Hovel Con 2020 Wrap Up

Given that this was all a lark, it was remarkably successful and pretty fun (Camp Pinetop frustration aside). We played 6 unique games (5 of which we had never played before) for a total of 12 different plays. We dedicated a lot of time to each other and to playing games, and we definitely played way more than we do in the typical month, and sometimes over a couple of months. I think I might have a natural tolerance level, as I was getting kind of fatigued by the 29th. But I’m glad we did this, and depending on the convention situation in 2021, or perhaps regardless of it, I think it’s something we’ll think about doing again. It was a great opportunity to make a concerted effort to learn new games, and because we didn’t really have any other obligations any of the days, learning even a couple new games in a day seemed manageable, which often isn’t the case during a regular weekend.

M’s thoughts: Well, the first annual Hovel Con has come to an end, at least for us. The event was full of thrills and joys that made it a success beyond our wildest fantasies and allowed us to live out our dream. And for that, we thank America, other countries, and, most importantly, a pandemic for keeping us holed up. We did it for you, baby!

May the spirit of Hovel Con live on throughout the year!

Petra’s Hovel Con Top 3:
1. Wingspan
2. Parks
3. Camp Pinetop

M’s Hovel Con Top 3:
1. Babel
2. Godzilla – Tokyo Clash
3. Wingspan

Camp Pinetop (Talon Strikes Studios, 2020)

Date played: November 29, 2020

Basic details: 1-5 players; 60 minutes; competitive; solo mode included

Gist of the game: You are the leader of a troop of woodland creature campers who are exploring the great outdoors. Over the course of the game, players will collect patches and advance their ranks. The first player to reach the highest rank ends.

To begin the game, each player receives 4 campers, 4 mastery discs, 1 rank token, and a player board in their chosen color, as well as 12 achievement patch tokens. Players place their rank token on the Possum area of their player board (the lowest rank).

Map tiles are divided by color and a number of cards of each color, based on the number of players, are chosen and shuffled into a deck. The deck is then laid out as a 3×4 or 4×4 grid, depending on the number of players.

The mastery cards are shuffled and 4 are revealed and placed, 2 on either side of the map grid. Remaining mastery cards will not be used during the game.

Supply cards are shuffled and dealt. In a 2 player game, the first player receives 5 cards and the second player receives 6. The remaining supply cards are placed by the map grid and 2 supply cards are drawn and placed on either side of the supply deck.

In turn order, each player places one of their camper meeples on a map card. If a player places their camper on an occupied card, that player must give the player already on that map card a supply card of their choice.

On their turn, players may perform 1 of 4 possible actions: a) draw 2 supply cards from the deck, the face up cards, or a combination of both. Only one of the face-up cards can be a wild card. If at least 3 of the face-up cards have the same symbol at the start of their turn, a player may discard the 3 matching cards and replace them from the deck. The player’s hand size is determined by their scouting rank, and they may not exceed that hand limit at the end of their turn (but may have more than that number during the course of their turn). Until they receive a particular achievement patch, face-up cards must be drawn from the same side of the deck. b) draw one card and move one camper to a new location orthogonally adjacent to their current location. If they take a face-up card, it cannot be a wild card. If a player moves to a map card that is occupied, they must pay a supply card of their choice to the other player(s). c) gain an achievement patch. To do so, players move their camper to a new map card, causing them to cross over a patch on their way to the new tile. That patch is the one that the player gains after paying the supply cost. Once the player pays the supply cost, they place the achievement patch token on the right side of their player board. The player gains the power listed on the achievement patch (some have an immediate effect, others last for the remainder of the game). d) place an additional camper on the map by discarding a pair of supply cards with the same tent color. The tent color determines what map cards the camper is eligible to be played on.

To advance in ranks, players must meet the requirements for the number and type of achievements they must have. There are 3 possible combinations for each rank, but a player only needs to meet the requirements of 1 combination to advance. Once a player has the required achievements in their possession, they must immediately advance their rank on the player board. For the final 3 ranks, players will have to upgrade achievement patches to the advanced level by either meeting requirements for that patch again or by completing a mastery card.

