I recently attended the Lobster Trap boardgaming convention in Massachusetts. I really look forward to this event every year. It’s a smaller event, so I get the chance to at least say hello to the people I know, and it is spread out over 3 smaller spaces, so no one space is overly loud or crowded, something I struggled with at cons even before the pandemic. Several Opinionated Gamers attend the event as well, and it is always nice to see them in person.
I also enjoy the chance to try out some new or new-to-me games; here are some of the highlights from my three days of attendance.
I am a fan of tile laying games, so I’d been looking forward to this one. Each player has a base starting tile; on your turn you take a new tile from the offering line and add it to your tile. You can build out or up, following the rules and keeping the scoring requirements in mind. There are basic scoring options as well as a more advanced game. It takes less than 30 minutes and there is enough here to keep it interesting. You can read our full review of it here.
No, this is not a new game, although it does have some new player mats. It does continue to be a hot game, though, and I saw many plays of it during the con. I personally played it twice. This game continues to draw me in; I enjoy the fact that it is never quite the same game twice thanks to the varied player mats and the vast amount of cards in the game; you are always having to adapt to the current situation and no one strategy will always work. Neither of my strategies worked as well as I would have liked at LT; I lost to Jack by one point after he noticed what I was up to and ended the game a turn before I wanted him to (curse you, Jack!) and my research-heavy strategy in the next game didn’t net the gains I’d hoped for.
I am definitely interested in upgrading my bits to this set we played with here; the plays at LT were plays 12 and 13 for me, and I don’t see the game disappearing from the rotation anytime soon. You can read our full review of it here.
Endless Winter: Paleoamericans
This is a recent kickstarter arrival to our house thanks to my husband; based on the box size I really wanted to give it a try to see if I needed to create space for it on the game shelves. (It came at the same time as the deluxe Mosaic edition, so space is currently a bit problematic. . .. ). It’s a worker placement game with some deckbuilding and resource management thrown in. I am not going to go into too much detail as I will be writing a review of this soon, but essentially you are the chief of a tribe and you are trying to improve your tribe by exploring and upgrading your tribe members. On your turn you can play one type of cards to get the benefit and take actions that let you explore, expand and recruit. After 3 rounds of actions there is an eclipse phase, where you gain income based on improvements to your board and placements on other tracks and boards. After 4 eras the game ends and the person with the most VPs is the winner.
There is a lot happening here. There are four common boards/areas, plus each player has their own board. There are also two rows of cards you are looking at, and many, many icons. It was hard to see all of them as everything is spread out and some of the icons only have slight variations, and we were learning from the rules, so it took a while. Many people who walked by us repeatedly stopped to ask if the game was indeed endless. . . . . It did take a while, but having now played it again it is much, much faster when everyone knows how to play and is familiar with the iconography, and the flow of actions does make sense. Stay tuned for more details, and thanks to Derek, Mark and Scott for trekking through this with me.
Foundations of Rome
I had never heard of this game, but when my dinner companions told me about it I was curious to try it. It is a city building game, and it is visually stunning; each player has a large set of detailed, 3D building pieces. The board is a grid with numbers and letters (much like Acquire). You start the game with several of your lot pieces seeded onto the board; on future turns you either buy a new deed, you place a building or collect income. You are trying to expand your areas to place larger and/or better buildings to maximize income and scoring. The player with the most VPs wins the game. I have terrible visual-spatial skills and so had a hard time envisioning how I could place new buildings, but it was still an interesting game and I enjoyed it. I would definitely play it again, but due to the components it is pricey and the box is huge.
GI Joe Deck Building Game
Sometimes it is more about who is asking you to play a game than the game itself; I normally wouldn’t have been interested in this game, but I definitely wanted to play with Ian and Bunny, so we were off. I know nothing about GI Joe, but that didn’t factor in at all in being able to play the game. In the end this is a decent cooperative deck builder with some interesting mechanics.
This is a game that I think got overlooked by many when it came out in 2021l, which is a shame because it is a good game. It is not the Golem of Lord of the Rings fame, but rather the Golem rooted in Jewish tradition. It’s an engine builder in which players are rabbis acquiring knowledge to create golems and artifacts in Prague in the 1500s. It has many interesting mechanics, the game flows well and it plays well with any number of players from 2 – 4. Some people dismissed the game due to the use of marbles to determine available actions; apparently there is a belief that the marbles can be manipulated by the person dropping them in. If you just do what the rules say and drop them in all at once with an open palm there is no issue (and also maybe don’t play with people who would cheat by dropping them one at a time. . . ). You can read our full review here.
Another game I didn’t know anything about before I arrived, but it looked interesting so we decided to give it a try. Players are supporters of Mozart, both pre and post his death, trying to raise funds and resources to complete his requiem. You start with a hand of action cards that you will use to both generate actions and get income; upgrading these cards throughout the game will improve your efficiency and enable you to do more, but at the same time you need to generate money and resources to be sure your influence is felt on the requiem and that the composer you prefer is writing it.
I didn’t like this game for the first two rounds, but then I started to realize what I should or shouldn’t have been doing (note – one thing I should not have been doing was letting Luke buy all the opuses. . . .) and began to appreciate the mechanics, and then I couldn’t stop thinking about it for the rest of the day and well, now I had to go out and order my own copy because I really needed to play it again, which I have done and it is an excellent game. I’ll be writing a full review soon.
