The Ybor City neighborhood of Tampa has flocks of street chickens just roaming around.
I recently spent a few days playing games at Gulf Games, an invite-only gaming event held twice a year. It moves all around the Southeastern US, but this year was in Tampa, Florida, which is of course actually on the Gulf, so an especially appropriate location.
Gulf Games is somewhat unique in that it is an event to which people are encouraged to bring their families, which means there is a mix of ages, genders and gaming interests present in the game room, which also means there is a wide variety of games being played; it’s not just the BGG top 10 or the newest 50 page rulebook extravaganza being played but also some of the old classics hitting the table.(Although, that said- there were always at least two games of Ark Nova going on, and I did play Golem and a pre-release. . .)
Here are some of the highlights from my four days of gaming.
When I first went down to the ballroom I was highly amused to see the above sign on the door. The hotel had somehow interpreted board gaming as Japanese board gaming. If you follow us here at Opinionated Gamer you know that some of our flock is very involved with Japanese board games, and I figured this was just part of the master plan for world domination, even though they weren’t present – they deny having any involvement, but I have my suspicions. . . .
So, since the sign in the door said Japanese Boardgaming, I figured I’d start with a Japanese game. I’ve been hearing about Psychic Pizza Deliverers Go to the Ghost Town for a while now, with opinions here at the OG being very divided, so when I saw the Kickstarter I knew I had to back it. I grabbed a few friends and we were off. It turns out to be a really fun deduction game. You can read our full review here, but essentially one player is the game master (the mayor), and they have a hidden setup with all of the players and their locations as well as the locations of the pizzas that need delivering and the houses that are waiting for them.
On your turn you declare what you want to do.
You can try to move, and if there is nothing in your way, you successfully move one space. If there’s a ghost in that space, you can’t move, but on a future turn you can attack that ghost and draw a special ability card, which you can play on a future turn. After you take your turn the Mayor tells you how many fences, ghosts, pizzas and houses are in the surrounding spaces, information you can use to try to find a pizza and get it to the right house. I thought it was great, and played it a second time later in the weekend. The rules were clear, the components are of good quality and, most importantly, it was FUN.
I was very excited to try Regicide, a game I have heard a lot about but not yet played. It’s a cooperative card game for one to four players. It uses a traditional deck of cards, but the official game comes with nice art, a player aid and the ability to use an app to help with gameplay and scoring. Players are taking turns to defeat the 12 regals, one at a time. On your turn you play a card from your hand to attack the regal, who, unless you kill them, will attack you back. Discard a card to defend, or you’ve lost. Sounds simple, but there is a lot of strategy in what you attack with, what you hold for defense, and how to work with your teammates. I can see this being very addictive, and will definitely pick up a copy.
I got a chance to play an advance copy of Dom Pierre, a meaty strategy game coming soon from R&R games. Players are each managing Champagne Maisons, hiring workers to plant and harvest crops, make wine and sell it to improve your reputation, thus enabling you to sell more and better wines.
There is a LOT going on here. A LOT. It took several turns for me to have any idea what was happening, but once I did it all made sense and there was a clear flow to what you were supposed to be doing. It’s a combination of resource management, engine building, pick up and deliver and worker placement all rolled in to one.
It took us about four hours to play, although some of that was rules clarifications and re-explanations of how things worked. I am looking forward to trying this one again now that I’ve learned it.
I had received Phantom Ink as a birthday present way back in February, but it has been sitting unplayed since it requires more than two players. I am not always a party-game fan, and I was a little worried about the theme of mediums and spirits and psychic connections. Turns out I needn’t have worried, because this was really fun. Players divide into two teams. Each team has one Spirit; together Spirits select a word from a card. The mediums give their Spirit two question cards (they always have seven to choose from) that ask a descriptive question – what color is it, where do you find it, what does it taste like etc. The Spirit chooses one then slowly writes the answer on the provided sheet; once the mediums on their team know what the word is they say “SILENCIO! “ and play passes to the other team.
When a team is ready they can choose to guess instead of asking a question. They slowly write their guess one letter at a time, with the Spirit confirming correct letters or stopping them if a letter is wrong. The team that guesses correctly wins. It was really fun. There was a nice balance between good choices and having to get creative, and you are engaged on both teams’ turns. Also, my friend Ron and I apparently have a previously-unknown psychic connection, because we rocked at this game.
It’s no secret that I love trick-taking games, and one of my favorites is Cosmic Eidex, and I hardly ever get to play it. Why? Well, it is uniquely a three-player game, and it is rare that I am playing with that specific number of people. You have a deck of 36 cards, 6 through Ace, in four suits. Each player gets a hand of 12 cards. The last card to be dealt is dealt face up, and that determines the trump. If the card is an ace, there is no trump and things work like they do in most games, with the highest card in the suit led taking the trick. If the card is a six, there is still no trump, but now it’s reversed – six is the highest card. If it is any other card, that sets the trump.
