BGGCON Day Four (2018)

That’s a wrap. As can be the case, I’m getting you a Saturday recap late, as we ran long last night, and my schedule to hit my flight this morning was tight.

It was an outstanding con, despite not playing almost anything I had planned on. The metamorphosis of my BGGCON experience from the time I went through the library title by title in preparation, knew no one outside of my regular group, and arrived with a color-coded spreadsheet of the 123 titles I wanted to try, to next year, where I may only be there to spend time with my friends, may be complete. 

I did play 4 games of Hiktorune this week, and I told you I would tell you more about it later, so I suppose here we are.  Thematically, you are apprentice magicians stealing spells from your master’s spellbook while the master is away. You use the spells and ingredients to traverse a path of cards and defeat a dragon.

As you can see below, the game uses a dexterity mechanic where you arrange the cards in a lean-to on a felt mat, and on your turn, you grab as many or as few cards as you can (other than the outside cards) and lift them up, hoping that the remaining pages do not collapse once you remove the one’s you’ve chosen.

Afterwards, the player can use any of the spells in front of them to try to progress on the path.  The spells require 4 ingredients of a matching color, and some path locations require that each player contribute ingredients.  Some path locations will also grant a bonus of some kind.

If the book does collapse, the group loses a life, and the player’s reshuffle any discard pile into the book and rebalance it.  The game is over when the player’s have lost their last life or defeated the dragon.

I’ve played the game 5 times overall, with 1 victory, 1 near-victory, 1 great progress, 1 game where we only made it to the second card, and 1 where we didn’t make it off of the first. For three of those games, my feelings are that I can’t believe how well the mechanism works, and in the other two, I feel that the mechanism doesn’t work, there isn’t much of game, and hardly even a gimmick.

Because I know how it can feel, I’m impelled to play it more as it is a unique experience.  With each play, and even each pull, I refine my techniques for the best way to pull given the situation – there is also some subtlety to  looking at the book askance, as with no card border, you can see slivers of card colors and which pages may be the elusive spell you need.

We checked out two new Cubiko games from Gavin Birnbaum that were in the library, Carreau and Chopsticks.

In the former, each player is given a catapult, a scoreboard, and three cubes of their color. A bouncy ball (!) is placed in the certain of a pitted wooden board. 

On their turn, a player catapults a cube onto the board, and then play progress to the next player.  Once each player has gone three times, a player scores 1 point for each of their cubes that is closer to the ball than any opponents’ cubes. Alternatively, if a player knocks the ball off of the board, they earn 3 points.  The first player to 5 points wins.

Chopsticks is a mini-Foosball game of sorts using a square Cubiko board.  Each player is given one chopstick, and they fight to push a piece of sushi through their opponent’s goal.  The player earns one point for the standard goal, or three for a shot which places the sushi in a felt lined balcony of sorts.

I really enjoyed each of these.  Chopsticks had many tense moments, as the chopsticks were often just shy of how long you would ideally like them to be, and you might leave yourself defenseless for a moment, as you remove the chopstick and reinsert it on the other side.

Thanks to Chad and for showing off their tables at the con each year, as each of the three games above were improved by playing at one of the bar height tables with an edge.

I didn’t play too much today, as I had a few volunteer shifts, the puzzle hunt, and, well, it was Saturday.  I did not enjoy the puzzle hunt nearly as much as last year, but it’s hard to say if that is me, the puzzles, or that the novelty of doing it the first time wasn’t there.

I did play Globe Twister a few times.  It was new to me, but I had heard a few nice things about it.  In this game, each player has a 3×3 collage of a vacation photo.  The tiles are rotated randomly and placed randomly in a 3×3 grid.  The players have a picture of what the final image should be, and in a real-time round are programming, but not executing, a plan to adjust the tiles to orient and place the tiles in their correct positions.  (You will execute, but that round isn’t timed.)

The cards allow you to rotate and move tiles in various ways, and the programs will execute across the top row from the left, and then proceeding with the successive rows.  This was cute and an interesting puzzle.

I do think that the game ‘hit’ of the convention for me may have been the Fortran game that I’ve put off providing details on. I don’t know how to extract any mental affect of trying to justify my purchase from my feelings on the game, so while it’s not perfect, I thoroughly enjoy it.

Based on the description on the box, which is largely the only information I have on the game, it was created as an educational tool to help teach Fortran programming.  I’ve never done much programming outside of some rudimentary Basic, but other than some syntax tweaks, the results of the code here are fairly routine to parse. 

The game uses the Verflixxt movement mechanic, though that turned out to not have been a useful introduction to almost anyone I discussed the game with, which is to say both that I should not use it, but also that you should play Verflixxt.  Each player has three pawns, and on your turn you roll a dice, choosing which of your pawns to advance (that’s the Verflixxt part).

