Last year, my game group and I booked off an extra long weekend and congregated at a beautiful ocean side cabin. We then proceeded to shut ourselves inside for the entire weekend and gorged ourselves on board games.
The impetus of Cabin-Con 2021 was we felt like we had a backlog of big games that we couldn’t reasonably play during our weekly Wednesday gaming sessions. Add into that the Legacy games we want to play, but don’t prioritize over new experiences or old favourites, we figured setting aside a whole weekend would give us ample opportunity to tackle this backlog
Last year the big events were playing through 4 games of Clank! Legacy in a row, unboxing, learning and playing an Anachrony Infinity Pledge (which took us from 8pm to 2am), and playing through Oath for the first time (a brutal 5 hour experience).
While the inspiration of Cabin-Con was to play these bigger games, we all agreed that the most fun part of the con for us were the periods where we just played several small games in a row. No big commitments, games we already knew how to play and enjoyed. One evening saw us play The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine, Vikings, QE, Azul, and Project L, and we had an absolute blast.
Armed this this knowledge, this year we’ve decided to parcel out 4x 4 hour chunks on Saturday and Sunday and assign each chunk to a person. That person gets to pick all the games we’ll play during that period of time, then, in the after dinner portion of the evening, we’d just have easy, breezy open gaming, driven by group consensus.
Day 1 of Cabin-con had the group congregate at my house in the early afternoon, as we didn’t even get access to the cabin until 4pm. Now, you might ask yourself, why rent a cabin for the weekend if we all live close to each other? The answer is really that doing so gets all of us away from our daily responsibilities and allows us to really commit our time to the weekend. In theory we could all just gather at one of our houses but none of us have enough spare beds, and the separation from our daily lives is important for rest and relaxation.
Pandemic: The Cure
I’ve gone on and on about the Pandemic games. I reviewed vanilla Pandemic back in May when I actually caught COVID, and I reviewed Pandemic: Fall of Rome just a few weeks ago when I fell under the weather. Pandemic: the Cure is the dice game version of the Pandemic formula. This one is more abstracted than other entries in the series. Each of the (livable) continents is represented by a disc with a transparent dice pip. Die of various colours are rolled and placed onto each of the discs. These d6 don’t have the regular distribution of pips on them, the Red dice have two 6 sides, two 1 sides, and 1 4 side. The yellow, blue, and black die all have various die faces that make it more likely for them to appear on different continents.
The flow of the game is to have players travel to various continents, treat the diseases, which moves them from the continent disc into the centre ring, and then either take samples (which tie up your dice until you discover a cure), or, treat them from that centre ring back into the general supply.
Each character in Pandemic: The Cure have their own dice pools to roll as well. My character, the Contingency Planner allowed me to move dice from a continent onto the CDC board, which is how you pay for the event cards in the game. To win, you need to collect samples of the diseases, then after your turn, roll the disease samples you’ve collected and meet or exceed 13. Once a disease is cured, it’s much easier to treat, and players win the game once all 4 diseases are cured.
I haven’t played Pandemic: The Cure for years. My partner and I used to play Pandemic all the time, and this was a great way to vary the gameplay before the Survivor series had been announced. This version of the game is lighter, easier, and more prone to luck. Like every good game of Pandemic, you’ll be cruising along treating diseases, thinking all is fine in the world then WHAM all of a sudden cascading outbreaks are ravaging Asia, and Blue illness that has been slowly building on Sourth America is spilling over into the North America, and the situation is dire.
The big wrinkle in the game is that you can re-roll your action dice as many times as you want, until you use them. However, one of the die faces has a bio-hazard symbol which will advance the infection rate, and when you cross specific thresholds on the infection rate track, you’ll re-roll all the diseases that happen to be in the treatment area, and add in more cubes. things can spiral out of control incredibly quickly.
Speaking of quickly, this game is also extremely quick. With some luck you can have your first cure within a few turns. In the same breath, pulling 4 blue cubes and rolling all 6’s can cause cascading failures that will haunt your dreams.
I should return to Pandemic: The Cure soon for a deeper look. I enjoyed the experience quite a bit.
After the world succumbed to various virus outbreaks, we decided that instead of being health care professionals, we’d do better building our own Bear Parks. Barenpark is a polyomino tile placement game by Phil Walker-Harding. In Barenpark, you place tiles on your board, cover icons that give you more tiles, and proceed until someone has filled in their entire board. There are various scoring objectives, like having 3 or more pandas in your park, that decrease in value as people achieve it.
