Heavy Con 2017 Report from Jason Dinger

Board Game Gumbo is pleased to present another convention report from our friend, Jason Dinger, a board game designer from Morgan City, Louisiana. He is the designer of the upcoming Spielworxx release for Essen 2018, Captains of the Gulf. He previously blogged about his trip to UnPub 2017 here.  He’s back with his thoughts following his first visit to HeavyCon.  Look for more of Jason’s thoughts on gaming and designing in the future.

Sitting on the plane as we fly back home to Louisiana, I can’t help but smile. This past weekend has been amazing. Memorable does not even begin to describe it.

Last Thursday, Donna & I traveled to Denver, Colorado to attend the 3rd annual Heavy Con. Heavy Cardboard is one of the industry’s premiere heavy gaming podcasts and Heavy Con is their annual 4-day convention celebrating and showcasing the beloved cardboard brain burners, both old and new, that we cherish so much.

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Dokmus (2016) designed by Mikko Punakallio and published by Lautapelit. (photo: Jason Dinger).

Heavy Cardboard, started in 2014 by Tony Fryer and Edward Uhler, is a weekly show that now features Edward, Amanda Uhler (Edward’s unquestionably-better half), and occasionally, a supporting cast of gamers from the Denver game community. With over 70 podcast episodes and dozens of YouTube teaching / play through videos, Heavy Cardboard has risen to become an invaluable source of entertainment and education in the world of board gaming.

Like most cons, there was plenty of gaming to be had, of course, and not just of the heavier variety. While there were several plays of Lignum, Tramways, various 18XXs, Kanban, and the like, games such as Dokmus, The Climbers, Strat-O-Matic Baseball, Isle of Trains, and Bullfrogs also saw lots of table time.

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The Climbers, being reprinted by Capstone Games in time for Essen 2017. (photo by Jason Dinger).

All the games that I played were wonderful, but the real highlight of the con was the people. I was finally able to meet, game, and just visit with so many amazing people that I’d previously only known online. Too many names to list here, but I am sincerely thankful for everyone who took the time to share a table with me, as we laughed, cursed, and had a fantastic time with something as simple as dice and cardboard.

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Call to Post, designed by Jim Keenan. (photo by Jason Dinger.)

As far as games go, the standouts for me at Heavy Con were unquestionably Call to Post (by Jim Keenan of Punching Cardboard Podcast) and Pipeline (by Ryan CourtneyRyan Courtney). Both games were fun, engaging, and had an emphasis on proper planning, action optimization, and economic engines that were loaded with theme. My only regret about playing them both was that I only got to play each of them once due to so many other people lining up to play them over the weekend. I’m looking forward to playing both of them again in the future and exploring the mechanics and nuances of these two unique, thematic games that are a breath of fresh air in a world where many new games feel like “more of the same”.

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Jim Kennan (Punching Cardboard Podcast), left, and Edward Uhler (Heavy Cardboard Podcast), right — playing Captains of the Gulf. (photo — and game — by Jason Dinger.)

The community within a community that Amanda and Edward (along with Tony) have built is truly something special. Heavier games don’t historically have the large audience that lighter, more accessible games enjoy. The Heavy Cardboard family (and that’s the only way to truly describe what they’ve created) has made incredible and measurable strides to change that. Almost 100 people came together from all around the globe to experience Heavy Con 2017.

For all the different games and people I got to play them with, I most enjoyed my time with Jim from Punching Cardboard. In addition to getting in plays of each other’s prototypes, we logged hours of gaming together including me losing embarrassingly to him in games like Lignum, The Gallerist, and Strat-O-Matic Baseball.

Even in defeat, it was an honor and a pleasure to sit down and enjoy a game (and plenty of NSFW good-natured trash talking) with a man who I respect and admire as much as I do Jim. He and I closed down the gaming hall Saturday night at 3am; continuing to sit and talk for another hour and a half about everything from gaming to game design, podcasting, family, work, and even a fair share of politics to boot.

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Pipeline by Ryan Courtney. (photo by Jason Dinger.)

On Friday, we got to witness the presentation of the 2016 Golden Elephant Award for 1822: The Railways of Great Britain. Edward presented the award to Scott Pederson of All Aboard Games, on behalf of designer Simon Cutforth. Alban Viard’s Tramways was the game that got my vote, as for as fantastic as I understand 1822 is, I had not yet played it. Though my pick didn’t get the top honors, it did win the 2016 Fan’s Choice Golden Elephant Award, narrowly beating out The Colonists by only 2 votes.

Between Friday and Saturday, I was able to meet and visit with several designers and publishers including Jeroen Doumen (Splotter-Spellen), Alex Soued (Eagle-Gryphon Games), Alex Berry (High Treason, published by Victory Point Games), Brian Wilcutt / Larry Cruz / Lyndon Martin (The Cost), Matthew Ward (WAM! reviews and The Dukes of Dice podcast), Travis Hill (Train Game & Low Player Count podcast), Carmen Petruzzelli (Game Surplus), and of course, Jim Keenan (Call To Post and Punching Cardboard podcast).

I don’t know what the future holds as far as the feasibility of attending other cons in years to come, but I can say without question that Heavy Con is the single convention that I will attend year in and year out.

Thank you to Amanda, Edward, and their wonderful group of local game group support staff. Thank you to everyone who took the time to play a game with me this weekend. Y’all rock and you put a smile on my face and joy in my heart, both of which won’t be leaving anytime soon.

Until next year…

— Jason Dinger @jasondingr

UnPub 7 Report with Jason Dinger (Part One)

((Editor’s note:  Jason Dinger from Morgan City, Louisiana is the designer of the upcoming Essen 2018 release, Captains of the Gulf. He attended his first UnPub in Baltimore this month. Look for more posts from Jason in the future!) 

Originally founded in 2010 by John Moller, UnPub is the Unpublished Games Network and includes game designers, artists, publishers, play testers, reviewers, and more. It serves as a resource for the board game community, as well as conventions, both large and small. It is currently run by Darrell Louder and a small, but dedicated staff.

UnPub conventions are invaluable opportunities for game designers to play test and get feedback from other designers, publishers, and veteran play testers alike. They also provide publishers wonderful exposure to hundreds of new, unpublished games looking for a home. There is no entry fee to UnPub, allowing gamers and play testers a little-to-no-cost chance to play a wide variety of games for two days.

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Playing Keith Matejka’s “Roll Player” the night before UnPub with fellow game designers Donna Dinger, Aaron Wilson, and Daniel Newman. Photo credit: Aaron Wilson

UnPub 7 took place from March 17th – 19th, 2017 at the Baltimore Convention Center. For three straight days, the con was abuzz with excitement, smiles, and gaming fun.

In addition to all of the great gaming and designing aspects, UnPubs feature an amazing community. From the newest gamer to the most-experienced designer or publisher, everyone came together, supported each other, and bonded over a shared loved of board games.

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Designer Daniel Newman (far right above) teaching his game, “Roll’d West”, a roll-n-write inspired by J. Alex Kevern’s Gold West” to a group of friends / designers including (left to right) Aaron Wilson, Chris Zinsli, John Prather, Tony Miller.

Day 1 of UnPub is a special day for designers and VIP play testers to play games, mingle, and also features a charity auction. This year’s auction benefitted the Dravet Syndrome Foundation. UnPub board member Mike Mullins lost his son, AJ, last November to Dravet Syndrome. The auction raised over $2,000.00 and 100% of the money was donated in AJ’s name.

 

Days 2 and 3 of UnPub are open to the public and gamers swarmed the convention floor, going from table to table, playing games, and getting to interact with the designers. Along with play testers, several publishers made their rounds, meeting designers, playing games, and more than a few took prototypes home with them.

