The VIIth Ludopathic Gathering didn't start very well. The weather report was threatening rain and even some snow—which is a bit excessive for the end of April. Well, some players were delayed by rain, hail and snow. Fortunately, the weather was not so bad during the weekend—it was only rather cold. Because of some last minute rats, we were only 56 and not 58 like I had scheduled. However, 56 is already a lot and the rooms were full. The first players arrived at 5 p.m., and the serious things really started at 8 p.m., with the Medina tournament as scheduled.
The five tournaments this year were Medina, Evo, Cartagena, Klondike and Bongo.
I scheduled the Medina tournament at 8 p.m. because I had only four boxes, and could therefore accommodate only 16 players simultaneously. I hoped that many players wouldn't be there at 8. Despite this, this rich strategy game has outstanding components. No one had played before the week-end, and Medina was the biggest hit of the week-end. Most of the players who arrived after 8 played Medina later, out of the tournament. And the Medina box was the first to leave the prize table on Sunday afternoon. The winner is Frédérique Tieursin, who claims she has no skill and was only lucky with dice, or maybe cards.
Medina was new for everybody. Evo was not, as most attendants had already played Philippe Keyaert's prototype the previous year, or had taken part in the Belgian tournament in February. It was not new, and therefore not exciting like Medina. However the tournament was full and the game was quite popular during the three days of gaming. Didier Renard, a doped and overtrained Belgian player, easily won the tournament.
Cartagena is a less ambitious game, but it was also really well received—except by the hardcore strategists who wanted to use the advanced open card rules. This variant makes the game much heavier and slower but not really more strategic. Remember this: never play with the strategic rules, the light ones are far better. Many players discovered this game in the tournament, and played it again once or twice during the weekend.
Klondike is even less ambitious. I have always liked this game very much, and was really happy when I heard that Haba was reprinting it. The publisher was very generous and sent me six free boxes of this big and expensive game for the tournament. We spent a full hour listening to the hypnotic noise of wooden pebbles turning and jumping in an aluminium plate. Some players loved it, some found it childish, stupid and ridiculous. It's take it or leave it, like with Bongo. One of the tournament winners was Hervé Marly, I've forgotten who was the other one.
Bongo is even lighter than Klondike. This was the last tournament, on Sunday afternoon. Despite the long nights with little sleep and much beer, most players were still able to think clear and fast. Players rated this game from 0 to 10 on a 0-10 scale... an even larger range than for Klondike. Many told me that, if I wanted to make a tournament of one of my new games I should have chosen Dragon's Gold. This new game was very well received during the weekend. I still think that Bongo is more fun. Nicolas Gianiel, who won the Bongo tournament was first on the prize table and scored the Medina copy, probably agrees.
If I had been sure it would have been ready for the weekend, I would have scheduled a Savannah Café tournament. I wasn't really sure that the new little race game of Sylvie Barc, Frédéric Bloch and Philippe des Pallières would be there in time, and I passed on this one. At last, the game was ready just in time, two days before the Ludopathic Gathering, and Philippe brought a few boxes and improvised two mini tournaments—I give you a box, you play, and the winner keeps the box.
Many new games, but also a few oldies were played during the 7th Ludopathic Gathering. Here are the 15 which, I think, were the most played:
Bongo, Carcassonne, Cartagena, Dragon's Gold, Evo, Die Fuersten von Florenz, Klondike, Medina, Orcz, Ra, Savannah Café, Way out West, Werewolf, Wyatt Earp, Zapp Zerapp, Zocker.
I was expecting San Marco and Big Shot, two of my favourites. However, they were superseded by Medina and Carcassonne—all the better for my friends at Hans im Glueck. Even more surprising was the sudden popularity of The Princes of Florence and of the funny Zocker. Zocker had already been around last year, but had not been played. As for Citadels, we probably played too much of it last year, and there was not a single game of it this year.
Saturday at 4 a.m., the players going to sleep and crossing the courtyard saw all the cars white with snow. When we woke up in the morning, there was nothing left of it. Maybe we had all been dreaming.
