutely loved it and I hope to play it again sooner rather then later.

By then it was about 1 am in the morning. It had been a long day of travel so I decided to hit they hay to get an early start on the following day.


After a quick breakfast, Andrew charitably offered to guide Mike and I though Legends of Andor, which we'd both missed out on yesterday.

Here's the game's dust-jacket description:

"Legends of Andor is a cooperative adventure board game for two to four players in which a band of heroes must work together to defend a fantasy realm from invading hordes. To secure Andor’s borders, the heroes will embark on dangerous quests over the course of five unique scenarios (as well as a final scenario created by the players themselves). But as the clever game system keeps monsters on the march toward the castle, the players must balance their priorities carefully. Will their heroes roam the land completing quests in the name of glory, or devote themselves to the defense of the realm? Uncover epic tales of glory as you live the Legends of Andor!"

If you're looking for a more epic quest then venture a click on the following link to read the quick-start rules

I believe it was "Legend Three - The Darkness Descends" that we played. Andrew was Kram (?) the Dwarf, I was Thorn the Fighter and Mike was Pasco the Archer. After Andrew briefed us on the rules he told us about the three main objectives: protect the castle, find an herb to cure the King and assault the main tower of the Big Bad. 

Andrew went rogue, searching through the fog-blanketed northern reaches to recover useful resources, not the least of which was the Witch's healing herbs. Almost immediately he found himself in deep water: heavily wounded and completely isolated. Meanwhile, both Mike and I got roughed up by Gors in two separate battles.

Then, all of a sudden, it was as if Andrew remembered how to play the game. He nudged Kram away from death's door and then encouraged Mike and I us to tackle the monsters together. After we partnered up, we made a pretty formidable team and pretty soon we'd stemmed the incessant tide of Gors marching towards the castle. 

From there on in it was pretty smooth sailing. Andrew located the Witch, sent her "herbs" back to Mike via Falcon Priority Post which cured the ailing monarch. In the same exchange, Mike sent one of the fabled Rune Stones back to Andrew who recovered the other two for a nice little power up. Meanwhile, Mike and I allied with the NPC Prince Thorald to keep our immediate environs safe for travel.

By then we'd thumped a lot of baddies so our collective Strength and Willpower was pretty formidable. When Andrew revealed the location of the enemy tower to the north-west we promptly set off to tackle our final adversary: a juiced-up Skral. This was a bit of a gamble since two super-nasty Wardraks were quickly bearing down on the now-undefended castle.

But we really didn't have anything to worry about. The battle at the enemy keep wasn't even close. After soundly trouncing our foe we declared victory and promptly returned to the castle to blow all of our loot on ale and whores!

Here's how our characters looked at the end of the quest...

Mike / Pasco the Ranger / Archer Dude:

Andrew / Kram the Dwarf:

And here's how Thorn the Fighter looked like at the end of my watch. And no, that's not an ostrich egg cup on his head.

At first glance, Legends of Andor could be the heir-apparent to character-building sandboxian fantasy games such as Runebound. Not only are the rules super-simple, they're downright intuitive. Shifting the Time Marker one increment for every region you move through is nothing short of brilliant. You can be conservative and move within the bounds of your limitations or exert yourself to really haul ass. Combat is a breeze and the narrative told during the game is particularly strong.

A designated Special Ability makes every character feel unique while the equipment slots on the paper-doll-like Hero Board make for an idiot-proof inventory system. The finite amount of gear that your dude / dude-ette can buy and carry has been nicely streamlined and makes perfect sense. Couple this with only two primary stats (Willpower to determine overall combat effectiveness /limits of exertion and Strength adding much-needed perks to your battle dice) and you have a pretty elementary but effective character growth process.

But therein lies the problem with the game. By the time your journey ends in Runebound your character is pretty much unique while in Legends of Andor he or she just feels "improved". Compare the myriad of terrors waiting to be dealt with in Runebound's three different encounter decks, while in LOA you tangle with five or six different critters tops.

But there's also a lot to praise here. Some may claim that Andor's six "Legends" offer limited replay value but technically Runebound just offers one. We may have cruised through our game, but that's only because Andrew had already played it a bunch of times and had developed a few tactics. Besides, if you think this scenario is too easy the game's official website has plenty of ideas on how to tweak the difficulty.

Legends of Andor is also ten times prettier then the crass, adolescent-looking Runebound. The game's designer, Michael Menzel, is already well-known as the artist behind the frame-worthy boards featured in such titles as Stone Age and Pillars of the Earth. No surprise then that LOA looks absolutely drop-dead gorgeous.

As the "legend" goes, Andor came about when Menzel wanted a simple adventure game he could play with his son and nephew. Clearly the time he's spent in close proximity to designers has rubbed off since his debut shows considerable innovation and forethought. This was definitely one of my favorite gaming experiences of the entire weekend.

Next up was another DUDEZ IN PANTALOONZ game: The Palaces of Carrara.  

Here's the skinny on this one right from the game's purdy-lookin' rulebook:

"Each player is at the head of a princely family. The families were ordered by the King to build magnificent buildings in the various cities and enrich them with the most unusual objects. On special occasions, the families will invite the King so that he may inspect their progress. Depending on where they built their buildings, the families will be granted victory points, or coins, which they will use to acquire more building materials. At the end, only the family with the most victory points shall claim victory for itself!"


