Saturday at Buckeye Game Fest

Last Saturday, I headed to Columbus, OH, for a board game convention on High St. I ate two meals at the North Market with Jeni’s for dessert. The CABS library was there. A consignment store & a “take a game, leave a game” couch. Artemis. Extra Life fundraisers. Play to Wins and a vendor hall.

But it’s September. Origins was three months ago.

This was a different downtown Columbus board gaming convention: Buckeye Game Fest.

Luke talked a bit about it a few days ago, and Dale has too, but today is my turn. As usual, I’m mostly going to talk about what I played, but I sprinkle in some additional quirks of the convention itself.

So, despite Luke and Dale both also going, I was only able to attend on Saturday, and neither of them were, so I played games with neither of them, and didn’t know many people there when the day began. I told Evan I would probably be there between 8 and 9, and I was, requisite box of pastries in tow. (I didn’t take a picture this time, but I stopped at the Pistacia Vera location just south of downtown, as it opens earlier than the North Market location. Highly recommend the pain à la cannelle. As usual, most of the point of the box was to help me make friends with strangers.)

Registration wasn’t quite open yet when I arrived, but we went ahead in to play. As usual, the 8 AM open gaming crowd is sparse. We started out with my attempt to use Bamboleo as a way to select the pieces for Patchwork. Evan hadn’t played either of the source games before, so we played through each of those once before attempting Patchboleo.

Um, it didn’t work at all this time :). In a game earlier this year, Dale and I reached the end of our game, and I made it most of the way in a game before that, but we struggled mightily this time. May need to find a larger or softer sphere for the board.

I won’t get the entire order of the day correct, but I spent most of it here, in this open gaming room:

This isn’t the only one, there were other breakout rooms as well. This seemed to be the busiest one, with Rodney there at the focal table, some large versions of games off to the side, a water station, a microphone for announcements, and a door to the modest vendor hall.

I had a chance to play Get Connect in the morning, a Japanese game about English alphabetical order. I want to get a another play or two in before sharing the full post about it that I have started, but it’s an abstract game where players alternate moving the same piece through this triangular grid; collecting letters of the alphabet; scoring in a No Thanks related manner (you don’t want stand alone items); and hoping to earn bonus points by making words out of the collected letters.

Someone had grabbed Between Two Castle of Mad King Ludwig from the “Play and Win” section of the library, and we played it next. “Play and Win” is a feature I’ve been seeing more frequently at conventions where folks who check one of the selected games out from the library are entered into a raffle to win it at the end of the con. (The game itself was what it advertises to be. No more, no less.)

Next, Erin grabbed My Little Scythe from the table, but, uh, Ian vetoed and we got to play なつめも (Natsumemo). For the first time.

It wouldn’t be the last.

Natsumemo is a roll and write game about Japanese school children planning their summer calendar. You want to earn the most “summer enrichment” points by spending time with your friends, going to the zoo, building a box fort, and what not. You’ll also grow closer with the friends you spend the most time with, and, of course, you have homework that you’ll need to get done, and that’s not possible if you’re at a friend’s BBQ or on a trip to the candy store.

The game is heavily language dependent, but the requisite files are available on BGG. We ended up playing three times that day as folks from the first game would request or demand it more later in the day, and several copies were immediately ordered from

I’ll try to give it a full write up soon, but, I think it goes without saying for now that I love it.

I had arranged with Zach to play Psychic Pizza Deliverers go to the Ghost Town previously and was glad to play it again. I’ve talked about it before, and here’s the town setup I made as the Mayor.

Roughly, it is a deduction pick up and deliver game, where one player is the Mayor who knows the state of things in the town, and the others are the pizza deliverers who start the game with a blank sheet of graph paper and need to find and deliver their pizzas in 20 minutes (turns) or less or it’s free!

(The two “n” shaped teleporter wells had their intended effect, and I hid the houses among the starting ghosts hoping to make any new ghosts that would be added create an undetectable change, but I had missed that if someone had the 180 degree card, the cheese pizza would be an easy delivery!)

Once the consignment sale opened for the day, we took a stroll through there. A couple games caught my eye, but nothing I couldn’t live without. I did see a copy of the Kramer and Kiesling game “Ever Green” sitting off to the side on a chair and become quite excited. It’s a game that’s been on my BGGCON “to play” list since 2016, but ultimately, it was moved to storage and culled and I never had a chance to try it. I’d probably buy that; what could it cost? Well it didn’t have a price. So that was a little frustrating–

Until I saw a stack of them sitting at the corner of the library! Rio Grande had donated several of them as part of a “Everybody gets to pick one of these games” door prize system! Now I have a copy that I can’t wait to check out!

