In November 2021 my gaming group (Bear, Otter, and Bigfoot) and I rented a cabin and spent a weekend playing board games all day and night. Here’s how it went, and at the end I’ll let you know what I loved and what I would change for next time.
A little background about our group; we meet every Wednesday around 6:30PM at one of our homes (the person hosting rotates evenly) and play games until around 9PM or 10PM. The four of us are each avid gamers, so our lists of games that we want to play grows faster than we can play them.
On some level I have always looked at the big conventions with envy; booking off three whole days to just play board games sounds like a dream. We have gone to a couple local conventions to meet others and play new games, but we have found that we always gravitate towards just playing with each other. We have known each other for almost 7 years now, we all love a lot of the same games, and we know that we can trust each other to be appropriately invested in the game. We avoid the uncomfortable situation of having a player who does not respect the hobby. For instance, at one of the local conventions a fifth player asked to join our table, and then he was on his phone through the whole rules explanation and had to be told it was his turn every time. Each time his turn came up he’d ask ‘alright, what happened?’ and ‘How do I play? Can I do this?’, making it obvious he did not listen to the rules, or even bother to engage with us at the table.
We talked as a group about going to a large convention, but eventually decided that there wasn’t much point in going to a whole big convention, paying the entrance fee, renting a hotel room and travelling only to play games with each other the whole time. We decided we would prefer to rent a cabin locally instead. Thus the idea of Cabin-Con was born.
Leading up to Cabin-Con we created a Google Sheet to curate our game selections for the weekend. We each listed the top three games we wanted to play over the weekend. Bigfoot had received his all-in Kickstarter pledges of Anachrony and Oath during Covid and was eager to have those hit the table. I purchased a ‘used’ copy of Clank Legacy from someone locally (they had bought the game, took the shrink off and punched the tokens, but their game group never got around to playing it), so I wanted to add that to the experience. Bear was particularly eager to play Eclipse, as we had played it a couple weeks ago and he wanted another chance to become the supreme leader. We all included many other lighter games that we owned and each had a chance to mark which ones we wanted to veto, or lift up as a priority.
The master play list became:
- Clank Legacy
- Food Chain Magnate
- My City
- A Feast for Odin
Originally check-in was listed for 5pm, but the cabin owner allowed us to check in early, around 2:00pm. We arrived, unpacked the coolers of food and drink, and assembled the game library.
By 3pm we were unpacked and ready to begin. We started the weekend with a round of Arboretum by Dan Cassar, which is always a hit. We learned and played Lost Cities: Rivals by Reiner Knizia, and we each really enjoyed it! It was interesting how our first few auctions sold 2 or 3 cards for 6 dollars, while subsequent auctions were giving away 8 cards for 4 dollars! I look forward to breaking this out again to see how the auctions change on repeat plays and with experienced players.
Cartographers by Jordy Adan came up next, which was my very first time playing in person. I really love Cartographers, to the point where I’m likely going to buy my own copy so I can play with my family when I visit them for the holidays.
With three 30 minute games under our belt we unboxed A Feast for Odin and learned the rules (Our group usually learns new games by putting it on the table and I read over the rulebook, speaking out loud the important parts with each of us clarifying what we find ambiguous. It’s a system that seems to work well for us). With A Feast for Odin set up and learned, we paused for dinner, provided by Bear (who pre-made a bunch of meals and froze them, so only a re-heat was necessary).
I had only played A Feast For Odin by Uwe Rosenberg once in 2017. My vague recollections helped keep me with the pack. I focused on breeding sheep and shearing them to cover the negative point spaces on my board, but found it quite difficult to keep up with the rest of the group. In addition, none of the occupations I pulled were particularly helpful until the end of the game, making my resource engine stall early. The final scores were 58 (me) 64 (Otter and Bigfoot) and a massive 104 point victory for Bear.
I made a note to myself to spend some more time with A Feast for Odin in the future, as it’s quite the intriguing puzzle! It also helps that I really enjoy a lot of Uwe Rosenberg’s games, although my favourite remains Agricola.
Originally we planned to have a fire each night, as the cabin had an outdoor firepit. Unfortunately, it rained heavily all weekend. We consoled ourselves with a game of Citadels by Bruno Faidutti, which felt unnecessarily back-stabby in my opinion. That said that, it was the only game I won on Thursday, so I’m sure that says something about me.