Andrew...Red, Me... Blue, Chad...Green

Right off the bat I went after Pisa's yellow buildings for no reason other then the fact that I dug the leaning tower artwork. Andrew, who could use a lesson on going easy on new players, made up his mind that he wanted the exact same color. And, surprise, surprise, since he'd played the game before it didn't take very long before he blew right past me.

During the game no-one paid much attention to the first Objective, which required us to perform four scoring actions. Objective Two was another story. Andrew, who was having a blast dismantling both Chad and I, collected no less then nine Objects, including several earned from Pisa. Urge to kill rising...rising...

After realizing that Pisa was a lost cause I turned my attention to Livorno, acquiring and eventually scoring a Biblioteca and a Cathedrale. In a move born less from insightful strategy and more from desperation, I added a Palazzo and a Porta to the "Baltic Avenue" of the game: Lerici. Finally Lucca saw some modest improvement in the form of a Porta but I also abandoned this route when Chad started leaning heavily in that direction. I did have the foresight to score a city for cash when my finances started to wane.

At face value it looked as if Chad was providing some stiff competition for Andrew, developing Lucca with a Porta, Villa and Palazzo and eventually scoring the later. He also improved Viareggio with a Castello and a Biblioteca. Massa also saw some impressive evolution with the completion of a Villa, a Cathedrale and a Castello. All of this real estate allowed Chad to remain competitive in overall Building value.

As for Andrew, he scored Liverna for mondo points and then wrung an obscene 44 coins out of Pisa. The big jerk.


Objective One (Four Scoring Actions): 0 Points
Objective Two (Objects): Chad - 12 Points, Me - 18 Points, Andrew - 27 (!!!) Points 
Objective Three (Buildings) : Me - 0 Points, Andrew - 23, Chad - 26
Bonus Cards: Andrew - 12 Points from Livorno, +11 Victory Points from 44 Coins earned from Pisa, Me - 21 Points for Livorno, 8 Points for Lucca, Chad - 24 Points for Lucca, 8 Points for Massa
Gold: Chad 0, Me 16 / 5 = 3, Andrew 100 (!) / 5 = 20


Chad...67, Me...76, Andrew...157 (!!!)


What an obscene beating! Both Chad and I joked that we'd been suckered into the Eurogame version of Three Card Monte.

The game itself was perfectly fine. It's colorful, easy to pick up and I love the cube tower / roundel / wheelie thing which reminds me of games like Shogun and T'zolkin

And that's the thing: when compared to games like T'zolkin or even Trajan, The Palaces of Carrara feels sorta Cones of Dunshire to me in comparison. I didn't retain much from the game and really had to conjure up the enthusiasm to write about it. Maybe it has something to do with how badly Andrew shit-hammered us, but I really don't have a burning desire to play it again anytime soon.

Speaking of, next up was Nations.  

Here's what Asmodee has to say about their recent version of the game:

"How will you lead your nation? Conserve your resources, or spend on military? Send your people to work, or invest in their national heritage? Avoid famine and war, hire workers and architects, and raise wonders that will stand the test of time. In the end, only one nation can rise to the top.

"A deep, challenging game,
Nations will force players to make difficult decisions and deal with unpredictable events. Balance future growth with the need for current resources. Deploy your people as soldiers or laborers. Invest in progress or hire architects. Create new buildings or establish colonies. Hire advisers to take you through the ages, and create a nation to outshine all the rest."

If you're feeling particularly brave and / or bored you can read the entire history of the world by clicking on the rules link right here


Andrew...Egypt (Red), Chad...China (Green), Me...Greece (Blue), Mike...Rome (Yellow)

Chad took to this one like a duck to water, scoring 16 in-game Victory Points by getting ahead of the pack on the Book track. So engrossed was he that he initially ignored Colonies as a source for Veeps, but eventually picked up two points for his Great Lighthouse. He also stayed competitive when it came to the Military and developed some advanced structures such as a University and a Zeppelin.

At first Mike struggled to earn any in-game Victory Points, nabbing a few from a surge of Bookishness right at the end of the game. He also neglected the development of Colonies in favor of netting five Victory Points through the combined Wonders of Angkor Wat, Sankore University and Uraniborg. He also collected some structural perks via the Grainery and the Forge.

Andrew's Egyptians didn't start the game with much of a Military so he often found himself on the shitty side of the War Resolution phase. But knowing that Andrew often becomes Public Enemy #1 when he plays to win, we should have expected him to be ninja-like for most of the game with a characteristic burst of activity at the end. This certainly happened, aided by a Colony Point and 6 Veeps coming from his Pyramids as well as the Piazza San Marco (?), Moai Statues (??) and Machu Pichu (???). This was augmented by a whopping 11 more points thanks to his advanced Buildings and nicely-evolved Military. 

I played the game thematically, in other words, like a complete and total idiot. Since I was supposed to be Greece, I felt obliged to snatch up the Oracle but by the end of the game I was engaging in the same historically-anachronistic bullshit that everyone else was. Along the way I collected a fairly respectable array of in-game Victory Points which came primarily from my early Military achievements. Towards the endgame I snagged a Colony (Greenland? WTF?!?) for a point and walked away with five more for my Buildings. I also managed to recruit that famous Greek statesman...um, Abe Lincoln to help my nation's flagging stability.


