BGGcon 2016 – the games!

[This is quite after the fact, but it was about time I finished the few blurbs that needed doing and just get this off my plate!]

The big part of going to BGGcon is the games, obviously. BGG’s library is massive, they have a couple of dozen hot games tables on the go for the whole con, plus people bring games of their own for play. A veritable cornucopia of cardboard and chits. While I didn’t hit the pinnacle of personal achievement – aka trying all the games on my ‘want to play’ list – I did play a decent amount of games, about 78% of which were new to me. That’s pretty heckin’ great. I’d like to give a little blurb about each game, even those I’ve played before, because.. I wanna tell you about games! Here we go.

I’ve played The Game before, and I really love the cooperative and communicative way it plays. It’s not high strategy or anything, but it’s a nice bit of a puzzle to play. Plus, my new friend & fantastic board game artist Beth Sobel gifted me a deck of her beautiful textile reskin, and it’s so pretty to play! This one was perfect for some last game of the night action at the con.

A social bluffing and deduction game, Dead Last was interesting to me, but it’s one of those ones that depends on the group of people you have playing at the table with you. The idea is for all players to vote on a player to attack, and try to collude with other players about this without getting found out – a quick flash of a card, darting of a look, hinting at a player colour by lightly touching an item of clothing, etc. At a 7 player table, this got pretty hectic and clues were missed often – but when it worked, it worked well and was a fun time. I think I’d rather play One Night Ultimate Werewolf in the end, though. Way less to worry about!

A classic light card game, this was a perfect one for the early morning registration line hangout, and a great game for a larger group. I don’t feel like there’s too much strategy or even tactics involved in this despite the ‘hand management’ aspect, because you can never really anticipate the cards others will play, or where yours will end up. But somehow I ended up winning. Magical.

Completely wacky dexterity game that is an enormous amount of fun. As penguin students in an icy high school (icecool GET IT?), you’re trying to flick your wobbly-bottomed player pieces around the halls to grab fish and avoid being caught by the hall monitor. It took a little while to get into the swing of this, and how best to flick my pieces, but it was super fun. I love how the nested box pulls out and is pieced together to form the play area. That everyone gets one chance as the hall monitor, then the rest of their turns are to zoom and fly around to grab fish, makes it super fun. Highly recommend this one for some silly fun at game day.

This new Feld was quite a melange of stuff – pick up & deliver, dice rolling/manipulation, some card powers / punishments. Overall, the idea is to finish your 12 goals before any other player does. Each player has a special power dealt out at the start of the game – mine was getting to toss a goal, which made it a little easier on me to finish up first. While there was a lot to juggle (hello, it’s a Feld!) it was enjoyable. My only complaints were to do with the physical game itself – the red and pink on the board look almost identical, and some of the pieces on the board share colours with player pieces which can be a little confusing at first. I’d love to give this one another try!

A new one from Oink Games, masters of the tiny box, big fun. This is sorta 20 Questions meets Spyfall. There’s a master (knowing what the thing/person etc is), the insider (who also knows what the thing/person etc is, but nobody knows who they are) and the rest of the players. Once the round starts, the players ask yes/no questions of the master – along with the insider, who is trying to guide the questioning to get the answer correct without getting caught. Gosh it is FUN. A really good late night con game, too. Between this and A Fake Artist Goes to New York, I don’t know I’ll need Spyfall again.

This is a mish mash of social deduction and clue giving, sort of like Clue meets Concept. Two players secretly have the roles of murderer and accomplice and know the selections of “key evidence” and “means of murder” cards in front of the murderer. One player is a “forensic scientist” who knows the solutions and tries to give clues by placing markers on scene tiles to attempt to guide the other players (investigators) to guess the correct cards. All the while, the murderer and accomplice are trying to secretly lead the investigators astray with bogus suggestions. This is SUPER FUN. We played with a large group, and the process of discussion about the forensic scientist’s clues were raucous. A fresh twist on a social deduction game.

Quick asymmetric card game – one player is Jack, trying to scale the beanstalk and grab treasures, while the other is the giant trying to thwart Jack and “fee fi fo fum” his way to victory. I got a demo of this at the Renegade Booth from designer Dan Cassar who explained things well and maybe also let me win.. 😀 Good fun, I’d pick this up as a 2p filler.

