View From the Wet Coast – V-Con 38 and the Beauty of Conventions

V-Con is an annual SF convention in Vancouver, British Columbia. For over forty years, attendees have been able to mingle with some of their favorite authors, dress up as their favorite SF characters, and learn some great writing tips.

For the last few years, it’s also been a great place to play games, and it’s where I was re-introduced to the hobby a couple of years ago. Every year I look forward to seeing my local gaming buddies for a fun weekend of gaming into the night, learning new games, and maybe entering a tournament or two. Since I am an aspiring writer too, it is sometimes difficult to decide how much time to spend on each aspect of the convention.

I think I managed to do a good job this year, though.

I won’t go into the SF side of the convention, because I know you’re here for the gaming. And boy, was there a lot of gaming! I’ll give you some highlights, though won’t go into great detail on each game, or you would still be reading this a week from now.

V-Con 38 Game Room
The crowded game room (one of three) at V-Con 38

One of the really cool things about going to conventions is the opportunity to play a bunch of games that you’ve never played before. Once things got bustling in the game room (sadly split into three smaller rooms due to the allotted space), I sat down to whet my appetite with some Würfel Bohnanza.

Würfel Bohnanza is a press your luck dice game based on the popular bean-planting card game, Bohnanza. Players are trying to roll the proper bean combinations to move up the levels on their scoring card, eventually cashing them in for gold coins and moving on to the next card.

The interesting concept in this game is that other players can use the same rolls to satisfy their bean combos, but only using the dice that are rolled. The rolling player plants at least one die in their garden every roll, and those dice can no longer be used by the other players. They then keep rolling, planting at least one die each round until they are out of dice. It’s a fun and really fast game, a perfect way to open or close a game night.

Wurfel Bohnanza
Get Yer Bean Combos Here!

Next, we got a little more complicated with Suburbia, the tile-laying game where you’re trying to build the most populous community. Is it a good idea to place one of your airports right next to some of your housing developments? Probably not.

Players take turns looking at the tiles that are available (such as “Housing Association,” which gives the player two dollars for every green tile on the board and any new green tiles that are placed as well), buying them, and placing them in their community. At the end of the game, the player with the most population wins. This was a really enjoyable game that I would love to play again now that I’m more familiar with the strategies.

Suburbia - should the landfill really be next to the lakes?
Suburbia – should the landfill really be next to the lakes?

As we were waiting for the pizza we ordered to arrive, we struck up a game of Last Will, and since I played it two more times on the weekend, you can guess that I really enjoyed this one!

In Last Will, players are the nephews of a rich uncle (or nieces too, I guess, though the rulebook doesn’t make that allowance) who has died and left all of his money in his will to the nephew who can spend money with the wildest abandon. You start the game with seventy pounds (it can vary, but we always started with seventy) and the winner is the first one to go bankrupt. You can buy property and spend money maintaining it (or watch it depreciate into a slum before selling it back at a loss) or you can just go out and have fun, throwing wild parties that will cost you a lot of money.

At its heart, it’s a worker placement card game, where each turn you have one or two “errand boys” to place on the board to either get a card that you want or to do something else. Once everybody’s errand boys are out, cards are played and actions taken to spend as much money as you can that turn.

Last Will - Spending Lots of Money, But Not Enough.
Last Will – Spending Lots of Money, But Not Enough.

This is a really fun game, especially once you get an idea of the strategies. The first time I played, I ended the game with fifty pounds. Not good when you’re trying to go bankrupt and start with seventy. Subsequent games were much better, though I never did win. Sadly, there already is a regular column on this site called “Losing at Board Games,” because I would be all over that one if there weren’t. I always lose.

Except for Saturday morning.

I signed up for some Ticket to Ride that morning, and my blue train routes ended up winning the day, even with being blocked on two of my smaller tickets. I tied with the guy I was facing off with for most destinations completed (there were three other players, but they were far behind us), and I was nine points behind him. Longest route won me the day! It’s so satisfying when that happens.

Ticket to Ride - Blue Rides to Victory!
Ticket to Ride – Blue Rides to Victory!

(I don’t really need to explain Ticket to Ride to you, do I? I didn’t think so)

Saturday was completed with two more games of Last Will and another one of Würfel Bohnanza, though I did spend a lot of time that day on the SF side of the convention so didn’t play as much.

Sunday was the big Board Game Blitz contest, which I reluctantly entered after seeing that there wasn’t much going on in the SF side that I was interested in. As I said, I suck at board games, even as I enjoy playing them, so a contest seemed pointless.

Nevertheless, I persevered.

There were nine players, so each game had three players apiece.

Started the blitz by coming in second playing Ticket to Ride: Europe. I’ve played the iPhone app for this many times but have never played the board game. It was a nice, easy way to start the day. Sadly, I was already behind after playing.

For the second game of the Blitz, I played Small World. Wow, was I bad at that one. Came in last place by a country mile, and only got within a javelin toss of second place because of my rampaging giants at the end.

We ended the Blitz by playing Taj Mahal, an older game that I had never heard of. Players go from province to province in ancient India, using cards to vie for influence points. These can be earned by getting trade goods, influencing various factions of the royal court, and picking up special bonuses. Once we learned the rules, it’s actually a very easy game to play, but hard to play well without a couple of plays under your belt. The strategies are quite intricate.

Needless to say, I came in last place (though I was tied!) for the Blitz, but it was a blast playing all of these great games.

I’m looking forward to going to a gaming convention where that’s all it is. I found it difficult to decide how much game-playing I was going to do at V-Con and how much of the writing stuff I wanted to take in. I did all right, I think, but it’s nice not to have to divide your time.

If you’re able to get to the Vancouver area next October, I heartily recommend V-Con. But if you can’t, surely there’s a gaming or SF (or both?) convention in your area. Get out there and have fun playing games.

It’s a wonderful way to spend a weekend.

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