For the past couple of years I’ve spent one fall weekend in a cabin in the north woods of Wisconsin binging on board games. Due to some real life commitments, mostly having a very young child, I couldn’t commit to leaving my family for an entire weekend. Instead I hosted CabinCon 3 at my house. We spent 12 hours playing seven different games and having a great time. Below is a quick summary of what we played.
While we waited for some of our players to arrive we started our day with Biblios. Biblios is a quick card game where each player is a monk doing… something with books? Honestly I’m not quite sure how the theme works with the game, but despite that it is one of my favorite filler games. The object of the game is to collect the highest total on the five different suits of cards to gain the points for that suit. The game is divided in to two phases a gifting phase, where you take a card for yourself, each player, and an auction pile, and then an auction phase in which all the cards from the auction pile are auctioned off. At the end of the auction phase, points are totaled and the player with the highest point total in each suit gains the points for that suit. I made the mistake of only focusing on one suit of the cards during this game and wasn’t able to accumulate any of the other cards I needed to grab additional points. What makes this game interesting is that you have some idea of what cards will be auctioned off and have to find a balance between cards you want to hold on to and cards you want to spend during the auction. It plays quick and offers enough interesting decisions to make this a game I always enjoy.
Conquest of Paradise
A fourth player arrived and we pulled out something heavier. Conquest of Paradise is a streamlined 4x game that takes place in the Pacific Ocean. Each player controls a Polynesian civilization that spreads out across the ocean. Each village the player builds and island hex they control give the player points and once a certain number is reached, the game ends. This was the first play of this game for everyone in our group, and as often happens in first-plays of these type of games, everyone was fairly passive until the end. The first several turns consisted of everyone exploring the seas around them and discovering new islands to spread their civilization to. As space got tighter everyone began positioning themselves for the inevitable combat that would occur. The combat was the one aspect of this game that I was unsure if I would enjoy but I think it ends up working pretty well and keeps the quick pace of the game moving. In a battle the attacker rolls a single six-sided die repeatedly until combat is resolved. What’s interesting is that most often your troops will retreat rather than get killed, so even losing a battle is not always a huge setback. Unfortunately for me, I ended up sandwiched between two very strong opponents and couldn’t defend myself from both of them. I lost my home island three-quarters of the way through the game and couldn’t make a comeback. The components of the game definitely aren’t the prettiest, but they are standard GMT fare, and work for this game because of the hidden troop movement, which wouldn’t be possible with miniatures. Overall I really enjoyed the game and look forward to getting to try it out a few more times in the future.
Tsuro of the Seas
We took a quick break to eat some food and broke out something quick that we could play while eating. I’ve played Tsuro quite a bit and we played this version without the dragon, so it was basically just normal Tsuro. There’s not much else to say about this game. We took turns laying our tiles and I came out victorious. First win of the day!
Next we broke out Arkham Horror before it totally broke us. It was PUNISHING. The players are all investigators running around the city of Arkham trying to find clues and seal the gates to a different dimension before one of the old gods can awaken and make things even harder. The old god we were facing off against was none other than Cthulu himself. The more experienced players around the table noted how difficult he was to fight, so we had to try hard to beat the game before he emerged. We did not. In Arkham Horror, you roll a lot of dice and 5s and 6s are successes. I managed to roll 1s and 2s almost the entire time, making it almost impossible for me to do anything helpful. The other players did their best to defeat monsters and close the gates to the other dimension, but they couldn’t do enough. Cthulu emerged, immediately killing one of us, and slowly grinding the rest of us down in to a bloody insanity-ridden pulp. Arkham Horror just oozes theme and it looks great on the table. It was fun to be able to play this again, and because our loss was so decisive it was over in less than two hours. This is a game that you have to just accept that one card draw can send the entire game in a different direction and turn your near victory in to a glaring defeat.
How about another cooperative-ish game that can be extremely difficult. We’ve got the perfect thing! Battlestar Galactica was next. The characters were dealt and the loyalty cards were slyly passed around. “Not a Cylon.” Whew, no lying necessary for now. Of course that meant that someone else was likely trying to secretly sabotage everything instead. But the Cylons didn’t need to worry, the game itself was a Cylon this time around. In Battlestar Galactica players try to guide their ship and a fleet of civilian ships through space, jumping from planet to planet trying to manage morale, fuel, food, and population as various crises arise. If any of those are depleted over the course of the game, the humans lose and humanity dies out. The players succeeding during a crisis largely depend on the different cards they draw. In this particular game our ability to draw cards was continually negated. I as “Boomer” was repeatedly shot down in my raptor and at one point damage was done to the Galactica in a room where three characters were, sending them all to the sick bay, letting them draw one card on their turn instead of the usual five. Nearly every crisis card revealed had Cylon base stars appearing and raiders destroying our civilian fleet, which is how our game ended. The human population was reduced to zero and we lost. The Cylons celebrated their easy victory and the humans lamented two depressing co-op game defeats in a row.
After two depressing defeats in a row we pulled out No Thanks! to take a quick break from thinking. No Thanks! is a classic filler game that takes less than a minute to explain and is fun for many repeated plays. On your turn you either take a card or put a chip on it. If you put a chip on the card it passes to the next player and they have the same decision to make. The card can go around the table accumulating chips until someone decides to take it. Each card is worth the amount of points printed on it and the chips are worth negative points. At the end of the game, the goal is to have the fewest points. I think I had the highest score in this game. The cards that I needed to help win were randomly removed from the game at the beginning.
The last game of the night was Nations. The last time I played this was over two years ago. A few of us have played before and another has played Through the Ages, so there are many concepts in common that helped us get this one moving quickly. As I mentioned in another post here, Through the Ages is an all-time favorite game of mine, but it is so long that it makes it very difficult to actually play in person. Nations sort of fills that space, giving a similar experience in a much shorter time, while eliminating a lot of downtime for players as well. This game started pretty rough for everyone. There was pretty fierce competition for military strength and the wars were pretty crippling. Several players repeatedly lost points due to missing resources from the wars and famines. This game was my time to shine for the evening. I was able to pull ahead in the culture track for the entire game and score the most points during every scoring session. I was also able to grab a LOT of resources from the battles I was able to pull from the board. I ended up with the win by only a few points but from there we had a pretty large score disparity. Everyone had a good time with the game and it renewed my interest in it. It’s one that I hope to play more of soon. After Nations we picked everything up and everyone headed home with talk of returning to the cabin next year for a full weekend of dedicated gaming.