Victory Point Tokens: Andrew - 2, Mike - 3, Me- 6, Chad - 16
Colonies: Chad- 0, Mike - 0, Andrew - 1, Me - 1
Wonders: Me - 1, Chad - 2, Mike - 5, Andrew - 6
Buildings & Military: Me - 5, Mike - 6, Andrew - 11, Chad - 12

Andrew - 18 Resources + 40 Military + 26 Books + 4 Stability = 88 / 10 = 8
Chad - 21 Resources + 24 Military + 51 Books +  3 Stability = 99 / 10 = 9
Mike - 29 Resources + 8 Military + 9 Books + 4 Stability = 50 / 10 = 5
Me - 1 Resources + 18 Books + 7 Military + 6 Stability = 32 / 10  = 3


Chad: 16 + 2 + 12 + 9 = 39
Andrew: 2 + 1 + 6 + 11 + 8 = 28
Mike: 3 + 5 + 6 + 5 = 19
Me: 6 + 1 + 1 + 5 + 3 = 16


There's nothing at all wrong with Nations mechanically, but I still didn't like it. Why go through the bother of designing a "historic" game when all of the history is inaccurate? Words can't describe how much I despise the sight of Abe Lincoln pontificating in "Greece", Florence Nightingale presiding over patients in "Rome", Harald Hardrada chillin' in "China" and Sun Tzu catchin' some rays in "Egypt". It just kills the theme for me and I can't take it seriously. Like, at all.

And the art is just ass. Just look at Pocahontas: she's got a face like a half-chewed caramel.

If I were to design a game like this, each nation would have it's own historically-accurate Progress Board. This would give each player a chance to customize their in-game effort while keeping the characteristics of each nation intact.

Then, to increase competition, I'd have a communal Progress Board, featuring all of the non-specific developments that any nations could use: Markets, Universities, Granaries, Forges, Farms, Defensive Walls, Mercenaries...etc.   

P.S. I'm gonna take out a copyright on this, so don't be stealin' my idea!

The final game of the night for me was Rialto.

Here's the skinny on this pasta-flavored, card-drafting, area-control Feldian bidding game right from Paizo / Tasty Minstrel Games:

"In the card-driven board game Rialto, the goal is to earn the most victory points (VPs), which are awarded for a variety of things. The game board displays the six districts of Venice, and players earn VPs for placing council members into these, for building bridges and placing gondolas to connect the districts with one another, and for building advantageous buildings.

"The game is played over six rounds, with each round consisting of three phases:

"1. Acquire cards: Each player takes a set of cards. 2. Play cards: Players use cards to perform certain actions. 3. Activate buildings: Players may take advantage of their buildings and use their powers.

"In phase 1, sets of eight cards are displayed (with six cards face-up and two face-down). Each player takes one set, then reduces his hand to seven cards. A card shows one of six specific characters (Architect, Merchant, etc.) or is a wild card.

"Phase 2 consists of six sub-phases in a fixed order, one for each character. In each sub-phase, players choose whether or not to play one or more cards of that specific character. Each card allows them to perform that character's action, for example:

"Take one piece of gold for each Merchant card you play. Place one council member into the current district for each Council card you play. Take a building with a value equal to or lower than the number of Architect cards played. The higher its value, the better its function. Whoever plays the most cards in each such sub-phase receives a bonus of one free action of that type. In case of a tie, whoever is farthest along the 'Doge' bar gets the bonus and of course to advance on the Doge bar, players need to play Doge cards.

"Finally, in phase 3, players may take advantage of their buildings. For each piece of gold paid, a player may use one of his building's ability.

"Players collect VPs both during the game from special buildings and by building bridges between districts and at the end of it for majorities of council members in each district. The value of each district evolves during the game: Each district is adjacent to four other ones, and at the end of the game, they will be connected either via bridges or gondolas. A bridge increases the value of the adjacent districts by 3-6 victory points, whereas a gondola increases this value by 1 point. The player with the most council members in a district earns VPs equal to the district's total value, the player with the second most council members earns half this value, and so on. While it's important to establish majorities in the districts, it's also crucial to control their values by cleverly placing those bridges and gondolas."

If you're cravin' THE BIG RAGU? Then click on the following link to digest the entire rules right here


Andrew...Red, Chad...Blue, Me...Green

Suspecting that initiative in the game might be important, I did my best to stay ahead on the Doge Track. Throughout the game I tried to concentrate my Council Members in San Marco, Castello and San Polo. My presence in Cannaregio, Dorsoduro and Santa Croce might have been an afterthought, but I did manage to get there first. In doing so I snagged the top two Bonus Tiles for claiming both sides of the Canal. As I established a reasonably-comfortable lead, I stopped trying to monopolize the first player option in lieu of developing my real estate, a move that would prove disastrous.

Even though I was late to the construction game I did pick up two Phase II Yellow Buildings. The first one gave me a bonus Action if I held off until everyone else had a turn and served up a free Coin to boot! The other Yellow structure gave me a free Joker Card and a chance to optimize my turn whenever it was activated. I also snagged a powerful Phase III Blue Building which allowed me to shift Council Members from the General Supply while offering a tidy little sum of in-game Victory Points.

