Wednesday, September 18, 2013

FanExpo 2013....

Oh, the humanity!!!!!
For probably the 5th year in a row, I attended FanExpo this August at the enormous Toronto Metro Convention Centre.  In case you don't know, FanExpo is Canada's largest fan convention for comic book fanatics, trekkies, gamers, writers, sports fanatics (this year!), and almost every other nerd grouping you can think of.  And this year, it seems to have been the biggest one yet.  My partner is an artist and he sells his creepy, beautiful poster prints like hotcakes at these shows.  So for a couple of days of hard work at our booth I get a full exhibitor pass for the whole weekend and I get to skip all the lines!  This year was our best year yet as the show keeps getting bigger and bigger.

Vincent's booth this year
I was even able to take the Saturday off from selling to attend the Great Canadian Board Game Blitz which is always hectic fun.  If you haven't heard of it before (like, say in my previous posts), it's a very friendly competition where everyone plays a bunch of games and gets a score according to their ranking in each game.  At the end of the day there are prizes for highest scores as well as some random draws, too.  What's really nice is that after the first couple of rounds the players with the lowest scores get to pick which games they play first which is kind of a natural catch-up mechanism in the greater meta-game being played over the day.

First time playing San Juan at the Blitz, GREAT little game!
I played lots of great games that day including the heavy (Goa) and the light (Tsuro).  I was quite excited to play and also win one particular game, Trains & Stations, by Eric M. Lang of Quarriors fame.  Eric, who has a great first name and also resides in Southern Ontario, was kind enough to explain to us how to play the game.  T&S is mainly a dice game but there is a lot more going on than just that.  There is route and station-building, set-collection, tickets to complete straight outta Ticket To Ride, and even a bit of a stock market element.  It's quite a dense little game considering how quickly it plays and how light the dice make it feel.

Trains & Stations board with dice (trains) played and resource cards
In general, players are rolling their dice to try and get train symbols to place on the board or to build stations.  When rolled as train symbols, the dice themselves are placed on the board to try and build routes between cities.  These routes can be left unfinished and other players can add their own dice to finish them, yielding points to all players involved.  An interesting strategy, of course, is to piggy back on as many routes as possible to score on each completion.  Stations attached to completed routes generate resource cards for their owners and there are bonuses at game end for the player with the most in each resource.  In a very "Acquire"-y twist, once a resource runs out a better resource replaces it and players have the option to trade-up 2 for 1 for the newer more valuable resource.

"All the pretty dices......."
All this is quite fascinating and an interesting mix of mechanics that I REALLY like.  But it's a very short game - 30-45 minutes - and the dice and cards inject a hefty dose of luck.  On the last round of turns, the player before me completely crapped out on her roll and was unable to do anything and then on my turn I managed to roll well enough to complete some excellent routes which let me draw more cards.  These cards just happened to give me the majority in a couple of resources allowing me to secure the win.  So I'm not entirely sure what I think of the game yet - it's lots of fun with many strategies for play, but the ruleset is a bit long for such a short game and the swings of luck seemed to often dictate the strategy you take.  Still, I really want to play this again and that's a good sign.

Completed route tickets
Overall, it was an awesome day packing 6 games into 7 hours and meeting lots of new people.  And I was lucky enough to win a random draw and snatch a copy of Tsuro which I had already been considering buying after playing it that day.  Thanks again to the online game store Fun Games Cafe out of Mississauga for providing some of the prizes, including the one I took home.

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