What I Learned at KhanCon 2015

KhanCon was a mixed bag this year. The few of us that were there enjoyed ourselves, but in general there are a few things that can be gleaned from this experience:

1. Heat Kills

The weather in Van Nuys was steady around 108F degrees. Super miserable. Even inside the A/C could only get the temp down to around 82F. This killed any chance of getting multiple tables running outside. The heat sucks the energy out of everyone, and nobody wants to leave the comfort of standing with their face in their freezer to go play a 5 hour game of Eclipse in 108 degree weather.

2. No Poster, No Event

I didn’t make a poster this year. Clearly that was the first indication of impending doom. Next year, logo T-shirts and underwear for everyone. Also pogs. Where can I get pogs printed up?

3. Never plan on specific games

Nobody likes Dune as much as I do. Nor will they ever. But if you keep an open mind, things like Omega Virus surprise the shit out of you and fall in at the perfect time.

4. Eat the pizza

I made several pizzas but I forgot to grab a slice of the first Hawaiian that came out of the oven. BIG MISTAKE. It was apparently delicious. I’m still craving Hawaiian.

What did we get around to playing? The one big surprise was Omega Virus.

Gio is concerned. Cody C is scheming. He IS the virus.
Gio is concerned. Cody C is scheming. He IS the virus.

Cody C brought it over kind of as a joke, but we ended up playing it twice. It’s quick and easy on the brain but it was a pretty fun warm-up game. The premise if fairly simple; you’re exploring rooms attempting to locate the virus while also picking up all the gear you need to destroy said virus.

PvP combat via entering codes into the computer. SICK.
PvP combat via entering codes into the computer. SICK.

What makes the game most interesting is that when you DO locate the virus, it won’t be obvious to any of the other players since the game communicates in codes and only when you hear the secret code that you input at the beginning of the game do you know that the virus has been found. Very cool little idea for an older Milton Bradley game. Now don’t get me wrong, this would never get mistaken as a potential Spiel des Jahres winner, but it’s entertaining and it’s fun to attach little plastic accessories to your figure’s little backpack.

Also played: Agricola.

Farming tends to dry out your skin.
Farming tends to dry out your skin.

Gio has been wanting to try this game for years so he was of course down to play. Cody C was, shall we say, concerned about playing a game about farming. A few turns in and he was invested and interested. They both enjoyed and would play again. This game is still a surprise to me, just in that I’m surprised I can enjoy a game so much that is really just a multiplayer-solitaire game. I usually HATE games like that. The only real interaction in this game is stealing the worker placement spots on the board, but it’s still fun to try to get some sort of little engine running. The two keys that make this game work for me though, the short number of turns and the diversity required for max scoring. Both of these elements are constantly working against each other and force you to make some tough decisions. I can see why the game would become even more difficult if there were PvP actions on top of that messing up your farmland.

We had to move back indoors to play Trains. This one is basically just a deckbuilder with a board. A lot of people complain that the board is an ignorable add-on, but I enjoy it and haven’t seen anyone legitimately compete without making a presence on the board itself.

Dominion is still better apparently. Says Gio. Every 10 minutes.
Dominion is still better apparently. Says Gio. Every 10 minutes.

Gio liked it I think, but he’s been pushing Dominion on me for years. I still refuse to play, really for no reason other than because he wants me to try it. Trains is an OK game. I like it and I’m glad it has a board to add another layer to the gameplay. I’m really just so-so on deckbuilding as the sole mechanic in a game. I like the mechanic, but it feels to me like it needs to be a part of a larger system a la Mage Knight or StarCraft or even something simple like Blood Bowl Team Manager where at least deckbuilding is paired with another mechanic.

We also got some Ascending Empires going, and Cody C shot footage of every single flick and compiled it into a very entertaining video. I recommend it. The game itself is normally a favorite of everyone who plays, but this play, man I don’t know. What did we do wrong? It was awful. The game dragged on for so long that we on multiple occasions asked around the table if we should just call it. I still like the game, but if I have another experience like the near 3-hour affair we had last time then this game might have to go.

Ram assesses the beer's influence on his reflexes, thinks carefully, and still blows it.
Ram assesses the beer’s influence on his reflexes, thinks carefully, and still blows it.

We also were able to get Zpocalypse to the table. I apparently didn’t get any pictures of this one, but I enjoyed the game well enough. The structure of the game was a little confusing at first, with the day phase where you collect items and prepare for the night phase which ends up feeling like a tower defense game. I guess that’s how all zombie stories go these days, and that’s probably why zombies are BORING but the game was fine to me. There were a couple other guys who were less than impressed, but I’d probably give the game one more shot before making a real judgement one way or the other.