BJ from Board Game Gumbo here, reporting from Dice Tower Con 2019. I am a little slow uploading my updates, but here is my wrap up of the middle days of the Con.
Hot tip for enjoying the con, especially if you want to play the hot games — zig while others zag. Many gamers stay up late each night, then filter into the main gaming hall sometime before lunch. By then, the hot tables can get full.
Instead, get to bed by midnight, and get to the hot tables before 7:30 am. All the hot games are usually open, set up, and waiting for you and some new friends to learn and play. You might even get taught by members and contributors from the Dice Tower!
On Day 2, I arrived early as usual and found a group of players looking to play Wingspan from Stonemaier Games. I’m a big fan of the game, so I was happy to teach.
I asked for some pregame impressions to gauge their knowledge of the game. The early impression from the group was that the production value was high, but would the gameplay hold up for them?
Wingspan is an engine building game where players build out habitats for birds from all over North America. The players were good gamers, so the game was close. I had a good engine going in food and cards, but couldn’t get the exact cards I needed. I finished two points out of the lead, but for me, the win was seeing the faces of the players light up as they turned over cards or ran their engines each round.
Next up for me was a full day of demoing Reavers of Midgard and Bushido, and I even had a chance to meet the designer of Reavers, J.B. Howell. We had a good laugh as we realized our initials were mirror images!
We also set up some demos of Run, Fight or Die — and apparently I just missed meeting Richard Launius, the designer of the original game. Bummer!
Best part of the day was setting up a three player game of Reavers of Midgard with Alex Goldsmith of the Dukes of Dice and Jesse Seidule of I Heart Board Games on the Heart Board Games Twitch channel. These two guys are excellent euro game playes, so clearly I was out of my league, but somehow I scratched out a close second place.
Let me call it now — Grey Fox Games has a winner with this one. They’re bringing a few select copies of Gen Con and I predict that they will not last past day one. I am always looking for thematic euros, and Reavers is one of the best I have played. It has a cool follow mechanic as well as tons of points all over the board. There’s monster fighting, dice chucking, engine building and point maximizing all in the same game!
Later that night, Alex and I had a few more plays of We’re Doomed! with various play counts and play groups. Again, I will leave my thoughts and impressions for Episode 204 of the Dukes of Dice Podcast, but I will say that the game seems to be group dependent. Over the course of the half dozen or so plays, we had wildly different experiences depending upon the group members.
I ran into the crew from I Heart Board Games and Southern Board Game Fest again. That’s another cool thing about Dice Tower Con over Gen Con, by the way. I might see someone I know once ever during Gen Con, if at all. Here at Dice Tower Con, it is the opposite. It is very rare to run into a friend only once during the con — you usually see them many times even during the same day.
Anyway, we started talking about games to play. Ronald had grabbed Fairy Tale, but it was the early version with symbols on the cards that I just did not recognize at all.
So instead we pulled out Walking in Burano. Walking in Burano is a small two to four player game originally published by Emperor S4, that is being released this year by AEG. (Review coming soon!) If you like beautiful puzzles with player interactivity that come in a small box — and can be played in about a half hour — you ought to try Walking in Burano.
In fact, I played it again the next morning, with a bunch of heavy game enthusiasts. We spent the entire game talking about our favorite meaty euros, but at the end of the game, all agreed that Walking in Burano gives you all the spicy brain burning you need in a tiny little half link of boudin. It should be on every gamer’s list for games to check out at Gen Con.
Was Thursday the night to get a good huge helping of sleep to prepare for the onslaught of the weekend?
Somehow I talked myself, as well as Ronald and John, into breaking past the midnight hour to play Gentes Deluxified. I hadn’t played it in a few weeks, and had not taught it in a month or two, and my brain was already mush, so this wasn’t my greatest idea. But, I just love playing this game and sharing it with people, so we gave it a geaux.
After a rough teach, we got the game going finally just after midnight. I had my strategy working at first, taking buildings in the cash cow regions of the board, but got a little too greedy. I should have been a little more flexible, and grabbed a few more hometowns with the bonus actions and upgrades.
So….let’s not talk a lot about the scoring, or where I finished, and instead just mention that despite the late hour, I enjoyed playing. I wish we had started earlier, because tired BJ is not spunky energy BJ, but if you see me at a Con and it’s not 12:30 AM, I’m happy to play Gentes with you.
