BGG.Spring Recap by the Board Game Ambassador, Part Two

Board Game Gumbo is pleased to welcome a new voice to the blog. Verla LeBaron, who you may recognize from the Chat Krewe on Gumbo Live! and a frequent poster on the Gateway & Filler Games Group on Facebook, is back from her first trip to BGG.Con Spring. 

Here’s part two of her recap! You can reach her on BGG at Board Game Ambassador or on Facebook or at her Instagram account: @the_board_game_ambassador. Be on the lookout for her post Essen wrap up this fall!

You can find part one here.

While much of the board game community is buzzing through summer conventions like Origins and Dice Tower Con, I’m still savoring my one and only convention for this part of the year, BGG.Spring. Thank you for indulging me in reminiscing on a wonderful event!

Welcome back to day two!

After tucking my Storage Sale purchases back in the car and grabbing some lunch from the food court, I was ready to play more games. Before making my way back to the library, I decided to browse tables with “players wanted” signs to see if there was anything getting started that I wanted to get in on. This squirrelly box cover caught my eye, and I was instantly pulled in to play test Nutfall with Daniel and Conner, who are the designer and the artist of the game, and another person who came by.

The artwork on the cards for this game had me grinning with every new card draw, and it was fun to be able to tell Conner in person what a great job he’d done. In the game, you’re a squirrel trying to collect nuts that have fallen in the forest for winter storage, and you’re racing to grab them before any other squirrel can get it for their own stash.

You want to be the first to collect 9 nuts, or else have the most nuts when winter comes. At the end of each round, weather conditions can impact the nuts you’ve stored unless you managed to protect them. This is a pick-up-and-deliver game that does have some “take that” elements. I’m interested in seeing what the final game looks like, as there are still several changes that are being worked on.

Soon after, I realized I hadn’t yet connected with friends of a friend who I was supposed to meet at the convention, so I messaged them to see when and where to meet. They ended up teaching me Imhotep, which had been on my “want to try” list for quite a while.

In this game, you’re trying to become the best architect in Egypt by delivering stones to different sites by boat and creating monuments, but other architects can thwart your plans if they take over the load you wanted to deliver to a particular spot.

I didn’t realize until finally playing just how big and chunky the cubes in this game are! I’d assumed they were about the size of the cubes from Century Spice Road, but they were at least twice that. It made building the various monuments more satisfying, because the pieces felt so solid. While the theme of this game doesn’t really spark much interest for me, the game play is definitely enjoyable, and I taught it to my brother the next day. I’ve yet to find a Phil Walker-Harding game I don’t like!

Thanks to a Facebook post asking who was attending the convention, I ended up in a big Messenger group of fellow attendees. This was really handy for finding people to play specific games with throughout the weekend. I ended up playing my last two games of the evening with a couple from that group, who live in the DFW area. They had been wanting to try out Reiner Knezia’s Blue Lagoon to see if they thought their kids would like it, so we learned it together.

This was a quick, colorful area control game where you are exploring islands, building settlements, and gathering resources to try and have the most influence over an archipelago. For someone who didn’t think she was into area control games (too many negative associations with Risk), this was an enjoyable way to ease into that mechanic without consciously recognizing it immediately as area control, especially since it paved the way into our next game.

I had been hearing the name of Bunny Kingdom for months, but for some reason, had never been curious enough to check it out. So when Juliana said she’d been dying to learn it, I literally knew nothing about the game, and inwardly cringed when she mentioned it was area control. But I decided I should stretch myself and try something that didn’t particularly call to me. At the very least, I could see I’d enjoy the artwork on the cards.

Well…I ended up really liking it! (Maybe because I always enjoyed the coordinates part of Battleship growing up?) You are drafting cards to determine where you’ll place your bunnies to try and build the biggest, most resourceful cities for scoring at the end of the game.

There are a lot of choices to be made, and also the opportunity for some “take that” if you’d rather keep cards from opponents who might need them to expand their bunny kingdom. I’m not sure that it makes it to my wishlist quite yet, but I definitely left wanting to play it a few more times.

Day three started off with checking out the Board Game Bazaar. My brother took one look at the crowds jam-packed around a roomful of tables and took off to play games, but I couldn’t resist the urge to look for a deal. I ended up snagging new copies of some small, adorable looking kids’ games called Pick-a-Pig and Pick-a-Seal. I also bought a new copy of Dairyman because I couldn’t resist a great price on yet another copy that I wanted to gift to a friend before leaving Texas.

I wandered into the game library afterwards and ended up playing Sushi Roll with a couple who was also wanting to learn it. Yet another Phil Walker-Harding winner! I think I liked it even better than the original card version. This is the new dice version, and I loved the thematic element of loading up a conveyor belt with sushi dice, taking one, then passing the conveyor belt along to the next person. I felt like it was easier to learn than Sushi Go Party, because you didn’t have to deal with determining which cards would be used in the game each time you play, and I really liked that each person had a player board that showed how to score points with the different items you could roll.

