Yesterday saw me going to Utrecht for the annual gaming extravaganza that is Poldercon. I have to ttravel with public transport so I got on my bike, rode to the railway station (it was freezing), got some coffee and took the train.
Once at the Poldercon I had some time to look round at the tables and shops, I bought some Renedra stone bases for more Heroquest figures and got some 3d printed models from my mate Toby. More on those in a later post.
Since I need time to get at the con I always miss most of the first gaming slot and therefore are only able to play 3 games. That is not a bit thing in itself because playing 4, all with differing rule-sets, can be exhausting, so 3 is fairly well balanced.
Since you can book well up front, you almost always are able to play the games you would really try out and are assured of a spot at the table, this in contrast with many other cons, where you have to see whether a spot at your desired game is still available on the day itself.
Now this Poldercon was a bit different because I really wanted to play Black Ops, it is the rule-set I want to use for my GIJoe games and I had written some stats for the troops and since the writer of the rules Guy "Blam blam blam" Bowers himself was running the demo, I hoped he would be able to take a look. There was just 1 snag...the only spot in the demo's left open was in round 1, the round I would never reach in time. But at your moment of greatest peril a hero is sure to arise: enter Johan! He was also scheduled for Black Ops but in a later round and he graciously agreed to swapping games so I could get into Black Ops after all. In the end we turned up playing the same faction, imagine that!
Now let's get back to the proper order of things because the first game I played was Congo, presented by Patrick . Lord Awdry is always going on about this and I thought I would try it out myself.
There were 4 factions all in for a titanic struggle for some mysterious crates floating around in a river completely filled to the banks with crocodiles. I ended up playing 1 of the 2 Belgian expeditions.
Overview of the table.
My Ruga Ruga rushed forward and, due to the use of a well placed totumcard, seized a crate early in the game.
After some deftly manoeuvring n raced my Askaris and Belgian CO and also seized a crate.
On my right hand, the other Belgian expedition had gotten to grasps with an Arab emir, out for booty.
Both units I had in the river with a crate were attacked by crocodiles, the nasty critters ate one of my Ruga Ruga but the other unit came out unharmed.
The Emir and his unit charged in to the river and took hod of a crate as well. In a grand sweeping move they also intercepted the last crate and with two crates in one unit now became prime target at once.
In order to get the crates across the river and into safety I needed to get to the opposing board edge. So my Belgian officer and Askari's attacked the Zanzibari on the other side of the river in a charge. This ended badly for me as my officer was killed, the unit had to retreat and leave the crate to the opposition.
Attempts of my Askari and auxilia availed to nothing but whitling down my numbers and in the end I had but pretty few troops left.
My Ruga Ruga were shot down except the guy dragging the crate. He snuck onto the other back of the river and hid in the undergrowth. He would win me the game later on.
The Emir handed over one crate to a unit of friendly natives who were promptly attacked by the other Belgian expedition who went on to conquer the chest. So in the end all factions had one box, but only one faction had managed to actually cross the river: mine! So while all others could claim 5 points pro box, I got 10...tadaaaaa: first game won!
So what do I glean from this? Do I like the rules and the gameplay? Well yes, I do like Congo and after having played it I think I agree with some of the others I have spoken to that it is more fun to play then Death in the Dark Continent. It's faster, the cards are a good addition, and I hate yes HATE cards in games, but here they ensure you think ahead, analyse your position and the enemy's moves etc. Therefore the cards enhance the gameplay. I like the way the figures are used and also the chance encounters that can happen involving both wildlife and terrain. But I will not buy into it. There's just too much counters, cards and other clutter around the table for me. Also it's yet another period for me to engage and I am not (yet) prepared to do so, but if anyone were to have all the stuff lying around and would happen to invite me to a game, I will most certainly accept. I will also recommend the game to anyone quite enthusiastically.
After this game we had a lunchbreak, lunch is included in the entry-fee and is in the form of a well filled buffet.
The second game I got to play was Black Ops hosted by Guy Bowers himself.On the beautiful table below, depicting a British Sea-side town in WW2, 4 factions had to reach 3 goals each. The factions were: the UK Home guard, Americans led by Donnie Drumpf and his right hand woman Ivanka (not a Russian Spy), German SS special forces and some Polish Para's (basically German Fallschirmjäger played by yours truly). My main brief was get Drumpf, get as many of my men off board and prevent the other German force from getting Trump erm Drumpf.
Since the activation of this game is by playing card and mine were only drawn late on in the first round, I could sit back and watch the drama unfold.
