Belgo XII : Les Sirènes Savent Pourquoi
Friday 18th of Mars
When I woke it had snowed about 10 cm. Christina drove me to the airport and the flight went after 11 am and arrived nearly two hours later in Brussels. I had some lunch before I took the train to Liège. I had to change train in Leuven. I had to ask for the train as everything was written in Flemish and Liège is Luik in this language. Why make it easy in this bi-lingual country? In Liège I walked to the apartment of Patrick and Alice, convention friends since the many years here. It was the 6th time since the first time 2004 when I joined it and then I only knew Frédric Taton. We went Southwards the last half an hour to the college of Saint-Roch, where we should spend the coming days.
As usual the organizers and players had brought a lot of games to choose from. I quickly got some to test the new Days of Wonder game Cargo Noir by Serge Laget. As I had read the rules during the voyage, I explained that for my fellow gamers. This is not a heavy game, rather the opposite. It has an interesting (in my eyes) new auction mechanism. You have to bid in one round on different ports to buy smuggled goods and if the next player overbids, you either have to withdraw and loose this action or bid higher next time it's your turn. It makes an interesting dilemma to bid high enough to make the other players avoid a certain port, but also keep money to the next round. The ultimate goal was to make sets of either equal or all different goods and buy victory point cards with them. Normally auction games are not suited as family games, but in this case it's terrific as this. But personally the set collection did turn me off. Result: Carl 119, Eric H 135, Thomas P 80, Benjamin 115, Pierre 100, time=1:40.
After dinner we all played on different tables the same game. A simple game of bluffing called Skull & Roses. At several tables it finished in 15-20 minutes, but we had a hard fight and it was quite fun, although this is a game I normally would feel like a complete torture. Result: Carl, xxx?, Fred, Ann-Cat, Patrick (winner), xxx? time=0:50.
The next game was a prototype by Eric Hanuise called Autodafé. As it was a prototype I won't say much, but it was quite a fun card game about with burning and holy and forbidden books. It worked really well, but the objectives made the game a bit too long for what it was, but I will be looking forward to a published game. Result: Carl 2, Johan 5 (but burned), Yolande 5, Jean-Paul 3, Eric 3. time=1:35
Saturday 19th of Mars
This day started by easily talking three into playing Sid Meier's Civilization the boardgame (2010 edition). I had played it four times before and the others were newbies, so I had to explain the rules. Normally it takes about an hour for this game, but there are a lot to explain while struggling with the French and we started with a single round before lunch. As I was most experienced the other soon saw that it went quite well for me and they started to use different negative event cards on me, like deforestation and deserts around my cities. Even if there are a lot of random elements, I always enjoy the voyage in this game. It's more an event than struggling to win. When Yolande got nuclear weapon as her first 4th level tech I suspected she had uranium as one of the resources and attacked her I had luck and picked her resource. As the other wanted to join the poker tournament during the evening, we interrupted the game at 8 pm. Result: Carl=Egypt, Yolande=Rome, Johan=China, Claude=America. Interrupted after 6:45 and 10 rounds (it normally takes 4-5 hours and 11-13 rounds).
Everbody was not longing for poker, but some people wanted to play the cooperative game Lord of the Ring with both Sauron and Battlefield expansions. Renaud took the role as Sauron and we had a fun time. Some maps were quite easy, but it tightened up on the Mordor map and Sauron won after Pippin was the last to die at the last step. I really enjoy this game and it was a long time since I played it. The Sauron expansion was interesting, but I didn't think that the Battlefield expansion added much. Result: Renaud as Sauron (started at 12) and The fellowship were Carl (Merry), Natalie (Frodo), Thomas (Sam), Benoit (Bolger) and Olivier (Pippin). Time=2:25.
Sunday 20th of Mars
The day started by playing one of the best strategy games I never seem to get around buying, that is Egizia. Actually I played it last time at Belgoludique. It's a good worker placement game with a twist. You may never place a worker higher on a place you have already placed, so it's a balance to get as much good cards as possible, but also to be first to take certain places on the board before somebody else has taken them. Result: Carl, 94, Benoit 69, Marc 78, Thierry 58. Time=1:30.
It seems that one of every gamer's favourite filler games is Dominion and we played it with the expansion Intrigue. I still enjoy it now and then, but not enough to buy any of the 4 or 5 existing expansions. Result: Carl 18, Nicolas 17, Jeff 25, Alice 20. Time=0:45.
