Dice Tower 2017 Convention Report – Final Day and Final Thoughts

Two days of pre-con gaming, four full days of gaming non-stop from morning until midnight, thirty-one different games played — and it all comes down to the last day of Dice Tower Con.

Saturday was bittersweet, knowing that we were leaving that night. Jack and I met a lot of people at the con, and made a lot of good gaming friends. But, on the bright side, Saturday was also the morning of the Very Unofficial Dukes of Dice Baseball Highlights 2045 tourney. Plus, there should be plenty of time for gaming after the tourney ends.

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Lots of Duchy friends. Jack is playing in the back on the left behind the fan with the hat, Alex watching behind the table, Jake from Draft Mechanic sitting across from Jack, and Evan the Organized on the right hand side. (Photo courtesy of “Burky” from the Burky & Badger Podcast).

Jack and I headed to the Con hall with very little sleep between us. He had stayed up way late playing a bunch of big con games like Werewolf, while I stayed up for another Ethnos game.

We ran into Alex from the Dukes and Evan, the organizer of the event, and started setting up tables and decks. We ended up with sixteen players, so four tables of four players squared off. (Brandt Sanderson from Portal Podcast could not stay, and we had a cancellation, so he was gracious enough to take a dive in the first round against Alex.)

Speaking of cancellations, the defending champion who lobbied to be a late add to the tourney didn’t show! When I left Max the night before after we finished Concordia, he apparently kept playing games until the wee hours of the morning. Sorry, Max, we’ll catch you at the next tourney.

Back to the action — I quickly was dismantled by a young fellow from Jacksonville named Jeremy.  He has played many times on the app, but had never played the physical form. He quickly picked up on my plan to draft cards against his natural stacked deck, and then completely ditched the naturals for a spread between robots and cyborgs. I was lucky to beat him in two games, but he eventually finished me off four games to two. The fact that I was buying cheap robot control cards, and then missed the robot check the first five times, really hurt me.

Jack also had to face some pretty good players. He took on Jake from Draft Mechanic and Evan the Organized, before facing Burky from the Burky & Badger podcast show (and from Royals fame).  According to Alex, Burke is one of the best players out there, and won a local Dukes tourney in ABQ as I recall.  It was nip and tuck between them, but eventually Jack out drafted him to win four games to two.

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Evan the Organized, Jeff from Mo, and Alex trying to defend Earth in Flipships by Kane Klenko and Renegade Games.

While waiting for some of the games to finish, Alex set up a game of Flip Ships and played with Evan and Jeff from Mo, while I taught Sean’s buddy, Ellie, Kingdomino in the 7×7 format. Both games look so good on the table, are easy to teach, and have a lot of game in such small packages. I can rate both of them two thumbs up, despite Ellie destroying me in the format!

With Jack’s win against Burky secure, the finals were set!

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For all the marbles, the final World Series of the Basekball Highlights:2045 tourney between Jeremy from Jacksonville (L) and Jack from Louisiana (R)

Jack had to take on the same guy that beat me in the first round, Jeremy from Jacksonville.  What a matchup! Both teams were very good at buying cards and playing strategies. I broadcast bits and pieces of the match on Facebook Live before my battery crapped out. Each team split one game after another until the series was tied at three to three. It came down to the last inning of the seventh game of the World Series — just the way baseball should be played — and Jeremy could not get a visitor’s save.  Jack was the winner!

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Suze fact checking Sean or Alex? Hmm….could be…

The Dukes of Dice were recording right next to the tourney with honorary Duke Suzanne Sheldon from The Dice Tower.  The show ran long, so they missed the final game, but Alex kept tabs on the score and gave updates to the podcast audience.  I had named the episode Rasp of Con! (I’M COMING AFTER YOU, NAME FATHER!!) and Sean was gracious enough to invite me to announce the episode name and talk about the con. Alex even got in a mention about Jack’s win, so he was very thrilled with that.

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The Duchy is strongly represented at Dice Tower Con.

We had a few of the Dukes listeners stick around. Jeff from Mo, Ellie, and many others that I can’t remember all played or watched some of the games. If you haven’t played Baseball Highlights: 2045, you owe it to yourself to try this amazingly well done deck builder by the card guru himself, Mike Fitzgerald.

Then, it was on to the Stronghold booth, while Jack picked up another game of Game of Thrones. At the booth, I demoed Frogriders, the new Spiel de Jahres weight game from Stronghold. The game plays two to four players, and takes only about twenty minutes. Players jump frogs in a checkers type move, but each frog has a unique power, either giving the player points or allowing them to purchase upgrade cards or even taking another jump and another frog.

img_3383Frogriders looks beautiful on the table. It has a ton of colorful plastic frogs with stylized riders on the back. It has an easy mode, which I successfully taught to kids as young as second graders, but the game also comes with some “advanced” cards which have more gamer effects on them. The combination of the special powers of each colored frog, the public and hidden information regarding objectives and bonus points, and the more advanced cards all allows a family of gamers to play with different levels of interest from the non-gamer all the way up to the serious gamer.

With my shift over, and Jack still playing Game of Thrones, I went back into the main gaming hall and spotted Minneapolis Mike and Ellie’s friend Jay setting up Great Western Trail. I have really enjoyed every play I have had of that Stronghold release, so I was happy to join in when asked.

Great Western Trail is a classic Euro, where there are multiple paths to scoring victory points. Players take turns driving their cattle (in the form of a deck) all the way from one side of the board to the other. Once you reach Kansas City, you total up the cows in your deck and score points as your train takes off to points further west. Okay, thematically there are some holes, but the mechanics of the game are rock solid.

I tried a strictly Engineering and one builder strategy, but as usual lost out to the other three players who were focusing on cowboys.  I’m convinced that the Engineer strategy can win if played by a player with better resource management and efficiency.

And that was the end of the Con for me, as Jack arrived after battling it through with his Lannister House until the very end of Game of Thrones. We said our goodbyes, and then headed back to Louisiana, anxious to book our trip for next year.