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(from L to R) Designers Matt Riddle, Donna Dinger, Jason Dinger, and Ben Pinchback at UnPub 7. Matt & Ben have a prolific game design catalog including Fleet, Wharfside, Morocco, and the upcoming Ladder 29 which is on KickStarter now.

UnPub is not like any other gaming convention. I got the chance to play some fantastic games, but more importantly, I got the chance to meet some truly wonderful people. Part two of this series will feature mini-interviews / spotlights on three of those people who made my first UnPub an experience I will never forget.

(Editor’s Note: Come back on Wednesday for more UnPub 7 reports from Jason.)

— Jason Dinger @jasondingr on Twitter

 

 

Allons Marcher! At Cool Stuff Inc. Games South near Walt Disney World

Board Game Gumbo is back, after a great Mardi Gras holiday. (Doesn’t everyone get a week or two off around the start of Lent?) As faithful readers know, we like to “run the roads”, and when we do, we like to visit local game stores.

Back in 1971, the Walt Disney Company opened the fabulous Walt Disney World resort. Consisting of a theme park, and themed hotels, along with 43 square miles of Florida space to build ever more parks and hotels and golf courses and shopping and….and you get the drift. The resort has been the temporary home of many happy vacationers over the years, but I wanted to know if it had any board game stores close by.

First, I checked “on property.” I could not find any board game stores listed at the new Disney Springs shopping facility (which replaced the former Downtown Disney shopping center including my beloved Adventurer’s Club), and I did not see any game stores on any of my frequent trips there. Disney Springs has some interesting stores that we do not see in Louisiana, plus a thriving nightlife and restaurant scene, but apparently, nothing for board gamers.

But I had some free time during one of the last afternoons of our stay to “get off the property.”   With the family safely napping at our condo, I wandered out to one of the numerous Cool Stuff locations scattered around the area.

Many of you will be familiar with Cool Stuff from their ads on the Dice Tower podcast, where Eric Summerer says each week in a somewhat disguised voice, “Cool Stuff Inc — cool stuff in stock at Cool Stuff Inc.com”.  You may also know that CSI has physical brick-and-mortar stores in Florida, called “Cool Stuff Inc. Games.”   My visit was to the closest one geographically from Walt Disney World.

I went to the Cool Stuff Games store on Orange Blossom Trail, just a short 20 minute trip down a toll road from the Epcot resorts area. The store is easy to find in a large outdoor shopping strip mall (the home of most of the game stores that I have been to, sadly.)  There is only a small sign out on the highway, but there is also a large inviting sign up above the store.

Inside the store is a board gamer and CCG gamer’s Nirvana. The front part of the store is dedicated to numerous shelves filled with the latest hot games, plenty of old favorites, and even a few games that are hard to get. For instance, The Networks, one of the sold out games at GenCon 2016 from Gil Hova and Formal Ferret Games, was just back in print and Cool Stuff Inc. Games had three copies on the front shelf at a very competitive price (in fact, even cheaper than Amazon.)

On the right, there was a long and cleanly organized desk for purchasing games staffed by friendly gamers.  The focus in this area seems to be collectable card games, specifically Magic:The Gathering, but I heard the staff giving friendly advice to many of the people wandering around that area.  When the desk was slow, I watched as the staff came out from behind the long desk and interact with store patrons, offering advice on what game to get next or just talking about the hobbies.

On the far left was a calendar of events as well as a small but well stocked board game library. I would guess there were about 25-30 games on the shelves of the library. Most were classic hobby games but there were a few new games there, too. Just in front of the board game library was a long row of computer monitor and keyboard set ups. I was intrigued as to why these would be present until I remembered that CSI’s main warehouse is over at the Maitland, Florida store. At the Orange Blossom Trail location, gamers could do research on a game and find out if it is in stock at CSI — my understanding is that they could reserve it for you or even bring it over, although I did not verify this part.

The store part covered the first third of the store. The rest of the store was made up of numerous tables and chairs set up all the way to the back of the store (where the store also has clean restrooms open to the gaming public.)  In this section, I saw at least groups of gamers with board games set up and being played.  I also saw tons of Magic:The Gathering players battling it out on the tables, too.

I talked to one of the store staffers, and he said that Thursdays are very busy with board gamers as it is their weekly board game night. Gamers come from all over the area to play. On Saturdays, he said that the main focus has been collectible card games. I asked if Star Wars:Destiny was available, and he could only chuckled. “Sold out for weeks,” he admitted.

I found out that of the Cool Stuff Games stores, the one near Walt Disney World has by far the biggest play area. It was as larg or larger than any play area I have ever seen in a game store, and could easily accommodate any kind tournament set up, from CCG to Star Wars X-Wing to regular hobby board games.

I enjoyed my visit to Cool Stuff Inc. Games South. I found the place clean, well lighted, and inviting.  I liked the set up with retail and snacks in the front, and plenty of clean tables and chairs in the back. The place was busy and had good energy. The next time you visit Walt Disney World, if you are jonesing to get a good price on a good board game, or have some free time to play, I can definitely recommend paying a visit to Cool Stuff Games.

Until next time, Laissez les bons temps rouler!

–B.J.

 

Pax South 2017 in the books – Part Two

Warm days and cool nights greeted the Krewe de Gumbo throughout the weekend of PAX South 2017.  Even better than the weather was the excellent gaming that we found, long looks at games released recently, and the great demos of new and upcoming games that will be released in 2017.

For a recap of some of the larger booths that we visited, check out our previous article here.

With my duties as Envoy Herald on the demo team of Kodama and Coup completed on Saturday, I had much more time to wander around the Con with the Krewe to see some of the other sights and sounds for PAX South 2017. Here are some of the highlights:


a. Red Raven Games.

First up, we visited the every friendly Brenna Asplund at Red Raven Games. Just like most of the board game companies in the main exhibit area, Red Raven had a much smaller booth than we saw at GenCon. But, Brenna, who is one third of the voices on the Red Raven podcast, was there with a ready smile and great demos of their latest games.

I saw  a lot of interest from the PAX crowd in Islebound, the beautiful seafaring game from Ryan Laukat that was released last year after a successful Kickstarter.  The artwork — no surprise since we are talking about Red Raven — is gorgeous and whimsical.  We played this game right after GenCon, and it was nice to see that Red Raven still had some expansion packs left.

Plus, Red Raven offered a package deal on the complete Eight Minute Empires series with expansion and extra board. By Sunday, it was loooong gone!

We got a chance to visit with Brenda about Near & Far, and were happy to hear that it is right on schedule for its release to the Kickstarter backers. It sounds like they are very happy with what they have seen from the manufacturer so far.

b. Level 99 Games.

My current favorite podcast, The Dukes of Dice, talk about their friends at Level 99, so we had to make a pass by to visit with Brad, the owner. Level 99 too was in the midst of the cacophony that makes up the Main Exhibit Hall, and frankly, it was not that easy to find some of the booths for a quick trip. (In fact, I used some of my scout skills to help Mina from Mina’s Fresh Cardboard locate a friend at the Level 99 booth the day before.)

When we got there, Josh from Level 99 was demoing Sellswords, the new release from Level 99. This is an interesting little card/tile laying game that has a theme of hiring “sellswords” to complete tasks. In reality, it is a neat little abstract game, with a cool mechanic of flipping the cards as they are placed next to each other and weighed in their strengths.  We have a review copy, and will try to post something soon.

I asked Brad what was the big hit of the con, and he said that demos of Mega Man Pixel Tactics had been going extremely well. He confided that if the game had been ready, he could have sold out of whatever he brought.  I am sure a lot of this is due to the nature of PAX (lots of nostalgic video game fans there) but by what I saw, the game looks fun. I need to try out Pixel Tactics at some point, because I know the Dukes (especially Alex) have talked it up in previous podcasts.

