My Gamer Girl and I decided to skip GenCon this year and replace it with a variety of smaller trips spread throughout the summer. One happened already.
But part of the deal – and my Gamer Girl insisted – was that we would take a long weekend somewhere, probably somewhere with a beach, and spend the whole weekend playing board games.
And so was born BeachCon 2014, which we chose to celebrate on the weekend of June 6-8, on a perfect stretch of beach known as the Crystal Coast, in a unique and colorful family-owned hotel that sits right on the sand. They even let us bring pets; AdventureCat got to attend BeachCon too.
The lead-up to BeachCon was both amusing and amazing: my Gamer Girl steadily accumulating a pile of games to bring, ensuring we’d have the full GenCon experience (or as much as you can when it is just you and not 40,000 other gamers) by including:
- A new game we’ve never played
- A serious strategy game of the type that we like to experience at GenCon
- A super mashup kind of thing like happens only at GenCon
- Some Dragon Dice. Because Dragon Dice.
Note that this was her definition of the GenCon experience. I cannot express how much I appreciate the fact that she has a definition of the GenCon experience! I am constantly reminded how lucky I am, and this was definitely one of those times.
The packages would arrive from Amazon, and the pile of games and preparations grew larger. Until finally, weekend before last, it was time. We all piled into my sedan and headed off into the unknown. Or at least, unknown to us. Never mind the thousands of people and US Marines that live there already.
If this was GenCon, there’d be pocket reviews of all the games we played. So here you go. Expect fuller reviews of some of them in the coming months:
Game 1: The Struggle For Catan
This card game pits two or more players against each other in the eternal Catan-based struggle to achieve 10 victory points by building things with wool, wheat, wood, clay and ore. One of the key mechanics involves a limited supply of roads, settlements and knights; everyone must compete for the few that exist.
We played two games and I won them both. It is a decent game, not great but good, and BeachCon is off to a good start.
Game 2: Agricola
Agricola has a unique set of mechanics that provide a huge, branching set of actions. You can do any one of many things, and your choice of those actions provides game variety. As opposed to games that rely on randomization to provide game variety. In other words, if you lose, you have no one to blame but yourself.
We played two games of Agricola, with my Gamer Girl beating me progressively worse in each game. The second one was so bad I never even made it above negative points.
Agricola is unique and creative and was the best game we encountered at GenCon 2013. It is no surprise that it was also the best game of BeachCon 2014.
Game 3: Massive Mega Carcassonne Mash Up
What do you get when you buy Carcassonne, complete with one expansion, and then buy seven more expansions? You get hundreds and hundreds of Carcassonne tiles with shifting rule sets that ebb and flow like water, forming unexpected patterns and rule combinations and yielding many new and surprising scoring opportunities.
Lots of fun. Yes, it takes hours and hours to play. Yes it costs … I don’t even want to think about how much money is tied up in those expansions. A lot.
But wow. A perfect GenCon kind of thing. Totally over the top, totally worth it. Oh and my Gamer Girl cleaned me up on it. By a lot. She lapped me.
Game 4: The Markets of Alturien
Our brand new game for BeachCon, we actually bought this last year at GenCon but had not yet opened it; it was still in its virginal shrink wrap.
Markets of Alturien consists of placing a handful of figurines on a maze map and then rolling dice to attempt to bring them to spaces where you’ve placed businesses. There’s more to it than that, some of the figurines are more valuable. You get some choices in what to upgrade and when. But the base mechanic is roll dice and move plastic dudes onto your shops. Nice looking game. But not a game for me.
This game was also a lesson in why everyone playing a new game should read the rules. I forgot to tell my Gamer Girl what the victory conditions were until I achieved them. So I won the first game, but clearly that didn’t count. We played again. I forgot to tell my Gamer Girl about one of the ways to achieve those victory conditions. Until I used them to win. Again.
So I won but lost. Zero for two.
Game 5: Dragon Dice
Sometimes I lose in the Dragon Dice world championships. Sometimes I lose in the single-race tournament. But most years, we still play in the last Dragon Dice game on GenCon Sunday. BeachCon should be no exception.
Dragon Dice is a tactics game where you build armies using dice as your pieces. When armies battle (or cast magic, or maneuver, or shoot missiles) you pick up your army and roll it. Dice everywhere. It is a wonderfully visceral way to resolve tactical confrontations.
It can also get heavy. The dice multiply seemingly on their own. We had to stop bringing our whole collections to GenCon just because of the weight. But BeachCon is a drive away, not a flight, and all of the dice came with us.
One can spend a weekend just building their perfect army, but we were a bit time-constrained and designed matching Firewalker forces. My Gamer Girl managed to get her melee army facing my magic army within melee range, and won the first game that easily. In game two, I had some fortunate dice luck and managed to put her in a position where she felt she could not recover. So we split.
In the final tally, we played five games a total of nine times. My Gamer Girl won four, I won three, and two didn’t count due to malfeasant rule explaining.
There were three games we didn’t get to at all. But we also swam in the ocean (with dolphins!), and had a nice dinner, and enjoyed the reflection of the cloudless moon hanging over the waves.
The total cost for the entire trip was less than a quarter of what we spend at GenCon. Not counting the Carcassonne expansions, because like I said, I don’t want to even think about that.
I’m not saying that this was better than GenCon, it is not. There is no way to replace five straight days of gaming with 40,000 avid gamers. But it was different and wonderful in its own way. And it is something that we can all do, individually, on our own. All you have to do is want to.
BeachCon. Coming soon to a beach near you?
🙂 😀 🙂