Meanwhile Andrew tied my presence in San Polo and crushed all rivals for dominance in San Croce. The slippery cuss also managed to gain superior influence over Cannaregio, just barely edging out Chad. Speaking of Chad, he achieve parity with me in Castello and tripled my presence in Dorsoduro. More importantly he built an impressive little infrastructure consisting of one Green Building, two Yellow and two Blue.

In-Game Victory Points: Andrew (Red)...5, Chad (Blue)...20, Me (Green)...23

1/2 Victory Points For Leftover Councilmen and Coins: Andrew...1, Chad...1, Me...2

Value of Buildings:  Me...6, Andrew...12, Chad...12

District Scoring:

District # 1: Andrew...16,  Chad & I...8
District # 2: Me...4
District # 3: Chad...12, Me...6
District # 4: TIE! Andrew & I...9
District # 5: Chad...18, Me...9
District # 6: Andrew...7, Me...3

Bonus Tiles: +10  for Me


Chad & I...70


Honestly I have no idea if the game was scored properly. Points for the Bonus Tiles are supposed to be awarded in-game as they're received, so I'm not sure why I wrote down "Bonus Tiles:  +10" at the end of my notes. Because if they weren't given to me when I earned them, I should have won.

As if going first and collecting the best stack of cards isn't valuable enough, ties in Rialto are broken by whoever is higher on the Doge Track. Wow. Amaze. So unbalance. Much import. Very criticul.

I liked Rialto, but it pales in comparison to Bruges. In Rialto all you have are a bunch of generic, unnamed Buildings with special abilities and abstracted wooden Councilmen trying to eke out numerical advantage.  For me the Bridges and Gondolas of Rialto are thematically bland when compared to the Canals, Threats, Reputation and wealth of different personalities in Bruges.

Don't get me wrong; it's certainly a good game, good enough for me to play it again later that weekend. I just like Bruges better.

This concluded my second full day at the cabin. I rested easy, content in the knowledge that I still had a full day of gaming left!  


Another early rise, another quick start on our gaming agenda!

Almost precisely this time last year we'd play our inaugural game of Risk Legacy, the details of which you can read about in last year's Cabin Con report.

In a nutshell: we fucked up the rules, causing the game to run longer then it should have. Here's what I wrote last year:

"After skimming through the rules again, we saw noticed that every player starts the first game with two Red Stars: one to represent their HQ and one because there's been no previous victor. That means that when Mike captured Dean's HQ, he would have gained his fourth Red Star at that time for the win."

So, with that firmly in mind, we tackled the first of what would be several matches that day. For the sake of wrong-headed continuity, we all played the exact same factions that we used last year:


Andrew...Die Mechaniker (Red)
Chad...Enclave of the Bear (Green)
Dean...The Saharan Republic (Tan)
Me...Khan Industries (Gray)
Mike...Imperial Balkania (Purple)  

In Game One I managed to fend off Mike's attacks from the south as well as Andrew's tentative pokes at the Icelandic hornet's nest. After all of North America fell under Andrew's jackbooted influence, he hopped over to Asia where he started to pick a fight with Chad. Speaking of Chad, he started the game dug into Australia, er Xenaville, like an Alabama tick. After festering there for awhile, his armies exploded like a pustule from the tiny continent, capturing Southeast Asia, India, and China in quick succession.

Hey, how's that custard tastin', there, buddy? 

Because Mike made a huge tactical error by placing his headquarters in North Africa, Dean had no trouble snapping it up. Now just one Star away from victory, Dean willfully shattered the informal alliance he had with Andrew and promptly cut his way up through the heart of North America to capture his rival's Headquarters in Ontario. Needless to say, Andrew was less then impressed.


This game resulted in many new changes to the board. Andrew re-named North Africa "Andropolis", Dean gave a +1 Territory Bonus to South America, Chad added one Coin to the China card and Mike added one Coin to the South Africa card!

Since we managed to finish this in about thirty minutes, we decided to rack 'er up and play again. Dean, who'd drawn Andrew's vengeful ire and isn't a big fan of Risk anyway, wisely decided to sit this one out.  

In the second match Mike managed to capture Africa and made some tentative inroads into Europe. After Chad managed to annex all of North America, he spread himself a bit thin by branching out in Iceland and Russia. Andrew immediately took advantage of this by launching an attack from a united Africa, thrusting deep into Ontario and capturing Chad's Headquarters.

That's when I made my move. In addition to my Xenaville continent bonus, I traded in a set of cards for a huge army and then plowed across the Middle East, East Africa and then South Africa to capture Mike's Headquarters. I then turned to the second half of my two-pronged attack, sending a horde of troops screaming across the Bering Strait from Kamchatka to Alaska. Fortune favored my efforts as I rolled through Alberta and then crushed Andrew's two defenders in Ontario with eight armies!


And with that, the board underwent another series of bizarre alterations. I Fortified the City of "Dave O'Shire" in Ireland, Mike added the Minor City of Ureter (?) in Ural, Chad added the Minor City of Tatooine to Egypt and Andrew founded the Minor City of Big Fish, Alaska. 

Again, we managed to finish the game in record time so we played a third match which Mike won within a similar span of time. This time we shook things up so we controlled different nations.

