Southern Board Game Fest 2022

What happens when you combine cardboard and Cajun culture in one weekend? You get SoBo 2022, that’s what! Hey board gamers, we are back from another exciting edition of Southern Board Game Festival (“SoBo”), dragging our voices and our tired bodies around Acadiana.

What a festival! Gamers have been cooped up for two years, with most conventions canceled due to the pandemic, and you could taste the energy all weekend.

I saw friends from around the state that I have not seen in two or three years, and it was awesome catching up with Jason from the North Shore, Marshall, David & Julie from the CENLA group, the I Heart Board Games krewe (Jesse, Melissa, and Joe) from Baton Rouge, Andrew and Rosemary from NOLA, and many others.

Plus, the intertrons have allowed us to make so many online friends the last two years, and it was so cool finally meeting many of these friends in person for the first time.

We visited with Patrick & Cindy from League City, making their first ever con appearance!

We also finally met Brett & Alex from Hattiesburg, who also made this their first ever board game convention!

Yes, we had gamers from all over the Gulf South for SoBo ’22, something that was our intent from the very start! Mississippi was well-represented, we saw Stephanie & Maynard and friends playing a ton of games.

We had a bunch of gamers from Texas, including Woody from Hutchu Games showing off his new Hurricane The Board Game demo.

And how about the Beans & Dice Podcast krewe making their way all the way from Tampa to play games with us?! It was great to visit with Carlos, Rob & Dan (from Your Turn board game cafe and the popular “Gray Board Gamer” YouTube channel).

By a stroke of good luck, the Festivals Acadien et Creole moved its normal fall weekend to spring, and the two festivals coincided for the first time ever. I’m sure that the festival organizers at Festivals Acadien didn’t notice, but we sure did – because we were able to take advantage of the great weather, great food, and great music any time we needed to step away from the tables at the University of Louisiana’s Student Union and get a break.

Our fearless leaders, John and Sagan, put together a fantastic krewe of volunteers…but they also had time to enjoy some games themselves!

But what about the games we played? Enough blather, let’s talk some cardboard! Many of these games came right out of our very own Southern Board Game Fest curated library!

Or were purchased right from our sponsor, Anubis Game & Hobby!

Or came straight out of our enormous Play-to-win section courtesy of our friends at game companies like Grey Fox Games, Weird Giraffe Games, Stonemaier Games, Stronghold Games, KOSMOS games and many, many more!

FRIDAY!

For us, SoBo ‘22 started on Friday night with the setup of the festival and a Board Game Gumbo meet up. We finished the set up around 7p, headed to the Festivals Acadien for some food, and then started gaming (and Melissa treated us to some singing, too!)

First up from me was a game of Roam from Red Raven Games. Our old friend, Rosemary, from the Gumbo krewe (who lives in NOLA now) taught it to us. Roam is one of Ryan Laukat’s small box games, still with the signature beautiful art. It’s an interesting puzzle where players try to recover ‘lost friends’ who are scattered around the world.

Each player starts with patterns they can build on the tableau of cards in the center (in a kind of Project L sort of way), and placing your tokens in that pattern generates money (to buy helpful items) and represents area majority for picking up ‘friend’ cards. Those friend cards in turn give you even more patterns to use to get more cards, and the player who scores the most points off of those friend cards is the winner. Fast, puzzly, and breezy enough to chat while playing – that’s Roam in a nutshell. I’d play it again for sure.

Next up were plays of 7 Wonders Architects, which I had not played in person since BGG Con but have about a dozen plays online, and Walking in Burano, a fantastic little card based tableau builder from AEG that I adore but haven’t played in years. Melissa from I Heart Board Games planned on streaming a play of Walking in Burano, so it was nice to get a refresher before her play the next day. 7 Wonders Architects is always good – just can’t get enough of that game.

New to me was a play of So Clover, the new cooperative word game from Repos Productions, which I just got last week but haven’t even opened up the box yet. We love Just One and party games like Medium, so I was hoping So Clover would be just as good. In the game, players have a four leaf clover and a marker, and four cards with words. The cards are placed on the clover in such a way that the words are next to each other, and each player has to think of words that make a connection between them. Then the cards are taken away and shuffled, and the group plays cooperatively to figure out those connections.

It’s diabolical, but a lot less stressful than playing Just One since you do not have seven pairs of eyes staring at you with what they claim are “the easiest clues in the world to figure out.” I like the group think aspect of So Clover and can definitely see it getting played heavily at summer vacation and family get-togethers.

