Dice Tower Con — Pre-Convention Report

Hey boardgamers, BJ from Boardgame Gumbo here, back with more Louisiana flavor. This time, I am coming to you from the beautiful Caribe Royal near Walt Disney World.

My family decided to come in early for our first DTC, and check out some of the newest attractions at WDW. But, I heard rumblings on BGG that people were starting to arrive, and so we checked into the hotel on Monday morning.


First up, we wandered around the hotel to check out the digs. The resort is beautiful, and has everything for a great family vacation. Pools, spa, fitness center, restaurants, the Caribe has it all.

Of course, pre-convention gaming has to include gaming, and we’ve had it in spades here. Right below the staircase in the main building on the side facing the pool was a large lounge area with big tables and comfortable chairs. One of the Dukes of Dice listeners, Evan, had set up shop on one of the tables, and so I plopped down some games on the next table and watched as gamers started wandering in.

By Monday afternoon, we had six tables of gamers from all over the country playing the latest hotness and old favorites. This part frankly surprised me. When I demoed at Pax South, we played mostly with our friends and I did not see a lot of exchanging. But here at the pre-con, gamers were VERY inviting to solo attendees or people just looking to game.

I’ve met and played games with people from Montreal, Los Angeles, Seattle, Minneapolis, Miami, South Carolina, Texas, Maryland and many other cities and states. Seeing people welcome others to the table without even being asked is truly why the Dice Tower Convention is a special con.

So what games have I seen so far? I have been hearing about Barenpark, and wanted to try it and compare it to Cottage Garden. I don’t own either, but was happy to see that a copy of each was on the table. My wife and I played both games pretty much back to back — twice! — and there’s room for both in a collection. Cottage Garden seems a bit friendlier, with the relaxing stroll around the garden on the wheelbarrow, plotting out your next move, and filling up your own garden space.

 Barenpark scratches that competitive itch, because it features a race to pick up the victory point statutes and extra bonus point tiles. For me, one is a great date night game, where the other can be brought out with my fiercest competitive game group buddies.

Jack and I had been playing Baseball Highlights:2045 at our Disney hotel each night, in preparation for the Dukes of Dice tourney on Saturday at DTC. So, we had to get one more game in. Jack is getting really good, and took a short five game series from me using a glove heavy deck.

Jon V from Montreal requested a game of New Bedford, my favorite little worker placement game from Dice Hate Me Games. We played a five player game (first time for me in a long while), and everyone seemed to enjoy the whaling aspect of the game the most. Mike and Nate from Minneapolis caught on to the mechanics pretty quick and gave me a big challenge as it was a close 1-2-3 finish.

Jason from South Carolina had Century set up, and I was happy to finally play it. I’ve heard people say it is a “Splendor killer”. Was it? Not in my opinion, but the two games do have similar feels. I like the way that Emerson Matsuuchi ratcheted up the tension with the upgrade mechanic on the spices, and the fact that you are limited in your spice board. In Splendor, you have to keep one eye on the other player(s) to see what is going on, but in Century, you really have to keep both eyes on their area or else you will not be able to stop their engines. My only problem? Two player turns go so fast that it is hard to really grok what you want to do on your turn or future turns without slowing down the game too much. I’d like to try it with three people and see if that makes it more manageable.

We closed up Monday with a rousing game of Near & Far. This was my fourth or fifth game, but the other players were new, so we went back to the first map. Beautiful artwork and great components with upgraded story lines and game play makes this my favorite Red Raven Games release, and my early front runner for 2017 game of the year. It solves any of the problems I had with Above & Below. But even better, it makes a campaign fun again. One of the hard things about purchasing a campaign game is getting it to the table with the same people.

I’ve played Near & Far with four different game groups, and playing on three or four different maps has been a blast. Somehow this game scratches one itch of campaign play even in one off games — except for character development, of course — with the connected story lines. I’m still having trouble getting it under a 120 minute time, but our 150 game was lengthened when Tom Vasel came by and talked with us about the game. He knew Jeanne from Miami who was playing with us at the table, and we enjoyed his thoughts about the game, which he hinted was one of his favorite Red Raven Games too.

