Chris’s Trip to the Gathering of Friends: Wrap-up

The 30th Gathering of Friends ended tonight, though I left yesterday to head back to Missouri.  I wanted to do one final post about the Gathering, a sort of conclusion, with thoughts on the coming year in gaming and my experience at the Gathering.

What are people playing?

This is largely the same answer as in my previous posts: among newer games, Dizzle, Hadara, Just One, Krass Kariert, Res Arcana, Silver & Gold, and Underwater Cities all seemed to be very popular. The game First Contact wasn’t really on my radar until the last night, so I missed it, but I’m told it got played quite a bit. I also saw a few plays of Obsession, and it had frequent mention early in the convention.

Among the prototypes/pre-production games, the most popular (that can be discussed) seemed to be (in no particular order): Sanctum (CGE), the Lanterns dice game (Renegade), Imperial Settlers: Roll & Write (Portal), Silver (Bezier Games), High Rise (Formal Ferret), the Belratti redo (Repos Productions), Faultier (2F/Stronghold), Letter Jam (CGE), Cartographers (Thunderworks), and several others.

This was certainly the year of the roll and write, and there were numerous titles that were popular there.

What will be popular at Gen Con and Essen?

The Gathering is often a first showing for Gen Con and Essen titles.

So what will be hot this year?  I think that’s kind of hard to answer, at least for me, because many of the prototypes I played are aiming for 2020 release.  For several others, I was asked to keep details secret, so the list below isn’t necessarily comprehensive: if I wasn’t sure if I could mention a game, I didn’t.

But here’s my best guesses, in alphabetical order.  I based this on my plays, as well as buzz around the Gathering.

  • Aftershock: San Francisco & Venice (Stronghold)
  • Black Angel (Pearl Games)
  • Caravan (Rio Grande)
  • Cartographers (Thunderworks)
  • Faultier (2F)
  • High Rise (Formal Ferret)
  • Imperial Settlers: Roll & Write (Portal)
  • Lanterns Dice: Lights in the Sky (Renegade)
  • Letter Jam (CGE)
  • One Key (Libellud)
  • Sanctum (CGE)
  • Silver (Bezier

There are also some games I don’t quite recall the names of. One is a redo of Ghost Stories. The other is 2F’s solo game. Plus, there were several expansions coming.

I’m sure I’m forgetting some!

My Favorites

What were my favorite games?  In alphabetical order, my five favorite of the pre-production and prototypes were:

  • Aftershock: San Francisco & Venice (Stronghold)
  • Caravan (Rio Grande)
  • Cartographers (Thunderworks)
  • Faultier (2F)
  • High Rise (Formal Ferret)
  • Silver (Bezier)

I expect I’ll buy all of those.

My favorite of the newer games were

  • Hadara (Z-Man / HiG)
  • Res Arcana (Sand Castle)
  • Silver & Gold (NSV)

I ended up buying the last two on the list.

My Gathering Experience

As I’ve said the last two years, I loved the event.  It truly lives up to the event’s name: this is genuinely a Gathering of Friends, with many participants having known each other for over two decades.  This was the 30th year of the event, and there are even a few people (6, I believe) that have been to all 30 events.

By the numbers, I played more than 40 different games, excluding the prototypes I couldn’t log. My most played games were Ultimate Werewolf and Hanabi, but among the newer games, Hadara and Silver & Gold both tied at three plays apiece.

There are lots of candidates for my favorite experience. The Monday trip to Toronto with Chad and Doris Roberts was fantastic. Late night chatting was a highlight, be it with Friedemann Friese or Jeff DeBoer or whoever. Werewolf is always a great time, especially with oh-so-amazing moderator Ted Alspach. My favorite single play of the convention was probably Aftershock, which I learned from Bobby West and played with Chad Roberts and Bayard Catron. Learning Caravan from OG-er Joe Huber — and loving it so much that we played again — was a blast. And I also had one of the best plays of Agricola — my favorite games — of all time.

As with last year, my favorite moments weren’t necessarily spent playing games, but rather chatting or going out to dinner.  There are many attendees that I only get to talk to online or see at bustling conventions like Essen. I didn’t get a game in with everybody I wanted to, but there’s always next year.

I’m honored to have been part of the Gathering’s 30th year, and I look forward to the coming months of gaming! A big thanks to Alan Moon for hosting this historic event this year and all of the other years.

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