BGGCON Day One (2018)

The fellow in the green shirt and hat there would turn out to be my friend Rikki, but I didn’t know I’d put it that way when the day started.

As usual, I like to walk up and down the registration line to see what interesting games and activities folks are getting into.  Rikki had brought a chromebook and a large monitor, and the folks below were playing a horse race gambling game on their phones – think JackBox style where they are each logged into a website that they are interacting with while the screen narrates the activities and the results and what not.

The players were quite engaged, and clearing having a great time.  It turns out Rikki makes large group games professionally, and tomorrow I’ve signed up for a 20-30 person game he’s running, of which I know no details, so more on that tomorrow.

But before we get to tomorrow, we need to get the con open, play a few games, and probably eat something.

I don’t remember if I’ve covered the saga of my attempts to order a salad for breakfast in the past years, but after checking last night that one would be available, there wasn’t any this morning.  The kind woman who patiently works with me on this every year took care of things as usual, and I apologized that we wouldn’t get to do this again next year when the con switches hotels.  She assured me we would be in good hands.

It’s a frigid week here in Dallas, so with concerns regarding folks standing outside if the line got to its usual length, the doors opened early around 9:30.

And somehow it’s already time for an OpinionatedEaters break. I helped during registration and then worked in the library for a few hours before Rand took us a little further out than we usually go, to his favorite haunt, Lockhart Smokehouse.  It’s a pile-of-meat-on-butcher-paper type Texas BBQ restaurant, but the instructions are to not use a fork, and there aren’t trays.

This was for 5 of us, and leftovers, and there are sides.

It was outstanding -as was the peach cobbler!  We smelled like smoked meat the rest of the day and apologized to several of our vegan friends who came to greet and hug us later at the con.

Rand is on a mission to play all of Friedemann’s games, and is close to being down to only 4 or 5 titles or so.  Funfair is one of those that he had left, and is one I’ve meant to play for years.  

It’s a co-design with many other designers, such as the Brands, where the players are visiting a fair.  They progress through four stops in the fair grounds, choosing at each which of two mini-games they will play. Each stop awards the players a certain number of raffle tickets, and at the end, the player’s attempt to cash in their raffle tickets for the victory prize.

In what I felt was the best spirit to play the game, I didn’t read the rules ahead of time, and instead, allowed the appropriate player to choose which carnival attraction they wanted, and we then read the rules and played that game.

We started with the ‘Ring the Bell’ game.  In this mini-game, you are stacking dice according to a card which shows which die face should be facing out.  This stacking is timed, and in addition to the specified face showing out, the top face of a die must match the bottom face of the die which is stacked upon it.

Next up was the ‘Claw Machine’ where a pile of plastic gems is placed in the bottom of the game box, and in rotating partners, each player takes turns being the claw and the operator.  The operator reads out instructions from a joystick to the claw -‘mub’ may mean move forward, ‘mib’ may mean move to the left. The claw moves correspondingly, and when the operator says the trigger word, drops with thumb, index, and ring finger to grab whatever is below, presumably without looking to skew the results. 

We next went to bumper cars, which is an odd card game.  The players are dealt seven cards from a deck of 1-9, with five of each.  The players also have a series of tiles corresponding to what happens when their car hits another. One tile involves the car tilting too far and ends the game.  The players choose the order of the tiles in this stack prior to the game starting, and the trick is that the player who tilts will lose, but the player with the most tiles below their tilt tile will gain the most points. The card play is sequential with the most recently played highest card ending in a wreck, and any 5s played cause an additional tile from the wrecking player to be revealed.

For the last chance to earn raffle tickets, we hopped on the ghost train.  Each player is dealt 2 random fears, and has a pile of 5 or 6 tiles showing possible fears of the players.  There is also a deck of 15 track cards which each show 4 of the possible fears.  This game progresses by one player revealing a track card, and any player whose fear is shown, well, screams.  Then the next card is revealed, and the appropriate players, again, scream. Once this is repeated for each of the 15 cards, the players use their tiles to determine which player had that as a fear.  For correct deductions, both the fearee and the guesser earn a point.

I make no secret of my enjoyment of occasionally playing a game that causes a spectacle in the main hall, but for this one I did warn the players around us: there’s going to be a lot of screaming.  It’ll be over soon, but there will be a lot.  What I hadn’t anticipated is that, uh, I’ve should’ve told more than the adjacent tables.   As I was recapping the game to roommates later in the day, I got a sorta ‘that was you!?’, as I underestimated how far the sound would be heard.