One of my favourite all-time games is Tokaido. Kanagawa has the same vibe to me – it’s pleasant to play, and looks gorgeous. There’s even a little overlap with the creation of landscapes in Tokaido – because in Kanagawa, you’re aiming to gain skills in the master’s studio and also create a print with various features to gain points and, of course, win the game. Each round consists of a card being dealt per player – and players can either pick a card or pass in turn order. Those who pass then get another card to each column to choose from, and can pick or pass. A delicate balance between settling and hoping for something great continues throughout the game as you try to create a great print and build knowledge in your studio to gain points – and also diplomas (generally for sets of things or certain achievements), giving you more points. I am delighted by this game and everything it offers – it’s going to have a space on my shelf now for sure!

I didn’t really enjoy this. Too much haphazard switcheroo and luck to really try and track what’s going on. It was kinda fun while playing, but I felt like I had little to no control over the gameplay.

Brilliant new quick card game that’s great for about 4+ people (maxes out at 8). From your hand of cards, play one – if anyone else on the table has played it too, then the face value is cumulative. E.g if I play a 2 when there’s another on the table from another player, they’re now each worth 4! And if you play a value higher than others at the table, you’ll flush their cards and they need to draw another into their hand. If you can get rid of all your cards (if your card played is still in front of you when it’s your turn again, you get to discard it and not draw!), you win. Ridiculous, super quick fun. Just don’t drop it on the stairs, the lid’s not super tight and.. yeah :O

One of my absolute fave push your luck/mild bluffing/hand management games! Had a lot of fun getting a few games of this in with friends on Day 0. Tough to get it to the table more, due to its exact player requirement of 3 people.

Another old favourite – a fantastic game for a large group to have some great bluffing card game fun. We had a full (well, overfull) group for this at the Plaid Hat Games HQ on the Friday of the con and it was a great laugh (even while at the height of my sickness!).

I’d had such high hopes for this game – the theme especially piqued my interest, and being a fan of games like Scotland Yard and Letters From Whitechapel, I was intrigued. 5 of us sat down to play the introductory scenario and it really fell flat for us. It wasn’t that the game itself played poorly (movement seems fine, the map is really cool, and the players have lots of neat special powers/moves) – but it almost felt like the intro was for people who’d never played a game before. In about 20 minutes we’d succeeded in beating the killer and all kinda went “oh, that’s it…?” – we’d expected a meatier, more thrilling first scenario. So, one day I’ll get back to this to try the follow-up scenarios – but it’s no longer on my to-buy list.

  • Arc RPG

Unique storytelling RPG currently in development by Chris Rowlands of One Thousand XP games. This was a fantastic experience – we started by drafting characters and fleshing out their place in the village (iron age-ish setting) by drafting a relationship to another character, as well as a motivation and with a little roleplaying. The story then unfolded by working our way through “episodes” of the story through roleplay and the outcomes pushed us certain ways through the story branches (represented by keywords on a pyramid of cards). This  wasn’t like any other RPG experience I’ve had, and it could be so interesting applied to a variety of settings! I hope Chris gets it out into the world soon.

I quite enjoy Broom Service as a board game, but feel like i’ll get the card game to the table more often. It’s boiled down to the fun, interactive aspect of pushing your luck to be the “brave” type of witch each round, which – if successful – wins you potions. You’re hoping to create sets of like potions for points, and also sets of various potions for the chance to win shared goals. So simple and fun, and great for a group.

All the fun of a city builder packed into a tidy little card game. Honshu is a simple game with great depth – a little bit of trick taking, and a lot of tile-laying tinkering to get you to your best 12-card city. I’ve enjoyed my plays of this, and cannot wait to try the modified 2 player game (which balances out the trick taking for the low player count), as well as starting to introduce some of the “advanced” elements to mix up scoring. Import only now, this will be coming from Renegade Games in February to the North American market and beyond. This is most likely my game of 2016! It’s so good, y’all.

Fiona and I were taking a look around one of the vendor halls and stumbled across the WizKids booth with Canadian-brewed Rock, Paper Wizard all set up for demo – and ended up playing through the whole game it was so fun. We were there maybe 15-20 minutes including learning and playing and chatting, so it’s definitely a family-friendly title. Essentially a fun variant of rock/paper/scissors, on the count of three all players reveal a hand gesture matching one of the shared spell cards on display. In player order these are resolved, and players win loot as well as possibly towards the treasure, or away towards the cave exit.

