Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Hammercon IV

Hammercon IV is come and gone and I'm still a bit hungover from all the running about and driving.  It was a fun weekend although my Civilization game didn't pan out - no one signed up and aside from a few folks commenting on how much they preferred Advanced Civilization* no one seemed to recognize the title.

Sad panda.  It would have been so nice to play a full game of Civ...

However things improved after that and I got a chance to play Le Havre, Galactic Emperor went off great with a full 6 players (no way that's a 90 minute game we went the full 4 hours), and the next day was fun as well with some 1856 and Space Empires!

Le Havre is a great game, I'd seen it before, but this was the first chance I've had to play it and it was pretty fun.  It's a resource management game where you collect raw materials like fish, clay and iron and process them into better goods or build civic buildings like foundries and smoke-houses for people to use and you make money to win the game. I got a bit caught up in scheming and at one point had to liquidate my assets to feed people and wound up doing pretty poorly overall but it was still fun.  I'll be picking that one up.

Galactic Empires was the other game I had come to run and it was a full game with 6 players.  I had a good time, in fact I enjoyed the game more this time than I have before.  The players got the rules pretty quickly, it was a fun bunch that could take a bad roll or a good one equally well - and things wound up pretty close in the end with one fellow taking the win by one point.  There wasn't a huge amount of fleet fighting (although there were some good fights), but there was a lot of fun to be had in the diplomatic 'combat' involving influence placement - one aspect of this game that is very well executed I think.

1856 was a really fun game - it's one of the 18xx games which are train games but interested in the workings of rail companies and stock as much as laying tracks.  It played a bit like Empire Builder meets Acquire and that was a pretty fascinating mix to me.  1856 is set in Southern Ontario and so playing in Hamilton was pretty neat since I bet walked past some of the railways laid by the in-game companies on the way to the convention.  I'd totally pick this up as well although it might be hard to find a group to play it with.

Finally we played Space Empires.  I have a history with Space Empires since I played a lot of the game as a video game some 10-12 years ago.  I bought a copy of Space Empires 3 and played the crap out of it with friends via email and in hot-seat play.  It was a really good game and I think SE3 was the pinnacle of the series even if people might say SE4 was better (it wasn't).  When I heard last year that this was coming out as a board game I was both interested and wary.  This could have been such a bad boardgame, in fact I was kinda expecting it to be a bad one.  Fortunately it is rather a good board game.  In Space Empires you are building your empire up by exploring, finding resources, establishing new colonies and by beating up the other player empires.  You can also research technologies and improve your ships and weapons.  It's not that this is a unique concept, these things can be found in Twilight Imperium and Galactic Emperor and many other board games, but Space Empires is a solid entrant in the ranks and has an exploration area quite a bit larger than those other games and a nice clean presentation that makes it fun and playable in a reasonable time.  Space Empires focuses on simple resource fuelled exploration, research and combat mechanics and the rules were very intuitive.  There were also a number of advanced options you could throw in like worm holes and mines and drone-fighters as well as some different game scenarios to play out -  like a solo game consisting of defending yourself against automated death machines.  We didn't get to play for very long and there were no crazy battles but I got enough of a taste of it to get a good impression of the game.  I'm still processing things but I believe I've crossed over from a Space Empires denier to a Space Empires apologist.

Overall all impression of Hammercon:    I did briefly meet one of the guys from the Accidental Survivors and give him a copy of Beacon.   I also got to game a lot with a dude from Kitchener who was a super nice guy and a great game instructor (he brought and ran us through most of the games I played there; Le Havre, 1856 and Space Empires).  I also got a copy of Beacon in to the hands of three dudes who were tossing words around about 3rd ed vs redbox vs some other god knows what things - that was kind of fun - hopefully they didn't chuck it in the trash on the way out. I think that if the problems with game registration hadn't occurred and I had gotten my Civ game posted in time for pre-registration it might have been a better weekend.  However it did turn out to be a pretty good weekend after-all and I got to play three new games with some cool folks.

Now I'm going to start thinking about things to do for the Ottawa Game Summit in February...

*And pro-fucking-tip here: if you are at a game convention and someone is looking for people to play their game, the worst thing you can do is hang around and mention to everyone who will listen how much you prefer a slightly different version of the game through your slightly up turned lip.  That's a ticket for getting busted in the face - seriously.

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