Lautapelaamaan 2011 (Helcon)

Traditional Helcon is now Lautapelaamaan (“to play board games”). The event remains the same: a weekend of open gaming in Helsinki couple of weeks after Essen. 2011 saw another change in venue, this time to a bigger hall inside Kaapelitehdas. Not bad, as the hall last year was a bit crowded, but Kaapelitehdas is a good location otherwise.

First time in years, I was able to make this an overnight visit. Last one of those was in 2005, before the kids. Now they’re finally old enough. My brother joined me and we shared a hotel room near the location.

I hit the road at seven am, picked up Ville from Hämeenlinna and we reached Helsinki by nine, when the convention opened. We missed the lectures on Friday, but that wasn’t a big deal. Open gaming, that’s what counts.

After a quick match of King of Tokyo, we started the day with Eclipse. Sampo, one of the designers had asked me if I want to play again, and I was a bit wary, not wanting to waste many hours on single game. However, when Sampo promised me a four-player game with swift players, I was sold. The other designer Touko joined me, Ville and Sampo.

It was a quick game. Actual play time was under two hours, with setup and rules slightly over two hours. Very nice, and it didn’t feel like we were rushing the game. We did have the Cube timing the game, but with no time limits.

Eclipse is still good. It was mostly the same as back in Helcon 2010, but with small tuning here and there. The diplomacy rules were the biggest change. I’m really looking forward to getting my own copy in December and playing the game against easier opponents. This time I was third, beating Ville with the tiebreaker.

In the photo below, Touko Tahkokallio is on left, Sampo Sikiö on right.

Arvaa kumpi voitti

Next up was another 4X game, Ascending Empires. Here’s a pretty cool game! I’ve now played twice, and I like this one a lot. It’s a simple game of recruiting troops, converting them to space ships to launch to other planets, building up technology and fighting space battles — but with a cool dexterity element. The ships are discs, flicked on the board. Flying requires sharp flicking skills.

The game is otherwise rather simple, but that’s what’s so great about it. The turns are lightning fast when players know what they’re doing, with an occasional longer turn when somebody goes flying. Think Antike, the games are very similar in flow.

I like this one a lot. Now that we’ve switched our game meeting from Konttori to Artturi, the new place has large enough tables so I can play this one more. Our first game couple of weeks ago took two hours, but now we played the game in an hour, like it should be.

Continuing on the space theme, we moved on to Eminent Domain. I finally got the Kickstarter game! The first game didn’t impress me a lot, but I want to investigate the game further. There are interesting elements in it, that’s for sure, but also lots of stuff that seems quite pointless — like most of the research cards, the whole trade engine and so on. Probably just the way we played… But yeah, I need to play more.

Tuomo, a friend of mine who does great board game review videos, did a really nice String Railway game in 5x scale. So, instead of 30 cm and 60 cm strings, the players have 1.5 m and 3 m “strings”. This was a great game for a con, at least it got lots of attention… It was pretty nice, I’d like to have one myself for outdoors use and so on. It worked really well.

String Railway 5x

After that it was time to check in at the hotel and grab some food, then it was time for String Railway: Transport — this one in regular 1x scale. I’ve had this game since Summer, but haven’t managed to play it yet. Now it was the time, and well, it turned out to be an interesting game. Heavier than the basic game, and not as useful as a filler, but it was fun to play and I’ll definitely want to play it more.

Ok, I don’t want to continue the narrative anymore, let’s focus on games.

Oregon — This one I like more and more. It’s a very strong game in the short family game genre. Plays fast, has clever stuff in it, looks nice. Not bad at all. I gave three newbies a solid beating, thanks to my superior two-game experience.

Chunky Fighters — My brother has made a set of these. The idea is cool and the art is fun, unfortunately the game is tedious.

King of Tokyo — Mentioned already… This is a good die-rolling filler, with really neat art and funny cards. In the genre of dice games, this is a very good game.

Uluru — A quick two-player game says this is an interesting logic puzzle. Time limits in these kinds of games are often too easy, but here I ran out of time couple of times. That’s always good.

K2 — Paul Laane taught me this one. It’s a pretty cool game, as it has you fighting against the elements while scaling K2, one of the deadlier mountains in the world. Both Paul and Ville got their climbers killed, but I got my climber to the summit and made it down, too, alive. Nice, if not earth-shaking. I wouldn’t mind giving the seriously difficult winter variant a go.

Quo vadis? — Last time I played this was in Essen 2005, when the Amigo edition was new. Funny detail… I’ll quote from my Essen blog post: “Interesting enough, Reiner Knizia was there too. Andreas rushed to buy a copy of Quo Vadis, but by the time he was back, Knizia was gone. Too bad for Phil, who the game was going, I think.” Well, that copy of Quo Vadis, unfortunately without the Knizia autograph, is the very same copy we played with in Lautapelaamaan and which is now in my possession.What goes around comes around, I suppose. Anyway, it was a fun game, though Ville in particular detested it. Me, Hannu and Paul at least had a good time with the game…

Walnut Grove — This was the only game we played on Sunday and unfortunately I botched the rules. As an excuse, I’m not the only one, somebody else at BGG had done the exact same mistake. Anyway, the game felt pretty dreadful at times, but that’s clearly because of my mistake. I’ll have to give the game another go at some point.

Here’s my Flickr photo set. I particularly like this portrait of Paul Laane:

Paul Laane

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