KitschCon 2.0 — The Kitschening

Earlier this week, thanks to friends Carl Gannon (TheBuckeyeGamer) and Scott Bolderson (ScooterB23), and FLGS Beyond the Board in Dublin, OH, I was able to attend KitschCon 2.0: A celebration of all things “cult of the old.”

Started by Gannon (the gamer, not the Zelda antagonist), KitschCon is held annually the weekend(ish) after GenCon. As Carl stated during our session, “after a big con, people are playing the all the hot new games; I wanted something to highlight the older, quirkier titles in [peoples’] collections.” And, judging my the seven games I was able to play at this little mini-convention, I think his goal was accomplished: The average release date of everything I played was 1986, with the oldest being published in 1971 and the ‘newest’ dropping in 2003. That said, I hope you enjoy my recap of the titles I played, what I thought of them, and the pictures I was able to snap.

The Force is strong with this one…

#1. Star Wars: Epic Duel (published in 2002)
Our inaugural game of the convention was this card driven miniatures game from Hasbro/Mattell and designed by Rob Daviau. To be more specific, each player will control a primary character from the Star Wars universe and ~1 to 2 secondary characters. On a turn, each player will roll a die that dictates how their characters can move, then take 2 actions (ex: attack, draw, heal, etc.). To win, you must knock your opponent’s primary character down to zero health.

For thematic accuracy, I chose Darth Maul (and 2 bots) while Carl chose Obi-Wan Kenobi. From the start of the game, I thought Carl would overwhelm me, as I couldn’t draw any cards that corresponded to my droids, making them sitting ducks for Carl’s attacks (In SW:ED, you can only attack/defend with a character by using card with said character’s picture). Once Darth Maul was cornered into a 3:1 scenario, something primal and visceral clicked inside him. As the game went on, I was able to draw attack cards for Maul that didn’t count as actions; using this ‘loophole’ I was able to bait out Carl’s defense cards with my free attacks, then hammer down with higher attacks once his hand was depleted. Making things even more perfect, Scott queued up “Duel of the Fates once things were down to a 1:1 encounter.

#2. Crossfire (original version published in 1971)
You’ll get caught up in the… ♪ Crossfire… CROSS-FI-RE!!

As a child of the 80s, I think this game’s commercial has a permanent and indelible place in my memory. For those of you NOT fortunate enough to grow up with this game around, Crossfire is an intense game where two players rapidly shoot balls from plastic guns mounted at each end of the game board in the hopes of knocking one of two “pucks” into the opponent’s trough before they can do the same.

What I found, after six or so games of this thing, is that I’m REALLY good at Crossfire (I jokingly said that my rural upbringing made me good with guns, despite my IRL aversion to them); by this I mean I never lost a game of Crossfire during the con, including a four-second victory in my second game.

Interesting game, still don’t know who shot J.R.

#3.) King Oil (published in 1974)
Next up was a cutthroat game of oil drilling. IN King Oil, players lay claim to a plot of land on the game board (which has been pre-seeded via the use of 3 gears underneath the main board). On a turn, players will draw a card that dictates how much money you get for each of your derricks, how many new holes you can drill, and if you can buy property or not. To drill — and this is the best part of the game — you stick a metal, pin-type… thing…into the hole on your property, at which point the interior will either fail to raise (meaning no oil in that spot) or increase to red/yellow/blue which denotes how much oil was struck and subsequently how much you owe the bank for drilling in that area. To win, you run all your opponents out of money.

In our game, we were running neck and neck until yours truly got a decent nest egg and decided to drop a pipeline into Scott’s territory. On the bright side, the pipeline forced Scott to give me $1000 per derrick at the start of his turn. On the down side, pipelines cost $25,000 to build. This overly greedy move ended up shooting me in the foot, as I hit a streak of dry wells soon thereafter and started hemorrhaging funds. I even had to sell my other plot of land to Carl to stay afloat, which was even more of a kick in the jewels when the land Carl purchased from me produced SEVEN!!! fruitful oil wells.

#4. {This Game is} BONKERS! (Originally published in 1978)
I think this crazy, frenetic, roll-and-move game was my favorite of the con. Essentially, Bonkers is a crazy race around a track with a quickly developing puzzle about how to land in JUST the right spot in order to score a point (with the winner being the first to twelve points).

Our game saw us going into ‘gamer mode’ and figuring out the permutations for almost every spot on the board, meaning that our ridiculous “forward 10+back 5+ahead 1+ahead 7+back 3+ahead 12” loop put us on the same spot as the comparatively simple “move to nearest score space” marker.

