ManorCon 2015 - Part Two


Takenoko - Best. . . Component. . . Ever!


YES! Finally someone brought Takenoko to a gaming event (in fact several at this convention had it seemed) and taught me the game! I can't think of many local players who own this and it's been probably the highest and longest running contender on my radar for try before I buy. I own a few games that are considered gateways for non-gamers. This is because I know friends who are new to the hobby and every collector should include at least a few choice games that they can bring out for fresh meat, er I mean, new enquiring people! But I felt I needed something that wasn't a co-op as most of my gateway games are (for obvious reasons) and a change from the usual Ticket to Ride/Catan/Carcassonne games which of course are still quality choices.

Takenoko's premise is growing bamboo shoots in different colours and sizes that are subsequently eaten by a wandering panda. OK right there you have to be at least intrigued in this game by the craziness of that sentence. But you will be aiming to complete objectives for points, which can include growing bamboo to particular lengths, getting the panda to eat specific colours and irrigating the land in specific colour formations. The rules are incredibly simple and I've never heard myself or my buddy Stuart Garside comment so much about a panda being cute before. The farmer and panda are represented by two really cool and detailed miniatures and you cannot help but love them to bits. Even the bamboo shoots are small wooden pieces that stack. The publisher could easily have just gone with boring tokens and probably ruined the appeal of the game for many, but this was a good move. The panda gets so much attention and if you want to see something truly insane, go search Google for the Takenoko deluxe edition.



It's not a brain burner, it's a light and fairly quick game with it taking no longer than an hour with maximum players, two of which were new to the game, at a convention with rules explanations. But it's so . . .charming! That's the best word I could use to describe it, it's just such a charming, relaxing game that there's nothing to really dislike about it. It may be too light for some or people may not like the random weather die and card draw and that's fine, but I myself really enjoyed it, not just because I was constantly doing impressions of a fat panda eating bamboo. The prospect of an expansion later this year including a female panda is just so ripe for humourous exploitation it's ridiculous.

This could have made my Top 10 Surprises list I did a couple of months back, but I expected it to be pretty good already. This was one of the highlights of the convention for me and so much so that my only game purchase the entire weekend was this one. This will go over so well with my non-gamer friends and even hardcore gamers to boot. A perfect addition to the collection among my gateway games of choice - nice going Antoine Bauza!


Orleans - The Kennerspiel Runner-Up


This was a big surprise for me to get the opportunity to play as obtaining a copy in the UK and even America to an extent from what I've heard isn't as easy as it seems and as such not many people own it and certainly nobody that I know locally. Even this copy despite having English rules included was primarily a German version as the building tiles and reference cards were written in that language. However most of the game uses iconography so it's not really an issue.

I had heard from Mr Vasel that this was a Hyperborea killer in that both games are primarily concerned with "bag-building" mechanics. I own Hyperborea and think it's a great game so that's a claim I wanted to look into. Now yes, they use the same base mechanic (one uses follower tokens and the other uses coloured cubes) and both games can bring out extra spaces to place your "workers", but the similarities I feel end after that. In Hyperborea the map is different every game and scales for players and there is considerably more conflict. Here the map is fixed other than the randomisation of the goods on the roads/rivers and no actual fighting takes place.



The game is your standard worker placement affair, but it moves at a fairly quick pace and there are many paths to victory, all of which that were used in our 3 player game being pretty balanced. One player focused on acquiring trade goods, another spread out over the map and built houses and I went for the Scrooge method of building up a giant stash of money while acquiring as many citizens as possible, which ultimately won me the game.

Much like Hyperborea, the theme is a little abstracted in places, but all in all I was happy with the game and can see why it made the Kennerspiel nominations. I do not however think it is a Hyperborea killer though and still prefer that game out of the two. Both are solid games and I can see people happily owning both if they like the bag-building mechanic or whichever one they choose depending on whether they would like a slightly shorter game or one with more direct conflict.


Last Will & The Prodigals Club - How Can You Be Bored With Being Rich?


I'm going to combine these together as they are capable of being combined and are designed by the same person and set in the same setting with the same theme. Last Will is the modern day version of Brewsters Millions where you have to squander all your money as fast as possible and this will include running property into the ground, indulging in lavish luxuries and taking up expensive hobbies such as horse riding. Trust me I used to date a horse rider, they're expensive to maintain!

Again this was high on my list to try although maybe my expectations of how funny this game was were a little over-inflated. The theme is done well and there's some choices about how you want your turn structured in terms of actions and workers, but it's not a laugh out loud kind of game. It's amusing in places and fairly light hearted, but that's about it on the amusement factor. However it's still a cool game and I'll play it again, but I won't seek it out for the collection.

The Prodigals Club was another prototype taught to us under Paul's guidance in which it takes the theme of Last Will and ups the complexity factor a bit. This time for reasons unknown to psychological sciences you are fed up with having all the wealth and influence in the world and are seeking to destroy yourself by losing votes and your friends and wealth also.



This one is cool in that there are 3 modules, one for each aspect of your life that you can use and you can opt for only 2 if you prefer. There is a rumour of being able to combine Last Will with this sequel, but I fear that might result in an epic length game only for the true Last Will fanatics. Through a combination of being a liberal extremist and a lousy cook (not like me in real life) I was able to pull off a convincing victory, but we all had plenty of feedback about the mechanics of the game. My primary concern being certain aspects that felt very abstract and more like a collection of logic mini games then a fully immersive experience. However this was a prototype and I was told that the abstractness was being worked on so I'll be interested to see how they introduce a theme into those elements.


VERDICT


ManorCon 2015 was well worth the price of admission and even the cost of staying on site was cheap. If you feel that other conventions such as the UK Games Expo are too concerned with shopping for games, then this is a solid alternative for you. This is all about playing games from every genre of any length that you want to play. There is a bit of a skew towards Euro style games, but it is by no means restricted to that. Even if you have come by yourself or with only one partner it is easy to jump into another game or set up your own and wait for friendly gamers to come and enquire politely.

The food is of a decent standard, drinks are plentiful and prices are competitive if not slightly cheaper than than your average pub. I recommend bringing some snacks to keep you going just in case though and remember that hot drinks are a bit pricey.

ManorCon is a great event that is well organised and perfect for veteran gamers and new players alike. It was a shame to leave earlier than the actual finish time, but you can bet that I'll be heading back for ManorCon 2016.






















YOU WILL LIKE THIS EVENT IF:

You are new to board gaming. Everyone is open and friendly and unlike the Expo it shouldn't be overwhelming.

You enjoy Euro games, especially of the meaty variety. There is a skew towards this genre.

You want to focus on playing games rather than shopping which can be a big time sink.


YOU WILL NOT LIKE THIS EVENT IF:

You are more interested in trading - only one retailer is present and the Bring & Buy stall is a minor addition.

You can't cope with heat - it can get quite warm in the halls and bedrooms, but this can be mitigated.

You wish to bring kids. Whether because they're not allowed or otherwise, this is essentially adults only.

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