Jennifer Geske: Recap of Sasquatch Boardgame Festival 2011


For those of you who followed Patrick Korner’s Essen Mule Train reports, the train made a few more stops (Vancouver, B.C. -> Everett, Washington -> Redmond, Washington -> Issaquah, Washington) before finally arriving at the venue for this year’s Sasquatch Boardgame Festival in North Bend, Washington, with most of the games in surprisingly good condition (they were transported in duffel bags). About 50 gamers gathered at the beautiful Moon Mansion from 11/2 through 11/6 to play games and catch up with each other.

The atmosphere of this gathering is less like a regular convention and more like an extended (5-day long) game day at someone’s house. Some attendees opted to stay in one of the on-site suites, while others commuted daily. The venue’s amenities allowed us to have special events such as midnight movie features and the game show (the same one Peter is running at this year’s BGG.CON) at the media room, and we shared meals and celebrated Kris Gould’s birthday during the convention. Using the scoring rules of “A Fistful of Penguins”, the animal configuration (plus the coin on the bar) on the cake adds up to Kris’ age. Nate also designed some wonderful movie-themed posters for the convention.

The primary focus of the event is still gaming – our Essen 2011 library has about 140 games, and the overall shared library has more than 300 games. Even the name badge design and the prize table incorporated some elements of gaming. Nate Beeler designed the name badges so attendees would solve mini-puzzles leading up to the clue for a meta-puzzle. In addition to nightly raffle drawings, we set up the prize table as an auction with attendees bidding for what they want using fake convention currency they earn from playing and teaching games (bonuses for playing with different people, prototypes, and set-collection bonus tickets). We decided not to have tournaments this year so people can play whatever games they want.  Jesse McGatha led an interactive fiction session (Return to Pumpkintown) that was very well received.

I asked the attendees to log the game sessions, partially to make sure they get credits for the prize table auction, and partially to help me figure out what games actually get played for future purchase considerations. Games played at Sasquatch (according to game session logs that were turned in and in no particular order):

  • A Fistful of Penguins 4x
  • Welcome to Walnut Grove 5x
  • Eminent Domain 5x
  • Mare Balticum
  • Poseidon’s Kingdom
  • Last Will
  • Space Bastards
  • Cartegena 2
  • Mammut
  • Uluru 2x
  • Ab in die Tonne 6x
  • City Tycoon
  • Crokinole
  • King of Tokyo
  • Fliegende Teppiche 5x
  • Paris Connection 3x
  • Mondo (with expansions)
  • Kalimonbo 4x
  • Alien Frontiers
  • The City
  • Star Trek: Deck Building game
  • Undermining
  • Hawaii 6x
  • Trajan 2x
  • Meltdown 2020
  • Santiago de Cuba
  • Urban Sprawl 2x
  • 7 Wonders with Catan Island
  • Dungeon Fighter 4x
  • Power Grid: First Sparks 3x
  • Friday
  • Ticked Off!
  • Monster-Falle 3x
  • Mondrian 2020 3x
  • Castelli
  • Kingdom Builder 6x
  • Taj Mahal
  • Ascending Empires
  • Merkator
  • The Resistence
  • Karpinal & Konig
  • Tournay
  • Pictomania 3x
  • Summoner Wars 2x
  • Imperial
  • Elder Sign
  • Times to Remember 2x
  • Paperclip Railway
  • PAX
  • Panic Station
  • Navigador 2x
  • Blue Lion 2x
  • Nefarious 2x
  • Carre
  • Caveman Curling
  • 011
  • Ticket to Ride: Asia
  • Arriala
  • Terra Evolution
  • Ninjato
  • Quebec
  • Eclipse 2x
  • Tuareg
  • Struggle of Empires
  • Drum Roll
  • Belfort
  • Mil
  • Timeline
  • Splits
  • Revolver
  • Coney Island
  • Doctor Shark
  • Corner the Market (prototype)
  • Oddities (prototype)
  • Reverse Charades (prototype)

