Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Geekway to the West 2009

The Geekway 2009 Cast

Justin EasleyJason EasleyNathan WinchesterBobby Stierwalt
Justin EasleyJason EasleyNathan
Bobby StierwaltChad StierwaltChester
Jay Little
Jay MooreJon McDunnJoshua HesselLisa PadalaMichael Pennisi Randy SallwaserTodd Dewitt

The Geekway to the West is a gaming convention in St. Louis, MO. I went last year due to being within driving distance of Omaha, NE and Illinois, where both Justin and Jason Easley reside. We had a great time and decided to go back again this year. I also talked Nathan Winchester into going out with me. This year I also chose to use a little technology to log everything and I created a Twitter account just for the purpose. So without further ado, here is the account of our journey.

nathan locked the keys in the running car at the airport. had to wait for guy to jimmy the car so niecy could drive home - 5:34 PM Apr 23rd from TinyTwitter The adventure began with Nathan and his fiance Niecy picking me up to take us to the airport. When we got there, Nathan managed to lock the keys in the car (while it was running), so we had a slight delay while we waited for someone to come open the car. Luckily we had loads of time, so after that was all said in done, we headed upstairs where Nathan bought a coffee and then realized we couldn't go through security with it. So we sat down in the Starbucks and I pulled out Hive (we played with the mosquito). I haven't played this a lot, so I pretty much had no strategy and just played it by ear. It appeared to work as my grasshoppers managed to hold Nathan in check until I could surround him for the win. flight delayed but beat nathan at Hive - 6:28 PM Apr 23rd from TinyTwitter Our flight was an hour delayed, which meant we were going to be getting in REALLY late (with the time change, it'd be like 2:00AM).

played twilight struggle on the plane (me US). nathan was on the ropes until the 8th round. he realigned w.germany then scored europe to win - 11:34 PM Apr 23rd from TinyTwitter Waiting wasn't bad though because I had printed out and laminated copies of the Twilight Struggle travel boards. We found a spot, had a beer and started a game. Nathan chose to play the USSR again (as he had when I taught him the game). We managed about 3-4 turns before having to get onto our flight. Once we were in the air, we continued the game. Everytime I'd get a good lead going, Nathan would have huge point swings. It was a good game of me dinking away at him and him gobbling up chunks of points. Going into the 8th round, I had managed to get back up on him by 10 points, only to see him break my hold on West Germany, which he translated into full control of Europe. Seeing the end coming, I could do nothing to stop him from winning as he played his Europe scoring card. All in all, a good gaming start to a long weekend. Unfortunately it meant we didn't sleep on the plane at all and didn't really get to bed until about 2:30AM local time. Our plan was to get up and have breakfast and hit the con early the next day which meant probably only 4-5 hours of sleep for us.

7:55AM - no easleys yet - 5:56 AM Apr 24th from TinyTwitter The Geekway opened at 8:00, but Justin and Jason were driving in and just like last year, weren't at the hotel on time for us to be first in line! No big deal since I knew there'd be plenty of gaming. I only mention this, because Justin called me to ask if I was still half asleep when he texted me, to which I was a bit confused as I hadn't been texting with Justin at all. He laughed at me like I was pulling something over on him, but I genuinely had no clue what he was talking about. When they finally arrived he explained what happened as something like this.

Justin (text to Charles): Is the plan still for us to pick you up?
"Charles": WTF?
Justin (text to Charles): Do you still need us to swing by and pick you up?
"Charles": Who is this?
Justin (text to Charles): Your Mom!
"Charles": I think you have the wrong number...

At which point he called me and the above conversation took place. Well, it turns out he was sending text messages to my old Union Pacific work cell number. I wonder who ended up with my old phone...

9:00 ice flow - jason, justin, nathan, me - 7:05 AM Apr 24th from TinyTwitter Well, we (Justin Easley, Jason Easley, Nathan Winchester and I) finally did get checked in and there was about double the number of folks that there were at 9:00AM last year there already. We took a look at the Play to Win table (which was LOADED with great games) and I pulled Ice Flow off it as a good starter game. Having been the only person to have played, I quickly went over the rules (making sure to get the bouncing polar bear rule correct this time). As expected, the game still felt the same overall - slowing a bit in the middle with an overly sudden end. 9:19 pulled out Exxtra to play during down time - 7:20 AM Apr 24th from TinyTwitter I had brought along my new copy of Excape (Exxtra) and actually pulled this out to play on the side during our game of Ice Flow. It worked pretty well playing both games and we'd just do our Excape turn right after we'd finish our Ice Flow turn. nathan wins ice flow. justin and I tied at 20 in exxtra - he rolls first - 8:06 AM Apr 24th from TinyTwitter Well, Nathan managed to win Ice Flow and Excape came down to me and Justin tied at 19 or 20 - except that he was going to get to roll first and he hit another double-3 (like his 5th) for the win there.

