I had the best intention of writing something up at the end of each day at the convention, but I totally failed at time management and ended up staying up way late every night. So instead of a more timely coverage, here’s a brief recap of the last 3 days at the convention.
I spent most of Fridays visiting vendor booths for demos of upcoming games. While BGG.CON does not have the kind of exhibition space for vendors as in other conventions (most of the space is used for open gaming), there are more than a dozen retailers/publishers onsite demoing/selling games and other wares.
I started with Stronghold Games and their new release “Core Worlds”, a space-themed deck-building card game. We were unfortunately taught a wrong rule that critically affected one player’s game. After 3 or 4 rounds of the said player essentially tossing his cards in every turn and passing (we did not know that deployed troops can stay across multiple rounds until they are eventually used), we decided to abort the session with about ½ of the game left to play. I did get a good feel about how the game works, and would be interested to try it again once the pre-order copy shows up. I also played Stronghold’s remake of Outpost on Saturday and failed to execute on the strategy of drawing high production cards (I consistently drew 1s for my ore mines and 4s for my water mines) so pretty much couldn’t do anything useful in the whole game. I was told that Outpost is a ‘rich-gets-richer’ kind of game so it’s probably not for me (especially since what I did poorly was card draw and not necessarily in tactic/strategy).
Japanime/Cardhaus Games was on hand to demo Tanto Cuore, which for some strange reason is the only other deck building game other than Dominion that I actually like. I am definitely looking forward to the release of the expansions in English (supposedly sometime next month).
Z-MAN Games had the full line-up of their recent releases available, including Palenque, which is only one that I don’t have. However, the game was being played when I stopped by, and I never managed to make it back there. Another game I wanted to try was Mage Knight from WizKids Games (especially since we had to pass on it at Essen due to the size of the game), but I heard that playing with newbies who don’t know what they are doing can make the game longer and not as enjoyable, so I decided to spare other players (as I would be a clueless newbie) and wait until someone in my game group has the game to try it. I did see the library copies of the game in constant rotation so it seemed to be very popular with the attendees.
Next game I did get to try is Urbania from Mayfair Games. It’s a light-medium weight area control game where players have secret goals (for end-game bonus scoring) drawn from a pile of contract cards. I misunderstood a rule early in the game and thought I could only draw contract cards when I could have drawn construction cards as well, but that mistake ended up helping me win the game as I was able to build towards the secret goals early. The artwork on the individual tiles looks nice but on the board the colors are difficult to distinguish between the built and the undeveloped sides; Mayfair will likely make some changes to the tile/board coloring before the game is released. Steam expansion #2 and Giza: The Great Pyramid also saw a lot of play at the Mayfair booth.
Minion Games did not have a booth but I managed to get in on a game of The Manhattan Project, an interesting worker-placement economics game. The key seems to be in setting things up so you are in position to take actions when other players are forced to take back their workers. We played with the Nations expansion so each nation’s atomic program starts with a special ability that can be used like another building on the player’s board. Another key is to not allow a player to go unchecked with espionage, even if you are not the initial target. We did manage to bomb the buildings of the spying player beyond repair, but we did not stop him from taking further espionage actions so he just occupied our better production buildings instead of trying to resuscitate his own program. I have some concerns about long-term replayabilty of the game but I do look forward to the next few plays after my pre-order copy arrives.
Other vendors with booths in the foyer area include Days of Wonder, demoing Ticket to Ride and Smallworld expansions, Gryphon Games showcasing The Road to Canterbury and the new version of Can’t Stop (with the traffic cones), Tasty Minstrel Games (Eminent Domains, Belfort, etc.), and APE Games. Steve Jackson Games and AEG have booths in the main ballroom. In addition, Geek Chic set up at one corner of the main ballroom with quite a few of their custom-made gaming tables. Those tables were always in use when I wondered by.
All the vendors as well as publishers such as Asmodee, Queen Games and Rio Grande Games provided prizes for the swag bags, door prizes, tournament winners and raffle drawings (and small prizes for those who play games at their booths). They definitely play a part in making BGG.CON a special experience for the attendees.
Friday and Saturday at BGG.CON usually see quite a few of the attendees in special events other than open gaming. On Friday, there was the conclusion of the Tichu tournament, the Spiel-a-thon, the Poker tournament, and the ever-popular Battling Tops tournament, where the participants donned masks and hats and trashed talk as if they were in a wrestling match. See photos from Debbie Ohi’s geeklist: http://boardgamegeek.com/blogpost/6121/photos-video-battling-tops-extravaganza-at-bgg-co .
Saturday offers another full day of fun events. Starting with the flea market and math trade where attendees walk away with more games that are new to them. FedEX was on-site on Saturday and Sunday to help those with more money than luggage space to ship some of the new purchases home. Queen Games sponsored the Kingdom Builder tournament, where the winner receives a free trip to Essen 2012. Unfortunately that tournament took place at the same time as Puzzle Hunt, which is the one event I always try to do every year. This year’s theme was 7 Wonders so teams would solve puzzles related to each of the 7 Wonders before moving on to the next location. I played on the Bezier team, and we did pretty well considering that we had mostly newbies on the team. Ken and Gail did a great job running the event and stepping in for Dave and Aaron.
The Golden Geek Award ceremony is one of the most highly anticipated events on Saturday. Before this year’s event, a group of ‘protesters’ marched in carrying protest signs and ‘occupied’ BGG.CON. I was standing in the back and did not get any photos but they were pretty funny. The list of Golden Geek winners can be found here – http://boardgamegeek.com/thread/727488/2011-golden-geek-award-winners. After the award announcement, a cart full of games and other prizes were raffled off. The crowd was especially excited when a Geek Chic game table was added to the list of prizes. Following the award ceremony, Peter ran 2 sessions of the popular Game Show. This year’s show is Hot Streak! with the theme in horror. I wasn’t eligible to participate as Peter did a test run of the show at Sasquatch a couple of weeks ago. However, I did watch a bit of one session and the teams were all having fun.
BGG.CON is always a little depressing to me on Sunday as everyone is leaving, the library closes early, and this year the hotel started closing off the breakfast area to do some renovation in the area. I brought a few small games with me to play on Sunday afternoon after the library closes, but we never got to those. I ended up playing a couple game of Tichu before grabbing dinner and heading out to the airport for my 10 p.m. flight home. Overall, I probably did not play as many games as I could have, but I did play everything that was on my list to try. I found out about more games that are now on my watch-list. I also got to catch up with friends and met and played games with new people. The best part is that so far I’ve managed to avoid the plague that comes with attending these events – especially important as I have family visits planned for this week and next week. I want to thank Aldie, Derk, Jeff, all the organizers, volunteers and vendors for making BGG.CON 2011 a successful event, and everyone that played games with me (or taught games to me) for making the convention a great experience for me. Next year’s event will take place at the Hyatt Regency DFW (and will be bigger and better), and more information will be available in March. I’ve already set up calendar reminder to look for registration info so I don’t miss out on getting a ticket to BGG.CON 2012.