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A Tactical Retreat

I’m still coming off a weekend of board gaming, so I decided to write some thoughts about it while they were still fresh. The short of it is that it was a really fun weekend, but keep reading for the details.

Bits of Background

Two years ago, some of my college friends and I put together a weekend at a cabin where we played board games all weekend. It was somewhat disorganized, but we had a good time. Last year, we tried to do it again, but started planning too late and couldn’t get a cabin. So this year, I started planning in early January. By the end of February, we had the cabin booked. As we got closer to the date, more and more things fell into place and we finally executed the retreat this past weekend.

Making Accommodations

Picture of Cabin

I like taking a picture when we arrive. And the cabin where we stayed was quite nice.

We opted for a cabin in a state park for several reasons. First of all is proximity. Proximity is important because it gives you more game time and means you’re less tired from the trip to get there. Second was cost. We split the cost between five people this year, which means we got a 6-person cabin for a little less than $40 a person for two nights which is a great deal in lodging. Last, but by no means least, is the remoteness, specifically the digital remoteness. It was nice to get to a place where cellphone reception was spotty and there was no WiFi. It keeps you from feeling pressured to check e-mail and things like that. It lets you relax and focus on your friends and the games.

Feeding Your People

You can’t have board games without food, especially when you’re in a cabin for two nights. We handled this by divvying up responsibilities for meals among various people in the group. That way no one person was stuck with cooking duties. We had pizza, brats cooked over a fire outside, and chili. So we ate pretty well with regards to meals. And there was more than enough junk food to go around between times.

Organizing the Troops

For an endeavour like this, it pays a great deal to organize. For us, we handled a lot of questions and communication via e-mail. The actual recording of details we handled was via a shared folder in Google Drive. When we booked the cabin, I put together three documents. One had general details including a place for people to claim various beds as well as what things each person needed to bring and things someone (but not everyone) in the group needed to bring. The second document listed which meals we would need and allowed people to claim responsibility for a particular meal and list what they would make. The final document was for games, linking to our BoardGameGeek collections and listing the games we were interested in bringing. I gave everyone attending edit rights to these documents and we used them to keep track of our decisions. It also provided a place to point to in case someone didn’t remember some detail of information (like cost).

The Game Is Afoot

So what did we play? Quite a few things. In order, they were:

  • Thunderstone Advance (Epic Variant) – This cemented in my mind that I like the Epic version of Thunderstone Advance when I play it.
  • Castle Panic – This actually wasn’t one I expected to see played this weekend, but I’m glad we did. It’s a fun light game and had quite a few tense moments in it.
  • Cheaty Mages – This is one of my favorite filler games, even though I rarely win it. The group as a whole seemed to like it and there was a lot of guessing and second guessing who supported what.
  • Welcome to the Dungeon! – I’d never played this one before, but it’s another good one. A small filler game, but with a decent bit of depth in playing chicken with the other players.
  • Disaster Looms! – We played this one at the first retreat. I wasn’t surprised it returned. It’s a decent and not particularly well known game, but at the prices it goes for on Amazon, I’d recommend picking it up.
  • Shogun – I’d heard good things about this one, but never had the chance to try it until now. I really liked it, though it’s probably too heavy to see typical use in my own collection.
  • Magic: The Gathering – Last time we did a booster draft and everyone enjoyed that, so we did it again this year, this time with a five-player free-for-all game. I didn’t enjoy it as much this year as last year, probably because I made a really bad deck that proceeded to not behave and I was put out of the game without ever really competing.
  • Kemet – My second play of this game and I still enjoyed the throwdown, dudes-on-a-map style that Kemet brings to the table. Once we got through the rules, everyone at the table seemed to enjoy it as well.
  • Geek Battle – This was a “wind down the brain” game to cap off Saturday night. It’s a geeky, simplified version of Trivial Pursuit. That means we inevitably ended up ignoring the board and just asking each other questions, which was a good way to end the day.
  • Release! – We managed to cram in one last game before we had to leave the cabin. I didn’t like this game as much as some of the others did, but it was quick and fast and it was good to play one last game to cap off the retreat.

Future Releases

I’m already planning in my head to do another one of these next year. I’m also starting to toy with the idea of doing a roleplaying version of this, possibly in the Spring. I highly recommend board game fans at least consider doing something like this. A focused weekend of friends, games, and fun can let you play some of the games that you rarely get to the table. It can also refresh your love for the hobby if you’re starting to feel like you never get a chance to play things.

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