HeavyCon: Day One

I started out the morning with Kogge which Edward had brought along for me, and was a title from last bggcon’s Not Hot Games Room.

There weren’t player screens, but otherwise this was the highest quality component Kogge copy I’ve played. Roughly, you’re shooting for 5 points and you start with 1. You’ll earn points by building trade houses, or trading in cubes to the provost. It’s tricky in a number of ways: when you sail from a city, you can only sail to one of the two numbers currently available at that port. You can launder a tile (facedown) into one of the spots, but this component is very multi-use, and you need to be judicious. If you do launder it, you place one face down, which will only be flipped up when someone commits to going there (or rather, has no interest in going to the other destination!)

There’s much more going on, and while I’d hate to recommend something to anyone, I love the unique feel of this one.

Up next, I tried a Tim Fowers’ protoype, Sabotage.

It was a sort of Burgle Bros crossed with Captain Sonar. There were a few too many asymmetric abilities to track for my taste, but I expect folks will enjoy this.

Rand and I decided to give Botanical Lab another shot, now that we had a better understanding of the rules.

It’s a deckbuilding game where you are scientists developing new plants; you’ll run back and forth in your labs planting seeds, fertilizing them, fertilizing them again, and harvesting the flowers. Most of the fertilizers work for 2 types of seeds, and you’ll fertilize each seed/plant in the lab you’re currently in- earning one point per spot affected (regardless of player). A fertilized seed becomes a plant, a fertilized plant becomes a flower- and starts to age. If you don’t harvest it in time, it won’t be worth any points. However, if you are able to harvest multiple orthogonal plants at the same time, you’ll earn bonus points (there are also some end game points for variety of flowers harvested.)

Three things stand out: the board is very tight. We played a 4 player game, and there is quite a bit of competition for available seed locations- let alone ones that will allow you to earn the orthogonal bonuses. The card count is very tight. The available plants, fertilizers, seeds, and deck manipulation cards are piece limited in a way that seriously hampers your plans (and for me, this is a good thing.) The card longevity is very short. There is no trashing, and there seem to be cards that you will simply need- but may only be able to use 2 or 3 times- making each purchase a tough choice as that card will stick with you.

I don’t need to own it, but would happily play again.

OpinionatedEaters break:

Phillip had brought these Russian chocolates, and seemed perplexed when I asked if they contained cow’s blood. (Some children’s chocolate bars in Russia contain cow’s blood for iron deficiency diet reasons.) Ok, moving on.

An attendee, his spouse, and mother-in-law baked hundreds of cookies for everyone. Small con.

I ate the Russian chocolates with Botanical Lab, and the cookies while we played The King of Frontier.

I love this game.

It’s a sort of Carcassonne/Puerto Rico mash up. On your turn you’ll pick an action, and get a fancier version of it than the other players. You can draw new tiles to place, produce in your completed areas, consume your wheat in your cities, or build a building- typically with your rocks and wood.

That’s, uh, pretty much it. You’ll get points when you consume, points for buildings, points for capacity in completed areas, and lose points for unused spaces.

I adore this game, and the reasons why may be best illustrated by contrast with two other games I played today: This Guilty Land, and God’s Playground. More on those below, but each contain more rules that have expections or are unintuitive than I find pleasureable. Here, things are streamlined, and the rules are simple.

The decisions are interesting as you balance what gives you the best edge, and it has a certain purple Ganz Schon Clever track to it- which is my current go to analogy for saying that it feels great to be getting a lot of little bonuses.

It takes a surprisingly short amount of time to play, with so much to do, and not enough turns to do it.

One of the holes in the bggcon library for me are a few Winsomes I’d love to try, so I was excited to see a shelf in the library that looked like this, courtesy of Scott:

Unfortunately, Gulf, Mobile, & Ohio, the title I was most interested in, was not available. After checking a few on bgg, I settled on New York Central.

