F:AT reader Jonathan Yonce sent us a great after-action report of his Ameritrash-fueled invasion of a very snooty-sounding "EuroQuest". What follows is a tale of plastic, beer, tears, and a distressing lack of nutrition during his stay._____________________________________________
Behind Enemy Lines
I'm no solider. I have no training. I'm getting back into board games after four beer-soaked years of collegiate neglect. Axis & Allies, Magic, Settlers, Ameritrash-- That's my story. What makes them think *I* have the fortitude for this mission? Reconnaissance deep behind the arid trenches into one of the main outposts of euro games, where themes lie asphyxiated by gas and cubes march stoically in lockstep. What makes those chuckle heads at F:AT think that such a neophyte should venture so close to Mount Doom just to see what the Burning Eye is up to? Oh, wait. That's right. I volunteered. But I was lucky enough to recruit a good friend and gaming buddy, Greg who would serve as my wingman. We were supposed to head up that night to rendezvous with Agent Malloc, but sadly my wingman was detained and didn't get to my place til late. We did however end up going out for drinks with old friends in town - the perfect conditioning for dealing with dry games.
Here follows my pieced together recollection of my encounters in Timonium, MD (which, surprisingly, is *not* on the periodic table of elements) November 11th and 12th - home of EuroQuest V.
0700 – Alarm goes off. Why is Maryland so far away?
0745 – Leave.
0800 – Leave again. This time with directions. My wingman proves his worth.
0815 – Gas up and find out how effective a 7-11 Bacon, Egg, Cheese Croissant is against a slight hangover. Not very. Bacon bits do *not* equal bacon in my book. Like "combat" in a euro, these bacon bits were a sad substitute for real meat.
0950 – Arrive at Days Hotel. As far as the rooms go – it turns out that I *can* in fact judge a book by its cover. Serviceable, though, and economical. No matter - I'm here to game.
0955 – Get pre-registration badges. Discover I traveled 120 miles to be there. Nothing compared to the eventual Puerto Rico tournament winner who came all the way from California. (You'd HAVE to win for that trip to be worth it!) There are free snacks and drinks – most impressive.
1000 – Not wanting to rouse suspicions, Wingman Greg and I try to fit in with the euro-natives by cracking open Shogun (which we found in the MASSIVE game library there). Armed with memories of playing Wallenstein in high school, we cobble together our two player variant. I crush him. I revel in the victory only long enough to discover that had one action been different, he would have won. Good start. I mean, we're playing with cubes, right? Who'd suspect us (unless of course, they spotted me eyeing the library's untouched copy of Twilight Imperium)?
1230 – Meet Zev of Z-Man Games. Very nice and impressive businessman. Wish I could produce and sell board games for a living. Buy Prophecy.
1300 – First heat for Settlers of Catan tournament. The format here is interesting and used to speed things up: your second placement is a city and you get TWO resources for each bordering hex. I play against two former 2006 finalists and some nice kid. Take the lead with around 5 VP and one player takes it upon herself to inform everyone of my slight lead. She plays her robber on me. I bite my tongue – biding my time. She builds her fifth connecting road but conveniently forgets to claim the 2 VP Longest Road tile so I kindly remind her and point out that *she* is now the new target. She's at 9 VP and the trade embargo ensues. I come back because no one's trading with her. I steal her longest road for the win.
Wingman Greg loses. I taunt him so he can better channel his rage into victory.
1440 – Rendezvous with Agent Malloc, who dared enter the belly of the beast with a small child in tow. I could only assume the little tyke served as a canary in the euro-mines. All too soon I see first hand the deadly effects of cube confusion as the small one goes limp. Malloc doesn't have much time. He introduces me to Phil and King "Caylus" Putman who is apparently decimating all euronerds in his path. Malloc reports of missed Arkham Horror and describes TI3 (which I've yet to play). I question my fortitude as I see him depart.
1445 – Check in at front desk. Overhear a phone conversation between the front deskman and a woman who wanted to know the following: Where was the Days Hotel? Was there a bar? Could she have as many drinks as she wanted? Hmmm… Another Ameritrasher coming to EuroQuest?
1500 – Regroup with WMG at Chili's. Eat one of the only two *real* meals I consume on my journey.
1615 – Scout out an appealing game demo. Play Amazing Space Venture with WMG and the designer, Steven LaShay. One of the best games I've played in a while. Read a more detailed debriefing here: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/240844.
