Last Saturday was end of three busy days of traveling and gaming. First was the twice-yearly GMT West – Weekend At The Warehouse, that was followed by the annual TableTopDOG gaming event on International Table Top Day.
GMT West April 2018
GMT West aka Weekend At The Warehouse is a four day, Thursday to Sunday, event held every six months at the GMT Games warehouse in California central valley. Up to 100 gamers get to play all types of game in the middle of a warehouse full of games. There are also new, as yet unpublished games, and their designers in attendance.
Over 3 days I only played a total of 6 games. The unusual thing was that I did not play a single game that was published by GMT Games. Many people are surprised that we go and take over a game company’s warehouse and we don’t have to play their games. All types of games are played: euros, team games, 18XX, monster wargames, and more wargames. If you look at the pictures albums posted below you will see all types of games were played. It should be no surprise that the most common games played are historical wargames. Most of these are also games published by GMT Games.
After arriving in early afternoon there were already many games in progress. There is a customary period of reconnaissance and re-connection immediately after arriving. Here are gamers who you may only see twice a year. Gamers have come from all over the USA, and from further afield too. After a wander, and lots of hello’s, it was time to push some cardboard around a map.
My first game played was a new release by Compass Games aka Red Poppies Campaigns: Last Laurels at Limanowa. Yup, another game on WW1. Myself and Karl K. setup Scenario 2. I was the attacking Russians. Karl was the defending Austro-Hungarians. We had previously played the first volume in the series: Red Poppies Campaigns: The battle for Ypres a few times before. The first thing we noticed was that elevation was more important in this single map game. The terrain was predominately hills with a scattering of woods. Lots of hills. As this volume is set in late 1914 it also means that there are no trenches on the map. If you ever want to comprehend why they dug trenches in ww1 then simply play the 1914 era scenarios in this series of games. You need cover. It was a tense game and a lot of fun too. Karl won the game despite the best efforts of my Cossacks. Bloomin’ Cavalry.
Friday was my only full day at this GMT West. I noticed that John Company was being played and Steve C. was going to run teaching games at 10am and 4pm. I first committed to the 4pm game, then changed to 10am knowing it would be a long and involved teaching process. Steve was happy to simply teach the 6 players who volunteered to play this economical/expand/embezzle game on the Easy India Company. Steve had declared that it was tough game to teach. He was not wrong. The individual game mechanics are simple. The game has lots of moving parts, and lots of subtle interconnections. Despite the best efforts of Chairman Brandon to fail the company we prospered for a while. Overall it was a fun, thematic, and tight game. The dice do play a part in the story it weaves. There might be too much dice luck for those who don’t like the fickleness of dice in their games. I still like it. Thanks to Steve to teaching the game. I went on to both teach and play John Company again the following Tuesday.
One of the guests in attendance was game designer and historian Dana Lombardy. Among other things he was demoing a WW1 themed card game. Two regular decks of cards that have a trick taking game built into the cards. Dana gave me the run through on the rules and we went at it. It was a close game with bluff, deception, and brute force. Perhaps fittingly the game ended in a draw with Dana ahead by 74 to 69 points. It’s a fast playing game with lots of history on the cards. It was good to chat with Dana too. Streets of Stalingrad was a fave game of mine.
Next was two games of The Cousins’ War by Surprised Stare Games. This one of the small format micro-games that has been a big hit for me over the last year. It plays in less than 30 minutes and has more than enough meaningful choices to make it worthwhile. It has bluffing too. Robert O. has a few minutes to spare, while waiting for his missus, so I taught him the game. Immediately after Dave T. showed up and I taught it again. He had recently bought the game so it was an opportune time for him to learn. This was a cracker of a game that came down to the last battle on the last turn. Whoever won the battle would win the war. I lost. Dice hate me, but in a fun way! Well done to Dave.
My last game of Thursday was Atlantic Chase by local-ish (Santa Barbara area) designer Jerry White. He had first demoed the game last October. This time I sat down to play for the first time. We played the ‘Bremen’ scenario. This is an excellent short scenario to learn about trajectories and searching. I took on the role of the Royal Navy commander versus Doug S. and his elusive cruiser liner SMS Bremen. The SMS Bremen is attempting to get back to Germany on the eve of ww2. It is a quick scenario with some sneaky options for the German player. Unfortunately, I was both sneaky and lucky. I launched 4 task forces to scour the Atlantic. After successfully finding and detaining the SMS Bremen, without shots fired, we reset the game for the next two players. This game went differently for the Royal Navy. Using the cruiser Graf Spee as a decoy the SMS Bremen made it safely to Germany. This is another innovative and well designed game by Jerry. He is a very smart and a very likable chap. Check out his games.
This is one of my favorite scenes from this event. It sums up GMT West for me. A whole group of gamers gathered around having fun playing a game. Most of these gamer also happen to be game designers. The game is Tank Duel by Mike Bertucelli. That is Mike in the blue t-shirt in the left foreground.
Can you name all of the game designers in the pics?
Due to my prior commitment to TableTopDOG I had to leave GMT West late in Saturday morning. The fun and frolics continued had to continue without me.
Saturday the 28th also marked International Table Top Day. April-Lyn had kindly offered to host our Meetup group event in Ventura. Thus was held TableTopDOG 2018. This was the 5th year we had held an open and free day of gaming event on Table Top Day. Hence our DOG title for Day Of Gaming. No dogs were allowed, unfortunately.
TableTopDOG 2018 was already jamming along by the time I arrived in the mid afternoon. Just as I settled down to learn the new-to-me game Whistle Stop a few newcomers arrived. After several hours in the car I was okay with teaching some newbies some games that I already knew inside and out. The next few hours was spent teaching fun and enjoyable games to both new and experienced gamers. I ended up playing as many games in a few hours as I had in the previous days at GMT West.
Serge destroyed me at Azul, no shock there. Christieann beat my score too. Cool. My winning streak is done. I need to up my game!
One highlight of TableTopDOG was the game raffle. Group members had kindly donated, new and gently used, games for a prize raffle. Those who attend get raffle tickets for both taking part in the days activities and for teaching games etc.
The games played included: Dungeon Lords, Whistle Stop, Azul (x a lot), Qwixx (x2), Tsuro, Rhino Hero, Zombie Dice, Speed, Rising Sun, Castles of Burgundy, Dinosaur Island, Terraforming Mars (x 3), Photosynthesis, The Opulent, Santorini, Sushi Go, Win Lose or Banana, Power Grid, Dixit, 6 Nimmt (x2), Vast: The Crystal Caverns, Kodama: The Tree Spirits, Lords of Waterdeep (x2), Tiny Epic Quest, Dice Throne, Start Player, Scattergories, Delphi, Kingsburg, Fallout, Red7, Loonacy, Nyet!, Fuse, Wildcatters, Secret Hitler, and Indulgence.
As can be seen from the list it was a full and busy day of gaming. It was hard to estimate the total number of people who attended. I counted over 30 and I arrived late. People had already come and gone. After putting some heads together we estimate in the region of 40-50 people attended our 5th annual TableTopDOG. Woof!
The final act of the Saturday was a minor car accident when my gf and myself went off to get Jamba Juice. Her car got the worst of it and is now being repaired. The important thing was that no one was hurt. Not a good end to an otherwise great few days.
4th May 2018
P.S.: FYI, it was not quite 500 miles of traveling, but it was close enough.
P.P.S: So I did play a GMT game at GMT West. It just has not been published yet.