30 minutes of rules - ready to start Conan. - 11:23 AM Apr 24th from TinyTwitter. We had wanted to get Age of Conan to the table early on during the convention (since it was on the Play to Win table). So after finishing Ice Flow we grabbed this beast and sat down to the rules. The rules were not terribly long or complicated and after pretty much just a straight reading we got started. The bits are really pretty decent here (the exception being the purple emissaries which are not mounted units so I confused them with the army guys regularly) and there are loads of cards, thick chits and dice. Pretty much your standard Fantasy Flight quality game. Bits aside, the game itself is a strange mix of Ameritrash (lots of dice rolling for combat) and Euro game play. I like the occasional AT type game, so that didn't really bother me, but I didn't fall in love with it either. two hours later - about 1/2 way through Conan.
starting exxtra again - 11:24 AM Apr 24th from TinyTwitter
Conan was a little slow at first (it isn't instantly obvious where the points are going to come from here) so I pulled Excape out again for another side game. done with Age of Conan. me 25, justin 22, nathan 21, jason 15 - 12:55 PM Apr 24th from TinyTwitter conan ok - would be faster 2nd time. its one of those once in a while games. - 1:00 PM Apr 24th from TinyTwitter Once we were about 1/2 way through Conan, it did speed up a lot and I can see future playings being much faster (even if I was teaching this to 3 new players), though I doubt I'll see this on the table again anytime in the near future since I do not own it. justin bet we'd all crap out in exxtra. and we did - 1:14 PM Apr 24th from TinyTwitter As for our side game, we all wound around the score track and anyone could have won the game. Justin sat a 6-4 on the 1-pt rung and watched us all crap out for the win.

playing Roll through the ages now - its a dicey-day so far - 1:29 PM Apr 24th from TinyTwitter We'd been playing Conan for so long, we all wanted something light and quick before we headed out to eat, so we grabbed Roll Through the Ages off the Play to Win table. Now, here is a game that is clearly a weak re-theme attempt. Its Yahtzee. Seriously. You roll three times and score something on your score sheet with the results. I was so bored, I wanted to play ANOTHER game of Excape during my non-turns. Roll Through the Ages: charles 37, jason 17, justin 19, nathan 34 - time to eat - 2:17 PM Apr 24th from TinyTwitter We played one too many rounds, but oh well. I'm ok with To Court the King and other Yahtzee variants, but this was not at all interesting. I'll pass. Not only that, but there were production quality issues with this version (one peg was too large to fit any hole and a number of dice were very light and you couldn't readily see what was on them). Also, there isn't a lot of downtime, but it is there and that'd bad for a game barely holding your interest anyway.

went out to bbq for diner. Jason taking a nap, so we pulled out Chicago Express. - 4:08 PM Apr 24th from TinyTwitter We headed out to a BBQ joint (yes Matthew, apparently I need to have BBQ when I go to conventions). I was pretty disappointed with the diner - it was ok, but really too dry. Jason wasn't feeling well and took a quick nap in the car afterwords, so I grabbed Chicago Express off the Play to Win table (well, technically not off the play to win table - I checked it out of the library, but the rule was if you played the game, you could enter to win). I really like this game a lot. I have yet to play two games that felt the same. Some are long and others are really really fast. I am so bad at Chicago express - 4:40 PM Apr 24th from TinyTwitter And yes, I do suck at the game regardless. Inevitably, I'll be in an auction and feel damned if I win it and know I've lost when I don't. Such a good game.
Since this game ended up just being Nathan, Justin and I, I really had no clue how to play it and just got killed. Game over: Charles 99, nathan 116, justin 128 - 5:21 PM Apr 24th from TinyTwitter I really enjoy the Queen edition of this, as I like what they did with the map - it makes explaining the game much much easier. I've gotten to where I can rip out how to play this (though not how to win it) now.

Ca$h and Gun$ with my new friends: Randy Sallwaser, Nathan, Lisa Padala, Todd Dewitt, Joshua Hessel - 5:42 PM Apr 24th from TinyTwitter Nathan and I then we trying to wrangle Jay Moore into a game of Age of Steam. Jason and Justin didn't feel up to AoS, so they headed off to find something else to do. As it turned out, Jay had something going on and we instead planned to play the next morning. Chester Ogborn wandered by and mentioned having room for two in a game of Planet Steam in about an hour, so Nathan and I reserved the spots. In the meantime, we were standing around as a group started calling for players for Ca$h and Gun$. Everyone got introduced and Randy and Todd explained the game to everyone that hadn't played before. taken 2 wounds already I'm toast - 5:50 PM Apr 24th from TinyTwitter Wow. It sure didn't take me long to rack up two wounds. Nathan had none and a load of cash, which took a little heat off of me. I figured I had nothing to lose and didn't back down the rest of the game, which worked out ok. Ca$h and Gun$ with my new friends: Randy Sallwaser(died), Nathan $105k, Lisa Padala $65k, Todd Dewitt $70k, Joshua Hessel(died),me $80k - 6:13 PM Apr 24th from TinyTwitter We did manage to kill off a couple of players, but "Baby-faced" Winchester managed to steal the most loot. As is the case with this game, its a nice light laughable game and this was a good group of folks that didn't take it seriously.

