BGGCON Day One (2019)

Here’s the new hotel! It’s the glass building down and to the left of that tower.

Since some things are new this year, I’ll try to remember to share information and photos of things that I had started to take as common knowledge at the previous location, but may be different here.

Though, as usual, this will mostly be a recap of my gaming experiences of the day, with a little food thrown in.

One, new thing is parking. That shot at the top is from one of the hotel’s parking lots. It can be a hike, and at one point yesterday, the hotel staff wasn’t allowing any non-valet customers to use luggage carts from the front door, and certainly not from here.

Your self care story for today is that I’m not the only one to plank at a game convention wherever it needs to happen! As I wrote up RollingCon in the registration line yesterday, I looked up to find this fellow holding a low plank! Thanks for doing that.

Once registration opened at 10 the line moved quite briskly, and there didn’t seem to be any line management missteps with the logistics of the new venue. (Though the VIP registration line might have been different, as it was surprisingly long when I emerged from the regular queue.)

As usual, there were a number of free game choices available for attendees, including 504 and Galaxy Trucker.

As for games, first up Wednesday for me was Nova Luna, Uwe’s take on Habitats, a game I love and have talked about previously.

Here, Uwe has taken some of Patchwork’s mechanisms (the time track and piece selection from the next 3), and combined it with the tile placing and recipe fulfilment of Habitats.

This fell flat for me as I found the tile selection far too tactical with no meaningful way to know what tiles might be available in your next turn, and, with 4 at least, there wasn’t much clever play to be found in time track shenanigans.

Where did we play? Here’s the new hotel main ballroom. It is reportedly larger than the previous venue, but this is a photo from Tuesday night and things seemed more crowded than usual for that time of the convention. It may be because folks weren’t spread out through the basement catacombs, “25” rooms, and the 11th floor getaway of the previous hotel, and were largely condensed to this space and some round tables outside of here. Throughout the day Wednesday the room was much fuller than I would’ve expected at this point, but it may also be that we’re all still feeling out the space to find those niches we knew about in the previous location.

Dexterity games are back again, and a new one I was thrilled to see was Volta.

It’s not a new game, but I don’t recall seeing it in the dex area before. It’s a jousting game of sorts where you nudge your block, hoping to knock your opponent’s marble off of their block. But, if you knock off your own marble in the process, you lose.

I’m glad more people will have a chance to try this.

A new location also means new @OpinionatedEaters breaks! Our old favorite, Meat U Anywhere is now likely too far of a journey, so we’re getting to try some new places.

Based on my trusted source we headed to Pecan Lodge, and 6 of us ordered this plate of food, from an “express” line for those ordering at least 5 pounds.

It was very good! As regular readers know, I’m not one for ranking favorites or talking about the “best”, and I’m not sure I have the palette to differentiate too much between some of the places people favor –eat what you dig!

I will add that the beef rib was stunning in most of what it was, but had an odd sweetness to the outside, and the jalapeno sausage was (wait, can I say the best? No?) quite excellent.

Also, the uh, banana pudding was pretty good.

What’s next in my camera roll for the day? Chicken or Llama, a Japanese release Rand had brought about teams of money counterfeiters.

The game comes with around 20 fake and identical bills, of a nice money-like quality. Each game you’ll use 10, five each with a llama on the back and 5 with a chicken. (I said identical, but there’s one small location on the back where they differ.)

The game centers around being able to determine which bills are of a certain animal without looking at the back, and this is accomplished by folding creases into the bills. (Consider it a legacy game of sorts.)

Each team pre-arranges a fold schema, such as making intersecting folds if the bill is a llama, and the game proceeds.

One player takes 5 of the 10 bills, makes their folds, then sets them face down on the table. That player then announces which animal there is less of, and both their partner and the opposing team now attempt to determine which bills are those of the specified animal.

