SorCon 2016: Board gaming bliss… in Basildon?

SorCon 16 badgeAt the start of the year I promised myself I’d go to at least one new board game convention. And after asking around with friends about who was going to what, the list soon narrowed itself down to one: SorCon.

Now in its ninth year, SorCon sees a couple of hundred hardy souls getting together in Basildon’s Holiday Inn for three days of gaming.

The location itself is far from salubrious, being bang in the middle of one of those concrete edge-of-town hell holes bereft of soul but chock full of chain restaurants – and the obligatory cinema and bowling alley. That said, the hotel itself was nice, the staff friendly, the food/drinks pretty good and the conference room perfect for gaming.

There’s something nice about gaming in a big space – especially one with reasonably high ceilings and good light. There was always a pleasant hum of chat (not an unpleasant hum of stink) and it helped you feel part of something, rather than being funnelled off into small rooms where you may as well have just stayed at home.

Another real key to my enjoyment off the weekend was how friendly everyone was. I only knew a couple of people when I arrived (with a special thanks to Keef and Claire, my surrogate parents/chauffeurs for the weekend). But everyone I spoke to was fun and accommodating – and my Facebook friends list is now all the better for it.

Gaming highlights: Old favourites

SorCon 16 concordiaThankfully, like me, Keef and Claire love their mid-weight euros so my suitcase was brimming with some of my most loved games.

I got games of Concordia, Macau and Deus in and they were all close. Deus saw the three of us separated by just two points; Claire pipped me by six points in Concordia, but I returned the favour in Macao.

I managed three sessions of Codenames, all of which were a good laugh (including one with a doctored version with more adult themed words, courtesy of Phil, Jen, Hannah et al), as well as The Boss (a rare win), Love Letter (a schooling from Craig) and several games of Empire Engine (I think I managed two wins in four games, all against new players – I don’t think I’ll ever be any good at it!).

Gaming highlights: New favourites

SorCon 16 mombasaThe only ‘new’ game I was determined to play over the weekend was Mombasa, which we played the Friday when we arrived. I’ve always found it best to get the one you’re learning from the rulebook out of the way while everyone’s fresh!

I really enjoyed it and we (read: me) only got a few rules wrong – none of which would’ve prevented Claire from taking John, Keef and me to the cleaners. It’s a really solid euro game with a larger than usual take-that element in the area control and a nice thinky discard/deck building system. I’m looking forward to playing it more.

SorCon 16 fast food magnateI like to play at least one heavy euro game at each con I go to and this time (thanks to Jennie and Richard) I got to try out Food Chain Magnate.

I would say I learnt it, but that would be a reach! It was my third euro of the day, having taught two already, and it’s fair to say that by the time I started to catch on (despite a great rules explanation) I was dead and buried. It’s a great game though, but mean as hell and totally unforgiving.

It was great to try the recent Pennsylvania map for Ticket to Ride, which adds a stocks element to the mix. I can’t really justify adding another Ticket to Ride map to my collection right now, but it is one of the most fun ones I’ve played.

And an honourable mention for Think Str8! – an abstract game that crosses Hanabi with competitive deduction mechanics. It was ugly as hell, but a really good puzzle game.

SorCon 10: Will I be back in 2017?

Most definitely, life permitting. Having gone with a couple of friends this year I’d now be more than comfortable going on my own if need be. The price is very reasonable, the people are great and I didn’t have a negative thing to say by the end if it (I haven’t even mentioned the pancake machine at breakfast. Oh my…).

If you’ve considered going to a smaller board gaming convention I’d highly recommend this one. As well as open gaming there was a quiz on the Saturday night, a retailer there all weekend if you wanted to buy any games, plus a bring-and-buy area for second hand games. And if you wanted to pop out for a while, there was all kinds of multiplex ‘fun’ to be had on the doorstep.

If you’re considering it, alongside the website linked above there’s a Facebook group for the event which you can sign up for to keep up to date with the various announcements (dates etc). See you next year!

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