This is actually a Day Zero, Four, and Five post, as I’ll cover Saturday, Sunday morning, and a few things from Tuesday night after the train arrived.
This was the last BGGCON I’ll be able to make it to for several years, and I am trying to shift some of my convention time and money budget to other shorter, smaller, conventions where I’ll still get to see many of the same folks.
One of the reasons is that I have trouble controlling my tempo here. I’m in such a rush to squeeze in playing everything, seeing everyone, being everywhere, that it’s harder to enjoy. I’m aware of it, I just have trouble relaxing enough to allow a slower pace or lower my voice.
So when my Seattle+ crew of friends invited me to brunch Saturday, I jumped at the chance. Why? Because I wouldn’t be able to play games.
Six of us headed to City Hall and it was a nice, again, to be able to walk to food from the hotel, but also to have the pace slow, and catch up with friends I haven’t seen in years, and some I didn’t know if I’d ever see again.
My plate is one of the three (3!) with cinnamon roll french toast, but that broccoli is me too.
If walking isn’t your speed, Dallas is full of the ubiquitous scooters, but also had a couple more exotic options, like full blown mopeds, and whatever this thing is.
The only game I scheduled on Saturday was Fische Fluppen Frikadellen, a nominally 3-5 player game, that was to be played with 3 copies and 15 people, across 3 tables. We had a few folks not able to make it, and actually started with 11 or so. Rand gave us an excellent teach of the rules, and we were off.
It’s not a real time game, or even a speed game, but there is table arbitrage to be found in how quickly you can take your turns. That is, if the players at my table take faster turns, I don’t need to think and optimize them as much, as I can simply take more turns than the folks at other tables -a side effect further exploited by player count differences.
Intra-table, the game was a fairly pedestrian game of moving a few spaces to a market stall to buy, sell, or trade resources, triggering a few effects, possibly altering the price of the goods, and then ending your turn. Your goal is to collect some combination of 5 resources to turn in for a table-specific reward. After that, move to the dock space, gather your resources, money, etc., and move to another table, inserting yourself to the right of the current player.
You don’t have to leave right away, and at several points a player had a whole table to themselves!
One of the interesting touches was that it didn’t feel like there was a victory condition? There was, and I think the feeling was likely more related to the unknown waters you sailed to on the next island: you didn’t know the resource prices, available trades, or stock levels, so you couldn’t min/max your turns and optimize things as you couldn’t know what they were worth, and I found this freeing. Especially when I had the table to myself!
The whole thing was over in around 45 minutes after we started, with the last 7 folks on the same table at one point. So much fun. If you have a chance, it’s a blast and less intimidating than it might seem.
Despite the poor wifi and cell reception in the hotel, I had a few group texts/DMs that helped me fill out tables to the right player count or get brunch invites. One of those came through as roughly, “Kamozza?”, and I didn’t know what that meant, but once I saw the cover, I knew it immediately.
I mean, just look at that happy little boat.
It’s a game similar to Eggs of Ostrich, if it had communal baskets and wasn’t exclusively three player. Each turn there are 2 boats flipped up, one from a high capacity range and one low. Players have a hand of maybe 7 or 8 cargo cards, with select values from 1 to 20. Simultaneously, the players each choose 1 cargo card, and a card to specificy which boat, and then reveal. If the cargo on a boat adds up to more than the capacity of the boat, then all of that cargo sinks. Otherwise, the players score their cargo.
Sure, it’s chaotic and whatever, but it’s short and fun. Moreover! It has my favorite cards in boardgaming:
I mean, look at that boat’s face! I’d share more, but I’m considering it spoilers. They’re all delightful.
I would’ve loved to stay and play more Kamozza, but it was time for, well, the Not Hot Game Room.
As background, for the last three years, I have reserved a room for a few hours during the convention, hoping to highlight games that fall below the radar, including that of the con library. This was not about being unknown due to newness or rarity, but more to having been forgotten.