A friend of mine described Lotus as “a beautiful knife fight”. Don’t let the pleasant art fool you (as gorgeous as it is) – you’ll be in there sniping flowers from people and piling your insect guardians on left, right and centre. Your tactical petal placements to amass points are combined with some great supporting actions to make this game a delight to play over once you’ve got the taste for it. I thought I’d get this to the table more at BGGcon, but played just the once – I was able to teach it though, which is a great sign in a game for me 🙂 Simple, clear actions and once you’ve got the ball rolling it’s quite easy to know what you’re doing.

Oh my, what a wonderful little package of a game! Not only is the art gorgeous, but the gameplay is a delight – a melange of card drafting, hand management and controlling majorities with cards in your tableau. It’s so easy to pick up – there are just a few actions you can take, and only 4 card types with particular affects – yet every play will take you in a different direction, trying new tactics and hoping for the cards to go your way. I really really want this to come out in North America soon!

You know how awesome it is to create characters for RPGs? Putting together all the fun and interesting parts to create the whole? Roll Player is basically that. Starting with a character race and class, and an alignment, you roll a lotta dice, apply them to stats, and as you go through the game also assemble a stock of weapons and a laundry list of traits that can be quite a fun combination. I am so keen to get my hands on this once a reprint happens!

Ooh my old favourite, Spyfall Pictionary! A semi-cooperative drawing game where all but one player is in the know about what the drawing’s supposed to be, and the rest of the people are trying to figure out who that is (while the Fake Artist tries to hide, and figure out what everyone is supposed to be drawing!). So good.

I have never played any of the major CCGs, and barely dipped my toe in LCGs – so I don’t have a lot to compare this to! However, it didn’t take me long to get into the swing of things with this game. The starting deck I played was funny, it had some nice little tie-ins thematically with weapons, locations and helpers to my Warrior! I enjoyed that it takes the humour and pun-filled fun of Munchkin, ramps it up, and slaps it on a light game. Not sure it’s a game for me, but it was fun to try.

More tetris-y goodness from Uwe Rosenberg. This leans heavily toward the Patchwork type of gameplay, but it’s quite an interesting twist. There’s a grid of tiles available to take from, and there’s not a lot of crossover between where players take from (much less interaction in that way than Patchwork). You’re also trying to churn through as many garden plots as you can for points by game-end. Delightful, pleasant, and not a steep learning curve as far as a strategy game goes.

There’s not much to Strike – it’s a fun push-your-luck dice rolling game that’s great fun for a few rounds between other games. I had a good time with it 🙂

Not being much into bicycle racing I was not one with the hype on this one, but enough friends had tried and enjoyed it, so I got to try it with a group of folks and really dug it! Gameplay is straightforward – select a card for each of your two riders that designates the amount of spaces they’ll travel – if you end up just behind someone, the slipstream is in your favour. If you’re too behind – or ahead! – you are penalized with a filler card to mess with your deck (and you only look at a few each turn to make your choice). Similarly to Camel Up, I don’t anticipate the way these sorts of races will go (even if this is in some way trackable if you count cards like a savant) – despite that flailing around, I felt there was a good level of excitement and tension in the game that lent itself to an enthusiastic and close finish. I’d love to try this again.

Ohhhh how I wanted to like this game. But we learnt and played it (at 6 players) so late at night that it was impossible to remain engaged with the game. Definitely requires 100% of your attention and enthusiasm or the game feels like going through some strange motions. Comparisons to BSG are fair, but I feel like I connected more with BSG. Both are way too long for my liking, however. I’ll have to give this a go another time when I and more present, and invested.

So – when all compared to my original “I want to play these things at BGGcon!” list (see below), I didn’t do so well. But considering how unwell I was for a chunk of time, I’m happy with what I did get to play. And a lot of the games that were new to me are solid faves now (Kanagawa, Honshu, Roll Player for instance).

Onitama
Kanagawa
Nippon
Mansions of Madness 2nd ed
Fold It
Cottage Garden
Great Western Trail
Strike
Roll Player
Fuji Flush
La Granja: No Siesta
Papà Paolo
Islebound
The Bloody Inn
Bucket King
New York Slice
Herbaceous
Curse you, Robin Hood
Linkee
Ponzi Scheme
Honshu
Ice Cool
Terraforming Mars
Key to the City: London
Port Royal
Clank
Yokohama
One Deck Dungeon
Oracle of Delphi
Gloomhaven
Farmageddon
Fabled Fruit
Villages of Valeria
Aeon’s End
All the giant dexterity games!!!!

 

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