It all started with an innocent observation that my birthday happened to be on the Saturday of a three-day weekend and wouldn’t it be nice to throw a game day. But once that idea was put into motion, things snowballed at a pretty impressive rate, resulting in RUTHCon: 2.5 days of gaming by almost 40 people, some of whom even traveled in from other states.
Before long, we had a logo, a site book, badges, and even a sponsor (Rocky Road a la Mode – you WANT this game!). This was going to be the best “mini-Con based in Durham in someone’s house in July 2016” ever!
What follows is a description of my RUTHCon; there were a ton of great games played that I wasn’t involved in, but I certainly think I got plenty out of the weekend. (Warning – this post is very image-heavy)
Day 1: The celebrations started on Friday with the first players arriving right at noon, & so we got in a quick game of Cacao while we more attendees were trickling in. I hadn’t played this little tile-laying game since January, and had forgotten how much I enjoy it. I definitely need to get the expansion, as it’s the kind of game we can easily pull out over dinner or at the pub.
After Cacao, we decamped to a larger table to get in some larger group games until more folks arrived. First up was Deception: Murder in Hong Kong with Jessica Wade taking on the role of the Forensic Scientist trying to help the investigators figure out which of their own are a filthy lying murderer (Me) & her accomplice (Chris Mosely). They had me pegged by the end but couldn’t quite figure out how I’d accomplished the crime & so I was able to escape justice.
We then pulled out Mysterium with Jessica in the role of the ghost. Once again, she was stuck trying to get information through to the rest of us with varying degrees of success. If you want the gory details, listen to The State of Games, but needless to say, we didn’t solve the mystery & settle the restless spirit. We then split the party and got some less social games on the tables. I broke out my new copy of Animals on Board and set about trying to populate my ark with the best collection of animals. I placed second with the pictured menagerie, & really enjoyed this take on “I split, you choose.” The game is tremendously over-produced, and in terms of gameplay, I wouldn’t (& didn’t) pay MSRP for it, but it’s a fun, quick game to have around.
After breaking down our arks, we pulled out Kingdom Builder. For the second time that day, Eric Handler beat me for first place by a single point, but since he had come all the way from St Paul, I guess I can’t be too upset. Next up, it was time to put in a massive order for Chinese take-out to feed everyone while Linus, Chris Kirkman, the Wolfes & I set about learning the second edition of Mission: Red Planet. I’d been excited to play this simultaneous action selection, area-control game from the Brunos for a while, and I wasn’t disappointed. Of course, the fact that I won thanks to some handy end-game scoring cards didn’t hurt that fact!
Matt Wolfe then pulled out some super serious games to end the evening: Vudu & Kalimambo. And by serious, I mean silly & fun. Vudu had us cursing each other to speak in ridiculous voices, maintain physical contortions, or just act like a fool while attempting to roll the ingredients we needed to cast more curses for points. It was absolutely not my kind of game and was somewhat panic-inducing, but the group was as good a group as you could ask for when playing this type of game.
Kalimambo had us running from a rampaging rhino while trying to avoid either standing in rhino poop or being rammed by said rhino due to being at the back of the line. I’m not sure what that Wolfe guy has about poop games, but this one was a charming little game with its ridiculous theme, adorable art, and beautiful components, even down to the poop.
Day 2: Gamers showed up bright & early for day 2, despite the late night, and the first game to hit the table was local game designer & GDoNC representative Matt Wolfe’s Avalanche at Yeti Mountain. And just like the titular Avalanche, once Saturday got going, it couldn’t be stopped. This might have been due to the mountain of donuts that appeared that morning to get everyone’s blood sugar up, but it’s hard to tell.
Next up was Avanti, the game of delivery drivers trying hard to make enough cash to retire to “dream island.” This game had the most adorable player pieces and the most incomprehensible rules translation. We played 2 games, both wrong for all or most of the game, but it was still fun.
After Avanti, I got to check one more game off of my “need to play” list: Caylus. Somehow, I’d never actually played this grandaddy of worker placement games. Clay and Jon Bowker smoked me, but I was glad to finally get this one to the table and see what all the fuss was about.
It was at this point on Saturday evening that the official birthday cookout had started, with Kit grilling up a mountain of delicious food for people. And then, once everyone was full and back to the tables, it was time for birthday presents, but not for me. We had a number of donated games to give away, some new & some used. So we put everybody’s name in a vase and started pulling names until the stack was gone. In fact, every single person in attendance walked away with something, whether they liked it or not!
Once we’d cleared the prize table, Kit & I could get back to the fun. I decided to teach my mum Patchwork, which she thoroughly enjoyed and is considering buying, before helping gather another Mysterium group. This was a less-experienced group, so I took on teaching the game while Kit settled himself into the role of the ghost, which mainly involved practicing some Scooby-Doo villian-esque moans and groans. We played the game during a storm which added to the atmosphere, and this play was a successful one with us solving the mystery pretty handily, if I do say so myself.
After Mysterium, we still had time to get something small to the table, so Scott, Jon, Eric & I pulled out Traders of Osaka. I took a huge hit early on as most of my wares were lost to the waves, but managed to haul myself back into second place. I enjoyed the multi-use cards & the tough decisions on timing purchases vs. reserving & not moving boats just yet. I was glad to get it played since I’ve owned it for a while, & it’ll be staying in my collection.
Day 3: Once again, the gamers arrived early, with at least one hanging out in his car worried that he’d arrived too soon for anyone at the house to be awake. We started by playing Graham Russell’s latest prototype of Guilded. It’s a nice little card game about posting & fulfilling quests, reminiscent of Splendor but I like this game way more. Graham won’t be at Gen Con but I believe the game will be, so tweet him (@colorninja) for details if you’ll be at the con & would like to know how to get a look at it.
After Guilded, I got in a play of Terra Mystica, one of my favourite games that I rarely get to play. Although, thanks to birthday gifts from Chris Mosley & Jessica Wade, I know own a copy of the game, so hopefully that will change. We played a three-player game, with me taking on the role of the Chaos Magicians. It was a close game, with Jon Bowker & Chris Mitchell just a point apart at the end. I may have been a slightly distant third, but I still love the game more and more with every play.
I then settled in for a quick game of The Castles of Burgundy: the Card Game. This was my third play of the game & it remains a favourite, distilling the CoB-experience into a portable (though still table-hogging) package. Then it was time to learn Archipelago from the Boldings. I’ve been wanting to play this semi-cooperative game of discovery and empire-building (*cough* colonialism *cough*) since watching Shut Up & Sit Down’s excellent video review & the game didn’t disappoint. The Boldings’ dog Sage even made an appearance for the game, though his cuteness wasn’t enough to stop Marleigh from taking the win from his owners & me.
For the final games of the con, the last stalwarts split into 2 tables & broke out Troyes & The Networks. Two excellent games – one classic & out of print, one shiny & new – to end the con for this year.
So that was my RUTHCon: over the course of the weekend, we had 37 people in our home playing a multitude of games old & new. The lights have been turned off for this year, but next year we’ll be back, bigger & better than ever!