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Gathering of Engineers

Ludographic considerations from the Silicon Forest

Thursday, May 11, 2006

It’s About The People . . .

This past weekend I attended (with my wife) our groups gaming retreat in Sunriver, OR (near Bend, for those not up on their central Oregon geography). This was my first Sunriver, and I had a blast – Dug seems to have the hosting down to a science (or so it seemed to me). It was great to get in as many games as I did, but more importantly, it was fun to have a chance to game with some of the members of the group I don’t see regularly. I played mostly games I’ve played previously, although I did get in one game that was completely new to me, and another that was just recently released that I’d played once or twice previously but is still fairly new.

Last week I promised to “compare and contrast” our Sunriver retreat (the nickname for which gave this blog it’s name) and that OTHER Gathering held annually in Ohio (I am, of course, referring to the Gathering of Friends). The main thing of note is that, while gaming is certainly an important part of the time spent at both, by far more important is having the chance to enjoy the company of people with whom you share (at least) a common interest.

A frequent theme in other reports from The Gathering of Friends (aka GoF) is “it’s the people, more than the games” – let me add my voice to that chorus, as it’s certainly one of the main appeals to me. In this regard, Sunriver was similar to the GoF – although with people I’ve gamed with previously (mostly). Sunriver WAS significantly smaller - this years GoF had ~320 total attendees, while I believe the high count of people at Sunriver was just a bit over 10 folks. I can imagine the atmosphere at Sunriver being similar to some of the very first Gatherings (the first year was ~20 folks or so, I believe) - a small group of people who already know each other.

Another difference of note is the presence of a significant number of Europeans at the GoF – this includes designers, game company representatives and the like, but also a good sized contingent who are enthusiastic game players there to enjoy gaming (and get a chance to try the new releases as well). This lends a different feel to the GoF, since if you have a new game with rules only in German, you can usually find someone to translate for you! One of my more enjoyable GoF memories was getting the chance to play King Arthur – it’s an electronic game that will talk to you as you reach certain locations with your pieces, but all the dialogue is in German. One of my friends from Austria (thanks, Bernhard) was kind enough to act as the translator for the game, and I know I’m grateful to have gotten the chance to give the game a try, as it was enjoyable (and the “gadget” factor of the game just added to it).

Needless to say, the only Europeans we had at Sunriver were those who live here in the NW and game with us regularly (I'm looking at you, George!).

But The Games Matter Too

This brings me to the games – the GoF is different from Sunriver in the presence of newer games – sometimes even ones that haven’t yet been released generally, but usually the latest batch from the most recent Essen and Nuremburg fairs. This has pro’s and con’s – I enjoy getting the chance to try new games before making the decision to buy, however it’s fairly common for some rules to be misread, and then taught to others with the original misread propagated.

With a smaller gathering like Sunriver, we rely on the games members of our local group already own – this isn’t much of a hardship, as tastes vary enough in this group that most games (of any substance) end up in the hands of somebody. While we were missing some of the “newest” games from Nuremburg (like Thurn und Taxis), we had a copy of Ticket to Ride: Märklin that I know got played at least once (because I was in that game). So the end result is that, for the most part, the games played at Sunriver are games that are already familiar (to at least one of the participants).

They're Similar, But Different

I really enjoy the Gathering of Friends, for the chance to catch up with friends that I only see once a year, and for the chance to play recently released games. I try to attend every year (I've not missed one yet, since my first one in 2000), even if only for a few days, as it really is a great time.

Sunriver was a lot of fun as well, for the chance to get to know the other RipCityGamer’s better, and the opportunity to play some longer games that don’t (or can’t) come out on weeknights. I'll certainly be making an effort to make it to future Sunriver retreats!

I hope there is room in my schedule for both events in the future!

So what games did I play at Sunriver? See below!

Friday
Ingenious - Very nice abstract, Knizia at his finest
Hacienda - Newer Kramer game, enjoyable
Fury of Dracula - Used to enjoy the old one, still enjoy the new one

Saturday
Ursuppe - One of my favorite longer Euros
Railroad Tycoon - I don't like Age of Steam, but I enjoy this "simplification"
Schnäppchen Jagd
- with 3 players, a great trick-taking game
San Juan
- Probably the closest game of this I've ever played
Circus Minimus
- Dice hate me, this game had lots of 'em. Not my thing.

Sunday
Ticket to Ride - Märklin Edition - My favorite of the TtR series so far
18MEX - My chance to introduce the RipCityGamers to 18xx games . . . long, but good.

With that, I've rambled enough - I'll try and have some reviews of the newer games I got a chance to play at the GoF next week.

Until then - happy gaming!

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