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.

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