MidCon 2002

by Mark Stretch

I first went to MidCon back in 1990. Over the years since then, somethings have changed. Not least the games played, but the esence of the Con is the same. It remains a friendly place to play games with a great bunch of people, many of whom are there year after year. This makes Friday night a great chance to meet up with everyone and catch up on old times. Indeed the whole convention is always a very sociable event.

Thus with the 18xx players tucked out of the way and the dip players at one end of the main gaming room, the rest of us played more sociable games, generally with a pint and in close proximity to the bar.

The most played game of the convention was Puerto Rico. This game was released at the start of this year and has been taking conventions by storm. It was immensely popular throughout the weekend, with numerous games in progress at most points of the Con. For those of you who haven't played it yet, the game is all about setting up a base in Puerto Rico, managing your plantations and factories to generate victory points. Like all good games it is great fun, with people enjoying it so much they want to play it again and again. It has a bit of an Oupost flavour to it, but is a lot quicker, and with less of a random factor. I don't recall anything as popular since Settlers of Catan was first released many years ago. Puerto Rico goes down as one of those games which everyone should have.

MidCon is always the first British convention after Spiel in Essen. Thus is is generally the first chance for most British games players to try out the latest batch of German games. 2002 saw a lot of people playing Puerto Rico instead, but there were still a number of new games being tried out.

Most popular amongst the new games was the new Carcasonne - Hunters & Gatherers. Also played were Trias, the bucket game & Sid Meir's Civilisation. Probably others too, which I missed.

Hunters & Gatherers follows the idea of Carcasonne and transports it back to the stoneage - with a few twists. Forests and rivers replace the old cities and roads. New twists are added in the shape of animals, fishing and special golden nuggets. In my opinion this makes it a better game than the original Carcasonne. There are more incentives to finish things off rather than stitch up others with nasty tile placement and the slightly confusing farmers rule has been removed and made simpler.

Trias is a simple little game, about the disintigrating continent of Pangea. Each player controls herds of animals which they have to use to dominate the resultant islands, as the super continent breaks up. Deceptvively simple is probably the best way of describing it. The only problem is that you could do with playing it on a blank grid to help measure distance.

The bucket game is a silly little game about trying to knock down other player's towers of buckets whilst trying to keep your tower standing. Well, actually it is all about card management, only using your cards when you need to and maximizing your hand size.

By contrast we have Sid Meir's Civilisation. This is a bit of an epic, based loosly around the computer game, with a similar feel. There are a number of Epochs, and the players start off with prehistoric tribes, eventually reaching the moon if they are persistent enough. Not all of the feel of the computer game is there, particularly the fact that in the board game everything is known whereas in the computer game there is the lure of the unknown. This game is an epic and will last all day, unless one player wins an early arms race.

The only problem with all these new games is not having the chance to play too many of the old classics. MidCon 2003 is confirmed for November 2003 in Birmingham and i for one will be there. Hopefully I will see many of you there again next year.

 


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