I love Barenpark, but something has changed. I’m suddenly very bad at this game. I don’t know what I’ve done, but as the end of the game approaches, I seem to have 8 1 or 2 square holes all over my park that I then need to laboriously take tiles and cover up. I think the short term goals overtake my long-term strategy just a bit too easily.
After Barenpark we packed up and migrated from my house to our Cabin. We unloaded, claimed beds, then promptly started playing games again, starting with Arboretum by Dan Cassar. I reviewed over a year ago, so you can check out that post if you want my full thoughts on the game. In this specific game I was allowed to collect every Maple tree, so I just, put them in a line! That single species scored me 17 points, which alone beat everyone else at the table.
It’s fun playing Arboretum and seeing the player to your left discard a card that you want desperately. They say “Don’t let him get this one!” But every other player prioritizes achieving their own goals over preventing other players from getting what they need. It’s a delicate balance, ensuring you’re doing whats right for your board, but not allowing other players to just run away with the game.
Sagrada was one of the first reviews I ever published on this site, and it still holds up to this day. In Sagrada players take turns rolling and placing die into their window grids, taking care to adhere to the die placement restrictions printed on their player mat, and following the sudoku-esque rules of not having of the same number or colour adjacent to one another.
In this game, I managed to complete my board, and I had a decent score from my secret objective, but I failed at getting the same colours in each of the rows. I ended up last with a score of 50 points.
Beyond the Sun
After dinner and a campfire, we launched into our first big game of the con. Beyond the Sun by Dennis K. Chan is a worker placement space civilization game in which the players are collectively discovering technologies and progressing the lengths of human knowledge during the spacefaring future. That may sound like a co-op game, but you’d be deceived! Beyond the Sun uses a a tech-tree to unlock worker placement actions, forcing players to research the prerequisite technologies before gaining access to the later abilities.
In addition to researching techs, there’s a sideboard where players are launching ships in an effort to control and colonize various planets. The challenge becomes holding onto control of the planet for a whole turn you can then take the colonization action! Our game saw a LOT of action on this board, each of the colonies were hotly contested. I tried my best to assert my dominance, but failed to research any of the final level technologies. The game ended with me narrowly missing the victory, 64 points to Bigfoot’s 66.
I really enjoyed Beyond the Sun. The variability is quite good with a wide variety of techs available, and the tech tree will build out different each time. This was only my second physical play, but it’s growing on me fast. I suspect it’ll debut in my top 100 the next time I redo that list.
I once called this “The best game I never played”, on the account that I played it a bunch on digital platforms. I’ve finally put my hands on a physical copy of the game, and continued to have a blast. I’m a little sad that my artistic skills leave quite a bit to be desired, but the gameplay is still fast, fun, and satisfying.
I actually like having the monsters in the deck, that little bit of engagement with my neighbours is just enough to make this exciting, and throwing a wrench in my plans makes for a more interesting game in my opinion. I do want to seek out the expansions to this game, as I find myself wanting more monsters, more goals, and more shapes to play with. I don’t want to change the formula, I just want more of it!
To end the day, we played Karuba by Rudiger Dorn. Karuba starts by giving everyone the exact same puzzle and the same tools to solve the puzzle. The winner will be the player who can best utilize their tools to solve the puzzle.
One player pulls a tile randomly and announces it to the table. The other players find the same tile, and all players place the tiles on the board, trying to create paths to lead their adventureres to their designated temples, or discard the tile to move their adventurers along the paths they’ve created. The first player to get an adventurer to their temple earns 5 points, and everyone else who manages to do so after that gets diminishing returns. The game ends when someone has gotten all 4 of their adventurers into their temples, or, the stack of tiles runs out.
This is another game that we played a bunch during our COVID isolations. We played on Tabletop Simulator for a little over a year, and the scripted mod was so fast and easy to play that it became our go-to selection.
We played Karuba twice, I won the first game, and Bigfoot claimed victory over the second one. I tried to ignore a temple and instead placed a bunch of the gem paths along a single line, but I wasn’t able to collect enough points to win the second game. Sometimes I like trying out strategies that seem counter-intuitive to the spirit of the game, just to see if they’ll work!
Awesome report. My group just had a weekend away too. Its the best way to relax and game.
Thanks for reading! It was an amazing weekend and I’m looking forward to next year already!