FINAL THOUGHTS:

So, after having attended a local con, the spectacle of Gen Con, and the warmth of Pax South, was Dice Tower Con all that Tom Vasel made it out to be?

Short answer, No, it was more than Tom Vasel made it out to be!

If you like gaming, there is NON-STOP gaming in the halls all five days. I always saw plenty of players wanted or teachers wanted signs. In fact, I ended up teaching Viticulture even though I was just passing by a table.  The library is AMAZING especially compared to the one at Pax South, which had a lot more of the mass market type games. Every game I wanted to try was available at the library, although you may have to wait.

If you like shopping, Gen Con obviously has a lot more vendors and newer games. However, people raved about the deals that they got at the flea market. Also, I was able to pick up a pristine copy of Aquasphere in the awesome Virtual Flea Market. Finally, the exhibitor hall and more vendors than I could see in my limited time, plus a full Cool Stuff Inc. presence. I was told that you could even order off of the website and have it delivered to the con if you did not want to search the humongous ding and dent area.

If you like organized play, there was a lot more of that than I was expecting. No, it is not like Gen Con where you can spend tickets on just about any game and likely play with someone well versed in the rules or even the designers themselves!  But, again there was a pre-con sign up sheet for informal teaching of games, and there were daily sign up sheets for numerous games in the Game Zone. I saw everything from New Bedford to Viticulture to some of the latest games all being offered for play.

If you are into the hottest games, or want to try prototypes, then this con is again for you. Tom set up a dedicated “hot games are” where many of the Spiel de Jahres nominated games and the hottest games from Essen stayed permanently set up on the table. You could fiddle with the pieces, read the rules, or join in a game 24-7.

TIPS:

I hope to collect more tips but here’s a few I collected along the way:

  • Go early — we had as much fun gaming with the games brought by Evan, Mariana, Jon and so many other people as we did during the Con itself;
  • Book early — tickets go on sale in November, and they will sell out, plus hotels can be cancelled at any time;
  • Arrive early — if you are at all a morning person, you are in luck! The hotness tables are usually pretty quiet or empty, and you can even play a game with Eric or Tom as they are there just about every morning before 8 am;
  • Play late — again, as the midnight hour approaches, the tables start to thin out a bit, and you are more likely to see a players wanted sign; and
  • Register late — this seems counter intuitive, but unless you have something you really need from the library on Wednesday morning, bring a favorite game and start playing on one of the tables because you don’t need to register right away.  Tom allows people to start playing right away, and by the early afternoon, the register lines were so low we just walked right up and got our stuff.

Well, that’s our Dice Tower Con wrap up. I hope to see you at the Con in 2018. It will be held at the same July 4th week and at the same hotel.

Until next time, Laissez les bon temps rouler!

— B.J.

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Burky and Alex squaring off right in the opening round. (Photo courtesy of Burky).

Dice Tower 2017 Convention Report — Day Three

Hey board gamers, BJ from Board Game Gumbo here, back with more Dice Tower coverage. This time, we’re talking about Friday, otherwise known as Day Three (although it was Day Five for us pre-conners!)

Another day, another early start. The gaming halls are eerily more quiet around 8 am, especially on Friday, but that just means many tables in the hotness area are empty. I met with Minneapolis Mike and No Twitter Nate, and we sat down to try out a new racing game from Big Kid Games. Gondola is a 2016 release designed by jim pinto where players lay tiles to steer their gondola through five checkpoints.

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Gondola with Minneapolis Mike (L) and No Twitter Nate (R)

We learned the rules in ten minutes, and then headed off on the race. Nate took an early lead, but Mike was able to come back with a few well placed tiles. Applying the tile laying strategies in Carcassone and combining them with other mechanisms (like dungeon diving in the upcoming Delve release) always piques my interest, and Gondola delivers on the tense nature of any racing game.

The downside was the rulebook and the artwork. The rule book needs an editing job and some graphic design help. I did not have a big problem with the card art, but Mike did. He kept looking at a hand of cards that had bridges on them thinking they were checkpoints, but the bridges were not in the center — which in all fairness, is spelled out in the rule book. I had a good time, but this would be a “streaming” game for me (as opposed to a “screening” — thanks Rolling Dice & Taking Names).

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Not Alone with Alex and Max (top to bottom on left) and Oscar and D.J. (top to bottom on right)

I headed back to the Stronghold Booth, and this time I was able to teach Not Alone a few times. I’ve now played this one v. many game bunches of times, but I’ve never been the solo baddie. I’ll have to take on the Krewe de Gumbo at our next game night. Alex from the Dukes came back with his buddy Max (more from him later), but this time the alien got a few licks in early and the astronauts were ultimately vanquished.

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Stronghold Booth is hopping with Frogriders, Not Alone, and Fields of Green.

I also demoed Cottage Garden, the Uwe Rosenberg follow up to Patchwork that is finally making its way to the States. I’ve never played Patchwork, but I like interesting two player games that can sneak a theme into abstract mechanics. Cottage Garden seems to play all player counts well, including two player, and every time I showed the game off, players really got into the theme of planting flowers, placing pottery and “bells”, and chasing cats and mice around the garden.

The game really flows, and I love the end game. Somehow, Uwe snuck in his usual diabolical management mechanic, but instead of “feeding your garden”, you have to watch the end game very closely by not overplanting a garden for the last round. If you do not finish one or both of your gardens, and they have three or more tiles on them, then you must keep playing taking penalty points each turn during the final round! Uwe is an evil genius.

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Brandt Sanderson (R) from Portal Podcast

Brandt Sanderson from Portal Podcast also stopped by. He and I had worked together (virtually) on a little project for The Dice Tower, but had never met. Brandt’s podcast is a great listen because you get the inside look at both gaming and the gaming hobby from a FLGS owner’s perspective with his podcast partner, Bryan. (I met Bryan the next day at the Baseball Highlights tourney, and he seemed surprised that I knew who he was by his voice — Bryan, this hobby is a very small pond!). Brandt is a champ of a guy, and can talk board games with the best so make sure you stop and say hello if you see him.