On the downside, each player also gets a “lose” card they can play on an opponent which essentially stops the opponent’s turn immediately and makes them lose a point. What this leads to are sort of Munchkin-esque scenarios where a player will get one away from victory, at which point they will get knocked down a (literal) peg; lather/rinse/repeat until all players are out of “lose cards” and the game is essentially reset with each player at 10, trying to score 2 points. This flaw should aggravate me, but Bonkers is just so stupidly crazy in the best possible ways that it doesn’t matter much.

#5. The Bugs Bunny Game (published in 1974)
After a quick reprieve for some food (Mmm, wings) and the rubber bands needed to play the next game on our list, we decided it was Wabbit Season and got the Bugs Bunny Game to the table. Scott initially described this game as “the precursor to Crossfire,” which seemed pretty accurate until I looked up the publication dates of the two games.

This one is probably the most simplistic of the bunch: you pull back an Elmer Fudd shaped lever, then release it to launch a marble at a Bugs Bunny figurine (either yellow or red). With any luck, you’ll hit the figurine enough times (read: about 3x on average) to knock it through the hole at the end of the board and into the awaiting basket; and that’s… really the entirety of the game. In all the games in which I participated and spectated, I don’t think I ever saw it take more than four flicks to get Bugs through the hole.

Still better than the Browns…

#6. Battleball (Published in 2003)
Vittles consumed and lapine amusement out of the way, we turned out focus to the gridiron and another Hasbro/Milton Bradley title. While “Battleball” looked a lot like something akin to Guildball or Blood Bowl, it did have its own charm.

Battleball pits 11 players on each side of the ball with movement being controlled by dice of varying sizes: anywhere from a D20 for Safeties/Halfbacks to D6 for the lumbering Linemen. Gameplay is more like rugby than American Football; however, as players are racing to obtain the ball at midfield, then frenetically maneuvering around the board trying to avoid being tackled (scrums being done via dice roll, with the lower number winning the confrontation and the loser being removed from the board for the half).

Despite losing 2–0 (the equivalent of 14–0 in football terms), the game between Carl and I was closer than I would have anticipated: first half action turned into a battle of attrition, with C pulling a grotesque Hail Mary out of his @$$ right inside the red zone when both of us had succumbed to injuries and were down to just two team members apiece. In the second half, the dice turned belligerent against me (as in, I lost THREE die rolls by a single point), allowing Carl’s Halfback to turn the corner and BARELY eek into the end zone by way of an 18 on a d20.

Though this game looks like it will simply be miniatures mindlessly smashing into each other, there was actually a surprising amount of tactical maneuvering throughout the game. Sure there’s ample amounts of luck (it is a dice based movement+combat system after all), but the initial “kickoff” setup has near-infinite set up possibilities to help mitigate your rolls to the point that I’d definitely like to play this one a few more times to see how various strategies play out (e.g. Triangle Wedge, Lining everything up on one side of the field, etc.)

Protect the Doggo!!

#7. Fearsome Floors (Published in 2003)
Rounding out the afternoon was this “Get out of this creepy building before a bubble gum bodied zombie wearing combat boots eats you” title by Friedemann Friese.

Frankly, Friese’s titles have been hit (Power Grid, Fabled Fruit, Friday, Copycat) and miss (Fuji Flush, 504) with me. Unfortunately, Fearsome Floors fell further on the “miss” side of things. I liked the movement system, where disks have an aggregate total of ‘7,’ meaning a piece that moves six spaces this turn will only be able to move one next turn. Likewise, the blood slides were a cool, albeit macabre, way to affect positioning.

All these things, though, were overshadowed by something that is quickly becoming a new pet-peeve in gaming: If your game has an NPC-like monster that moves in any sort of way, make sure that said movement system is easily grokked by players. There doesn’t need to be a multi-tiered, if/then decision tree to run through during an otherwise simplistic game. There were multiple turns where I would have done things a lot differently had I fully understood what the zombie guy was going to do.

Finally, there were two “auto kill” cards in the deck that gave off a “no matter how clever you think you positioned your characters, someone is going to die (multiple someones in certain cases).

Overall, I had a really enjoyable time; it was really interesting to see how design progressed from luck based systems (King Oil) to more strategic ones (Fearsome Floors) as time progressed. My only regret was not being able to contribute any “Kitsch” titles of my own, but there’s always next year.

One clap, two clap, three clap, forty?

By clapping more or less, you can signal to us which stories really stand out.