This year was my first year at BGG.CON. I’ve been to several major game conventions, plus several smaller ones, and BGG.CON was among my favorites. Everything ran incredibly smoothly, the library was top notch, and the attendees were friendly. About 3,000 of us owe an enormous thanks to the entire BGG team.
While the bigger conventions like Essen or Gen Con sometimes feel like they’re about buying games, BGG.CON felt more like a convention about playing games. The organizers had shipped over all of the most anticipated games from Essen and had them set up and ready to play. And the BGG library was the best game library I’ve ever seen. The games being played were a cool combination of many of the hobby’s classics and the best games of the last year.
Below, I discuss what was hot at the convention, and then I do snap reviews of three games new to me: Adrenaline, Hanamikoji, and Insider.
What was hot?
It’s kind of hard to tell what was hot at the convention. The BGG hotness list is on the BGG front page right now, but that list seems manipulated, as is often the case. A lot of hot games are getting “no respect” on that list, but a few games I heard nothing about — and saw nobody play — are on it as well.
In general, I’d guess the hotness list closely resembled my final list from Essen 2016.
Specifically, I saw quite a few people playing: Adrenaline, A Feast for Odin, Captain Sonar, Colony, Cottage Garden, Cry Havoc, Fabled Fruit, Great Western Trail, Imhotep, Inis, Lorenzo il Magnifico, Mystic Vale, Scythe, and Terraforming Mars.
Terraforming Mars in particular seemed to be everywhere, and when I’d ask convention attendees what their favorite game was, that was easily the most common answer. Great Western Trail and Inis also got a lot of credit.
I also saw a lot of love for Insider, which had several copies in the BGG library, most of which were always checked out. I discuss it below.
Designer: Filip Neduk
Publisher: Czech Games Edition
(1 Play) Leading up to Essen, I had heard that Adrenaline was a board game designed to be like a “first person shooter.” That concept didn’t really interest me — I was never a fan of that video game genre — but some friends of mine at the convention really wanted to play it, so I gave it a try. The “first person shooter” description is accurate, and I must admit that I liked the game more than I thought I would.
The goal of Adrenaline is to earn the most points, and the game will end when there have been enough “kills.” On a player’s turn, he gets two actions: (a) move up to three spaces, (b) move one space and grab either ammo or a gun, or (c) shoot. As players are dealt damage, they get an adrenaline rush, getting additional options for actions to be taken on their turn. There are a variety of guns in the game, each with a different ability and amount of damage dealt.
What makes the game clever is the scoring system. When players take damage, they receive markers from the player that shot them. When they die, the other players take points for being (a) the player that first shot the dead player, (b) the player that killed the dead player, and (c) majority points for having the most markers on the dead player. This is really a “majorities” game with a first person shooter theme. When a player dies, they respawn on the board, but they’re not worth as much for majorities scoring the next time they die.
Like I said, I liked the game more than I thought I would. The scoring system makes the game: I’m a big fan of area control games, and this felt like one. The different weapons were a nice touch, and despite being a violent game, it was often laugh-out-loud fun.
We played with five players, and that seemed like a bit much: I think this would be best with 3-4. There was significant downtime between turns, and I think this is meant to be a fast-paced game that shouldn’t be overthought.
While the theme didn’t — and still doesn’t — appeal to me, I think a lot of people will enjoy Adrenaline, and I’d be happy to play it again.
Initial OG Rating: Between “neutral” and “I like it.”
Designer: Kota Nakayama
Publisher: EmperorS4 Games
Hanamikoji was one of my favorite games of the convention, and indeed, I think it is in my Top 10 games of 2016. I loved it so much that I played it three times and watched a fourth play. Lorna had done a review of Hanamikoji back in April, so I’ll keep this brief. Quick Simple Fun games is doing a U.S. release, which should be available soon.
At first glance, Hanamikoji’s gameplay looks a lot like Reiner Knizia’s Battle Line. Players compete to either take four of seven cards in a card line, or they try to get to 11 points (which beats getting four cards). The cards range in value from 2-5, and the value on a given card is equal to the number of cards of its kind in the deck.
One card is set aside at the start of the game, players draw up to six, and the game begins.
Players can take one of four actions on their turn: (1) hide a card to be added to the card line at the end of the game, (2) remove two cards from the game, (3) put out three cards, at which time their opponent will pick one, and the player that picked the cards gets the remaining two, or (4) put out two sets of cards, with the opponent picking the first set. Each action will be used only once each game, so unless the game ends without a winner, there will be eight turns. If there isn’t a winner, players take the markers for the cards they won, and they win any ties in the next round. In all three games I played, the game went to a second round, although the game I watched ended in the first round.
The game is surprisingly think-y. The most difficult decisions come from the “I pick, you choose” mechanic, which is implemented exceptionally well. This is a game of anticipating what your opponent has and bluffing about what you have.
The artwork is beautiful, and the gameplay is clever. Hanamikoji is friendly and approachable, and given the simple rules and short play time, I think it would make a perfect “spouse” game.
Initial OG Rating: I love it!
Designers: Akihiro Itoh, Kwaji, Daichi Okano, Kito Shinma
Publisher: Oink Games
(4 plays) Insider is a bit of “20 questions” mixed with “Werewolf,” and it plays up to 7 players. One player is the Master, one is the Insider, and the rest are Commoners. Everybody closes their eyes but the the Master, who draws a card with a word on it. (Each card has several words on it, but there’s a mechanic to pick a particular word.) The Master then closes his eyes, and the Insider looks at the word. Everybody wakes up, and the game begins.
Everybody — including the Insider — can ask the Master yes/no questions to try to guess the word, sort of like in “20 questions.” Players aren’t limited to a particular number of questions, but they are limited by a sand timer with approximately five minutes worth of time. If the players don’t guess the word in time, everybody — including the Insider and Master — loses. Since the Insider knows the word, they can steer everybody towards the right answer with clever questions.
If the group gets the word, the hunt is then on for the Insider. The timer is once again flipped, and the Commons and Master have until the sand runs out to discuss the game and deduce the identity of the Insider. If they guess correctly, they win the game together; if they do not, the Insider wins.
Jonathan Franklin had recommended the game on our internal Opinionated Gamers email list, so I was eager to try it. After his recommendation, there was a debate among several people about how well the game works. I played it four times at BGG.CON, and I do think it works well. In one game, everybody lost because we couldn’t guess the word (“Gift”) in time. In another game, the word (“Milk”) was guessed quickly, which made it hard to find the insider. In the other two games, the words (“Tennis Court” and “Sea”) were guessed after a few minutes, and the hunt for the Insider was fascinating. It all depends on the quality of the clue.
We played the game with two different groups — my Kansas City friends, and then several people at the nightly Werewolf game — and both groups really liked it. And when people saw me carrying Insider around, they stopped me to say how much they enjoyed it.
Is it my favorite social deduction game? No, I’d still rather play Werewolf, and I’ll admit that the gameplay in Insider can be hit-or-miss. But for a 4-7 person crowd, this works well, and to get a feel for it, I recommend playing it at least 3-4 times. It is currently available from Oink Games in Japan, and I hope it makes its way to the BGG store.
Initial OG Rating: I like it.