Monday morning brought brisk temperatures here in Acadiana, as Winter stretched out its clammy fingers toward us one last time. Living in Louisiana brings so many unique joys. But among all of them, the absolute high of wearing a t-shirt and shorts in March while eating a Pop’s Po-boy at a lunch time gaming table on the beautiful campus of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette with 250 of your closest friends has got to be the tops. That to me was Southern Board Game Fest in a nutshell!
Hey board gamers, it is a tired (and not a little hoarse) BJ from Board Game Gumbo checking in with you following a beautiful day of gaming at Southern Board Game Fest 2019 this weekend. This was our second year hosting a board game festival in Acadiana, and we wanted to make it bigger and better than last year’s.
I think we succeeded.
We doubled our ticket sales, and easily doubled our attendance from year one. We had gamers show up from five different states, and had every age group from young adult to grandparents represented, with a beautifully diverse crowd enjoying food, fun and fellowship…and of course, some great cardboard.
First off, how about a big shout out to John Newman with New Hope, a local ministry that provides after school tutoring and mentoring for disadvantaged children that was the beneficiary of our fundraising efforts. John is a big board gamer with a big heart. He had a dream to do a festival centered on board games as a fundraiser for New Hope. With the help of dozens of volunteers (way too many to name in this blog!), his vision of a board games-only festival came to life last year, and grew this year to the perfect size for a good regional con.
But enough blather, let’s get right to the Festival!
FUELIN’ UP AND GETTIN’ READY:
Last year, we met up at Dwyer’s Cafe for some good eggs and andouille sausage, but this year, we went to the old standby: Hub City Diner. Located just minutes from the campus, and with the best and friendliest waitstaff in town, Hub City was a perfect place to converge. We even had Jason from the North Shore krewe join up with us. I guess last year was a good festival experience for him, because he was back bright and early with a present for the Krewe and two willing hands to help us set up. Next year, Jason, we need to get you in a sharp looking volunteer t-shirt!
(Speaking of next festival — here’s an open invite to all gamers coming to Lafayette — let’s meet for breakfast at Hub City! I’ll get the back room for us.)
LET THE FESTIVAL BEGIN:
We headed over at 7:45 am after a hearty breakfast. Even an hour before opening, the Festival was already buzzing with activity. We were in an amazing new venue at the Ballroom at the Student Union. The Stu (as my dad used to call it) was recently renovated, and it is a first class facility. We had enough space for about 450 chairs, and here was the lay out:
Right down the center, we had our vendor alley, with concessions, the New Hope booth (selling Festival merch) and our friends from Anubis Game & Hobby.
That’s Delaina from Anubis, who organized this awesome display of games for all of the patrons of the Festival to purchase.
Delaina and her husband Darnel (pictured above as a Stormtrooper in training) have opened up their store to us on Wednesday nights for our weekly Board Game Gumbo Game Night, and we are so thankful to have them as a corporate sponsor of this year’s Festival. I talked to Darnel after the Festival, and he was very happy with the patronage!
On the far wall, we had a curated library of about 300 games, plus — new this year — a Play To Win section with donations from friendly publishers like Grey Fox Games, Stonemaier Games, Roxley Games, and many more. We’ll get to those library games and play-to-wins in just a second.
Turning to your left as you walked in was a huge Gateway area, filled with a dozen tables. Every table had two or three gateway games ready to play, from every main gaming category. On one row, our Game Gurus taught groups of gamers great multi-player games like Ticket To Ride: Europe:
That’s Rosemary who used to play with us on Gumbo Game Nights every week for a few years, who came back to town to help us. (Did she ever! She not only taught gateway games for hours, but even filled in for me to pinch hit on a scheduled demo of Coimbra with Melissa from I Heart Board Gaming when I had a scheduling conflict.)
Fireball Island, beautifully reimagined by our friends at Restoration Games (this was my personal Kickstarter copy!) was on display as one of the featured multi-player games, and I was happy to see that it was played over and over all day. I kept most of the expansion stuff out of the game (except for my favorite expansion, the Tiger) to keep it simple and to keep the plays running quickly.