My son Jack had volunteered at the Tortured Earth booth on Thursday, and so on Friday, he hung out at the demo table all morning trying out the combat system. My high school classmate, KB Kidder, has developed his own RPG system and is hitting the con circuit spreading the word. Jack gave it two thumbs up, and has the books now to start his own group. Jack says it’s a classless, level-less game system, based on an post-apocolyptic earth. It runs off skill points, instead of experience, and the main attraction for Jack was the skill set idea and combat system because of the back-to-back nature of the dice rolls. The beauty also of this RPG is that your character can be transferred to any theme setting — horror, science fiction, etc — these can all be found in “The Mist” which is the background of the game experience.

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The amazing Flip Ships from Renegade Games. Alex from the Dukes of Dice (L) and Jack (R)

When he finished, Alex and I grabbed him and Max to play a game of Flip Ships, the 2017 release from Renegade Game Studios. Wow, was I disappointed that this sold out the first day and couldn’t get a copy!

It’s a dexterity based table top co-op with a space invader mechanic of invading aliens attacking our world. The flicking mechanism from Rampage is easy to pick up, but what shines is the additional powers that your ships get (including additional ships) to help your squadron defeat the advancing hordes. I played once, and watched two other games, and it always seems to come down to the last one or two ships to win! Kane Klenko has a winner here.

Next up, Bruce from Northstar Games invited us to play Vegas Wits & Wagers. So, one of the group is not big fans of the party style of the original, but decided to try it anyway. This latest iteration of W&W is the best yet….by far.

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Grandpa for the win! Vegas Wits & Wagers at Northstar Games. In order from L to Right, Jack, Alex, Max, demo person from Northstar, BJ, and Bruce from the PartyGameCast featuring the PartyGameCast (and Northstar Games)

It melds the fun elements of guessing who is closest to the right answer on obscure trivia with the excitement of playing long odds to catch up to the leading person. This is a hoopin’ and hollarin’ trivia party game, and does not overstay its welcome (the reason Trivial Pursuit is buried in thousands of landfills everywhere.) The Kickstarter is out in mid-August, which provides you with this awesome neoprene mat with a Vegas style board with colorful graphics. Can’t wait to try this back home with some friends, a couple pounds of boudin and an ice chest of Abita (root beer or otherwise.)

On the backside of Northside was the Attack Dice group. They were showing off two little micro games, When Zombies Attack! and Dungeon Attack! I tried Zombies, with one eyebrow raised up in hesitation, but it was actually fun for a little beer & pretzels dice game. Players toss dice and try to avoid zombies or send them to the other players. The game time is short and the take that is just light enough that I think it would work as an opening night filler for any group.

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Shadowscape at the NKSN Booth

I stopped by NSKN Games to check out Shadowscape. (Ran out of time, and didn’t get to visit the new Strawberry lineup unfortunately). This one really looks interesting. It is a compact looking dungeon dive with little minis (redundant? No!) and an interesting skill / combat system. After being hands on with my demos for three days, I was hoping to grab some pieces and fight some creatures, but this demo team had more of a rules oriented approach. We were a little disappointed, but maybe we can try again at Gen Con.

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Crusaders: Thy Will Be Done at the TMG booth.

Next up, we checked in at Tasty Minstrel Games for a quick demo of Crusaders: Thy Will Be Done. We had an excellent teacher, and were up and running in minutes. This rondel action based DOAM game with a little engine building to boot was a lot of fun. We played a nearly production ready version, but I’m told the Kickstarter will give it the full enhanced treatment. This is one to watch out for as we get closer. We snuck in another quick visit with Lance while we were there.

Next door was the Meeple Source booth, and with the Baseball Highlights tourney approaching the next day, we picked up some cool runner/batter colored meeples. So much better than playing with bowling pins, right?

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Ready for the tourney! Runners and batter meeples.

After a tremendously good bacon and cheddar hamburger (with chipotle mayo of course) from Tropicale, the casual restaurant in the hotel, I headed back for a game of Concordia. I’ve been wanting to play this Mac Gerdts game since the Secret Cabal started raving about it. Jonathan Howe saw my request on BGG and agreed to teach it to me and Jack. Max from the Dukes of Dice wanted in, too, and already knew the game well, so we really had some good instruction.

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Jonathan (lower R) teaching Max (upper L) and Jack (lower L) and me how to play Concordia.

Concordia is an action selection exploration and trading game in the Mediterranean that seriously lived up to the hype. I don’t know that I have played a more elegant game. Each action I took seemed to make sense, and unlocked other combinations. I told Max that my intent was to try out each of the actions, even if they didn’t make combo-tastic sense, just to see the whirring and purring of the engine. By the end of the game, I was finally seeing some of the VP strategies, but of course, it was way too late, and Max cleaned our clocks. But, he and Jonathan were kind enough to walk us through their strategies in the post-mortem, which really helped us. Now, if the rumored re-printing from Rio Grande (or another company perhaps) would happen….

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Alex (far L) and Sean (L) presenting the Best Art award at the Dice Tower with help from Tom (far R) and Eric (R)

It was time for the Dice Tower Awards. As usual, Eric Summerer and Tom Vasel were breezy and fun, and kept the show moving. There were a lot of first time award presenters, as well as some old favorites. Singing happy birthday to Brian Counter (“and he’s counter-productive) might have been a highlight, until Jason Levine goofed on Eric by exchanging the certificate for game of the year with a movie reference to La-La-Land.

Back in the main gaming hall, I ran into some Louisiana pals (Jesse, Melissa, and Ronald) who needed a fourth for Word Slam. Sorry, no pictures, but this game was right up my alley. Team captains take turns giving clues to a secret word to their team members using only decks of cards with nouns, prepositions, and verbs. The words scale up in difficulty and of course, there is a dreaded timer. I really enjoyed Word Slam and need to find a copy for our scouts game nights and family holiday game days.

We grabbed a couple of people walking by, and laughed when one of them was from New Orleans. Six people at the table, only three of whom had met before the Con, and now five out of six are from the same small state — and the sixth one traveled through the Bayou State on the way to Texas one time. I think we ended up playing for about an hour, cycling through a bunch of words, before Jesse suggested that we check to see if Ethnos was available.