On Saturday afternoon, Philippe des Pallières unveiled a strange prototype by Roberto Fraga, Infraga Jones. I won't describe it completely to you, but it's a game involving running around the table shouting "Jivaro" and shooting at the window with a dart pistol while listening to a special remix of all the Indiana Jones soundtracks. Tom, the author of Arriba / Jungle Speed, loved it. On the next table, Serge Laget was desperately trying to explain his Mare Nostrum and at last crawled under the table to unplug the tape recorder.
Last year, some Belgian players had played the card game Revolucion. They rated it 3 out of 10. This year, the same Belgian team decided to play it again, probably to make sure that it doesn't work, and rated it 2.5 out of 10. Next year, I'll program a Revolucion tournament.
On Saturday night, the Ludopathic Gathering split in two parts. In the upper room, silent and concentrated, there were games of 1830, Exodus, Mare Nostrum and Poker.
In the lower room, it started to go wrong when Hervé Marly and Philippe des Pallières—who had brought the very first Werewolf of Thiercelieux boxes they had packed the day before, and who wanted to sell them, decided to hold a big werewolf game. They included twenty players, three werewolves and a bunch of special characters; the seer, little girl, hunter, thief, lovers. They had even brought a tape recorder to record the game, and wanted to use the recordings on their website. They had to give up this idea when the moderator, Philippe, suddenly noticed that for about ten minutes he was speaking not to the microphone but to his bottle of beer.
Werewolves won, and things degenerated further when someone suggested a game of strip-twister...
There are more and more prototypes at the Ludopathic Gathering. There were so many this year that I didn't dare open mine. Not even when I wanted to play one more game of Macao to check some fine tuning on the definitive version. Many prototypes were present, and four really big hits among them. The Wild West card game by Bruno Cathala will be published next year by Eurogames in the Blue Game series. Mare Nostrum by Serge Laget will also be published by Eurogames, but in the big monster games series. Cedrick Caumont, a Belgian friend of Philippe Keyaerts, had a very nice little bidding card game about building trains, Choo-Choo. The two publishers who had ears and antennas pointed towards Etourvy seem to be already interested in it. There was also Infraga Jones, which has already been described.
See You Next Year
This year, I've been a bit cheeky, helped by the fact that I'm becoming well known in Germany because of the success of Ohne Furcht und Adel. I asked many publishers if they wanted to "sponsor" the VIIth Ludopathic Gathering by sending me a few free games. I had more positive answers than I had expected, and could send a few games at the end of the weekend to balance the budget. I could also make a big prize table so that each attendee left with a free game. Except those who chose the remaining packs of beer or the local home-made apple brandy.
That's why I must thank once more :
- Abacus Spiele, meaning Pia and Joe Nikisch, whose two large smiles I always like to meet at the Essen fair. Abacus publishes, among others, Mamma Mia, Hare and Tortoise, Andromeda, M and Knatsch.
- Alea, meaning Stefan Brück, who publishes Ra and Die Fuersten von Florenz, two games which were played a lot during the weekend.
- Descartes / Eurogames, which publishes all my little blue games, and also Evo, Savannah Café and soon Draco & Co, Valley of the Mammooths, Wild West, Mare Nostrum.
- Fantasy Flight Games, meaning Chris Petersen, a very nice guy that I meet every year at the Essen fair, and who publishes Diskwars, Drakon and Orcz, which was played a lot this weekend.
- Haba, which makes children's games, but among them is Klondike. The Klondike tournament was great.
- Hans im Glueck, the German publisher of Citadels, but also the publisher of two of this weekend's big hits, Medina and Carcassonne—and of the wonderful Morgenland.
- Heidelberger Spieleverlag, the zaniest publisher on the German scene, the maker of my Bongo, but also of Burp and Neolithibum.
- Ravensburger, an old lady who doesn't need to be introduced, but who can also publish wonderful games like Big Shot or San Marco.
- Schmidt Spiele, which after years of hesitations seems to be again a big publisher—making games like Visionnary, Die Gluecksritter and Capitol.
- Venice Connection and Winning Moves, which publishes many of the games made by my friend Leo Colovini, and probably soon the game we've made together, Macao.
- Thanks to Pierre Rosenthal for the lottery.
- Thanks to all the people in Etourvy.
See you next year!
- Bruno Faidutti
(Translated from the French by Frank Branham.)