It may have happened before Origins, but the deli in the corner by Omega Bakery seems to be gone, so I had a banh mi and some Jeni’s for lunch. When I returned, some of the folks I had been playing with were otherwise engaged, so I got out another 2 player game, Soulaween. It’s a 2019 release from the Taiwanese publisher Play With Us Design, and was released in some east Asian markets earlier this year.

On your turn, you place one of the discs into an empty spot in the grid, with either color face up. Any orthogonally adjacent discs are then flipped to their opposite side. Your goal is to create certain patterns of a single color disc; those discs are then removed from the board and a chip is earned; the first player to earn three chips wins. In the basic game, the patterns you are looking for are straight lines: columns, rows, or diagonal. However, also included are a few “advanced” characters that do some more exotic things. We played twice and it’s a puzzly little game. We’ll be bringing you a write up on it in the coming weeks.

I was able to meet up with Dean and he requested Across the United States (a game I’ve previously talked about here), and I was happy to oblige.

Across the United States is a train game where you’ll be extending railroad lines and taking the actions at both ends of the new cube of track. It’s a bit of a point salad: points from passenger tickets; freight tickets; gold bars; building cities; and stock holdings.

That said, this was my 8th game, and Dean did something I hadn’t seen before. This is perhaps where it could be appropriate to point out that he was coming from a different background of train games. He had overslept an 18xx appointment that morning and had been playing them most of the previous day. He wiped the table with us in this Across the United States game going heavily into the stocks of just 3 companies. He scored 15% more points than our usual high scores have been, and each of the other 4 players scored about 15% below average. I had not seen that type of stock-heavy strategy before, and my passenger tickets suffered for it, as several of the companies, while prolific at laying rail, were spiraling them inward on themselves rather than branching out.

We had 5 players a bit longer, so we played Gossip and the City (which I’ve previously discussed here), and Everyone’s Served (which I’ll be writing about soon.) We also played Natsumemo again because it’s amazing!

Somewhere in here I went to dinner (chicken curry, no dessert), and saw this delightful setup in the hallway. A sort of “Take a game, leave a game” couch. On the honor system, if you want something, leave something else (though I don’t think there would’ve been too many objections if you took something you strongly wanted.) Fun!

Oh, while I’m on dinner, it was a delight to be at a board game convention on High St. and not have to wait in line for food at the North Market! No lines for lunch, dessert, or dinner!

When I got back, some folks were finishing up Letter Jam, and Erin had to leave soon, so we played Zimbabweee Trick, as we thought we could finish it up in time. I first played it with a hodge podge deck mish mash of several decks of standard cards back in January at my trick-taking convention, having translated the rules over breakfast. In May this year it was released at the Spring Tokyo Game Market, and I had yet to get the published version to the table.

Zimbabweee Trick is a trick-taking game from Taiki Shinzawa, who I may soon admit is my favorite designer (and who is also the designer of the next 2 games we play below). It is themed around hyperinflation in Zimbabwe. The game uses a “Pairs” deck of cards (one 1, two 2s, three 3s,…ten 10s), with large indexing in the upper right hand corner. Once a trick is over, you don’t discard the cards: each trick you add to the previous number. That is, if you played a 6 for the first trick, and a 4 to the second, you’ve actually played 46. Play a 10 next and its 1046. In the photo above, I’ve played eight hundred forty-seven trillion, four hundred thirty-nine billion, six hundred eighty-seven million, nine. (The rules, naturally, encourage you to say the numbers out loud after each card play.)

Players bid on how many tricks they’ll take, with a bonus for hitting exactly, and the player who takes the most tricks is eliminated for having devalued their currency.

I enjoyed it as a lark of an experiment in January, but I loved playing the published version. Richard Launius was playtesting a racing game next to us on the table, and warned us they might be loud and disturb us, but, well, I think we were louder with the joys of Zimbabweee Trick.

That isn’t the only trick-taking game Taiki released at the Spring Tokyo Game Market. He also released a game I adore, but haven’t mentioned much previously: Time Palatrix (the “palatrix” part of the title being a play on “paradox” with both the L/R translation snag of Japanese and English, as well as an allusion to Jeffrey Allers’ trick-taking game “Pala”.)