As a metric, I wanted to start with choosing titles that have appeared on the “Games Only You Have Played This Month…” geeklists on BGG. It is a monthly list of games where users post games for which the only logged plays on the site that month were you or folks in the game you were in.
The plan was to set it up just as the hot games area, where the games are left out on the tables, and there are a few teachers walking around ready to explain the rules, or not explain as in the case of Eine Gegen Eine the first year.
Eleven people showed up. Edward, from HeavyCardboard, 2 of my roommates, and a slew of people that Jim brought, including Ashley, Ray, and Dani. Edward and my roommates I knew, but I hadn’t met the others before, though for those with great memories, they are friends of Doug who I talked about a few years ago.
(There’s a video of me the day I first came home from preschool. The camera was aimed at me, slouching in an arm chair, and my parents are asking me how school was. I gave the typical “fine” and “nothing” for most answers. They asked if I met anybody or learned their names. I said no. They pushed further. I came up with “I think one of them started with a G.” Then they went one by one “Was it George?” Haha, it probably was because I became quite defensive and seemed disgusted by the suggestion that it could be George. Anyway, when I use a lot of names it helps me actually remember names, which is something I have always struggled with.)
But I felt bad, as I had reserved a rather large room, and it was not an efficient use of space. I wasn’t overly enthusiastic about doing it again, but Edward was persuasive in his insistence that I do, so we did it again last year. A few more people came to a smaller room with broken are conditioning! 13 if I remember correctly, with, again, my roommates and Jim and Ashley, but also some Pax folks, Rikki, and Lee.
Sometimes I think that having interesting ideas, but not following through with them is the same as never having had them. It’s a hashmark in a failure column someone’s keeping somewhere. My BGGCON to do list for this year said “pass out chocolate in the elevators”; I was supposed to buy a few boxes and just ride the elevator until they were gone, offering one to anyone that got on. I didn’t do it.
I had Giant Rhino Hero checked out for most of Saturday, anticipating playing some combination of the actual rules crossed with “dizzybat”, with all credit for this idea to the tweet below, but I didn’t do it.
Anyway, to avoid the feeling that I might have made a mistake, sometimes I jump off a cliff, and this year 60-70 people came through the room over the course of 6 hours, with folks scrounging a spare table I had scouted out in a staff stairwell earlier in order to have a place to play at one point. We even had one game donated(!) before hand and it saw several plays.
I’m speechless and still trying to process that so many people came out. Of course, Jim and Ashley were there, 2 of my usual roommates, and other friends, but also many folks I’d never met before. I’m also touched that everyyear, Kristine, one of the con-runners, sees me the next morning and asks how it went; it’s providentially the only morning we run into each other.
My friend PK who usually brings a “shadow library” that he operates out of his room wasn’t able to attend at the last minute this year, so I was a few titles short of what I had expected to have available, but I brought a sampling of some trick-takers that I love, such as BON (Boast or Nothing), Scharfe Schotten, Tindahan, Mit List und Tucke, Zimbabweee Trick, and Time Palatrix. I also brought a few decks of playing cards, to share games like Let Me Off. Rand brought some others, such as Dubbe, ebbes, and No Hand, to share, as well as draft rules for a trick-taking design he’s hoping to submit to kumagoro_h’s next Trick Taking Party in December. We even had two tables of Die Crew at points throughout the night, despite being one of the “hottest” games of the con.
Any sense of calmness I had been shooting for today sort of went out the window again, as I tried to keep up with greeting, teaching, goodbyes, matchmaking, and more. But there were moments where it turned into “let’s share our love of all things trick-taking”, rather than just “James Nathan’s Quirky Japanese Card Game Show”, as folks wanted to teach me games, such as Adlung-Spiele’s Löwendynastie, or the Polish public domain game Mizerka, and I liked that.
