Saturday is the day I get stuff done. Cook some food to put in the fridge for the week ahead. Do the washing, vacuum the carpets, clean the bathroom. Maybe take the kids out for the afternoon to give Mum some peace, or occasionally destroy something in the house by perpetrating DIY. But not this Saturday. Oh no. This Saturday was the inaugural Trashfest UK.
Trashfest UK was the brainchild of F:AT user Jazzbeaux, otherwise known as Sam Marsh. He and I hold the record for the two F:AT users who live in closest proximity (about 16 miles) but have never actually managed to play a game together in person. That’s because we both have kids. But anyway, a little while ago a new games shop opened in his home town. It was a miniatures gaming outfit but they did something a bit different. Rather than getting cramped premises in the town centre, they hired space in an industrial unit on the outskirts. They turned the main office space into a shop, the smaller office space into a cafe and the main workshop floor into a gigantic gaming cavern, full of games tables, painting stations and even a comfy corner with a sofa, coffee table and a stack of gaming magazines. It’s called Triple Helix Wargames and it’s a really neat idea - although it’d be better if they sold board games too, obviously. Local community seems to think so two, as they’ve apparently won two business awards in the single year they’ve been open!
So Sam saw all those tables, and thought that they’d be just as good for putting board games on as miniatures. They cost £4 a day, so he hired two and between us we picked a date. And trashfest UK was born.
Inevitably I roll up late, but not too late as it turns out. Five people made the start line of 10am and they’ve just started a game of King of Tokyo and as luck would have it, they’ve just that minute finished the first round so I can slot in as a sixth player with no disruption other than a quick rules run down. I have to take the last monster that no-one else wanted: cyberbunny. Which marginally irritates me until I realise the art actually includes a tiny but amazingly malevolent looking jet-black bunny piloting a giant mecha. And then it suddenly becomes cool. The first few round proceed to script with people jumping in and out of Tokyo, hoarding energy and the occasional victory point. My first cash-in is for the promo card reflective hide which is great - any damage you take is inflicted back on the user. So I sit in Tokyo for a whole round (and a massive 2 vp) and giggle uncontrollably while everyone else suffers catastrophic damage alongside me. By the end of the round people are starting to think about re-rolling their claws if it means damaging me which is where I wanted to be, although I’ve been reduce to about 2 health for them to learn the lesson. Meanwhile someone else has picked up a healing power and is sitting pretty in Tokyo, taking damage but regenerating some of it. Until I pick up the dice and roll five claws. Five. And he goes crashing out of the game. Outside of Tokyo, three of the five remaining players are on low health and when the monster inside rolls a few claws himself there is mass death. Suddenly there’s just two left: me and the Kraken. This wasn’t supposed to happen, it’s my first game! She’s got a lot more victory points than me, but we’re tied on health. So the obvious thing to do is sit in Tokyo with my reflective hide and rack up the points, since she can’t destroy me without killing herself. Two rounds pass where she desperately re-rolls claws looking for hearts and gets none. I’m one round away from winning and she needs 2vp to get there before me so she picks up the dice and rolls one 2. Picks up the other five and gets another 2. Picks up the other four and … the final two rolls out! So she gets a deserved win.
I’d never played before. In fact three of the four games I’ll play today are new to me. I really liked King of Tokyo: it’s a fun filler game that’s thrilling to play and squeezes a ton of theme and atmosphere out of some very simple rules. At first I thought six was too many as the initial rounds were slow, but as soon as the monsters started to drop it sped up. Four or five is probably ideal. Having seen the components I still think it feels overpriced for what you get, but the entertainment value is big and that’s what really matters. You need the promo cards for Reflective Hide and Throw a Tanker - they’re great. Go order a copy now, I’ll wait.
Back? Good. While we were busy playing King of Tokyo another four gamers had arrived and set up on the other table. And what were they playing? Dominion. At a trash fest. Unbelievable. And to add insult to injury when we were trying to pick what to play next, they refused to consider abandoning their non-trashy game and help us balance the numbers by splitting into two groups of five.
So we had to pick something else that was good with six. And about the best everyone could come up with was Castle Panic. That was another new one on me, but it’s very simple to learn and play and being co-operative it was guaranteed to go wrong from the very first turn. Which it duly did with the initial draw leading to both extra monsters and monster movement and dumping us up shit creek without a paddle from the get go. It only got worse. Monsters moved just as we were setting up attacks, massed in the regions where we didn’t have matching cards and we drew two boulder tokens that missed all the monsters and knocked down our castle walls. The game ended with such startling rapidity that I think only one player had actually killed more than one monster and he was duly declared the winner. I can’t say I was terribly unhappy about this: I’m not a co-op fan, as you know, and I have to say that I thought Castle Panic was poor even by the standards of the genre. Decision making seemed obvious, the theme was pretty thin and it lacked both sufficient variety and narrative to make it interesting. I understand it’s aimed at younger gamers and perhaps it would work as a family game. But I’d rather slot in Wrath of Ashardalon for that.
So the group playing Dominion were heaping further ignominy on themselves by continuitng to play Dominion. And, again because my gaming time is so limited and precious nowadays, I flat out refused - hopefully not rudely, although it probably was (sorry) - to play Castle Panic again or Zombies!!! or anything else six player we had. So we had to split. I’d bought my copy of Nexus Ops because I knew Sam wanted to try it, and we roped in a third player while the other three started a game of Roborally which eventually sucked in some of the Dominion players. So if Roborally can manage to get people away from Dominion it obviously has some value after all.