On another row of tables, we set up numerous games geared for two players. War Chest, published by AEG, was a particularly popular choice and was taught over and over all day.
We wanted games like Raptor and War Chest and Santorini and Hanamikoji out on the tables, games that emphasize different styles of play or different mechanics, that look good on the table, and that hopefully can be taught in just a minute or two.
Raptor and War Chest might have been the most complicated of the two player games, but they worked well.
Another popular choice was Drop It, donated to our Gateway area by our friends at KOSMOS Games. It is a two to four player game, but we set it up as a two player game to help couples who were wandering around the area find something quick and easy to play.
If I had to guess, during the times that I was checking on the Gateway volunteers, I would say that the most popular tables were Azul, Fireball Island, War Craft, Downforce, Drop It, and Ticket To Ride: Europe, at least as far as I could tell.
Our gateway area was not just popular with new gamers. Even the 501st Star Wars Imperial Legion got into the act.
Just behind the Gateway area was a large Demo area. There, we had scheduled demos (in reality, they were entire play-throughs, but they were guided by our Game Gurus) all day from some of the newest games that require a little more rules help, like Coimbra, Captains of the Gulf, Rajas of the Ganges, Brass and many more.
Above is a group of gamers learning Brass: Birmingham for the first time, thanks to a generous donation of the game to our library from Roxley Games.
Somehow right before the Festival we scrounged up two copies of the popular Wingspan board game from Stonemaier Games, designed by Elizabeth Hargrave.
Both copies were checked out of the library or used in a scheduled game demo all day, over and over. The hype is real, folks!
Plus, we had the gang from Gulf Coast Gaming events (Robert, Laila and Steve) back doing full demos and play throughs of some of their favorite games.
Steve and Robert brought tons of games from a bunch of different companies, familiar names like Bezier Games (Favor of the Pharaoh) and AEG (Mystic Vale and Thunderstone Quest). Plus, they brought some crowd pleasers that they love showing off at conventions, like Sparkle Kitty.
Just like last year, these dedicated demos and play throughs were all free to gamers who purchased a badge ticket to the Festival.
PLAY TO WIN!
On the other side of the hall, we had a huge open gaming area. Most gamers seemed to rely on our game library for the open gaming area, but we did see a few gamers carrying around games from home in big bags, or trying out games they purchased at Anubis.
But, a very popular table all day was the The Play To Win Section. This was a new addition to this year’s Festival. The Gumbo Krewe has successfully run Play To Wins at other conventions, and through the help of some generous publishers, we were able to provide dozens of games for the Festival attendees to try out and potentially win.
Thanks go out to Grey Fox Games for providing us a copy of Bushido and Harvest Dice. I got to teach these two lads how to play, and they enjoyed Bushido’s easy teach and quick playing duel a lot.
My favorite memories are gamers who tried out all kinds of new experiences. I wandered by this group, playing Hotshots, a play to win game from Fireside Games, having a lot of trouble with this tough little cooperative firefighting game, but laughing it up as the fires got worse and worse on the tiles!
Jamey Stegmaier is probably one of the biggest fans of Play To Wins of any publisher, and his company was kind enough to donate copies of Between Two Castles and Between Two Cities, as well as My Little Scythe. I ended up teaching all three games before we handed them out as prizes three hours before the convention ended.
Even the I Heart Board Games krewe played the Play To Win — on the live stream, no less! Thanks Stonemaier Games!
There was plenty of space for any gamer to bring a game from home, or check one out of the library, and lay it out on the table to enjoy. We helped with this using our flag system. On each wall, we had ready made signs that players could use to ask for more players (“Players Wanted”) or get some help with the rules (“Teachers Wanted”).
Our library grew so much, I am not even sure if the above picture of gamers deep into Captain Sonar is from a copy of the game out of the Fest library or one that they brought to the festival! We tried to have a diverse set of games in the library, a mix of hot new games to standard classic Euros and even some games that need more love (like the underrated Coldwater Crown, shown below, from Bellwether Games).
For many gamers, this was the perfect chance to introduce a favorite game to a new audience. Every gamer has a hole in their gaming experience. (For me, one of them, sadly, is Shem Phillips’ workers placement game series. Someday!) A game that you have played a dozen times might be a game that is not in somebody else’s game collection or game group collection.
