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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!