Tuesday, July 08, 2008

GenCon Oz Part 3

This is Part 3 of my day at GenCon Oz on Sunday 6 July 2008. Here are links to Part 1 and Part 2.

By this time it was around 11.00 am. After I'd finished running an impromptu demo of Memoir '44, I was approached by Friendless and invited to join a 4-player game of Chang Cheng. The other two players were BGG user MickeyJames and his friend Aaron. We were lucky to have Alvin Chan (BGG user Tyndal from Adelaide in South Australia) close by who was able to clearly explain the game rules to us.

Chang Cheng is an area majority game set over 2500 years ago where each player is an imperial officer overseeing construction of part of the Great Wall of China for the Emperor of the Qin Dynasty. The playing pieces are plastic sections of wall and consist of 15 single wall pieces, 1 double-size wall piece and 1 tower piece for each player. The total board is comprised of 4 smaller double-sided boards that are laid next to each other (I think the number of boards laid down is dictated by the number of players in the game). The other components consist of victory point tiles, Mongol negative-point tiles and 24 special player action tiles (1 each of 6 different types for each player).

At the start of our 4-player game only two sections of the board were laid down. The shaded areas north of the Wall (in the picture) represent Qin provinces and the shaded areas south of the Wall represent Mongol areas. Players play a combination of either Wall pieces (which have different values and powers) and/or action tiles (which also have special powers) on their turn. The aim of the game is to gain majority control of the provinces on one side of the Wall while not having majority control on the Mongol side of the Wall. The trick here is that you'll note that the provinces on either side of the Wall are off-centre, meaning that it is possible to gain control of a province but not have majority in the Mongol area on the opposite side of the Wall. Gaining a province means victory points but having majority in a Mongol area means negative points. Each province has a set victory point worth and also a random victory point worth which are both visible to players during the game. The negative Mongol point tiles are face down so players do not know how bad they are.

Chang Cheng - building the Great Wall of China

Provinces are scored as soon as all spaces of the Wall in that province have been completed and the player's scores are reflected by moving their tokens on a scoring board. There is an element of bluff in this game because as a provincial section of the Wall is being built, players may add their special action tiles face down to the province. Each action tile has a special power that affects the outcome when determining who has majority when that province is scored. When all spaces of the Wall on all the boards have been completed the game shifts to the next phase which is the scoring of the Mongol-controlled side of the Wall. That's when the Mongol tiles are turned over to reveal the damage to each player holding majority in a Mongol section of the Wall.

I think I was coming 2nd or 3rd at the end of scoring the provinces. I hadn't focused as much on the Mongol side of the Wall as I had on the province side during the game and this certainly cost me. It turned out that I had majority in more sections of the Mongol side of the board than any of the other players. As a result of this I dropped to 4th place. Final scores were Mickey 23, Friendless 19, Aaron 18 and myself 13. Overall I enjoyed the game but wasn't blown away. I liked the plastic Wall components and the art on the tiles. The board itself was a little bland. I didn't get a chance to read the rules but I do understand that there were other optional rules available. So for a first-time play with four players I rated it a 6 on BoardGameGeek.

It was around midday that we finished. The others decided to go off and grab some lunch. Looking around, my eyes were drawn to an area adjacent to the board games section where a number of people had gathered in a cordoned-off area. The odd thing about these people was that they were all carrying lightsabers.

Learn to fight like a Jedi - for only $49.95!

This group of people had each paid $49.95 to participate in a Jedi Training Workshop run by Kyle Rowling (that's him in the black sleeveless-shirt in the centre of the picture). Kyle is from the Sydney Stage Combat School and was one of the lead choreographers for Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones and Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. He also featured as Christoper Lee's stunt double for Count Dooku and provided General Grievous' body.

This is something I would have thought was really cool in my younger Star Wars fanboy days and would most certainly have entered just for the experience. However, with the passing of time my Star Wars interest has somewhat faded (although it's still strong) and with a boardgame addiction I've got better things than lightsaber training to drop 50 bucks on. It was fun to watch though, and the participants looked like they were enjoying themselves. It's events like this that make conventions memorable.

After that I wandered off to the Trader and Exhibitor areas of the hall to see what I could find.

Part 4 tomorrow.

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