Friday, October 13, 2006

Charcon Report

My apologies to Gone Gaming fans for not posting an essay last Friday. A West Virginia thunderstorm knocked out my power and telephone service at a most inconvenient time. It has happened before and will doubtless happen again.

I don’t know who started the rumor that I was ill, but I assure everyone that I am perfectly healthy. Nevertheless, the flood of get-well cards and e-mails from Gone Gaming fans was touching. I especially want to thank whoever it was who sent the Railroad-Tycoon-O-Gram. Imagine my surprise when I answered the doorbell and found a pretty blonde in bib-overalls and engineer’s hat with a soot-smudged nose greeting me with the now-famous phrase: “Age of Steam may take more brains, but I’m the gal with the plastic trains!”

Well, on to Charcon. The first annual Charleston game convention was a success. The organizers hoped to get two hundred attendees, but over four hundred showed up. Congratulations to Nick Gillespie and Travis Reynolds and the rest of the Charcon organizers. They’re planning an even bigger convention next year.

Miniature games were the heart of Charcon. Anyone who attended Origins this year and who saw Nick Gillespie’s huge Lord of the Rings models has an idea of the level of miniature games available at Charcon. I saw miniature games at the con that I never even knew existed before.

Ted Cheatham and Charlie Davis held down the fort at the Appalachian Gamers booth. There was a considerable library of games available to any newbies who wandered over. My Game of Thrones tournament on Sunday was pretty much of a bust because of a lack of boardgamers at the early hour of noon. But in the early evening, more boardgamers showed up, and I was able to pull out A Game of Thrones (with expansions) and teach the game.

Renowned boardgame collector David Fair took requests from Appalachian Gamers, and brought some games that we don’t have. So I was able to try a few games that were new to me as well as play some old favorites. Here’s what I played:


I took part in a fine six-player game of Power Grid on the USA map (and didn’t win). PG is one of my favorites. PG doesn’t need me to defend it, but I mention this game in the hope that the one or two gamers who have never tried this classic will be inspired to seek it out. If you like medium-to-heavy weight economic strategy games, you owe it to yourself to check-out this treat.


Somehow I managed to miss this quick two-player card game up until now. I usually don’t care much for games this quick and light, but The Duel may be an exception to the rule. The Lord of the Rings theme and John Howe artwork didn’t hurt.


Another classic that I had never played. This real-estate negotiation game reminded me of the Philip O’Neil self-published game Ransom (Chinatown is the older game so Ransom is the derivative game, not Chinatown). I am probably not a tough enough negotiator to win this kind of game, but it is a shame that Chinatown is out of print.


On paper, Byzantium is exactly the kind of game that I love: a medium-to-heavy strategy game with plenty of options. And it’s by Martin Wallace, one of my favorite designers. And yet after playing a game, I don’t feel the desire to run out and buy it. I’ve pondered this for a while, but I’m still not sure why I was under-whelmed. Maybe it’s because I can’t help comparing it to Struggle of Empires and feel that SoE is the better game. Maybe the lack of army attack options in Byzantium was a factor. In Age of Empires armies can be transported all over the world in an instant by fleets; in Byzantium my armies often seemed to have much more limited actions (of course that could be my fault rather than the game's because I could have placed them badly to begin with). But my next Martin Wallace purchase is more likely to be Perikles or Struggle of Empires rather than Byzantium.


This is the game that lived up to its billing. In many ways, this is exactly the kind of game that I usually don’t like: light in weight and with a pasted-on theme. But the simple mechanics, fast pace, and exotic artwork won me over. (A fast pace may be the one quality of a good game that I most often overlook; but speedy play probably adds to the subconscious appeal of many games). Blue Moon City will most likely go on to my To Buy List.


huzonfirst said...

Kris, according to the Geek, Ransom appeared five years before Chinatown (this also matches my own recollection). I've never played Ransom, but if there are any close collerations, it has the prior claim. Of course, Ransom is a reasonably obscure British game, while Chinatown comes from Germany, so there's a good chance that we are looking at coincidental parallel development. Regardless of this, I consider Chinatown one of the best negotiation games around. I'm glad you finally got the chance to play it.

Kris Hall said...

You are correct, sir. My mistake. Now I'm wondering how I made that error. I must have looked up the dates or I wouldn't have commented on them. Anyway, thanks for keeping me honest.