Monday, May 20, 2013

Cangames 2013

I usually don't get a chance to attend the Cangames convention in Ottawa, primarily because of double booking with other activities on the May 2x4 holiday.   That's a shame because whenever I look over the schedule, Cangames is the local Ottawa convention with the most diversity.  Well, OK, I can't speak about miniature wargaming, but if you are interested in older boardgames or RPGs other than Pathfinder/D&D, you will find more options at Cangames than the larger Gamesummit.

I looked over the schedule for this year and noticed that there were some pretty good things running, unfortunately a lot of it was running on Friday and I wasn't going to be able to play them.  I was especially aggrieved about having to pass up a session of Dune themed Diaspora.  I would have loved to be able to see Diaspora getting played and figure out how it compared to the kind of iffy results we had with the system.  I just realized that I haven't written up a review of Diaspora yet, either - poop.  There were some other cool things going on too.  Jason Pitre was running Durance again.  Someone was running a lot of Junta and  Shogun sessions.  There was an Axis and Allies session scheduled.  There are a number of games that are hard to find time or players for, Avalon Hill Civilization, Twilight Imperium, Diplomacy/Machiavelli, Axis and Allies or any other Game Master series game - like Fortress America or Shogun.  I had some success running a session of Twilight Imperium at Hammercon a couple years ago, but not so much running Civilization last fall.  This year I noticed that there was a game of Machiavelli scheduled so I knew I needed to show up for that. Someone really needs to do a 'long form' game convention where all the games are 8 hour monsters and the schedule is set up to accommodate that style of marathon. 

Ashen Stars
A steal for 20 bucks!
I had a bit of trouble parking because they are tearing up all the streets in Ottawa as is usual in the summer, and so I got to the con a bit late and missed registering for Durance or any of the other afternoon games.  I wandered around a bit and picked up a copy of Ashen Stars in the marketplace swap which was great.  Someone had a really clean copy of Advanced Civilization for sale for $150 and I was tempted to grab it for a minute or so.  I ran into a couple of guys from work and they were having a good time playing the Monster Mash which is as I understand a perennial Cangames favorite.  Moster Mash is a D&D monster arena for 24 players who get assigned a monster each and have to slug it out till there is one left.  It ran every 2 hours and it looked rowdy and fun - the guy running it calling out which monster was up and everyone making deals and hosing each other.  I never found where they were playing Durance however, so that's twice I've missed out seeing it played.
I had a little issue with the Cangames schedule being so orientated around those 4 hour slots.  Showing up just after 2 as I did, I found there wasn't a lot going on until 7pm.  There didn't seem to be a game library sort of thing going on either, or if it was there the convention folks had no clue and there was no advertising for it.  The convention could also have really benefited from an hourly game 'sprint' sort of event and like they had at Hammercon and Gamesummit,  the kind of thing where you can just drop by and try out a number of games in a short time period.   Also, I really think that any convention will benefit from a simple chalkboard to co-ordinate pickup games looking for players.

In any case, I ran into Trevor and we found a couple of guys who wanted to play Clash of Cultures.  I enjoyed it and think it's a pretty decent game.  I don't think Trevor liked it as much.  One of the players was pretty intense and although I wasn't too phased by it, having played with his sort before, I know Trevor was a little put off by him.  I think Clash of Cultures is a really great game, but I also think it's a little narrow as a four player game and would be better as a five player game.  I think with five or even six you would get a much more epic feel although I understand that the game would be a lot longer, but then again Civilization is one of my favorites and it's not short.

Machiavelli Board
Machiavelli: come for the famines but stay for the plagues...
I managed to talk Trevor into playing Machiavelli.  It's not a complicated game, being based on the Diplomacy rules, but like Diplomacy it does take a while to play, mostly because there is a large amount of planning and negotiation going on.  There isn't a lot of downtime like you'd get with a turn based game because you are always either writing orders or negotiating with other players, and all the turns are executed at once.  I haven't played the game in something like 25 years and I was reminded how much this game is like Game of Thrones board game by Christian Petersen.  I can't believe that's an accident, and I can imagine that Machiavelli had a influence on GoT, although they are very different in some ways too.  We only had four players which isn't the best way to play the game, but I though it was still an enjoyable session, the other players having the right mix of serious and easy going to make a game like this fun and not a chore.  I managed to get totally boxed in the middle of the board and probably didn't play aggressively enough, but it sure was fun to be playing this old gem again.  I think that Machiavelli manages to take the excellent but rigid formula of Diplomacy but throw in enough grease to make the game a little more tasty.  There is more chance involved with famines and plagues, and there are a lot more ways to mess up people with the inclusion of money and bribery.  It is not as tactical as Diplomacy, but it is still very strategic dealing with the increased randomness, and it also means that even a runaway leader can be brought low by an unplanned event and a player with few armies can have more of an impact on the game than in the more streamlined Diplomacy.  I think Trevor liked it and I certainly enjoyed myself.  I'll have to break it out more often.

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