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Long Weekend Holiday Time Waster: Abner Con ‘11

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Well, that was fun.

Apologies for the extended period between posts but with such a busy weekend, including Labor Day, I literally didn’t have an opportunity. Abner Con was a success as I managed to play some head to head (and co-op) NHL 12 with Todd and Billy Baroo as well as dive into several boardgames.

There will be an NHL 12 post later today, and much as was the case with Madden 12, I am not ready to fully review the game yet despite the embargo ending today. I will say this – NHL 12 is a brilliant game but it’s your call if it’s going to be worth another $60. NHL 11 was that good.

The weekend started off Friday night with a heavy dose of NHL 12, mostly playing co-op as the three of us battled against the AI (using my HUT team). I rarely get a chance to play sports games in this way – three of us on the couch playing cooperatively — but it was a blast. Never have I heard more, “Dude, pass the puck!” comments in my life. A nice way to get the weekend rolling…

Saturday got off to a late start due to it being college football Saturday (i.e. the OSU game) and even against a team like Akron that trumps all Abner Con festivities. So around 4:00 we started back up again.

Saturday I taught Todd how to play 7 Wonders; we played a 3-player and a 4-player game and it’s safe to say that 7 Wonders has officially run its course with me. I played that game HARD when I got it last Christmas – but it has since lost its luster and if I never play it again I won’t feel like I’m missing anything. I have seen all that 7 Wonders has to offer and I doubt I buy the new expansion. I feel the same way about this game as I do Dominion. It‘s simply run its course. I think Todd feels the same way – I didn’t get the notion he was overwhelmed by 7 Wonders.

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Anyway things picked up next as we brought out Cyclades, a game that Master Barnes reviewed for the Mothership last year – earning a spot as one of the best games of 2010. I’ve played this one a half dozen times at this point and I still enjoy it quite a bit. It has a lot of standard Euro design ideas (a basic auction mechanic) as well as some direct conflict and a high amount of player screwage. I managed to win this particular game and one of the flaws of the design popped up at the end as Cyclades does have a little bit of end game Kingmaking — or it can – depending on how the game goes.

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Todd and I went down to the wire and I ended up winning because another player (Dirk) decided to let me have the god I needed to win at the end instead of prolonging the game. This doesn’t always happen in a game of Cyclades but when it does it causes the final turn to end with a whimper rather than with a full on assault.

Afterward we dove right into another favorite of mine and a game I introduced Todd to when we drove out to Indy earlier this year. Fire & Axe: A Viking Saga has a lot of elements Todd loves so it was an easy call to bring this out. Todd’s big on the “pick up and deliver” mechanic and despite the Viking theme, that’s really what this game is all about – trading, raiding, and settling and loading up your longboat with warriors and/or trade goods…and occasionally doing things to upset your fellow Vikings. That’s the thing about this game that a lot of people struggle with when they play it the first time. The Vikings (players) don’t directly fight each other…

This particular game was a disaster for me as I did something in the early game to piss of my buddy Dirk (something about a card I played that screwed him for two turns…who can remember?) who proceeded to make it his mission for the remainder of the game to make sure I didn’t win. It worked. I think Billy Baroo won with 130 some odd points, Todd and Mary around the same and I finished with 61 and Dirk with 57. That‘s like being lapped. A lot.

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Fire & Axe is now impossible to find unless you want to pay serious money for it. I’ve seen these sell for upwards to $200 because it’s out of print and is not coming back. Really is a cool game, though.

Sunday rolled around and with storms hitting Ohio Saturday that night it meant I received no sleep at all due to my dogs not liking said storms. So I was gassed.

Still, we managed to get some games in – the Todd staple Railways of Europe (a favorite of ours and a game we always fall back on…and Dirk crushed us) as well as Age of Empires III (now called Glenn Drover’s Empires: The Age of Discovery) which is another Euro design that we enjoy quite a bit – it’s another game that is always on our fall back list. I’m hot/cold on worker placement games which is what AoE 3 is but I like this one quite a bit and it’s stayed solid throughout a dozen or so plays over the past few years. If a game can stand up to 12 plays without feeling tired or stale, it’s usually gold with us. With all of the games we have access to – 12 full plays is quite a lot, which means I think I have too many games… Todd pulled out a win in this one with once again Dirk and I getting into a battle of one-upmanship which allowed Todd and Mary to roll past us. We really need to stop doing this to each other.

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Dirk had to bail after that which allowed me to breathe a bit without fear of being poked with a stick so we broke out a new game – Olympos. Now, Barnes is going to take credit for getting me to buy this, which is only about 50% accurate. I had my eye on this one but Mike pushed me over the edge by selling me on it in an email. So half credit is awarded.

