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2004-03-24 RussCon Report


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16 of us played 12 games. TimG's friend Big Dan aka BD from last July reappeared!

Our Most Assiduous Reader may recall that the Statesman was interviewing people about boardgaming in Austin recently. The article "Back to the boards and tables: It's hip to play the old games again" appeared on Monday (possibly annoying registration required, and I'm not sure how long that link will be good.) It was actually a national article by a Wall Street Journal reporter, and the local reporter added a few paragraphs of local content, as follows:

Austin gamers -- the term players prefer -- are a mostly 25- to 50-year-old crowd that prefers games that require more strategy than luck, such as Settlers of Catan, a German game in which players are settlers in the undeveloped land of Catan. The object of the game is to build the longest road and the most cities and towns.

Axis and Allies, an American board game about World War II, is also huge. So is Puerto Rico, another European game in which players are landowners in Puerto Rico during Spanish colonization. They raise crops and build factories to send goods back to Spain. These games don't require aggressive play as in attacking your opponent like chess. Rather, the competitive aspect comes from building empires and not going for the jugular.

Many of these gamers gather at Great Hall Games in Dobie Mall where, on any night of the week, an organized group such as Austin Board Gamers is hosting a play session. Owner Rob Smith doesn't mind if they stay until midnight on Fridays. It's good for his business, and he has set up playing tables in a separate game room to accommodate the interest in board gaming. On Wednesday nights, the Austin Go Club plays Go, an ancient Japanese game.

"It's really a community," says Kevin Dunn, a massage therapist who plays board games on Friday nights at Great Hall and returns on Sundays to play tabletop miniature war games, where adults get into playing with toy soldiers. "We are in the same world," Dunn explains about gamers. "It's a way to blow off steam, and it's very competitive."

Players like the social aspect. "You meet a lot of interesting people," says Jeff Shaevel of the Austin Go Club. "When we get together to play, it's like our happy hour."

Beer and wine, food and music in the background is part of the local scene, especially when gamers gather at someone's house. Mark Fullerton of Austin Board Gamers maintains a message list of more than 100 players to notify them of upcoming events, whether someone is hosting play at home or at Great Hall Games or Dragon's Lair, another Austin business where players congregate.

"Most of the people we see in here are Gen-Xers," says Smith of Great Hall, which is enjoying the increase in sales as more people get into gaming. "They are well educated with comfortable incomes. Many are in the high-tech field who play as a way to relax. And yes, they want social interaction. They like real live people sitting across from them instead of playing games on the computer."

Note that the article has the wrong night for go at Great Hall - go club is Tuesday, not Wednesday. (I'm surprised the Monday night chess club wasn't mentioned.) No photos with the web version of the article, though the print edition (which I saw at Great Hall during Tuesday night go club) had one photo from Great Hall. It also oversimplifies the goal of Settlers of Catan; certainly one can win without the longest road or the most cities and towns. Nothing from the interviews with me or some other RussCon folks (Dan and maybe Brady?) was used, but I know that is common. JeffS was quoted briefly about go, though; yay!

In other news: there was discussion a few weeks ago about the fluorescent light in the bathroom during RussCon - is it better to frequently turn it on and off as needed, or to leave it on continuously? Marty argued that it is better to leave it on, and recently found a Straight Dope column to support his claim. So I'm curious if anyone has any knowledge of this issue. Sounds like we should leave the light on during RussCon!

Speaking of housekeeping type things: several folks lately have been offering to help wash dishes at the end of the evening, which was quite nice of them (thanks folks, you know who you are, and I appreciate the thought) but not really necessary (I have a patented secret russ-dish-washing methodology I apply to them). But one thing that would be helpful is if people can simply remember to clear out their trash, and bring dishes to the sink area. Occasionally I'll discover a dish with dried up pie on it hidden in some nook or cranny a few days after RussCon. (And also please remember to give cans/bottles a brief rinse before tossing them in the recycling box, lest sugary diabetes-causing bug-attracting chemicals get splattered about.) Dankon!

Game Results

TakeItEasy2Marty 1 JimG -1
ArkOfTheCovenant5RussW 4 JP 2 Whendy 0 TimG -2 Clayton -4
Amun-Re3Marty 2 Fina 0 JimG -2
Tichu2( Jeffles Fred ) 1 ( Ben KevinU ) -1
RicochetRobot5Jeffles 4 MarkY 2 KevinU 0 Ben -2 RussD -4
Exxtra6MarkY 5 RussD 3 Fred 1 KevinU -1 Jeffles -3 Ben -5
Acquire5TimG 4 Whendy 2 RussW 0 BD -2 Clayton -4
OnceUponATime6Fina 5 RussW -1 KevinU -1 Whendy -1 Ben -1 Jeffles -1
Cribbage2MarkY 1 William -1
MembersOnly5JP 4 Marty 1 Fina 1 JimG -2 William -4
Cribbage2MarkY 1 William -1
Frank'sZoo7RussW 6 Fina 4 Whendy 2 JP 0 Ben -2 KevinU -4 Jeffles -6

I wouldn't have minded joining in the enjoyable simultaneous-solitaire bingo-like Take It Easy, which hadn't been played here in a while, but such was not my fate.

I did however achieve a glorious victory in Ark Of The Covenenant finally, after 3 games finished dead last and another next to last!

