Monday, July 21, 2014

Toy and Game Expo 2014 - Day 2 report

After a great day 1 at the Expo, I was even more excited for Day 2! This was the day that all my other gaming buddies were going to come too. I've been working hard at recruiting more gamers, and it has paid off. There were 7 others who joined me! Quinton, Brett and Joe had all come the year before. Matt, Ed, Ben and Ryan were all newbies this year.

Quinton and I arrived first when the hall opened at 10 AM. Quinton quickly purchased a copy of Firefly: The Game. Bonus: Games Paradise had mispriced the game at $60, even though they had another stack of the same game for $75 elsewhere. Score!

While awaiting more players, I taught Quinton Forbidden Desert. This is a great cooperative game, and I highly recommend it! It is a bit easier than Pandemic, but more interesting than Forbidden Island, its predecessor. I have yet to beat it on the normal level! We were getting close, but I died of thirst while still searching for our last airship parts. :(

Brett, Ryan, Ed and Ben arrived soon, so we checked out a game from the library that I had been wanting to try for years: Ca$h 'n Gun$. The premise of the game is essentially a Mexican standoff. The goal is to claim the most money, while staying alive. Each player gets an orange foam gun. Money tokens in various denominations are shuffled and 5 are flipped up on the table. Everyone chooses one of their 8 cards secretly, which indicate whether they hit, miss, or critical hit. You can only use each card once, so you have to choose when to bluff and when to pull the trigger. The leader counts to 3, and then everyone aims at another player. This is all done simultaneously, so you don't know who will be gunning for whom, and sometimes you find yourself looking down the barrels of 4 guns! Then after another countdown, you can decide whether to hide (removing yourself from the round and take a shame token), or stay in and shoot it out! Everyone still in reveals their cards. If you played a Bang! card, you hit your target and they take a wound and are out for the round. If you play a Click Click! card, you didn't shoot and were just bluffing. If you play a Bang Bang Bang! you do a critical hit, wounding your target before they can fire. Everyone not wounded or hiding at the end of the round gets a cut of the money. However, it has to be divided evenly without making change, so sometimes you can end up with a tiny amount. Play 8 rounds, and the person with the most money at the end (and is still alive) wins!

This was a hilarious game! Fast moving and easy to teach. There were some special powers that can be thrown in, and a few other variant rules that we didn't try. Not surprisingly, I was killed both games we played. And each time, it was my (supposedly) best friend Quinton who put the last bullet in me! Still, it was a great game. And wait till I have my revenge…..

After a quick lunch, we perused the tables to see what was on display. Matt was keen to see a demo of Francis Drake. The was one of the most beautiful games I've seen. Huge oversized board, glass beads of different colors for gold, silver and jewels, nice plastic minis, and little treasure chests to store your goods. The designer was there to explain the game. It's a solid worker placement game, with some bluffing mechanics. Matt was sold, but unfortunately the game was sold out. But he managed to find a copy in a local game store and picked it up the following week. We played it last week! Session report to follow…..

Next, Brett, Quinton, Joe and I wanted to get in a good strategic game. I was dying to try Concordia, but it was just starting to be played right when we walked up. But then we saw Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar on the table. I had played half of a game a few years back at Cancon, and Brett had wanted to try it. This is a great looking game and caught the eye of many passers-by. The gear mechanic is a unique take on worker placement. On your turn, you either place worker on a gear, or take them off. You only get the benefit when you remove the worker. So the idea is to put a worker on a gear and leave him there for a few turns. The gears spin each turn, and the workers move to the next highest space. The benefits on each gear get better the higher you go, so it's best to leave the workers on as long as possible. But you must remove or place a worker every turn, so if all your workers are out, you must take one off. Timing is extremely important! Workers are used to gather corn and resources, learn technologies, build buildings and monuments, and climb the temples. Points are earned periodically for levels achieved on the temples, and for buildings. You have to feed your workers, but it is only done 4 times in the game so it's not as annoying as in Agricola. The game ends after one complete revolution of the main gear. I think this is one of the most unique variations of worker placement and I enjoyed it a  lot. Each turn are tough decisions on whether to place or remove workers. But once familiar with the game, it could move quickly. You could probably finish in 90 min with 4 experienced players.  I decided though that I personally wouldn't want it in my collection due to some of the thematic elements (temples, angering the gods, crystal skulls). 

Tzolk'in took us 2.5 hours. In the meantime, the other guys had played a couple other games like King of Tokyo and Dominion. When we finished, Brett taught the guys how to play Marvel Dice Masters. This is the latest gaming craze. I haven't seen a game this popular in….well, ever. It had sold out of 2 print runs before it was even released. Brett and I had pre-ordered starter sets months in advance, and then we ordered some singles from Cool Stuff Inc to round our our collections. It's a fast, simple, addictive dice game. Each player chooses a team of 8 characters, each which their own custom dice. You assign 20 dice among all the characters, 1-4 dice each. Each turn you roll dice, use energy to buy more dice to add to your bag, field characters, and use them to attack or defend. Each character, of course, has its own unique power, so there are various ways to manipulate or enhance the dice. Yes, it's random. It is a dice game after all. But it's quick, fun, and pretty cheap (once it is back in stock anyway). Starters retail for $15 in America, and boosters of 2 dice are only $1. The only bad thing about the game is the collectible aspect. People are buying boxes and boxes of boosters to find the Super Rare cards. And apparently the Super Rares are almost unbeatable in tournaments. I much prefer playing casually and trying out the various combos of teams.

While the others were playing Dice Masters, I did some last minute browsing. I had gone into the Expo really intending not to buy much. I've already ordered a bunch of Kickstarters, and I don't have time to play the games I have. I managed to only buy Macao, and I though that would be it….until I saw a crowd amassing at one of the stalls during the last half hour of the Expo. I went over and found that this vendor was making some killer last minute offers. Earlier I was browsing at that table and he had Core Worlds for $50 and Walk The Plank for $20. Decent prices for Australia, but still not good enough. But hey, it was the last half hour of the Expo, and they wanted to get rid of their stock. I asked how much for the two games together, and the seller said $40! Sold!! With that bargain, I suddenly had the desire to find more good deals. The day before, I saw Wyatt Earp on another discount table for $20. This had been on my want list for a while, as it is a good rummy variant. I went back to the discount table, and everything was 20% off. Wyatt Earp was still there! I offered the seller $10, and added another game to my pile! So I ended up with 4 new games, for only $80 which is not bad at all in Australia. Now to start playing them…
After the Expo, we continued the gaming at Brett's with Eminent Domain, which I have been playing a lot more lately. Then Joe and I played his new purchase, DC Comics Deck-Building Game: Heroes Unite. It was fun, but very lopsided due to me getting an over-powered card in my first few turns. I didn't realise it was so powerful at the time, but I ended up winning by a margin of 100 points. 

So, all in all, it was a great Expo. Volunteering was great fun, I was glad to have so many other friends come on day 2, got some great bargains, and played awesome games! Can't wait for next year! 

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