Hey board gamers, it is so good to be back in Orlando playing board games with friends from all over! Dice Tower East has an amazing library and a well stocked hot games area, and we have been exploring both.
In our last chat, we talked about the games we hit during the pre-con gaming festivities in and around the beautiful and spacious Caribe Royale hotel. This time, let’s check out the games we played inside the convention!
To give you a lay out, we only had about half the normal participants for Dice Tower Con as in years past. That gave people plenty of room to spread out, yet still feel like we are all gaming together. We frequently bumped into people we knew, which gave the con almost a “big game day” feel.
The convention center has a humongous free play area, a 3000 game library, an area with the hot games already set up (and content creators from the Dice Tower walking around ready to teach them) and a nice sized vendor area. There was really something for everyone even in the convention’s stripped down state. Hey, that’s enough blather, let’s get to the games!
There are also breakout rooms, like the demo room from Portal Games. Even though I’ve already played it a couple of times, I was excited to schedule a teach-and-play of Gutenberg with my wife (SneauxBunny) and Mitchell / Rob from the Beans & Dice call in show. Eric and Chevee Dodd from Portal Games gave us a quick teach, and the board and rulebook guide did the rest!
In Gutenberg, players each have a printing press ready to score points by matching typeface with orders coming in from various merchants. I think. It’s really about getting an engine built with your gears, that rotate in opposite directions — you know, like real gears do — but give you cool special bonuses that can help you fulfill the orders and meet special objectives.
I love all of the positive feedback loops that are created with all of the tiny little moves, but even more than that, I love the blind bidding for the actions on the board. Instead of all having the same currency to do the bidding, each player has a different amount that changes each round. It’s diabolically smooth!
And yes, Doooooogas, I bought a copy from the Portal Games booth which came with some promos I am excited to open!
Foundations of Rome
SneauxBunny and I were wandering through the library right when it opened looking for a game when she spied Foundations of Rome just sitting there. Social media board gamers are well aware of how gorgeous this thing looks on the table, but does the game play hold up? Foundations is a city building game with plastic miniatures representing all of the buildings and a GameTrayz set up that made it super easy to play. In some ways, it felt a little like New York 1901 but if it had adjacency scoring like Quadropolis.
I knew going in that the massive production belied the lighter mechanics, and while I know it bothers some, it was not a problem for me at all. Sure, it is essentially a light family weight one hour wonder, but the way that the city of Rome comes alive on the table top is just irresistible.
Players have competing goals but only a few simple actions — you have to get a coin economy going, build up some population, but also jigger the board state to score points off the civic buildings that generate VPs from being close to other types of building.
Foundations of Rome is very satisfying, and a side benefit was a chance encounter with Bryan and Tiff from Georgia who jumped in to teach the game with us. It’s always nice meeting a couple with similar tastes to ours, and we ended up playing a few more games with them during the con.
Next up, I finally got to play one of Dustin in the Gumbo’s favorite family weight racing games — Jamaica — courtesy of the krewe from the Beans & Dice Podcast. In Jamaica, players are pirates sailing around the Caribbean trying to score as many points as possible by collecting treasure. But, there’s always a twist — traveling around the island of Jamaica takes food and coins, and sometimes you land on other ships’ spaces which means it’s time for a quick and easy dice-and-cannon combat!
Although for my money I’d rather play Cubitos or Downforce, I would be happy to introduce this to my family at our next cabin con. It’s got a cool table presence, the turns are super quick, and it’s not just about racing, it also has a lot of player interactivity and euro play that almost any group would like it.
Remember Our Trip
My buddy, Eric Yurko of What’s Eric Playing, has always talked up the Sashi & Sashi games, so when Mitchell and I were looking for a game, I grabbed Remember Our Trip off the shelf. I love learning these smaller box games from Asia because they always seem to have these quirky themes. Plus, we got a chance to grab Jonathan Howe, who taught me back Concordia at Dice Tower Con 2017, as he walked by and we ended up playing a few games together.
Remember Our Trip is about taking a trip with your friends, and then chatting about the good times you had. That sounds cool, but it’s really a pretty thinky abstract where players will draft tokens that represent the bits of memories of the sights we saw on our trip, lay them on a personal board to recreate the memory, and then place them on the central board to score points. Putting similar memories together can score bonus points, plus there are objectives where you can score even more! The rule book was a little tough to decipher, but we figured it out pretty quickly and had a good time. I’d definitely play it again.
Azul: Stained Glass of Sintra
I’ve played all of the Azuls, except one. Yep, somehow I missed a play of Azul Frank Sinatra, but Mitchell was able to help me rectify that. (Side note: I rank them Summer Pavilion, base Azul, Sintra, and Queen’s Garden. Thoughts?) Sintra felt the closest to base Azul in my opinion.
In Azul: Sintra, instead of a pre-made board, players build out their own boards using vertical strips of cardboard that have various colors on them relating to the color tiles in the game. As is standard for Azul, the tiles are distinctive in shape. Somehow said they looked like colorful cough drops and that’s a good description.
We grabbed tiles from the storehouses just like in base Azul, and the colors we didn’t choose flopped to the center for someone to pick up along with the first player token. But the placement was much different than base Azul. The tiles went on your board in the column that your architect meeple pointed to. You could move the meeple to the right, but it took a complete rest action to move the meeple back to the start, so planning out a few turns ahead was definitely help. Plus, you could score some bonus points just by closing out columns that were next to each other.
Did it feel like we were creating stained glass windows like in Sagrada? Not really, but I liked the familiarity of the mechanic from base Azul but with a unique twist that felt like its own game. Honestly, I think this is one my wife would enjoy although it still has the “tiles crashing to the floor” negative loop that Azul has.
We capped off the night with a chat and game with our old friend GatorTuba (Damian Perry to the rest of you.) Damian and I are both big fans of The Dukes of Dice podcast, and met at Dice Tower Con at the Baseball Highlights tourney there. We were in college at the same time, so there’s a lot of good-natured SEC smack talk anytime we get together.
Damian owns a full copy of Bruges with all of the expansions, and it’s the next game on the Feld list that I wanted to check out. I love AquaSphere and The Castles of Burgundy and Carpe Diem, so I was anxious to see where Bruges fits in. To my surprise, it does not play like any of those other games at all. Players are building the city of Bruges, Belgium by drafting and playing multi-use cards.
The cards could give you more workers, or money, or allow you to build the wall around Bruges. The cards could help you build houses or add nobles, and every decision with every card feels deliciously crunchy even if the mechanics of the game itself are very simple. SneauxBunny joined us and picked up the game right away, and we both said that this is one to add to the collection — maybe in the form of the new updated games from Queen. Thanks Damian for showing it off!
The Wrap Up
We had a blast seeing some old familiar faces like Evan (king of the pre-con cardboard!) for the first time in years, plus meeting up with a few of the Beans & Dice Krewe!
We’ve got at one more post to wrap up the games, so stick around!
Until next time, laissez les bon temps rouler!
— BJ from Board Game Gumbo