Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Winter War recap, part 2

For Saturday at Winter War I focused on two main things: playing boardgames and finishing my Empire of the Petal Throne dungeon. Yes, I really do wait 'til the day before to finish my con games. Unless I don't bother finishing at all. In these matters my motto has long been "If you've got pregens you've got a con game". And for a simple enough game I can skimp on that. I use to worry that my tardiness in preperations was a disservice to my players, until I realized that some of my best DMing happens when I am working with a shoddy dungeon map and a half-formed premise. But for EPT I really wanted at least three complete levels. In between finishing level 2 and creating level 3 whole cloth I managed to get in a lot of other fun stuff.

Legendary downstate Illinois gamestore Castle Perilous was open for business when I arrived Saturday morning. Armored Gopher Games is my home turf and store of choice. I'm happy to buy any and all game stuff I can from them. But Castle Perilous always has something neat in their used section. This time I found an issue of Pegasus (one of the old Judges Guild mags) and the Boot Hill module Range War. Spent five buck apiece for them. Nowadays Boot Hill is one of the few RPGs lacking both robots and witches that interests me and I'm always up for something from Judges Guild. Unfortunately, the Castle didn't have any Bella Sera cards. My daughter asked me to pick some up for her at the con and Castle Perilous was my last, best hope for little cards with ponies on them.

For the past several years lunchtime on Winter War Saturday has involved my sister and I getting together at the nearby Monical's Pizza with whoever else we can connive into joining us. I don't think I've mentioned ol' what's-her-face in a while on this blog, but my sister Jenn has really gotten into boardgames and Euro-games over the past five years or so. She now has her own Wednesday night game group in her home and she can pretty much whoop me at any game where I can't hide behind a screen and change the rules to suit my purposes. Her boyfriend Kirk was with her for the second year in a row and my wife Amy joined us at the restaraunt. The official fifth wheel of the group was Dane, a member of my Mutant Future group and hoot to hang out with. We had a nice meal but the guy sitting in the booth behind Jenn kept turning around and staring at us. I made eye contact with him more than once but he was undeterred. At first I thought he was one of the con-goers (the place was lousy with games, being right next to the hotel.) and was waiting for a moment to jump in on the conversation. But no, he was just the world's least subtle eavesdropper.

The lunch break on Saturday is also the time of the live game auction, which wasn't quite over when we got back. Dane ended up buying three different lawyer-themed games for the minimum bid. The only thing I bid on was a copy of Age of Mythology. Have you seen the plastic pieces in one of those? Perfect monsters for 1:72 scale, I tell's ya. But it went for well over the cheapskate level I bid at. I sold a bunch of stuff this year and made out like a bandit on that end. I felt a little silly when my sister bought one of the items in the auction. Especially since it was a birthday present from my brother-in-law, who was also in the room. When I first got it I was all "Puerto Rico for the PC! Huzzah!" But six months later it was still sitting on my computer desk, box still sealed. It might as well go to someone who will actually play it.

After the auction comes the event I consider the centerpiece of the convention: the Doctor Metcalf Memorial Blind Sniper Tournament. Some of you grognards might be familiar with Sniper!, an old SPI game about man-to-man fighting on the streets of Stalingrad. The Winter War variant is basically an every-man-for-himself hidden movement shoot-out, usually with 15 to 20 people scrambling around the map. The game can last up to twelve hours but most of the players are dead well before that. Since the referee (Bruce, one of the founding fathers of the local game scene) takes a lot of time processing written orders and writing responses, whole other boardgames are played during the tournament.

This year I played three other games before being killed on turn 11/hour 6 of the game. My sister and her fella crashed the Sniper room and played Alhambra Dice with Jim, Dane and I. I did absolutely terrible at this game but I got to roll a bunch of funny dice, so who cares? Jenn and Kirk headed off for their Settlers of Catan tournament, so the three of us remaining broke out one of Dane's newly-acquired lawyer games. We tried Judge for Yourself, which is a basic 'guess the actual verdict' sort of thing. What made the game fun was that on some turns you are part of a jury and must return a unaminous verdict, so when someone talks you into a wrong decision you can give them lots of crap about it.

The last game of the night for me was Endeavor, a Euro-type game of brutal colonial exploitation and power politics. Dane had to leave, but Jim and I were joined by his son Ian and a couple of other Sniper players. It must be an easy game to pick up, as I managed to finish third, ahead of the other newbie and someone already familiar with the game. If you like Puerto Rico but wish there was a map to fight over, you might want to give Endeavor a try.