It has that Decrypto sort of signal stealing, but also don’t goof up your own! Starting from the second round, the bills will likely already have some creases, so will you be able to use those clues to guide your deduction this turn?

There are actually two board game conventions at the hotel this week, both BGGCON, and one that preceded it earlier in the week. I’m not familiar with it, but it’s a designer oriented convention called Tabletop Network Boardgame Designer’s Retreat.

I imagine that name is a fairly predictive descriptor of the event, and I don’t think it would normally have had any crossover with my experience at the con, but then I saw this Tweet from Gil.

A ridiculously good trick-taking game? I can find time for that.

The designer, Fertessa, was one of 8 to 10 winners of the retreat’s New Voices Scholarship for “game designers who are bringing new vision and underrepresented perspective to the industry.” The application process is an essay touching on what game design means to you, etc., and doesn’t include any game design specific criteria, such as a copy of rules or a sell sheet.

The winner gets travel expenses and accomodations covered and is matched up with a more established designer as a mentor. One of this year’s winners it turns out was Fertessa! Having now played her trick-taking game, I’m grateful scholarship exists.

Things are still developing, so of course if you find her and play it today or tomorrow, things may have changed, let alone if you play it down the road. But I’ll give a rough overview.

The game is called Wicked & Wise and is for two teams of 2. To start, the deck consists of no face cards, and one suit is removed as the trump suit. An 11 card hand of the remaining cards is dealt to one player on each team, and that player will contribute 2 cards per trick, for 4 total. Trick resolution is as you would expect, with following suit and high cards winning, lest for trump.

What are the other players doing? Your teammates? They each have a set of 4 action cards and may play one of them each trick, or pick up the action cards they’ve previously played. These actions allow them to do things like acquire face cards from a stack, purchase trump cards from a stack, pass cards to their opponent, and increase your teams commitment to your bid.

The money used to purchase cards comes from the accuracy of the trick player’s bids and can also be used to purchase additional one time use action cards that are worth VPs (how you’ll win the game.)

It’s great! Sure, there are some things to work on, but we all quite enjoyed the core of the game. I had the action card end of the partnership, and I guess one thing I had left out is that my hand wasn’t discarded at the end of round, so cards I purchased could stay there until I felt my partner was ready for them in a future trick, but, of course I don’t know what’s in their hand to determine if they need them! I must deduce that from their progress towards our bid and what they’ve played.

Check it out if you have a chance. I hope to buy it someday.

In recent years I’ve seen more prototypes in play throughout the open gaming area than when I first started attending, and here’s Jason Dinger showing his Acadians game to Kat. He’s a delight, and I love watching him teach his games due to the passion he has for the theme, the mechanics, and the history of his home.

All morning I had been refreshing a tracking number on a package I had sent from Japan to the hotel for a review copy of a game being reprinted for Tokyo Game Market this weekend, Nokosu Dice, and luckily it arrived with plenty of time to spare this week.

It’s a game I hadn’t heard of when I found out it was being republished, and it had been embargoed until Saturday morning, but word leaked earlier this week, and my Twitter feed filled with Japanese friends raving about the earlier edition.

It’s a trick taking game where you bid for how many tricks you’ll take _after_ all of the tricks have been played.

Um, say what? Follow me here. In addition to cards, the game includes dice in the suits of the cards, and in addition to 2 chosen randomly, each player will have 3 more drafted from a pool. One die will remain in the pool, determining trump and supertrump.

These dice can be played as cards on your turn (that is, a blue 5 on a dice in front of you is no different than a blue 5 on a card in your hand), but one of the tricks here is that you’ll play all but one of your dice, and that die’s face will be your bid!

You’ll get minimal points for taking tricks, and hitting your bid is where the bulk of points are to be had.

We played 1 game plus 1.5 hands, so I won’t say too much now, but the review is scheduled soon as the game will be available to purchase at Pax Unplugged in a few weeks, and I wanted to let you know about it before then to see if it’s something you think you might like.