Said drama started at the château in which Captain Mainwarring and his squad had hunkered down to sit out the war. The other German player checked it out to see who was in there and was spotted. A huge fracas broke out and bullets were flying long and wide. The noise counter worked itself up to a whopping 12.
Being dressed up in para smock my Fallschirmjäger simply marched down the road past the Home Guard sentries smoking a fag.
My sniper and bren team took the scenic route around the village through the orchard on the pretence of having lost their commander and squad and saying Polska Polska, dobere dobere to anyone wanting to hear.
The sniper checked building after building and that must have roused suspicion, since he was to be challenged by the Home Guard sentries over there. They shot at him at least 8 times but I passed all my saves.
Boldly marching into the village centre my Para's were in what you could call a target-rich environment. They were surrounded by Home Guard and GI sentries.
And then my Bren team flushed out Drumpf, Ivanka and his security detail. Drumpf rushed out of the church to confront my Germans and an amazing shoot-out started. That left me with my Hauptmann and 2 Fallschirmjäger.
The sniper survived all those shots, only to be gunned down by mister Godfrey the Home Guards medic who only just before had taken 3 turns to climb a simple garden fence.
My Hauptmann had the Fallschirmjäger assault Drumpf and they actually managed to knock him down and put him on their shoulder.
At that point the bell sounded for the end of the game-round and Guy had all but proclaimed me winner. But... there were lots of activation cards left in the deck and I had not many troops left so he looked at the cards and rightly concluded things would have gotten hairy for me to get away with the prize. Now I am sure I would have managed to sneak around the church and get away, but Guy being an honest kinda guy, who does shout BANG BANG and PRRRRRRRRR and BLAM BLAM BLAM a lot (yes he does his own sound effects) decided to let all participants do a dice-off and the GI's managed to retrieve their commander in chief.
It was an absolute brilliant game. I have gotten to know the rule a whole lot better, I have been able to ask Guy some question I have had ever since reading the rules and he was very forward in answering them. The game was really fluid mainly because Guy acted as GM, this is not necessary but does enhance the feel of the game and makes decision-making easier, also the narrative is managed better.
In between I managed to persuade Jasper and Guy to go on a picture with me ;-)
I still write this down as a win since I actually managed to take down Drumpf, the rest was dicing not actual gaming ;-)
Finally I finished with a game of Frostgrave Ghost Archipelago. I have bought into the Nickstarter and while I do not really like the original Frostgrave rules or setting, Archipelago spoke to me. I think I will use the setting for Heroquest over time but for now it was fun to play and get to know the rules.
The game was hosted by Emiel who had a dry sense of humour I liked. My opponent was Arjan, the both of us had a small crew of Heritor and Warden and 3 crewmen of which 1 each was a bowman. We started on different sides of a small lot of islands and had to gather 3 treasure chests. Put simply: I had immense luck in deployiment, two of the treasures were really close and my Heritor passed off his Waterlung ability immediately leaving him free to negotiate the water as if it were land.
Overview of the game.
My crew ready to get to grips with big apes and swamp zombies.
When crossing to the next island (containing two treasures) I was awaited by a big mutated ape. I tried to shoot it but that didn't work.
Supported by two crewmen the Heritor made short work of the ape and the treasures were free for the taking.
While the Heritor and archer kept off the other crew, my Warden and a last crewman made off with both treasures.
The Warden, by leaving the board, gained me the first VP's of the game.
My Heritor was caught by two swamp zombies. I rolled really badly to get them to die. So in the end they kept the Heritor in their grasp.
The other crew had also managed to take possession of a chest and was trying to get away with it. But their Heritor came over to kill mine.
Now the end of the game was rather funny: my Heritor killed a zombie but was left with another one hanging on to his pants. The other Heritor then charged me but I clobbered him to death, only to be dragged down by the remaining zombie...
Meanwhile my crewmen escaped with the second treasure chest.
Emiel was so kind as to walk us through the after-game phase in which calculation of VP's, seeing to the killed/ wounded and upkeep. To keep it short: I won with a difference in points of 105, I was flabbergasted. Could I really have won 3 games out of 3 played? Me who usually looses gracefully? Well yes kind sir I rather think I did! I like Ghost Archipelago and I can see myself playing this. Emiel and Arjan were great to game with and the board was fabulous to play along.
All in all this year's Poldercon was a blast for me. Not just because I won all my games, but because I've met great people, learned new rules and generally enjoyed myself. There are loads of pictures of all the other games over at the Poldercon FB page, I didn't take any myself because there were lots of others present who did and they are far better.
If you are able: please do join next years event because it is well worth it!