It has passed 12pm so I cracked open a beer (the shop had told us it was okay to bring our own), set up Nexus Ops and explained the rules and we got underway. Because I knew how the game worked I got to be first player so everyone could see how I structured my turn. It also meant I was first onto the Monolith. At this point, because I wanted to be fair and have as fun a game as possible I pointed out that those two Energise cards I just drew were likely to be very powerful, and that the Monolith is a desirable spot so someone should come along and push me off with some urgency. Finding myself unmolested on the second turn I underlined my point by playing a very handy Energise card that adds two to a dice roll after it’s been rolled, and said again that they were brilliant cards and someone ought to kick me off the Monolith. No-one did. The other two players got sucked into a revenge match on their border, leaving me free to hoard energise cards that I proceeded to use to grant myself enormous amounts of rubidium, extra fungoids and to kill off their human and crystalline units. Still I remained atop my ebony tower. I even took all but one troop off the Monolith and no-one took the bait. So of course I ended up with a sack full of victory points and a win but I had a fantastic time playing the evil overlord and gloating over the board, while my opponents seemed to have a fantastic time perpetrating their grudge match so everyone had fun, and that makes us all winners.
I can’t believe I just wrote something that cheesy, and am actually considering leaving it in the piece by writing this sentence as an excuse. Anyway, Sam liked it enough that he wanted to try it again with four, paying a bit more attention to the Monolith, but we didn’t get the opportunity. He’s wondering if any of you kind folk out there in the states might be willing to sell or trade a copy as it goes for silly, silly money in the UK now?
Having shown Sam a game he really wanted to play, it was time to him to return the favour with Chaos in the Old World and the horned rat expansion. No, I really haven’t managed to play this game up until now, although I’d been desperate to have the chance and I own a copy. I just haven’t managed to find three other gamers and a two hour slot at the same time. Being an old Warhammer buff and knowing the background I immediately picked Nurgle as my all-time favourite chaos god, ignoring well meaning warnings about it being a difficult power to play. What did I care as long as papa Nurgle had a hand full of “filth” cards? Nothing. As you all probably know it’s a moderately complex game and Sam sensibly outline the rules and adopted a learn the rest as you play approach so we could get stuck in. I noticed my hand of cards included several that were dependent on me “dominating” a region so from the outset I picked one to make mine, and keep. I chose Bretonnia since it was reasonably central but had a low enough points value to make it not worth my companions scrapping over. And it worked, brilliantly. Each turn I clocked up domination points for having all my daemons there, plus a dial tick for dropping enough corruption there and was able to use my cards to sow corruption in neighbouring regions so that I picked up points when they were ruined. And I streaked into a big VP lead early on. But then, in a typically Nurglesque fashion, I got greedy. I split my forces just so I could get more dial tokens from adding corruption to more regions and that was successfully for precisely one turn before the Khorne player spotted what I was up to and picked off all my cultists, leaving me high and dry and stacking him up a ton of VP to go into the lead. To add insult to injury I’d totally taken my eye off the ball as regards ruination and forgot to use my cards to sneak in corruption into regions that were about to pop, denying me further vital victory points. As the old world went down in flames, it was Tzeentch who racked up the ruination points for the win, with Khorne riding on his coat tails for second and no-one else in sight. But I’m convinced I’ll do better next time - a sure sign that this is a great game that I’m going to want to play a lot. I didn’t take all that much notice of how the Skaven affected the game overall (especially not having seen a game without them for comparison) but they did reasonably well, and to be honest I felt it was a pretty impressive achievement to design a fifth player expansion for a massively asymmetric game that added yet more asymmetry whilst apparently retaining a reasonable balance. So I’ll be picking that one up on my next game order, for sure.
I’d bought along my copy of Horus Heresy to sell to Sam, and the box size and components drew a lot of admiration from the assembled crowds of both miniatures gamers and board gamers. So much so that I began to regret flogging it off. But as someone that loves historical CDG’s, I just couldn’t ever see a time that with just two players, I would ever choose to play it over a card-driven wargame. So off it went to a more caring home, and it was time for me to pack my bags and get on my own way to relieve my wife of an extra days’ childcare.
But the gaming didn’t stop there. Oh no.
While we’d been absorbed in Chaos in the Old World a couple of games of FFG’s reprint of Dungeonquest had been going on. I’d have liked to try this, just to compare it with my beloved original version: the production quality on the original is inferior (those oddly shaped cards annoy me) and I was interested to see what they’d done to improve the Catacombs. But there we go, you can’t do everything. There were also simultaneous games of Lord of the Rings: The Card Game (love the theme, totally put off by 2-player limit and co-operative structure) and a strange home-brew version of Heroquest, called Mortisquest by its creator, a dog-collared gentleman who also apparently likes to be known as Mortis, that was supposed to have heavier role playing element and which absorbed the players for most of the afternoon. Reports of quality were mixed, but then again the players sat it out for four hours, so that must say something, possibly about British politeness if nothing else. The day closed with sessions of Mag-Blast, Magical Athlete and more King of Tokyo.
And it was pretty much an enormous success, aside from the fact that it included those sessions of Dominion. Everyone had a great time. The only fly in the ointment for me was that out of the (admittedly small) UK FAT crew, only Sam & I turned up. We invited 26, and a third turned up so not a bad turnout. One of the gamers, who had no kids, apparently asked Sam if we could do it once a month! Sadly most of the people there didn’t have time for that, but we’ll be chalking it up again for next year you mark my words. And this time, FATties, you better be there. I don’t care what it takes: walk, drive, fly over the Atlantic or the Irish sea, but be there. And bring a cushion, since Triple Helix didn’t have any. You have been warned.