Finally, I got to visit with Brad and Josh about the future of Millennium Blades. This is a game from 2016 that I have not yet tried, even though it appears right up my alley. All of you know that there is an expansion coming up soon, but there are rumblings that if this expansion does well, then more content will be coming. So if you are fan of Millennium Blades, go out and support Set Rotation when it hits the game store shelves.

c. Indie game reports.

One thing I love about PAX South is that they really encourage and foster indie game companies. There were many booths to see at the con even in the main exhibit hall, so many that I could not demo all of their wares. But, we managed to grab a few demos, and even bought a game.

First up, we tried out Oh My Gods!, a new game from Gameworthy Labs designed by Timothy Blank. Tim was handling all the demos, so the demo went very smoothly to say the least.  The card game is a Greek gods themed, streamlined version of Clue (or better, Mystery of the Abbey), with special powers for each of the members of the pantheon.  I am not a big fan of the artwork, and there are just too many games with a same or similar title for my taste. 

However, the game play is a lot of fun, and the special powers of each card adds a lot to the deductive genre. Plus, it would be a lot easier to get a game like this out at the start of a game night then Mystery of the Abbey now, since Mystery seems a bit dated compared to newer deduction games. So, if your game group likes deduction games, this would be a good filler to add. 

Next, we headed to the Wild West for a test run of Shootout! The High Noon card game, a 2015 quick playing card game filler from Cris Amburn and New Experience Workshop.  I liked the artwork and theme of the cards, and I loved the quick play.  Each gunslinger plays cards off of a draw pile, until there is a “duel”. Stay alive, be a quick shot, and have a better five card hand than the other player, and you can stay in the game.  The downside? I think the game needed a little more in the development pod…some of the card types and names do not match up to the theme and took me out of the game a bit. But, this would make a great little filler for the start or finish of a game night.

We then headed off to the Indie Game Showcase, right smack dab in the middle of the Main Exhibit space.  PAX had a contest for potential new games, and six winners were chosen and featured in huge booths that you could not miss.  There were crowds of gamers, young and old alike, clogging up the pathways and entrances to the demo areas of the booths, which is a great sign for the growth in our version of table top.  However, that prevented me a bit from demoing all of the games.

I did manage to try two of them that piqued my interest. Fantastic Factories is a great looking  worker placement game  designed by Joseph Chen. There was a huge crowd of people demoing the game on Sunday, and the booth itself was very professional looking. The demo team had matching hard hats, lots of quick game play and instructions, and the designer himself was involved and answering questions. Look for this one on Kickstarter soon. I like the art and what I could see of the gameplay; plus, I am a sucker for dice placement games. 

Last, but not least, we had an enthusiastic game demo of Wicked Apples. This is a great small box filler card game, with a lot of take that and hidden role (core? Apple?) action. The artwork is serviceable, but the game appears pretty well polished. If this game gets picked up by a bigger company, I could see it becoming a convention favorite. 

I can’t forget to mention that there was a VERY active UnPub scene at PAX South. Because of my teaching and demoing responsibilities, I did not have time to take part and play test some of the games, but I walked by and saw dozens of games being tested. 

SUMMARY:

This was my first year attending, but some of the other Krewe members have been going since the first year PAX South opened. All agreed that this was the biggest showing by table top companies yet. 

I heard Stephen Buonocore of Stronghold Games once remark that the Con calendar could use a big Winter kick off convention to fill the drought between Essen and BGG. Could PAX South be it? Judging by what Matt Morgan and company have done in such a short time, it would not surprise me that we see big things coming out of PAX South in the future. 

Until next time, 

Laissez les bon temps rouler!

–B J
 

Pax 2017 In The Books – Part One

The third installment of San Antonio’s gaming convention showed the potential that PAX has to energize the gaming community. The crowds this past weekend were large, and there was a palpable buzz when the previously leaked announcement was confirmed: PAX is ramping up its support for table top with a new con, PAX UNPLUGGED, set for Philly the week of BGG.CON.

But enough about future cons, what about this year’s installment? PAX South 2017 was still in the same convention hall, the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center, but the newly refurbished center spilled out all over the convention, with plenty of room for table top and an expanded focus on board gaming.  Based on the larger spaces, more numerous venues, dedicated staff to table top and an expanded library, it is clear that PAX’s focus on our hobby is growing each year.

For tabletop gamers, the expo hall and table top area was the place to be each day. 

a. Table top freeplay.

The table top area had a very well laid out and large area dedicated board gamers to play games they brought from home, purchased from the nearby vendors, or checked out of the library.  While not as large in scope as GenCon’s table top area, there seemed to be more available table space on Friday (which could also be the effect of gamers being in school or at work).  Unlike Gen Con, the bathrooms were plentiful and convenient, located right behind the table top area. 

I talked to Matt Morgan, the table top organizer for PAX, and he said there was an even bigger selection of games this year, topping 1000+.  While the library can’t compare yet with BGG or Dice Tower’s massive libraries, there was an ample selection of tried and true favorites as well as a few of the newer games. In all honesty, there may have been more hotness located in the library, but just checked out as I browsed.  The library was stacked on tables and alphabetized, and stayed open until midnight.

On Friday, we tried out Alien Frontiers, a Kickstarter favorite that I had always wanted to try. This was the version with the upgraded colonies and tokens, so it was very pleasing to the eye on the table.  I was warned by Mina from Mina’s Fresh Cardboard that the game was very random, and it certainly didn’t disappoint in that regard. 

We played with three players, and I think that may be the sweet spot for this game. The fourth (dummy) player acts as a barrier to some of the spots, so it made for interesting choices as we placed our ship dice around the board. Yes, the dice rolling can be chaotic, and there certainly is a lot of player interaction, complete with a spot on the board that allows “raiding” other players’ goods / cards if the right dice roll comes out. But, we learned to mitigate the randomness during the game, because the alien artificial power cards and the tiles on the board themselves helped control the chaos.  All in all, a great little 1.5 hour dice chucking fest that looks great on the table.  I’d certainly play it again. 

On Saturday, we tried out Farmageddon, a Grant Rodiek designed game, that I had brought from home. I already owned the original version, but just recently received the new version.  This version is definitely the one to get — better card art, better combos, and the designer got rid of the clunky field cards.  Don’t go into this game unless you have a group that likes a little (a lot!) of take that action and laugh out loud moments. Definitely a keeper for me. 

We also played the inescapable PushFight, a game that is produced or resold (as best as I can tell) by Penny Arcade.  While inexplicably not available at the con, its presence was everywhere.  You could always see tables with the game being played. Some of the Krewe entered a tournament for PushFight, but we also got some free play in, too.  It is an enjoyable and well designed abstract one versus one fight, sort of like a streamlined version of chess. But, it has the satisfying mechanic of pushing pieces around and off the board. There is nothing like pushing a piece off to end the game! I am not a big abstract game player, but I would play this again.

b. Table Top Exhibitor Area.

I spent most of the weekend as a volunteer demonstrator for Indie Boards & Cards / Action Phase Games in the table top area. (There were also some exhibitors in the main exhibit area next door, the one with all of the flashing lights and noisy gizmos.)  That limited my time to visiting the hall until Sunday, but I did get a chance to walk around and see about 80% of the table top side of the Con.  Yes, Pax South 2017 does not have the size and scope of vendors as Gen Con or Essen, but there was plenty to see and demo and buy. From what I can tell, this was the largest table top exhibitor participation at any Pax so far. 

INDY BOARDS & CARDS / ACTION PHASE GAMES:

I spent most of my time here, and got to visit with Tricia, promotions director for IB&C, and Travis, owner of AP. They brought a large selection of games, from the very familiar Coup to the hot games from 2016 like Aeon’s End and Kodama.

Kodama was a big hit at the con, with tons of players demoing and purchasing this beautiful little thirty minute card laying, secret objectives game. Most players told me they were drawn in by the beautiful, zen like artwork of the trees, branches and quirky little Kodama tree spirits. (We even gave away promo cards of what looked like little alien Kodama cards, and a new first player token, which I dubbed the Kodamameeple.)

