Dale Yu: Short Report from the Gathering of Friends – New Games (that I can talk about)

So, the blog has been quiet all week… Many of us have been at the Gathering of Friends, and between game playing, game designing, eating, walking, sight-seeing, museum-going, game-showing, game playing and maybe a little bit of sleeping – we’re returning to our regularly scheduled lives.

I know that in the past I had live-blogged my time at the Convention, but this year, I just didn’t have it in me.  Sorry.  So, here we go, a little late but better than never!  I was away for six days, but the bookends were mostly spent traveling with a little side trip to Rochester NY.  Thus, only four days of gaming, and that’s not nearly enough time to see all my friends that are there.

My list of games played in the short four days for me…


  1. Dancing queen – a super neat 2p card game that was in the 9card contest on BGG recently.  A full review coming soon   
  2. Vivarium – one of my favorite 2023 releases.  A quick drafting game that really hits a lot of my sweet spots.  I reviewed it a few weeks ago on the blog.
  3. 31 Fireworks – you’ll see this one a lot; it’s actually my own design, and many of these plays were showing it to other Opinionated Gamers and a few pitches to game companies.  https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/385938/31-fireworks
  4. Bridge City Poker
  5. Let’s go to Japan – another of my recent favorites.  I think it’s still active on KS right now.  The traveling theme just really works for me here.  Full review posted last week. 
  6. 9 Tours
  7. The Mind soulmates – an interesting new addition to the Mind family of games; this one is more for the novices as one player gets to give a few clues to the rest of the team.  Review coming in the next few days
  8. Dealt!  – This is really just Krass Kariert in a new box.  Still like this game, but if pushed, I’d rather play Scout than this one.
  9. Pilgrims * – We sort of abandoned this one after a few rounds because the rules in the box didn’t make sense, and there may or may not be a typo or two…
  10. 31 Fireworks – pitch #1.  Umm, lets just say that this particular game company couldn’t say “Not for Me” fast enough!
  11. (unnamed prototype)
  12. My Shelfie – A game, new to me, from Lucky Duck.  I think it released last GenCon from Cranio, but US distribution seems to be new and from Lucky Duck.  I’m writing the review right now; but it’s a tile drafting game using a connect-4 like board to store the chits you draft.  Certainly has a nice table presence.
  13. Nimalia – another Lucky Duck game that has you overlapping cards in your area to try to meet a set of revolving scoring goals.  We played with the basic scoring criteria as suggested by the rules for beginners, and it worked fine, but I think the more advanced scoring cards will make the game even more interesting.  Will have to try it again if I get a copy!


  1. Vegetable stock – man, this game is so simple with only 6 rounds where you draft a single card – yet I’ve played it a lot since getting a copy from Smoox.  A lot of people seemed to like this one and I think Smoox sold out of the supply that he brought from Taiwan.
  2. Vivarium – See, I told you I liked it.
  3. Unlock TTR – one of recent Unlock boxes has three board-game themed mysteries.  Jim Brown and I tried the first one, based on Ticket to Ride.  It was quite fun, and maybe renewed my interest in the Unlock series.  We did not “win” – as we took more than 60 minutes to solve it, but we had 64 minutes of puzzling fun.  Only one or two dodgy logical jumps required to solve all the puzzles, which seems to be par for the course for this genre.  Looking forward to trying the other two adventures in the box.
  4. Pilgrims – Now, with Joe Huber available to teach us, the game was played.  It happened.
  5. Die Schlacht der Dinosaurer – time for a classic now, with all of us tromping our dinosaurs around the board.  The game came down to a final 1v1 battle, and Jim was victorious.  FYI, if you ever need anyone to roll dice for you, choose anyone but John Palagyi.
  6. FTW – Man, what an interesting new card game from Friedemann F.  It is a sort of climbing game mixed with a sort of shedding game with a super interesting endgame to each round where you have to decide to push your luck or cut your losses.  Supposed to be coming out at SPIEL 2023 if plans work out ok. 

    Man, someone get these guys a razor!