As you can see from the list, many of the heavier weight new games remained unplayed, a situation I hope to remedy this week before heading out to BGG.CON next week.  I was hoping to use the game logging info to help figure out what kind of games to get (and not get) at Essen in the future, but I am not sure the information shows the complete picture since many of the games played are lighter weight or games some people already know how to play. I did manage to play about 20-25 Essen releases before Sasquatch started, but being an organizer of the event, it was difficult for me to try to learn new games from the rules once the event started, so I’ve only played an additional 20 or so new Essen game during the convention.
As other OG contributors have already pointed out, it is not easy to judge a game based on just one play, especially when the first game tends to take longer, may have been played with wrong rules for ½ of the game, and or have issues with rules clarifications. Of the new Essen games I have played so far, the following are in the “like it/love it” category: Hawaii, Helvetia, Singapore, Eclipse, Tournay, Colonial: Europe’s Empires Overseas, Air Show, Quebec, Drum Roll, Walnut Grove, Master Merchant, Dungeon Fighters, PAX, Power Grid: First Sparks, Power Grid: Robots, Friday, Trajan, City Tycoon, Pret-a-Porter and Poseidon’s Kingdom. I have only played about 6 new Essen games more than once. Once I make a pass through the remaining Essen games brought back by Patrick, I will hopefully get to play some of the games again before we get to the full-blown reviews of those games.

So here we are, with another successful event behind us. We made custom Agricola occupation cards for those who helped with the event, and here are some of them:

I am already looking forward to next year. I am not sure we’ll get the same venue, but if we do, I think live-action Mansions of Madness on Halloween may be in the works.

Nate Beeler:
In only its second year, Sasquatch is already starting to feel like more than just an extended weekend of gaming.  People came from up to two time zones away, so it was nice to see friends that I only get to see very rarely.  In fact, like all good cons, there are people I only know from Sasquatch that I was excited to get to hang out with again; people that I’m already looking forward to seeing next year.  This is not to mention the many friends that I see regularly but rarely get to spend so much time with.  Just a whole heapin’ helpin’ of fun, bold, relaxed personalities that give the event its unique PNW flavor.   Yes, all the new Essen games are a nice plus, even for a “cult of the old ones” member like me.  Yes, playing in a spacious beautiful mansion in the woods is pretty freakin’ cool.  Yes, it is particularly nice to get to do things like play huge room filling party games, take part in team oriented game shows, and get a sneak preview of a talk on interactive fiction.  The food spread was amazing, and it meant (unlike other conventions I’ve been to), stopping to scrounge up sustenance was never an issue (thanks again, Kris!).  I got to host two midnight movies, A Town Called Panic and Wet Hot American Summer, which saw the appreciative audiences relaxing in leather recliners.  It’s great to do these things that are out of the ordinary and would make for fun events individually.  But it is the wonderful mix of people Jennifer has collected that make Sasquatch truly special and worth hassle of the thirty five mile hike out of Seattle.  Thanks again to you, too, Jennifer.

Ok, but what about the games?  As you saw from the (official, but truly only partial) list of games played above, only a small percentage of the Essen booty (or the library as a whole) got played at the event.  I counted something like ten or twelve new to me games that I played from the haul.  I will be commenting on them individually in the coming months, so I won’t elaborate too much now.  But I will say there was no particular winner for me.  There’s nothing that I must own so far, even though there were a whole lot of “like it” games that I’d be happy to play almost any time.  I’ll consider the gaming season a success if even one true “love it” falls out, so I’m not too worried about that yet.  The Essen haul at least promises not to be terrible.  So it’s got that going for it.

Rick Thornquist:
Yup, the second incarnation of Sasquatch is over and it was again fantastic.  Jennifer puts on an amazing get-together.  Everything was impeccably organized and the combination of a great venue, piles of Essen games, interesting activities and events, and, of course the people, made it great.  Add to that the culinary work of Kris Gould, who puts on the most amazing spread, and you have an event that’s second to none.

Now I know what you’re interested in – the Essen games.  Let’s get to them!

The standouts for me were Kingdom Builder – a lot of game with not very many rules and a relatively short playing time, Hawaii – a nice gamer game, and Vanuatu – another nice gamer game.

