The second annual UK festival of trash didn’t get off to the best of starts for me. On a cold and brittle autumn morning, we stopped in a garage atop one of the many steep hill surrounding my home city of Bath to pick up a couple more attendees and I went in the shop to get my afternoon’s supply of beer. But time was tight and the queue was long. We left with our two new gamers, but no supplies. It was shaping up to be a long day.
Trashfest 2011 was a relatively low-key affair, even if those who went did have a great time. A few boardgamers round a couple of tables in the corner of a miniature game shop’s gaming floor. But word had spread. When we got to the Triple Helix car park at 10am sharp the shop wasn’t even open but there was a large crowd of caffeine-fueled board game fans raring to go. Twenty, all told by the time the stragglers had rolled in and started rolling dice. The miniatures guys didn’t know what hit them. I was perplexed as to why so many people had bought cushions with them until someone pointed out that I’d dispensed that advice at the end of last years’ session report. Advice which I’d completely ignored myself.
Sam (Jazzbeaux) who organised the event stepped right in and directed the shop staff to move some tables to better suit our requirements while everyone else stood around sheepishly wondering what to play and who to play it with. Wanting to play with my two friends, Graham and Jake, who’d given me a lift, and having bought Wiz-War along for Sam to try it seemed an easy pick to me, so we set up a four player game of battling mages.
And here a funny thing begins. Because last year, after the event, I remembered all the games I’d played in startling detail. I could recount the twists and turns of each session, the dice rolled, the alliances made and broken, the cards played. But that didn’t happen this time around. I don’t know why. Perhaps I was a little more tired. Perhaps after another year of ageing by brain isn’t quite so up to the task as it once was. But my theory is that I was just having too much of an awesome time to care.
So the best I can do for Wiz-War is this. Graham and Jake immediately dashed into my section of the board and tried to steal my treasures, earning fireballs and power thrusts in return. In the meantime, Sam merrily pillaged one of their treasures and then cunningly set up a win. By the time we’d noticed he was dashing for home with a second treasure it looked too late. We ran after him in frantic desperation with our best power cards and ranged spells but he played a wind rider, or some similar movement spell, and breezed back for the win.
Tables nearby had got stuck into longer games. One was Talisman, the other was Dominant Species which might not be the most suitable fare for a trashfest but hey, it’s long and complex so we’ll give it a pass. So we pulled out King of Tokyo. I almost didn’t bring King of Tokyo: it was a last minute choice foisted on my by my daughter who wanted to tell Graham and Jake all about it when they arrived at my house and who were intrigued enough to want to play. I assumed there would be a copy around somewhere.
And I was right. There was another copy. In fact there were at least two other copies. King of Tokyo was the most-played game of the day with three sessions running independently. Just as we were about to begin, who should arrive but Simon (DukeOfChutney) resplendent in a F:AT t-shirt which drew admiring and jealous glances from the assembled throng. Or from me, at any rate. I really should have bought one, but too late now. He knew the rules so we dealt him straight in. My cyberbunny (always cyberbunny - that black and malevolent head! those hideously curved and ebon ears!) had a chance to eliminate someone on about the third turn but chickened out as I thought it might spoil the game to go out so early. But I needn’t have worried. As befits a true trashfest it was a vicious, brutal and rapid game with monsters falling left right and center. I don’t think anyone got much over 10 victory points.
It came down to Sam and I. He was entrenched in Tokyo, I was nursing a near-useless card that gave me an extra turn on set of 1’s. He cut it fine on staying in the city and what do you know - I got a set of 1’s and a couple of claws, needing only one more to kill him for victory. So I picked up the dice for my extra turn and rolled no claws. For the second time and rolled … no claws. The third time, chanting wildly, palms sweating, muttering silent imprecations to the random number God, and the dice fall out with one single, solitary claw. But it was all I needed. Sweet victory was mine.
You may recall that last year someone rudely turned up late and started playing Dominion. In quite unbelievably poor taste, the same people turned up and did the same thing again! My dismay was tempered by the observation that another attendee had kindly brought along an entire crate of beer, and dispelled entirely when he freely presented me with a tin to enjoy. So I consumed my lager and lunch together as Simon did a quite excellent job of explaining our next title, which most of us had not played before: the second edition of A Game of Thrones.
