Despite the somewhat worrying name Stabcon is a board gaming weekend run twice a year in Southampton. We weren't really sure what to expect so we grabbed some games, jumped in the car and took the short trip to be there bright and early Saturday morning.
Things were just getting started as we arrived with several games being set up. We had a look through the great selection of games available and were delighted to see many that we've wanted to try for some time but hadn't yet had a chance to try out.
Our friend Dave has been particularly keen on XCOM for some time so that was our first game of the day. The components for the game are excellent but as the guy who's normally handed the rulebook when we start a new game, I was surprised to find just a single sheet in the box.
Fortunately we had good signal and were able to download the app you need to run the game. I'm a big fan of incorporating technology into a game when it improves the gameplay. For XCOM the app short cuts the need for extra decks of cards, tables galore in the rulebook (that I'd have to find) and/or dice rolling that you'd need to create a game that reacts in the same way to how well or badly the players are doing. It also lets you create tension by limiting how much time player have to make decisions.
My only complaint would be that the tutorial on the app is pretty poor. It doesn't really explain the mechanics of the game until you get to resolving them and that's a bit odd as the game breaks into two halves, planning for and reacting to the Alien threat then resolving the events. Without a clear sense of how the resolution works it was really difficult to judge what resources to put against each threat. It also fails to highlight that the mission it sets up requires you to have elite soldiers to complete the game, we got to that point only to realise we had...zero elites.
The first game saw us crushed by the relentless hordes of aliens (and our own incompetence) but I I believe the team were able to crush them in the second game.
Where was I during that second game? Well I was truckin', bringing supplies, travelers and my perfectly designed spacecraft safely to the far corners of the 'verse in Galaxy Truckers. The game runs a pretty straightforward premise - you've been let loose in a supply dump and need to put together the most effective spacecraft from the various components you can find lying about, A-Team style.
Then you'll launch into the unknown and hopefully make it to the new settlements who desperately need the supplies and colonists you're bringing with you. Obviously you want to get there before your competition to get the most glory and the best prices, so make sure to take a few engines right?
We found the game fun and I particularly enjoyed the building phase where you constructed your craft, though laying out all the pieces each time took while. The mechanics also seemed to provide the leader with a real edge as they always got the first choice on opportunities and if we played again I think we'd all be a bit more frantic about building our craft quickly!
I got in on a game of Dungeon! which was quick to pick up, simple to play and looks great on the table. We were also able to try out Superfight which gets you into some pretty weird discussions about the fighting strength of, for example: Jess 100 stories tall vs hundreds of Dave's ex-girlfriends?!?! We ran Two Rooms and a Boom in the afternoon which went well, though we were a little short on numbers and after disappearing for an excellent curry recommended to us on the day (thanks Claire) returned to play some Spyfall with new friends. By the end of the day I knew I was coming back for more.
Arriving ready to play more games we eased into Sunday with a quick game of Infernal Contraption a great little game about building weird and wonderful goblin machines, pressing the button to set them running then hoping for maximum carnage! The rules were unclear in places, or it could have been that I wasn't awake enough to make sense of them - whatever the case we had a good laugh and felt rather like Frankenstein watching as his creation wandered into the village...
Next up Zane managed to draw us into a game of Tammany Hall and boy were we glad he did! I have to admit the board is not the most exciting, outlining as it does the various wards of New York, but the game play is elegantly simple but deviously complex. Deals were done, votes rigged and slander flew back and forth. It looked like the English might hold sway while the Germans held their own little enclaves and the Italians moved into neighborhoods almost unnoticed, but it was the Irish that rose to power in the new world.
If you've ever lost a piece from a game you'll have a huge appreciation for the frustration it can cause, and looking ahead to when we open this is a real concern. Imagine my delight then at meeting Andrew from Board Game Extras who sell all the replacement parts you could ever want!
We ran Two Rooms again with a slightly larger group on Sunday afternoon which was excellent fun, then settled into the early evening playing more Spyfall and a couple of ten player games of Avalon, which I was delighted to be able to play in. As the con closed down around us Dave, Jess, Dan, Lizzy, Ricky and I kept playing enjoying whatever game came out of the bag next with the possible exception of Ugg-Tect - Lizzy hits hard when you get it wrong!
Looking forward to the next one