From noon to midnight, we played games with so many groups that I could not believe it was two days before the con actually started. I am pretty sure I played more games on Monday than I did the entire three days at Gen Con 2016!


I got up early and wandered down to the lobby, thinking I would have time to write the blog while other people were still in bed. Well, that was a happy and fortunate mistake. My buddies, Jon and Nate were back at it again.

 Another game of Cottage Garden broke out, and I also tried out a two player 7X7 game of Kingdomino. After thinking that it would not change the experience much, I was pleasantly surprised. Building out the larger area gave me time to watch the other player, and really think about the tiles coming out. This is the way I want to play two players from now on.

Next up, another game of New Bedford, followed by a six player game of Viticulture. (Yes, back to back worker placement games — little bit of brain slowdown after playing them back to back.) I had to teach four of the gamers, so the start was a little rough, but by year two, everyone had the mechanics down and it was a big race to the finish.

 I could not pull the vine cards I needed, but everyone was pretty close. I was happy to see my son Jack race out to the lead and hold on to it for his first ever win against some pretty experienced Euro gamers.

Jon from Montreal had a prototype under his arm, so we asked him to break out Art Traders. What a cool theme! We played owners of art galleries trying to wheel and deal to improve our collection and attract more visitors. It was his first test at five players, and we sort of broke the game a bit at that play count, but he really enjoyed the in game and post game discussion of what we liked and what he could tweak. Can’t wait to see how this turns out as it is developed further.

I really enjoyed gaming with Jon, Mike, Nate and a bunch of others. Sharing game experiences and telling stories with gamers who have the same passion makes this a much different Con than Pax South. 

Then it was off to The Stronghold. I am demoing for Stephen Buonocore’s Stronghold Games this week, and we helped him set up the booth. Lots of good games to play, so we broke out some demos and started playing when some of the other Knights showed up.

We tried out Frogriders, Pit Crew, Cottage Garden (again!), Not Alone, and Fields of Green. I really enjoyed each and will have more to say tomorrow. I will say that Frogriders surprised the heck out of me. What looked like a simple kids game turned out to be a quick playing, thinky little SdJ contender. In fact, it fires Hey That’s My Fish in my collection. It gives me the same satisfying abstract play, but without the head on meanness that my nieces and nephews don’t like about “The Penguin Game.” Plus, gamers will like the special powers, combos, and bonus point / power cards. Two thumbs up.

I also enjoyed meeting fellow Dukes of Dice listener, Bill, from right across the Atchafalya Swamp. We joked that we each traveled 14 hours just to play a game with a guy who lives an hour away!

We closed out another long day of gaming with a four player game of Viticulture by request of Brandon, one of the demo guys from CMON. (By the way, they are demoing Godfather, the new game from Eric Lang, so I am hoping to get a game in at some point.) 

 I tried a strategy that I did once before and pulled off successfully — making no wine and strictly relying on the board and blue cards for my victory points. I miscalculated on my second to last round and scored 19 points — tying with another guy but sending the game into one more year. 

 Without any more blue scoring cards, I was helpless to get 21 points only and lost a close 23-22-21 game. The strategy shortens the game up a bit, since you are always inching closer, but money is tight in the later rounds and even with the Cottage, I had a handful of cards but nothing that generated victory points.

 I love hamming it up with this strategy, bemoaning how Mama and Papa don’t understand that we can make money on marketing without harvesting (that’s why you sent me to the Ivy League business school, Mama!) but it is a very stressful strategy as you hope no other player notices until it’s too late.

But it was one of the most fun experiences playing Viticulture: Essential Edition (despite some catcalls from the crowd that Tuscany is better) because Brandon from LA, and Matt & Tyler from Seattle really got into the theme of the game. I’d play a game with those guys anytime. 

I’ll hopefully be back with more recaps of the games and people, but so far this convention has been a great experience. Can’t wait to get some more gaming in and meet some more great gamers.

Until next time, Laissez les bon temps rouler!

— B.J.

HeavyCon Recap with Matthew Ward

Following up on Jason Dinger’s excellent coverage of HeavyCon, Board Game Gumbo is pleased to present another HeavyCon convention report, this time from former Louisiana resident, Matthew Ward of the Dukes of Dice podcast.  Matthew lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and enjoys a wide spectrum of games. He also contributes to an excellent series of short reviews, like this one of Century: Spice Road, with his friend, Matt Walker, known collectively as WAM! (“We Are Matt”). Here are his thoughts on his recent trip to HeavyCon in Denver, Colorado. 