I quite enjoyed that game of Mizerka, a three-player only game using a standard deck of cards. The trick-taking portions are standard rules (must-follow suit, high cards wins, lest trump, etc.) However, players start at a handicap based upon seating position, with the first player at -7, next at -5, and next at -1. The game plays over 18(!) hands, with each player being the start player once. To balance the -7 points, they will get to choose what, if anything, will be trump for the round, or if it will be a no-trump misère round. However, they will only get to choose each of the 6 options once! It was a lot of fun and one I hope to try more in January.
One of the titles that got the most play was Nokosu Dice, a 2016 Japanese release, which had been re-released that morning at Tokyo Game Market. Several folks were ready to buy it, and one said they wouldn’t have started on the trick-taking design they’re working on if they had played this first. If you’re attending PaxU, it should be available at the Big Cat Games/engames booth.
My full review is scheduled for December 2.
One of the reasons you’re getting this recap whenever I finish it rather than the next morning as I usually like to do, is that I’m still struggling to wrap up my feelings about how the NHGR went. I’m grateful that so many folks took time out of their convention schedules to join us, and I hope you found it worthwhile. It means a lot to me that you stopped by.
At night, the timelines of trying to go to sleep, the opening hours of Tokyo Game Market, and the accessibility of information on Twitter entered a syzygy where I was able to keep up with some coverage of the event. As usual, it started with dreary conditions, as the folks waiting in line were doing so on a cold and rainy morning.
Also as usual, there were several games present which had eluded me in my research, such as the JFK Assassination game below, and the yellow hexagonally tiled globe of sorts in the lower right. (The “Eleanor” game in the upper right is a deck-building trick-taking game that I had my eye on, but never found enough information to persuade me to purchase.)
I did look a little more into the yellow globe and it turns out to be a game system of sorts called Geohexas, that suggests playing games like Hex or Othello/Reversi on it, but with a board that wraps around!
There will of course be more information on the titles I picked up as I have a chance to play them in the coming months after they arrive next week.
We’re going to take a temporal step back to cover Tuesday items I didn’t get to, and then we’ll get to Sunday, but first, my thanks to this table.
When we arrived Tuesday, the main area for where folks could play before the con officially opened seemed to be the round tables in the background here, just outside the main ballroom. We didn’t want to play on round tables, and I suggested that perhaps upstairs in the breakout rooms we could find rectangular tables, and a friend pointed out that it would be rather remote for chance encounters with other friends to occur. This is funny to me, as it would never occur to me to _not_ want to play somewhere remote and less prone to interruption, but he had a good point, especially for Tuesday evening. Besides, friends are the features not obstacles.
There was a row of empty rectangular tables being set up for the cash and carry food line later in the week, so we, uh, sort of borrowed one and moved it 10 feet or so to play. We left it there when we finished and as the week progressed, it moved next to the round tables, and by Sunday someone had put a table cloth on it, but it was never part of the proper con setup. So from myself and the others that wanted a rectangular table to play on in this area, thanks little table!
I only had a chance to try it once so far, but one of the games we played was Toraja, a draft-and-write game out of Indonesia.
In the game, players are collecting coffee, clay, and water resources in order to plant coffee trees, water them, pave access roads, and spice them with clove trees. The game plays over 5 rounds (one for each row of the board), with the resources being collected through a draft; cards are flipped up for one more than the number of players, and each player chooses a card in turn, with each player also claiming the resource of the last card. This draft is repeated 3 times in each round. In addition to granting the resource, the cards have a number on them, and depending upon the sum of the numbers in a column the player earns a certain bonus.
Without doing some “research”, your coffee is worth nothing, but eventually you’ll earn points for your coffee trees that have been irrigated; extra if a clove tree is in the same column; how deep your access road goes; how many times you had a low-sum column, and a few other things.
I’ll tell you more once I have a chance to explore it further.
The games I brought with me were really best suited for 4, and until the library opened, I wouldn’t have access to much else, but I did have one 2 player only game with me, Cwali’s recent release Beasty Borders, which I had a chance to play three times during the week.