Next Station: London
Another game I knew nothing about, but that my friend Bob suggested as a quick game before he had to leave. It’s a draw and write. All players have an identical mao pre-printed on a sheet of paper. There are 4 starting points on the map in 4 different colors. Each player is a different color every round; a card is drawn and you draw a line from your stop to a shape on the map, earning points for various connections and crossing the Thames. After the round ends you do it all again, but playing a different color. After all players have been all colors the game ends and the person with the most points wins the game. Simple, but engaging and fun. I didn’t do well, since I was being far too cautious in trying to not box myself in, but I enjoyed it. I recently discovered it’s on Boardgame Arena and the implementation works very well.
The Crew: Mission Deep Sea
I love this game, but I can never find anyone who wants to play it for as long as I do (more than just a few rounds), so I was very glad to find a group of people who are both good card players and who wanted to play it for 2+ hours. We struggled a little but in the beginning, when one player mistook the mission number for the value of the cards we needed to achieve (rather than the number in the life preserver), but even then I could tell this was going to be fun as we were all playing well despite the nearly impossible cards. Once we started playing by the actual rules we made it through a bunch of missions. We were mostly 4-player, but added in a 5th player later on, and that worked just fine, too.
The organizers of the event raffled off about twenty games. All attendees got 10 tickets to put into the jar for the game or games of their choice, with a drawing on Saturday afternoon. You had to be present to win, and I thought this was a great way to do it, as it limited the number of interruptions to the gaming. There were many fine choices – Carnegie, Catherine: the Cities of the Tsarina, Ultimate Railroads to name a few. However, there was also one copy of Hannah Montana the board game. One might think no one would want this game, but one would be wrong. The person who won was excited about it. Be forewarned – if Justin asks if you want to play a game, you might want to ask which game first. . . .
I love to bake, but with limited social events over the pandemic I haven’t been able to do nearly as much baking; I mean, I can, but then it stays here in the house with just the two of us and we eat it, so. . . . Anyway, I always look for opportunities to bring cookies or other baked goods to gaming events to share, all individually packaged. I had the bright idea to make some speculoos shaped like lobsters, but the cookie cutter I bought was small and it was hard to release the dough from them and to place them on the cookie sheet without mis-shaping them, so I ended up with some cookies that weren’t as lobster-like as I had hoped. I also made rye cranberry/chocolate chip cookies, coffee cardamom and chocolate chocolate chip cookies, all round and less frustrating. The search shall continue for an appropriate lobster cookie cutter. .
Thoughts from Other Opinionated Gamers
Joe Huber: Unfortunately, I didn’t get to play a game with Tery during the event – and looking at the list of games she played, I played almost none of them. The one exception was Akropolis, which I enjoyed enough to throw all of my raffle tickets in for – and which I was fortunate enough to win; I’ve played it three more times since the event. I did play twelve other new-to-me games during the event, eight of which are new or new-ish (2022 releases). Of those games, I particularly enjoyed Railway Boom and Wanted Wombat.
Mitchell Thomashow: My approach to Lobster Trap this year was to focus on just several games and play them multiple times. I played San Francisco four times. I think it’s terrific and I immediately ordered it. When I returned home I played it as a two player game for the first time and it was just as good. It’s interactive, improvisational, and fun with lots of player interaction. I also played Akropolis four times and found it terrific at all player counts. There’s nothing particularly new about it, but the integration of Kingdomino style scoring with multiple stacking levels is a nice formula. I instantly ordered that one as well. I very much enjoyed several plays of Cat in the Box and 535, too. I played Next Station: London once and I look forward to exploring it again. It’s just a puzzle solver with no interaction but it’s fun to construct the networks. I joined a group with Joe Huber teaching Air Mail. It’s a good one but not sufficiently distinctive. I was thrilled to get in a game of two of my favorites, Inhabit the Earth and a game of Troyes. I played some other games as well but I don’t record my plays so I don’t remember them!
Craig Massey: Lobster Trap is one of my favorite game events, though I admit I’m biased. It is a fantastic mix of some brand new games tossed together with some yearly traditions and annual plays of favorites with a wonderful extended group of friends who share a love of the hobby. Akropolis, Cat In the Box, and San Francisco were definitely among the most played new games. Lacrimosa saw consistent play as well throughout the weekend and Tiletum made an appearance finally the latter half of the weekend and was set up at a table and played three straight games in a row by a different group every time. I had a chance to play some of these new games, but like Mitch I found myself playing some older gems like Inhabit the Earth with Mitch and a fun game of Montage.
We gave away twenty different new to newish games. As Tery mentioned, the last game given away was Hannah Montana Girl Talk which had accrued a grand total of six tickets. The winner won much more than that though, provided the game was played and a session report with pictures shared. Can’t wait to see how that goes.
Dan Blum.The only games on Tery’s list that I played at Lobster Trap are Akropolis (which I like) and Ark Nova (which I also like, but not as much as many people). I had previously played Next Station: London which I think is one of the better flip/roll-and-write/place games released recently, and Foundations of Rome which I thought was just OK even if one ignores how overproduced it is. The best new-to-me game I played at LT was Tiletum, which was more to my taste than most of Board&Dice’s output.