But there’s a lot here! Leaving die that you’d want as trump in the pool, drafting die you wouldn’t want as trump, what suits do you want to draft more of, what numbers do you want to draft more of, how can you shield a die you want to use as your bid from being pulled out by following suit?

Find me if you’d like to try it.

It’s a convention, so you commonly are asked about what you’ve been playing that you’ve enjoyed, the sort of talking about the weather in an elevator with a stranger of game conventions, and for me so far that answer is probably Pictures, from PD Verlag and soon Rio Grande.

It’s a game of picture recreation which uses 5 different methods, and none of them are drawing, scultiping, charades, etc! Instead you have 2 pieces of string, a few building blocks, a 3×3 grid of cubes, etc.

Sixteen cards are laid out in a grid, and will be the photos you use for the entire game. Each player draws a coordinate from a bag, and there may be duplicates. The players then use the medium in front of them to recreate their assigned photo, and when folks are finished, they write down what they think the other players were aiming for. Points are awarded, materials passed, and play again for 5 rounds.

I loved it. What an experience! Maybe it was my stellar crew of opponents, maybe it was that I was no longer in a train (I played it Tuesday afternoon), but I can’t wait to try this out with my family as soon as Rio Grande gets it out.

Much of the rest of the night, I spent teaching some favorites that I’d brought, but wanted to play more.

It’s an interesting year for me, as so far I haven’t even set foot in the library because I brought enough smaller games that I wanted to explore.

I think this next game, Time Palatrix, or after it, is the context I meant to Pictures in, so that I could discuss my highlight of the year and highlight of the con against each other.

I haven’t talked too much about Time Palatrix, as I wanted to confirm my thoughts with more plays, but I think it’s brilliant, and at this point my favorite game of the year.

It’s a trick-taking game that deals with multiple tricks being in play at once. The black, red, and yellow sections above show the three tricks players will play a card to before the tricks are resolved.

You can play to them in any order, and the first person to play to one determines the suit that must be followed.

What that means is: the suit you followed may not be the suit that was lead. That is, if I play a blue card to the second trick, you could play a blue card to the third trick in your turn, possibly shorting yourself so that you can’t play blue to the second trick and are now free to not follow suit. In such a situation where you’ve played off, if you can win the previous trick, your offsuit card has now flipped the tables on the other players and become the lead suit, meaning everyone else were actually the ones that played offsuit!

It’s a treat. I played twice with 2 groups tonight and would be happy to play it more this week. If you have access, the designer will have around 50 copies at Tokyo Game Market this weekend, and that’s the only way I know to get ahold of this one.

We also played Zimbabweee Tricks, which I’ve probably talked about enough previously and am still mulling over if there’s enough of a game there or if it is purely gimmick, which, well, was the designer’s explicit purpose in this case. (I also personally feel responsible for talking up ZT so much and that it might mean people overlooked TP.)

One last game. Tonga Bonga.

I’m continually grateful for the kindness of both friends and strangers in this hobby and doing my best to “Do Good” as Rand’s shirt says, and return as many of those favors as possible.

There were two trades this year where I was the recipient of gratuitous kindness, and one of those is how I got ahold of this one.

In the game, players are sailing around these islands, hoping to earn the most ducats, establishing trading posts on the islands and making it back to the start space.

So, sort of a race game.

How far do you move? You roll dice, so sort of a roll and move.

But, not your own dice. You take your money (which is VPs), and set the wages for a captain and a first mate. After players have rolled their dice, they assign one to each of the other ships. The higher values die will take home the larger captain’s wages, but that also means you’re granting that player more movement! So it’s an economic auction game?

What it is, is fun! Thanks for making this happen, friend.

It was a great day! I got to play with online friends I hadn’t met much in person; folks I’ve seen at the convention for years, but never interacted with before; and while carrying around my Blue Highway Games bag, meet the owner of the store!

First up this morning is the dealer hall; more words tomorrow!

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