After a too short sleep period, where the Krewe de Gumbo dreamed of hot boudin, cold Canebrake, and sweet pecan pie, we woke up bright and early to once again dive into the crazy cacophony that is Gen Con.
But first, fuel. Phillip and I headed to First Watch, a great little redesigned breakfast place just about six blocks from the Convention Center. First, we needed to clear our heads and sample some fresh air, if only briefly. Second, we wanted some fresh fruit and homemade wheat pancakes with turkey sausage, and what do you know…that is what they serve! Third, two words that will defeat the onset of Con Crud — orange juice. You owe it to yourself to stop here next year, but get here early…word gets around and the place was packed by 9:00 am.
But let’s get back to games, shall we?
The plan was to head to Mayfair’s humongous play area, and get in a four player game of Murano. But Phillip and I got distracted with this crazy little dexterity game called Klask! Imagine air hockey on a small scale with magnets and mines; that’s the game in a nutshell. It was a blast, and if we did not have to run to our next event, I might’ve bought it right then and there.
But run we did…right to Mayfair’s area for our Murano play through. We only had two tickets…so the four of us (Doc, Phillip, Dustin and I) went early hoping that the other half of our scheduled game would not show. Alas, they did show, and so Doc and Phillip scattered to enjoy other games while Dustin and I reveled in this amazing game.
And actually it worked out great. We played with Geoff and his friend (sorry, name slips me right now), and they were some of the best playing partners we encountered all weekend. They were funny, picked up the game right away (we taught ourselves the rules with excellent help from Dustin), and played quickly. There was lots of banter, joking with each other, and even some good natured smack talk.
The game itself is gorgeous. It is a classic Euro, with a neat mechanic of moving the gondola meeples around the board to choose your action. (Think Puerto Rico with sliding action choices.) Throw in a little bit of push your luck or betting style, with the option to make money through the production of glassware, and you have the perfect game for our game group. I don’t want to spoil a review, but this one will get multiple cayenne peppers from me. The game played really quick, and we were all lamenting when it was over…especially me because I just needed “ONE MORE TURN ™.”
While we were enjoying the heck out Murano, Phillip jumped in on a game of King Chocolate. Yeah, I know Tom Vasel and Jason the Cave bombed the game, and the art work is …. well, a bit plain to say the least, but I found the intricate puzzle-y aspects of the game to be very interesting. I would be interested in a full game play, but I don’t think it is a buy for me.
Meanwhile, Doc came by and threw his hat into a game by Mayfair called Mad City. Doc and his playing partners totally trashed the game, saying it was way too complicated to be taught in a one hour session. I bet with the right teacher and the right group, Doc would have enjoyed it — but in all honesty, he loves the best of Amerithrash fantasy or SF type games, so maybe I would be wrong.
Can I give kudos to a competing convention here? I will do it anyway. Hats off to Board Game Geek (BGG) who put on at the very last minute a cool Hotness Room, where you could play almost all of the very latest games from 2016 for only one generic ticket. We ran down there after our Murano play through, and grabbed a copy of Imhotep and Mystic Vale.
Phillip and Dustin and I worked on Imhotep, while Dave and Carlos tackled MV. I think we got the better end of it. How did Imhotep not win the SdJ? This is hands down the best new game I have played so far this year. We played it in the hall, then Phillip raced out to get a copy, and we played it again later…much later..
Look at those bits and artwork! Big chunky blocks for stacking, cool little barges for shipping, fun sized modular board (and we ended up with a promo that added a little betting mechanic.) Well done and a must buy for anyone’s collection. There will be a Board Game Gumbo segment on this one hopefully soon.
The group had to split up then, as Dustin and Doc went after their big SF type games while Phillip and I explored a game that The Secret Cabal and The Dice Tower has been lauding for months, Stockpile. We had signed up to be taught by the designer, Seth from Nauvoo Games, and we got lucky. Seth is an amazing teacher, very patient and very prepared. Kudos to him for not only designing what has got to be one of the best stock market simulations out there, but also for bringing the fun to the party.
Again, we were lucky in our playing partners too, as all were experienced gamers who picked up the game right away. There was lots of laughing and joking and when one of the partners had to leave early, we got the joy of beating the designer at his own game!! (Small fine print, he only took one turn).
I was disappointed in not being able to get The Networks from Gil Hova, as it sold out in seconds, but this game more than made up for it. Phillip and I yelled… err.. fought… err.. politely discussed who was buying Imhotep and who was buying Stockpile. I think we both won, but I got the pleasure of buying Stockpile from the guys at Nauvoo, including the expansion, and with a bonus treat of a few more investor cards as promos. Seriously, go support those guys, they love what they do and they produce a great product.
(Secret tip — they are working with a prototype of a new game — all hush hush, but hopefully there should be more info soon — will likely be a must buy for me.)