During a player’s turn, if they meet the requirements for the mastery card, they earn or upgrade one of the achievements specified on the card. A player may only accomplish each mastery card once.

The game ends immediately when a player achieves the highest rank.

Color commentary: This game has surprising depth given the theme and artwork (cutely woodland creatures being cutesy). M in particular suffered a considerable degree of analysis paralysis on each turn. Wingspan might have caused him less anguish than this game did. M graciously let me win the first game, which we didn’t count toward our official tally, by not moving my campers from their current spot when he unlocked a badge. I had things set up to advance 2 ranks in 1 turn by taking 2 specific turns. I had gotten my upgrades out of the way early that game. In future games, I focused on diamond achievements, which were the most costly, but basically let you use any card as wild for a particular supply, and when upgraded, made cards cost 1 less of a particular supply. Doing this let me get more achievements faster, and also let me get my upgrades taken care of. There’s also room for a lot of variety here in terms of having 12 different map cards for each color, but only using 3 at a time. There are 12 mastery cards, but only a few of them seem especially useful for our strategies, as many of them require having multiple campers on the board and having those multiple campers be on the same map card. Using just one camper worked fine for me for most of the games we played.

Thoughts from M: This game has great artwork, and is a lot of fun. Advancing slowly through the ranks for most of the game seems advantageous because you can keep a higher hand limit. Moreover, because of needing upgraded achievements, only the second rank, Skunk, is especially hard to avoid, because for Skunk you only need 2 of any type of patch. I’m not sure if it makes sense to focus on one winning condition or wait a while to leave yourself more flexibility and openings, since there are 3 possible ways to advance to each rank. This game was a bit of a brain burner, and while I really enjoyed it, it was very frustrating as the more effort I put into coming up with a winning strategy, the worse I did. It became comical by the end.

Petra’s rating: 8/10
M’s rating: 5/10

Godzilla – Tokyo Clash (Funko Games, 2020)

Date played: November 28, 2020

Basic details: 2-4 players; 45 minutes; competitive

Gist of the game: You are a kaiju, battling other kaiju to be Japan’s foremost monster. (M here: Godzilla is always the foremost monster and if this game does not end in that result, it merely reflects the fantasy nature of board games.) You destroy buildings and vehicles to gain energy and use that energy to attack other kaiju. You can throw trains, battleships, tanks, and even other monsters at your opponents. Eventually, the humans will deploy the oxygen destroyed (as they’re wont to do), ending the game. The most dominant monster wins.

To set up, the center tile is placed in the middle of the play area. Other tiles are randomly selected and then configured according to the number of players. For 2 player games, 6 additional tiles are used, with players 1 and 2 starting on opposite sides of the city.

Next, buildings are placed in designated spots on the board. The damage track is placed within reach of all players, and the oxygen destroyer is placed on the start space of the damage track. Two event cards are selected and placed in spaces at the top and bottom of the damage track. The setup instructions for each event (in terms of what vehicles to place) are carried out. Buildings and vehicles provide players with additional energy when they are destroyed.

Players choose their kaiju and place them in their starting position. Players place their kaiju mat in from of them and place an energy cube on the 2 space of the energy track. Players shuffle their kaiju deck and place them face down to the left of their kaiju mat and draw a hand of 5 cards.

The game is played across rounds. Each round has 4 phases: a) the oxygen destroyer phase (only begins in the second round); b) action phase; c) refresh phase; and d) event phase.

In the oxygen destroyer phase, the oxygen destroyer is moved one circle along the damage track.

In the action phase, players take turns using actions until all players pass consecutively. A player may play a kaiju card by paying its energy cost. Players do so by moving their energy tracker down the energy track by the cost of the card. Players cannot play cards if they cannot pay the energy cost. Once played, players resolve all the card’s effects and then discard it. Each card indicates the energy cost, the card’s power (move, attack, or defend), the card’s effects, and the dominance value. To use a card to attack, a player’s monster must be in the same space as the attackee or within the appropriate ranged distance for a ranged attack.

