Helcon notes, 2009 edition

Helcon was last weekend. The event was again great success, with lots of good games available. Running the event just week after Essen proved a bit problematic, as some of the games arrived from Essen on Friday, barely in time.

I did a day trip for the first time, driving to Helsinki in the morning and driving back in the evening. It’s about 2, 5 hours each direction, so a bit of a driving, yes, and definitely not my favourite way to do it. However, it beat not going at all and with the kids it was the best I could do this year.

1825 unit 1 box

1825 Unit 1. I started the day with a scheduled 5-player game of 1825. I was the only one with 1825 experience and three of the players were total 18xx newbies. We managed to play the game in less than four hours (well, about 4, 5 including complex setup and fairly quick clean-up).

We used all Regional Kits and the LT&SE kit and had a bank of 8 300 (I was aiming for 8 000, but didn’t bother to remove three 100 chips to get the exact amount). The game actually ended when LNWR reached 340 on the SPI, one or two operating rounds before the bank broke. We were lazy buying trains, which kept the bank alive. It was a fun game and included some interesting challenges.

The setup was good, though I’d probably leave Wales out the next time. South Western England might stay or might go, North Norfolk on the other hand is a must and I’m likely to include it every time I play Unit 1. London, Tilbury and Southend is also easy to include every time, because in general minors are good.

Here’s a picture of the board after the game (if you want to see a larger version, it’s in the Geek):

1825 Unit 1 game over

Box front: Age of Steam

Age of Steam: Finland. We lost one player, but continued the train theme. Age of Steam Finland was a must! It’s a tough map: it looks very wide open, but there are plenty of evil lakes that block building a lot. Many cities are easy to monopolize, as you can build all exits if you want to.

I enjoyed the map. The local colour is good: I was able to build track from Helsinki to Tampere to Pori to Oulu to Kuopio, nice round trip through Finland. The expansion is light on the special rules, there’s Russia and Sweden that accept any colour and have cubes to use, but once the cubes run out they shut down. Simple, but interesting. Some of the players thought the map was too tight and with five players it’s probably downright evil, but I like it and could see it used as a newbie map, thanks to familiar geography and easy special rules.

Bunny, Bunny, Moose, Moose is a party game hit. I think it’s not that much fun and very dependent on having a good group. If I never play it again, I’ll live a happy life.

Gonzaga. This is the game with the plastic ring thingies over the map of Europe. Clever ideas, somewhat meh play. Bland game, doesn’t really stand out except for the garish components.

Pony Express. Liar Dice, racing to finish, dexterity element that includes throwing dice at pawns across the board. Strange combination! It actually works, which is somewhat surprising, and I’m fairly sure some people will love this. I’m not one of those people, but it was fun (especially as I won the epic duel in Sacramento). It was fun explaining the rules, as most situations ended in “and then you must go to prison”.

That’s pretty much it, for the new games at least. I didn’t win Greed, Inc. in the raffle (I bought 16 euros worth of tickets and won a Finnish Board Game Society badge — not bad!), so I’ll have to buy it (we’re doing our annual post-Essen Milan Spiele order right now). I brought three boxes and a big bag full of games I had sold or traded or somebody else from Tampere had sold or traded and brought back three boxes of games for me and other people.

Now I have plenty of interesting games to try: Winsome set, Early Railways Collection, Railroad Dice (and Railroad Dice 2 and the German expansion), Dampfross and so on. Yeah, I got some train games (actually, about 40% of my collection is now train games or expansions to train games). I also got Dominion: Seaside and Vasco da Gama.

What else… I bought a copy of 1830 from BoardGameGeek. It’s either moderately priced or hideously expensive, depending on whether the Finnish Customs Office gets it or not. My Deep Thought order — placed in August — has progressed, there’s less than 300 games before me and current ETA is in March. I’ll probably drop 1826 out of the order (keeping 1889, 18MEX and 1846), but if 18NEB is ready before my order is done, I might add that.

So many games, so very little time to play them…

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