The last game of the Gumbo meet up for me was Best Treehouse Ever from Green Couch Games and designer, Scott Almes. This has been on my want to play list forever, thanks to the Geek All Stars talking it up, and my buddy Andrew from Cardboard Conjecture was happy to teach it to us.

The name of the game tells you everything. Players are building a tableau of cards – it apparently was “build a tableau of cards night” at SoBo – in the shape of a giant tree with the coolest elements any kid could want in their treehouse. Think Kodama Tree Spirits but with your wildest imagination run wild in terms of kids’ fun. We saw model railroad rooms, ice cream shoppes, and even a board game library!

The game is essentially an area majority game with a few twists. Players are collecting colors and grouping them together for control of point cards, but the goals for each round are dictated by the players themselves, so you have to be careful about how you invest your choices. That grouping mechanic is a favorite of mine; if you’ve played Harvest Dice from Danny Devine you know what I’m talking about! Even if I want to, I can’t grab all of the purple cards because at some point another color will block me in. Two thumbs up for me for this crunchy little 20 minute game.

SATURDAY!

Andrew and I grabbed some eggs at Hub City Diner – yes the tradition continues! – before the festival started, and then headed over to the University of Louisiana for the opening. We had a little time to burn before the doors opened, so Andrew taught me Circle The Wagons, a Button Shy 18 card game by Danny Devine and Steven Aramini. I’ve been wanting to play this forever – Steve “The NameFather” and Alex Goldsmith from the Dukes of Dice are always raving about it.

Circle the Wagons is a small wallet sized game with cards that have multiple types of terrain on them. It’s a two player game, and each player will take turns drafting cards to place into their milieu. The cards are in a circle, and have things like forts and other icons that can score points depending on the randomized end goals that are used for that particular game. You can take the next card in the round, or skip cards, but if you skip, your opponent gets all the cards you skip. That created so many juicy little decisions – I might really want that card, but if I skip those two I don’t want, they go straight to my opponent! Two thumbs up for me, I’ll have to pick this one up.

Jack and Stephanie showed up, and set up an eight player Game of Thrones game. That’s right, Jack expected six other gamers to spend all day with him and Steph playing ONE GAME. A(nd color me wrong, he actually pulled it off!)

While Jack refreshed himself on the rules, Jerod and I taught Steph and Andrew how to play Century Spice Road: A New World, maybe my favorite in the series. In this one, you are still trading resources for more resources, but you have to develop the worker placement spots that do the heavy lifting, and score points by “delivering” the goods to the new world.

The turns are quick, the decisions meaningful, and there is a tiny bit of engine building in the upgrades that you can get. All of us agreed we would easily play it again.

But there were more games to play. I had a scheduled teach of Beyond The Sun in our Playthrough Section, where I had four smart and eager players quickly pick up the rules.

I love Beyond the Sun so much, I had just as much fun watching people play and explore the mechanics. Kudos to Cody for the big win.

While I was teaching Beyond the Sun, my buddies Jason & Donna Dinger were telling stories about the development and history behind Captains of the Gulf, while teaching it to four fans of the game.

Andrew and I walked by a young couple looking for help with Lost Ruins of Arnak, and I love that game, so we were happy to oblige. We jumped in with them to play a four player game.

I was happy that this couple who are just getting into board games had no trouble understanding the two different things that are going on in this explore-and-battle worker placement game. Arnak is still hot, still being played, and is still beloved and it is easy to see why.

Jerod and I both love exploring the Garphil Games collections, and the SoBo Library had a copy of Architects of the West Kingdom handy, so we decided to teach a couple of new players. This was our second or third time playing Architects, and I am digging it more and more the more I experience it.

Unlike the last game, I was in the game the whole time and finished just a few points out of first. I think I still prefer Viscounts and Paladins better, but honestly, I’d play any of the three anytime.

The last game of the night might have been my best experience of all. I had last played Captain Sonar back at Pax South 2017 in a noisy demonstration hall. I always hoped to revisit this experience. Mitchell had a copy, and he and Sagan provided an excellent teach to those new and those with hazy memories of the rules.

In Captain Sonar, two teams of four players each man a submarine – sort of a real-time Battleship. Each player has a unique job; I was the radio operator charged with listening to the other captain’s orders and try to figure out where their sub was on the map just based on the movement calls we could hear.