Power Grid: First Sparks was a bit of a disappointment – it’s just too much like Power Grid.  If I want to play Power Grid, I’ll play Power Grid.  The other disappointment was Tourney.  Our game ended up going pretty badly with players just hammering at each other until the game mercifully ended.  I’m going to give Tourney one more try to make sure I didn’t miss anything, but at this point it’s not looking good.

Of course, there were many others that I didn’t the chance to play.  The ones on my ‘to play asap’ list are Dungeon Petz, Eclipse, Ora et Labora, and Pret a Porter.

Thanks again to Jennifer and the crew for another great event!

Jonathan Franklin:

Even though people always say it and rarely mean it, the highlight of Sasq2 was the people.  Sasq1 was held over 16 days (3-4 days each weekend for four weekends) and was epic, followed by game coma.  This year was just right.  No game coma, but over 30 new games played.  Yes, some were lighter, yes, more than 20 had English rules, and yes, we did not start Trajan at 2am.  However, having it in a house with an awesome kitchen and having people sacrifice their gaming time to cook for others, carpool people, clean up, and do other things, made it feel like an extended family, not an anonycon.  The highlights for me were gaming with Canadians, Oregonians, and Bill, Mike, and Tom from eastern WA.  How many cons have you been to where people had planned cooked dinners including a taco bar, a pasta bar, a beef and mashed potatoes, and a hot dog with fixings all set out?  Thanks to all, esp. Rich, Z, Kris, and Mike for their awesome efforts.  If western Washington ever has a huge snowstorm, I hope it happens during Sasquatch.

Gamewise, I did not play any ‘great’ games.  I played silly fun games (Kalimambo, Dr. Shark, and Sidi Baba), deck building games (Star Trek: tDBG, Eminent Domain, etc.), classic Euros (Hawaii, Quebec, and Vanuatu), and a few more aggressive games (Wiraqocha, MIL, and Tournay).

Still on my ‘to play’ list are Ora et Labora, Ristorante Italia, Trajan with 3, Air Show, Dungeon Petz, Pret-a-Porter, Infarkt, String Railway: Transport and many others.

Thanks to all pictured in the Agricola cards above, but mostly to Jennifer, without whom this would not have happened in the first place!

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6 Responses to Jennifer Geske: Recap of Sasquatch Boardgame Festival 2011

  1. Dale Yu says:

    It sounds so awesome. If you could only move it to the Midwest next year!


  2. jgeske says:

    Dale, You and Brian should come over next year.

  3. Tom Rosen says:

    Did you catch that Dale? I think you’re only invited if you bring Brian with you ;-)
    I’m guessing that’s not the first time you’ve heard that :-p

  4. Ryan B. says:

    North Bend. North Bend. I kept wondering why that rang a bell? (I’m still figuring out Washington…) But now I remember… that’s off I-90 towards the Cascades. I’ve been there! There are some amazing hiking trails there, for those so inclined.

    But this recap is another example of how it really feels like Seattle is the hotbed of boardgaming culture. I joined a meetup group here for boardgames that meets in Seattle… and it is amazing fun with some really awesome, hilarious people in it. But the game meetup primarily cetnters around “party games”, so it is probably a little less substantive than the games you all played. But to Sasquatch in the setting where you played it is pretty darn cool. Great scenery. I am just endlessly surprised by the culture here… Seattle has cafes and restaurants wholly *dedicated* to boardgames here. Blue Highway Games in downtown Seattle (Queen Anne district) is worth the price of admission alone.

    Coming from Florida and the Midwest, those inclined to make a two zone time journey would probably find it highly worthwhile just to take in the gaming culture in the Northwest. It really is different.

  5. Ryan B. says:

    *Grammar revision from above:*
    “But the game meetup primarily centers around “party games”, so it is probably a little less substantive than the games you all played. But to play the Sasquatch Boardgame Festival in a mountain setting where you played it is pretty darn cool.”

    Sorry, need to check my writing before hitting the POST button. ; )

  6. Dale Yu says:

    @Tom – yea, I can definitely read between the lines here… However, invitation or not, it’s pretty hard to get away from home for another weekend so close to Essen… If there is ever a year when I can’t make it to Europe, something like Sasquatch would definitely be high on the to-do list!

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