Hey board gamers, we’re back from BGG Con 2022! Visiting Dallas highlighted a great year of gaming in the Gumbo, and was a nice bookend to our spring convention (SoBo) and our summer trip to Dice Tower Con.
BGG announced attendance of 2600 gamers this year, but honestly, it never really felt that full or crowded as there were plenty of empty tables all over the beautiful Hyatt Regency hotel (well, except the main gaming hall, which stayed pretty full from 10a to 10p.)
I’ll get to the games in a second, but first a shout out to some wonderful people that I got to see this week. Dave, Jack and I spent most of our time with Rob and Cam from The Board Boys Podcast, and were there to witness their first ever “vocal recognition” when a listener stopped by to say hello. That was cool! I get recognized like that all the time, but only in my house when SneauxBunny comes home and asks “hey, aren’t you…” so I was happy that they finally experienced the feeling. We recorded a podcast together with Grant Lyons, comedian and party gamer extraordinaire, so listen to that coming out soon.
Speaking of Grant, we caught one of his Board Game Comedy Hours at the con. Don’t miss this! Grant is quick, funny, introspective, and very observative about gaming culture. Plus, we played party games with him almost every night, and that was a treat. He’s a great teacher, and of course, he is funny as heck during the game. I’ll get to the best of those experiences later.
I also got to hang out with Spencer & Lara from Married with Board Games / The Lighten Up Initiative — we’ve had so many good experiences virtually and it was great to visit again.
Speaking of virtual, Verla (The Board Gaming Ambassador on Instagram) and I have been friends (virtually) for almost five years without meeting in person, and I finally got to hang out with her! She’s every bit as sweet and fun as she is as the Gumbo Overlord on Gumbo Live!, so make sure you follow her on IG and say hello at a con.
Speaking of cons, Patrick & Cindy Newman drove up from coastal Texas and played some games with us! New York 1901 was a highlight of the con, not only because it’s one of my favorite games, but also, it is breezy enough that the Newmans and Verla and I got to visit in between turns.
Talking about turns, on Day 0 I hung out with NOLA Mark and ‘Dre, and played some fun card games. Mark jumped in to a lot of games with us and Verla and the Board Boys after that. Unfortunately, I never got a chance to play any other games with ‘Dre and Nick and the rest of the Austin krewe, but I did get to visit with them a couple of times.
I finally got to chat with Mik and Starla from Our Family Plays Games in person. They’ve been on Gumbo Live! a bunch, and I was not surprised that they are even more fun in person than their bubbly personalities on the screen. In fact, I’d say they are more fun! We’ll get them down to SoBo some day.
I can’t forget about Evan, designer of After The Empire, who played games with us all day Saturday. We had an interesting visit with Autobahn on Saturday afternoon, and I heard I missed a good opportunity Saturday night to play After The Empire with him as the teacher. Tres cool!
Finally, I can’t tell you how good it was to get away from the con for a few hours and get some food and gaming with Burky (from GameToppers LLC) and his buddies. I had stopped by the booth and chatted with him, and Rob (game designer) and Trent (my rival at the BH2045 tourney in 2019 in Orlando), and got the invite. We played Campaign Trail — well, most of it anyway — and now I want to play it again with Burky as my partner-in-politics. I think we had the other two parties on the ropes when the game ended well after midnite!
Enough blather, let’s get to some games! I’ll give just a short description of the game and our experience, then give a little “beignet rating” of what I thought.
We drove in on Tuesday with plenty of time to get some gaming in. So we did!
Oh My Brains
25th Century games sent us Oh My Brain to try, and we played it twice during the con. Bruno Cathala has a knack for games like this — simple rule sets, a little chaos, and speedy turns. In Oh My Brains, players have some zombie animal cards in hand and in a separate “graveyard” and the goal is to get rid of your cards faster than anyone else using card shedding and ladder climbing mechanics. This would be a simple concept, but the twist is that any card left in your hand is negative points (and you only have nine zombie points) AND the fact that some of the cards have bonus special powers. It’ll get some more plays at holiday get togethers.
Beignet Rating: Keeper for this holiday season.