On to Day Three……
So here’s another con tip if you like early morning. DON’T PLAY GENTES UNTIL TWO IN THE MORNING.
Yeah, that’s not a good recipe for getting up early to play games. But, hey, Dice Tower Con only comes around once a year, so I got up early-ish again and headed over to the hot games room.
Our local game guru, Sagan from the Southern Board Game Fest (“SoBo”), and I had plans to play MetroX and grabbed an empty table.
First thing I noticed? The crazy pencil that comes with the game. Who designed this? It’s probably not the most practical pencil ever made, but it certainly is a conversation piece.
As for the game, it is easily the most evil randowriter that I have played so far. Players are tracking metro train routes across Japan. The player sheets are a little too small for my eyes, and it is definitely hard to follow some of the routes, but the way the train routes criss cross is just mind twisting.
Players only have two or three chances to connect these long routes, and have to depend on some of the routes sharing the same rail to get to the end. But if you leave empty spaces, you can really box yourself into a corner. Plus, part of the challenge is completing routes faster than your opponents to rack up big bonuses. MetroX is a tense game in a tiny little package.
I didn’t play very well, but MetroX is one of those challenging games that makes you want to play again right away. Even as the sheet was filled up, and I saw where I made mistakes, I was already planning my next play. Sure, Brikks and Doppelt / Ganz are more my speed, but I really enjoyed my first play.
Back to the Grey Fox booth I went, and this was some of the best days for showing off Reavers of Midgard and Bushido.
But the big event that Alex, Jack, Burky, and so many others couldn’t wait for was the start of the Baseball Highlights: 2045 tournament.
Phillip Millman, the “Gaming Rabbi”, Alex Goldsmith, and Evan Scussel went all out this year.
They showed up in official “BH2045 Umpire” uniforms, and carried in tons of swag from Eagle-Gryphon Games. First time players took home brand new copies of the game, every table had custom play mats (that also went home to all the players), and a few of us brought our deluxe editions (custom meeples, promos, and sleeved cards!)
We fell just shy of our goal of a 32 team tournament, but 30 or so players joined in the tourney, and broke up into pods.
We played the other members of the pod three times for a total of nine games with nine free agent buys, building our own personal decks.
Then, the top two teams advances to the playoffs, and played each other bracket style with no added free agents until only one team remained.
My pod was tough — Burky from GameToppers LLC was my first round opponent, and one of the other players was an experienced Magic: The Gathering player. There were so many exciting games! I scored nine runs in one game and still had to geaux to extra innings, had close pitcher’s duels, and everything in between.
My son, Jack, former winner from 2017, and I both made it out of the pods to the bracket play, but flamed out in the first round to some good competition. Phillip Millman stormed through the tournament just like last year, and took home his own personal trophy again!
Kudos to the group for putting on the World Championship and the biggest BH2045 event on record. Plus, how cool was it to see so many old and new friends! Damian from Florida (who sadly didn’t get to play), the Simoni family (formerly of Louisiana), Burky, Derek Funkhauser, listeners of the Dukes of Dice like Jeff, and so many others. Can’t wait for next year’s tournament! If you like deck building games even a little, or like baseball a lot, you have to play this game.
And then, how about a bonus experience! Alex invited me to be a guest host of the Dukes of Dice podcast (sadly, no photo taken!).
Hey, have you ever had a brilliant idea late at night that on execution didn’t turn out so well? Yeah, that’s what I would call my idea to do an impression of Sean Ramirez’s opening of the show. First mistake — my voice was ragged out from three days of demoing. Second — I wrote but didn’t memorize the script. Third — Sean’s done this over 200 times and is a pro about it. Me? Not so much.
But, I had a great time doing it, and over the past few years, Alex and I have become good con buddies so I think we had a good rapport on the show, notwithstanding the crappy opening. We recapped our con experiences, talked about the games we played, poked some fun at our play in the tournament, and reviewed We’re Doomed. Thanks Alex, you’re a good friend in letting me fill in!
And that’s a wrap on Part Two of the Con! Stay tuned for more fun and more board games soon. Until next time, laissez les bon temps rouler!
— BJ @boardgamegumbo