After this game was over, Mike added the Major City of Uzbekistan to Afghanistan, Chad added the Minor city of Naruto to Japan, I added the Minor City of Frojestaad to Scandinavia and Andrew founded the Minor City of Green Machine in, where else, Greenland.

Now that I've played the game by its proper rules, I actually like Risk Legacy a little bit less. Look, I'm all for a match of Risk that doesn't take four hours to play, but when an area-control game is done twenty or thirty minutes in you barely have time to get invested in it before it's all over!  

This also makes the game even more luck dependent. As soon as you see an opening you've gotta go for it, 'cuz if you don't then the next person will probably win, assuming that they're not so hesitant and their dice remain hot. Basically, the first person who has a mathematical chance to bag two enemy Headquarters in one go will win, as long as they keep rolling a lot of fives and sixes.

On the other hand, an argument can be made that this is exactly what Risk should be: a turn-by-turn gambit to take over the world. Plus, you gotta respect any game designed to give anal-retentive head-cases such as myself a coronary every time you deface the a part of the board or use a card for kindling.  

Next up was one of my favorite light Euros: Alhambra, which I first introduced back here in April as part of my International Tabletop Day coverage.

Here's the 'Geek's history on this one:

"Granada, 1278. At the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains, one of the most exciting and interesting project of the Spanish Middle Ages begins: the construction of the ALHAMBRA.

"The best master builders in the whole of Europe and Arabia want to demonstrate their skill. Employ the most suitable teams of builders and make sure that you always have enough of the right currency. Because no matter whether they are stonemasons from the north or horticulturalists from the south, they all want a proper wage and insist on their 'native' currency. With their help towers can be constructed, gardens laid out, pavilions and arcades erected and seraglios and chambers built.

Alhambra, players are acquiring buildings to be placed within their Alhambra complex.

"The money in
Alhambra comes in four different currencies and is available in the open money market. The 54 buildings of six types become available for purchase in the building market four at a time; one building is available in each of the four different currencies. On a player's turn, a player may 1) take money from the open money market, 2) purchase a building from the building market and either place it in his Alhambra or reserve, or 3) engage in construction and re-construction projects with buildings that have been placed in the player's Alhambra or reserve. The game rewards efficiency, as when a player purchases a building from the market for the exact amount of money, the player may take another turn.

"Players with the most buildings in each of the six building types in his Alhambra score in each of the scoring phases, and points are awarded for players' longest external 'wall' section within their complex. The game ends when the building market can no longer be replenished from the building tile supply, and there is a final scoring, whereupon the player with the highest score wins."

Want the full specs on this Euro classic? Then click on the following link to peep out the blueprints for the full rules!


Chad...Blue, Me...Red, Mike...White

Chad started off very slowly, to the point where Mike and I thought that he was deliberately throwing the game. Little did we know but Chad was just collecting a metric shit-ton of Money Cards so that he could pay exact price for stuff and chain together a bunch of bonus turns. This resulted in a huge burst of well-coordinated activity at the end of the game. By the time he was done, Chad went from dead last to having color majority in Blue, Red, White and Purple! His acute spacial relations also served him well since he managed to parley this tsunami of tiles into eighteen continuous Wall segments!

I didn't go into the game with any preset strategy, which kinda explains my final score. Watching Chad surge in so many colors, I virtually abandoned development of Blue, White and Purple. I did manage to snag second place with Red since Mike seemed to forget that it even existed. Unfortunately I got into a protracted tug-of-war with Mike over Green, a battle he eventually won. The only other color that I managed to win uncontested was Brown. At the eleventh hour I also dropped a Reserved building into my design, securing a pretty hefty 16 continuous Wall points.

Mike couldn't place a lot of his early purchases simply because he had no legal spots for them. As a result, he was forced to burn several Redesign actions later in the game. Having said that, Mike was a lot more cognizant when it came to strategically sniping second place in certain colors. By game's end, he'd been out-paced in every single color but Green, which I let slip away because of my Freudian obsession with Brown. Mike also managed to patch up his exterior Wall at the last minute, giving him fourteen points in the third and final scoring round.


Me...109, Mike...120, Chad...151


At the end of the game, Chad sheepishly made a confession.

"Yeah I kinda felt like I was grifting you guys," he said.

Turns out Chad had played the crap outta the Alhambra app and clearly his practice had paid off. Here's what I gathered from his strategy:
  1. There's no hand limit so why not spend the first few turns gathering Money Cards so you can pay exact change for several different Buildings at once? D'uh.   
  2. Always, always, always keep tabs on your opponent's developments. Don't get into a protracted tug-of-war over several hotly-contested colors! 
  3. Smaller denominations give you more flexibility to pay exact change for things.
  4. If you can help it, buy Buildings that you can slot into your Alhambra right away. Burning actions on Redesigns is teh suck.
  5. Clearly these strategies are easier to implement with a three-player game. When you've got a full compliment of five, long-term strategies become even more unreliable, forcing players to think with greater agility.
Like every other game, optimal strategies emerge when you play the crap out of Alhambra. I'd love to get into a five player game soon just to test drive the strategies mentioned above. I'd be curious to see how well I'd fare, especially against a competitive powerhouse like Chad.

With Andrew and Dean still playing through a game of Blood Bowl, Mike, Chad and I tackled a second game of Rialto.