The Flatout Games team did it again. If you like puzzle games — think Azul or Sagrada or Cascadia or Calico — Verdant should be on your list to try. This puzzle involves placing plants around your garden, but the scoring cards and the plants make this checkerboard pattern that fried my brain in a good way. Plus, it has gorgeous art from Beth Sobel.
Beignet Rating: Might have to pick this one up to play with SneauxBunny
After a game of Scout, we moved on to the big game of the night: Wonderlands War from Druid City Games, the blinged out KS edition. Wonderlands War was better than I expected, a smooth experience of bag-style push your luck (like Quacks) with some battle mechanics that are very intuitive. I love how you can improve your chances with purchases of select coins, and of course,the over-the-top production did not hurt our experience. It’s been only one play, but I’m calling it now as my favorite Druid City Games game.
Beignet Rating: I’m glad Jeremy owns it because I want to play it again.
Badges? Check. Library open? Check. Open game tables? Absolutely! It was time to hit the gaming hard.
Spencer Williams from The Lighten Up Initiative and I met up for a chat in the coffee shop. Pretty soon we had a group of five us looking to play a game, which was the perfect count for both Moon Adventure and Scout. Moon Adventure is a cooperative version of the hit game Deep Sea Adventure from Oink Games. Instead of underwater searching, this time, we are sharing oxygen in space looking for stuff. Find enough stuff and we win! But, alas, we did not find enough stuff and we lost. I love the fact that players can table talk but each person’s unique ability has to be taken into account.
Beignet Rating: I’d play it again, don’t think I need to own it
Dave has an uncanny ability to grab surprisingly solid games at random off the BGG library shelf. Last year, he discovered Project L and Bad Company (which was my Game of the Con). This year, he dropped Skate Summer from Pandasaurus Games on the table. I love the theme, shredders doing tricks all over the city and trying to get points from elaborate attempts. Love the art, not a fan of the rulebook, but the trick mechanic alone gives this game some shelf life. It’s another fun push-your-luck style game but the production and the elements on the board really gives us a cool skater vibe.
Beignet Rating: I’d play it again
This was one of my most anticipated games from Essen and it did not disappoint. We played it twice in one day! Imagine Star Trek Academy the board game, and you’ve got nearly all of the game. Players are recent space captain graduates tasked with running missions and zooming around the star-and-planet field main board. We battled pirates (with a simple and bloodless mechanic). Sometimes games like this lose focus on what they do well, but not Starship Captains. It leans into the theme of exploration of the galaxy and training your crew,
Beignet Rating: I bought it at the con!
Hamlet: The Village Building Game
I had high hopes for Hamlet after talking it over with Dan from The Geek All Stars in our Essen preview. Tableau building? Route connecting? Cute little farmer and donkey meeples? Sadly, this missed on all cylinders for us. I did not enjoy the town building aspect, and the odd shaped tiles may have been innovative but weren’t really that interesting. I will always play a euro more than once and with a different group just to see if I missed a rule or strategy, but I’m not going to seek this one out.
Beignet Rating: Strolling right past this one.
After a rousing game of We’re Doomed taught by big fan, Jack, we separated for small gaming. Dave and I pulled out Splendor Duel, which he had just bought, and it not only breathed new life into the game, but in some ways, might be a better game. I love the strategy of going for pearls (a tough resource to find) versus jdigging for crown symbols on the cards (which I was attracted to, because it’s an auto-win if you get enough.)
Beignet rating: It’s fun, but honestly, there are a bunch of two player games I’d rather play like Jaipur or Lost Cities. I’ll pass.
Caesar: Seize Rome in 20 Minutes!
Doesn’t the name tell you everything? Here’s another quick playing two player tug of war game from designer Paolo Mori. Dave and I really enjoyed Blitzkrieg! last year, but not enough for me to want to buy it. Caesar looks like the same game — same fold out board layout, bag building and tokens, and area control — but isn’t the same game at all. Players pull their troop tokens out of a bag, and place them all over the map trying to score bonuses or control areas. The goal is to be the first to collect all of the imperium tokens, and you are aided by this very interesting cascading effect where sweeping control of one area helps you get the next one. It prevents players from placing tokens all over the map to avoid each other — the problem that the kid’s game dots and boxes had.