  7. (31 fireworks) – umm, another play.  I think that it was received well… by at least 3 of the 4 players.  Man, it’s hard to get love for a complex trick taking game these days!  For this pitch, I’d score it a “swing and a miss”
  8. Fujiyama – A new-to-me game about laying tiles on a pyramid shaped board to score points.  Each round, you give one tile to each neighbor (and receive one from each neighbor).  You can only play one tile each round, and whoever provided you the tile that you use gets a bonus.  A nice push/pull of not wanting to give your opponent a super valuable tile while still wanting to get as many bonuses as you can.
  9. Compass tricks – A game in development by Joe Huber.  I played it previously at T8 in January, and the improved graphic design has made it much more workable for my tiny tired brain. 
  10. Pit – what a classic.  Joe Huber was really itching to play it, and well, I’m never afraid to play a game that involves lots of yelling.  This was late at night, and man, my brain forget on multiple occasions that I sometimes get a 10-card hand, and I missed a few cornering of the markets as I kept trading trying to find that super-elusive 10th Rye or Barley… Oh well.  Still lots of fun, and possibly my favorite game with a bell in it.
  11. Carpe Diem – so I really was trying to go to bed.  But Rachel really wanted to play something older, and Carpe Diem hit the table.  We played the 1st edition with the nonsensical star pattern between the different tile sheds, and fun was had.  I really bolluxed up the scoring in the last round, and missed out on the big payoffs and was honestly lucky not to take double penalties.  Needless to say, I didn’t win.  This remains a Feld game that I surprisingly like, though I continue to hate the graphic design.


  1. Solar Sphere – A surprisingly chewy game in a delightfully compact box.  It’s a worker placement game of sorts that uses d6 as the workers.  There is a really nice mitigation system to make low value rolls useful.  The game definitely changes based on which Solar Sphere scoring card you draw at random, and I’m looking forward to trying the game again to see how they work.
  2. Hooky – possibly the “hit of the show”.  Saw this game in play a LOT.  It essentially was released at the Gathering, and many people were picking up their copy and immediately playing it.  The review will come out next week, but in short – this is a deduction game where you are trying to ascertain the three letter cards (out of 26) which are playing Hooky.  The game was designed by the late James Miller, one of the original Opinionated Gamers, so it was a really bittersweet experience to play one of his game designs knowing that I’ll never be able to play it with James.
  3. Balloon Pop – an upcoming release from Lautapelit.fi – a sort-of Tetris like game where you draft collections of colored balloons and watch them rise to the top of your board, popping and scoring points when in certain positions.  Like the bubble popping games on your phone, you can sometimes be surprised by sequential combos that occur as the balloons pop.
  4. Hooky – Seriously – maybe the hit of the show.
  5. Magic Trick – a new trick taking game from the TT-savant otherwise known as Chris Wray.  A super neat idea where you know the suits of your cards but not the ranks (the cards are at least placed in order low to high for you). At one point in the hand, you have to select a card that serves as your bid.  This might actually be my favorite Wray trick taking game, though T8 and shoot the moon also vie for that spot.  The game might be hard to get as I think the entire print run is 75 decks?!
  6. (unpublished prototype) – a super interesting memory game that is cooperative and has you trying to memorize the position of 40 different cards.  I can’t say more, but I am surprisingly super interested in this one and I can’t wait to see if it will be picked up.
  7. Trick Builder – another new game from Friedemann.  It’s a trick taking game with a Fable/Fast Forward mechanism thrown in.  Not sure if this one is ready for SPIEL 2023, as it was literally just designed.  Unsurprisingly, the new cards which come into play felt a little unbalanced, but I’m sure that FF will fix it up nicely.  I’m definitely getting in line for this one whenever it makes it to the market.
  8. Vnty plates – a game.
  9. (unpublished prototype) – 
  10. (unpublished prototype) – played it twice, can’t tell you about it
  11. FTW – that Friedemann game (again).
  12. Sides – the other game that I saw being played a lot, a party game from Captain Games – where players give single word clues (starting letter determined by a display on the table) to get their teammates to guess the target word.  While it isn’t specifically language dependent, it was hard to play with people who had different primary languages as some of the word play is rendered useless.
  13. (unpublished prototype) – the memory game again.  I’m ashamed at some of the scatalogic mnemonics that my teammates created to remember things.  So much fun.
  14. Nuts a go go – A game that was at the most recent Tokyo Game Market.  Which looks totally whimsical, and plays as such.  There is a box of wooden bits, and you rush to fill a little Dixie cup up with different types of bits.  Then an elimination round where one player shows/discards a piece, and you stay in the game if you are also able to discard the same shape. Last player standing wins.
  15. Vehicles (2F prototype) – a game pretty early in development by Friedemann which is a cooperative puzzle game. Too early to say anything else, but it’s always so interesting to see how a game starts and then what it looks like when it hits the market in the future.
  16. Mast buy – A strange auction game from Japan where you try to collect wooden dowels of varying lengths – but the catch is that you can only measure them using your eyes from a few feet away.  Oh, and did I mention that the difference in length between the dowels is only 5 MILLIMETERS?!  As usual, I lost badly.
  17. Aiue battle – a weird hangman-ish game that I’ve played a few times, and I really want it to work, but it still doesn’t really do it for me.


