Hey board gamers, I’m down in very sunny Orlando for the Dice Tower East convention. Out of all of the cons we attend, this is always the chillest (and except for SoBo, might be my favorite). This time, my wife not only came along for the Orlando area attractions, she also bought a ticket to play!
A not-so-hidden secret of the con, which starts the Wednesday of July 4th week each year and runs for five days, is that many vacationers show up early to hit Universal and Disney theme parks, and then game in the hotel lobby all evening. This year, we started gaming in our favorite spot starting on Monday as we had some parks to visit first.
Plus, I was curious as to what goes in to setting up the gigantic Dice Tower library, so I helped Tom Vasel and his krewe get that set up on Tuesday, which gave me a chance to finally meet Chris & Wendy Yi in person as well as Camilla from Four Squares.
And Mitchell and I had some good chat time with Mihir Shah, the designer of Viticulture World!
Oh yeah, and we ran into Burky from Game Toppers LLC and had a long chat about … well … spices to shipping and everything in between! Can’t wait to see what’s coming down the pike in his next Kickstarter.
First up for us was a couple of games of Anno 1800. I figured this would be a game SneauxBunny would love, because of the engine building and the puzzle you have each turn. Players play as industrialists exploring a new continent, establishing trade with their fleet of ships and trying to explore a new world at the same time. Martin Wallace likes to throw a unique mechanic in his offerings, and in Anno 1800, players can utilize the resources other people develop. It gives the illusion that you are cooperating — when in reality, players are trying to get the most popular resources locked down and earn a bunch of gold from the bank in the process.
The other twist is that the game ends when one player has played all of the cards in the hand, which are laid down when the resources match up. But some of the cards give you powerful new workers and cards, which delays the end! It’s a juicy little puzzle to figure out how much you want to power up your engine versus getting to the end game.
Best news of the day is that she loved it! I enjoyed playing it with Jason and his son from South Carolina (who we gamed with back in 2017) and Jeremy, who I’ve played or demoed games with at other cons. I would expect we are going to play this one again.
Next up for us was finally playing our borrowed copy of My City. Jerod and his wife played through the whole campaign, but left us two boards to explore. This is a polyomino style game from Reiner Knizia that is also legacy based. Each player is developing their city — over and over it seems — and dealing with an ever changing rule set as we explore the eight chapters (each consisting of three games) of the development of our cities. It’s fast, it’s fun, and best of all, we have been very competitive in our games. In fact, two of them ended in ties.
The Isle of Cats
We probably should not have played this one just minutes after completing two whole chapters back-to-back, but we did it anyway. Everybody in Acadiana raves about The Isle of Cats, and Jacob, my old Stronghold booth buddy, was setting up a four player game and needed two more people.
Sadly, this one fell flat for me. First of all, at least in the dark area of the hotel lobby where we were playing, the board was a hot mess. It’s got lines and tiny little symbols all over it, which is supposed to denote the various areas of the ship, but in the dim light just looked like a busy brown mess. Plus, the game is kind of herky-jerky in that players draft action cards 7 Wonders style, and then play the cards in a particular sequence. I
‘m sure playtesting gave a reason for playing the game on rails like this, but it is not a smooth experience. I would much rather play 7 Wonders style — playing your cards and taking the actions immediately — or even just paying for the cards you want and then play them one at a time. I’ll play it again, but the Dobster is going to have to sell me hard on this one.
So our old buddy Jay Bell is temporarily in the UK, but while he and his wife are out there, he did me and Dean and The NameFather a solid by picking up copies of Scout for us! It’s a new older game from Oink Games, one of our favorite publishers. It had originally been published by another company with different art, and Steph Hodge from BGG had it in her quiver. Hey, who wouldn’t want to learn one of their new games from Steph?! We played a three player game with Steph and Jason from Baltimore.
Essentially, it’s a card shedding game but with two twists. First, you play the hand of cards you are dealt in the sequence that you get them, but to help, the cards have numbers on both the top and bottom of each card. I mean, they have DIFFERENT numbers, and that means you can flip your hand to get a totally different set of cards. Second, if you can’t beat the current winning play, you can always “scout” (i.e. steal) one of the cards on the table and add it ANYWHERE to your hand. It gives the player who played that set of cards a victory point, but could really help you build a great combo.
I dug this game very much. It’s super fast, super easy to teach, comes in the tiniest, Oinkiest of packages and will be great for our family card game nights. Two thumbs up.
Last but not least is our old favorite from BGG Con 2021, Bad Company! Faithful readers know that this was one of our top six games of the year, and I was so happy when Mitchell finally arrived at DTE and found a gamer named Mike who had his copy to play. We also convinced Ron Frasier to jump in with us!
Bad Company is a bank heist themed version of Space Base or Machi Koro’s dice building mechanic. But this time, there are a couple of wrinkles that make this the better version in my opinion. You can spend money to upgrade your numbers (gang members with colorful, funny art), but that comes on a track that gets every more expensive as you do it. You can use the numbers to complete the heists of valuable gold and diamonds, but that only comes when the active player splits the four dice into two pairs with one of them being your choice and the numbers match up to the symbols you need.
And finally ,you can’t just build heists or recruit gang members — you have to stay one step ahead of the police car hot on your trail! At the end of every turn, the police car die determines how far the cop moves, and you need to spend a few dice rolls on moving down the city streets as fast as you can, getting bonuses along the way if you are ahead of the police. This ain’t about numbers, though, the combination of the art and the dice and the heists and especially the race through the city makes this one of the most thematic dice engine builders out there.
The Wrap Up
We had a blast seeing some old familiar faces for the first time in years, plus meeting up with a few of the Beans & Dice Krewe!
So that’s it for the three days leading up to the con. I’ll be posting more pictures on Facebook and hopefully wrapping this up with another blog post. We are here for three days and I’m looking forward to seeing old friends and playing new games — and the other way around, too!
Until next time, laissez les bon temps rouler!
— BJ from Board Game Gumbo