Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Con of the North 2013

Last weekend I went to the biggest gaming (not gambling!) convention in the Twin Cities, Con of the North, which was held again this year at the Holiday Inn hotel on the east side of St. Paul.  It's the one con I go to that's been an easy commute to and from my home in Wisconsin, but sadly it's moving next year to a new hotel on the far western side of the metro area because it's been getting bigger.  (Over 700 came this year.)  As usual, I got my board gaming fix in with not one, but two marathon games over the weekend, first on Friday with an eight hour game of Titan from 6pm to 2am.  I had a ticket (that's what you get to reserve a spot for a game) for a WWII miniatures game on Friday evening but it was cancelled, so while I was wondering what to do I sat down to play a few quick games of Zombie Dice with Richard Tatge and Brian Anderson, and Don Bailey came up and said he was playing Titan and asked if I'd be interested in joining them.  I did and had a great time playing an old game (Titan came out in the early 1980s) that was new to me, and had fun thanks to the other players being o.k. with me getting some mentoring from Don so I wouldn't just be the fresh meat du jour served up to the other players.  I went home tired because I had gotten up early to go to work on Friday, but it was worth it.

It was rough waking up on Saturday morning in time to make a 10am session of an aerial combat miniatures game, Spitfires and Messerschmitts, and thankfully I got a spot even though I was an alternate (which made it important for me to make it in on time).  I was on the British side and while we lost two out of three matches to the Germans, we found out later that the gamemaster's son was on the German side, so they had a ringer and we had some consolation.  Here's a couple of images I took of our combat in the sky:

We had some issues with command and control on the British side that sometimes had us flying around in circles, much to the Germans' amusement.  (BTW, the game board was beautifully done, with cotton clouds lending a nice touch.)

That's my Spitfire on the right, staring down said ringer's Messerschmitt.  I tried, but the dice were cruel and I got shot down.  Curse you Red Baron!

Later on Saturday afternoon I played a couple of Columbia Block war games, first Bobby Lee, which was a U.S. Civil War game with various scenarios, and I got to play both an 1863 session where I learned the hard way that you didn't win as the Confederates by slugging it out with the Union, but by taking advantage of the Rebel's greater mobility and advantages gained from fighting on friendly territory.  So when I played another session that started in 1861, even though I lost the First Battle of Bull Run (thanks again to poor die rolls, but I have to admit the Union side's commander did a better job than his real life counterparts did) I was able to regroup and risk a foray behind Union lines from the Shenandoah Valley into Pennsylvania (which in real life was a big headache for the Union as well) that caught my opponent off guard and kept the game from being a slow walk to Richmond for the Union side.  I had so much fun with those two games that I decided to skip the game I had scheduled for 6pm (in part because I reviewed the game earlier in the afternoon and wasn't really that taken by it) and instead played another block game, Hammer of the Scots, set in early 13th century Scotland.  My opponent wanted the Scottish side and I was happy to take the English, and we chose the William Wallace scenario.  It went badly for me at first as I made a mistake in the Scottish Lowlands that cost me forces while Wallace ran wild in the middle of Scotland, but my opponent didn't move fast enough to seize the Highlands before the English regrouped and I managed to trap Wallace and kill him with a combined force of English Knights (Lancaster and York) and Scottish nobility (Robert the Bruce) that was friendly to the English side, and after that it was just a mopping up operation for the English.  So no freedom for you, haggis eaters!

Since I was short on sleep I didn't stay late and after spending an hour playing Unreal Tournament and getting killed dozens of times by kids who were far quicker draws than me, I had one more go at aerial combat with another WWII miniatures game before going home to get some much needed snoozing.  Sunday morning I made it in bright and early at 10am (that's early for gamers) to play my second marathon boardgame, Mega Advanced Civilization, with eight other players.  This version is one that's been significantly augmented from the old Avalon Hill Advanced Civilization to add more trading cards, more calamities, and many more civilizations to play.  There were a few minor game balance issues, but it played well and I liked it very much.  We drew lots for first choice of civilizations and I got the #7 pick, which I sort of preferred as it's easier going later since you can see how the other player's choices pan out.  I took Babylon as I didn't want to play anything too challenging given I wasn't familiar with the new aspects of the game, and because it let me be at an end of the table so I had room for my backpack full of pop and munchies (I wasn't the only one brown bagging it, of course).  Here's a picture of the board after we were all set up and getting underway:

Yep, that's one BIG board!  Even with nine of us playing, we still didn't use the entire eastern side of the map.  Up to sixteen players can play, but we definitely had our hands full at nine.  Remarkably, we were able to keep things moving well and only got bogged down when we were getting more trade cards and spending more and more time trying to make deals with each other.  I was happy enough to get along with my two closest neighboring civilizations with no conflict due to disputes over territory.  The Assyrian player kind of surprised me by not contesting three city sites that Babylon really needs to do well, and as a result I had a pretty good run and I would have won at the end when we called time but I got hit by the Flood calamity (which is particularly bad for Babylon) on the last turn we played and I lost two cities so my score took a hit and I came in second to Nubia, who had the best place to play on the board and took advantage of it accordingly.  The calamities were fairly kind to me otherwise, while the western side of the board suffered from civil wars, epidemics, and other nasty major calamities while the eastern side mostly only got minor ones that didn't set them back too much.  Poor Egypt really got hammered both by calamities and from other civilizations pushing into their turf, particularly Nubia and to a lesser extent Assyria.  But the guy playing them took it well and we all had fun bantering with each other during the game.  It was definitely the highlight of a very fun con overall and even though it's going to be further away next year I'm sure I'll be going again and will probably get a room at the inn so I can get more sleep too.


  1. Glad you had a good time. Those games sound like a lot of fun and you did a great job recounting the wins and loses.

    Say hi to Erin for me. Thank you for posting.

  2. You're welcome Ty! I've gone to CotN eight times over the past twelve years and this year was better than ever. Although after playing so many board games this year I'm thinking I will do more role playing next year, and there are always plenty of those taking place as well.