Friday morning began slowly with a cup of coffee and a walk on the beach while I waited for the rest of the group to get out of bed (one of the joys of having a child under one year old is that I can’t sleep in anymore). By 10:30am a breakfast of bacon and eggs had been consumed by all and we began the first full day by breaking out Clank! Legacy: Acquisitions Incorporated by Andy Clautice and Paul Dennen.
We had played the original Clank! only a handful of times before we decided that it ultimately wasn’t for us. The tension of delving deep into the dungeon and trying to get out in time wasn’t terribly satisfying for us, as none of us were willing to be the person who grabs the cheapest, easiest treasure and gets out quickly. We also found that we prefer other deck builders like Hardback by Tim Fowers and Jeff Back, and Super Motherload by Gavan Brown and Matt Tolman. Nevertheless we were compelled to buy the game for the Legacy aspect alone.
We played 4 games back to back where it became clear that my goal wasn’t to win each game, but to hit as many story encounters as possible. Clank! Legacy satisfied my desire for discovery with every story that got read and every sticker that got placed on the board (which was a lot). I had somewhat hoped to playthrough the entire box during the weekend, but I bowed to the will of the group and packed it away after four rounds. I’ll be pushing them to play it again during our Wednesday night game sessions until we finish the entire campaign.
The rain had cleared up by this point so we chopped some wood, made a fire, and ate dinner outside. After dinner we just chatted while sipping whiskey. We’ve known each other for so long, but so rarely do we ever just sit around to talk. When we gather, we know that each other person is just as eager to play a board game so it becomes our default activity very quickly.
At 7:30PM we cracked open the Anachrony Infinity Box. The game was still in shrink wrap so we got to work on punching, sorting, and learning the rules for this massive game. Around 10:30PM as we took our first turns I saw the same fear in their eyes that would take the heart of me. A low-level despair had set in the group around the second half of the rule teach; 2+ hours is a long time to prepare to play a board game. Thankfully the first few rounds of Anachrony flow quickly and we all caught a second wind and carried through to the end, getting to bed closer to 2am.
I really enjoyed the theme and production of Anachrony. I recognize that having the thick, heavy mechs to hold your workers is entirely unnecessary, but now that I played with these toys, I’d have a hard time playing without them. They serve very little function other than to turn this 2D board game into a 3D spectacle, but I found joy in that spectacle. If there was one word to describe Anachrony, it would be “cool”.
Now that I know how to play Anachrony, I looked over some of the expansions (side note, expansion rule books are SO MUCH EASIER to read when you already know how to play the base game) and am very excited to return to this world soon to explore the modules and expansions included in the Infinity Box. From what I hear, the Fractures of Time expansion is more or less a requirement going forward.
The plan for Saturday was to play two or three games of Oath, then My City and perhaps Brass in the evening. Inspired by Friday night’s pain of having to un-shrink wrap and punch the pieces before playing, Bear, Bigfoot, and Otter all got to work preparing Oath and My City while I made pancakes.
Oath: Chronicles of Empire and Exile is not the first game designed by Cole Wehrle that we’ve played. Bear is a huge fan of Root, and Bigfoot really enjoys Pax Pamir. I found it incredibly difficult to conceptualize the mechanics of Oath, even using the ‘first turn guide’. The rules questions came fast and furiously, which made me very thankful for The Law of Oath, which made it really easy to find most of the answers. We plodded through Oath with Bear as the Chancellor who took the Cursed Cauldron early and found a card that let him ignore all skulls on his attacks. From then on fighting him became an exercise in futility as we’d clash against him, push him out of a zone, and then he’d throw himself against us, his skulls not affecting his army, and his cauldron instantly regenerating his army. He was a force that couldn’t be reckoned with.
If Anachrony has a word to describe my experience (Cool), then the word I would use to describe Oath is ‘frustrating’. During the game I felt powerless. I had all my relics taken from me and my army slaughtered. I had no resources and felt like I was an ant fighting against a God. It was not a fun experience for me, and it took nearly a full 5 hours to play. Most of that play time I attribute to players taking agonizingly long turns, but I still do not feel compelled to return to this experience. I really appreciate what Cole Wehrle was trying to achieve with the living game aspect, and it’s entirely likely that I got some rules wrong, but direct conflict games generally aren’t my bag already, and even if I was on the winning side of this war, I don’t want anyone at my table to feel like they’ve just spent 5 hours at a game and had all their progress ripped away from them.
