The Board Game Diaries #2: Airecon Special

Last weekend we jumped in the car and headed down the motorway to Harrogate, famed for it’s tea rooms and I’m sure one day, it’s Board gaming convention. Maybe one day Harrogate will be as synonymous with gaming as Essen. …Maybe …one day …hopefully20170311_154351[1].jpg

Airecon, named after the events origins in the Aire valley is a three day Board gaming event with the focus far more on playing the games than looking at publishers stalls, compared to other events. Although there were a good number of stalls and the organisers plan on expanding next year.

We were pleasantly surprised on arrival with the venue at Harrogate International Centre providing a shed load of room so we never felt cramped wither at the gaming tables or the stalls. And with the intention to expand to another floor next year it seems like a feature the organisers want to keep even as the event inevitably grows in the future.

We felt the event was really professional and well organised by a small core crew. As someone who has put on quite large events in the past I can imagine how much work went into getting this to run as smoothly as it did.

I will hope to chat to the organisers for a blog article in time for hyping up next years event.

Our goal on the day was simple, to play as many new (to us) games as we could before we got too hungry to function, then head off to Leeds to get vegan pizza.

A £10 deposit got us a games passport, giving us access to all the games in the game library provided by Traveling Man.

Cat Town
Our first game to warm us up was Cat Town by Jog Kung and published by TwoPlus Games. Cat Town is a light game for 2-4 players that involves you searching blocks in your neighborhood (decks of cards) with your cat, to try to find more cats or get cards into your hand to help you find cats more easily or score points.20170311_110658[1].jpg

I approached this game with a closed mind and maintained that for the time we were playing.
Move your cat, look at a card, wow such fun! Can we play Blood Rage now?
But looking back I can see it’s potential, you have to try to memorise what cards are in the top few of each deck, plan how to get them, manage what cards are in your hand, when to use them to score points and when to use them for their abilities. All the time your opponents are taking the cards you want and moving things around, so I think this is a game that would work even better with three or four players.

The art work is cute and the wooden cat meeples, if a little unstable, are a winner.

This game didn’t excite me enough to buy it but I’d like to give it another go if I saw it again to see if it’s a grower.

Waggle Dance
Next up to book out was Waggle Dance, a 2-4 player, dice/worker placement game from Mike Nudd and Grublin games. And I’m just going to come out and say this was our favorite game of the day and you need to go play it! This was right up our street: bees, strategic worker placement, a decent dose of luck, bees, good components, medium weight, bees, short to medium game length, plays great with two..bees.20170311_112742[1].jpg

I’m not a fan of the box art at all, but hey, I’m nit-picking here. In Waggle dance players need to build a hive, collect nectar and make honey to win the game. But to do that you need to produce eggs, workers and get the queen to help you out. However you can’t just do what you want as you are at the mercy of your dice rolls (you dice are your workers) and the other players who also want to win by thwarting your progress.

If you like worker placement games but don’t like the time commitment or analysis paralysis that comes with many of them then this game is for you. If you want a worker placement game that works well with two players then this is for you. If you want a nature themed game that isn’t trash, because sorry, a lot are, then this is the one to try.

I’m going to add this to my collection as soon as I can.

Seasons
Next up, and to maintain the animal theme, was Seasons from Regis Bonnessee and published by Libellud. This game has been on our radar for a while so we gave it a go.

This game probably has the biggest rule book of all the games we played on the day and this probably has an impact on our ability to get to grips with the game. Sat in the middle of a room surrounded by hundreds of excited gamers can make learning rules tough.20170311_131814[1].jpg

Season is a tactical Dice and Card game for 2-4 players where you compete to become the best wizard over a series of three years, each split into season, each season having an impact on your magical abilities.

Using the knowledge of what cards you have in you hand you roll special dice which allow you to choose to increase you abilities and access more powerful cards. There are different opportunities for tactics depending on how you plan on getting points or messing up your opponents and these are all features of the game I liked.

Where we failed to click with this game was with the importance of tactics in the early stages. The cards you choose to play or hold for later determine how you plan to evolve your character and how you plan to defeat your opponents. I’d be interested in giving this one another go, but on the whole I felt the game fell a little flat for me. As the game moved on I never really felt I had a variety of choice, yes choices existed but it was always, “well shall I do this thing that gets me 6 points or this thing that gets me none?”

I’m not convinced that considering how I planned to play at the beginning of the game would have altered that much. We were both just playing cards because those were the only cards we had available, or the obvious choice, and with a lack of real choice I felt like we were just going through the motions. Towards the end I managed a couple of plays that allowed me to eek out a victory and plan how I wanted the game to progress and some potential shone through.

I think Seasons may be one of those “It’s not you, it’s me” games, as it is generally getting good reviews, so in this case I’d urge you to not take my word for it and seek out a copy to try before you buy.

Ominoes
With three games under our belts we decided to explore the stalls and I decided to approach the stall with the most smiley stall holder, and that was Andrew Harman of YAY Games, creator of Ominoes and other small, quick, easy to learn games. YAY games has the tag line of “2 turns to learn” and I was in the market for a game I can play with my non-gaming parents.

Andrew was most enthusiastic (without being OTT) about his game, Ominoes. Which, it turned out was nothing to do with Dominoes, which was good. Hot off the press, Andrew had apparently only received delivery of the game a couple of days before Airecon. It is an abstract strategy dice game for two to four players and one of those types of games that everyone pulls a “no thanks” face at when they see it, but walk away saying “actually that was pretty fun”.

