Tunnels of Doom

Navigating the twisty maze of games

Gaming Weekend: Pre-Con Edition

Next week is Pacificon (that’s ConQuest SF for the pedantic), and most of this week’s activities were somehow related to early prep for the full weekend of gaming mayhem that lies ahead. I’m still in a video game doldrum; the only games I seem to have any enthusiasm for are XBLA games. I had an opportunity to spend a few hours with any of my longer-form games at one point during the weekend and I stood in front of my shelf of games, many of them begging to be played, and found none of them held much allure. I think I ultimately watched a few minutes of the Silent Hill 2 intro—this marks roughly the 42nd time I’ve sat through it—and turned it off because my one rechargeable 360 controller battery was dying. I wasn’t exactly weeping and gnashing teeth.

We did end up having Thom and his wife Kelly over later in the week for games. He walked us through the introductory mode of Power Grid, which I felt was more of a tease than anything. Basically the game involves a bidding match to buy the best Power Station card (which is wholly subjective) followed by a resource management phase followed by a Monopoly-like land grab. The mechanics are a little awkward to understand abstractly at first, but once they click they have a remarkable balance of simple elegance and thorough representation. Sort of the opposite of Hillary Clinton? I don’t know, I’m not good with the political jokes.

What was teasing about the intro game was that at the point in the regular progression where the game opens up and the true beauty of your early game establishment is revealed, the game is over. Imagine playing Ticket to Ride and after drawing your hand up to twenty-five cards, someone claimed their first 8-point Destination Ticket completion and announced the game was over. I understand the theory behind giving new players a taste, and I understood that our guests were probably tired (not to mention we will most likely be playing the game again at the con) but I’m the kind of gamer where if I get into the flow of a session, my strategy begins to form like a gathering storm. Leaving that mindset unfulfilled is like shaking up a can of coke and setting it gently on the counter. I survived, you know? But I’ve been replaying the short session in my head for days now, wondering how it would have gone if I’d had one last turn or…

It’s a path that leads to madness. Also scurvy, which is the lesser of the two evils. Regardless, I suspect I will be not be sated until Friday at the earliest. In the interim I would advise a wide berth. Twenty yards or so ought to suffice.

The List

  • Blood Bowl – After four straight wins I was finally taken down a peg by the new member of the league whose Chaos Dwarves ground me to a tie. I went ahead and purchased a fourth Ghoul for the team, despite not having a model to represent him, just to have something to do with the extra cash I had lying around. Despite my rapid turnaround in fortune (this marks six straight matches without a loss after two opening defeats), I remain in second place. And I’ll say this: The first place team is Thom’s Orcs who:
    1. Have yet to be defeated.
    2. Have yet to be scored upon.
    3. Are +13 in Casualties.
    4. Have three games in hand on my team.
    5. Still manage to be five points ahead in the standings.

    At my current pace I’ll finish the season with 77 points. If Thom is completely shut out of his next six games, he’ll still only be eight points behind that.

  • Power Grid – I think my favorite part of the game is the supply and demand mechanic for resource pricing. I do kind of wish they had chosen a more accommodating physical element besides paper money, but the fact that prices fluctuate as the game progresses and also in reaction to people’s purchasing decisions is genius. I’m definitely looking forward to playing this one again.
  • Sorry! Sliders – We played some more of this with a four-player configuration and a long, three-section track. It’s still fun but like many manual dexterity games and games aimed at younger audiences it’s losing it’s magic rapidly. I probably have one more session left in me in the near future before I’d need a long break on it.
  • Bionic Commando: Rearmed – My only real video gaming forays of late have been in XBLA territory and this is my single-player title du jour. I’m impressed continually with how well they managed to maintain the delicate balance between staying true to the sensibility and feel of the original while masking its very present flaws in ways that make this remake not just a new skin on an old game but actually fulfills the promise of what that aging title could have been. It’s impressive work.
  • Ticket to Ride – My multiplayer gaming was also XBLA-based as I picked up the Europe expansion for the game and played a couple of rounds with Dr. Mac. I like how TTR has the kind of light strategy mechanics that really allow it to stand out in an online format: You don’t need to fully pay attention during other player’s turns as their play process is of no consequence, only the final result. I understand why Days of Wonder has taken to making each new variant (Marklin, Europe, etc) unique with its own feel and flow, but it does frustrate me a little that bits that work well in one edition won’t always even be included in later games making them less like revisions and more like new twists on the base game. I would like to see something that really tries to be the ultimate edition of the game incorporating the best mechanical elements from all the variant games. It would be nice if they used the online format (like XBLA) to allow you to customize the maps and game mechanics a little in an effort to see what people prefer.

Hobby Corner

I finished my Shadowforge female elf Blood Bowl team just in time for PacifiCon so I plan to use them in the tournament Thom is running Friday night. It will be interesting to see how that goes since I’m so used to playing bruiser-style teams and the elves are… not. As for the models themselves I think I’m pretty happy with how they turned out. I used nothing but static grass for the bases and I think I would have made a few adjustments in how I handled the overall process along the way (I still have four extra models that won’t get used unless I enter them in a league at some point so I will yet have a chance to experiment with them) but overall the results are okay. I mostly just tried to do justice to the wonderful models themselves which are really well made. So kudos to Shadowforge; unfortunately the only other teams they have model sets for are Dark Elves (too close to regular elves to be my next team), Orcs (already have some orcs) and Humans. I’m now very tempted to buy a team of the humans to make a male/female team using the plastic models that came with the boxed set, but there are two reasons I might not want to do that. One is that it would give me an over abundance of models where some were drastically overshadowed by others. The other reason is that I actually like the GW human models (at least the metal ones) so I’m not sure double-dipping in the Shadowforge line would be as great if I weren’t specifically compensating for the repugnant “official” line.

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