Chad...Blue, Me...Red, Mike...White

In time out I experimented a bit more with real estate, picking up a Green structure that let me retain a bonus Card, a Yellow building that let me play one card as another type and no less then three Blue hovels. It's these last three resources that really gave a chance to make some crazy in-game moves.

The first one let me upgrade any one of my other buildings for free every time it was activated. Pretty soon I was the proud owner of a structure that gave me a Victory Point and Councilmen re-enforcements whenever it was tapped. Eventually I hit the high-water mark with a top-tier Blue shack that gave me 4 (!) bonus Victory Points every time I activated it.

The only problem is that I didn't have a lot of Coins, which meant that I couldn't use these special abilities as often as I wanted to. I spent so much time trying to keep all of these divergent plates spinning in the air that I only achieved Councilman dominance in Cannaregio and second place finishes in San Polo and Santa Croce. Virtually ignoring the Doge track early on in the game also didn't do me any favors. 

Mike kept time with his Buildings, procuring two Phase One Greenies which doubled up his potential hand manipulation. This sound strategy was augmented by a Phase Three Green building which let him keep a bonus card for the current round. In tandem, all of this helped Mike customize his strategy on every turn.

His efforts were supplemented by two other awesome Buildings: a Phase One Blue just like my own and a Phase Three Yellow which gave him a free Joker. All of these bonus cards and available machinations kept Mike well in Coins, allowing him to consistently fuel this elaborate enterprise. In doing so, Mike achieved Councilman dominance in the highly-prized districts of Castello, Dorsoduro and San Marco.

This was Chad's second game and my boy had his shit together. He invested early in a series of structures that worked really well in tandem. A level one Blue Building let him pursue the same upgrade path that both Mike and I explored.

He exploited this very nicely, eventually ending up with a top-tier Green Building which gave him to power to draw additional cards from the face-up leftovers / draw pile and increase his hand size by two for the round. Just as helpful was a Phase 4 Yellow Building which let him parley any one card for any two of another type! Ridiculous!

By the end of the game, Chad had achieved Councilman majority in both San Polo and Santa Croce. More importantly, he finished second in Cannaregio, Dorsoduro and San Marco!

IN-GAME VICTORY POINTS: Mike (White)...6, Chad (Blue)...13, Me (Red)...20


1/2 Victory Points For Leftover Councilmen and Coins: Me - 0, Chad - 2, Mike - 3

Value of Buildings: Mike - 10, Me - 11, Chad - 12

District Scoring

District # 1 - Me + 3, Chad + 6, Mike + 13
District # 2 - Chad + 6, Me + 13
District # 3 - Me + 2, Chad +4, Mike + 9
District # 4 - Mike + 3, Me + 6, Chad + 12
District # 5 -  Mike + 2, Me + 4, Chad +8,
District # 6 - Me + 2, Chad + 5, Mike + 10

Bonus Tiles:  +5 for Me & Mike


Mike...61 Points
Me...66 Points
Chad...68 Points

Again, Rialto's abstracted qualities don't exactly make for a highly memorable experience. Would it have killed them to find some thematically appropriate Building names instead of boring, generic crap like "Phase II"? Seriously, how lazy is that?!?

The next time I sit down to play Rialto hopefully I'll remember a few of these strategy tips:
  1. Dominance on the Doge track, and the initiative that goes with it, is ridiculously important.
  2. Invest early in Buildings that provide the best possible hand manipulation in order to to get more of what you need each turn. If you come in dead last in every one of these little face-offs then you're gonna get curb-stomped. 
  3. Don't be afraid to burn a turn in order to procure enough Gold to power your Buildings. Or better yet, buy a (*yawn*) Phase 1 Yellow Building which gives you a free Coin whenever it's used.  
 It was gettin' kinda late at that stage so we decided to Roll For It!

Here's how publisher Calliope Games describes this one, complete with gratuitous exclamation points and all:

"Roll For It! is everything you want in a game. It’s fun! It’s easy! It’s fast! And it has lots of dice with cards to boot! At its heart, Roll For It! is a resource management game that blends the luck of the die roll with a decision making process that will bring smiles and laughter to everyone at the table. Combine both decks and entertain up to 8 players!"

Wanna be told the odds? Then click on the following link to download the full rules right hur.

I thought for sure I had this one. I tried to be patient and pick up some more complicated combos, enjoying some reasonably-good luck along the way. Chad had a few key cards swept up by a surging Andrew. Dean did rather well, riding a consistent hot streak mid-game and picking up a slew of low-valued cards. Mike, on the other hand, couldn't roll four of a kind or even two pair to save his life! To make matters worse he kept stranding his dice on more than one long-shot card!  


Mike...22 Points, Chad...35 Points, Dean...49 Points, Me...51 Points, Andrew...55 Points


This one cracks me up; I love how the description claims that it's a "resource management game".  How precious! Basically Roll For It! is all about a metric shit-ton of luck with a smidge of probability strategy.

But when I take off the game-snob goggles there's a lot to like here. It's quick, portable and anyone who can sit upright and possesses a body temperature higher then thirty-seven degrees Celsius can learn how to play this thing. It's a decent l'il beer n' pretzels opener that gives players a chance to roll mitt-fulls of sparkly dice. What more do you want, you elitist jerk?   