It was! Ethnos went back on the table again for the second night, this time with Windfolk and Giants added. Again — the board is ugly, the pieces are chincy, but the gameplay is rock solid. This one is on my list to pick up.

Not counting demos, that’s six games played in one day — not bad considering my commitments to demoing games at Stronghold! I think I played more this day than I did in three days at GenCon!

 

Next post, we’ll wrap up the convention for me and Jack, since we were leaving Saturday night. Any questions about the games we saw or about the convention in general? Send me a tweet @boardgamegumbo, and I’ll do my best to answer.

Until next time, Laissez les bon temps rouler!!

— BJ

Dice Tower 2017 Convention Report — Day Two

Hey boardgamers, BJ from Boardgame Gumbo here, back with more Dice Tower Convention coverage from beautiful and sunny Orlando. The lines at Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World have been tremendously long in the Pandora section of the park. Guests are lining up at the wee hours of the morning just to get a chance to explore and ride on some of the newest rides. (The new banshee flight simulator ride is not to be missed!!)

Will the same hold true at DTC 2017? After a long day of visiting, shopping, playing and talking about games mean an empty convention hall early in the morning?

Hardly.

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The calm before the storm. Tables were empty only until about 9 am. That’s Richard Launius on the right working on a game! Plus if you can see all the way in the back — there’s just a few people in the hot games area. That changes quickly when nine o’clock rolls around.

The Gumbo was out at the Hall before 8 am, and the first room was empty, there was a healthy group of people in the second opening gaming room near the library in the “hotness” area. The hotness area is a group of tables where players can just plop down and play the latest releases, including many of those from Origins. The games are set up, the instructions are laid out, and there’s usually someone hovering around that knows the game who will be willing to join in.

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It’s even more beautiful in person, and the 3d trees pop out. That’s Tom on the left with the cowboy hat.

I wandered over to watch Tom Vasel playing Photosynthesis, a gorgeous looking tree planting game from Blue Orange Games. Tom agreed that this game has the potential of making his all time top ten games with a photosynthesis theme, but kidding aside, the gameplay looks very interesting and the production is top notch.

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“Stolen from Tom Vasel” says the box.
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Eric’s in trouble; he’s playing a programming game with three lawyers. Should’ve grabbed an engineer instead.

Eric Summerer was teaching a game of Magic Maze, which has been nominated for one of the Spiel awards, so I was happy to try this one out. The title is a bit misleading. Yes, there is some magic involved, but players are cooperatively trying to navigate a mall, steal stuff, and get out alive before the timer runs out. The trick? There are four different adventurers, with four different required “stuff”, and all of us players only control one movement that applies to all four explorers. I might control only right turns, while another player controls a left turn, and we have to coordinate these movements silently. That’s right, no talking allowed.

Justin Jacobsen, president of Restoration Games, Christian (a judicial law clerk from Texas), Eric and I played the basic scenario, and with a bit of help from Vasel’s house rules, we were successful in getting out, but just barely. The game has a very tiny box, and a relatively small footprint, but seems to pack a lot of game in that little container. If you are not a fan of coops or speed games, stay away, but for everyone else, this is definitely worth a play and probably a buy. I liked it a lot.

Then it was back to the booth, where Stronghold continued to host friendly demos of all of the latest releases. I talked about Pit Crew yesterday, but today, I spent most of my day teaching Fields of Green. I have to admit, I have really taken a shine to this game. Although I generally stink at engine building games, it is one of my favorite genres if only to keep getting better at them. Plus, I love tile laying or card laying games where you build out a tableau. Fields of Green has both in spades, and it only runs 40 minutes from start to finish. I had people up and playing the game in under two minutes, and fleshed out the rules over the first round.

I love a bigger game experience, but sometimes I don’t have the players or the time for a two hour card drafting, engine building, victory point parade. I really liked how easy Fields of Green is to teach, and how it scratches the itch of a big engine builder in a reasonable time frame. Plus, it has a fresh theme where the mechanics actually fit the theme of modern farming. Fields generate food, which you use to feed your livestock, which help with money that can be used to upgrade the farm or buy large buildings that generate victory points. There’s equipment bonuses, that can generally only be played on certain matching cards. All of it makes sense even on the first attempt.

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Zev and Stephen are comparing New Jersey soft drinks.

The booth was hopping all day, and we were visited by many of the board game and board game content creators all day. I saw Zev from WizKids (and formerly of Z-Man) visiting with Stephen Buonocore, and we had visits from Lance Myxter (the undead Viking) from TMG and Gil Hova from Formal Ferret Games. Lance and Gil are both demoing games I am interested in (Crusaders from TMG and The Networks: The Executives expansion from Formal Ferret), so I am hoping to check those out this afternoon.

Spencer and Lara from Married with Boardgames stopped by, and got in a demo of some of the Stronghold releases. Spencer and Lara do a great job with video reviews and play throughs, so it was nice to finally meet them. Yes, they are as sunny in person as they are on video! No pics unfortunately because the booth was really busy when they passed by  — which made Stephen very happy of course.

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Geaux Tigahs!!

I even got to teach Joe Steadmann, a fellow LSU grad, who is also known as one of the original co-hosts of The Dice Tower with Tom. Joe is famously a wargamer primarily, but admitted that he enjoyed the tableau building game. He ended up with a demo of the four player game, and is a very good player at that, and then he and his lovely guest even tried out the two player variant.

Alex Goldsmith of the Dukes of Dice stopped by late in the day, and we snuck him into a game of Not Alone. What a game! Imagine Fury of Dracula’s tension and hidden movement mechanics, but in only thirty minute. Human astronauts have crashlanded on a planet, and need to get rescued quickly, because the planet is waking up and will devour them. It’s a new take on the one versus all genre, and easily scales from two to seven players.

If you’ve ever played a game with Alex, you know that he really gets into the theme of the game, so the Knights had a great time hamming it up as we “explored” the planet and tried to get away. (There may have been a lot of 80s pop song references to getting saved). Thanks to Alex’s guidance, we were finally able to give Anthony — one of the Knights who had not been beaten as an alien all day — a one in the loss column. More importantly, we had a great time with this awesome little gem of a game.

