The Gathering of Friends game convention 2014 – Part #3! The final weekend!

And now my final wrap-up of games I played at this year’s Gathering of Friends. (Part 1 & 2 here). If you’d like to give my list thumbs/comments on BGG, please head over here! I may post about some general stuff later, if I feel there’s enough to fill another post!

Trading in the Mediterranean: The above doesn’t show final artwork or content. Not long after I arrived, I managed to find myself at a table with my friend Sean, learning this game from Ryan Sturm, one of its co-creators! A terrific combination of card trading and tableau building – and although I didn’t do spectacularly well, I thoroughly enjoyed the game. It was a fairly easy game to learn, and after one round the 5 of us were rocketing through and having a great time trading resources, and also making bargains/threats thanks to some of the powers from our civilization card tableaus. I like having a 5 player game with complexity that doesn’t run longer than about 90 minutes. I love what Ryan & Geoff (Engelstein) have put together, and hope it can find a publisher soon.

EvolutionNorth Star were demo-ing their upcoming Kickstarter title Evolution & I sat down on my second weekend to give it a try. It’s quite a different pace for North Star, but I found it quite interesting. 

Starting the game with a blank species slate, you play the game to build up that species with traits, and add new ones to your tableau. All players add to a communal food bank at the start of each turn, and then as the turn plays out you try and make sure all your species can be fed & survive, their population thrives, and that they aren’t eaten by ‘carnivore’-type species. Of course, if you are a ‘carnivore’-type species, during the feeding round you try to pick off some population from other players’ species. It can be quite the balancing act! It played fairly smoothly after the rules instruction, and once they clarify some of the writing in their rules/cards then I think this will be a solid game for folks looking for something light. Honestly, I’ll sit down to play animal games any time – I’m not sure this will be a purchase for me, though.

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New Haven from @@rnrgames is great! #gof2014 #boardgames

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New HavenI had no idea about this game going in, but was pleasantly surprised with the play of it. I sat down with pals Tanya, Rich & Janna to play and had a great time. Players share a resource board, which they build up during the game by placing tiles strategically to collect an optimum amount of resources on each of their turns (bordering your tile with similar resources bumps up the amount). The number of resources are indicated on a track, and spent immediately to place numbered tiles on your own player mat in order to try and fill up rows and columns for completion points.

The neat thing I like is that if you don’t spend all of your resources, you then go around the board clockwise to see if anyone else can use them – sure, it benefits them – but ultimately it means if all of them area zeroed out, you’ll be able to draw more of the numbered tiles at the end of your turn (one for each fully exhausted resource). This lets you have more choice each round on what you can play on your own mat. A nice light game with a balance of strategy, luck & player interaction. Lovely!

My finished castle in Castles of Mad King Ludwig - room tiles laid out in a floor plan.

Castles of Mad King Ludwig – my finished castle!

Castles of Mad King Ludwig: Above images are prototype print-ups, and not the final version of the game, coming from Bezier later this year. (Above the photo is a little time-lapse of my castle being built over the course of a game). I got to sit down to a couple of plays of this upcoming Bezier title, and thoroughly enjoyed both. The aim of the game is to build up your castle with a variety of rooms to maximise your points by the end of the game. Each room type has a straight up points reward for building it, but there are also bonus/negative points depending on where you place it in relation to other types of rooms in your castle. You then get points when you complete a type of room (closing in all of its entrances), which vary from type to type. This brings a lot of balancing in to what will benefit you during the game – it can be tough if the tiles you need aren’t coming out, though! There’s also “master builder” end-game goals that will score you points (like most of one type of room, most entrances still open, etc.)

One aspect of the game I thought interesting was how the start player is able to organize the room tiles at the start of the round in order of price preference – and they get paid by the other players for what they purchase, and get the final chance in a round to buy. This means there’s some player interaction where there otherwise wouldn’t be, and adds some difficulty as far as money & what you can afford when it comes your turn to purchase. This pushed all my fun buttons. I am itching to get the released version of this game! It’ll be out at Essen, so hopefully not too long after here in North America.


The Concept board, made up of a lot of different icons depicting things, colours, shapes, categories, plus a player piece.

Concept, in action

ConceptI played a few rounds of this at the end of Friday night, and it was terrifically fun! (My favourite thing was sitting down and being asked if I knew how to play the game, and zinging “Well, I understand the basic CONCEPT!” *wink*). A party game of guessing – but instead of a charades type scenario, you have a board of icons/symbols/shapes/colours etc to use to explain the ‘concept’ of what you’re trying to get the other players to guess. (Chosen from a card with some easy/medium/hard things listed.)

You are working with the person next to you, so you’re never quite floundering on your own – but it can definitely lead to floundering with your partner, as there can be no discussion between you while you’re throwing stuff out onto the board. Players guessing can ask questions as they’re figuring stuff out, but you can only answer yes/no – it makes it hard, but not impossible to progress with better information for them. This will be a definite buy when I can get my hands on it – what a unique and fun party game!