To cap the night off right we decided to move on to Cash n' Guns: Second Edition.

Here's the plan directly from the masterminds at Asmodee Games:  

"The big heist may have been a success, but it all goes wrong when every crook wants a bigger cut. With this much money on the table, bullets speak louder than words!

"In Cash ‘n Guns, players will point foam pistols at each other and try to intimidate their opponents into letting them have the largest share. The bravest crooks enjoy the most money – but only if they live long enough to spend it!"

Wanna be privy to the full scheme? 'Den click on dis link rite hee' for de full roolz


Andrew - Yoko, Chad - Nikita, Me - Mr. Black, Dean - Luca, Mike - James

I did a pretty decent job staying out of the line of fire, capturing a consistently-high string of banknotes and staying Wound-free in the process. My "Cunning" ability also prevented me from wasting valuable cards while giving me the option to unload whenever I had to. I also dabbled with the new Art theft option but I really didn't collect enough paintings to make this strategy pay off.

Not surprisingly, Andrew became the defacto target for most people around the table. He ended up on the losing end of a few firefights and his banknote haul was pretty weak. This was offset ever so slightly by his "Junk Dealer" attribute. Unlike me, Andrew went bawlz deep into painting theft and ended up with five works of art by the end of the game, which is where a lot of his final take came from.

Dean decided to concentrate on the new Diamonds mechanic and subsequently made out like a bandito. After taking an early Wound he started to use his "Kid" special ability to his advantage, avoiding stand-offs like a pro.

Chad dabbled in antiquities, nabbing three paintings which dove-tailed with his "Collector" trait. Towards the end of the game he also picked up a Clip card to refresh his hand of Bang! cards.

I didn't have a chance to take a pic of Mike's final haul of loot but he really exploited the Paintings better than anyone else. He also nearly got permanently ventilated right off the mark but bounced back for an impressive end-game rally.


Andrew...$87,000, Chad...$105,000, Me...$152,000, Mike...$160,000, Dean...$183,000


Personally I've never had an issue with the First Edition of Cash n' Guns but some people find the whole "equitable money split" rule to be kinda confusing. In that version you have to split the five banknotes equally amongst the still-standing players. It's okay if some money is left over but if you can't split the pool evenly then no-one gets nuthin' and five new bank notes are turned up.

This accomplishes two things: (1) It raises the stakes during different intervals of the game and (2) It gives players a motivation to force others to back down or put rivals in the dirt. 

I kinda dig this rule but many people find it a bit baffling. This version gets away from that by allowing the Godfather (I.E. the first player for that round) to select their favorite face-up loot card and then picks proceed clockwise around the table. Full disclosure: this also works perfectly fine and I'm honestly good with either method.

Here are a few more things I dig about the Second Edition:
  • Random Character Powers are a part of the core game.
  • The Guns look cooler.
  • Not only does the Godfather get the first pick of the Loot he or she can redirect one pointed gun in any direction they want. 
  • The crook with the most Diamonds at the end of the game automatically gets a whopping $60,000 bonus. I don't think we knew about this rule 'cuz if we did Dean probably would have been wearing concrete galoshes before the end of the game.
  • I love how the Paintings stack up. Like the competition over Diamonds, this also encourages plenty of in-game rivaries.
  • Player elimination has been tamped down with the inclusion of First Aid Kits.
  • Clips allow you to reload and keep them guns a-blazin' away!  
  • Up to eight people can play now instead of six! 
After test-driving this version I'm sorely tempted to dump my older edition and buy this one!

After our communal Mexican standoff, Andrew and Dean snuck off to a secluded room to play what they euphemistically referred to as "Star Realms" (*nudge, nudge* *wink, wink*), Chad, Mike and I got into a healthy little scrum of Splendor

I did my best to chain together several early Diamond districts, which gave me a cut rate on a string of Sapphire developments. This gave me a steal of a deal on a top-tier Emerald building for four hefty Prestige Points.

I'm not one-hundred percent sure what Mike's strategy was but I think it could be summed up as "be the first on your block to collect 'em all"! Since he ended up with no less than four Ruby and Onyx Development Cards, three Diamonds and two Sapphires, he was pretty much poised to take anything he wanted out of the market at will. Unfortunately, the game didn't last that long.

Oh well, at least he managed to lure that fat fuck King Henry VIII over to his side of the table with the promise of all-you-can-hork turkey legs and a flagon of penicillin-laced Kool-Aid.

Chad did what Mike was attempting to do but he did it quicker and more efficiently. He also went for the well-balanced approach but picked a Development path that really took advantage of his permanent resources. By the time the game was over he'd managed to chain together a minimum of three structures in every single freakin' color which we all know is the Splendor equivalent of a snowball rolling downhill. Needless to say, he did all of this without losing sight of his end goal: to pull two specific Nobles over to his side of the tableau


Mike...5 Prestige, Me...10 Prestige, Chad...15 Prestige


If I didn't know any better, I'd say that there's an app in the works for Splendor too and Chad's a Beta-tester. But I know that isn't the case. I do know that Chad's brain turns into Deep fucking Blue whenever you give him a game that requires long-term planning.

And that's what set his effort apart from Mike's. Clearly he calculated the most efficient route to peruse while keeping a few specific Nobles in mind. All told, a very impressive win.

