The Gathering of Friends game convention 2014 – part #1!
This is my second year attending the invite-only Gathering, it’s so nice to be back! Familiar faces, lovely people, swathes of games. I can only attend weekends this year due to work & life commitments – but I’ll be damned if I won’t cram in as much in those weekends as humanly possible! The first weekend is always interesting because of the heavy presence of game publishers & designers. There’s lots of prototypes and pitching happening – it’s quite an atmosphere! This meant I got to test out some games either in development or that are soon to be published. I love this part of the convention! All board gaming is great, but trying out super fresh stuff to give my feedback on as a player is awesome.
Here’s my first write-up about games I played this weekend, almost all of which were new to me. I will try to give as much information as I can about if something was a prototype, and when it’ll be available. The rest are here. Onward!
Ebbes: This is a published game, widely available (published by Palatia Spiele). Ebbes is a trick-taking game that is played over 5 rounds. Each round there’s a number that will be a trigger – if a card of that number (in one of 5 coloures) is played, it’s assigned to one of 5 roles for that round: trump (setting trump colour for this round), positive points (for what’s in your tricks won at the end of the round), ‘ebbes’ (if you don’t have the most or least of this colour, you get bonus points at the end of the round), negative points (for what’s in your tricks won at the end of the round) and nix (no points, but whoever has the most determines start player for next round). It is simple to learn and play, but I feel like it’s a little too random and hard to take control over – it was hard to really work towards points. I had fun, but I’m not sure I’d play it again because of that frustrating aspect.
But Wait, There’s More!: Was once a print and play game, is about to head into a Kickstarter to be printed with a Monty Python theme by Toy Vault. Imagine a party game where you’re pitching a product like you’re selling it on late night TV. With a hand of features like “now 50% more absorbant!” or “voice activated”, everyone chooses a feature to start with and pitches for the same product – a toothbrush, a car, a lawn sprinkler etc. Now the fun part – about halfway through your pitch with the chosen feature you must proclaim “But wait, there’s more!” and pick a random feature card to then incorporate into your pitch. The results are magnificent and hilarious. It’s got a pretty good appeal for most people, and can play with any folks who are interested in having a fun, creative time (if you enjoy Snake Oil, Apples to Apples – this will be for you). One of my favourite party games – I’ll be glad to have a copy in print sometime soon!
One Night Ultimate Werewolf: This game is in print, and available from Bezier Games. This is one of my favourite social deduction games. There’s no moderator needed (it’s app-assisted), there’s no player elimination, you can switch each game up with different combinations of roles, and it plays in abour 10 minutes. Perfection! I played with Ted & Toni of Bezier games and a lovely large group of folks familiar with the game, so we got to try some new roles too – they are going to be so much fun to incorporate into the base game! I’m not sure when those will be available. (Gen Con?)
Alchemists: This is a prototype of an upcoming release from Czech Games Edition – I think most of it is final artwork, but obviously just a basic print/paste version; I’m not sure when this is getting a release – Essen, perhaps? (There’s a video in this post – 2nd one – that details the game to get a better idea of the look of it all.) The premise of this game is that you’re an apprentice alchemist studying at a University, doing all sorts of wacky experiments with ingredients to see what sorts of potions they make. To do this, you place two ingredient cards next to each other, and use a specially designed app that scans the cards and combines them to show you what type of result you’ll get. The great thing about this is that the app randomly generates combinations for each game, so the replayability factor is really increased by that.
There is a worker placement element, in which you gain some sort of variable benefit from choosing player order, and then distributing your tokens out on the board; you can gather ingredients, sell ingredients, sell potions to adventuring heroes, publish your theories on what properties certain ingredients have, and you can test out unknown ingredient combinations on yourself or a test subject. There’s a few other elements also, like some scoring bits at the start of each round, and a big game-end display of knowledge. Overall the game’s pretty solid. It’s a struggle to logic stuff out and be sure of your theories / ingredient combinations, but I think that was also a struggle of learning/playing the game for the first time, for me. (Plus Vlaada Chvatil, of CGE, hadn’t taught the game in English until then, so there were a few hitches!). I’ll definitely try it again when I’m looking for a crunchy worker placement/logic game!