Next up, I snagged a copy of Noctiluca and learned it with some of the folks I’d played with the previous day. I’d had my eye on it because of how gorgeous it is, and was happy that the game play did not disappoint! In this new Shem Phillips game, you are diving under the sea to bring back beautifully colored noctiluca (thought to have healing properties) with which you will fulfill orders on cards to deliver to healers. If you’ve had the most successful deliveries after two rounds, you win the game. You obtain the noctiluca by placing your diver at the end of a row, calling out a number from the pips on the dice, and collecting all dice in that row with the number you called to place on your order cards.

This game was easy to learn, but had more challenging options than players originally realized. I held onto it after our initial game, and taught a few others so I could play it again. Instant wishlist for this one!

I reconnected with my brother between games, and together with a few other folks, we played  Space Base. I had played it about a year before this, and had found it really confusing, but wanted to try it again when I could sit down with the rules and really figure out what some of the iconography on the cards meant. This time around, the game made a lot more sense to me, and we ended up playing it two or three times in a row so that everyone could get a solid feel for it. I really enjoyed how everyone can benefit from the dice roll during every turn, and the challenge of coming up with some good engines with the spaceship cards in your tableau. It can feel rather luck-based due to the dice rolling at times, but overall, I keep wanting to play this game again.

We ended up becoming table buddies for the rest of the day with the couple who played Space Base with us. They had been wanting to try out an older German game called Hab & Gut, so we all learned it together. In this game, you are buying and selling stock and manipulating prices, while also donating money to charity. You don’t want to be the most miserly at the end of the game, because if you donated the least amount of money to charity, you lose. It reminded me of Between Two Castles of Mad King Ludwig, in that you had cards that only you and the player on either side of you could see, which helped each player try to determine the most profitable way to manipulate the stock market. It wasn’t really my cup of tea, but it was interesting to learn a game I’d never heard of.

By far, the highlight of the day was the closing ceremony on Sunday evening. Everything paused while the BGG crew talked about how the event had been going so far and how much money had been raised for Cafe Momentum from the charity sale over two days. Then Rodney Smith and Rahdo came up to draw tickets for a raffle. All 1,700 attendees had been given a raffle ticket with their badge, just waiting for the closing ceremony. There were about 30 prize packages of games and Game Toppers bags, as well as some framed board game art. Lo and behold, they came to about the 26th or 27th prize, and my ticket was drawn! I was able to meet and chat with Rodney after the ceremony finished, and could easily see why he’s known as the nicest guy in board games.

Day four was short, as the game library closed at 3pm sharp, and all games had to be turned in by then. My brother and I had really enjoyed Asking for Trobils the first day, so we played it a couple more times, both at two players and at four players with other new friends who joined us.

We moved on to learning Glen More, a game I’ve been curious about, especially with the new Glen More II: Chronicles out on Kickstarter. This is a tile laying game (right up my alley!) with a Scottish theme. You are selecting various territory/building tiles from a rondel, which impacts turn order. This was a unique twist compared to some of my favorite tile laying games. Where you can place your tile depends on where you’ve got a meeple already placed.

The included copy of the rules appeared to be a translation, and it was kind of challenging to follow. I’m pretty sure we got some things wrong (like buying and selling sheep and goods), but I have a feeling I might really enjoy it after some how-to-play videos and figuring out the correct rules.

I thought it would be fun to play an easy-to-teach dexterity game since we were short on time, so we went for Men at Work. This game always has me doubled over laughing! Construct a building with various materials, and follow placement rules depending on what cards come up on your turn. Impress Rita with your skills, and you might become Employee of the Month, but if you cause too many accidents, you will lose your safety certificates and get fired!

(I like this game so much that I accidentally purchased it twice. Oops!)

We finished off the convention rushing through a game I was really excited to see in the library: Little Monster That Came for Lunch and Stayed for Tea. This is a quick little filler that kids will love and adults will enjoy too.

Each player has two little monsters that they are trying to feed as everyone’s monsters race around the table. You draw food cards and play them to move your monster along, and the first person to get their monsters around the table wins. The artwork in this game is simply adorable, and the game was really fun!

One thing I haven’t mentioned is that there was a dedicated play zone for the recently announced Spiel Des Jahres finalists, with the jury members on hand to teach all of the games. I scoped it out several times over the weekend, but never ended up waiting around for a game to end so I could get in on a new one. My favorite nominees were Wingspan and Carpe Diem, which I had already played several times at home, so I left those tables for folks who might not have had a chance to try them yet. There were games in the library that I was just a little more interested in learning than some of the other SDJ finalists, but it was still really neat to have that area available.

I loved that this was a convention focused on playing games more than anything, and that it was extremely family-friendly. It was great to see up-and-coming gamers playing with their parents and having a good time. (Gotta teach ‘em young!) While there were about 20 or so vendor booths that were fun to check out, this wasn’t the main reason for the event. No matter where I go, I find the board game community to be incredibly open, warm, and welcoming of new people, and BGG.Spring was no exception. I highly recommend it and will definitely be back!

You can reach her on BGG at Board Game Ambassador or on Facebook or on Instagram at @the_board_game_ambassador. Be on the lookout for her post Essen wrap up this fall! Until next time, laissez les bon temps rouler!

— BJ @boardgamegumbo

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