In addition to playing three days’ worth of the familiar, I ventured into the unknown with my first live play of Stefan Feld’s Notre Dame. I say ‘live’ play because over the years, there were a few scattered attempts at it while it was (still is, actually) a game available on the German gaming site, Brettspielwelt. It is significant to note that when a convention attendee at the 1st Annual Board Games at the Beach event in Wilmington, NC over the April 24-26 weekend suggested it, my very first reaction was centered on a bad memory about the game’s proliferating rats.
More on Notre Dame in a minute, but for now, a few notes about the convention. Depending on how you measure these sorts of things (fun experienced? total attendance? financial gain?) the 1st Annual Board Games at the Beach convention was a success. Lots of fun. Not so great in the attendance department (a relative opinion) and financial gain (if any), unknown. In all, about 45 gamers showed up to participate, many of them members of Wilmington’s Board Game Group, some of whom, for a variety of different reasons hadn’t been seen at the group’s weekly get-togethers. The furthest traveler came from Virginia.
Metal shelves held approximately eight times as many games as any of the 45 registered attendees could possibly have been expected to play in the time allotted; from Friday, April 24 at 8 a.m. to Sunday, April 26 at 6 p.m. The room was available 24/7 with the stipulation that the last person (group) to leave at night would close and lock the room with its stash of games, privately and professionally owned. Everybody brought games and event sponsor Cape Fear Games brought multiple selections from the retail outlet’s games-to-play shelves. So, no end to choices.
For me, the convention started with a round of Alhambra, followed by Concordia. I taught the two-player, abstract strategy game, Inside Moves (originally titled Camelot) to Cape Fear Games’ manager and convention organizer, Andrew Westin, who, not surprisingly, got smoked in the first game, and equally not surprising, smoked me the second time. It was noted by a participant in both Alhambra and Concordia, that while he had played games with me that I had won, he had never participated in a game I taught that I ever won. Alhambra and Concordia continued this tradition.
I brought Vasco DaGama to the table against three of my favorite and regular competitors (Steve, Chris & Tom) and for about the third time, discovered a rule in the game that I (and others, when I taught it) had been playing wrong. Turns out that when you launch ships in this game, you can launch as many as you want, but they all have to be launched from the same one of six ports. We (and I say we, although it was Chris who discovered this) didn’t learn this until the game was over. While it most certainly would have made a difference (certain in-game victory points would have been altered, some ships might not have sailed), it was one of those rule mistakes that because it applied to everybody, no real harm was done. In effect, it basically increased final scores. It was the only game, other than the first game of Inside Moves, that I won all weekend. Steve, Chris, Tom and I moved on to play the light-hearted and light-weight Las Vegas, where the other three, more or less grumbling about my screw-up of omission with Vasco DaGama, ganged up on me. A decision with better strategic potential was often avoided when a different decision that would interfere with my game play was available. On Sunday, the four of us gathered in the final afternoon for a game of Puerto Rico, won by Chris from the dreaded and statistically-demonstrated-to-be worst seat (#2) at the table. It was, for Chris, an “Ah Hah!!” moment, because he has never believed in the importance of seat position in a Puerto Rico game, no matter how many statistics, derived from hundreds and hundreds of games played, you can trot out to demonstrate the fact that seat position plays a role. I suggested bidding for seat position and they all dismissed the idea, opting for a random choosing of the first player and a clockwise assignment to other seats.
There were games of Acquire played, as well as Power Grid, a few marathon games in the railroad 18XX series, a racing game called Thunder Alley, and quite a few others that I failed to make note of. The proverbial good time was had by all, along with determination that there will be a 2nd Annual Board Games at the Beach, within a month or two of the same time frame next year.
Overall, Cape Fear Games manager, Andrew Westin, was happy with the result. While attendance was “below expectations” of 50 attendees, being five short wasn’t, in his opinion, all that bad for a first time effort.
“Everybody enjoyed it,” he said, “and I’m happy with the way it turned out.”
He continues to believe (and I disagree) that the practice of early registration (no ‘day of’ registrations) is the way to go. It frees up convention personnel, not only to play, but to better attend to the needs of attendees. Next year’s event may or may not be in the same location (Hampton Inn-Medical Center in Wilmington). Cape Fear Games could easily have handled the 45 players that played in the hotel in the retail store, so there’s some consideration being given to hosting the event there next year. Event growth might work against that, and possibly, lead to selection of a larger facility. That decision will be made as plans for the 2nd Annual Board Games at the Beach convention begin to take more shape, sometime in the future.
This has gone on a little longer than I thought it would, when I originally set out to write a grand Session Report on the convention and combine it with a review of Notre Dame. I’ve made an executive decision that the review will wait, albeit with a few words about Notre Dame, relevant to my history with it, and any assessment of its value, based on that history.
The few times I attempted to play Notre Dame on Brettspielwelt were a disaster. This most recent attempt at it was just as much of a disaster, for the same reasons. My early memory of an issue with rat proliferation came back to me when sure enough, one of my early problems in the game centered on the proliferation of rats. A certain number of them appear in every round of play. As I remember happening in my on-line play of this game, I found myself fighting to keep these rats at bay, and being unable to participate in other actions to earn the Prestige Points necessary to win the game. That said, though, this time around I was able to get a grasp on what I was doing wrong, and while not able to ‘right the ship’ and contend for a “W,” this time out, I did develop a much better sense of the game than I had ever picked up playing it on-line. My opinion of it edged up a few notches, and my better understanding of it allowed me to consider a review, which I’ll tackle and post in the near future.