But, there was a lot of interest in Aeon’s End and Ninja Camp, too. Aeon’s End is a mind bending, butt kicking coop game where players build their deck to defeat a big baddie attacking the home city. The baddie throws minions at the heroes (who are all distinct with unique special powers), and players construct their decks in such a way as to team up to save the city.

The worst part of deckbuilders is “the shuffle,” and designer Kevin Reilly fixes this.  Con visitors shook their hands in amazement when I explained that there is no “shuffle” in Aeon’s End. Instead, players discard their hands and any purchased cards in any order, and when the deck runs out, players just flip the discard deck over and start again. Aeon’s End had two available expansions for it that brought in more heroes and baddies, with the same great card art.

Ninja Camp is a cute little abstract card game, which looked like a gamer’s version of Hey, That’s My Fish! Instead of picking up generic scoring tiles, I especially liked the special bonus actions that the cards you pick up give you during the play.

Also, Travis was eager to talk about Trickster, which is Daniel Solis’ new design. It was not available for demo, but the Kickstarter is up and doing well.

ASMODEE

Asmodee, and its companies (Fantasy Flight, Z Man, Plaid Hat etc) had promotional style booths, with a large demo team on hand. We tried out Star Wars: Destiny Dice as well as Captain Sonar, and got a glimpse at the demos going on for Ashes:Rise of the Phoenixborn and Pandemic Cthulu, too.

We played two pre-made starter decks with Rey/Finn and Kylo/First Order ST on either side. After a quick rules explanation (there were always two or three Asmodee demo team members near by to address any bugaboos), we were off and battling. I liked the smaller deck components and the highly thematic card play. I also liked the dice — they were chunkier and of seemingly better quality than I expected from the promotional pictures. All in all, SW:DD is a game that I would play again.

Captain Sonar is an awkward game to demo at a large, noisy con, but kudos to their team — they were able to get us up to speed and running quickly. The game was turn based rather than the more compelling to me version with both sides maneuvering at the same time. I was the radio operator, and enjoyed listening in and strategizing about where the other team was located.  Too noisy in the con for my tastes, but if they have any organized play at Dice Tower Con or Gen Con, I would definitely like to try it.

GREATER THAN GAMES / DICE HATE ME

I also got to visit with Nolan Nasser and his brother at the Greater Than Games / Dice Hate Me booth.  He was demonstrating one of my favorite games of 2016, New Bedford (for which he did most of the artwork, especially the stunning box art for the base game and expansion.). Nolan was friendly, and said he has a few more projects in the pipeline.  Keep an eye out on Nolan, as he is a very talented young artist and you can tell that he really enjoys games. 

TASTY MINSTREL GAMES

Right nearby was the corner booth for TMG.  I visited with one of the promo guys, who told me the good news that Colosseum is right on schedule for delivery to Kickstarter backers. Long a grail game for me, this is probably my second most anticipated game of 2017 so far.

c. Exhibitor Hall

Located right at the entrance to the hall was the humongous electronics and analog gaming vendor section. This area had everything from well known game companies (Level 99, Red Raven) to smaller indies either in their own booths, sharing space with others, or picked for big displays at the Indie Showcase.

We’ll cover those companies in our next installment.

Until next time, Laissez les bons temps rouler

–B.J.

Pax South 2017 Preview

PAX South, a descendant of the original Penny Arcade Expo (or PAX, for short) is in its third year. By all accounts, both San Antonio’s convention center people and the PAX group are very happy with the attendance so far. PAX is known as a giant celebration of gamer culture, and PAX South continues that theme, although this version does have an emphasis on table top gaming.

The Alamo City is set to become the center of the southwestern board gaming universe once again, at least for three days in February.  Are you heading to Pax South 2017 in San Antonio? Want to know what Pax South has to offer from a table top perspective at this year’s convention?

You’re in luck.

Some of the Krewe of Board Game Gumbo will be in attendance, so we wanted to know what publishers will be there, too, and what they will bring to the demo table. For a complete listing of all things tabletop and board gaming at Pax South 2017, we found this excellent blog entry from Matt Morgan, the Tabletop Deputy Manager for Pax South.

But you want more than just a listing of game companies, right?  Here’s what we found out so far about the potential bits and boards that we may see at Pax South.

Note that the exhibitors will be in two places this year — either in the Tabletop area or in the Main Exhibit Hall (which closes at 6P each day). Also note that I will try to update the blog as I get more info.

The Can’t Misses:

1. Indie Boards & Cards (Tabletop area).


Indie Boards & Cards will be making its first appearance at Pax South after traveling all the way from Indiana, the home of GEN CON. IB&C will definitely have Kodama and Coup available for demoing (I know, because I will be demoing those two games on Friday and Saturday until 4:00 PM).

Kodama is a card laying, collection type card game designed by Daniel Solis with some interesting hidden objectives. It has beautiful art, and plays quickly through three seasons.

Coup should not need any introduction. Millions of players have battled wits in this amazing micro game hidden role experience.  Can you be the last person standing after outwitting your friends? Can you bluff your way to victory?

Indie Boards & Cards will also have other games available in the booth. Expect to see fan favorites, Flashpoint Fire Rescue (a cooperative game about fighting fires) and The Resistance (a hidden role / traitor type game), but also look for Aeon’s End and Ninja Camp.

We got a chance to bring Aeon’s End to the table recently; it is a great new cooperative style game by Kevin Riley that incorporates deck building elements, but has asymmetric powers for the different players and is really tough. It has great artwork and good card combination play — definitely one to ogle at the booth.

There is a chance that Delve, the latest project Indie Boards & Cards has on Kickstarter, will be demoed at the convention, too, which should excite game players just based on pedigree. The game is designed by Pete Shirey and Richard Launius. Launius, of course, is the legendary designer of Arkham Horror, Defenders of the Realm, Elder Sign, Run Fight or Die! and many, many more.

Delve is a tile laying game with a twist. Players play adventurers exploring the dungeons of Skull Cavern.  Each turn, players place dungeon tiles and explore in search of loot. Each room will have different encounters depending upon the number of “delvers” in the room. I would love to get a demo of this game myself.

2. Red Raven Games (Booth 10011).


Ryan Laukat’s team has been on a roll. From the recent releases of Islebound and Above and Below to the giant Kickstarter that was Near and Far, Red Raven Games has created a lot of noise in 2016. Can they follow it up in 2017? Come by booth 10011, as rumor has it that the team will be demoing the latest production copies of Near and Far.

Is there a chance that Haven, the expected 2017 release from Alf Seegert, will also be there in demo form, too? That would definitely call for a pass by…just in case.

3. Tim Fowers Games (Tabletop area).

Rumor has it that Tim Fowers, the designer of such well regarded titles as Burgle Bros., Paperback, and Wok Star, will be present at a booth in the tabletop area demoing a new game. Could it be Fugitive? Come by the booth and find out — and if we find out sooner than that, we will update the blog. Heck, just the chance to visit with Tim about Wok Star, one of my grail games, would be a thrill.

4. Gut Shot Games (Tabletop area).

Gut Shot Games, a design studio based in Washington State, appears set to demo its 2017 release H.E.A.D. Hunters, a card driven miniatures game designed by designed by Ben Cichoski and Danny Mandel. The game has been hitting the convention circuit, most recently at OrcaCon, and is getting some good buzz.  More info on the game can be found here.

Update: Sean from Thing 12 Games let us know that they will be demoing their new game, Dice of Crowns, in the Gut Shot Games booth. The game was successfully funded last year on Kickstarter and is billed as a “fast paced blend of luck and strategy”, so if that sounds like your kind of game, make sure you make a pass and get a demo. 