With my head addled by a myriad of rules and strategies (as well as a considerable snifter of Crystal Head Vodka) I decided to pack it in for the night. Mercifully, we had enough time the following day to get a few last minute games in.


Before we left the cabin I managed to sneak in a quick game of Star Realms:

For those of you who've been living on a remote asteroid somewhere, Star Realms is the new two-player hotness. 

Like it's significantly homelier cousin Ascension, players begin the game with the exact same complement of cards. Since this one is all about spacey galactic domination, your initial spread consists of two different types of starships: Scouts and Vipers. The first one provides much-needed currency to buy better resources and the latter represent swift attack fighters that can damage your opponent. 

During the course of the game, which takes about twenty minutes to play, you slowly pimp out your deck with more powerful cards. To do this, players can collect cards from four different factions: 
  1. The Trade Federation, who provide a lot of healing and cash monies.
  2. The Blobs, who represent raw combat power.
  3. The Star Empire, who specialize in hand manipulation.
  4. The Machine Cult, who are defensive and help trim the fat from your decks.
Also in the mix are Bases which provide permanent game effects that help you or hinder your opponent. Some bases, called Outposts, protect their owners from harm by acting as a buffer for damage until they're destroyed. 

The first player to do fifty points of damage to their opponent wins the game.


The game I played was against Chad. Well, technically it was against Chad and Dean who spent the entire time hovering over Chad's shoulder and coaching him like a Yoda-stuffed back-pack. 

In the end I managed to deal 33 points of damage to Chad *slash* Dean ("Chean"?) before they inflicted 51 points on me for the win.

I'm not gonna go into too much detail about Star Realms right now since I'm planning to do a stand-alone review pretty soon. Suffice to say that this game has me seriously tempted to sell my copy of Dominion to the highest bidder. This one takes the deck-building mechanic introduced in Donald X. Vaccarino's hallowed classic and actually turns it into the thematic and tense experience. 

Stay tuned to this channel for more details!

Our final game of the weekend was Kanzume Goddess, which is threatening to become something of a Cabin Con tradition.


Andrew...Hades, Chad...Poseidon, Me...Artemis, Dean...Athena, Mike...Odin

Throughout the weekend Andrew had built up a pretty impressive win / loss ratio, scrambling to record every one of his petty victories in his little black wiener book. But whenever he found himself in a "conflicty"-style game like this he might as well have been standing out in the backyard wearing a Justin Bieber costume while we peppered him with an arsenal of BB's and pellets.

Chad went for Andrew's jugular vein right away, a clash that left both of them battered and bruised. Eventually Andrew was collectively polished off by the rest of us. Next up I used a "Siren" card to recover "Valiant Star" and knock Mike out of contention.

Then Dean, who'd been effectively biding his time all the while, pounced like a opportunistic badger (?), first knocking out the weakened Chad and then me for the big victory!


Okay, let's face facts here: Kanzume Goddess has more women in unreasonable armor per capita then any game in history. In the past I've described it as Japanese Love Pillow: The Card Game.

Which is kinda of a shame. Yes, my primitive male cro-magnon brain thinks that these images are extremely easy on the eyes but I also recognize how hideously sexist the whole thing is. Things get even more complicated when you realize that Kanzume Goddess is almost as good as Star Realms. Plus it accommodates up to six players!

There are no easy answers to the questions posed by the contents of this titillating tin. I do think that the female form is inherently gorgeous and it would be a shame if all fantasy art depicted women trussed up in what amounts to a giant tin can. To play devil's advocate for a moment: there are plenty of barely-dressed male fantasy characters out there like Den, Conan, Kull and everything Boris Vellajo has ever illustrated. Personally speaking, I've never looked at these dudes as demeaning, insulting or threatening.

But I'm also a realist. I know that there's a disproportionate amount of media out there that feature men in full plate-mail while their female counterparts are often barely dressed or posed in lascivious ways. I also know that there plenty of sad, pathetic losers out there who twist stuff like this into a reason to marginalize women. I'm talkin' about the kind of people who followed the "Japanese Love Pillow" link above and were disappointed when they found out that it didn't lead to an ordering platform with free shipping.

None of this changes the fact that Kanzume Goddess is a really fun little game. Maybe one day it'll be re-skinned (no pun intended) to make it appealing to both genders.  

And with that our time at the cabin had expired. We made a concerted effort to leave the place in better shape than we'd found it and then hit the road. As I drove back to Halifax with Andrew and Chad, we spent large tracts of time discussing how things had gone down.

We quickly concluded that this was, by far, the best Cabin Con to date. Pretty much everything we table was pre-prepped, meaning that there was barely any down time between games. Having three full days was great since we never once felt rushed and could replay some games that really resonated with us.

Speaking of, here's a little bonus before I drop the mic:

  1. Wiz-War
  2. Bruges
  3. Star Realms
  4. Legends of Andor
  5. Hansa Teutonica
  6. Rialto
  7. The Palaces of Carrara
  8. Cash n' Guns - Second Edition
  9. Roll For It!
  10. Nations
  11. Disc Duelers
Wanna avoid your next case of cabin fever in style? Then click on the following images to order your very own copies of the games we played this year!

Additional photos by Chad Seward and Michael Chiasson.

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