Lahti games weekend, Saturday and Sunday

After a badly slept night a new morning dawned. While waiting for the breakfast, I played a game of 6 Nimmt!. We played it differently, using (almost) the Terminal City Gamers variant. Instead of several rounds, we played just two, without shuffling the deck or the cards on the table between them. It was a good variant, too. It makes the game faster and better suited as a filler (as played properly the game can take quite a while sometimes). I recommend you try it.

While we were playing, Munter brought out a hellish device called Lightning Reaction. Despite watching the guys play a round, I gave it a go. It’s … interesting. Each player (from two to four) is given a handle. Each handle has a button. When a round is started, a light starts to flash and a terrible wailing noise is played. When the noise ends and the light turns from red to green, players rush to push their buttons. The last one to react gets an electrical shock. You will also be shocked if you push the button before the light changes. Three shocks and you’re out.

It’s an exciting game. The shock is unpleasant enough to make losing unattractive. The noise is horrible, if you’re not playing, but adds to the tension of the game while you’re waiting for the light to change. It’s quite a game. One round was enough for me… I’m quite sure that the game could be quite a craze with the right people.

A game of Taj Mahal was starting and I rushed to join it. It’s a great game I don’t own, so I’ll try to use all the chances I get to play it. At some point around round six or seven I got the idea to collect lots of cards as my game started to look pretty bad. Well, I did. In the end of the game, I had 17 yellow cards and 2 white cards. Thus, I scored 19 bonus points. I thought I had a chance to be third, but other players had so many cards (Stefu had collected cards to win crucial last two rounds, but then won the temples he needed with just two cards or so) I came fourth. Still, it was an interesting tactic.

I was eager to try some of the games from Knizia’s Dice Games Properly Explained. We got seven players for a game of Mice or men, which I instantly renamed as Men or berrypickers. The idea of the game is that all players roll three dice under a cup and then betting starts. Players must either fold, scoring 1-10 penalty points (depends on the number of the round) or stay with the men. Men can either accept current penalty point stake or raise it. After everyone accepts the same number of penalty points, it’s time for showdown. The player with the weakest dice scores the penalty points.

In the first round, the loser had to collect 16 points. In the second round it was 20. Then it got up to 60. Then again 60. Next round it crept up to 80. Suddenly it was 150. On the following round we were satisfied with just 70. Then testosterone started really going and Stefu had to collect 1000 penalty points. After that there was no stopping it — I scored 2000 penalty points. In the final round, there was 2500 points at the stake. If a player had folded every round, their 55 points would’ve gained them the third place as the final scores were 20-46-60-269-1178-2089-2523. It was certainly fun, but the explosion of penalty scores kind of ruined the game. I think there needs to be some kind of fix. Perhaps a limit of some kind, or perhaps the penalty for folding could be related to the current penalty number or something like that. Of course, a good solution would be to play for real money or something else that’s concrete, as that would limit the bets in a natural way.

After that, we tried another bluffing game from the book, Little Max. There was some confusion with the rules, making it a slightly flat experience.

Then it was time for a pre-arranged match between me and Reko. We had agreed to play a game of Hammer of the Scots. Luck of the draw awarded the English forces for me to command. It was an interesting game. The score shifted during the game, I think I was in the lead for most of the game. Reko certainly had his moments. Wallace roamed the land free (well, I was once very close to finishing him off, but he escaped) killing my armies and at one point, Galloway and Bruce (who I converted very early in the game) turned to blue and Scots armies were unpleasantly close to England. I suffered slightly from bad cards, especially when Edward was on board. Then again, I had some luck on my side. The most memorable moment was when Moray and an army tried to convert Comyn. I rolled four dice for Comyn, scoring four hits. Both Moray and his supporting army were defeated. In the end, the game was close but on the last turn, I once again managed to push deep in to the Scottish territory and the game ended with England controlling ten nobles. It was an excellent game.