  1. Axo – a neat abstract game from Matagot.  A super interesting mix of Rock Paper Scissors meets Connect 4.  Sure, that combination sounds pretty plain, but man, the game really just works.  I liked it better at 2p than 4p, but it’s still a interesting challenge at both player counts.
  2. Western Legends – looks like this 2018 release is getting a new version… I’d never played the original version, and I liked what I saw here. I played only the 2p version and there was a lot of tight back-and-forth card play.  Looking forward to seeing the finished product, likely at Spiel 2023?
  3. 31 Fireworks – another pitch, hoping that the 3rd time is the charm as the saying goes…
  4. Axo 
  5. Axo – a 4p game. More tactical, and the higher player count adds in a “Kill Doctor Lucky” vibe in the endgame.
  6. Unboxed – an upcoming game from Wizkids which might be classified in the “escape room/puzzle hunt” genre.  In this game, you get a bunch of game bits and a booklet of challenges.  Each challenge tells which which game bits to examine and a few clues.  Your job is to figure out the game that is being played with the bits and answering some questions about it such as how is the game set up, how are points scored, when does the game end.  It’s a really interesting idea, and we did the first couple of challenges.  As a bonus, we also tried to play each game that we reconstructed…
  7. Sauscharf – I have really liked this game since discovering it at SPIEL 2022. It’s in my permanent game collection, FWIW.
  8. Let’s go to Japan – another play of this travel themed game that I love.
  9. Tribes of the wind – This game is new to me, though I first saw it at SPIEL 2022 (in French only at that time).  A really interesting game where each player has a hand of card, and the composition of each player’s hands affects the actions of the cards in the game. 
  10. Res publica – Someone wanted to play a trading game, and I saw this on a shelf.  Man, it should have stayed on the shelf.  I know that this game was loved when it came out, but I feel like the game design world has moved forward since then.
  11. 31 Fireworks – one more pitch.  Got the response I expected.
  12. Littoral – A push your luck game where you draw tiles out of a bag, trying to collect the most treasure from the beach.  I think this is not the final title, as it’s still a work in Progress from Randolph games.  
  13. Gridopolis – says the designer: “Gridopolis is a three-dimensional strategy game. If you have ever played checkers or chess, you get the idea. Only now, we are playing in 3D. This means you can move and jump and play in any direction! “  It was fun until we got stuck in a stalemate position in our 4p game.  I think it works at 2p, but kinda broken at 4.
  14. Pizza trick – an unpublished prototype by a fellow Opinionated Gamer.  It has improved each time that I have played it, and I think with a few more tweaks it’ll get to where it wants to go.  A nice way to end my convention, playing a prototype.  

Well, that’s about it. As far as the Opinionated Eaters go, I would like to throw a shout out to the local Indian buffet at Zaika – I loved the Thali plastic trays that you can use which help keep everything separate and give you plenty of edges to scoop stuff up with your naan.

That’s it for this week, back to the grind at work and home.  But lots of review coming in the coming weeks, so expect to read more about many of the games above.

Until your next appointment,

The Gaming Doctor

(I’ll leave you with this. Just try to guess the game. Or whether or not JN passed out shortly after this picture was taken…)

About Dale Yu

Dale Yu is the Editor of the Opinionated Gamers. He can occasionally be found working as a volunteer administrator for BoardGameGeek, and he previously wrote for BoardGame News.
This entry was posted in Convention Report. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Dale Yu: Short Report from the Gathering of Friends – New Games (that I can talk about)

  1. When I teach Carpe Diem, I say that the star is just graphics. The spaces are actually connected in a circle.

    • Dale Yu says:

      Curt, yes topographically it’s a circle. But in the disconnected form, it un-necessarily slows people down when they have to bump themselves around.

      In the second version, the rules are changed and you simply just move in a circle. However, we were playing with the first edition, and Dan really wanted to play with the original rules.

  2. Eric Brosius says:

    I really enjoy Res Publica, but it took me at least a half dozen plays before I “got” it. Which as you say is a no-no for a game today.

    • huzonfirst says:

      I also enjoy Res Publica and think it still holds up well today, 30 years after its release. It remains a unique game, where the key is communicating as much information as possible with a very limited vocabulary.

  3. huzonfirst says:

    I also enjoy Res Publica and feel it holds up very well, 30 years after its release. It’s a unique game where the key is communicating as much information as possible with a very limited vocabulary.

  4. Rikki Tahta says:

    Great report thanks. Sounds like barrels of fun – makes me very jealous ! Chris Wray’s game is the one I’m most looking forward to trying

Leave a Reply