Coming soon - planet steam. Now playing Ninja vs Ninja while we wait - 6:16 PM Apr 24th from TinyTwitter Of course we hadn't used up an hour or anything, so we still had time to waste. I remembered reading that Ninja vs Ninja would be on the Play to Win table and Jay Little noted he could teach anyone the game in 5 minutes, so I grabbed this and Nathan and I sat down to play (besides, 2 de Mayo wasn't available - a running theme all weekend). And then who should walk by but Jay Little, who of course offered to teach this to us in 5 minutes. 5 minutes later, Nathan and I were moving plastic Ninjas across the board towards each other for secret scouting missions full of danger and mystery. Or something. All I seemed to be doing was moving and watching Nathan roll the right number each time to pick me off. Basically, you move your ninjas in a line or L shape - always to the opponents side, until you penetrate their territory. Then you have three turns to get back. If you get back safely, you score points for how deep into the other team's territory you got (this is called a mission). If an enemy is on your side and you can roll the exact amount you need to land on them, you capture them and they are out of the game. I did manage enough missions to out score him before he decimated my dojo, so I was able to win. I win N vs N 7-6 - 6:26 PM Apr 24th from TinyTwitter

Planet Steam - Jon McDunn, Chester Ogborn, myself and Nathan. Let the rules begin - 6:46 PM Apr 24th from TinyTwitter The big event of the night was Planet Steam. This was one of the Essen buzz games if for no other reason than the sheer size of the game. I'm pretty sure that the box was about Roads and Boats sized and the game board about like Railroad Tycoon. The reports were also correct about the great quantity and quality of bits. But on top of all that is a really decent production and stock manipulation game. Rules done, let the game begin...- 7:11 PM Apr 24th from TinyTwitter After about 20 minutes of rules (and eating) we got started. It didn't feel like many other games I've played and if this game wasn't $120 to import I'm sure it'd have been seen more. As it was, I think Chester taught this or played in something ridiculous like 6 games of it over the weekend. I had a good time, but it was the end of the night after 4 hours of sleep and I made a couple of silly-stupid mistakes that I recognized immediately and counted nearly 80-100 points I gave up in the last two rounds. That and this type of game make it hard to know how things will value out - especially with three players that have no clue. Also, Chester mis-lead us (not intentionally) a bit saying that the auction for the player actions didn't tend to go above 10, however after the first round losses I immediately realized that the first bid is easily worth about 15 in cost savings and getting first picks. That mistake didn't happen again and the bids were much higher in subsequent rounds, throwing Chester off his game. All in all, I think we all had a great time. Planet Steam is a decent game with nice bits and pretty fun. Worth it for the current price? ($120) - not quite. If this was $60 maybe - 8:48 PM Apr 24th from TinyTwitter Cost wise, it is probably worth $80 (retail). Its right up there with the quality you'd see from a Fantasy Flight game. However, I think $60 is the most I'd part with for it, so I won't likely own this anytime soon. Finished much better than I thought I would. I saw 100 pts I threw away which cost me the game. Finished about 70 pts behind Chester - 9:02 PM Apr 24th from TinyTwitter


Jaybird said...

Charles, I am glad someone took the time to write all that down.

As always, it was a great time. Good to meet Nathan, and do nothing but play games for 2 days straight.

Next time, we are going to Famous J's and I am buying.

Charles Hasegawa said...

No, no we are not. That place sucked. Next year we are finding Pria or whatever that Indian place is :)

Jason Maxwell said...

I see you got to play with Chester Ogborn. He and I are playing the GMT American Revolution series via VASSAL/Cyberboard.

Matthew Frederick said...

Wow, your Roll Through The Ages experience was way different from my few plays. Unlike Yahtzee, there are actual opportunities for (minor) strategy and some real decisions about direction on various turns. Weird how differently we see it.

nwinches said...

I have to agree with Matthew on this one. I mean, it's still a dice game, and I'm not much for those, but I still thought it was ok.

/additional ramble about how much I liked CE. :D

Jaybird said...

I will speak up and say I agree with both Nathan and Matthew--Roll Through the Ages is a pretty good game. At least it is good for what it tries to do. Calling it Yahtzee is doing it a slight disservice, at least in my opinion. Nothing groundbreaking, but it does what it sets out to do (a pseudo-civ dice game that plays quick enough to stand between games).

And I suppose that you guys would know about Famous J's. Some of us were ready to barf, and unable to fully "appreciate" the earthiness of the joint.