RUTHCon II Recap: Day 1

For the second year running, Kit and I turned our home into a convention centre for the weekend, inviting local (and not-so-local) gaming friends to come celebrate my birthday with two-and-a-half days of gaming, food, cocktails, and hilarity.

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Friday

The official start time was Friday at noon, but we’d told people they could come over earlier to bring borrowed chairs and help with final set-up. In the end, however, we were already pretty much ready to go and so the early birds brought in chairs and got ready to play. The first game of the con was Zooloretto given that quite a few people in attendance had never played this classic. We played five-player and while my final zoo was decent, it apparently was not the best as I ended in third place after Eric Handler’s park claimed the top spot.

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Continuing the animal theme, I then headed over to join Chris Kirkman, Lillian, and Daniel Solis and learn how to play Barenpark from Chris. I really enjoyed this tile-layer from Phil Walker-Harding, and am actually glad now that I never bothered picking up Cottage Garden as I just don’t see myself picking it up over that game. I hadn’t actually eaten prior to this point in the day but luckily I have an extremely helpful husband in Kit who delivered a Chik Fil-a sandwich and waffle fries to me at the game table. I didn’t win the game but came tantalizingly close for my first play and was left looking forward to playing more and at different player counts. We did realize afterwords that there had been cheating on the expansion placements so no need to comment on the below picture.

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After Barenpark, Jon Bowker and Adam O invited me to join them for Lorenzo il Magnifico which I couldn’t possibly pass up. I’d heard very mixed reviews of this CMON release with people whose tastes I usually trust both liking and disliking the game. As a result, I sat down to the game with an open mind and ended up enjoying it far more than expected. Now I did win, which supposedly increases enjoyment of  the game by 20%, buy I really enjoyed the use of dice to give variable levels of worker value without destroying my ability to plan. Some satisfying chaining of card purchases and useful personalities helped me out a lot and was likely key to my victory as I’d set up a lot of combos that required workers of value six to run with any degree of efficiency.

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A game of Yokohama was going on next to us which had me even more determined to learn the game, especially since I have the deluxe edition sitting on my game shelves. But instead, once Lorenzo was finished, I headed past Japan and straight into space in order to learn Sol from Lillian. Joined by Ruth and Scott we took on this essentially abstract game themed around harvesting everything we could from a dying star before it self-destructed and blew any stragglers to smithereens. I’d like to play it again and see what other card abilities are available at set-up, but it was an interesting game that played relatively quickly. The orbiting motherships added an extra level of spatial planning for future turns and often forced a player to use other people’s gates and orbital facilities which I thought added a lot to a game where doing so can both reward or harm an opponent depending on whether it increased their energy into dangerous levels for the next solar flare. In the end, the game came down to a tie between Scott and I who escaped to harvest another day while Lillian and Ruth saw their astral mining careers come to a fiery end.

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Lillian, Ruth, and I then headed off to browse the game shelves in search of games Ruth hadn’t managed to play yet. We selected Roll Player and were joined by Danene who happened to walk in as we were making the decision. After a quick teach we settled down to roll up some new characters – it was a close game but I struggled to have everything come together and so ended up in last place. My only consolation is that Danene’s first place position was just 3 points ahead of me when all was tallied up. I’m still loving this math-heavy, dice placement game and really need to persuade Kit to try it out sometime as I think the theme would appeal to him.

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We stuck with dice-manipulation and set up Sentient after a quick move to a warmer table. I’d been wanting to try out this latest release from J. Alex Kevern and Renegade Games, and while I enjoyed how everything fit together, I have to say it didn’t quite live up to my expectations. Part of this I’m sure was due to design decisions that prioritized pretty over playable, but it was irritating enough for me to take it off the list of games I’m looking to add to my collection. That’s not to say that I can’ see myself enjoying future plays; they’ll just have to be of someone else’s copy.

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After that we continued playing with numbers by pulling out my new copy of NMBR9 to try it out. I was able to easily teach from the rules and loved the game but oh man, was I terrible. I scored half everyone else’s score and was left determined to get in at least another play over the weekend in an effort to master placing those tricksy number tiles.

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It was getting late and I was hungry so I added some food onto Lillian’s chinese order and then sat down in a quiet corner with Kit to share some tasty noms and decompress while surrounded by a houseful of people having fun. Refreshed and ready for another game, I then joined the two Erics to learn Raiders of the North Sea.

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I’d been interested in this Kennerspiel nominee and wasn’t disappointed. The art is fantastic, gameplay is easy to pick up yet remains interesting throughout, and it ended in a pretty close finish, though I did beat both Erics in the end, a fact made even more satisfying by the fact that I had spent the game playfully announcing I would never play with another Eric due to their mean Viking behaviour (which is absolute bullshit as I adore both of them). It was a great end to a great first day of RUTHCon and there was still 2 more days to go.

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