The premise is simple, you have to place sets of dice with your hieroglyph showing on the grid board in groups or four or more. The problem is that every time someone else roles your colour they can move one of your dice around the board, so getting your set to score is easier said than done.

IMG_20170312_214044_828[1].jpgI can’t quite put my finger on what I like about this game, I’m not very good at abstract or puzzle games but this ones makes me smile. I think it’s because the mechanic is so simple, and it takes the “take that” approach and puts it central to player tactics.

Die hard abstract gamers won’t like that as a dice game there’s a lot of luck, but this is a great little filler game for many situations, from playing with children or non-gamers, to filling time to breaking up a heavier game session. Maybe this  could be seen as a gateway game to abstract strategy.

I bought this game from Andrew and it has fast become one of our most frequently played new games since I got Machi Koro. It was a little more expensive than I’d like for a game without that many components but I presume that’s due to all the custom dice and probably not having the buying power of larger publishers.
I like its mixture of “Take That”, and abstract strategy and there’s never a reason not to crack this one out for a quick play, there’s no one you can’t play this with and it’s a really nice addition to my collection.

Codenames Duet
Next I went to look at the table doing preview plays for Vlaada Chavatil’s newest addition to his smash hit Codenames series. It’s not out until later in the year. So new in fact, that it’s not even listed on Board Game Geek yet. This one is a cooperative version of the game, designed for two players (or two teams would work I suppose). After some poking and fondling of the box and trying to make eye contact with the guy hosting, he set me up with a game.

In Codenames Duet both players are spymasters and both have a different key card showing locations of the field agents. Some locations are the same, some are different to each other. There are also two assassins, one on each side of the key card, and the location is different for each spy master. If either person gets a guess wrong this is marked on the grid, on the fourth wrong guess the game ends and you both lose.20170311_152631[1]

You also have a set number of rounds in which to win the game or… you both loose.

I’m not a big fan of Codenames but this one I liked, it has got a different feel to the other versions of this game. It’s two player style and more chance of losing creates a more tense atmosphere,  but  I like it, more so than the standard version. The down side of not playing in teams with a rotating spymaster is you are very reliant on your companion to not be crap at giving or guessing clues. But without the party game vibe of the standard version then where does this game lie? It’s almost too quick, with a round lasting a matter of minutes. So I suppose you will need to play multiple times which is unusual for a cooperative game as it’s not as if you can do best of five when you either both win or both lose. And I guess that’s the main issue I have with this game, when would be a good time to play it? Does this have much replayability if you play with the same person every time? I’m not so sure. Codenames isn’t for everyone as it is, you will need to be sure the person you are most likely to play with will be up for playing this over and over, and really, I’m not sure many people will.

This is a game I did like quite a lot, but it probably wont make it into my collection.

Edenia
I wasn’t expecting much from this game, and frankly there isn’t much of this 2-4 player Space sheep race game from Mathieu Lanvin published by BLAM!
Yeah that’s right, a Space sheep race game, what’s not to love about that?!20170311_154620[1]

It’s a very simple luck based game. You choose a route, move to the edge of the tile of the modular board, pick a new tile and move along in the hope of picking up points in different ways as you go.

I actually quite liked this game, but more because I was making my own fun than it actually being a particularly enthralling game. I liked making silly noises when I moved the sheep around and well, that’s it, I’m easily pleased.

I’d recommend this as a family game because everyone likes space sheep, but if you only do super serious, dry, game geekery, then this one may be a little out of place in your collection.

Kingdomino
Next to hit the table was Bruno Cathala’s Kingdomino. It’s like dominoes, but you build a little town and score points at the end. That’s it? Yes. Anything more to it? No. Good to play with kids I suppose.
NEXT!

Vikings on Board
Vikings on Board is a 2-4 player worker placement style game from Charles Chevallier and published by Blue Orange. The mechanism is straightforward. Place your vikings on the different locations in the village to be able to do the different actions, but the theme is novel and well put together.20170311_165625[1]

Your troop of vikings (is troop the correct collective term? A pillage of vikings maybe?)
Well, you aren’t doing much pillaging in this game. Your troop must loads good on to the ships in the harbour, increase their value, build the ships so your colour is dominant and then set sail for victory.

This is a nice family worker placement game that probably works better with three or four players than it did with two. The components are fun, you move around your viking miniatures, construct your cardboard boats and set sail, pushing off your boat from its moorings to show that the ship, has indeed, sailed.

At the point of playing this game I has hungry and wanted to go get pizza but I remember having fun playing it and though it probably wont make it into my collection I’d recommend giving it a try as I think you will like it too. However there was a set of model barrels in the box and we played the entire game without ever finding out what they were for which was a bit disconcerting.

With our bellies running on empty (the food on site was expensive and non-vegan friendly), we packed up and headed off to Leeds to get pizza.

IMG_20170311_204553_315[1].jpg

Our haul from Airecon

Airecon really exceeded our expectations. We were prepared for cramped tables and queues to play games or find space and that wasn’t ever the case. We didn’t get involved with any of the events so we can’t comment too much on but the whole event really was well organised for something put together by a small core crew. I just hope they are able to grow the event appropriately to maintain the same feel with the inevitable growth this event will experience.

I’d recommend Airecon for sure, I expect it to be even better next time. So see you there next year.

Follow AThroneOfGames on Twitter: @Nerd_Punx and Instagram: @athroneofgames

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