Cuimbra – Porto Sat March 24

Woke up at 7 am from freezing. No summer in Portugal yet. Turned on the heater and tried to fall asleep again. Got a message at 8 am from Vasco: “Tell me your address and

Woke up at 7 am from freezing. No summer in Portugal yet. Turned on the heater and tried to fall asleep again.

Got a message at 8 am from Vasco: “Tell me your address and see you there at 10 o´clock”. I got up and found all my clothes still wet from yesterday´s hot bath. I alternatively hung them on the heater and on the curtain rod and moved them around while listening to the English TV-Channel that every half hour repeated a story about EU´s 50th anniversary, each time with a new country report: such as “Italy was a poor country after the War. But today everyone has a car.”

At 10 am I stood outside the hotel looking for a small silver Peugot. I flashed a cardboard saying “Porto” just to start off my friendship with Vasco and the guys with a little haha. An old man came to tell me that I couldn´t hitchhike to Porto on a small side-street in the middle of the goddamn city. The hotel owner came out and tried to tell me the same thing and my Portuguese was not enough to explain that I was just waiting for friends so he had to leave me shaking his head thinking I was an idiot but it´s OK.

After 20 minutes Vasco and the guys came and I squeezed into the car and we went on the highway to the North. It´s easy to get along with boardgamegeeks; the strategy is to talk about games. One of them told the story about when he was playing 4-player-chess and beat two of the players and got their chess armies but nevertheless lost to the fourth player. As we spoke it turned out that I hadn´t played many board games compared to these guys. They were serious; when we parked in Porto and opened the trunk they revealed tons of board games ingeniously stored with gameboards here, cards here and playing pieces there, so that 20-30 games could fit in a few boxes. We found our hotel and after I’d hung my still-wet clothes in my luxurious bathroom, we drove to Portugal´s first national board game convention.

Posters in the entrance advertised “World premier” for “Kanji Conquest!”. I changed the name of my game to “Seigo” long time ago, and I had already played it in public in Uppsala, Linköping, Heidelberg and Paris. But I still got mighty proud from the posters, it was like I was the main event. People were already sitting around playing and I nervously took a table and started setting up my game. A journalist and a photographer from the main Porto newspaper came and took photos and interviewed me. I was a bit taken by surprise, but told how the game worked and how I got the idea and so on and they took pictures of me.

The convention took place in a restaurant/game center called “XXL”, a veritable dream for adult children with it´s mass of board games, computers and racing tracks. The place filled up with people and I managed to get Ricardo and Filippe to play the game. After an hour we stopped for lunch and everyone walked to a nearby restaurant where we got a very special Porto dish; a sandwich consisting of layers and layers and layers of different kinds of meat with a tiny piece of bread on top, drenched in melted cheese, topped by a fried egg and swimming in a not-so-spicy tomato sauce. I managed to eat it all, although it took some effort.

Pedro, the main organizer of the whole event, sat next to me. He asked if I had a big board game collection. He told me that he once used to drink everything that was called coffee, but ever since he learned about coffee from an expert, he could only drink high quality coffee. He said that in this restaurant they served an Italian brand with a burnt taste; he preferred Portuguese aromatic. He hadn´t arranged this convention to get famous or rich, but just because he wanted people to enjoy playing board games.

Back in the gaming hall we finished our game of Seigo. Ricardo didn´t like it, but Filippe did and said that he would import an ensignment to his board game store in Lisboa. Later I played with one of my travel mates from Cuimbra. Playing 2 persons isn´t that good, but I found this game very exciting. He had a fort stopping my land troops, but I managed to put it out with my navy and then I could invade and finish the game.

The guy on the right was the Portuguese champion of Go back then.

I tried out a lot of new games myself. I played “Torres”, in which you build towers and try to put your own knights in top of the biggest towers. It was a pointless game, but it was amusing and I won. We played a simple card game “Coloretto” a few times; it was smart and fun. Then I played “Hive”, a beautiful little 2-player abstract strategy game with no luck. I won. I played “Through the Desert”, a Reiner Knizia game which is a little bit like Go, but for many players and with oases with extra-points. Pointless but amusing enough, I finished second. Reiner Knizia is the most famous board game designer; Vasco told me that he never plays any games but his own in order to keep his ideas original and not copy others. It still gives him quite some choice since he has published 220 games. I felt I couldn´t fully respect someone who publishes 220 games. All those games can´t be good, and what kind of designer publishes games that aren´t good? I told Vasco about my “Trade Wars” game and he liked the ideas a lot and said he was looking forward to see it published. OK OK, I´ll publish publish!

Late at night we played another Knizia game, High Society. It was an auction kind of game in which you try to buy cards with points and buy yourself out of getting bad cards. I really sucked at playing it (for example I bought a 1-point card for 5000$), but I liked it a lot. It was fast and simple, and thus a little creation of genius. “I don´t want to be a fan-boy”, Pedro said, “but so far I like everything Knizia´s done”.

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