Helcon 2006

Helcon 2006 was a blast, and the most successful event of the Board Game Society history with almost 100 participants. I was there for the Saturday (limitation caused by being a parent; unfortunate for the gaming, but rewarding in other ways). I didn’t play that many games, but as you will see, sometimes (well, often) quality is more important than quantity.

I got the first taste of games before the actual event, when I met Robert on the Tampere railway station. We got ourselves a table at the train and spent the trip playing games. Train left 30 minutes late, but hey, that doesn’t matter when you’ve got games to play, right? We played few rounds of Blue Moon — always a pleasure, and Robert seemed to warm up for the game as we played too — followed by a round of Battle Line.

We used the tactics cards, because Robert was familiar with the Schotten-Totten version and wanted to try the game Battle Line style. I’ve been avoiding them, and this game reassured me my decision has been good. I find that the tactics cards add relatively little to the otherwise clean and elegant game.

We finished the games with a match of San Juan, played almost at a BSW pace. San Juan as a speed game, that’s something I quite like.

The definite highlight was the first actual game of the event: 18VA. I ordered the game a long time ago, and finally got it in my hands. The production values are surprisingly good: the game looks really good. It’s all very well done.

The game was great, just great. It took us about 30 minutes to figure out the rules (I had studied them, but we had some problems; some things could’ve been explained better in the rules, I think) and four hours to play the game. I know we had a ton of minor rules mistakes (very difficult to avoid in a complicated and fiddly game like this) and lots of blunders caused by the freshness of the players (all newbies, two having some 1830 experience from the PC version). Still it was great.

I won, too. The scores were very close: 5682-5393-5234-5148. I had the second best stock portfolio in the end (Tommy who was second had the best) and most cash in hand. I was a bit surprised by my victory, as I didn’t feel like one of the power players in our game. I was the president of my small Virginian Railways from SR 1 to the very end, and that’s it. I did have two of the privates, which my Virginian bought with the full price (and one of them was the $200 discount on trains, making sure I hadn’t visit my personal cash reserves to buy trains like Tommy), that pretty much makes up the difference to Tommy I think.

Next time I’ll know the rules better, and maybe it’ll be even better. The playing time is a bit tough, but I think it can be squeezed to four hours including the rules explanation. I’m looking forward to have another go, I just don’t know when that’s going to be possible. Anyway, I’m now happily in the 18xx world, having perhaps dived in a fairly deep end, but I’m glad I have the game. As of now I feel no need to buy more 18xx games, but we’ll have to see about that.

Age of Steam logoAfter a Nepalese dinner (quite like Indian, really), it was time for more trains. The game was Age of Steam, with JC Lawrence’s London expansion. It’s a really neat map — both in artistic and gameplay sense. The only problem is the huge size: the map doesn’t fit in the box.

The game had two newbies in it, so I couldn’t properly enjoy the cruelty of the map, as my game was fairly easy cruising. When you can get Locomotive for $1, you know everything’s just fine… Well, the proper appreciation of engine power is something new players tend to learn towards the end of the game, which was the case this time as well. The new players got to five links on the last round, when I had already ran many rounds of five-link runs and got some six-link runs on the last round.

I like the new stuff on the London map. The instant production (new cubes arrive immediately after a cube is delivered, either to the begin or the end of the run) is fun, as is the ability to build up to five tracks, but with a heavy cost. We got the Urbanisation action wrong (there was a limitation I didn’t notice) but that didn’t matter much.

I had asked a friend to bring Reibach & Co he had bought from Essen. I’ve been talking about playing Union Pacific without the map, and here it is: Reibach & Co (or Get the Goods) is basically the stock mechanism of Union Pacific. I enjoyed it; it’s not a great game, but good, and definitely better than Union Pacific.

I bought an used copy of Gipf and played a match, but with so wrong rules that it’s a different game. Well, maybe next time I’ll have the correct rules. I also bought Gipf Project Set 2, which contains the very necessary extra rings for Zèrtz.

Two Werewolf matches made it into my schedule. Those were fast and hilarious. Once again it was proven that I look guilty and werewolfish, even though I was innocent in both games. In the first game werewolves were able to take the victory, while in the second, we lynched a wolf on the first hanging and got the second one in the end. Good times, good times, particularly thanks to Anna, whose semihysterical defense speech after getting one vote in a test vote (not the actual voting round) was just excellent — of course she was hanged after that, and of course she was innocent.

Markku (JoeLamer from BSW) had bought a copy of Mauer Bauer and needed someone to explain the rules. Well, here’s a Colovini game I’m always willing to play! Hopefully the rules got through; at least I beat the opposition neatly. It was a curious game with a huge megacity, which made things interesting.

Stefu had challenged yours truly and the world champion Markus to a speed game triathlon; that dwindled down to a match of Turbo Taxi between me and Stefu (and Phil, whose participation in the game was quite minor, in the end). Stefu got a good lead, but in the end made few blunders and I was able to even the score. I consider that a quite perfect result.

That’s it, pretty much. There was a superb raffle with good prizes, with some very interesting games to win (and less interesting, as well). I got lucky and won a copy of Um Reifenbreite (which I played with Johanna yesterday; she didn’t like it, and I don’t think it’s a particularly good two-player game). Not a bad prize at all!

The last game of the evening was a three-player game of Gang of Four at Tommy’s, where I smoked the opposition. Overall my Saturday was full of victories, which was nice.

So, another Helcon gone. The quality of the event is better each year; it’s definitely my favourite game event. Thanks to all organisers and people I played with!

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