Subdivision: This will be out at Gen Con – a new game in the Suburbia family from Bezier Games. I am a huge Suburbia fan, so I was itching to try this when I discovered it was a thing upon walking into the gaming hall at the Gathering. Like Surburbia, you’re laying down tiles to maximize their benefits/points; there’s no income/reputation track, all points are scored at the end of the game. Instead of purchasing tiles, each player starts with a hand of 5, picks one to play & drafts the rest on. When you lay down a tile, it activates the tiles next to it, making certain ‘improvements’ happen, but doesn’t do anything itself. There’s some randomized scoring at thee start of the 2nd & 3rd rounds (not unlike the scoring tiles that are added in Suburbia Inc.) which makes things a little interesting, too. You’re looking to have your tiles be accessible from the main road on your mat at the end of the game for excellent points; you’ll also get points for schools, and sidewalk proximity to building/improvements. It’s a great game – accessible, easy to learn, quick to play. Very satisfying! I could see having a place for this as well as Suburbia in my collection.
The Battle At Kemble’s Cascade: This is in final tuning stages, and I assume it’ll be out at Gen Con – the Z-Man prototype I played was almost all finished art/graphics/layout pieces, and it was awesome. Imagine a board game version of a scrolling retro space video game, and you’ve probably thought pretty much what this game is. Each player has a mat in front of them as a player aid (for what you can do in a turn) and also to track resource usage & equipment/missions. The ‘board’ is actually 5 rows of cards that refresh every round – the bottom row disappears and a new top row is generated, in order to simulate the scrolling nature of a retro space video game. You’re moving through space, navigating the cards & what’s on them – either picking up power-ups/energy resources, or fighting enemy ships (or players!) and destroying asteroids/singularities. The last row of cards to turn up signals game end, and it’s a row of Boss cards. They are brutally hard to defeat! Although I might just have sucked at getting power-ups and equipment 🙂 I’d like to try this again now that I know it at least a little, because I feel like there’s a lot going on to learn & strategize. It was fun zooming through all that 8-bit space in my shiny red ship, though!
Blueprints: This is a published game available from Z-Man games. So simple in design, but with enough going on to make it interesting and fun to play. You get a ‘blueprint’ for a structure to build with dice. Each round you take a die from a publicly available pool and play it to your structure behind your screen. Each type of die has different scoring benefits that will come into effect once everyone has 6 dice on their blueprint. Really solid, but unfortunately not great with 2 players.
PanicoBloc: This is currently a prototype (from Repos Productions) and doesn’t have an English name (or much of a translation beyond some cards) – they’re working on finalizing art and components and everything else to release in the English speaking market. I was allowed to take a photo of the box & that’s it. The premise of this co-operative game is that the players (in teams of 2) are working together in an emergency room – a patient comes in and they have 12 minutes (real-time, with an accompanying soundtrack) to save them. To do this, they have to successfully perform a series of mini-games – gathering a number of instruments, distributing prescription pills correctly, applying bandages, suturing in a pattern, dosing out injections, posing team members for x-rays etc.. During this time, there will be interruptions – phone calls with instructions from the hospitals director which everyone has to stop and do, and then the patient flatlining which means everyone has to work together to charge up the defibrillator machine (a sequence of cards) and restart the patient’s heart (this is all triggered by the soundtrack). This is an enormously fun game, with the pressure of doing stuff real-time like Escape, the mini-game aspect of Space Cadest and the hilarity of the situation while you’re in it. I’m not sure of the wide appeal of this game due to the way it’s played (you need a big table for all of the stuff, and a reasonable amount of space) and I’m not sure how many people would be into how active the game is. I had a great deal of fun, though! I hope Repos can get it out soon.
Strike a Pose: This was a final published copy of the game from R&R, although I’m not sure it’s in stores just yet (Spring release, though). Charades on freeze-frame. One person randomly deals each other player a number – the number corresponds to a list of things within a category. For instance “Terrible Jobs”, “Types of woodworking” etc. Each player looks at their number a “strikes a pose” to best represent it. The judge then takes a look at everyone’s poses to try and determine who corresponds to which item on the list. Very light & fun, I could see this being a fun filler/casual game to have on the shelf.
Okay, the rest will follow tomorrow!