I may return to Oath, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this ends up in the ‘for sale’ pile before I do.
After Oath: Chronicles of Empire and Exile my brain felt swollen. To decompress, we opened My City by Reiner Knizia. Little did we know, this would be voted as game of the con! My City is a polyomino tile laying legacy game. Played over 24 episodes, broken into 12 chapters My City eases players into the game by starting with an incredibly basic game, and slowly adds more pieces and mechanics over time. After each game the board is cleared of all pieces, the winners get to fill in some circles marking their achievement, and some stickers are placed on the board, with more helpful stickers being distributed to those with the worst score.
We played the first two chapters in one sitting (6 episodes) before packing it away. To mill the remaining time to dinner, we played The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine by Thomas Sing. The Crew is a cooperative trick taking game that like My City, eases players into the complexity over the course of several games. The Crew has a logbook of 50 mission it tasks players to complete, beginning with just getting a single card to a specific player. As we completed missions and moved through the story things began to get more complicated, ensuring players won tricks containing specific cards in specific order, and even one game dictating that one player could not win any tricks at all.
After dinner we were compelled to return to The Crew, and ended up playing 21 games when all was said and done (only 12 successes though). The Crew is a dead simple game and one that I will introduce to my family as I know they’ll love it.
Once we exhausted ourselves on The Crew, we switched to an older favourite, Vikings by Michael Kiesling. We followed that up with the fascinating bidding game Q. E. by Gavin Birnbaum where players can bid anything to win, but the player who spends the most money is eliminated. In this particular game, the first bid began at $150, and bids quickly swelled up to $7,000 and beyond.
At this point Bear called it a night. The rest of us played another crowd pleaser, Azul, also by Michael Kiesling. This one ended with a sour taste in my mouth as on the last round Bigfoot drafted the final tile I needed to complete a colour and row. He couldn’t even use that tile, it went directly into his negative points pile! The betrayal! The audacity! In the end it wouldn’t have even mattered, his score eclipsed mine by nearly 20.
Finally for the day was Project L by Michal Mikeš, Jan Soukal and Adam Spanel. You can read more about my thoughts of Project L here, as my opinion still hasn’t changed. It’s a satisfying engine building puzzle that charms most people who get their hands on the fun little pieces.
Sunday morning was full of wind and rain. Another breakfast of eggs and sausage while cleaning the cabin. With coffee brewed, bellies full and the cabin clean, we had 2 hours to spare before check-out. We played another 6 episodes of My City while discussing what highs and lows we experienced over the weekend.
This was our first time participating in an extended gaming marathon. The most we had done in the past was ‘game days’, gathering at someone’s home in the mid morning and staying into the evening. I really enjoyed gathering together at a cabin, as that level of separation left us each dedicated to the weekend. We weren’t thinking about the chores around the house that we weren’t getting done, or any major interruptions, nor did anyone have to drive to go home, leaving each person to drink as much or as little as they wanted with no repercussions.
I really love food, which shows in that I wasn’t willing to skip breakfasts, or even skimp on them. I enjoyed having a full breakfast each morning. Bear and I are both ex-cooks and were more than happy to prepare all the food while Otter and Bigfoot did the vast majority of the dishes. I don’t know how much they valued the home cooked meal, or if we could have just ordered pizza every night, but the food brought me joy. There was also no end to snacks; charcuterie, chips, candy, chocolates, muffins, you name it. We feasted like kings.
While the temptation for me was to use Cabin-Con to play as much of a legacy game as possible, or dedicate several hours to experiencing grandiose games, I concede that the most fun experiences were the parts where we played multiple games (most of which we already knew how to play) in quick succession.
Next time, I would demand that all games coming to Cabin-Con at the VERY LEAST need to be unshrinkwrapped and punched. I would probably even prioritize learning how to play the games ahead of time, even if only to ease the mental load of learning so many games in such a short amount of time.
This is not gonna happen next year
I recognize that I’m particularly blessed to have a game group that’s comfortable enough to dedicate an entire weekend to go to a cabin and play board games, and that we all have partners who respect our hobbies to let us disappear for days (this is especially true for the two of us that have children who are under a year old).
I look forward to doing Cabin-Con again, and I appreciate that it reminded me that sometimes the most fun isn’t always found in the biggest experiences, but the four 30 minute games that are tried and true. I’ll do my best to remember that from now on.