After lunch we had a gaming lottery. There were several publisher sponsors, which had donated some games. There were enough games so that everybody got one. I got a copy of Khronos, which I remember was much hyped in Essen 2006.
Afterwards I got the chance to try out Norenberc, which was one of the hyped games from Essen 2010. As nobody had played it before, Eric helped us with the explanation. It was an intriguing resource handling and market game, but slightly hyped and I can really imagine that it can be long with players, which over-analyse a game. I enjoyed it, but it will never be a game I need to buy myself. Result: Carl 22, Benoit 31, Thierry 33, Olivier 31+. Time=2:20.
Next it was time to play a new favourite game: Constantinopolis. I was the only one who had played it before and it's a really interesting game about getting resources from production buildings. Buying new buildings (production, commercial, utility buildings etc), then getting contracts and ship resources, which gives fame points and money during the next round. The only major complaint is that many of the phases are solitaire and the interaction is mostly indirect, which is actually a type of game I often prefer. It was interesting to see how Yannick all the time made the game move forward quickly, as this game mostly has taken about 2½ hour with 5 players. I would like to play more with players like him! Result: Carl 53, Yannick 40, Renaud 31, Thomas 38, Natalie 46. Time=1:50.
Another of my favourites from Essen is Troyes. Normally one of the designers of this game (Xavier Georges) used to be at the convention every year, but not this time. I really like the manipulation possibilities with this game and that you can buy “good dice” from the other players. Even if the throw of the dice each round has a lot of importance, this doesn't matter much for me. Again Yannick proved his ability to help the game flow quickly. This has never taken less than 2 hours before, when I played it. Result: Carl 54, Yannick 40, Thomas 42. Time=1:30
Monday 21st of Mars
We were six persons after breakfast so we started with Peloponnes including the Sea expansion, which allows a 6th player. Still I think it is better with 4 or 5 players, as it's getting a bit too chaotic with 6, particularly in the auction phase. Still this is a light and fun game. I'm still longing to test the Hellas expansion, which I bought myself at Essen. Result: Carl 15(18), Camille 15(28), Bernard 15(28), Thierry 12(25), Marc 24(31), Benoit 24(25). Time=1:15.
As a fan of 7 Wonders I was looking forward to test the prototype of the new Leader expansion. It's already announced to be published soon, so it's ok to tell you a bit more about it. Everybody gets 4 random leaders before the Era I cards. You choose one without showing it and send the other around the table. This is repeated twice and you keep 4 cards at the end of this phase. Before you get the cards for each era you may play one of your 4 leader cards and the cost is always money (you start with 6 instead of 3 silver as usual). The remaining leader at Era III is discarded It might be more if you can't afford to play one before each era. The expansion maybe adds 5-10 minutes to the play and gives several new bonuses, like play guild card for free, copy a leader from you neighbour, an extra point for every won military shield, send back all negative military shields to your neighbours etc. There are 30-40 leader cards and they have a whitish back, so they may easily be included in the base game. The leaders requires a bit more planning to have enough money to pay a them before each era and they gives about 10-30 points more per player. Even if I mostly avoid expansions, I will probably buy this, as this is a game, which often is requested as a filler game. Result: Carl 72, Camille 42, Bernard 51, Thierry 83, Marc 53+, Benoit 53. Time=0:40.
When Bernard went away we played another game of 7 Wonders with the Leader expansion. Result: Carl 63, Camille 56, Thierry 71, Marc 51, Benoit 46. Time=0:35.
Last years highlight was when I played Through the Ages twice in a row. It wasn't really difficult to talk Marc into this again, although it was just one game this time. It's nice to play it with somebody who has played it so many times, as Marc, who made the administration in the game flow very quickly. One thing, which I prefer with the 2-player version, is that the pact and the war cards are omitted and the cards pass through quicker, which makes a quicker game. Somehow I managed to keep up a good balance between military strength, research and culture. I had a bit tough to keep up with the culture points, which are the main objective to win. Marc got specialised in winning colonies, but this cost him a lot of military strength. My choice of leaders by taking Leonardo da Vinci, Isaac Newton and finally Albert Einstein gave me a lot of science points and in Era III a lot of points and I caught up and I was close behind when we finally turned up the last event cards. As I had the edge in both science and military strength, this aided me to pass him at the end. A really fun and intriguing game, which I love more and more for each game I play. Result: Carl 181, Marc 171. Time=3:25.
