Our bi-annual trips to the south coast for London on Board’s weekends away are two of my absolute highlights in the gaming calendar. As much as I enjoyed SorCon and intend to go again, this weekend always knocks it out of the park – and the best just got better.
This was my eighth ‘Eastbourne’ and it was the first in a new hotel, The Cumberland (the view from my room, above). Previous trips at the Best Western had always been great, but you did get the feeling they didn’t really want us to be there – and while we took up a lot of the rooms, it never really felt as if it was ‘ours’.
It couldn’t have been more different at The Cumberland. We took over the whole hotel (there were about 100 of us), had more gaming space than we knew what to do with, and all of the staff were super friendly and accommodating throughout – a big “thank you” needs to go out to them all. And it was the Bank Holiday, so there was even more time for gaming/drinking/eating crap. Huzzah!
I didn’t have a single bad gaming experience throughout the weekend either. There were even promo games, a raffle, competitions – it was a proper con, and brilliantly organised by Tom and Ronan (thanks chaps – and hi to third organised Paul who couldn’t make it due to doing something even more fabulous instead). I even managed to get a slightly drunken podcast appearance in too, thanks to the guys at The Game Pit.
So, to the games themselves. I managed to play 19 different games over the four days, which doesn’t sound many – but Star Wars: Rebellion lasted six hours on its own…
- Blood Rage: Accurately described as 7 Wonders meets Kemet, luckily it takes the good bits of both and makes a fascinating euro/Ameritrash hybrid (slightly crappy picture above). I was very apprehensive, but by the end totally won over. Soren did the honourable thing and taught a bunch of noobs the rules – then played like a massive tit and came last. I went for a pacifist strategy in a game called BLOOD!! RAGE!!!1!, and won by miles.
- Star Wars – Rebellion: This really is the original Star Wars trilogy in a box – and about as long – but I thought this was a fantastic game. It’s clever how they’ve included all the important things about the movies without the game feeling scripted. Big thanks to Sam and Mike for teaching/guiding us through it and if you want to know how Darth and chums managed to lose despite the odds being overwhelmingly in their favour, it was because Sean was rolling their dice…
- Imperial: Soren, (teacher) Rich P, Karl and me had a fun few hours being baffled by this classic Gerdts rondel game. Karl presumed (sensibly) Rich would be good so spend much of the game (less sensibly) repeatedly dicking him over. Rich spend most of the game growling at Karl, while Soren was just happy being a greedy dictator. I quietly did things I thought might be OK, was still baffled by the end, and won by five points. I don’t think the burning in Soren’s crazy eyes as he gleefully spat “tax those bastards” as the ruler of Italy will ever leave me…
- Eldritch Horror: I’d been keen to play this Arkham remake and it turned out to be all the fun and nonsense of Arkham with 70% less bullshit rules exceptions! After Ronan told me creatures ‘hardly ever move’ a massive beastie moved onto my space two turns in a row, killing me at the second attempt; then moved onto my new character the following turn and ate him too. So I chose a burly sailor, who promptly went mad two turns later. I thin we lost eight characters before the game finally had pity on us and finished us off – but it was thoroughly entertaining.
The other ‘new to me’ games
- Royal Goods: I finally got to play this (I bought it at Essen!) thanks to Paul A teaching it to me as the last embers of the con began to fade. He warned me one card was broken, especially if you got in the first round, and that if that happened that person was a dick and was bound to win. Cue Lloyd to join us, get dealt and play the dick card in the first round, and win by two points. I was pleasantly surprised by the mechanisms and card play, but need more plays to decide on it.
- Chenghuang – Guardian of the City: I went into this expecting Japanese hipster bullshit and was pleasantly surprised. I spend the rest of the weekend telling people it was great and then making it sound shit – so I won’t try again now. Just give it a whirl. I came second by lying my tits off from start to finish.
- Carcassonne – The City: It was super late, and super drunken, when Tom taught us this one. Which probably isn’t the time to try and learn a version of Carcassonne that tweaks all the rules so that they don’t make sense to a tired, beboozed mind. I really didn’t like this one at all, although I’d give it another try.
- Arboretum: Who new orchard keepers were such massive dicks? Don’t let the pretty cards fool you – this is a real brain-burny and tricksy bastard. Not for me, but a very clever (and pretty) design.
- Joraku: I went in expecting Japanese hipster bullshit and was absolutely right. Some bright spark threw a bunch of mechanisms in the air and caught ‘trick taking’ and ‘area majority’. It almost worked – they just totally ballsed up the trick taking half.
Games I brought and managed to play
A surprising amount, for a change! The only failures were Artus and Bora Bora.
- Entdecker: Sunday night, 2am – perfect! I think this is a great family game, as long as you go with the bastartised rules taken from BGG (as in get a copy of the original release and take the good rules tweaks from the later edition – minus the bullshit huts). It’s fast, with plenty of luck and dickage going on – what’s not to like? Somehow, I managed not to come last (result).
- Ticket to Ride – Pennsylvania: My second last game of the weekend. I didn’t bring this one, but I won it in the raffle, so I guess technically it counts as it came home with me! It was my second play of this map and I really like it. The shares are quite gamery, which showed as everyone else was new to them and I won by a mile.
- Zombie Tower 3D: We were on our way to a last turn victory before Sean proved he can turn his skills at terrible luck to cards if there are no dice available. I’m still really enjoying this as it manages to be a clever solo puzzle while being a non-alpha-problem co-op at the same time. Lots of chat, lots of tension, lots of fun.
- The Dwarves: Sean, Nat, Jacob and me set off on a quest to save some fantasy land from some bullshit or other. Sean’s terrible dice-rolling was useful for a change, as hardly any enemies decided to join us on the battle field – until it started to looking a bit hairy (hoho) towards the end. But we held out for a win with two turns to spare.
- Empire Engine: I thought I’d spoil any chance of making new friends out of Spud and Alicja by foisting my half-cocked wares on them in a desperate pitch for some sales (John M toughed it out too). I even came third, which is pretty good for me…
- Prototypes: I also managed to talk seven people into helping test mine and Matt’s most recent design. It went very well, with some genuine improvements coming from the sessions, so thanks again to Adam, Alicja, John M, Ricardo, Rich P, Rocky
and Ronan for taking time out from ‘proper’ games to help a brother out.
Games I’d played before
- Ra: My first play of the year, and a win! It was after midnight on Sunday but I was right in that zone of drunk enough to be having a giggle, but not quite drunk enough to start losing the plot. And it’s always fun to play with Rocky and Keith, while meeting and playing with Candice was an added bonus.
- CV: A nice gentle start to the weekend, which summed it up too – I sat with some people I knew (John M) and some I didn’t (‘Spud’ and Alicja) and had a really nice time. This is usually a game I enjoy playing rather than winning, but John’s whines of misery as I took the card I needed to beat him on a goal – and him subsequently realising he’d already had his last turn – changed all that. Man up Mitchell!
- Sticheln: An evil trick-taker that changes things just enough to totally befuddle you. I got told what to do and managed to tie for not-last. That is way better than I would have done if I hadn’t been told what to do. My brain still hurts, but it was a lot of fun.
- Grand Austria Hotel: I’d been keen to get another play of this, but unfortunately it confirmed my suspicions rather than winning me over. The only original thing in the box is a new name for brown cubes (strudel) and I think – with so many euros out there now – that’s pretty unacceptable. There are slightly too many unoriginal mechanics in there at once too, its too long, while there is no interaction at all.