What is different here is that you execute a line of code based upon the space where your pawn lands.  There are 3 basic types of results: spaces that define that values of three variables AB, and C; spaces that PRINT the value of one or more of the variables (adding the corresponding number(s) to your score dial); and spaces that conditionally redirect you to another space. 

While the game could have the pawn movement choice of Verflixxt, it often doesn’t, as you are not allowed to land on a space for which the code cannot be executed.  For instance, if B is not yet defined, you cannot move to a space that says C=B+4.  Additionally, at the end of many of the vertical lines of code is a red bar that forbids further movement which may make a pawn un-chooseable.

The other option for a line of code is a STOP space which causes the pawn to leave the program, and once one player has removed each of their three pawns, the game is over and the person with the most points wins.

A note about the score and the dials: the rules specify that you do not track the thousands digit.  Which is to say that if your score is 990 and you add 14 to it, your new score is 4.

The game comes with three different programs, with the first being fairly routine, the second adding a DO loop, and the third removing various player aids from the board for assisting with IF statements and navigation.

In contrast to my introducing the game to folks by saying ‘Have you played Veflixxt before?’, I was surprised at the reactions I got by carrying the game around.  Over and over folks saw the box at a distance and came up wanting to know what it was and to reminisce about their days of programming.

Over the course of the con I think I played 5 games, at least once on each of the programs, and let many others try it on their own.  The first makes a nice introduction if you want to play for the whimsy of it, the second I believe has a typo that makes it unplayable (as it undefines B at a certain point and there isn’t a practical way to make any moves that progress the game), and the third is more fully-fledged, and while my game with the third program did not have either player’s score wrap around 999, it did twice when incrementing the variables, and I’m grateful Joe was there to do the math. 

The game isn’t without its issues: the typo, the red line hard stops, the paucity of choices on many turns, etc. That sentence had previously said that the game isn’t ‘great’, but then I didn’t know what to say in this sentence, so I changed it to ‘without its issues’, because that’s more accurate since the game is great!

If the hit wasn’t the Fortran game, it was my friend’s Alex’s Wavelength prototype. Two of the folks that I played it with earlier in the week had contacted me on Saturday requesting to play it again, and I was able to arrange that for one of them.  After some games of Illusion and Time’s Up, we got it out, and it may have been the singular experience of the con for me.  The game sparks such interesting discussion on a range of topics.  This focuses on the ranking or spectrum of qualitative matters, and I’m here for that. On a scale of straight to curvy, how flat is the horizon? On a scale of bad smell to good smell, where is a pleasant dewy Spring morning? The game brings the spectrum, but the players provide the examples.

(Full disclosure that he’s been my friend since the time in third grade that he invited my over for video games and raw cookie dough, but I really love this one.)

These have been different BGGCON summaries than I probably gave you last year, and next year will probably be different again. Thanks as always for reading.  I’m also thankful that I had the chance to sit down and play some games with Joe and Lorna and to meet Eric in person.  

Now it’s time for more planking.

James Nathan

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5 Responses to BGGCON Day Four (2018)

  1. rikkitahta says:

    Hi James Nathan
    One of the highlights for me this con was just bumping into you holding that Fortran game, playing it then getting to know you, thereby trying wavelength (can’t wait for that to come out) and hanging out in the not hot games room. Thanks for all those intros into odd whacky games. And just hearing about how you guys did Rollercon was marvellous.

    Never realised you wrote a blog until now. Either you type very fast or its a huge amount of work !

    Cheers Rikki

    • xitoliv says:

      Thanks, Rikki. Getting to know you was a highlight for me too, from the second-hand banana to being able to tell my wife I got my cardio in while beating the high score of school children. I hope to see you there next year, and let me know if your schedule is ever free to join us on the train!

    • weyscoggin says:

      Rikki Tikki Tahta! I completely forgot to get in contact with you at the con – I was really excited about playing some of your games with you.
      James “So Good At Time’s Up That I Almost Left The Table In Shame Even Though We Were Teammates” Nathan, it was a blast to finally game with you. It’s strange that our pseudo friendship is based on gaming and we never had. I’ll defintely make it a point to carve out time to at least get a session in with you every year.

      • xitoliv says:

        Please do! And I’ll have to figure out how to make it to Abilene to try your escape rooms, even if I know one or two of the tricks.

        I recommend Rikki’s afternoon demo sessions if he does them again, and his Wednesday morning games while folks are in line. Both seem right up your alley and are a lot of fun.

  2. leemc13 says:

    James, I’m glad our paths crossed at BGG.Con this year. Wavelength was great fun and a good discussion generator. I’m always on the lookout for unusual games and Hiktorune fit that bill perfectly. Kogge has been on my to-play list for a while, so it was great to play that in the Not Hot games room you ran. Thanks for all the laughs, and I look forward to seeing what you have in store next year.

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