Up next, Bryan Fischer (@bryanfischer) had graciously arranged for the Krewe to try our first ever prototype. His friend Eric (@boardandcafe) is working on a new set collection game, that carries an unusual theme. The players are new vinyl record collectors, who wandered into a huge store carrying tons of vinyl records — but they have to battle it out to put together the deepest, coolest collection. Now that is definitely not a Trading in the Mediterranean theme!
We had a good time learning the rules and critiquing the game. I hope we gave the designer some good feedback on what looks like a very promising game with interesting new mechanics.
After a quick trip to the food trucks for some BBQ and noodles, it was time…yes that time…the time had come…THE SECRET CABAL MEET UP (cue the loud stadium jam music).
I have listened to every single episode of the Cabal, so finally getting the chance to go to the famed meet up was something I had been looking forward to all Con. We got there early….like embarrassingly early…like so early Stephen Buonocore of Stronghold Games was drinking beers with us at the hotel bar upstairs. He introduced us to one of his loyal Knights, Jay, and we all went down to the meet up over two and half hours early. Even then, there were fifty people there already, and it only got more crowded.
One of the weirder traditions (I am assuming it is a tradition) at the meet up is the fact that Cabalists play games during the meet up. That’s right, it is the Convention’s Biggest Kegger, and instead of just standing around drinking, Cabalists bring all kinds of games from the goofiest wooden dexterity games to even some fairly heavy Euro style games. Come to think of it, it is a great tradition!!
For our part, we brought our newly purchased Imhotep and Stockpile games, and immediately started unboxing and punching them out. While we were doing this, Jay Volk from Stonghold Games walked over, and we invited him to join in a game of Stockpile. He is very familiar with the game, and except for a few lucky plays, would have handed us our ******* in both games.
Jay told me he has been teaching Pursuit of Happiness for Stronghold all weekend — and you can see why he is a loyal Knight. He is one of the best game teachers I have ever seen. It is hard to give you a visual of how difficult that night would be for a normal game teacher. Imagine 400 people crowding around a stand up chest height table where Stockpile took literally every inch, and all 400 people are drinking and singing and yelling and giving great big bear hugs.
Distracting? Noisy? To say the least. (It cost me my voice for the rest of the weekend). But Jay was a trooper who kept the energy level high during the entire two games we played.
He even convinced us to use the backside of the board, and I am glad he did. The game’s stock price swings are much more volatile with that side, but that makes the game a lot more fun.
The Krew de Gumbo broke out Imhotep and a-never-to-be-discussed other game, and looked like they had a good time doing it. I saw lots of other games being played including Secret Hitler and Celestia and a really interesting game called Vast, where the five players have asynchronous powers involving goblins and thieves battling dragons in a cave that is determined not to let any of them out safely. Somehow I missed the buzz on that one, and now I wished I had at least demoed the game, if not outright bought it.
We even caught a glimpse of a quick dexterity battle between Rodney Smith of Watch It Played and Mr. Cross Fit himself, Tony T. I did not get a shot, but here is a picture of Phillip and I going after each other in this great little Austrlian time waster.
The rest of the night was spent shaking hands with all of the podcast celebrities like Robb, Patrick and Jeremy from Blue Peg Pink Peg, Marty from Rolling Dice, Chaz Marler from Pair of Dice, Lance the undead Viking, Rodney Smith from Watch It Played, and of course, the three amigos from the Cabal, Jamie, Chris and Tony. (Shout out to Don, the man who handled the raffle tickets, too.)
Thank you to the guys from the Secret Cabal, and all of the game publishers who helped make the meet up a success. As Carlos and I ruminated during the night, what other industry brings together the biggest competitors all under one roof, and they all hang out, share the spotlight, support each other’s projects, and become friends? I cannot think of one, and it certainly makes me proud to be one small part of this amazing community.
In a manufacturing mix up, Dustin got three sets of robots and one set of some other faction. That’s right, after weeks of anticipation and after paying for the pre-order, Dustin did not have the full game.
Any good set of friends, would have been very sympathetic and support Dustin in his desperate hour of sadness, right? WRONG. The Krewe taunted Dustin unmercifully until bed time, with ever more elaborate plans for him to head to Poland to fix the problem.
But, here’s the best part of the story — one quick tweet to the hardest working man in board gaming, Ignacy (yeah, you try spelling his last name from memory on an iPad) from Portal, and we had an appointment the next morning for the product malfunction to be rectified. Kudos to Ignacy and his excellent team at Portal–that’s good customer service.
So, the Krewe watched as David broke out Terraforming Mars so that we could admire the excellent production and bits in that game. But that’s it for Day 2 (which was Saturday and day 1 for most other people.) Stay tuned for the final thoughts on Gen Con and the releases shortly.
Until next time, Laissez Les Bon Temps Rouler!