Published: Monday 2004-08-30.
During the weekend I visited NärCon, a board, card, role, computer and video gaming convention in Örebro, Sweden. I have always liked playing board games, from Ludo as a child, via Monopoly to more advanced games like Advanced Civilization (but not the most advanced ones, such as war strategy games like Axis and Allies and others).
Besides playing a lot of stand-alone games, I attended three tournaments at NärCon: The first one on the Friday night was The Settlers of Catan, a board game requiring strategic thinking and negotiation skills. We played two matches, directly starting the final since we weren’t that many participants, and even if I started off quite well in the first match, I got an unlucky start in the second and had no chance whatsoever.
My second tournament on the Saturday morning was a card game called Spank the Monkey, in which the mission was to build a tower from scrap from a scrapheap to reach up and hit an annoying monkey that you wanted to scare away. Besides building your own tower you could attack the ones your opponents had built, which my opponents were very good at, so I didn’t get very far in the game. Of course I had never played the game before the tournament, so I&rsqou;ll just blame that. My pal Andreas hadn’t played the game before the convention either, though (although he did play it once before the tournament) and he did win it, so I’m not sure that excuse really works, and besides I managed to win the Frag tournament at the last NärCon without having played the game before...
The third tournament, which started at around 22:30 on the Saturday evening and didn’t end until 04:45 Sunday morning, was in one of my favourite games, Carcassonne, a game that has been praised by the critics. Carcassonne is a small town in south-western France, known for its middle-age architecture. In the game that carries its name, the players recreate this landscape by placing tiles with towns, roads and fields, scoring points as one builds. It is ingeniously thought out, with very simple rules but requiring a strategy that is hard to make out. The first time I played the game was at last year’s NärCon, and I got hooked on it then.
Last year I reached the second round (semi-final) of the Carcassonne tournament, but I have practised quite a lot since then. This year there only were two rounds, where the second match in the first round added a special rule based on the follow-up game Ark of the Covenant. This special rule made it possible to award your opponents with minus points, something that was used a lot considering that it was the total score that determined who would advance to the second round, the final. Personally I didn’t find this negative scoring rule very good, even though it didn’t turn as ugly as in the other first-round match where a couple of participants who believed themselves to be without a chance of getting to the final set out to go against the winner from the first round by giving him lots and lots of minus points. Ugly.
I at least managed to finish second in the first round and getting on to the final, which was played by six people in two rounds. I won the first round with a narrow margin to the second place and had a rather good position towards the other four, which I made full use of in the second match, where I was unable to score a lot of points at the end of the game using my favourite trick of placing farmers (the farmers only score at the end of the game, corresponding to the number of towns they can supply with goods), when a single player was able to almost get a monopoly on these. Fortunately I managed, together with two other players, to finish a big city that gave a lot of points and thus get a good head start to the final tally. The three of us who managed this were the ones who finished in the three first places in the first match, which made it more or less possible for us to compete for the top three places among ourselves.
My lead from the first match wasn’t enough to keep the first place, with the person finishing second winning the second round. I ended up on third place in the second match, but my lead from the first match made it possible for me to take the total second place, something I am very happy and proud of. The girl who won was a worthy winner, she played very, very well. Since the first placed meant a direct qualification for the Swedish Carcassonne championship final at Borås game convention during the all-saints weekend I am also quite happy that I didn’t have to leave a walk over to such a final, but that something who very much is qualified got it. Furthermore the second place received a board game (the first place received two), which was very nice.
All in all I have had a nice weekend. The only bad thing was that there were some thefts during the weekend, apparently the part of Örebro were the convention took place had been the victim of quite a lot of thefts this weekend. Fortunately, none of my stuff was stolen, but still.
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