Jake’s hand.

After a quick dinner, it was time to get in a few games before the Dice Tower’s nightly shows. I ran into Jake and Danielle Bock from Draft Mechanic Podcast again, and quickly joined in on a game of Sentient from Renegade Games. This 2017 science fiction release designed by J. Alex Kevern of (Worlds Fair 1893 and Gold West fame) is harder to describe. It has beautiful artwork from Chris Ostrowski, and an unusual theme. Humans have developed robots, but are having trouble programming them, and that’s where we come in.

Two to four players take turns rolling dice, assigning them to our programming slots, and then trying to program the robots to help in our factories. If our programming is good enough, we will attract “investors” (basically big bonus VPs at the end), so you have some placement strategies going there. There’s also some area control in the game, as each player is vying for the contorl of tokens that represent interests in each type of industry.

The connection of the mechanics to the theme is a little fuzzy to me, and basically players are assigning dice and then drafting cards that fit the dice rolls available to score big points. The twist is that each card has the potential to change your dice rolls, and cards are never “locked in” until the end of the round, so there is a unique puzzle in trying to match the new cards that come out to the spot that will do the least damage to your already played cards.

I need another play of Sentient, but I really liked the first play. Jake and Danielle are very good teachers, so it was a quick grasp of the rules (although not the strategy). I’d definitely play it again.

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Reiner + deck building + East Baton Rouge Parish = fun

Jesse Seidule, a creative guy from Baton Rouge who filmed Must Love Board Games (and is working on some of his own game designs) and I had planned to grab in a game late, so we wandered back into the hotness area and jumped on Quest for El Dorado. Reiner Knizia has designed a race game using the deck building mechanic. Explorers start on one end of a modular board, and take turns playing cards that match the different colored tiles on the board representing desert, water, and forests to move the adventurer along. I do not think Ravensburger has released this yet in the states.

The deck starts out slow, with lots of one movement cards, but the gold cards can be used as money to upgrade the deck. First one to the other side is at least guaranteed a shot at the win — each person finishes out their turn, and ties are broken by the number of special barrier tiles that are earned by each player.

It is not quite the mathy puzzle that Knizia’s designs usually feature, although obviously the placement of the different colored hexes and occasional blockades by mountains does have some calculations involved.

I thoroughly enjoyed this, and the replayability seems high. There’s tons of different cards to buy, some that are only available later in the race, and the board tiles on which the race is played are double sided. Plus, the game comes with instructions for making different tracks with different levels of difficulty. Many thanks to Jesse and Melissa for a great teach of this very good game.

And that concluded another busy day here at the Con. Best way to describe day two was a more relaxing day, mixed with gaming, visiting, and a lot of laughs, and I am looking forward to another “relaxing” day tomorrow.

Until next time, Laissez les bon temps rouler!

— B.J.

Dice Tower Convention 2017 Report — Day One

Hey boardgamers, BJ from Boardgame Gumbo here, and I survived my first day at my first ever Dice Tower Convention here in what I assume is sunny Orlando (I got more of a neon tan today than a real one).

Just steps away from Walt Disney World, the convention provided its own magical times on day one. First up, there was free breakfast for all of the attendees, which helped since the line for registration covered the entire convention hall. The staff announced several times that players could jump right into the hall and start playing or visiting, but I am pretty sure there were a number of attendees who wanted the first crack at that juicy experience from the MASSIVE game library or to be first at the Exhibitor booths.I wandered backstage to the Stronghold Booth way early, but head man Stephen Buonocore was already there prepping the booth for the onslaught. Once a few other knights showed up a couple of minutes later, we started breaking out the games and playing.

I was lucky enough to get a deep dive play with Dan (you know him from his adorable game videos on the Dice Tower with his daughter Cora) on Fields of Green. This new American release of the game really shines. I like engine builders a lot, but many times I get outclassed by other players who are longer range planners. This distills the fun of an engine builder, with a new theme of modern farming, into 45 minutes. Dan is a great teacher with a wonderful sense of humor and even shared some amazing treats from his side of the pond. The Stroopwaffle (think Stinger energy waffles with better flavor) from the Netherlands was particularly good.

Then, the exhibitor doors opened and it was nonstop gaming all day. I manned the Fields of Green table, and we always had a demo game going all day.

One of the memorable games was teaching the crew from Must Love Boardgames, a funny movie directed by Jessie Seidule of Baton Rouge. Jessie, Melissa, and Ronald were fun to hang around with during the game, and it was nice to catch up about gaming in South Louisiana.


I also had a chance to slide around to greet people and play games when I could. One of the highlights was an epic Pit Crew battle with Jon V from Montreal. It came down to the wire, and they used one of Geoff Englestein’s diabolical monkey wrench cards to draft around us for the win.

The guys from Dukes of Dice podcast turned me on to the Draft Mechanic podcast a few weeks ago, and I have been enjoying listening to Jake and Danielle riff on boardgames and craft beer. So, it was fun to meet them in person and teach games at the booth. They are both deadpan funny people, so say hello if you get a chance.

After the booth closed, a bunch of listeners to the Boardgames Insider podcast (co-hosted by Ignacy from Portal and Stephen from Stronghold) gathered at the hotel for a podcast meetup. I think even Stephen was surprised by the large turnout on short notice.

Ignacy had challenged Stephen to a Crokinole match, and I got to watch almost to the end. When I left, the “Pride of New Jersey” was in the lead, and on my way back from dinner with Sneauxbunny, I saw Ignacy racing to the designer panel. When I asked him about the finish, he just smiled and said “No talk about it, I don’t know what happened!” If you haven’t met Ignacy yet, you should because he is one of the smartest gamers and funniest guys in gaming.

After dinner, Alex and Sean of the Dukes of Dice podcast invited us to play games in the main hall. I finally got to play some convention games that I have seen at GenCon but never got to play, like Pitchcar, Rhino Hero, and Monikers.