I had traded my Die Händler for San Marco with Phil and Stefu had agreed to arrange the swapping to save postage costs. There were three of us, so I thought San Marco would be a good game to try. Fourth player joined us before we could start, but we played it anyway. It was an interesting experience, as I hadn’t so much as glanced the rules before we started. I pulled it off well, I don’t think we made any big mistakes. At least I was familiar with the splitting mechanism from Canal Grande.

It was a good game and I enjoyed it immensely. It has certain elegance and tactical richness to it. Some say it doesn’t work with four players, but I didn’t find any problems with it. It’s certainly not the most original game, being a prime example of territory dominance. Still, I like it. I can see it being a very slow game with certain players, but with players who don’t analyse it to death, it should be good fun. I expect to enjoy it much more than Die Händler, so it certainly was a good trade for me.

After that it was the time for a grand declaration of war: A Game of Thrones was to start. I had missed a game on Friday, so I was more than glad to participate in this second round. I’m currently working through the first book of the series and I’m not completely satisfied with it, it hasn’t grabbed my attention properly yet (and I’m few hundred pages in the book!) — however, the background makes for a good game world.

I got the Lannisters, who are the Borgias of the book. The characteristics of the different houses have no effect in the game, they only affect the initial setup. I like the way the combat system is based on Diplomacy — fortunately our game had less negotiations and thus finished in good time. The mechanism of assigning orders to units for simultaneous resolution was interesting and the limited supply of order tokens caused some trouble. I never had huge armies, so I could usually do what I wanted to.

The peaceful expansion phase of the game was over relatively quickly. I soon attacked the Greyjoys by boat, aided by the Tyrells. They avenged by taking the Riverrun. However, as Starks came from the north, Greyjoys were soon on the brink of extinction. I added an insult over the injury by taking over their capital, Pyke. For the last hour or so of the game, Greyjoys had little to do and that is a problem with the game, really — something bad the game has inherited from Diplomacy. There’s little to help it, however, it’s such a natural consequence of the rules and the mechanics. Still, especially in a con or game club environment, getting stuck on a hopeless game for hour or more is much worse than getting eliminated early.

Starks and Tyrells were the powerhouses of the game. I was at five castles at one point but failed to gather more. My trouble was the supply — when the only supply event game, I was at my weakest. There were few musters when I simply couldn’t fulfill my potential because I didn’t have enough supply. That stopped me from winning. Starks had pretty pleasant times in the north, nobody tried to invade their homes or anything. It was an interesting game and while I could certainly play it again, I would not buy it. It has too many problems and I don’t see it getting played very much. It’s nice, but not quite nice enough.

Our game was interrupted by a very good meal. Rice, pita bread, French fries, salad and kebab meat. It was a very heavy and tasty meal and combined with heavy breakfasts well worth the ten euros I had to shell out for the weekend. Munter has lots of experience organising LARPs, so perhaps feeding 30 people is no big deal for him, but still, it was well done, considering the time it takes to prepare the meals and clean out afterwards.

Last game of the evening (this time eleven-ish, after some well-needed time in sauna) was Kogge. I played with Reko and Stefu, but I’m afraid the game was a bit too complicated for the moment. It’s not the easiest game to figure out and thus it probably should be played when all players are fully awake and focused. At least Reko seemed to have trouble concentrating… Stefu managed to storm to a victory by raiding and buying bonus chits when the game was close to its end.

It was a much better night, I slept for almost eight hours. Sunday morning was lazy, I ate a lot and packed my gear. I managed to get a ride to the train station and caught an early train with Olli. I also found out how long it takes to go from Riihimäki to Tampere by train: four rounds of Anathema and a round of Lost Cities. Anathema (or Casino) turned out to be a rather nice two-player game and, thanks to the small space it requires, a good game for limited space, like in trains. Lost Cities takes just about as much as space as the train has to offer.

And that’s it. I’m quite happy it’s over and I’m back home, but I guess I’m heading back next time, if there’s nothing more important going on the same weekend.

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