Yeah I really did post "Hey the blog's back" and then not post for a week. Sorry 'bout that. In my defense I ended up being busy preparing to go to ... KublaCon.

I've been to GenCon once, back when I was fresh back to the States from Germany and stuck in New Jersey for a year, but the gaming convention bug didn't really stick with me in any meaningful way. But lately I've been getting the itch to play D & D Fourth Edition instead of running the game (as a DM). I talked Blake into going with me to check out the "Game Day" event that Wizards had when Players Handbook 2 released back in March and while that had the stereotypical gaming collective problems it was still fun. Monster Manual 2 came out last week and there was Wizards-sponsored event for that on Saturday. I was trying to talk my players into attending that when Cyrus mentioned he was going to be at KublaCon. So I decided to take a flyer on it and go to KublaCon, make a RPGA Living Forgotten Realms character, and generally check out the scene.

The RPGA stuff is pretty fun overall. Basically there are some rules about how you get magic items and managing character advancement and then a whole set of adventure that you can sort of hop around from convention to convention. It strikes me as a little tough to follow in that there are stories, but each adventure is supposed to be roughly a third of a level and most of the storylines have the first adventure for character levels 1-3 and then the second adventure is for character levels 4-7. In other words I played in a session last Friday (East 1-1), and I need to play in something like eleven to twelve other adventures before I can play East 1-2 and revisit that storyline. The odds of me remembering much about it are pretty slim by then. I played three times over the weekend and got my character (a gnome sorcerer using cosmic magic) up to level 2, as well as acquiring a spiffy +2 weapon that he can't use until he reaches level 3. It was enough fun that I'll probably try to play more in the future.

I also got to play several new-to-me boardgames over the weekend. I played EuroRails, which is one of the classic Rails series but I had never played any of them before. I liked EuroRails enough but I think the pacing of it is somewhat off. It was really slow starting (and we were using "expedited" rules to make it play quicker) and it seemed to suffer pretty badly from a "once you have fallen behind you just fall further behind" mechanic. I think it's probably one of those things where if I had experienced it back in 1990 when it was released it would have blown my mind, but nearly twenty (!) years later it suffers a bit in comparison to state of the art. I'd certainly play it again or one of the other games with the same basic rules, but I don't see jonesing for a copy myself.

I taught Agricola to Cyrus and some of his friends on Sunday night and we played that twice (using the beginner rules without Minor Improvements or Occupations). Agricola is a really good game, I think it deserves knocking Puerto Rico out of the #1 spot on BoardGameGeek, as it is a very similar game but doesn't bog down in the end the way Puerto Rico does and it has a lot more variation/customization to it.

Lastly I checked out Dominion and Small World, both of which are relatively recent releases. Dominion really shot up the charts last year after it was released (it currently sits at #6 on the Geek), but I had never really understand how it plays. The idea is that each player has a deck of cards and every turn you buy new cards to put in your deck, so you're simultaneously using the deck to draw a hand of cards to play in order to build the deck. Basically you build up an economic engine (in your deck of cards) and use that engine to generate more and more wealth (represented by cards in your deck) until you can buy victory points (which are also cards in your deck). It's a really elegant design and there's a lot of subtle interactions between the cards. If the dealer room had still been open when I finished playing Dominion I totally would have bought a copy and made Cyrus play it later that evening.

Small World wasn't as good, but it was a fun little game, it had decent depth while not being overly complex and it played quickly. Small World is apparently some sort of redesign/retheme of Vinci, which I didn't know because I had never played it. There's a list of creature races available that are matched up randomly with a "profession". Each race has some sort of bonus power, and the profession confers some additional benefit as well. Each player purchases a race and then gets a certain number of tokens which they use to conquer territory. Once you've expanded that empire as far as you can (you don't get more units after the initial race purchase) you can put your race "in decline" which means they continue to hold their terrain and you get points for that but you can't move them around or anything and they are weakened such that somebody will soon expand into their territory. In the game I played there were nine turns (it might change for other numbers of players? I'm not sure) and it takes an entire turn to put a race into decline so that's a major strategic decision when is best to switch horses.

I liked both games, enough so that I ordered both of them from Funagain. Dominion plays two to four players and Small World plays two to five and I think Karin will like both games. Games that play well for two players and Karin would like are the gold standard game category for me, as we can play them without having to arrange some sort of larger social gathering.

Anyway, KublaCon was fun. I came home a little tired (we stayed up until after 3 AM on Saturday night/Sunday morning and that's a bit much for my old bones these days), but I guess that's probably a good thing for a convention. I would seriously consider going back next year.