Bangkok Klongs had been one of the hits in Essen 2010 and I was very curious about it. But it's a lot of drawing the correct cards and dominate in areas, which I really disliked. But it was short enough before dinner. Result: Carl 120, Olivier 128, Benoit 104, Thierry 134. Time=1:15.
After dinner it was time for an evening with a Maritime theme in the swimming pool. It was very dark went around the college to the other side, where the swimming pool is situated. I was in the first group and changed to my vintage swim suit and straw hat, which was very appreciated by my friends. I helped to blow a large air mattress, as Cédrick had forgotten to bring a air pump. In all the years I had attended the convention and people had been very imaginative to dress up to the theme and my disguises were very simple compared to the others, but I was very disappointed this year, as apart from me it was only Stéphane who had made something to put on his head so he looked like a sea monster and Philippe who had a couple of monster gloves. Apparently it was difficult to find something when you also had to jump into the water. There were a few team competitions, like moving 40 balls from one side to the other or put as many as possible in the theme upon a large air mattress. It was fun, but exhausting, as I'm not very used of swimming.
When I had return to the gaming table, I played Egizia, even if I had planned to go to bed slightly earlier. But it's hard to resist such a lovely game. I also found out an misinterpreted card, which made it more reasonable strong. Result: Carl 111, Jean-Paul 90, Laurent 114. Time 1:50.
Tuesday 22nd of Mars
After breakfast I found out a fresh copy of Alien Frontiers in a window. Even if I played it once before Benoit, who was the owner of the game, explained it for us. This is a resource handling and area domination game, which I've found so good when I played it the first time, that I had already ordered the second edition, as the first edition was sold out in less than a month. Result: Carl 4, Brigitte 7, Nicolas 10, Marc 7+. Time=1:20.
Again I played 7 Wonders with Leader the prototype expansion. It must have been one of the most played game during the convention. Result: Carl 65, Brigitte 67, Nicolas 75, Stavros 64, Marc 65. Time 0:35.
I convinced Benoit to try out Ascension Chronicles of the Godslayer, which I had seen in Essen. He had tried it there and the rules are quite simple, so we start quite easily. It's an interesting, but simpler hybrid of Dominion and Thunderstone. The same drafting mechanism as in these games and you used the cards to buy new heroes and/or attack a monster in the centre row. The main difference was that you could do several actions, as long as the card value was enough. Nothing to buy, but I wouldn't hesitate to play it again. It's is rather a family game, at least as long the children can read English. Result: Carl 69, Benoit 74. Time=0:40.
After lunch I got the chance to play my top one game, that is Zepter von Zavandor. It seemed to still be very popular, but it was the first time I got the chance to play it. Everybody was very experienced and it was a very tough game, which ended in very close score. Result: Carl 59, Patrick 60, Nicolas 59, Yves 64. Time=3:20.
Finally I was happy to find the new Alea game Castle of Burgundy, which just had been published. I tested it in Essen and loved it, although I had a second thought it might take too long time, but this time the game flowed very easily. The only thing that distresses me is that the first player has an advantage to buy harbour tiles, to continue to keep up with the first place. I kept that position more or less throughout the game and I was actually happy to see that it only helped me to a second place. I'm looking forward to buy this and it was a great final of this convention. Result: Carl 207, Renaud 192, Thomas 236, Natalie 192. Time=2:05.
Wednesday 23rd of Mars
I went up 7:30 and put together my last luggage. Luckily the breakfast was already served when I arrived by myself as early as 8 am. Marc who always was up early in the mornings had promised to drive me to the railway station in Aywaille. From there I changed in Liège and Leuven. I had time to take a walk in the nice little town of Leuven this time, which was nice in the warm sun. I arrived in good time to the airport and could take care of the photos while eating lunch. I returned to the airport of Gothenburg just after 6 pm, where Christina picked me up.
As usual this was a well organised convention and I really love to meet my Belgian and French gaming friends yet another year and hope to come back next year. The only disappointment was that I had expected to test the new Ystari game Olympos, as I thought that the designer Philippe Kayerts would bring the prototype. So I have to wait another one or two month before it's published.