Pitchcar is a great dexterity racing game where players flick cars one at a time in a race to complete a lap around the track. This was a huge track set up right in the front of the hall. (I’m not sure what regular Pitchcar looks like, but this was a really long track.) Had a great time flicking the car around, but one lap around the track was plenty enough for me. The best part of pitchcar to me is the smacktalk, and since I was in a large group of people that were pretty familiar with each other, there was a lot of that going around.

Rhino Hero — I bought this for my nephew in Maryland for Christmas years ago, but never tried it. I liked it, but I might like it better on a steadier surface than the table we were using. Needless to say, we did not last very long in the game.

Monikers is a Time’s Up clone, but with weirder titles and explanation. Team Sean won after we had a couple of big turns.

Jake from Draft Mechanic broke out Vegas, a game from Rudiger Dorn (the designer of Karuba and many other games). What looked like a simple dice fest — okay, it is a simple dice fest — turned out to have some strategy. Players toss a handful of dice, and then use the results to claim casinos each worth random amounts of money (but at least $50k each). The player with the most of her colored dice on the casino at the end of the round claims that dollar amount. There is a catch — ties are no good as they knock you completely out of the running for the prize. You have to look at the other players hands of dice to gauge how much you need to support your own hold on a casino. This is a perfect beer & pretzel game for my brothers, and I will have to try and hunt down a copy.

After we finally finished playing these deep, brainy, mind burning strategy games, we decided to lighten things up with a game of Ethnos from CMON games. We had six players, so Ethnos was a good choice. Plus, plus, the library copy has the Fairy promo which I had never played.


Ethnos may not look like much on the table, but man is there a lot of gameplay. Players try to play sets of cards with the same color or race on them in an effort to put down their token on one of six areas on the board, with each area having a randomized value at the start of the game. Each faction has a unique special power that if played effectively can lead to awesome combos.

You’re only picking up one card at a time, but there’s lots of tense decisions because of the dragon timer. The bottom third of the deck is seeded with three dragons, and when the last one comes out, the round is over and any cards in your hand that have not been played are worth nothing.

The last time I played was just a learning game where I was trying to understand the rules, but this time, I was able to see the nuances of the combos in the races. Ethnos is one of those games where you are tempted to go for everything, but specializing in three, maybe four areas seems a better choice. I had the lead going into the final round, but tried to shoot the moon on a troll combo that didn’t work. Awesome, awesome game made better with some great players (Ellison, Jay, Jake, Danielle, and Alex).

It was almost midnight, and I had an early morning shift at the booth, so I said goodbye to some new friends. I did see my son Jack at a different table, and got to visit with him about his epic Game of Thrones experience. Sounds like he was having a blast running House Stark. 

I’ll have more thoughts on the Stronghold games we are demoing tomorrow, and hopefully can report on some of the other booths and games that I plan to play.

Until next time, Laissez les bon temps rouler!

— B.J.

Dice Tower Con — Pre-Convention Report


Hey boardgamers, BJ from Boardgame Gumbo here, back with more Louisiana flavor. This time, I am coming to you from the beautiful Caribe Royal near Walt Disney World.

My family decided to come in early for our first DTC, and check out some of the newest attractions at WDW. But, I heard rumblings on BGG that people were starting to arrive, and so we checked into the hotel on Monday morning.

MONDAY:

First up, we wandered around the hotel to check out the digs. The resort is beautiful, and has everything for a great family vacation. Pools, spa, fitness center, restaurants, the Caribe has it all.

Of course, pre-convention gaming has to include gaming, and we’ve had it in spades here. Right below the staircase in the main building on the side facing the pool was a large lounge area with big tables and comfortable chairs. One of the Dukes of Dice listeners, Evan, had set up shop on one of the tables, and so I plopped down some games on the next table and watched as gamers started wandering in.

By Monday afternoon, we had six tables of gamers from all over the country playing the latest hotness and old favorites. This part frankly surprised me. When I demoed at Pax South, we played mostly with our friends and I did not see a lot of exchanging. But here at the pre-con, gamers were VERY inviting to solo attendees or people just looking to game.

I’ve met and played games with people from Montreal, Los Angeles, Seattle, Minneapolis, Miami, South Carolina, Texas, Maryland and many other cities and states. Seeing people welcome others to the table without even being asked is truly why the Dice Tower Convention is a special con.

So what games have I seen so far? I have been hearing about Barenpark, and wanted to try it and compare it to Cottage Garden. I don’t own either, but was happy to see that a copy of each was on the table. My wife and I played both games pretty much back to back — twice! — and there’s room for both in a collection. Cottage Garden seems a bit friendlier, with the relaxing stroll around the garden on the wheelbarrow, plotting out your next move, and filling up your own garden space.

 Barenpark scratches that competitive itch, because it features a race to pick up the victory point statutes and extra bonus point tiles. For me, one is a great date night game, where the other can be brought out with my fiercest competitive game group buddies.

Jack and I had been playing Baseball Highlights:2045 at our Disney hotel each night, in preparation for the Dukes of Dice tourney on Saturday at DTC. So, we had to get one more game in. Jack is getting really good, and took a short five game series from me using a glove heavy deck.

Jon V from Montreal requested a game of New Bedford, my favorite little worker placement game from Dice Hate Me Games. We played a five player game (first time for me in a long while), and everyone seemed to enjoy the whaling aspect of the game the most. Mike and Nate from Minneapolis caught on to the mechanics pretty quick and gave me a big challenge as it was a close 1-2-3 finish.

Jason from South Carolina had Century set up, and I was happy to finally play it. I’ve heard people say it is a “Splendor killer”. Was it? Not in my opinion, but the two games do have similar feels. I like the way that Emerson Matsuuchi ratcheted up the tension with the upgrade mechanic on the spices, and the fact that you are limited in your spice board. In Splendor, you have to keep one eye on the other player(s) to see what is going on, but in Century, you really have to keep both eyes on their area or else you will not be able to stop their engines. My only problem? Two player turns go so fast that it is hard to really grok what you want to do on your turn or future turns without slowing down the game too much. I’d like to try it with three people and see if that makes it more manageable.