 5. Level 99 Games (booth 10425).

Those game-making gurus from New Mexico, will be there this year. I expect that they will be demoing the latest Mega Man Pixel Tactics games based on their blog, but Millenium Blades still has some buzz going for it.  Will the Set Rotation expansion be on display?  Let’s find out.

If not, you can still check out Witch Hunt, their version of the big group Mafia / Werewolf style social deduction games, which promises that the sniped characters can still play and influence the outcome.

6. NorthStar Games

UPDATE: Bruce Voge  with NorthStar Games confirmed that Evolution: The Beginning and, of course, Happy Salmon, are scheduled to be demoed at Pax.  By all accounts, the Target edition of The Beginning is selling well, and of course, Happy Salmon is inescapable at any game night.  He also confirmed that Evolution: Climate, the 2016 release that BGG describes as a “standalone game that introduces Climate into the Evolution game system” will also be there for demo, as well as digital implementations of Evolution.

7. Greater Than Games / Dice Hate Me Games

UPDATE: We have confirmed with Craig from Greater Than Games / Dice Hate Me that the publisher will be at the con with some new games to check out.  We have confirmed that they will be demoing Fate of the Elder Gods, the new Cthulu based adventure card/dice game for 1-4 players designed by Richard Launius, Darrell Louder, and Chris Kirman. It successfully funded back in July of last year on Kickstarter, so I am anxious to see how it turned out.

img_1403Dice Hate Me is the publisher of one of my top Euro games from 2016, New Bedford, and it will be at the con for demo and purchase. New Bedford is a smaller box worker placement game with some unique innovations, interesting theme, amazing artwork, and great production.  New Bedford is very thematic and easy to teach and plays in roughly an hour.  This is a great way to introduce the “Euro” concept to your friends, but has plenty of meat on it for any serious gamer. (Note, the coins in the picture are from SeaFall not New Bedford, but everything else comes standard!)

Plus, we expect some of the games from the “Meta” games line to be there, as well.  I will definitely pass by the booth, because Mike Fitzgerald said on a recent podcast interview with the Dukes of Dice that there was a rumored new expansion for BoT9 that could include stadiums, and let you know what I find out.

The Big Guns:

And of course, there will be some big hitters at the convention.

Steve Jackson Games will be there in the tabletop area. According to their blog, the team will be demoing the new Bill & Ted’s Excellent Board Game. There will be lots of Munchkin demos, including the latest releases, as well as sneak peaks of Ghosts Love Candy, an expected 2017 release. You can also try out the licensed Batman The Animated Series Dice Game, another entry in the hit Zombie Dice series, but this time in a partnership with Crypotzoic Games.

And Fantasy Flight Games  is expected to be there in one of the larger booths on the tabletop area floor.  Fantasy Flight is usually pretty tightlipped about what it will bring to a game con, but it would be a safe bet to think that there will be some games themed with Star Wars or Arkham Horror in the mix.  I fully expect to see some demos of the new Star Wars Destiny Dice as well as Arkham Horror LCG at the con.

img_1627-2In fact, according to Matt’s blog, many of the other design studios and companies in the Asmodee line up will be there. Expect to see demos from Z-Man Games and Plaid Hat Games, too, although no word yet on what they will be offering.

Companies to visit, with no other info posted yet:

There’s a whole host of other board game publishers that you will want to check out, but we have not yet found out exactly what they will offer at the con:

  • Tasty Minstrel Games is always a favorite stop for convention goers. I kickstarted their update of Colosseum, and I hope to get some news on its progress. (Lance has been giving us some excellent updates as it progresses along). If they have a copy of The Oracle at Delphi by Stefan Feld, make sure you walk with a purpose directly to the booth. The “Feld that’s not a Feld but is definitely a Feld” (according to Jason Dinger) is a must-play.

Other areas of interest:

Last but not least, at this year’s con, gamers can expect a few surprises. True Dungeon will be there, and for those not in the know, it is the massive hit program at GenCon where gamers roll through a series of rooms and engage in the inhabitants either through puzzle or through D&D style combat.  From what we have read, True Dungeon will be demoing bite sized versions of the big experience, and that is probably a must see for anyone interested in live action D&D.

There will also be some interesting vendors who supply great components for the board game fan. Check out The Broken Token for all of your board gaming storage needs, and the hand-crafted dice trays and accessories from Wyrmwood Gaming is definitely worth a look.

Plus, the board game section has put together a ton of great board game panels. One of the highlights for any gamer should be a visit by Mike Selinker, the head guy at Lone Shark Games, who created Paizo’s Pathfinder: Adventure Card Games. Check him out on Saturday at 7:00PM at the Bobcat Theater.  Between the stories of Gary Gygax, will there be any chance he discusses an update on the Apocrypha Adventure Card Game?

That wraps up our look at the upcoming Pax South 2017 convention. If you have news to share, or questions about the demos, contact me at @boardgamegumbo.

Until next time, Laissez Les Bon Temps Rouler!

–B.J.

Running the Roads to Alexandria for Cenla’s Game Day!

Paw, you sold all the fields? How we gonna make some wine??

How many of you out there love playing games and want to play more than the once a week or once a month time frame that your current group plays? With BGG.Con in full swing this weekend, and two of the Krewe de Gumbo enjoying the juicy new games in DFW, Board Game Gumbo turned our eyes to find other groups that might be playing on this gorgeous weekend.  Hey, as my grand-mere used to say, “Les jeunes aiment courir les chemins” — young people like to “run the roads.”

And so, with my trusty sherpa, Phillip, along for the ride, we headed north along Interstate 49 to join up with the Cenla Tabletop Gamer’s Guild at their monthly game day at the invitation of Marshall and Wesley, two of the admins of the group. We brought along some new coins from  Viticulture Essential Edition and the expansions for Bottom of the 9th, along with a bunch of other games. (I figured that the group had a whole pile of games to play, but when you have a sherpa along, you can never be too careful.)

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King Launius apparently doesn’t like his portrait made.

When we got there, Marshall was leading a large group playing Hero Realms. So, Phillip and I set up Bottom of the 9th, and begin playing. So for me and Phillip, it was batter’s up time.

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Manager Phillip thinking hard about his next pitch. Probably a spit ball from that cheater.

 

Bottom of the 9th is such a quick playing, tense little duel that it is hard not to get caught up in the game. You don’t even need to be a baseball fan in my opinion, although it helps to know the rules.

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Just a few minutes before Dingerville.

 
Soon a group of gamers finished up the other card game, and came by to check out the game. That led,of course, to some epic duels between some of the new players from the Big League Support and Sentinels of the Ninth  expansions. The final game between Chester and Marshall came down to a couple of pitches, and one of the hitters hit a “big fly” three run homer to break the streak of the pitching team winning all of the other games.

We’ll hopefully be doing a Beignets and Board Game post about Bottom of the 9th, but suffice it to say, it is a perfect game to bring out when you are waiting for other players to show up, or even if you want to engage in round robin play. Just ask Kirk from the Krewe de Gumbo.

Next up, I headed over to a table playing one of my favorite programming games, Colt Express. Players compete as wild west outlaws in the midst of robbing a train — and each other — while avoiding the nasty marshall. The game was designed by Christophe Raimbult and published by Ludonaute. (Christophe is one of the nicest guys on Twitter and in board game podcasts so I was happy to see that Cenla had a copy. Wish I had brought my Stagecoaches and Horses expansion…)

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Schemin’, lootin’, punchin’, and lootin’.

What a game! We had a mix of new to the game players and some old outlaws, but the game teaches easily and hits the ground running.

It looked like we had one or two people pretty new to this type of table top gaming, and you could see their eyes light up at the 3D board and the colorful cards, scenery and meeples.

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Hmm, Ghost does not have much treasure there, partner.

