(Image courtesy of the excellent Harry Ryttenberg. Get well soon.)
On Wednesday of last week, after publishing this article on StarCityGames.com, I logged on to my Magic Online account and did the usual price check around the neighbourhood. Clicking on Cardbot revealed prices that made it look like the network had raised their prices on all the cards I talked about in my article by 15-20% overnight. Since they had been doing such things based off my tweets, I assumed it was correct. It turns out that wasn’t true, but the reason why it wasn’t true will have to wait a minute.
The next day was the big game: I went over to sign up for Advanced Civilization.
Description of Game : Each player takes the role of an ancient era Civilization. A turn consists of taxation (two tokens per city become money), population expansion (token populations double if you have them to place, which you often don’t), building ships, moving (those with more tokens move first), conflict if areas are overpopulated, then city building if one player has enough tokens in one place. Players need tokens on board to keep growing and two per city to support the cities. Then each player draws cards from the first X stacks, provided the stacks aren’t empty, where X is how many cities they have, and they trade cards in sets of three or more only two of which you have to tell the truth about; some cards are calamities that do Very Bad Things and most of them are tradable. After the trade round, the calamities happen to whoever is holding them and the person who traded them to the victim is immune from the frequent secondary effects. Players then can turn in sets of X of the same card for X^2 points times the stack number that the card came from, and use those points plus treasury and credits from previous purchases to buy civilization cards, which are technologies you can use. If you have enough cities and technologies and technology types, you can advance on the AST. At the end of the game, when someone gets to the end of the AST, you score points primarily for technologies but also for cities, treasury and remaining trade cards. The game has conflict, but conflict is not the point. This game was the original basis for Sid Meier’s Civilization.
Game Length : 8-10 Hours. Seriously. Go big or go home.
Number of Players : Ideal is 8 players, with 7 still solid but a drop-off in game quality for every player removed. If you’re going to do it, do it right.
Complexity : High, but not as high as you might think and nowhere near as bad the old school war games.
Rating: A . I love this game, and have yet to pass up an opportunity to play it for real, but the logistics are a real problem as is the cost (it’s out of print and goes for $250). If you get a chance, go for it!
Many years ago, famed (although not sufficiently to be Hall of Famed) Magic player Mike Pustilnik and I headed off to AvalonCon. This was a place to play and compete in the games of legendary board game publisher Avalon Hill, by far the best place to find quality games that are Serious Business; this was before the wave of German style board games began by Settlers of Catan. I played Diplomacy and Advanced Civilization, walked around to see how things were and bought a bunch of back issues of The General, Avalon Hill’s old magazine, winning my first Advanced Civilization game only to get last place in the finals when things broke badly late. I had a great time as did Mike, and we planned to return next year only to discover several days later that Avalon Hill was bankrupt. There would be no more AvalonCon, Wizards of the Coast ended up purchasing Avalon Hill and due to Hasbro being greedy bastards on licenses, most of their games ended up out of print.
What I did not know was that a new event rose from the ashes. Unwilling to let the world of quality board gaming go without its marquee event, a few noble volunteers stepped up to the plate and organized a new event: The World Boardgaming Championships. Every year it features 100 of the best board games ever made, excluding Diplomacy, Chess and Go because they have their own championships. The games that are least popular rotate out, and a new batch is voted in on a trial basis. The event costs a hundred bucks for the whole week, so the only real cost is finding a place to stay. I realize US Nationals is awesome, but this is an event not to be missed.