Beignet rating: I’m tempted to pick this one up
Ah, we are hitting the hype now. We’ve seen Flamecraft all over the intertrons, even in our own game groups in Acadiana. The cute little dragon art is definitely something that my grand bugs would love. How was the gameplay? Surprisingly simple, for such a busy board. Players take turns placing their dragon in various shops around the village, and either gather resources they need to enchant the shop (and it’s like a festival of overabundance when you do) or enchant the village by matching the resources to that shop’s type. I love how the dragons have unique names and art but all dragons of a type play the same, making it easy to plan your turn. I thought the first third of the game was a little rote and slow, but the tension ramped up in the third reel enough for me to want to play it again.
Beignet rating: With apologies to Rob of the Board Boys podcast, “I just might have to buy it.”
Cam from the Board Boys Podcast was walking around with Bus all morning. Remembering how much I carried Cape May last year, I was determined not to let Cam be disappointed. Verla and Mark and I joined Cam in this Splotter Spellen game designed by Jeroen Doumen and Joris Wiersinga. It’s essentially a route building game involving three different passengers, but there’s a twist. Once passengers are delivered, they can move to other areas of the city so long as different buildings are connected. That means thee is a fight each round over new passengers being added, new bus lines being extended, AND which buildings will be the destination. It’s tight. It’s a little (maybe more than a little) mean. And it’s juicily delicious.
Beignet rating: We did a lot of work for very little points. No need to own it, but I would not turn down another game for sure.
Green Team Wins
Yes! This was one of my most anticipated party games of the year ever since 25th Century announced it. Green Team Wins is a mind melding group game from the same team as Medium so I was really looking forward to it. How about a special treat? Grant Lyons, comedian extraordinare, taught and played with us! Players geaux through a series of questions — things like “would you rather be kissed by a cat or a dog” — and mark down their answers secretly. But you are not trying to get the answer right. You’re trying to share the same answer as the majority of the players. That’s diabolical! We played it twice and it was even better the second time.
Beignet rating: Funnest experience of the con. IT IS A MUST HAVE for this holiday season. Gimme.
I consider myself a reasonable intelligent person. I’ve got some letters behind my name. AND YET — I could never keep the rules to this simple party game straight. Suffice it to say that the game is all about coming up with crazy descriptions of a secret word, and I think someone has to tell the truth and everyone else has to lie. Frustrating! It wasn’t Grant’s fault, pretty much every one else figured it out way before I did.
Beignet rating: Nope. Party games are not supposed to be this much work.
Cult of the Deep
Grant pulled out a Cthulu style hidden role game to finish off the night. It reminded us a bit of Bang The Dice Game, where each player is on one of the three teams — the good, the bad, and the middle. Only the main hero is known — everyone else’s roles are secret. But instead of “lying”, players just have to roll dice and assign them to tasks on the board. You could bluff your way into playing the middle by changing how you assign dice each round. I didn’t — there were two “protectors” of the hero, and I was one of them. I knew Rob would figure me out, so I came out the gate establishing myself as the hero’s tank and taking on a lot of damage. I survived a long time but could never figure out who the other tank was until the end.
Beignet rating: A fun experience, but this would never replace Deception: Murder In Hong Kong for me.
The day started out with a bang of a game, The Wolves from Pandasaurus. Imagine a small board version of Scythe, without a lot of the euro elements. Players controlled wolf packs, roaming a small map, trying to score area majorities in each section but the scoring areas changed each round. I’m not even a big area majority fan, but The Wolves downplayed the direct combat (although it was there in a pinch if you needed) in favor of adding mechanics designed to upgrade your pack and your settlements on the board. Great artwork, unique theme, and a very elegant design.
Beignet rating: Jack loved it. We already ordered a copy as a Christmas present for him. SHHHHH.
New York 1901
This game is still in my top ten or so, because of the beautiful art, ease of teach, and table appeal. Patrick and Cindy Newman played Cult of the Deep with us, but Verla and I wanted to play a good euro game with them. They had always wanted to learn New York 1901, so I taught them this Chewier LaSalle masterpiece. They were impressed with the Blue Orange Games production — the BGG Con version had painted architects and the extra legendary building — and I was reminded by the fact that turns move quickly and are not so thinky that you can’t chat with your neighbor while the other two players are going through their turns. What a great experience!
