Happy Double Anniversary to McGregors and Boardgames & Beer

McGregors 6-630-10 Monday

There happen to be two closely associated anniversaries this weekend. McGregors Craft Wine & Beer celebrate their 2nd anniversary.  Secondly, it was one year ago that the VCSB meetup held our first gaming event at McGregors. Since that first Sunday event we have held many more events there. In fact we have held over 50 gaming events there including our weekly Boardgames & Beer public gaming event every Monday night

McGregors has proven to be a great place to hold a regular board gaming event. A great board gaming location requires a number of attributes that are not easy to find.

Location

McGregors is located on Los Angeles Avenue in Moorpark. This means close access to the 118 and 23 Freeways in sunny Ventura County.

Parking

There is plenty of free parking nearby in a well lit and open car park. No dark alleys nor long walks to a smelly and scary parking structure.

Lighting

This is not a dingy dive bar. This is a modern building with good lighting. This makes it great for playing board games or for holding other events. Never underestimate the importance of good lighting.

Facilities

Clean and large tables that are very board game friendly. Different size square tables make for flexability when setting up different games. There is also a large oval table that suits the large, party type, games. The tables are flat. The tables are clean. The chairs are normal height and comfortable. No need to be perched on tall and wobbly bar stools.

This is not a sports bar. The walls are not festooned with TVs. The noise level is low and there is no need to shout to be heard. This makes for a pleasant board gaming environment.

Beverages

This is a craft beer and wine bar therefore it should be no surprise that McGregors have a great selection of beer and wine available. Check out the local brews. There are also non-alcoholic drinks too. There is no shortage of coasters/beer mats too. So far we have had only one spill and no Boardgames were harmed.

Food

In addition to bar snacks, people can bring in outside food too. There happens to be both Jersey Mikes and Pizzaman Dan mere yards from McGregors.

Staff

Last, but not least, are the friendly staff. It is great that we have enough time to finish and pack up our games at closing time. This takes pressure away from rushing to finish a game before a set time.

Here’s to many more succesful years for McGregors and for our board gaming events there. The key thing is the symbiotic relationship with the venue. They provide us with a venue to play games. We buy their products. This is an open and public event. The public are welcome to join in with us. We welcome the public to take an interest in our activities. We bring beginner friendly games and we are willing to teach fun and engaging board games.

Tim

25th June 2018

Messing With The Formula …Again.

The Tuesday night Meetup has been the cornerstone of the Ventura County Strategy Baordgamers for over seven years.  It has always had a solid attendance count. For several years it was regularily hitting, or exceeding, our maximum limit of 35 attendees.

Tuesday night attendance has been lower than normal since the start time was changed from 6:30pm to 6:00pm. I touched on this issue in a previous post entitled Don’t Mess With The Formula. In an attempt to help those who had trouble getting to Tuesday night on time we tried a delayed start. People would delay starting a longer game so that others could arrive. It seemed fine in practice. It works on a Moday night. It did not work on a Tuesday night. The big difference is that on Monday nights we have a smaller crowd. Mondays night also has a more casual vibe.

The delayed start idea did not help to regain the numbers on Tuesday’s. in fact the attendance went lower. It was obvious that people have moved away from the area. Regular attendees were also not so regular. The start time is keeping a number of people away. It is hard for people to travel, and eat, before the fun and games starts. The extra 30 minutes is key. It is time to give folks the leeway that those extra 30 minutes provide.

From Tuesday, June the 26th 2018, I will be moving the Tuesday start time to 6:30pm. The end time will still be 10:30pm.

 

Two Cons, 500 Miles, 12 Games And One Prang

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.

The Great War card game
Example cards from The Great War card game

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.

Mike Tan (left) and Dana Lombardy
Mike Tan (left) and Dana Lombardy. The game is Sturm Europa! designed by Mike.

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?

If you want to see more pics of this April GMT West; here are more pics in Google Photo Albums from Thursday, Friday, and Saturday respectively.

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.

GMT West


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.

TableTop DOG
The poster for TableTop DOG 2018

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.

Tim
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.

TableTop DOG 2018

TableTop DOG
The poster for TableTop DOG 2018

Mark your calendars for Saturday, April the 28th. It is International Table Top Day. Once again there will be a local Ventura County TableTop Dog event on that day. The VCSB Meetup group is again an official 2018 TableTop Day group.

The venue is one of the regular locations: Seed House, just off the 101 in Ventura. Many thanks to April-Lyn for the venue, and hosting duties etc.

More details to follow as we plot special events etc. One thing that I can promise is a full day (10am-9pm) of open gaming, for free. Snacks and drinks are at cost.

