Columnist Adem Kolar relives a long weekend of gaming goodness.
I had the pleasure of reading Martin Sullivan's article a few weeks ago about his experience of Cancon "from the trenches" as a member of the team that ran the Good Games booth at Cancon 2017. I, too, wanted to share my own experience of the 'Con; not as a Good Games employee (though that I am), but as a gamer.
About a month ago, I visited Cancon – Australia's most well known tabletop gaming convention – in Canberra. It was quite an exciting time for me, personally, as it was my first time going to Cancon or, indeed, any tabletop gaming convention since getting into this form of gaming some years ago.
I was fortunate enough to be invited to stay with a few friends who had made it a tradition to visit Cancon every year for the Australia Day long weekend. Yet, to my surprise, the time they spent at the 'Con itself was minimal. Unless you are a wargamer, or you intended (as I did) on participating in one of the many card gaming tournaments run throughout the weekend by the venerable Kieren Otton, then there isn't all that much to do beyond browse the stalls and the second hand store. Truth be told, the majority of time in Canberra that weekend was spent playing all sorts of board games, often all day long and long into the night. With many people busy with work and studies throughout the year, and many longer multiplayer board games requiring an immense effort to schedule, organise, and play, the Cancon long weekend presented the perfect opportunity to crack out some of these games – even the notorious 'bought but never played' games – and give them a whirl!
We arrived in Canberra on Thursday afternoon. A close friend of mine (who is a time-poor and hard working father of three) was keen to play games as soon as we arrived because, to him, time was of the essence and a whole weekend of gaming is a cherished thing that shouldn't be wasted! So we cracked out some casual games to get the ball rolling, chief among those was Rock Paper Wizard – a cute little card game about a group of wizards fighting over loot after they had just killed a mighty dragon. It involves casting spells on opposing players through the use of hand gestures (similar to "Scissors, Paper, Rock") indicated on cards to deny them the gold tokens they need to win the game. First player to 25 gold wins. It was a surprisingly amusing casual game, and a great entrée for what was to come.
Later that evening – with a plethora of board games on offer (we were spoilt for choice, really) – we decided on playing New Angeles. I was personally keen to try out Scythe, a game I had heard so many good things about and had yet to play, but New Angeles won the vote. As it turns out, I didn't end up playing Scythe at all that weekend, which is probably my one regret from Cancon as Scythe is another one of those games best played with many players over several hours -- something not always possible during the regular working weeks of the year. Nevertheless, I quickly forgot about Scythe as I become engrossed in the web of corporate wheeling and dealing of New Angeles. I won't elaborate too much on it here, as that will be for an article at another time. New Angeles, though, was compelling and, despite the less than ideal result (everyone except one player lost), it was a thoroughly enjoyable experience
On Friday morning, we headed to the convention hall for the first time. And what a sight it was! Masses of gamers browsing the stalls, shops, and doing what they love on the endless amount of gaming tables. I saw all sorts of games being played; everything from casual board games, to Warhammer 40k, to various historical wargames (the names of which currently escape me). The latter looked quite 'full on' for me, but you have to admire their passion and commitment! After picking up some handy deals at the second hand store, I headed over to the 'card gaming room' at the centre of the convention building to participate in the Draft event for A Game of Thrones: The Card Game. It was my first time participating in a Draft event for the 2nd Edition of this game, and it was a blast! It really shows that Draft can work really well even in the LCG format.
After an exhausting day of walking around, drafting, and then walking around some more, we got back to our lodge. I met up with another one of my friends (who was in Canberra specifically for the A Game of Thrones: The Card Game events at Cancon) who had been keen on learning to play Twilight Struggle for quite some time. So I gave him a brief rundown of the rules and we played! He grasped the game quite quickly and it was a tense affair as his Soviets and my Americans arm-wrestled for ideological domination of the world. In the end, it was the Soviet Union that prevailed.
Most of my buddies who were staying with us were players of Arkham Horror: The Card Game and they all brought their decks along for the 'Con. So that's what we ended up playing on Friday night! The four of us played the latest standalone expansion, "The Carnevale of Horrors", with our customised decks. It was quite long -- far longer than the average Arkham Horror scenario playthrough from the core set -- though I'm not sure that was because the scenario was particularly long, or because we were playing slowly, or a combination of both. In the end, however, it was a slow and painful demise as we failed to progress past the first stage of the scenario. By the time the Carnevale of Horrors had finished crushing us, it close to 2 in the morning, so we called it a night.
On Saturday morning we walked around the convention floor some more, visiting stalls we missed the previous day, but it was really just a case of killing time until the Store Championship event started for A Game of Thrones: The Card Game. We had a solid turnout, the players who came for the event included my group and I, plus the local Canberra players as well as another few Sydney players driving down specifically for the event. At the tournament, I played House Tyrell with the Kings of Summer agenda. It was a very simplistic deck that focused on generating the economy required to play beefy expensive characters, and then keep those characters on the board to generate power for me (thereby getting me closer to the win condition). It worked a charm for the most part, and I finished 2nd at the end of Swiss. Unfortunately, I ended up losing my Top 4 match to the eventual tournament winner.
Later that afternoon, our group was suffering from a bit of 'analysis paralysis' in trying to work out which game to play to cater for everyone's desires. To my glee, we eventually settled on playing through Doom - the new 1-vs-many miniatures board game from Fantasy Flight Games. Doom is a great game of mindless fun via demonic slaughter, designed in the vein of Imperial Assault and Descent. If you'd like to read more about it, check out my previous article! As one of only two people there who had played the game before, I elected to play the "Invader" -- the player in control of the hordes of hellish demons, while my buddies played as the Marine characters. They were slaughtering the Imps and the Cacodemons early on and it was looking good for them until I was able to summon a couple of Revenants, whose homing rockets were able get me enough frags for the win.
Doom finished up at an awkward hour -- too late to start a proper board game, but too early to call it a night. So we played several rounds of Red7, a fantastic little card game that my friend described as "Uno Fluxx"; and that's exactly what it is. You play cards with colour and numerical values, like Uno, but with every card you play the rules (and "win" condition) changes in the same way as Fluxx.
On Sunday morning, we packed up and left our accommodation for one last day at the 'Con. Today was Destiny day for me, so I made my way over to the card gaming room to get ready for the event. As a regular player of Star Wars: Destiny (brilliant game, by the way, get in on it if you can!) I had enjoyed playing with a variety of decks including eJabba/Vader, eRey/Padawan/Padawan, and eAckbar/Hired Gun/Hired Gun. However, I had driven three hours to reach Cancon, so I thought that, while I'm here, I might as well play a 'good' deck to try and win the event. So I played the infamous eJango/eVeers deck (often simply referred to as 'Jangoveers'). This deck has an insane damage output and can end games quite quickly. The main driver is Jango Fett himself who, once equipped with a selection of weapons, can activate as a response to an opponent's character activating (thereby making his activation essentially for free), before resolving all his damage on your regular turn. It's a nasty deck, and I went 3-1 with it at the event to come in 1st place to score some sweet Kylo Ren and TIE Fighter promo cards in Aurebesh!
And so ends an eventful long weekend at Cancon. While the 'Con itself was interesting with plenty to check out, I think the most memorable experiences will come from the gaming that my friends and I did outside of the convention hall. Many games were played that weekend, and I'm already looking forward to Cancon 2018!