I love playing this game especially with new groups (it was a big hit at the board game room at Louisiana Comic Con, too.) I was glad the group had it, although my outlaw had a pretty tough time picking up loot. Wesley crushed us with the best score I have ever seen in Colt Express, when he ended up with over $3500+ (both suitcases and the $1000 bonus).

I was really hoping to try out the new metal coins that I got from Jamey Stegmaier and Stonemaier Games. These were specifically done for Viticulture (they have the lira symbol and cool grape theming), but can be used for just about any game that requires money. That little clinkety clinkety sound that metal money makes when you toss it over the board is great!

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Juicy metal coins.

Luckily, we found five players willing to try. Phillip and Marshall had played before, but the other two had not. I have played the game over a dozen times, so I have a patter pretty well built in for teaching the game.

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It is still early, but some engine building going on.

I start with telling gamers it is a competitive game about making wine (ed. note: cough, cough says Phillip), and that we will be using our workers to help us plant grapes, harvest the grapes, make wine and sell wine over two different seasons of the year. I think by understanding the four step process, people can grok the board better. By year three, the two new players had grasped all of the concepts of the game and played very well.

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This deep into the game and no grapes or fields? Heh, heh.

I pulled out a win with the lira tie-breaker using the Tasting Room + Blue Cards strategy. It was a little more stressful than I thought, and frankly I like making wine better, but I have to admit that it was fun zigging while everyone else was zagging.

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Look at dem boats, baw.

Next up, the group had a copy of Black Fleet, a great little take-that-while-you-pick-up-and-deliver game from Space Cowboys. This is a game that Dustin and I have been trying to get to the table for months — heck, I think since we started Board Game Gumbo! — but usually he and I are teaching other games at game night and he has not been able to bring it out.

I can see why Dustin likes this game! The production is so colorful and fun that it really draws eyeballs to the table. The game is just light enough that you really don’t have to think about your turn until the person right before you plays (especially since the board dynamics change so drastically on each player’s turn).  Players command pirate ships and merchants (as well as the Royal Navy) trying to deliver bananas and other goods, while attacking other players.  There’s only two main ways of getting money, delivering goods and attacking ships, so since the attacking happens so frequently, when you are attacked, it seems a lot less threatening than it does on your typical Dudes on a Map game.

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Lots of chaos and randomness in this game, but so much fun.

I really enjoyed this game, and it was a great break after the all the calculations and turn by turn stress in the latter part of Viticulture.  I would definitely play it again, although this time I lost in the tiebreaker to Phillip who had amassed a very large fortune that he conveniently Bradly’d away from my view. (Not really, I just miscalculated how much he could really earn in his last turn!)

We ended the night with a few quick games of Happy Salmon. (We were having so much funny that I forgot to take pictures.) By this time, the group meet was winding down, and we had a long trek back to Acadiana, so we said our good-byes.

So how was all of this successful? I think it goes back to some words of wisdom that I heard from a very warm and prolific board game media person. Suzanne (frequent contributor to the Dice Tower) was a guest of The Dukes of Dice back in Episode 44. She said (and I’m paraphrasing here) that extrovert board gamers have a responsibility to welcome new gamers to the fold and strike up conversations at the gaming table, so that all gamers (even those that may be a little introverted) can participate and have a good time. This was great advice that she gave to Alex with the Dukes on his first trip to Dice Tower Con in 2015, and it holds true today. I like meeting new people, so I made it a point when I got to this particular Meet Up to take her advice, introduce myself around, and try to play games at different tables.

But there were also some earlier steps that made it easier. First, the Cenla Group is a very open and inviting bunch of gaming enthusiasts. Joining their Meet Up group site was easy. That way, I had a copy of the calendar and could look at their monthly meetings. Then, engaging with some of the members on social and community sites like BGG and Twitter helped to bridge the gap. Marshall and I tweet pretty frequently, so it was easy to take the next step — inviting him and his crew over to Louisiana Comic Con’s board game room back in October. He spent the day with us playing all kinds of games (I think Imperial Settlers was a favorite).

By meeting him in person, it made it a lot easier when Phillip and I showed up at the game day. That way, I already knew one person by face (and had communicated with Wesley by Twitter). Since the group was very friendly, and obviously they share a love of hobby board games, it was an easy day of laughing, playing games, and telling stories. I really had a great time playing with this great group of gamers.

So if you are looking to game more, no matter how small your town may be, there are likely friendly game groups within an hour or two of your house. Use social media and community board game sites to reach out to these groups, and have some fun playing new and old games with new friends. And if you are ever in Central Louisiana on a Saturday, head over to the library and meet some great gamers.

Until next time, Laissez les bon temps rouler!

— B.J.

 

Board gaming Louisiana style — a diary of volunteering at a board game room at a regional convention

What a weekend! The second Louisiana Comic Con – Lafayette happened this weekend, and the Board Game Gumbo Krewe was in full force. The convention organizers asked us to man the board game section of the con, which took up a large section of the second floor next to the Main Panel area.

The Krewe responded, bringing eight members to teach new and experienced gamers alike. This was our first time ever staffing a convention, but our members have been to Gen Con, Board Game Geek (the other BGG) con, and many other regional conventions from L.A. to New Orleans.

This is intended not only as a wrap up of the Con and our efforts there, but also as a convention diary to game plan future events, basically a “roses and thorns” of the weekend. We started planning for the event months ago, with planning sessions on our Wednesday night game nights and lots of email, text and Google doc exchanges.

We chose this Con for obvious reasons, because it is in our backyard, but also because we could test some of our ideas on a smaller crowd. We hoped to leverage our previous experience as attendees at larger cons into really upgrading the fan experience.

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Day One before the rush

What did we want to accomplish? What would we offer the con and the convention goers? These are questions any volunteer organization needs to answer to have an impact at a Con.

First, we talked about what our goals were. After a lot of discussion, we thought back to last year’s con. Because board gaming is still a relatively new hobby to most of this area (although there are individually many players with lots of experience, we are vastly outnumbered by those interested in the hobby), we thought we would focus on one of our strengths — teaching quick, simple but engaging games to the casual fan and interested gamer, while sprinkling in the latest hotness from Gen Con and deeper games for those that are inclined.

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Splendor and Colt Express

Next, we researched what our assignments would be. That’s where Mike Russell, the staff member in charge of the board game area, came in. We reached out to him and the AVC, the owners of the con, for suggested assignments, and were happy when they gave us carte blanche to brainstorm new ideas to….well…spice up the con. We quickly agreed that manning at least four or five tables in one corner of the room would give us a visibility and inviting presence for those new gamers that might be a little intimidated by leaping into the hobby.

On Friday night, we showed up early to help set up the area and check in with the main convention staff.

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Getting our credentials

Basically, we organized the room into three areas. Once convention goers entered the area, they saw a big friendly sign that invited them to play games for free, with a chance to win free games. (We gave away Celestia, Five Tribes, Hand Off -LSU, and the New York 1901 architect promos — and all were big hits!) Ahead of them was a large library with free tables brought by Mike Russell and his crew. (Mike is with IGA, and has lots of contacts in the industry, so he brought an amazing collection — everything from entry level mass market games to the latest big releases.)

 

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Betrayal at the House on the Hill

To the right we set up an area for designers to get players for prototypes, and two guys from Lafayette (Joshua Sonnier and Lester Tisdale) working on a great new card game design called Kaiju Crisis brought their prototype and dozens and dozens of people try over the weekend. Their tables were crowded all weekend long. Joshua told me that he and Lester were ecstatic  with the number of players and feedback that they got.  Lafayette has always had a very active CCG scene, so he had good feedback from players familiar with card game combos and attacks. Check out their GoFundMe page here.

 

 

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Just some of the crowd that visited one part of the board games area.

Finally, to the left, the Krewe set up a long line of tables with a wall of games behind them. Each Krewe member manned a table, or walked the floor, and invited players to try out the games already set up or pick out a game from the wall for playing.