Indeed such was the thoroughness and clarity of his explanation that I can find no excuse for what happened next. As house Baratheon I boldly sallied forth and captured the three strongholds next to me, while building units in my home castle. Sitting next to Graham (as Martell) I knew full well he’d attack me at any opportunity and stocked that castle with a maximum of three troops. Then a series of catastrophes befell. First, an event card allowed recruitment but all my castles were already full. Then house Tyrell stole a supply territory off me just before a resupply card came up, limiting my troop distribution. Finally I went into a track auction with about two tokens and ended up last pretty much everywhere.
Tyrell then used the frankly pathetic excuse that I’d “once attacked him” to basically wipe me off the board. Momentarily, I lost interest in the game before wading back in determined to ensure that at the very least, Tyrell wouldn’t claim victory. Which he didn’t, but no thanks to me - I didn’t even get a successful attack in against him. Simon, as Stark, took a deserved victory by conquering the north.
I enjoyed the game, but not enough to keep it on my wish-list. It seems a well-designed and delicately balanced title but it sits on that awkward fence where it offers sufficient depth to encourage players to analyse carefully but can then suddenly shaft you with an unexpected random event. It also seems to have far too many moving parts for my taste, but that’s a personal thing: I found it very difficult to try and balance all the different factors in the game and weave a useful strategy. Finally, I found it frustrating that when I looked back on the game I couldn’t see that I’d made any particularly bad choices which had lead to my being marginalised, and that’s not a great inducement to future plays. Perhaps it was the beer. Still, I’m glad I played and if someone popped down a copy before me, I wouldn’t refuse to do so again.
I’m not sure how long that took to play to completion. About two and a half, maybe three hours. But when I looked up, everything had changed. Talisman had morphed into Roborally. Dominion into King of Tokyo and Dominant Species into a rather delightful-looking deluxe edition of Discworld: Ankh-Morpork which was so lovely that I was disappointed not to get a photo of it. In the interim people had also been playing the old edition of Escape from Atlantis, The Resistance (twice, including one epic 9-player session), Divinaire and Small World. All in all, a pretty satisfying lineup for trash-lovers.
But there was still time for more, and I knew Sam wanted to try Cadwallon: City of Thieves, so I set that up and explained the rules. It was the first time I’d played it with four and boy, is it a striking thing with all the figures and cards in play at once, one of the best looking games ever made in my opinion. Gameplay isn’t so stale either, although I began to understand some of the complaints about it being boring when playing with four. It’s a very random and unpredictable game and with a full complement there’s just a bit too much downtime.
Still, we all sallied forth to begin to claim our treasures and at the start, no-one could claim enough of a monopoly on one item type to make the available missions worthwhile. Once we’d looted the city, we started looting each other. Jake went on the offensive but had a dreadful run of dice rolls which lead him to losing most of his treasures and then to getting his thieves trapped in the city when the law arrived as they hunted round for more. Sam had better luck gathering treasures but also got some thieves stuck so it was down to Graham & I. It was a pretty tense ending for us two, which made up for those slightly dull bits earlier in the game, and he won by the relatively slight margin of 4 gold.
Sam was in the hunt for a relatively quick, thematic four player title hence his interest in Cadwallon and Wiz-War. He decided he preferred the latter so we opted to close the day with another game of that. This time, for a bit of variety, I played with the entire card stack of spells and it became a game about bushes. Graham came to steal my treasures and I sealed him in place with a thorn bush. Jake made for the win with a second treasure but meanwhile, Sam also got his second treasure and suddenly the game became a race. Graham and I did what we could: I cast two rose bushes in Jakes’ path but he transformed into a Big Man and swatted them out of the way like dry grass in the wind. But the delay was crucial: it gave Sam time to make it home for his second Wiz-Win of the day.
It was time for us to leave, a little before the wrap-up. But not before I’d had a good look at the second game of Descent 2nd edition that had started up on one of the tables. I really wanted to play that, but there wasn’t time. I felt a bit bad about having to extract our two liftees from the middle of a session of Zombies!!! but, as it turns out, they were grateful for an excuse to escape from that train wreck of a game. It was really great to meet Simon but the event was still dominated by local gamers: F:ATtie sfunk37 was planning to come but was sadly taken ill at the last minute. But I can’t believe it’s just the four of us who want to get our trash down here on this sceptered isle? Come on out of the woodwork, UK readers, and come on down to trashfest 2013.