Time Palatrix is a time-travel themed trick taking game– I’m going to stop you right there. If you’re saying “But, but, Renegade has one of those that just came out, Time Chase. Have you tried it?” I haven’t. I tried to get a demo at Gen Con, but the stars didn’t align. Corey told me that Rodney had a copy with him at Buckeye Game Fest, and I thought it would be nice if we could play them back to back and compare and contrast, but I couldn’t catch Rodney with a free moment. He was in high demand! So yeah, at some point we can discuss Time Chase, but not right now.

Time Palatrix has you playing to 3 different tricks at once. No, let me rephrase. You’re playing a set of 3 tricks at once. On your turn, you pick one of three slots to play a card to. If you are the first person to play a card to a trick, well, as usual, you have determined the suit that the other players must follow. (I’m purposefully not using the word “lead” there. You did not “lead” that suit.) A side affect of this time paradox is that you can go into the future, to short yourself a suit, so that you don’t have to follow suit in the present!

The other quirk is that while player x may have determined the suit that the other players “followed” for the third trick, imagine this scenario: Player y did not have the blue suit that player x played, and so sloughed off a green card to the third trick. Now, if player y can win the second trick, that means player y is “leading” the third trick. Now, player y’s green card is the suit being “lead” and so is higher than the blue suit that everyone “followed”!

We only got in 3 tricks before Erin had to scurry off, but I’ve played 2 full games prior and am quite enthralled with it at the moment.

That leaves us 2 games to go before the don’t-fall-asleep-driving-home game, and one of them is another from Taiki. This time one of his 2012 releases 貧乏陶芸家 (Binbou-Tougeika), otherwise known as “Poor Potter”.

What if: a closed economy auction game, where the money was 74 grams of clay, rather than discreet currency denominations? You can tear off as much or as little as you want to bid on the item on auction each turn?

Players earn points for the clay they haven’t spent and have collected from other players, as well as the pottery cards they’ve won. This game had only recently arrived, and I’d only just finished translating the rules, but we had a lot of fun; further thoughts are pending.

For the last game of the night, I might have done us a disservice. Another game I love, Van Ryder’s new Detective: City of Angels. (One of the reasons I didn’t end up playing Ever Green in 2016 was that I got distracted with things like the prototype of this that I played. It was my favorite game of 2016 and I’m glad it’s finally out!)

What I mean by disservice, is that perhaps earlier in the day, on an earlier day of the con would’ve been a more appropriate time. There’s a lot to read and digest here.

We played the “Murder at Sunset” scenarios, one of the easier cases. With my regular group, who have played the game around a dozen times, it shines. We’re familiar with the system and what we’re doing. I haven’t introduced it to new folks in several years (I was involved in some playtesting), and I forgot how hard it can be to wrap your mind around what you’re doing: it seems so simple once you “get” it! Anyway, chalk this one up to a poor teacher and lousy game sommelier; I hope I haven’t turned them off to the possibilities the game holds.

This was my second consecutive unscheduled con of the year, as I hadn’t anticipated going to Gen Con for a day either, and the next you’ll hear from me about my convention adventures should be RollingCon in November, as Rand, myself, and a motley crew plan to board the Amtrak in Chicago on our way to BGGCON again. 24 hours of train-themed games on a train!

But I wanted to say thanks to the Buckeye Game Fest folks for having me up! For me, it has everything I want out of a convention: smaller, more intimate open gaming. That’s really it. I’m a simple fellow. An uncrowded nearby market with plenty of food choices? That’s a bonus! (Of course, if you want the game library, door prizes, a consignment shop, Artemis, etc., it has all of that too!) OK, water stations. I also need a water station and it had that.

Also, thanks to Evan, Corey, Ian, Erin, Angela, Dean, Zach, Donnell, Jim, Susie, and everyone else, whose names I don’t remember, that I got to share a game with. Friendly folks to game with is another requirement, I suppose, and this con has a whole lot of nice people from Columbus and nearby environs to enjoy a game with.

James Nathan

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4 Responses to Saturday at Buckeye Game Fest

  1. Evan says:

    I’m happy you had a great time. Thanks for bringing such weird, interesting, and fun games. I still need to order myself a copy of Natsumemo. Box Fort Sunday Forever!

  2. Pingback: Saturday at Buckeye Game Fest – Herman Watts

  3. Pingback: Our Favorite Games of 2019 | The Opinionated Gamers

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