Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Toy and Game Expo 2014 - Day 1 report

It's been a while…Welcome back!

Last weekend I attended the Toy and Game Expo the largest gaming convention in Sydney. Well, it's the only convention in Sydney. There are other larger cons held in Melbourne and Canberra, but the Expo is a nicely run event and a lot of fun. Each year keep getting better. The first year was pretty sad. I only stayed a few hours, there wasn't much game playing going on, and it wasn't easy to join in a game. The second year was much better. I volunteered two of the days demoing games at the Mayfair booth, and entered a Carcassonne tournament. So how did this year compare?

First off, it was only held over 2 days instead of over a long 3 day weekend. This was done so as not to compete with BorderCon, another premier gaming con held on the same holiday weekend. However, BorderCon is hundreds of kilometres away. While I can appreciate that there are a handful of gamers who would go to both events, I don't think many would have been affected and I would rather have had 3 days. With only 2, I only volunteered 1 day, and did not want to spend a whole day on a tournament so I skipped that. 

On Saturday, the first thing I did was some quick shopping around to see if there were any discounts to be found. Most stalls were selling at the usual ridiculously high Aussie retail prices. I was hoping to find a deal on Rampage, but it was $80! But I was pleasantly surprised to find Macao on a discount table for only $30. This had been on my wish list for a while so I quickly snagged it! When it comes to shopping at game cons, the best time to browse is first thing on the first day, before the good games have been picked clean, and in the last 30 min on the last day, when there are last minute bargains to be found, as you will see later….

I had a gaming buddy, Matt, join me on Saturday morning, who is relatively new to the hobby, but is very excited about games. After browsing the demo tables, we decided to try Snowdonia. I'm a big worker placement fan and heard this was a good one. The rules were straightforward and explained well. It easily scaled to 2 players. There were some interesting mechanics, and we both enjoyed it. I liked how the theme was integrated with the excavating of rubble from the mountain to lay tracks. In the end, I ran away with the win by a margin of 40 points, mainly because I capitalised on the end game bonus cards. It was a solid worker placement game, but nothing really unique or groundbreaking. I'll happily play it again, but I wasn't interested enough to add it to my collection. Matt really liked it though and is now looking to buy a copy.

After that, my volunteer shift started. I worked in the Learn to Play area. They had a bunch of tables with the best gateway games set up so that gamers could come up and have someone explain the game for them. I got to teach CarcassonneTicket to RideDominionSaboteurForbidden Desert, and Pandemic. This was the highlight of the Expo for me. It was great seeing people really excited about learning a new game. Many were just new to the hobby and I was happy to help open their eyes to all the great games out there! I also was happy to see a variety of groups of people playing: couples, families with young children, women. It wasn't totally dominated by men, as many gaming events usually are. Next year, I think I'll do more volunteer shifts, since it was so much fun!

My shift ended when the Expo closed for the day. After a quick dinner break, I headed to the nearby hotel for the after-hours gaming session. My favourite game to play at a con is Battlestar Galactica, and I was hoping to get some experienced players so I could include some of the expansion modules I have never used. I quickly was able to round up the ideal number of 5 players, but some were newer players so we stuck with the base game, plus the Pegasus and Mutiny card decks. The players were:
(Me) Tom Zarek-Alternate Version (I just wanted to try a new character. His ability to choose which Mutiny card whenever anyone draws was good.)
Felix Gaeta (Admiral)
Gaius Baltar (President)
I was a human. We sailed thru the first half of the game. There was a little suspicion cast on the Admiral after he only took us 1 distance on the first jump, but otherwise everyone seemed very human. No Cylon fleet cards after the first jump meant we had an easy run, although Galactica took a pounding from the first basestar and the Admiral kept getting sent to Sickbay from being in damaged locations. Our second jump was much better and took us 3 distance and into the sleeper phase. Then I woke up and realised I was a Cylon after all! My goal was to play it sneaky and try to sow discord and force others to draw bad Mutiny cards. Gaius used his OPG on Cally and called her out as a Cylon. Cally immediately denied it and pointed the finger back at Baltar. We all were a bit worried, especially since Cally has an itchy trigger finger as her OPG. We weren't sure if we should brig Cally straight away, or let her get a turn and see who she shot. We ended up letting her run loose, and she shot Baltar, revealing him as…..HUMAN! It was obvious Cally was a toaster. The assassination left me as President with a hand of Quorum cards (heheheh!). Baltar knew one of the cards was to brig someone, so everyone said that I had to use it on Cally unless I was a Cylon. I made the mistake of continuing my charade and throwing Cally in the brig. I wish I had brigged the Admiral, which would have made me Admiral instead. I would have obviously been revealed, but we jumped on my turn, so I would have been able to choose a bad destination. But I thought I'd wait for my perfect moment to strike. I spent a few turns drawing Quorum cards and playing Mutiny cards, and the humans were getting very confused about who the Cylon was. Unfortunately I waited too long. The humans were able to quickly advance the jump track through some fortuitous crisis cards and made it to Kobol before I could do some serious damage. Still, it was a great game!!

Other games played:
Star Realms: This is a very light and quick deck-builder. Setup, rules, and play time total was about 20 min. Not bad for a quick little game, but I felt like it was over before my engine really got working. It was also quite random, since the only defence were certain outpost cards. Otherwise, it was just adding up your total attack and subtracting it from your opponent's hit points. Decent game if you just have 15 min, but I wouldn't ever choose to play it.
Machi Koro: I had heard good things about this so was happy to try it. It is a very light game, similar to Settlers of Catan in that you buy buildings and each turn you roll a die to see which buildings activate. It is very light, and very random with the die rolls. But it would be perfect for kids, families, or non-gamers. I actually really enjoyed it. We all were cheering for the die rolls we needed, and groaning when the die didn't roll our way. If you don't go in expecting a deep strategic game, you'll have fun.

I left around 12 AM, after a long satisfying day of gaming.

To come on Day 2: Guns, Gears, and Bargains!


  1. Thanks for the shout out Dan!

    I will add as well for anyone who is interested in Snowdonia as much as i am that it is a tough game to get in Australia. There are a couple of shops that will supply in Sydney but it will be a 'special request' (with some shops not even selling it online!).

    So if you're on good terms with your board game supplier, this worker placement game is worth the effort to get one.

  2. Yes Matt, but does it have a rotating wheel in the middle and excessive amounts of corn?