We closed up Monday with a rousing game of Near & Far. This was my fourth or fifth game, but the other players were new, so we went back to the first map. Beautiful artwork and great components with upgraded story lines and game play makes this my favorite Red Raven Games release, and my early front runner for 2017 game of the year. It solves any of the problems I had with Above & Below. But even better, it makes a campaign fun again. One of the hard things about purchasing a campaign game is getting it to the table with the same people.

I’ve played Near & Far with four different game groups, and playing on three or four different maps has been a blast. Somehow this game scratches one itch of campaign play even in one off games — except for character development, of course — with the connected story lines. I’m still having trouble getting it under a 120 minute time, but our 150 game was lengthened when Tom Vasel came by and talked with us about the game. He knew Jeanne from Miami who was playing with us at the table, and we enjoyed his thoughts about the game, which he hinted was one of his favorite Red Raven Games too.

From noon to midnight, we played games with so many groups that I could not believe it was two days before the con actually started. I am pretty sure I played more games on Monday than I did the entire three days at Gen Con 2016!

TUESDAY:

I got up early and wandered down to the lobby, thinking I would have time to write the blog while other people were still in bed. Well, that was a happy and fortunate mistake. My buddies, Jon and Nate were back at it again.

 Another game of Cottage Garden broke out, and I also tried out a two player 7X7 game of Kingdomino. After thinking that it would not change the experience much, I was pleasantly surprised. Building out the larger area gave me time to watch the other player, and really think about the tiles coming out. This is the way I want to play two players from now on.


Next up, another game of New Bedford, followed by a six player game of Viticulture. (Yes, back to back worker placement games — little bit of brain slowdown after playing them back to back.) I had to teach four of the gamers, so the start was a little rough, but by year two, everyone had the mechanics down and it was a big race to the finish.

 I could not pull the vine cards I needed, but everyone was pretty close. I was happy to see my son Jack race out to the lead and hold on to it for his first ever win against some pretty experienced Euro gamers.

Jon from Montreal had a prototype under his arm, so we asked him to break out Art Traders. What a cool theme! We played owners of art galleries trying to wheel and deal to improve our collection and attract more visitors. It was his first test at five players, and we sort of broke the game a bit at that play count, but he really enjoyed the in game and post game discussion of what we liked and what he could tweak. Can’t wait to see how this turns out as it is developed further.

I really enjoyed gaming with Jon, Mike, Nate and a bunch of others. Sharing game experiences and telling stories with gamers who have the same passion makes this a much different Con than Pax South. 

Then it was off to The Stronghold. I am demoing for Stephen Buonocore’s Stronghold Games this week, and we helped him set up the booth. Lots of good games to play, so we broke out some demos and started playing when some of the other Knights showed up.

We tried out Frogriders, Pit Crew, Cottage Garden (again!), Not Alone, and Fields of Green. I really enjoyed each and will have more to say tomorrow. I will say that Frogriders surprised the heck out of me. What looked like a simple kids game turned out to be a quick playing, thinky little SdJ contender. In fact, it fires Hey That’s My Fish in my collection. It gives me the same satisfying abstract play, but without the head on meanness that my nieces and nephews don’t like about “The Penguin Game.” Plus, gamers will like the special powers, combos, and bonus point / power cards. Two thumbs up.

I also enjoyed meeting fellow Dukes of Dice listener, Bill, from right across the Atchafalya Swamp. We joked that we each traveled 14 hours just to play a game with a guy who lives an hour away!

We closed out another long day of gaming with a four player game of Viticulture by request of Brandon, one of the demo guys from CMON. (By the way, they are demoing Godfather, the new game from Eric Lang, so I am hoping to get a game in at some point.) 

 I tried a strategy that I did once before and pulled off successfully — making no wine and strictly relying on the board and blue cards for my victory points. I miscalculated on my second to last round and scored 19 points — tying with another guy but sending the game into one more year. 

 Without any more blue scoring cards, I was helpless to get 21 points only and lost a close 23-22-21 game. The strategy shortens the game up a bit, since you are always inching closer, but money is tight in the later rounds and even with the Cottage, I had a handful of cards but nothing that generated victory points.

 I love hamming it up with this strategy, bemoaning how Mama and Papa don’t understand that we can make money on marketing without harvesting (that’s why you sent me to the Ivy League business school, Mama!) but it is a very stressful strategy as you hope no other player notices until it’s too late.

But it was one of the most fun experiences playing Viticulture: Essential Edition (despite some catcalls from the crowd that Tuscany is better) because Brandon from LA, and Matt & Tyler from Seattle really got into the theme of the game. I’d play a game with those guys anytime. 

I’ll hopefully be back with more recaps of the games and people, but so far this convention has been a great experience. Can’t wait to get some more gaming in and meet some more great gamers.

Until next time, Laissez les bon temps rouler!

— B.J.

Dice Tower Con Preview 2017

Does double the size equal double the fun? In 2017, The Dice Tower’s namesake convention is doubling the size of its convention and Boardgame Gumbo will be there!

While the Dice Tower itself started in 2003, with Tom Vasel’s podcast and a veritable empire of podcasts on the network and a huge following on Youtube, the convention itself is the younger sibling. Begun in 2012, the convention has grown each year and is now housed in the Caribe Royal Resort right on the doorstep to Walt Disney World.

We’ve been scouring the podcasts and Twitter feeds to bring you the games and events that have us “chomping at the bits” to attend. Here is a map of the vendor hall:

But you want more than just a listing of game companies, right? Here’s six companies that have new games we are itching to demo at Dice Tower Con:

Stronghold Games (@StrongholdGames) | Twitter

First up on the list is Stronghold Games (note: I will be one of the “Knights of the Stronghold” demo team from Wednesday to Saturday, so come on by, say hello, and play a game!) Stronghold had a banner year with the hot selling Terraforming Mars and Great Western Trail, just to name two. Can Stronghold top that in 2017 with any of these titles?  (All should be for sale at the booth if you go early). 