One of those games is Scythe. Gamers love to show off good looking games, and let’s face it, Scythe looks amazing on the table and attracts a lot of attention. I saw games of Scythe played literally all day in all parts of the Festival. But, Scythe was not the only game with good table presence that we saw the Festival.
But any game that had good table presence was checked out frequently and played by many. One of those games was Crusaders: Thy Will Be Done from Seth Jaffe and published by Tasty Minstrel Games, pictured above. We’ve talked about Crusaders in our Roux Dat segments, and TMG hit it out of the park with the production. I saw a lot of gamers stop and stare at the colors and the upgrade-your-own-rondel mechanic.
By the way, in case you were wondering, the numbers you see on the tables in the pictures in this blog post refer to the delivery numbers for Waitr. Waitr is a local company (like Uber Eats) that was a big sponsor of the Festival. All players had to do was use the Waitr app to order food from any of the excellent Acadiana area restaurants, and the Waitr delivery drivers hand delivered the food right to the players’ table! Just keep on gaming, gamers!
Jason Dinger and his wife Donna were all over the Festival — demoing his Captains of the Gulf game on one side of the hall, or talking up their latest favorite game, Beta Colony designed by the Fleeples (Ben Pinchback and Matt Riddle) right next to the Geaux Pub area. Jason was even interviewed by the I Heart Board Games krewe right before a live teach-and-play through of the game on the Twitch stream.
The open gaming area was surrounded by three event areas (two that were new to this year’s event): our shiny new Live Streaming area, the Scythe Tournament area, and our brand new Geaux Pub section.
On the back right side of the hall, we were lucky enough to have our friends from Baton Rouge live stream the entire event from 9 am to 9:30 pm.
I Heart Board Games is a live Twitch stream that ‘casts live streams of board games twice a week. They were gracious enough to serve as hosts of our Southern Board Game Festival coverage. First up, they interviewed Jason Dinger, designer of Captains of the Gulf AND live streamed a teach of the game AND live streamed a full play of Captains, too!
Their coverage lasted the full twelve hours of the festival, and had about ten hours of live streaming. We tried to pick games to play live on stream from publishers that supported our efforts. Here’s a shot of some of the Festival krewe playing Downforce from Restoration Games with Jesse from I Heart Board Games:
The group from I Heart Board Games along with Board Game Gumbo interviewed industry guests like Alex Goldsmith of Grey Fox Games and Burky from GameToppers LLC.
That was me and Jesse chatting up Burky about his new Kickstarter. My pledge finger went crazy when Burky announced on the live stream that the new Kickstarter will include additional play mats for purchase, including one painted by Ryan Laukat that will show off his unique style of art!
And of course, we thanked the folks at Grey Fox Games for their support of the Festival, too. Alex Goldsmith, the chief noisemaker at GFG, came on the show so we could get the scoop on what is going on with their Tsukuyumi: Full Moon Down campaign which we covered here last week.
The I Heart Board Game krewe also talked to local designers like Jeremy Montz and our festival organizer, John Newman, while playing a rousing game of Imhotep on our gorgeous table topper from Game Toppers LLC. We had a good time hanging out with our Redstick buddies, and can’t wait to play some more games with them at Dice Tower Con.
Last year, we offered multiple tourneys only to find that some were well attended while others were scuttled due to lack of sign ups. We went back to the drawing board, and asked around for what players really wanted.
We decided to have one featured tournament instead. So, next door to the live stream area was our Scythe tournament run by Robert, Zack and Kyle, with a prize of Scythe realistic resources donated by Board Game Gumbo, courtesy of Bradly.
We did a little research before the tourney on best practices, and went with Jamey Stegmaier’s recommended setup. We had four tables of five gamers each. The tables had 110 minutes to complete a game, and one winner from each table (plus the highest non-winning score among all four tables) all went to the final table at 2:00 PM.
Those winners played on Robert’s gorgeous copy of Scythe, pictured above. Yes, every mech was painted (some even had painted grass on them!), all of the resources and meeples were upgraded, AND he even had a giant miniature of the Factory plopped right into the middle of the board.
