January 16, 2008

G.I.T.H.O.T 2008

by Susan Rozmiarek

As I write this, the 1st annual G.I.T.H.O.T. gaming convention is winding down in Round Rock, Texas. One of our local gaming friends, John Gravitt, organized it as a sort of 40th birthday present to himself. Kudos to him for coming up with a unique way to celebrate his birthday and letting 60+ gamers share in the fun. We are hoping that his 41st birthday is important enough to do this again next year!

G.I.T.H.O.T. is patterned after the many invitational game conventions but is open to the public like BGG.con. Its focus is on open gaming, but there were also a few tournaments - Wits & Wagers, Poker, and Tichu. Besides those events, there was also a drawing for door prizes and a flea market where attendees could bring games to sell. Many attendees brought games from their collections for everyone to play and we had a wide selection to choose from that included many of the newer games. Yes, we even had copies of Agricola and Through the Ages. Surprisingly, I saw each get played only once. (Alas, I played neither.)

The generosity of Great Hall Games and Time Well Spent provided some excellent games for door prizes and North Star Games provided four copies of Wits& Wagers for the winning team of the W&W tournament. Thank you sponsors!

Ed and I had a great time. The gaming space was very comfortable and not too crowded. John's wife, Gina, provided us all with a variety of snacks and drinks all weekend. We got to meet a lot of area gamers that we didn't know and there were a few out-of-towners as well.

So on to the games I played:

Race for the Galaxy

I got to play this twice. Friday night was my very first playing. Marty and Mark did an excellent job describing the icons, but I still played the game in kind of a fog. By the end though, I had at least a pretty good idea of the flow of the game, but I hadn't seen enough of the cards to anticipate what I could get. My score was embarrassing - 16 points. Ed, in third place, scored twice as many!

The next day, I played my second game and I rocked! I started with a military planet and that strategy seemed a little easier to me. I got down a few more cheap military planets as well as a card that gave me a big one-time bonus to conquer another military planet. I fished through the deck and found a big one that also produced a good that I was able to sell for 5 cards. I continued to fish for more military planets and also snagged a card that gave me a hefty bonus for all those planets. I think that card ended up being worth twelve points! In the end, I tied for first with 39 points. We had to leave, or I would've wanted to play again immediately. I must have this game!

Icon overload!

Chang Cheng

I was worried that this would be Just Another Area Majority Game but it had a few neat twists. Players are placing wall segments to build the Great Wall of China. The wall is divided into regions and players get points for having the majority of wall segments in a region. After the wall is built, Mongol hordes attack from regions on the other side, giving negative points to the majority leader in a Mongol region. The neat bit is that you don't know how many points this will be (unless you've played a particular action card that allows you to peek) and the Mongol regions are slightly shifted along the wall which means that they overlap but don't quite match up to the positive scoring regions. This makes for some tricky placement decisions. I liked it.

Building the Great Wall of China in Chang Cheng.

Vegas Showdown

This game is excellent for coaxing the non/casual gamer deeper into the hobby. It has a lot of mechanisms found in heavier eurogames - auctions, tile placement, money management, multiple ways to score, and a building tree - but all in light, easy-to-digest versions. Plus, it's got a grownup theme. What it lacks is quality components and good art.

Thank goodness Vegas Showdown plays better than it looks.

Galaxy Trucker

You scramble to assemble a ship with parts tiles and then you race through space and watch your creation get blown up bit by bit from meteor hits and nasty pirate attacks. If you are lucky, you pick up some cargo along the way and stay intact to finish the race. I had a lot of fun with the puzzle of assembling my ships and the races were a hoot. If it didn't have such a high price tag, I'd be trying to find a copy. Hopefully, a domestic company will pick this one up. Pretty please?

Ed (taking picture), Tim and I build fragile spaceships in Galaxy Trucker.

Wits & Wagers

The Wit's & Wagers tournament was a nice, rowdy break on Saturday afternoon. Teams of four competed to win four new copies of the game, generously donated by Dominic Crapuchettes of North Star Games. He also provided seven new questions that aren't in the box. Our team didn't do so well, but we did have fun. There are a few changes to the new edition that I really like. You start out with just two bidding tokens that you can never lose. You can bet as many chips as you want on any question and aren't required to go "all in" on the last one.

We had a blast in the Wits & Wagers tournament. The questions were hard!


Wow, this is one gorgeous game when it's all set up. It uses the rondel mechanism of Antike and Imperial, but this time it is to produce and sell goods and to build buildings, churches and ships in Hamburg. The most interesting bit is to be efficient with your laps around the rondel and time your actions well. Like Antike (I haven't played Imperial yet) turns are short and sweet and you are impatient for it to come around to you again because you already know exactly what you want to do. On the negative side, even though the board is double-sided with different maps, I'm a little concerned with replayability. There is no luck in the game and optimal strategies may become obvious.

The Last Night on Earth

I had to get my Ameritrash fix and was only too happy to try out a new game about zombies. For some reason I thought that this game had a lot of negative buzz but after looking the game's page on BGG, I think that I had caught snippets of another "fanboy" vs. "anti-shill" skirmish. It actually has garnered pretty decent ratings and I'd have to agree with most of them. For a game of its type, it's pretty darn fun. One person controls the zombies and everyone else is a "hero." Each side has their own deck of cards from which to draw. The hero deck had various items, weapons and events. You get to draw a card if you choose to search on your turn rather than move. Movement and combat rely on dice throws, but there is some strategy on how and when to use cards and formulating a plan with your fellow players. The game comes with a variable board and different scenarios. In the one we played, the heroes had to collect 3 weapons and first aid kit and hole up in the diner. We actually won although things looked grim for a while. This was game was a great closer for the day. It was fast and fun. Do I need to replace our copy of Zombies! and expansions with this? At least after one play, LNoE is definitely superior. I like the cooperative play between heroes a lot.

Jim's zombies almost get to feast on the brains of Dennis, Joe and Susan in Last Night on Earth.

Traders of Genoa

Early Sunday afternoon, we arrived at the game room and I immediately sat down to this game of wheeling and dealing. It has been on my unplayed list for years and even though I'm not a huge fan of negotiation games, I've always wanted to give it a try. It is an Alea game after all. A few local gamers had recently discovered this game and it is enjoying a little popularity. I had tried to read the rules recently but they were pretty confusing. It was nice to have somebody teach them instead. We played a few things incorrectly but given those rules, I'm not surprised.

And lo and behold - I actually enjoyed this game a lot, even with all the trading. It did take a little too long to play. The problem is that there is so much negotiating, even on other players' turns that you never get any downtime to rest. How's that for a different problem? A game without enough downtime! I actually had a pretty good idea of what I wanted to do after the game got going and since money is hidden, the trading is not as cutthroat as it could be. I'm looking forward to trying it again with all the correct rules although it worked perfectly fine with our unintentional variants.

We weren't able to stay for Sunday night but I that was fine with me. I got to play plenty of games and I liked everything that I played. John did a fabulous job setting this up and I really can't thank him enough! I hope he does it again next year.

Posted by Susan Rozmiarek at January 16, 2008 8:12 PM

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