I’m going to tell you more about Fortran later this week, but I picked this up from Tim in the Virtual Flea Market. The ‘VFM’ is a list where folks post what they have to sell, other people buy it, and in one frantic hour, everyone meets in a room to exchange.  This year due to some schedule constraints there is less time to exchange, and I generally like to have less of my con time pre-planned, so I am meeting up with folks to buy and sell outside of the formal time.  

I hadn’t met Tim before, but he was posting quite a few unique titles, often at slightly whimsical prices.  During a break today in my room I read the rules for this one and I haven’t set it down since. 

Since there is a paucity of information about it available, I’ll give you a short overview tonight. Each player has three pawns, and similar to Verflixxt, on your turn you roll a dice and choose one of your pawns to advance.

Here, the space you land on is the next line of a program that is executed.  The various space will alter the values of three variables, AB, and C, move you elsewhere in the program, and cause values to be printed.  Values printed on your turn add to your score.  When three pawns of one player have reached the end of the program the game ends and the player with the highest score wins.

Rand is accurate in is tweet above that I played three times today, including with Rikki, and we had a great discussion afterwards.

I also had a chance to try Tension, a prototype from Richard Gibbs of 64 oz Games, which focuses on game accessibility for the blind. 

Each game lasts 3 minutes, and players try to arrange the tiles to maximize the points from 2 randomly chosen scoring conditions. Naturally, the players are blind-folded, and this assembly must be conducted solely by feel.  

This is not a game I was good at.  This is a game I want to play again!

I arranged a few more of my VFM meetups, talked to some friends, ate some tacos that Aaron brought back from Meat U Anywhere, and took some Advil.  For years I’ve taken Excedrin more often than I would like as I get frequent headaches, and for the last few weeks I’ve been fighting some allergies off and on, and so some days have been trying to decide which was the priority to take. After a jump rope incident a few years ago I’ve also started recognizing a headache that doesn’t seem to respond to Excedrin, but is handled quite nicely by Advil.  I’m not completely ready to tackle differentiating the two, but today, I ended up needing all 3, and around dinner I took the Advil and felt much better the rest of the night.

Just in time for a scheduled game of The Quiet Year with my friend Travis.

Travis runs a few interesting events at BGGCON, such as “Winsome Day” tomorrow, which I’m going to try to stop by, but this year he and some friends are running some RPGs for which I’m not quite certain of the right adjective to describe. 

The Quiet Year creates the events of a village in a post-apocalyptic setting – there aren’t hordes in the street (yet?), but it’s desolate and you’re overseeing, from an omniscient level, these folks. 

The game centers around two components – a map where the players draw the initial village and the subsequent events, and a deck of cards, made up of Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter.

After creating a rudimentary map of the area, players take turns drawing and resolving a card, and then taking an action.  Most of the cards are resolved by making a choice between two vague options: e.g. ‘A stranger arrives at the town. Who are they? Where did they come from?’  It is up to the current player to continue the development (or destruction) of the village through the narrative.

The actions involve finding something new on the map, having a structured discussion among the players through either comments or a question and answer session, or beginning a project.  If the players begin a project, they place a dice on the relevant location set to the number of weeks that they expect it would take to complete.  Each turn the dice decrements and once it reaches zero, the player that started the project resolves it.  

This is all a foreign language to me – and if you’re wanting more details as to what it means to ‘resolve’ it, well, there aren’t any.  You just make up what happens. Many of the basic tenets of RPGs still require paradigm shifts for me. The rules provide some structure regarding Deus ex Machina and what not, but also give guidance through ‘contempt’ tokens.  If a player feels that they were not properly consulted on a decision or that their view point wasn’t taken into consideration, they reach over taken a token and place it in front of themselves. These tokens don’t do anything mechanically – there aren’t points, there isn’t winning, there aren’t restrictions on certain actions that you can’t take while you have them.  Again, my mind is just screaming out ‘what is even happening!’

But they played an interesting role in the players’ psychology and decisions.  There were multiple instances where I changed the content I was instinctively going to provide, as the potential anguish of causing another player to take a token was something I wanted to avoid.

I had an excellent time and the four hours simply flew by. In a sense, it was somewhat of a therapy session with how the rules structure the players’ discussions, the effects of the contempt tokens, and the story we were each invested in.  It also helped to have Travis’ dulcet tones and teacher-instincts guiding us through the rules and handling the few bits of moderation that we needed.

James Nathan

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2 Responses to BGGCON Day One (2018)

  1. jeffinberlin says:

    I love your adventurous spirit, James! Thanks for sharing, and keep the reports coming.

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