It’s a surprising analogy to me, but I found it most reminiscent of Abluxxen. Each turn you are either drawing, playing, or “running” a blue train card, and then acquiring a share. Some of the trains are freight trains- at the end of the game these will award points to the majority and minority shareholders based upon the distance between the card’s destination and where it was placed.

Passenger trains score the same at the end, but can be short-circuited by “running” them mid-game, in which case they score points equal to their face value, and they also cause some shenanigans with the stock counts.

If you’re placing a train card, you’re obligated to place it at the city with the least train cards. The Abluxxen aspect comes in as you try to “protect” certain share cards and train cards by burying them under less volatile cards.

One of the games I had scheduled for the con was God’s Playground.

I miss the Treefrog subscription days, and find a certain nostalgia in playing them. I love the annotations on the board to remind you of the rules exceptions, and I find the artwork to be a good balance of usable and beautiful.

This is one of the three-player only releases, and it has about the same number of rules that don’t have exceptions as I have teeth in my upper jaw without cavities.

The three players are somewhat cooperating in defending Poland from various invading armies, as you’ll likely need to work together to keep from losing points, though there’s certainly nothing co-op about it. I was happy I got to play it.

I also played Amabel Holland’s new prototype This Guilty Land.

Its a two player game about political struggles over slavery in the pre-Civil War US. It’s card driven and does some interesting things with balancing the randomness of card deals, and how it handles the number of seats in the House and Senate. Ultimately, I’m not Amabel’s audience for this game, and for me, I struggled with the prototype components, as there were many details that I felt needed visual reminders or clues, and I’m sure that will be addressed in the final version.

I did seek out to play it though, as I think Amabel does many interesting things, and I admire his unique visions. He and his wife Mary’s podcast is one of my favorites.

Later, Rand, Evan, Carmen, and I played a few games or Don Buriko and a second game of New York Central- in tandem. When new cities were revealed in NYC, we paused the game to enjoy Don Buriko.

I mostly packed Don Buriko for Edward, as he has a thing for “I know that you know that I know games”. DB is a 16 card game where you try to bring back exactly 6 acorns from the pond. If you bring back 1-6, you earn points; 0 is 0; negative is negative; and over 6, you have to pay for each you went over.

The trick is when you are able to return 6 exactly, declare “Don Buriko!”, and the round ends immediately. In general, the game follows a -loretto structure where each player will get a set of cards that you are loading up as the round progresses, so a prematurely ended round can be quite a boon to the winning player.

The other trick is that you can play your cards face up or face down (there are positive cards, negative cards, variable cards, and cards that swap negatives to positive). If you play it face up, you earn a point, and if face down, you place one of your points on the card, and it will go to whomever takes that set.

So if you can see one card, and the person before you adds one face down- are they setting you up to spill your acorns, or are they setting themselves up for an easy Don Buriko?

Tomorrow I have no scheduled games. The contrast from bggcon is already quite interesting to me as I feel much less FOMO pressure to try the new hot Essen releases, and have been able to maintain a more relaxed pace.

Lastly, floor marker directional signage is one of my favorite logistics touches. There is a parade of these elephants that guide you to the satellite rooms.

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3 Responses to HeavyCon: Day One

  1. huzonfirst says:

    Wow, a Kogge sighting! It’s got to be at least a decade since I’ve seen any mention of that. We had fun with it when it first came out–it’s a real brainburner–but we finally tired of the long playing time. Still, there’s a lot of good stuff in it. It was the first notable game I’d seen from a fellow called Andreas Steding, who, of course, 6 years later released a little thing called Hansa Teutonica. So sometimes early promise does pay off in the future.

  2. @mangozoid says:

    I love looking at the prototype pics, and sounds like you’re having a blast, even though I have no idea what “FOMO pressure” is, am glad your not feeling it… lol

    • xitoliv says:

      Thanks. FOMO is “fear of missing out” -sometimes when I have access to a con library, I feel a self imposed unintentional pressure to try various titles I might not otherwise be able to play.

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