 

That part we were not sure about going into the Con. Would we get players interested in trying games that they have never heard of? Would people be too intimidated by the neon yellow shirts the convention gave us?

On Saturday morning, things started slow. The excitement of a Comic Con is in visiting the entire convention at first, checking out the vendor hall (which was huge for a regional con, with lots of variety including a booth from my old high school classmate, Kenneth Kidder, who has attended 18 cons this year promoting the release of his independent RPG game, Tortured Earth), and seeing all the cosplayers. It takes a little while for people to wander upstairs to the panel rooms and the board game room.

Bradly and I set up some demo areas of 51st State from Portal Games and My Village from Stronghold Games. This was right after the doors opened, so we had some quiet time to show the game to a few interested people. Once the attendees made it through the vendor area and up the escalator around 11:00 am, it was a mad house from then until close!

The rest of the weekend for me was spent encouraging folks to join our tables. I also got to demo My Village on Sunday morning, teach a few games of Bottom of the 9th, and even got to play in a few new games and old favorites: New Bedford, Splendor, Celestia (twice!), Imperial Settlers, Colt Express, New York 1901 (twice!), and Abyss.

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We not only played our friend Chenier LaSalle’s New York 1901 twice, with these gorgeous new painted miniatures, but thanks to Blue Orange Games, we even gave away two free sets of figures and a ton of other promos!

I had some of my favorites and some of the newest games I picked up at GenCon on the window shelf right behind my table. After the My Village demos were done each day, we let visitors pick out games from the shelf.At first, people were a little hesitant, but when they came back on Sunday, they were ready to play!

One of the games that was a bit hit on Sunday was Colt Express. I played it with a few gamers, and one of them was so excited, he stayed to play and taught the game to two other groups (with a little help from me on the first, but not much on the second game at all.) That was really a success!

We had numerous visitors come right up to the table and ask about certain games and whether we were able to teach them, and of course, we accommodated them.

I taught Kirk how to play a Bottom of the 9th, from Dice Hate Me Games and Greater Than Games, and he quickly set up the game for new players. That was a big hit! The game is gorgeous, the game play is easy to teach, frantic and really feels like baseball, and is a great game to introduce to new gamers. We had a lot of young players familiar with games who jumped right in, while dad (who wasn’t a gamer) watched. It didn’t take long before Kirk was able to sit the dads down, too, and we may have brought in some new gamers into the fold.  Kirk told me by the end of the day he had basically played two nine inning games of baseball!

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Cry Havoc — Dustin found some experienced war gamers and converted them into board gamers, at least for the weekend!
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One of many, many plays of Jamaica during the day.

Dustin came in on Sunday to relieve Kirk, and brought a whole host of colorful games, running the gamut from the easy to teach Jamaica, to the brightly designed Asking for Trobils, from the design studio Kraken Games right down the road from us in Houston (reprint coming soon!). We met a few former war gamers, who were looking for a good game to get into in the board game hobby side, and so Dustin broke out Cry Havoc from Grant Rodiek and Portal Games, which was a big hit.

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One of many games of King of Tokyo, but if you look closely at other pictures on the site, you will see the colorful bits of Terraforming Mars being played, too!

Dave (the Kaplan Capo) brought a whole mix of games, everything from light and easy party games to some great Euros. He started off the crowd with King of Tokyo, which was a big success. He also broke out Celestia, Camel Up, Love Letter, Splendor, and a host of other games.

He and his wife Melissa had a great time introducing family weight games, and his side of the table was full all weekend long. They also had the pleasure of generating lots of tickets for our raffle, where we gave away Celestia and Hand Off on the first day — so it was not a surprise when players of their games won both games!

Bryan is our resident card game expert, and he brought two of his favorites. He loves the Legendary system, and brought Legendary Encounters: A Firefly Deckbuilding Gameto the table all day on Saturday and Sunday morning. He also knew that comic book fans not familiar with gaming might be enticed if they saw their favorite heroes on the table, so he brought out the DC Comics Deckbuilding Game, and taught numerous new gamers how to play.

Carlos played more than just Camel Up, although every time I took a picture it seemed like he had a new group of players joining in a new game! He was the go to guy as the moderator for Mysterium, lending a spooky flavor to a number of games with new and experienced players alike. Plus, he enjoyed a few innings with the convention guests in Bottom of the 9th. And, he even squeezed in a game or two of Ashes and Lords of Waterdeep! Busy guy.

Last, but not least, Bradly taught a whole slew of games. In fact, he had a table set up just for the large collection he brought to the con. He had complete play throughs of 51st State, Hanabi, DC Deck Building, Artifacts Inc. and even ran a long demo of Castles of Mad King Ludwig on Sunday morning.

We also took part in our first ever panel. I was asked to be a moderator at an “Intro to Board Gaming” panel on Sunday morning, so I invited Bryan and Dave from Board Game Gumbo as well as two organizers of the game nights at our local board game stores.

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(from L to R) Bryan, BJ, Andy, Andy, and Dave

Andrew “Andy” Graves from Sword & Board came and talked up his game night, along with his favorite games to break out for new gamers. Andrew “Andy” Lee from And Books Too talked up his store’s efforts to bring in new gamers as well as his favorite genres for new people to the hobby. Bryan talked about conventions, and also how playing deck builders is an easy entry into the hobby especially for fans of CCGs. Finally, Dave talked about a few of his favorite games and then gave an impassioned talk encouraging the audience to join a game group as it can really amp up your participation in the hobby.

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Dave, the Kaplan Capo, encouraging new gamers to join a game group.

Whew. As I said on Twitter, I have a newfound appreciation for the volunteers around the country who give up their weekends to introduce the hobby to new gamers and to teach experienced gamers the latest games or classic games we may have missed. Kudos also to the designers, developers, publishers and vendors themselves who not only work tirelessly to bring us great games but also give up their free time to market the hobby at these conventions, which now occur just about every weekend of the year.

I also was frankly surprised at the depth and complexity of games we were able to bring out. I was worried that new players might not be interested or feel comfortable handling games with complex mechanics, but as the weekend wore on, we were able to introduce more and more deeper games. Admittedly, any game with eye popping features — like the train set from Colt Express or the airship from Celestia or the camels / pyramid of Camel Up — was an easy draw, but games like 51st State, Abyss, New Bedford, Asking for Trobils, and Terraforming Mars were all hits.

I may add to this little diary from time to time as we plan the Board Game Gumbo’s next con adventure. I hope this blog entry encourages other people already involved in the hobby but who have never volunteered at a con to reach out to their local conventions like we did and offer to help.  Make sure you come visit us at the next convention (some of us will be at BGG.Con this year), or come by Louisiana Comic Con in 2017 to see how we can Spice it up!

Until next time, Laissez Les Bon Temps Rouler!

— B.J.

Essen Preview 2016

Down here in Louisiana, there is a small German settlement called Roberts Cove less than thirty minutes off of the interstate.  German farmers settled here over a hundred years ago, and brought their food, culture and, of course, their last names.  By now, many of them have intermingled so much with the residents here in Acadiana that they speak French and consider themselves Cajuns, too. But, they still keep the German traditions alive each year in October at the annual Octoberfest.

So, the Krewe asks itself — why should we fly twelve hours away to the town of Essen, when we can get traditional German sausages and listen to German music right here in Louisiana?

Any board gamer knows that answer: there’s no Essen Spiel in Roberts Cove!  Is Essen the biggest, most important game convention? Or is it Gen Con?  Since the Krewe has never attended Essen, we do not have an opinion…………yet.

But with Essen Spiel in Germany taking place in less than two months, this is a great time to start looking at the games that we are most anticipating.

