OxCon 2009 – Part 4 – Sunday Evening

With the competition over, we had time for another game of Dominion. This was my first time using a set up based on one of the sets listed in the rulebook. It took a lot longer to play, and was much more interesting as people had real choices (rather then one or two blindingly obvious moves). I didn’t manage to get my money running properly though, so never managed to buy any of the big Victory Point cards. Sam was the runaway leader in that game.

At this point we discovered that the rest of our party (ah, the joy of sharing a car) was just starting a game of Lord of the Rings. There was only one thing to do!

OK. I lie. There were two things to do. First, we ordered some food (It is quite handy that OxCon takes place in a pub that sells decent food).

Second, we played another game. I’m a big fan of Ticket to Ride, so I was quite happy to give the Nordic edition a try.

There are some good things to say about the changes to the basic game they made for this edition. The smaller board means that you can have a three player game and still use the double routes (which in other editions requires a four or five player game). The cards are very pretty (having art featuring snow covered trains) and spotting places where people I know come from is always nice (I have a fair few friends that hail from that part of the world).

Unfortunately, what they did to the rules was insane. The game has become massively overcomplicated. I’ll ignore a few minor points that serve to complicate things further, but my main bugbears were that:

Locomotives cannot be used as wild cards, except on routes involving ferries (where you can also substitute any three cards instead of a locomotive). On these routes you must play a minimum number of locomotives equal to the number of ferry spaces (with the three card substitution in effect for them).

Complicated? Yes.

There is also one route of nine spaces that is worth a whopping 27 points. This is a grey route, so you need nine cards of any one colour. It doesn’t use any ferries, so you can’t use locomotives as wild cards. However, it has a special rule, unique to that piece of track. Like ferry routes, you can discard cards which combined will count as a wild card. Unlike ferry routes, the number is four cards, not three.

The game also has tunnels (as in the Europe version of the game) which may require you to spend extra cards to complete a route (or be force to take the cards you have played back and waste a turn).

I thought the game was needlessly complicated, which is a shame as I really enjoyed the original, Europe and Märklin editions. I won’t be getting a copy of this one (I do want to get my hands on a copy of the Swiss edition to give it a try though).

I ended up winning it, but it didn’t feel like a satisfying victory. Having completed the three routes on my ticket cards, I noticed I had five red cards in hand and set about drawing enough to go after the nine route. Over the course of a few turns, I pulled out a sixth red card and enough detritus to build the route.

Two turns later, I had exhausted my pool of trains, which ended the game.

Since I had completed my tickets and scored the 27 point route, I had a lot of points – and since I had very rapidly pulled the game to a close, the other two players were left with a stack of incomplete tickets (which counted against their scores).

So I ended up having a run away victory thanks to one slightly sneaky tactic — it didn’t feel like a well earned win.

With great timing, the Lord of the Rings players managed to finish off their game and join us in time to watch the last two moves of the final round (along with the score counting).

This let us all head off with a minimum of waiting around. There isn’t much to say about that, except perhaps to comment on having an unlikely discussion about the gas mixes and pressure when diving, and how that relates to Dr Who, on the drive home.

It was a fun OxCon, and I’m sure I’ll be going along next year. Keep an eye on the website and see if you can make it. If you enter the competition, you can play a couple of great boardgames against people who are really rather good at them. Between rounds, or if you don’t enter, you can try out other games that people bring along with people who love boardgames. It’s a great way to discover a new game (or decide that buying the Nordic edition of Ticket to Ride would be a mistake!).

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