First up is Fields of Green, a co-published game with Artipia Games.  Stephen says this is a reworking with a new theme of the original game of Among the Stars, a well known favorite of Dice Tower fans. I saw an interview by the BGG crew at Essen 2016 where the designer said it’s not just a retheme, but stands in its own through the engine building system. The art looks great, and I like the fact that it supposedly plays in only 30-45 minutes. Like Kanagawa or other games of that weight, that’s a good play time to start a game night while waiting for other people to arrive;

Get The Cheese! is a new American release from famed designer Hisashi Miyashi of Trains and Yokohama fame, that looks family friendly with easy play and a 15 minute stated playtime. It’s a quick playing card game (think Fuji Flush or No Thanks!) with some fun art and strategy;

Frogriders, is a 2017 tactical family game that Mina from Mina’s Fresh Cardboard has been posting incredible pictures (and raving about the game). Check out Man v Meeple for an awesome review and how to; and

Last but not least is Not Alone, a super fun, tense one-versus-many humans invading the alien planet game. This one I have played twice already, and I really love it. Imagine if they could squeeze all the tension and cat & mouse games from Fury of Dracula in a game lasting about thirty minutes, and that’s a close approximation of the thrills we have had in playing Not Alone at Gumbo Game Night.

There is even a rumor that there will be demos of Geoff Englestein’s newest real time game, Pit Crew, as well as Stronghold’s American release of Cottage Garden. Come by the booth and play!

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Next up is Bezier Games. The makers of One Night Ultimate Werewolf and Suburbia have a few games on the must check out list. First up, fans like me of Castles of Mad King Ludwig are dying to demo the newest expansion, The Palace of Mad King Ludwig.

I do not believe it will be for sale at the booth (the website says Gen Con release) but it should be there for play. One of the complaints of CoMKL was that each player built small bits of a castle, so it was almost a solitaire game where you ran out of time before building up a big, gorgeous castle. The Palace looks like it addresses that complaint. Players will combine to build a large castle complete with a moat, which should amp up the beauty of the build and increase the player interaction.

Plus, we expect to see Werewords, Bezier’s take on an Insider type game, and New York Slice a great little I-split-you-choose party game.

Image result for northstar gamesNORTHSTAR GAMES:

I talked to Bruce Voge, social media manager with Northstar Games (and of course, the Party Game Cast) and he is anxious to show off the new Vegas Wits & Wagers. The original is one of my favorite (mmm…check that, it is my favorite) party games. 

I used to love playing Trivial Pursuit, but the game itself…well, let’s face it, it was the ultimate good time killer. Wits & Wagers is different. It can be played easily in teams, does not necessarily require a lot of trivia knowledge (yet still gives thrills to trivia buffs) and is an easy teach.
Vegas spices up the recipe, and I like what I have seen so far (there’s video on YouTube that shows Bruce demoing the games at a “speakeasy” at Origins). In addition to betting on which team has the best answer, the odds get more favorable as the numbers increase…but you bust if your bet is on a number that is higher than the actual winner. Plus the board is separated into red and black sides, so if you aren’t feeling lucky, just bet on red or black for a 1:1 return.

Bruce says it is coming to Kickstarter on August 19, 2017, and there is a rock solid looking neoprene playmat that will be included, so keep an eye out for that.

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I had a great visit with the folks at Renegade at Pax South 2017 in San Antonio. Clank! was being talked about everywhere (still is with the new expansion here in LA), and you could tell they were excited about the successful year. Now, Renegade has a few more games that are getting some buzz.

First up is Sentient, a 2017 release by J. Alex Kevern (World’s Fair 1893), a dice manipulation game with simple mechanics. The science fiction theme, easy entry, and gorgeous artwork has me excited to demo the game. 

Also, I want to get a close look at Flatline, the 2016 Kane Klenko follow up to Fuse. I’ve seen people on Twitter talk about playing it over and over trying to defuse the bomb, and I’d love to give it a try.

But, the game I am really hoping will be ready for playtesting (or even sales) is Renegade’s production of Raiders of the North Sea. Euro players have had this on the table for a while, and it’s nominated for the Spiel in Germany. But, the game has not had a wide distribution and has not been sold in America yet as far as I know. 

I talked to Sara with Renegade who said it won’t be for sale but that there should be copies in the Con library. Let’s see what the buzz is about.
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FORMAL FERRET GAMES:

Gil Hova has a couple of games to show us at his booth this year. If you are a fan of The Networks, my guess is that you will be stopping by his booth (like I will) for a demo of The Networks: Executives, his expansion for this fun card based take on running your own television network. Ever been ticked off when your favorite program got axed despite good ratings? Do you think you can “program the network better”? That’s what The Networks is all about, and The Executives will add more cards and a couple of unique twists. Can’t wait to try it.

But, I am also hearing that Wordsy may be available for testing or purchase. He sold out at Origins, so this is a hot item. I’ve played it a dozen times and can vouch that it’s a top word game (probably my favorite so far). 

 If you like word games, and haven’t tried Gil’s take on that genre, you ought to yourself to stop by. My family loves Boggle, but boy is it restricting. Wordsy on the other hand is a wide open word building game with very little limits and a lot of tension. Do you go for the big score, or try to get the bonus of finishing first? Check it out at his booth.

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TASTY MINSTREL GAMES:

I talked with Lance Myxter, social media man for TMG, who says that they will be demoing Crusaders: Thy Will Be Done at their booth.

The game was designed by Seth Jaffe, and was originally going to come out in retail format only. But, with enough interest out there for the game, TMG decided to “deluxify” the release through Kickstarter. Anyone who has seen their recent deluxified editions will probably be happy knowing that this game will get that same treatment. I know it plays from 2-4 players and plays in under an hour, but there is a not a lot more about the game out there yet, so I am anxious to stop by and get a demo.

We still reaching out to other publishers, and if we get any news, we’ll update the blog. If you are at Dice Tower Con this year, make sure you send me a tweet or stop by the Stronghold booth. I’m looking forward to playing some great games and meeting lots of boardgame fans.

Until next time, Laissez les bon temps rouler!

— B.J.