Olympos is made by the same guy that developed Small World, a game I enjoy but one that I will only play now with the added cards which mix things up a bit. I think Olympos might have a bit more staying power. It has a “time track” mechanic similar to a game called Thebes. The idea is that the more stuff you do in a turn, the further you move your marker along the time track which means you won’t be able to go again until other players pass you on the track. There is a lot of stuff going on in this game – a whole lot more than it first appears – it it’s the kind of game that improves with multiple plays. We ended up playing this one twice (3 players) and then I played a 4 player game after Todd left home for Indy on Monday. One of the games we played with Todd I managed to win because Todd and my wife took turns beating the crap out of each other and in a rare, rare case of laying low…I was left alone. That never happens.

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It’s a very good “Civ lite” design with expansion, technological discoveries, Greek gods showing up to muck up plans, and a whole lot of screwing with other people. It’s the sort of game that will make you want to kick someone in the crotch.

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I always look forward to these weekends with Todd and his clan. Not only is it a great excuse to just sit back and play boardgames for 2-3 straight days but it also reminds me how much the Internet has changed so many lives – sometimes in huge, life saving ways but in others by bringing people together because without the information superhighway I’d have no idea who Todd was..or Brandon…or Danielle…or Dirk…or Troy Goodfellow…oh wait, he’s PR now.

He doesn’t count.


OK Red Faction winners!

Thanks for all of the suggestions – we really do appreciate it.

The 360 copy flies out to EricWinholt

And Jake has nabbed the PS3 copy.

I’ll contact the winners today and get the games out ASAP. We’ll be sure to run another contest soon – trying to get some codes as we speak.

Bill Abner

Bill has been writing about games for the past 16 years for such outlets as Computer Games Magazine, GameSpy, The Escapist, GameShark, and Crispy Gamer. He will continue to do so until his wife tells him to get a real job.

14 thoughts to “Long Weekend Holiday Time Waster: Abner Con ‘11”

  1. Man I really hate this game. I’m surprised it’s considered game of the year material by anyone. The only game I can possibly not stand more then Cyclades is Planet Steam. I imagine if I go to hell the devil will make me play Planet Steam for eternity.

    It sounds like Abner Con is turning into EuroCon. Where are the meaty games like Sword of Rome or Advanced Civ? LOL

    Fire & Axe which is in my personal top 10 favorite games. I actually have 2 copies of it, I had no idea it was selling for $200 I should get rid of one of them.

  2. Abner Con was a lot of fun, thanks for having me. My Viking moves were definitely anti-Bill – to discourage people from coming after me early in games – but Age of Empires is just flawed strategy. I saw you go missionary/settling the first time we played and that intuitively felt correct to me. So, every time we play that, you and I force each other into sub-optimal play by pursuing the same strategy. However watching Todd and Mary play differently, I’m going to try something different next time. Hopefully you don’t try the same thing. For me Cyclades was the revelation of the weekend, very nice game!

  3. I won’t pay $200, but if you’re selling at a “reasonable” price, I’m listening. (I define reasonable as relative to what the game would cost if it were generally available and not out of print. I can’t afford a scarcity tax, even for a game I like as much as F&A.)

  4. Troy, I would kill to go head to head with you playing some of these games. Not because I think I’d win, but it would be fun trying.

  5. Truth is, my favorite types of boardgames are games with some Euro elements which contain direct conflict. I’m not a big “multiplayer solitaire” Eurogamer, in fact those types of games bore me to tears.

    But Euro mechanics combined with American “screw you” gameplay — I normally love those. Toss in some Civ-type stuff and I am all in.

    Make me play Caylus and I will punch someone.

  6. Yeah I get you. I don’t even have a good reason for disliking Cyclades it’s not a bad game. Played it 3 or 4 times just didn’t take. Roads and Boats is another game I’d rather go to the dentist instead of playing.

    I’ll admit I am am Ameri-Trash junkie. I love Gears of War, I love almost all of GMT’s stuff but I like other games too. Ninjato is a good one. However put me in front of a game which makes me feel like I am an accountant and I’ll just complain the whole itme.

  7. Man, I love Fire & Axe. I was holding off on the purchase, it’s a bummer to hear that it’s not available now.

  8. I’ll play wargames all day long — just finding the time and the people is tough. GMT, MMP, Columbia..all wheelhouse for me.

    I need to get some wargames on the table with Dirk…

    so we can let out mutual interest in destroying one another take hold!

  9. I’ve got a gaming table with a second level for setting up monster games long-term. We really should break out some juicy wargame and play it over a period of time. We can start light (East Front 2?) and go from there.

  10. Very tough, I hear you. Weekend before last I finally managed to get five people to sit down for a full game of Here I Stand, my first face-to-face match since I bought the game two and a half years ago.

    Despite being the only one to have played the game before, I came in last. Still a ton of fun, but just a little bit pathetic.

  11. Well, there’s a pretty good PBEM community for the game, I’ve completed a good 10-12 games that way. Or if you’re ever in Southern California, I’ll set something up.

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