I first heard about FallCon two years ago through one of my friends in Japanese class. At the time, I was intrigued, but for whatever reason, didn’t go. This year was different. Over the summer, I explored some new tabletop games with friends and at GeekMoot. I wanted to explore more games.
It would have been nice to attend the entire convention (September 27 - 29, 2013) but alas, time is so short. I only had time to attend the session on Saturday afternoon. Since it was my first time, I decided to register for Open Gaming.
This was a little different from GeekMoot. Upon registering for FallCon, you are basically reserving a seat, which becomes especially important when one of the featured games is running. You can see how many spaces are available at a table when you view your account. Or, if you're on the waiting list, you can see what position you are in.
It was just an adventure getting there. The venue is on the opposite end of town from where I live. Couple that with the fact that I was coming up from High River where I was visiting family - combo that with Deerfoot Trail being reduced to single lane traffic, starting at 22X - level that up with the fact that the detour ended in me overshooting my destination and backtracking through neighbourhoods I never knew existed - and you get one grumpy panda.
Now, don’t you tell me to turn on Google Navigation. My Android doesn't really get along with Google Maps or Google Navigation and I prefer using landmarks. Besides, I’m a hard copy map gal in the end. Guess what I forgot to print off that morning?
I was relieved to finally pull into the very full parking lot at the Commonwealth Centre and even more relieved to meet up with a friend’s hubby in the parking lot. He gave me the lay of the land upon entry: vendors here, food there, registered games right by the vendors and open gaming tables as far as the eye could see. In the very far corner, my friend and other volunteers were busy at the Games Library.
Speaking of the Games Library, what an impressive sight! There were over 690 tabletop games (some multiples). What was even more amazing was the fact that the majority of those games belong to one person.
My first stop was to the two vendors. The one game I didn’t purchase during my shopping spree was King of Tokyo. I’ve been itching to stomp around, kaiju style ever since GeekMoot but Imaginary Wars and Sentry Box were sold out when I went. I bought it from Boardgames.ca .
We caught up with my friend and then went in search of a table looking for players. These tables were denoted by an orange cone. Other tables sported a red cone, which meant that the players were in search of a teacher.
First up: Tzolk’in: The Mayan Calendar. The basic premise is similar to some games that I’ve played - build your kingdom/domain/land, gather resources, care for your people. However, the layout is quite different:
There’s a quite a bit more to the game. I was actually glad that our teacher (my friend’s hubby) had to explain the game three times, although I did feel badly for him. Since I was the first newbie at the table, I got the spiel, with added information, three times. Once he finished giving the rundown, another person showed up and then another.
There are six interconnected gears. On your turn, you can either place your workers on the lowest available spot in a wheel, or take them off so that you can reap the benefit granted for being in that spot. The wheels turn as the calendar advances, so your workers go around, stopping at different spots. It’s a waiting game to obtain a particular item, be it a building resource, corn to feed your workers, the right to build, an extra worker, etc.
Through all the action, you are trying to gain Victory Points. These are achieved in various ways, such as erecting buildings and temples, traversing the big blue wheel and moving up the temple levels as you gain favour with the Mayan gods.
Make sure you keep enough corn to feed your people otherwise, you will lose favour with the gods. I wound up with negative points for a while because of that.
If you need extra corn, one way you can get corn is to take control of the Headdress. You gain whatever corn has built up in the kitty AND you get control of the calendar. You can move time forward one day or two. You can also move the calendar backwards, in hopes of positioning your workers in a better spot on the gears.
It’s a neat game, but we three newbies readily agreed that it’s hard to get our brain around. It’s a game I’d like to try a few more times with a more experienced player as a guide before attempting to play it with me trying to be the coach.
It’s also one of the longer games too. The Boardgame Geek estimates gameplay at 90 minutes.
While we were playing, my nose was bombarded with delectable scents from the kitchen. People were ordering not just burgers and fries, but lasagna and Shepherd’s Pie. Oh so yummy. However, I made do with popcorn as I had dinner plans.
Next game: Bruges (pronounced “broozh” or “”brugguh”). It’s a city in Belgium. The game is set in Bruges during the Renaissance. Players are wealthy merchants competing to be Number 1. This is achieved by earning a high reputation on the scale, building as many buildings and canals as you can and having as many highly valued people out in your neighbourhood.
I was joined by a gentleman from BC and two ladies. The two ladies were familiar with the game.
Gameplay consists of four phases. In the first, we built our hand from the two decks of cards. The cards have colour-coded houses on one side and people on the other.
Phase 2 involves Player 1 rolling the coloured dice. The colours correspond with the works and the houses. If a player rolls a “5” or a “6”: watch out! Everyone gets struck with misfortune, such as pestilence or fire, earning a Threat Marker. Then, players can decide whether or not they want to pay the fee shown on the designated die to move up the Influence (or “Reputation”) Track.
In Phase 3, the players go around the table, playing their hand. Players can build canals or buildings, recruit workers, put workers in their buildings and activate an action listed on a card that’s in your neighbourhood.
In the final phase, players determine “majorities”. That is, you determine who’s the winner of that round in terms of canals, people and influence.
The decks are then passed to the next person. He or she becomes the Player 1 for the new round.
It’s straightforward enough. In some ways, I like it better than Dominion because of all the extra parts. You have your workers, gilder, cards and game piece. The combination of using cards and dice is neat as well.
Gameplay is listed at 60 minutes, but I’m sure we took longer than that. I think we were actually closer to 90 minutes. We missed out on the auction (which sounded quite lively). However, we were all committed to completing the game.
My first FallCon was short and sweet. The registration process was straight forward. The scheduling was varied. The cone system was brilliant. That Games Library simply blew me away. Everyone I played with or spoke to was extremely friendly and helpful.
And so ended my first FallCon experience, but not my gaming weekend. You see, my tabletop extravaganza began Friday night with a game of Pandemic. My brother and I wanted to see if we could save the world in a two-player scenario. Not only did we develop cures for all four dreaded diseases, we decided to keep playing until we eradicated all those nasty cubes from the world map.
The outbreaks started in Asia. We decided that it was fitting that we end up back in Asia. After we traversed the globe, treating and curing the world of Bugger Black, Bad Blue, that Darn Red and the Pesky Yellow diseases, we met up in Tokyo so our game pieces could party it up in Akihabara.
Sunday, we cracked open King of Tokyo. It was a fierce family fight amongst our kaiju, with each member employing a different gaming strategy. It was a bloody battle, coming back from 3 HP, but Mekka Dragon and I were victorious.
Now, it’s another year until FallCon 27. Thankfully, there are various tabletop gaming meetup groups, Gamer Sundays at Dickens’ Pub and of course, as many gameplay opportunities we can squeeze in with family and friends.
If you’d like to check out any of these games, head to a specialty gaming store. In Calgary, we have several, including Imaginary Wars, Revolution Games and Music and The Sentry Box. Otherwise, check out Amazon (click on the game links above) or GermanGames. If you have a favourite tabletop gaming store, feel free to share in the Comments section.