The Acquire game was tough, and it was not clear who was winning. I was however pretty sure that Clayton and Big Dan were losing, due to too much early investment in Imperial which grew and thus led to no cash income for them. Acquire had lots of meta words like "hundred", "hotel", and "eight", "eighteen", "each". Some were detected more frequently than others...

once upon a timeOnce Upon A Time is a game I'm surprised hasn't been played here before. I may have only played it once before in my life, I'm not sure, but I want to play it more. The problem is, it's not really a game in the normal competitive sense, although it has a game framework. It's really a collaborative storytelling experience. In a way it's too bad that it has a game framework, since that encourages people to just try getting rid of their cards rapidly instead of creating a compelling immersive player experience (as the marketing types like to say). We decided at the start to try to emphasize the storytelling experience rather than just trying to rapidly get rid of your cards; I'd say we partially succeeded. Our story involved children (sadly orphaned when their parents died in a freak beartrap accident) and their aunt who were looking for their lost sheep and had various adventures involving a stupid menacing monster, a pirate battle in a magical castle, and a river voyage. I notice that Atlas Games has a Dark Tales supplement - we should try that out too! Jeffles mentioned that he has used foreign language versions of the game (there seem to be French, Spanish and Italian editions) to help teach other languages to friends, and of course I am now pondering making an Esperanto version... Also of meta note: by this time most of us had resigned from the Meta Game, except Kevin - who probably pronounced a plurality of P-words in the process of playing this pleasurable pastime, but no one noticed!

Frank's Zoo with 7 players doesn't happen that often, but it was good fun! We had to read carefully about dealing out the cards, since (unlike with smaller numbers of players) the 60 cards aren't distributed equally to all players...


Rank Ratings:     
 3.8712 MarkY
 3.3730 RussW
 3.1781 Fina
 2.3026 JP
 2.0794 Marty
 1.0217 Whendy
 0.9808 Fred
 0.9163 TimG
-0.6931 BD
-0.6931 RussD
-0.7419 Jeffles
-2.2618 KevinU
-2.4849 JimG
-2.9957 William
-3.2189 Clayton
-3.8712 Ben
Win Ratings:
 3.1499 RussW won 2 of 4
 2.9549 MarkY won 3 of 4
 1.7838 Jeffles won 2 of 5
 1.5686 Marty won 2 of 3
 1.3863 TimG won 1 of 2
 1.2321 JP won 1 of 3
 1.0090 Fina won 1 of 4
 0.5108 Fred won 1 of 2
-0.2231 BD won 0 of 1
-0.4055 RussD won 0 of 2
-0.4463 Clayton won 0 of 2
-0.7828 Whendy won 0 of 4
-1.3218 JimG won 0 of 3
-1.4351 KevinU won 0 of 5
-1.4351 Ben won 0 of 5
-1.6094 William won 0 of 3

MarkY and I are Co-Devils! Fina, JP, Marty, and Jeffles are all Co-Vice-Devils!

If you are confused how the ratings work, you could peruse the FAQ.

I used GraphViz to generate the graph image.

devil graph

Meta Game

Jeffles was the Meta Devil and emailed out the following Meta Game:

Hum, ok.... it's the word restriction meta game. Anyone who wishes to play gets to take a name tag, and roll the balderdash letter die.

We write that letter on your name tag, and if you say any words starting with that letter then anyone may tell you and you get -1 metapoint.

Game will start around 8. Hopefully we can kick it off with a round of Once Upon a Time. As the night goes on, we'll be dishing out additional letters

When you leave, you take an extra letter and give a one minute speech or story on some random topic. You take -1 meta point for all word goof ups and for long delays. You may also challenge players to a speech. You each have to take an additional letter, and then you both have to do 30 second speechs or stories.

No doubt, we'll only have a few half-hearted participants, and I've created yet another lame meta game. Oh well, I'll have fun!

this game sucks o Well, this actually turned out to be quite amusing, and I'd recommend it as a silly party game suitable for any gathering of people who are into that sort of thing. Lots of high energy laughter and fun! Particularly fun were chain reactions, e.g. Whendy had the letter O (which turns out to be a tough one to avoid!) and she would say something like "Oh, damn it", whereupon we'd say "You just said Oh!" and she'd then cry "Oh, damn!" in frustration, then realize she'd just said "Oh" again, possibly triggering an "Oh shit!" We passed out an additional letter to everyone after an hour. During a long game of Acquire both Whendy and Big Dan had the letter H - this proved fruitful for mistakes, as Acquire uses hundreds as the base monetary denomination. "I'll buy three shares for nine Hundred", heh heh... I had the letter E and was relieved that I never got caught when I repeatedly said such numbers as "Eight" and "Eighteen"! I also managed to frequently say things "those cost two hundred Each", and only got caught on "each" once. Several folks, including Whendy, TimG, and Jeffles himself, scored disastrously large numbers of points and eventually removed their nametags in resignation. (Jeffles replaced his with a new name tag saying "This game sucks".) I believe the best scores as the evening wore on belonged to me, JP, KevinU, and Big Dan (all around a half dozen). Big Dan strategically left earlier than the the rest of us, while only KevinU was still tied with him. Eventually I noted a slipup of Kevin's, and so Big Dan is the Meta Devil and will design next week's Meta Game!

Evening's Soundtrack

Cracker, Tucson
Cracker, Kerosene Hat
Cracker, The Golden Age
Cracker, Gentleman's Blues

Another of those "Russ got home right before RussCon and didn't have time to think of a nonobvious soundtrack" themes. (I was delayed by a neighborhood meeting which lasted longer than I expected.)

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