Tim

1st March 2018

Mini-WallaceFest And 100th Game Of Codenames

Last night was the regular Tuesday night VCSB Meetup in Newbury Park. The Tuesday night group has it’s own, shall we say, personality when it comes to how games are chosen, and the players organize themselves into those games. Other games, such as the ongoing Pandemic Legacy Season 2, were setup and ready to go as soon as the full crew arrived. I have been itching to get London, by Martin Wallace of Treefrog Games, on the table for sometime.  While waiting for Ryan to arrive I could setup the game and familiarize myself with the rules differences compared to London (Second Edition).

 

It was a good plan, then fate intervened. More people turned up late, too many for the four player London that was already setup and ready to rock. Not only that, but one of the game-less players would not enjoy playing a game like London. It is too much dry for him. The game tempo is too slow, and the mechanics too subtle; he likes games with more drama and action.

Game Organizer Tip: Don’t be afraid to tell a gamer that you think a game is not suitable for them. Back up the opinion with sound reasoning, and tell people your opinion. People usually like the honesty. If they insist on playing the game, so be it. Honesty counts.

We had to re-jiggle the games. Two went off to play Star Realms, while three of us carried on with London.

London
Ryan and Gilbert joined me in rebuilding London
L 0227181928
The London game board

London is a crafty game. It breaks one major convention of game mechanics. Among other things, in London having too many cards is bad. You cannot simply discard cards. Having too few cards can also be bad as it is inefficient. You need to have just the right number of cards, at the right time. It’s a tough game. It’s an intriguing game. I like it. It was good to introduce the game to new people. That was one well received game that was designed by Martin Wallace …. perhaps it was time for another Wallace game.

Hit Z Road
Hit Z Road : A road trip game with zombies.

While London is a slow tempo game with little drama. The only random element is which cards you blind draw from the deck. You have to carefully use cards to craft a tableau, while managing your money, and your poverty level. Oh, and you need to gain Victory Points too. How else are you going to judge victory.

On the other hand Hit Z Road has player elimination. 

Game Mechanics : A game with player elimination means that players can be knocked out of the game. Eliminated players take no further part in the game. This can leave people frustrated and bored while they wait for the other players to finish. This is why I do not like (many) games with player elimination. Playing games is supposed to be a fun, and social time. It sucks if people get excluded from that experience.

When trying to describe Hit Z Road it is wise to not simply label the game as a zombie game. It is an auction based resource management game with dice …and zombies… and player elimination. It is such a contrast to London. It is a push your luck game with the dice. It has drama. It has tension. More importantly, it is each player for themselves.

Hit Z Road
Hit Z Road : A bad roll for Joe

Luckily, in this game, only one of the tree players was eliminated. Even better Joe was eliminated in the last round before the end of the game, so no real harm done. More surprisingly Jon was down to his last survivor, from an original party of five, and somehow managed to survive. Well done Jon.

Due to the delayed start we had just over 30 minutes to go and around ten people ready for another game. It was time for Codenames, one of our go-to closer games.

Codenames is a game that works with newcomers, the rules are simple to comprehend for most of the players. People can come and go, joining or leaving the game with little effect. This makes for  a fast and flexible game for beginners, and experienced, gamers alike. Now there is one caveat to Codenames being a great beginner friendly game. Codenames is a game of two halves.  The halves are the clue-givers versus the guessers. The clue-givers have rules to follow, and they have to think up the clues. They have it tough. Often, at the end of a long day, I am not in the mood to use that much brain power. Luckily there are always enough volunteers to be the clue-givers. I can then switch my brain into heckle mode, and simply enjoy being part of a team.

Codenames  : When introducing Codenames to a crowd of newcomers; let experienced Codenames players act as the clue-givers at the start. This ensures the game is up and running quickly, and smoothly. The rules on being a clue-giver are more involved, yet they can be explained during the periods of inevitable downtime while the clue-givers concoct their clues. Keep with game fast and fun, and the newcomers can learn from more experienced players.

Codenames
Codenames : A great team party game

With two game of Codenames completed it was time to end another Tuesday night of gaming. Later that day I logged the game plays into BGG. It was then that I discovered that I had now logged 100 games of Codenames since I first played the game in August of 2015.  Here is to many more fun games.

The total list of games played that evening included: Pandemic Legacy Season 2 x3, Merkator x2, Galaxy Trucker, Eclipse, Blood Rage, London, Stone Age, Hit Z Road, Illimat, Concordia Salsa, Star Realms, and Codenames x2.

 

Tim
28th February 2018