Beignet rating: You’re kidding me? I own everything for this game.
Atlantic Robot League
I watched Cam and Rob play this the previous night, and wanted to try it. We are bettors watching a robot league tourney, trying to figure out which of the three teams will survive the longest, punch more robots, and get the first mark. I am TERRIBLE at this game — by the end, I was just randomly picking team members which was even worse! I did like the robot names and the puzzle of figuring out who to move and what to knock out, but I don’t need to play this again.
Beignet rating: Pass for me.
The Great Split
Dave does it again! I had looked at this one for our Essen preview, and didn’t really find anything interesting. Forget that! This game takes the “I split, you choose” mechanic and gets it right. Players are trying to move up tracks on a board and need the symbols from cards in their hand. But they have to split the cards into two piles and offer them to the neighbor, who picks one and returns the rest. It’s that simple — but there are so many ways to work on your board and you really have to watch what the other players are doing.
Beignet rating: Definitely play this again. Might even have to find a copy.
Verla and I had been chasing down the two copies in the BGG library all week and FINALLY snagged one. Tiletum is the latest in the “T” series from Board & Dice, and might be the most accessible. Players are using a dice drafting mechanic to move their architects and merchants around a map of old Europe, hoping to score tons of points at the four fairs that are happening in medieval times. Something about this game clicked with me. It’s right in my wheelhouse in terms of weight, and frankly, much more enjoyable than the other “T” games to me.
Beignet rating: Will definitely pick up a copy soon. I love the theme and the dice selection.
I included this one, even though it is not new, because we got to teach Grant how to play. This was a full five person game, and it moved quickly just as promised. I’ve played Bad Company now almost ten times, and each time there’s some unique story that comes out. This time, it was Cam’s inability to hit on the two dice choices that he focused on. It was comical how each round we seemed to avoid his choices. The cop was a little slow this time, and Rob raced way ahead, but I had a good run of flipping cards and building up my crew.
Beignet rating: Still my top ten game of last year. Definitely fires the other dice engine builders out there.
Praga Caput Regni
Our final day! We only had time for three big games that day because we had the Board Boys podcast to do and I had dinner plans with Burky to play Campaign Trail. I’ve played Praga online many times but never really understood everything in the game. Playing it live on the table made all the difference. I had two turns where my “bonus actions” were so long that it was almost my turn again when I finished, and I love games that give you a chance to really combo up your turn.
Beignet rating: Glad I own it and now I can teach Jerod.
I’ve liked the Fabio Lopiano games that I’ve played, so I had high hopes for this one. Plus, I’m definitely interested in a theme about building out the autobahn and delivering goods all over Europe. Sadly, this is a game where the mechanics got in the way of the theme and the gameplay. For each of the actions, there seemed to be some fiddly little rule we had to remember to do it correctly and the rule book was a bear to find anything relevant. For instance, there’s a lot of unfamiliar iconography in the game, and it is spread out in two or three different pages in different sections of the book. We were almost finished when I had to call the game to head to supper. Strangely enough, I liked what we did – especially once we had some of the bonus powers unlocked – that I wouldn’t mind trying it again.
Beignet rating: I’m neutral on this one. Heck, I’d rather just play Thurn & Taxis for the route building or Ragusa for the combos.
Continuing our theme of not finishing our game, Burky and friends taught me Campaign Trail. Burky and I were on the same team, and it took a while to get the game set up and going. Once we did, Burky and I had a lot of fun long term strategizing, sharing cards, and planning out our next moves. The production is beautiful if you get the Kickstarter edition with the wooden tokens, and the game play is surprisingly smooth.
Beignet rating: I’m not big on area control games, but something about this theme and the way that you add markers through card play instead of direct attack appealed to me. I’d play it again, and I might even want a copy.
So that’s our look at BGG Con 2022 and the games we played. We brought back a few games to play on stream (Starship Captains, Beta Colony, Villagers, Oktoberfest, and Citta-Stata.) Keep an eye out for them soon on Twitch. Until next time, laissez les bon temps rouler!
— BJ From Board Game Gumbo