Jay and I were both radio operators on opposite teams, and it was a tight battle between the two teams. Sagan was ultimately victorious over Marshall’s team, when he and I narrowed the other team to a particular quadrant, sat quietly in the water until they came to our area and launched a successful torpedo. So cinematic!

Ever play a game that you just fall in love with right away? That was me and Pret-a-Porter. Something about the combination of the theme, where players take turns sending workers out to upgrade their ability to produce fashion statements for shows, and the mechanics (worker placement, engine building, set collection) all combined into an amazing experience.

Well, actually, we did sneak in one more (partial) game. Jerod and I taught The Hunger and tried to speed run it with three other players in twenty minutes. We got about halfway through the game when the festival closed, but oh well. We’ll play it on stream sometime.

Speaking of streaming — big shout out to Melissa and Jessse of I Heart Board Games — they streamed hours and hours of the festival, with play throughs, did interviews with local designers like Jay Bell and John Melancon, and conducted visits with content creators from all of the country.

SUNDAY!

After a very early morning service at St Pius, I headed to Cajun Market donuts to grab some breakfast. Sagan and I got into a friendly disagreement on Friday about the “sugar to glaze weight ratio” of Meche’s versus Cajun Market’s wares. Donuts are a serious business in Acadiana!

Rosemary and I hadn’t played many games since she left the Gumbo Krewe to move to NOLA, but we had been texting back and forth about playing her gorgeous copy of Pret-a-Porter. Well, it turns out the SoBo library also had a copy, so we convinced Andrew and Emily (from SoBo) to join in.

I can see why Pret-a-Porter is not only highly rated, but why so many people were waiting on the new edition. If you are a fan of Kwanchai Moriya’s art, you’re gonna love Pret-a-Porter because his hand is all over the cards, the pieces, the box art, and the rulebook. From start to finish, it was a pleasant experience even if I had a couple of bad turns that cost me second place. Thanks to Rosemary for teaching it!

I bought a copy of Ladder 29 after hearing the gang on the Geek All Stars podcast, but never played it. Andrew and I recruited a bunch of other gamers and he taught the game. Trick-taking and shedding games are really popular for convention play, because you can focus on the cards and cardplay yet still be breezy enough to just chat as you are throwing down suits.

Ladder 29 reminded me a little of The Great Dalmuti but with a unique twist: each round, players will choose specific scoring goals out of a medium sized deck of randomized goals, and so building your strategy has to combine some tactical play from the cards in your hand with some long-term thinking to meet those goals. I didn’t get to finish the game, but I heard Jerod and Millie had a good battle right to the end.

I moved back into the scheduled playthrough room for a teach of Reavers of Midgard. Back in 2018-2019, I was playing this game a lot – demoing it at conventions for Grey Fox Games with Alex Goldsmith, playing it at the meet up groups, and even playing it live on the channel. I love the Viking theme combined with the gorgeous art, but what I love the most is the “follow action” where one player chooses and action, and each subsequent player gets the same action but with lesser benefits.

The group that I taught picked it up right away, and started peppering me with pretty specific strategic questions. I knew it would be a close game, but Cody was two-for-two in winning my teach and play games. Thanks to my group, we had a great time playing and I even finished up the last round or so for one of the players who had to drop out. Need to get Reavers back on the table again!

It was back to the main gaming hall then, and I ran into Brett and his wife Alex who were making the trip from Hattiesburg to their first ever con. I saw that they had Harvest Dice on the table, so I convinced Andrew to join me in playing.

I was rusty – I hadn’t played it since a trip to Big Bend National Park way back in 2017! – but the rulebook to this excellent little family weight roll and write from Danny Devine and Social Sloth Games is excellent, and the game mechanics and strategy came back to me right away. Thanks to Brett & Alex for letting us play with ya’ll!

The last game of SoBo for me was a teach-and-play of Bad Company. If you have been following the blog, you know how much I love this game. What other game can one up Space Base, play up to six players, and plays in an hour or less? Bad Company has it all – a cool Oceans 11 meets Machi Koro theme, fun mechanics and art, and a quick play time.

I wanted to play a game with Patrick & Cindy Newman who drove all the way from Texas for their first ever game con, and we roped in a few more to play, including my old friend, Kyle from the Gumbo krewe. Kyle picked up on the scoring cards right away and raced to six heists for the win. I still dig this game and it is definitely in my top five games of the year.

Conclusion

So that was SoBo ’22! We are already planning next year’s edition. Hope to see you there! Until next SoBo, Laissez les bon temps rouler!

— BJ

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