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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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….
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!!