I started Friday by heading back to the WizKids booth to try to get a demo of Star Trek: Expeditions. A demo was in progress, so I just watched instead. My impression was unfavorable. I wish I could just buy the two ships separately, though. They are gorgeously pre-painted (the biggest omission from the Star Trek: Fleet Captains game is that the models are unpainted, something that will suck up much of my free time for the months after I get it).
Next I demoed the Star Wars LCG, which also did not go well.
Ascending Empires is a 4X space game whose twist is that ship movement is accomplished by flicking the cylinder representing your ship across the board. After the first couple of turns, the demoer asked if I had played before, because he said I was the first person to make the "correct" moves at the start of the game. This was actually foreshadowing of the game's first problem. It was apparent almost from the start that the game's system was quite shallow. Land, recruit, research, colonize, build a city, rinse, repeat. I quickly lost interest in the empire management side of things.
Instead, I turned to what was the fun part of the game, combat. Combat is very simple, if you have more strength participating in a planet attack than its defense, then the whole planet is wiped out and you get points for that. What makes it fun is the challenge in flicking your pieces into position to attack without alerting your opponents to your intentions (which would give them a chance to build up defenses). Then, when war is joined, there's the back-and-forth until someone ekes out a permanent advantage and claims an area. This is really, really fun . . . when it works.
The second problem with the game is that the map is quite large and made of of puzzle pieces. When flicking across the boundaries between map sections, there is a good chance your ship catches an edge and stops or even flips onto its side and goes rolling off the board (killing it).
At first, I took a planet from the player diagonally away from me, claiming a string of planets right through the center of the board. Then I took out a planet from the player to my right. Finally, I went after the demoer, who was sitting to my left and had colonized a couple of planets in my home territory. We kept going back and forth destroying each others' ships. I eventually won out (due to having closer resupply planets and having researched to get an extra movement per turn).
This took forever. The other players went merrily about their way snapping up planets while the demoer and I battled it out. The game took two hours, and we didn't even finish. For a game advertised at 75 minutes and one as simple as this, two hours is unacceptable. It wasn't even new player syndrome, as the only rules issues were when I came up with exploits. For instance, when two opposing ships collide, they both blow up. However, you can't take out two enemy ships with your one by colliding with both; only the first hit blows up.
The idea I had was to use the rule that "If a ship leaves the map for any reason, it is destroyed"; specifically, my idea was to flick my ship so hard that its momentum would send two adjacent enemy ships flying across the room. It was determined to be legal. The only reason I didn't do it was that I would have had to cross a map piece edge, which would have screwed up my flick.
There were some great moments, but this is just an almost-fun game ruined by poor construction and a too-slow end condition.
Next I tried out Kingdom of Solomon by Philip duBarry. This is a solid worker placement game. My only concern is that I seemed to win with an uncomfortably large margin by ending the game suddenly, but we were all new so that might have affected it. I will definitely have to play again before making a final determination about the game's math.
In the picture of the endgame shown, the blue disc is actually supposed to be about 30 points behind my red one, not 10 points in front of it.
Lastly, I played a partial game of X-Wing. It's still in early development, but right now it doesn't seem to have much lasting value. I hope they can turn that around, because the pieces are just oodles of fun to play with as toys.
I went to bed early to catch up on sleep and battle con fatigue, but my hotel room is directly over a minor league baseball stadium, and I was woken up by fireworks exploding about 200 feet from me following a game. Very pretty, but I expect tomorrow I'll be a zombie.