1830 – STARCRAFT! Holy Hell in a hand basket had I been wanting to play this! Let's just say the game topped my own secret agenda at EuroQuest. A gentleman was setting up a game with 4 players already seated and asked if WMG and I would like to play. Immediately, I answered in the affirmative. The game had already been set up with starting units, cards, and orders placed so we could learn the rules. It was great fun playing though - despite the obvious euro gamer at the table who couldn't get past some timing issue when resolving combat. I tried to explain to him that Zerglings rush, kill, and die - there are no timing issues.
Serious hats off to our teacher, who turned out to be none other than Doug Epperson-- BGG profile: "I play games to have fun!" He wasn't lying. Doug created this Brood War scenario ( http://www.boardgamegeek.com/file/info/27773) just to teach others how to play. A guy who loves games, clearly.
2030 – Second Settlers Heat. With WMG this time. One guy (William, I think) runs away with the game and we finish in about 40 minutes. Considering about 15 of those minutes were spent setting up and placing – that's one fast game. I place second. I chat with my "friendly competitors" a while, then wander away, consumed by thoughts of die rolls and theories about how a game that uses soldiers needs rules for attacking.
2130 – Mosey back into the main hall and see WMG sitting down to a game of God-knows-what with two other guys. I sit and listen in on the rules. The game turns out to be Battue. First, it's a gorgeous game. Simple rules of moving onto city tiles and rolling 2D6 + number of your barbarians versus 2D6 + tile defense. Get loot, conquer city tiles, card play to boost attacks and mess with others, but overall pretty simple – too simple. I take out the big palace objective in the center of the city and hold it while I lost other tiles. Eventually I strike out to try to just end the game. Ugh.
2400 – One guy from the Battue game and one of his friends are interested in playing another game. He tells me and WMG to pick something out of the library. WMG picks Thebes. We lay it out and I worry about the board. It looks boring. Just a handful of European and Mediterranean cities with dotted lines connecting. There's a scoring track around the board and a damn stupid looking hatted-meeple man. The rule explanation begins.
0045 – After deciphering three long, colorful pages of rules, we're just about to start. Turns out our score isn't being measured by times around the board– we're actually fighting for the title of in-game time spent. Clearly, this is not a game about time travel-- but that mechanic would make this game immeasurably cooler. All in all I had Starcraft's rules explained to me more quickly...
0315 – Playing an extra 1/3 of the game (we find out later) has us all feeling as though Thebes might have worn out its welcome. Eye my F:AT-issued cyanide tablets more than once. Overall a nice euro but when I'm an explorer and I *can't* jump my fellow archeologist to steal his loot but I *can* transport from London to Israel instantly with a zeppelin – something's gone wrong. I never *did* get my hands on this magic, time-warping zeppelin either.
0330 – Up to our room to sleep off the day's *real* excitement: Seeing Cuba, Agricola, and Race for the Galaxy all played in one room. Yippee?
0745 – Alarm goes off.
0815 – Walk around the abysmal continental breakfast bar. Scoff at the sad display of cereal, coffee, honey buns, and bagels. Think back to the guy at the front desk who only yesterday informed me of the hotel's "fabulous continental breakfast." Clearly he has crap for standards.
0820 – Wander around until someone unlocks the main hall doors.
0830 – Realize that WMG and I roused ourselves a half an hour earlier than necessary. Apparently, the third heat wasn't scheduled to begin until 0900.
0831 – Break out my beat to Hell copy of Magblast. Win two games to WMG's one game.
0900 – Heat Three. With WMG once more – I come from behind to win putting me in the top six with eight advancing.
1100 – Semis with top two from each game advancing. Game saving moment: Two other players orchestrate a six for one trade so one can build enough roads to steal the Longest Road VPs from the fourth player who would've won that turn (confirmed by him later). End up jumping out and pulling down the win. Sweet. WMG is taking another crack at Thebes and wins.
1230 – Finals. Based on points thus far I'm second. We switch now to playing vanilla Settlers and apparently my brain can't cope, leaving me to score a paltry 5 VP's to my opponents' 7, 7, and 10. I learn later that the winner helped program AI for Settlers on Xbox. Super.
1400 - Quick, tear-soaked burger from Chili's does nothing to ease the sting of defeat. Seeing a beautifully presented game of Descent (3-D dungeon, painted figures, the works) that I can't stay for does little to help.
1430 - Back on the road to make it home before the traffic gets bad. Still alive after dodging some close calls and no worse for wear - ready to write up my surveillance and report back to the Fortress (uh, eventually).
This is a copy of an article originally published on the old F:AT bolg. Read original comments .