If using a target to carry out the attack, players then choose which one they will use. After choosing a target, the player decides whether to throw or damage it. Vehicles can only be thrown. Ranged attacks only deal damage and cannot target vehicles or buildings, only other kaiju. When throwing a target, the attack value is also the maximum distance the object can be thrown. Targets must be thrown in a straight line. When throwing a vehicle, players choose a space within the range for the vehicle to land and destroy the vehicle and a small building, large building, or another vehicle in the space where the target will land. If another monster is in range, the player may throw the vehicle at the kaiju to deal 1 damage and destroy the vehicle. When throwing a kaiju, players move the thrown kaiju in a straight line up to the maximum distance until it hits a large building or another kaiju. Players then also destroy up to one small building or vehicle in each space the thrown kaiju moves through. If the thrown monster ends in a space with a large building, the building is destroyed. If the kaiju lands in a space with another monster, both receive 1 damage.

When destroying buildings and vehicles, players gain the benefits shown on the underside of the building or vehicle. Large buildings are more valuable and are removed from play for the rest of the game. Large buildings can provide players with: a) 4 energy; b) 2 energy + 1 card; c) 2 energy + a discarded card placed on the top of their kaiju deck; or d) 2 energy and a peek at any one opponent’s top card of their kaiju deck. Destroyed small buildings go on the damage track. Vehicles and lighting generators are moved off the board, but may re-enter play during an event phase.

To deal damage to a monster, the other player can choose to defend using a card in their hand. If the attack value is less than or equal to the defense value, nothing happens. If the attack value is greater, the player wins the attack. The defense value is subtracted from the attack value and the attacking player takes a number of cards equal to the difference from the target’s kaiju deck. The card with the highest dominance value is taken as a trophy and placed face down in the trophy pile. The remaining cards are discarded in the opponent’s discard pile. If all drawn cards have a dominance value of 0, no trophy is taken. After dealing, any other attack card effects are resolved. After attack card effects are resolved, defense card effects are resolved.

To use a discard action, players discard a kaiju card and apply one of the effects from the kaiju mat.

Players can also decline to attack or discard, passing intsead.

After all players have consecutively passed, players can discard or keep any cards in their hands before drawing up to a hand of 5. The player with the King of Monsters card (the player who was the first player in the round or who attacked the previous King of Monsters) draws a hand of 6 cards. Any special kaiju abilities or enhancements can also be activated in this phase.

In the event phase, both event cards are activated in their assigned order. Usually, vehicles still on the board are moved or new vehicles are placed on the board.

After the event phase, players check to see if the game has ended. If the oxygen destroyer marker and the small building tokens have passed each other, the game ends. If the oxygen destroyer has not passed, or is adjacent to a small building token, a new round begins.

If the game ends, each player tallies the value of their trophies. The player with the King of Monsters token gains an extra 2 points. The player with the most points wins.

Color commentary: The small kaiju figurines are pretty neat, and I think the oxygen destroyer mechanic is pretty neat — the humans will tolerate some level of destruction, but won’t abide by having the entire city completely destroyed before trying to bring an end to the monsters. At least with 2 players, the only real interaction was by using attack cards and throwing vehicles at each other. No occasion really arose to throw one another’s kaijus. The multiple event cards and tile layouts allow for differentiation and randomness between games, which will help keep it fresh across plays. In general, though, I thought the premise was more interesting than the actual execution, but the idea of throwing vehicles and other monsters and destroying buildings and such is a fun one.

Thoughts from M: This game has all the chaos and fun of a good Godzilla movie. Unfortunately, I have no idea what a good strategy is. Some vehicles, especially tanks, can sap your energy if they end up in your tile or adjacent to your tile, so perhaps focusing on destroying those would be helpful, although they would also get replaced later in the game once there are a sufficiently low number of them currently on the board. Actually attacking your opponent doesn’t seem very efficient, and requires quite a bit of energy. So you need to constantly be destroying things to gain energy to try to attack your foe, which thematically makes sense, I suppose, but does limit the meaningfulness of the interactions in what is at least in part designed to be a combat game. Still: there’s a Godzilla miniature, and the game very accurately captures the flavor of the real Godzilla et al. franchise.

Petra’s rating: 4/10
M’s rating: 7/10