I am sure you have heard Tom Vasel proclaim that somewhere between 500-1000 games get introduced to the gaming world at Essen. I have yet to confirm this, but after looking at the huge list put together by Board Game Geek’s W. Eric Martin, I can believe it. (By the way, one of the BGG users  re-ordered in terms of popularity, and that list is already 20 pages long!)  That’s a lot of games.

What is Essen? The Internationale Spieltage SPIEL — or Essen for short, based on the city in Germany where it is held each year — is a trade fair put on by hundreds of board game publishers from around the world. On that basis alone, it is different from Gen Con (which seems more like a fan based con that industry participates in), but regular board gaming fans are also allowed to go to Essen for the show. For the last four years, around 150,000 board game aficionados browse, demo, play games and shop for four days in October.

(For an excellent recap of the differences between Gen Con and Essen and the other big cons, check out Paul Grogan’s excellent interview with Tom Vasel here.)

So, without further ado, Bradly and B.J., two of the Krewe de Gumbo members, share with you five of their most anticipated games, in no particular order.

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Ave Roma is a former Kickstarter project from A-Games out of Hungary that is just now hitting the European shores. It bills itself as a “worker drafting” Euro, and is for 2-5 players. From Krewe member, B.J.: The artwork depicted in the KS project is stunning, and the game play is intriguing.   Every player starts the game with the same workers, but after that it is every meeple for himself. It also hints at a different type of trading mechanism, one where over production is rewarded (as opposed to many Euros that favor a tight, controlled economy where the most efficient player usually wins.) It definitely looks to be a little bit too heavy for my usual game group, but I’ll bet the Krewe is ready for the challenge.

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Noxford is a territory building card game from Capsicum Games, designed by Henri Kermarrec for 2-4 players. From Krewe member, Bradly: The closest game I can relate to Noxford is dominoes. Players take turns laying cards. Cards can be related to their faction, neutral, or barracks. Faction cards are how you claim neutral cards. At the end of the game, the faction with the most cards surrounding a neutral card claims it as their own. Neutral cards are how you gain points, and Barracks are essentially attack cards that can cancel out opponent’s special abilities. The rules appear to be very simple: each card placed much about another card already placed, and the winner is the player with the most victory points at the end of the game. This game looks really good. 

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Kanagawa is a new game published by IELLOdesigned by the dynamic duo that brought you Abyss, Bruno Cathala and Charles Chevallier. According to the Game Boy Geek, the game combines a cool press your luck mechanism with card drafting. From B.J.: I really love Abyss, and I see some elements that make it look like Kanagawa is a spiritual successor of that great game. I love the thought of more press your luck drafting. But, I am also drawn in by the original theme of playing painters decorating bamboo sheets with beautiful paintings. Definitely not Trading in the Mediterranean! Plus, the previews we have seen show some really incredible art from newcomer (at least to me) artist, Jade Mosch

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Age of Thieves is brought to you by Galakta, a publisher from Poland, and designed by Sławomir Stępień. It is an interesting card/miniature game for 2-4 players that plays between 1-2 hours. From Bradly: A group of master thieves have descended upon the capital in an attempt to rob the Emperor blind. But to do so, they not only need to break into his vault, but also escape the city with their ill gotten loot. Complicate this with the fact that they are not working together, and you have the basis for Age of Thieves.

 

delphi_cover_1200Oracles at Delphi is the impressive new Stefan Feld release from H@ll Games and Pegasus Spiele that is designed for 2-4 players. It carries a posted playing time of 70-100 minutes, and unlike many of Feld’s previous releases, the previewed artwork is gorgeous. From B.J.: The bright colors on the box cover, and the leaked images we have seen of prototypes look nothing like most of Feld’s other releases. It is a meaty game, but I like the posted time, and I like the description of the game play that I have seen so far. The idea of ship travel across the board, following in the footsteps of that great Greek hero, Odysseus, revs up the acquisition disorder for this one. Definitely one to check out. 

Until next time, Laissez les bon temps rouler!

B.J.

Follow me @boardgamegumbo

 

 

Take Two Links of Boudin And Call Me In The Morning…STAYING HEALTHY AT YOUR NEXT CON

Recently the wonderful people of Board Game Gumbo took a trip to Gen Con 2016. We had a fantastic time, played amazing and not so amazing games and generally enjoyed the whole experience. Best of all, not a single member of our large group brought back any unwanted additions to our growing gaming stockpile. (To my knowledge at least)

Staying healthy is easily the most important event anyone will undertake at a convention. In the recent blog posts about the Krewe de Gumbo’s Gen Con exploits, Bradly and I were called “the experts” because we had been to Gen Con before. Despite this being our third year (and I personally have attended many cons before Gen Con), I hardly consider myself an expert. If I were such a thing, I wouldn’t have come home last year with a new game for my immune system to play.

So since we all hate being sick, and we must the face the reality that we have to return to work healthy, I offer you some basic guidelines on keeping “con crud” at bay.

  1. Wash your hands, you filthy animals. Now you might be thinking, “But Bryan, I’m not filthy, I wash my hands all the time.” Awesome, you are one less person who needs to be reminded. But there are plenty of people who are just too busy to wash, preoccupied with all the awesome convention stuff, or worse, they just don’t think about it. Then this amazing thing happens–those very same filthy people proceed to touch everything: the doors, the tables, the chairs, the game pieces, even the merchandise you thought was safe to handle is now home to everything anybody all day was carrying on their hands. So for the love of everyone’s health, wash your hands. If you find yourself in a rush, keep hand sanitizer handy, it helps. (ed. note: Go to Walgreens or CVS, buy the little bottles of hand sanitizer that has a clip attachment, and ATTACH TO YOUR BAG!). At the very least rinse your hands. A recent CDC study found that just rinsing will remove a reasonable amount of germs from your skin surface. THIS IS NOT TO REPLACE WASHING, but better some effort than none at all.

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    If that’s what it takes…
  2. Diet is very important when it comes to fighting off disease. I, like most people, have a (probably unhealthy) love of cheeseburgers. But at convention, as B.J. mentions in an earlier post, it is essential to keep your immune running strong. If you are like me and know full well that your con diet is something heart surgeons refer to as “job security” then at least take a multivitamin. Basically, if there is any way you can make sure you get at least some healthy stuff into your digestive system, then just do it.

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    More of this, and less cheeseburgers, at least once per year.
  3. Sleep: Lack of sleep is a leading cause why people get sick. Once your body is exhausted, it becomes much more susceptible to disease. This is probably why I ended up making microbial friends last year. In short, dear reader, don’t be like Last Year’s Me — go get some sleep.

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    Cat nap, anyone?
  4. OK, so normally one would expect exercise here, but really I know myself. If I didn’t exercise before, I’m certainly not going to start now. So instead, I’ll offer advice that most places won’t. If you are not used to being on your feet for several hours and miles a day, for the love of meeples, make sure you take breaks. Stop and rest, don’t exhaust yourself. Drink water, your body will lose water through breathing and bathroom, and it needs to be replaced. This falls into the same idea as getting enough sleep, an exhausted body is vastly more susceptible to illness.

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    You, right before the Gen Con 5k, right?
  5. And finally, don’t kiss the coughing chick or dude. Look, I know we are having a good time, and it is a social event, but when someone looks like death warmed over, it is best to avoid them. If they are playing in a demo or sitting next to you in a panel, be sure to wash and/or sanitize after, preferably before you touch anything. They aren’t trying to get you sick, but those germ jerks don’t care what either of you want, they just want a home where they can settle in, have a good warm environment and proceed to screw up your convention and/or weeks after.

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    You like that new game on Kickstarter, Pups? Me, too! Want to come with me to Steak and Shake? 

Look, this is all basic stuff I admit. But I think most of us would be surprised to learn how often you will see people at conventions not following these very simple suggestions. So until next time, stay healthy, keep gaming, and have fun.

–Bryan “I am not a doctor” Barnes