I have to say, I’ve never been too impressed with the web site for PrezCon. This convention is right in my back yard and it has tons of events… but I just couldn’t imagine going to a con to play Risk, Lost Cities, and Settlers of Catan. Most of the war games were ones I’d never heard of and my all time favorite games were conspicuously absent. Usually at cons this size I’d expect to see some BattleTech, at least, but there aren’t any role playing games, either. If it wasn’t for people on Board Game Geek posting about how great it is, I probably wouldn’t have gone.
So I show up by myself. For smaller cons, I tend to game master something just so I can be sure to get a game in. (Assuming that we’re all nerds, I can’t necessarily depend on other people to be particularly sociable.) And a lot of people go to cons with their friends– they just aren’t there to meet someone new. I was nervous. What if nobody wanted to play with me? What if it all turned out to be a big disappointment?
I seemed like it took forever for the family in front of me to get their badges. When I’d finally paid for the day, I looked at the schedule. Not only was there very little that I was keen on playing… but most everything was marked as being a final. I couldn’t get in if I wanted to! That left very few options for what I could play. I strolled through the gaming area hoping to see something that would strike my fancy. I saw hard core gamers that I’d met in nearly half a dozen states, but I did not see anything I wanted to play. I went downstairs to look at the open gaming area. I went through the special rooms set aside for war games. I went back through the main event area and then downstairs again… getting frustrated with each pass that I made. I began to wonder if I would fit in anywhere.
Heading back downstairs, I passed a guy that had a few black pocket boxes in his gaming bag. It was the original edition of Illuminati with all the expansions! I asked if he’d care to play and he agreed. Man, let me tell you… the game components were so cheap back then. It’s hard to believe that it achieved cult status like that.
I played the Bermuda Triangle and my opponent played the Gnomes of Zurich. We started as a friendly game and gradually built up our power structures. Pretty soon, he was raking in the dough. We got in a few spending fights that kept me from scoring a new group, but then later on he held back on that sort of thing– he was trying to get to 150 cash for his special victory condition and was getting closer every turn!
I’d already gotten one windfall in the form of a card that doubled my income one turn. That had helped me to spend him down at least a litle, but he still had more cash than me. My opponent was still able to attack me and take away California from me– and with that extra income, he’d win in no time. On my turn, though, “Big Media” turned up and my opponent let me take it. That gave me the game as it was the last alignment type that I needed to win for my special victory condition. I wondered if it was too chintzy of a win, but I had one more card that would cause my opponent to lose his turn. I think we ended up agreeing that there wasn’t much he could do to stop me in spite of the mistake. (It probably would have come down to how much money was on his Illuminati and whether or not I could outspend him after the turn break, though, so maybe it wasn’t in the bag.)
Ah well, either way… I don’t really play Illuminati to win, I just like building my power structure. And I got to do that with a vintage set. I was pretty happy. My opponent was pretty well done with the con, though– he’d been gaming for days already. I cruised back up to the main hall again, grabbed a bar-be-que sandwich and some slaw, and tried to scarf it quick before the start of the hour. Then I saw the guy that runs my favorite game store– the store of my childhood, even. This guy was responsible introducing me to almost all of the games I write about here. He invited me to join him at a game, so I took my sandwich with me to an event.
The game was The Kaiser’s Pirates. I apologized for still eating, but the guys said (more than once) that they didn’t mind. Two different people explained the rules to me while I continued stuffing my face. Now… usually I’m the guy buying some random game and then trying to teach people how to play it. It was really nice to be on the other side of that equation for once. I asked several times if they were sure they wanted a new guy in the game, and they all said they were okay with it. (I think they were taking time to invest in the chance of having another player in the tournament next year.)
Now the game is a card and dice game. I’ve wondered how war game companies were doing this sort of thing now, so I finally got to see it. Everybody plays both sides. You always have three ships representing targets. You have your attacking ship, which can be lost. Then you have the pirate ships which have to reveal themselves to attack. You have a hand of cards used to activate attacking ships and add bonuses to those actions… and you roll polyhedral dice to resolve attacks. If your best number is double or more than your opponent’s best number, you sink the target ship… and if is equal to or greater, you damage it.
My goal for the game was to play legal moves that made sense without bugging anybody. I ended up scoring just 50 points– last place. I have to say that the last thing I expected was for a tournament game to be this friendly. But these guys were really nice to game with… and clearly expert in a side of the hobby that I’m not as familiar with. Pretty much, whatever I see these guys playing next year at PrezCon, that’s something I’m going to want to check out.