The game comes with 2 sets of rules, though I’ve only tried the basic. There, it’s a simple roll-and-place game; the player rolls an eight sided die, moves a neutral pawn, and then decides to either place one of their pieces or pass. If they pass, the other player has a chance to place or pass, but in either case, the active player will take another turn. If both players have passed, the space is marked with a stone that occupies it for the remainder of the game.
The pieces the players are placing are ceramic animals, with one player having “farm” animals and one “wild”. Each player has a set of 5, 7, and 8. At the end of the game, players will score points for having larges groups of the same animal in orthogonally adjacent squares, the larger the better.
It’s light, but a lot of fun, and he wasn’t kidding about the pieces being fragile. Those chicken tails! I’ve heard good things about the advanced variant and look forward to giving it a shot.
Back to earlier on Tuesday, one of the more conspicuous things we played on our conspicuous tables was Rikki’s new Hurlyburly game, for which all proceeds went to the Game Loft, a charity I talked about in yesterday’s post.
Each turn, players have the option of building their tower higher, erecting defenses, gathering ammunition, strengthening their catapult, or launching attack(s). The first player to start their turn with a tower of height 4 wins!
It was a blast. It turns out this is one that perhaps we should’ve played on one of the round tables, as we were a little close together. We had difficulty making it to height 4 without another player taking us down, but Rikki walked by and told us about a variant ending for 4 player where you can win if you knock down each other player’s tower on the same turn.
Rikki also brought a “giant” version of the game, and while I didn’t have a chance to try it, Matt has a video below.
Sunday morning I grounded myself. It was something I had first practiced the night before, as I stumbled away from the Not Hot Games Room after midnight, drunk on emotions and exhaustion, and Matt and Jac stopped to ask if I wanted to play Age of Steam, and the Pittsburgh map at that. I had told myself before I left the room, that I would go straight to bed after a run through the mail hall to say good bye to some folks. But then this. I was on the verge of saying yes when she tried to sell it too hard, and that was just the warning sign I needed to say no and walk away. (I did manage to find Wey to play a game he was working on and try a quick round, but otherwise stuck to relatively short conversations and goodbyes before bed.)
But Sunday morning I was still struggling with how many people showed up and that I wasn’t able to spend enough time with some folks. Top of my mind was that I needed to try a prototype of Rand’s and a quirky one he had brought at my request, “No Hand”. I’d also told his wife that I’d make sure he got some ice cream, and, well, we had both forgotten to eat any this week.
So as I walked around that morning, not writing this post, I turned down all games as I was waiting patiently for our plan: what if we went out for morning ice cream and some trick-taking?
Rand researched where to go and I gathered some folks whose departure plans would allow time for our excursion, and now I think there’s a new tradition!
We started with No Hand, which was the spring release from Japanese publisher 758, and while I’ve borrowed several of their games before, I hadn’t played any yet.
The game comes with a few cards and a pile of cubes, but needs you to provide your own deck of cards. In the game, each player is dealt one card from a selection of game play options (e.g. must follow suit or may follow suit; which suit, if any, is trump), and then passes the card to the left, so that each person knows two of the rules.
For each trick, four cards are revealed, and the players draft who played which one, marking them with a cube. Once all tricks have been played, the players bid on how many tricks they have won. Then, the rule cards are revealed, and the tricks are resolved. As with Mizerka, players start from different handicaps based upon a grid of which rule cards they had knowledge of.
It was a tricky one, compounded by Smoox’s trolling of us on the last round by only _trying_ to win one trick! Luckily, I knew one of his cards, and the player who had knowledge of his other card didn’t seem to be following the same incentives.
We wrapped up with Rand’s prototype for kumagoro_h’s upcoming design contest. Things aren’t to a point where it’s meaningful to talk about details, but I can’t wait to see where he takes it.
The local market began as just the low tempo experience I needed. Things were quieter and calmer than they’d been in days. Soon enough though, more crowds arrived, the music changed, live music started filtering in on top of that, and it was time to go. They dropped me at the train station and I rode out to the airport, waved to the DFW BGGCON location, and on to home.