Over the weekend, I got to attend Arcticon, a local gaming convention held in Valparaiso, IN. It’s mainly focused on miniatures and RPGs, but they were making an effort this year to expand their board game presence, so several members of our group went.
The doors opened at 8:00, and the first 100 people through the door were to get a board game of their choice (of those donated). It’s kind of a drive for me, and I didn’t want to get up at 6:00 am on a Saturday to be there early enough for the chance to win a mystery game, so I rolled in at about 10:00. I don’t know if people weren’t picking up their games or if they just didn’t have enough attendance (it looked like there were 100 people there when I came in), but there were still a few games left when I arrived. I had a choice between Grave Business, Zombie High School, and Guardians of Graxia, so I got Graxia (not that interested in zombies these days). It’s a 1-2 player game from a couple of years ago that never really picked up steam. It looks interesting, I’m looking forward to giving it a try. Tthe solo play option doesn’t hurt.
Most of our group was engaged playing Police Precinct (2013, Ole Steiness, Common Man GameS) when I arrived. This is a cooperative police game where you’re trying to catch a murderer while still keeping crime in the city under control. They were close to finishing, so I waited. I’ve played the game once before, and wasn’t too impressed – it’s a big board, and there’s a bunch of stuff going on at once, but it never felt that connected to what was going on. There’s also an optional dirty cop variant in the game, which I don’t think adds that much to the experience. I need to play again sometime because people do seem to like it.
While I was waiting, I wandered around the con a bit. It was being held in the basement of the National Guard Armory building, which was a pretty good size for the event. There were a few exhibitors there – Litko, the company that makes different game accessories, was there. There was also a booth where some people were dressed in Steampunk, and they were doing caricatures of people. A local game store had set up shop with products from board games, minis, and RPGs. There were also lots of tables, with about half the room taken up by miniatures set ups. A lot of people were also playing RPGs (mostly Pathfinder), and only a couple of tables were occupied by people playing board games. There were Settlers of Catan tournaments throughout the day, but I didn’t seek them out.
Police Precinct wrapped up, and we started in on The Resistance: Avalon (2012, Don Eskridge, Indie Boards & Cards). This is a follow up to The Resistance that is almost exactly the same, except set in Arthurian times. The Knights of the Round Table are trying to succeed in three quests, while the Minions of Mordred are trying to thwart them. Gameplay is almost the same, but Avalon adds roles, a la Werewolf. Merlin is like the Seer, knowing who is good and who is bad. Percival is a good guy who knows who Merlin is. Morgana is a bad person who doesn’t know who Merlin is, but appears as Merlin to Percival. The only other difference is that, if the good guys win, the bad guys get one chance to identify Merlin. The Assassin chooses a good guy, and if they are Merlin, the bad guys steal the victory. We played two games, with the Arthurian knights winning the first game, and the Mordred minions winning the second. I was on the winning team both times. I think I like this version better than the original, mostly because I think the roles add a lot to the experience.
Everyone was still in a traitorous mood, so we pulled out Saboteur (2004, Frederic Moyersoen, Z-Man) a game I’d never played before. In this one, everyone is a dwarf mining for gold. On your turn, you play a tunnel tile as you try to reach the treasure, or play an action tile that either cripples someone else, unlocks a player, lets you peek at the treasure, or takes out a tunnel. Some players are saboteurs who don’t want the group to get to the treasure for some reason. If the team does get the treasure, it gets split among everyone that is not a saboteur. If not, the saboteurs get paid. You play three rounds, with roles changing each round, and the player with the most gold wins. I had a great time, and though I don’t really like the treasure distribution at the end, it’s still good fun and one that’s now on my wishlist.
Some of the players still wanted to play traitor games, but I was kind of in the mood to know who my opponents were. So while some went off to play Shadows over Camelot, I joined a group ready to play Kingsburg (2007, Andrea Chiarvesio and Luca Iennaco, Fantasy Flight). This is a dice allocation game where you are influencing advisors for resources and benefits to help you build the most prosperous region. You have to build up your defenses to defend against the oncoming hordes, and you need to put up buildings that will make life easier for you as you go. I like this game a lot, but I’m terrible at it – for some reason, I can never roll well. I came in third during this game, and that’s just because the first place player lost the last battle by one point, sending him to last.
We then pulled out Elfenland (1998, Alan R. Moon, Rio Grande). This Spiel des Jahres winner is all about traveling around a board, visiting different cities by utilizing different forms of transportation. It’s fairly easy to understand, and yet there’s a definite puzzle aspect as you try to determine the best way to get from point A to point T while visiting points B to S in between. I tied for the win with the only person who had played before, which was nice. It was definitely an interesting game, and I could see how it inspired Isla Dorada, which I played at GenCon last year.
The last game for me of the day was Seasons (2012, Régis Bonnessee, Asmodee). We played a three-player game with all the cards, with me, one newbie, and one player who had played once. And I finally got to win one! I was ahead in crystals for most of the game (which hasn’t helped me in the past), and ended up scoring 100 from my cards, which was more than the other two player scored total (they tied with 96). I did not use Figrim the Avaricious in this game, which I usually do. Instead, I used a card that gave me a crystal every time someone summoned a card, and another that gave me two crystals every time someone activated a card. Good combo!
After that, I loaded up my stuff and headed home. Between Guardians of Graxia, some miniatures, two decks of cards for a game called Swords & Dragons, and a copy of Alea Iacta Est I won as a door prize, it was a very profitable trip. $15 for all that, and a great day of gaming. I’ll be looking forward to Arcticon again next year. And I’d like to encourage you to seek out small local cons in your area too. GenCon is great, but there’s gaming goodness all year round if you look for it. Thanks for reading!