You score points for the cards you won in tricks, with the points varying depending on whether the hand was top-down, bottom-up or trump. The player with the highest and lowest point totals each score a point, while the person in the middle scores nothing, unless a player managed to score 100 points, in which case the other two players score a point. You play until someone gets to 7 points.
I was also excited to give Cat in the Box another try. You can read our full review here. Previously it was only available in Japan, but Bezier Games has released an English version, making it much more accessible. Well, it makes physical copies of the game more accessible – the game itself is still a bit of a brain burner, but in a good way.
Take what you know about trick-taking and (mostly) throw it out the window. You decide what color your card is when you play it, but you have to be careful because there can only ever be one card of each color, and if you are stuck with cards that have already been played you have created a paradox and you lose. I haven’t figured this one out quite yet, and I got lucky on several hands that someone else caused a paradox just before I did. PHEW. I think this is going to be very popular, and I am definitely going to be picking up a copy.
I’ve been really enjoying Golem two player, and was curious to try it with four. I am happy to report that it plays well at both numbers. You can read our full review here. It’s an engine builder in which you are a rabbi, creating Golems to protect your people. There are a plethora of ways to get a good engine going, and seemingly several paths to victory. While you don’t interact with other players on their turns, the down time is fairly minimal and the game moves along well. One of these days I am even going to figure out how to build a good engine; turns out trying to do all the things is not the best strategy. . . .
While killing some time before dinner we tried another new game I had brought, Dandelions. This is a light filler for 2 or 3 players. There is a central circle of tiles with varying points, and each player has a handful of dice. Everyone rolls simultaneously and lays their dice out in front of them grouped by number. On your turn you choose a dice, move your pawn around the circle that number of spaces and then place your die in that space. If there is already a die in another color but the same number there you move that die, along with yours, to another tile. Play continues until all dice have been played. You score sprouts for the value of the tile that your dice are on and seed points for any tile where you have the majority of dice, and the player with the most points wins.
I own Everdell, but for some reason have only ever played it once. I don’t know why; it was an enjoyable experience, I like tableau builders and resource management. and it was a fun experience, but for some reason it sat unplayed. It’s been on my mind after seeing a display of the expansions at our local FLGS a few months ago, so we decided to play. You can read our review here – and in fact you can read the entire week of reviews, since Chris reviewed the expansions as well. I am so glad we played again, because I really enjoyed it. It’s a beautiful game, the rules are well written and the theme is very well-integrated. Pro tip -if you play with me do NOT let me sit next to the tree, because chances are good I will bump into it and cause chaos in the forest. . . . .
Playing Take it Easy as a group during the closing ceremonies is a longstanding tradition at Gulf Games. It works much like bingo, with one person pulling and calling tiles for the entire room. Players are trying to complete rows and columns of the same number, which allows you to score that row or column. You can’t move a tile once you place it, and you will not use all your tiles, so there is a delicate balance of where you put things and when you should break a row in order to potentially score something else.
henever I travel I am interested in exploring the local area, and am always especially interested in local pastries, craft beer, disc gold and, when applicable, beaches. The Tampa area has all four, and I took full advantage.
The first thing I tried was a guava flip from a Cuban bakery called La Segunda. It was AMAZING. I must have had guava at some point before this, but I don’t remember it being so delicious. I kept saying I was going to try something different, but the closest I got was to have a guava turnover instead. I even tried some guava pastelito ice cream, which was also quite tasty. I am going to have to hunt down some guava nectar or paste so I can make my own pastries.
Aside from all of the fun gaming, the best thing about going to game cons is really the people. Being able to spend time with friends is something I appreciate even more than I used to. Many people arrive at Gulf Games early to do just that. We spent one delightful day touring around the area, checking out Ybor City, Sparkman Wharf and the maritime museum and another day in the delightfully warm waters at Honeymoon Island Beach,
We also managed to visit several craft breweries over the course of the week, inclusing Cycle Brewing in St. Petersburg and 7venth Sun and Angry Chair in Tampa. And yes – that beer is really green. It was Ectocoolliner, a tangerine Berlinerweisee from Cycle and it was quite tasty.
It’s always good to get some exercise in when you’re going to be sitting for a lot of the day, so it was great, if hot, to get a round of disc golf in – especially since the disc golf course was on a beach, something I had never seen before. It was a fun course, and while I saw plenty of lizards while retrieving my errant discs I thankfully avoided seeing any snakes. . . . .