Congrats go out to Chad Chaisson who survived both rounds to claim the championship! There was some fierce competition — in the first round, one player played against some very experienced competition and still managed to win in only 35 or 40 minutes using a blue faction blitz strategy.
TO BE A DESIGNER IS TO BE PART OF A COMMUNITY:
To the side of the tournament, we had our new GEAUX PUB area, where Jeremy helped designers match up to play testers for feedback on some unpublished games. Jeremy is part of AGDR Games, an Acadiana game design group that is not only working on their own designs, but also building a community for local gamers to share ideas and play testing.
I wish I had gotten pictures of all of the designers and their games. I did snap a couple:
We were excited to have the company that successfully crowdfunded Rap Godz back in 2018 on Kickstarter drive in from New Orleans to show off their latest game. Board Game Brothas is back with another game, Graffiti Knights, and were showing it off all afternoon.
Our own Library game night coordinator, Stirling, was back again this year with another design, which was very popular with the groups he playtested. I talked to one of his demo groups, and by all accounts, Playground Empires needs to find a publisher!
We had three or four other tables full of gamers and game designers (including a clever mash up between a popular deck building dungeon game and a popular boy wizard IP). It was a great start for our first GeauxPub event, and I can’t wait to see if this leads to even more community building before next year’s Fest.
GAMES I PLAYED:
This part is going to be pretty short! My responsibilities in the Gateway section, helping Jeremy and John greet the gamers in the morning, and hanging out with the live stream in the afternoon cut out most of my gaming.
I taught a ton of games: Downforce, Fireball Island, Drop It, Ticket To Ride: Europe, all of the Stonemaier play to win games, Bushido, and many more, most of them multiple times. But I did manage to play two games:
Jesse and I both like Grey Fox Games’ games, so we convinced Joe and Ronald from I Heart Board Games to play City of Gears with us. I did my best to teach the game but it’s a lot different doing it on a live stream!
City of Gears is a light engine building game, where the tiles are laid out but hidden. The theme is pretty apparent — we are competing factories trying to rebuild the famed steam punkish City of Gears using our friendly robots. There’s lots of development, moving about the city, discovering the cool combolicious tile and gear powers, and of course, just enough “take that” action for any Ameritrash player. Our play lasted about an hour, and we had a great time showing off my Kickstarter copy.
My last game of the festival was Not Alone from Stronghold Games. Stephen Buonocore is a big fan of the Festival and so I was happy to play one of his releases. Not Alone is a great one versus many game that takes a lot of the tension of Fury of Dracula and drills it down into about a half of an hour play. Jesse was the alien planet, and although we fought valiantly, he eventually swallowed Travis, Joe, Amelia and me up before we could get rescued. I swear, Jesse was onto Travis’ cologne, because he literally smelled him out on almost all of Travis’ turns!
Last year, we noted some kinks to work out:
- we need a better sound system for the infrequent announcements;
- Even more demos / tourneys if we are going to get bigger;
- Bigger gaming library;
- Larger gaming space (again if we are getting bigger);
- and of course, last but not least — GUMBO AFTERPARTY
So, how’d we do? Well, the upgrade in location handled the first four. UL’s ballroom had a wireless sound system that was perfect for our size. We had no trouble with teh announcements all day. We had plenty of room for our demos and our Scythe tourney, and we had a good sized library for the festival, with room to grow if needed. We still haven’t had an afterparty, but we are so tired after the festival that might not change! Of course, if we can ever increase the festival to two days….
I was sad that the Festival ended, but happy to see so many returning faces. I got to hang out with friends from all over Louisiana and Mississippi. Big shout out to the CENLA Gamers, LOBA (Lake Charles), the Bayou gamers from Morgan City / Houma / Thibodaux, and our Northshore Krewe.
Plus, the convention would have never happened, or been as amazing, without the selfless efforts from the Board Game Gumbo krewe and the I Heart Board Game Krewe in addition to the tireless volunteers from New Hope Foundation and the Southern Board Game Festival board.
Can’t wait to do this again in 2020! Until next convention, Laissez les bon temps rouler!