Two Rooms & a BoomI played a round of this social deduction game and was kinda flummoxed by it. I was a basic member of the red team, so there was really not a lot for me to do. Plus, the president and bomber both started in the other room – so there wasn’t much we could do! I think had I tried it again I’d have found some fun & depth to it after trying different roles, etc. Alas, I will have to wait for another chance to play it here in Toronto and see what it can do.

The Whacky Wit board, which is like the pacman game layout with wooden pellets, a wooden pacman and wooden ghosts.

Whacky Wit!!

Whacky WitThis is basically Pacman the game, and it’s very aesthetically pleasing to play. If money were no object, I would own this game. Like, NOW. One player is ‘Pacman’ figure, who’s trying to roll a dice and get around the board nomming pellets (ie. pushing down wooden pegs). The other player is all of the ghosts, rolling to get around the board and catch ‘Pacman’! It’s the BEST THING!! Especially seeing as I won with the Ghosties. 

The Black Fleet board (islands on an ocean) with ships

Black Fleet

Black FleetI played a few rounds of this and was pretty impressed with it! Playing movement cards, you maneuver your pirate/merchant ships around the board to collect goods, or bury them as treasure. You also get to move the navy ships to mess with the other players – but you must watch out for them doing the same to you!  Beautiful art & pieces. I really do want to give this a proper try, as Adam played a whole game earlier in the con and raved about it.

The Istanbul board with tiles, gems, and wooden player pieces laid out

Our game of Istanbul

IstanbulThis was a lot of fun to play! I sat down late Saturday evening with Adam, Kris, Max & Tim to give this one a try. The board is made up of large cards, so can have a variable format (nice for replayability). The idea is you take your ‘Merchant’ and stack of ‘apprentices’ and move either one or two spots and drop off an apprentice. You then perform the action/get the benefit from that location. It’s a delicate balance of getting around making sure you don’t abandon your apprentices and can’t pick them up, yet making sure you’re doing all of the things you need to do to get ahead in points.  It’s a nice simple game that is enjoyable to play, as you move about amassing resources, cashing in for money and points. I’d need to try this again to see if there’s a runaway leader type problem, because it seemed that way in our game.. but Max probably just schooled us 😀

The Camel Up board, dice rolling pyramind and wooden camel pieces set up to play.

The camels, ready to race!

Camel UpDelightful stacking wooden camels are moving around a racing track, and you’re trying to bet on them to make points during/at the end of the game. The camels move by a die roll – resulting in a 1, 2 or 3. The dice are kept in this lovely pyramid structure, and released one at a time.  Players can also lay down tiles on the track to set back or advance camels one space as they move. Camels stack, and this can sometimes really affect the order in which they end up at the end of each round. A game of probabilities and guesstimating, with a super cute theme and a lot of fun. Possibly even more fun when not delirious with tired.  One recommendation: do not play this at 1am when you really should be in bed. Otherwise, it’s a lot of silly fun.

The Lancaster board, depicting a not-to-scale England with towns marked, each place having a different kind of in-game benefit.


LancasterA favourite of mine. We were hoping to get a game in before the Can’t Stop tournament on Sunday – we didn’t finish, and when we finally came back to do so, it was being packed up to go home with its owner! It reminds me I really need to play it more at home, though – such an interesting mix of worker placement and bonus/resource management, plus the voting on laws for during-game bonuses. This game should be more popular among Euro gamers!

My Just in Time puzzle mat - a shape in which I have tried to fit my pieces to leave larger numbers uncovered.

Just in Time puzzle game

Just In TimeA quick puzzle game not unlike FITS or BITS with a bit of Blokus thrown in. I sat with William, Adam & Daryl to play.

With a pool of Tetris-y shapes to choose from, each round goes a little lik this: decide on a player mat, which everyone puts in front of them. Select a card that matches its level and flip it over – it’ll have the shapes listed you need to pull out of your pool. You then go ahead and madly try to fit these shapes onto your player mat and not cover up too many of the points. Puzzly! We didn’t worry about scoring too much, we just had some fun. A great filler, but I wouldn’t have it on my shelf.

The concordia board, with map, pieces and tiles laid out during the game.

Playing Concordia

ConcordiaMy last game of the con (except for a very quick round of One Night Ultimate Werewolf), I played with Tim, Kris, Daryl & Adam. (Jake the Dog guest starring.) This is a crunchy game, especially with 5 players – and especially when not all 5 players know the game. The time did bloat out because of this, but I wouldn’t hesitate to try the game again anyhow.

I really enjoyed the interesting mix of hand-building and working that together with the map & gaining resources/currency. There was a fine balance there that I tried to get, yet failed. I think had I been paying more attention to the end game card bonus scoring then I might have fared better. Another reason to give it another shot – I often struggle in the first game of something this crunchy because it’s hard to optimise what I’m not familiar with.

So, that’s it! Over the course of 2 weekends, I played 32 unique titles, many of which were new to me, and will be new to the market soon. I played a few multiples of games (Sushi Go, One Night Ultimate Werewolf, Coconuts, etc) but it was great to cycle through some cool stuff. And I didn’t even get close to trying a lot of the stuff I wanted to, like Walled City: Londonderry, Glass Road, Bruxelles, etc. GOSH. I have some catching up to do.


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