As I write this on Father’s Day, I realize one of the great joys in my life is being a dad to an amazing daughter. As most parents know, it takes a heck of a lot of work, dedication, and time, which is why, occasionally, I need to get away from it all. Much like books are for the introvert in me, board games take me to another place, where I can find as much solitude or interaction as I need.

This year I have two planned gaming getaways: BGG Con coming up in November, and the other one just happened at the end of May called HeavyCon. It’s run by the Heavy Cardboard podcast with an amazing crew of dedicated local gamers. What sets HeavyCon apart from other conventions is its draw of dedicated and experienced gamers. Very few cons will have pick up games of 18XX, Splotter Spellen, and Phil Eklund games.

This is a con where we don’t have to blow the dust off the games that sit on our shelf of shame, and use our best sales pitch to get players we need. We already know what we are getting into and embrace the journey. This is a place where we get to play our passions and discover new romances.

One of those games that has been nearly impossible for me to get played is Arkwright — or as Kat Demeanour at the table called it, “the 17XX game.” Arkwright is a game of 18th century industrialization in England designed by Stefan Risthaus, and published by Capstone Games and Spielworx. Just learning the rules can take an hour on top of the five or so hours it will take to play. It’s full of planning, recognizing opportunity, and undercutting your opponents.

There was a lot of newbie interest in this one, so I scheduled a learning game. While I really wanted to play, I let another gamer take my spot, and I am glad I did. Teaching it and mentoring the players took most of my focus. I had a blast as I was able to see each player discover some of the depth and nuances of the gameplay.

Playing Arkwright with Kat Demeanor, Joshua Acosts from WDYPTW, Dave Armstrong (not pictured) (Photo courtesy of Matthew Ward)

Another game I absolutely adore is Hanamikoji, designed by Koto Nakayama, and I was able to get that to the table a few times. There are few two player games I love to play and this one is right at the top. In this game you are trying to out think your opponent and gain influence with the seven Geisha in what I feel is very akin to poker. Each player gets the same four actions that they get to use once. The order in which you play them is what makes this game so amazing. Some actions reveal cards from their hand and others hide information. Without going into too much detail, you can see a full review here. Hanamikoji is so much harder than it looks.

Anthony (“Tony”) Fryer, formerly of the Heavy Cardboard podcast, takes on Matthew (not pictured) in Hanamakoji. (Photo courtesy of Matthew Ward)

Something I never thought would happen to me is a pickup game of an 1846 train game. I had one experience several years ago and it was a learning game with one of the beginner 18XX titles that focuses on either the rail building side or the stock market. It was terrible. Oh, as a side note, all the games start with 18XX, so I couldn’t tell you which game it was.  I only can manage to remember 1846 because it’s a popular entry point designed by Tom Lehman and published by GMT. Many of these games are obscure, and hard to get. The lack of distinction of the title names, the high learning curve of the mechanics and terminology, and the horrific amount of mental calculations makes this a very specialized set of games.

1846 was a good year for trains, and a good game for Matthew, Stefan Ebner, Christian Winkler, and Nicolas from Meeples Included (none in the photo). (Photo courtesy of Matthew Ward)

That being said 1846 was a treat and very accessible for an 18XX game. I also had the pleasure of playing with some amazingly considerate gamers who gave me advice when I asked, so we could keep the game chugging along. Oh snap…I just went there.

One of the great things about conventions is getting access to hard to find games. Ever since I listened to the Heavy Cardboard’s review of Lignum, I wanted that game, but there was such a limited print run that it was expensive and hard to find. I had been wrestling with paying too much money to buy the first edition, but thanks to Capstone Games, they are publishing a second edition in the U.S. Preorders are up, so go support Capstone!

Enjoying Lignum is Jim from Punching Cardboard with Jason and Donna (not pictured) Dinger and Matthew (not pictured.) Photo courtesy of Matthew Ward

So what is Lignum? It is a game about the 19th century logging industry in Germany. By the way one of the characteristics of heavy gamers are being drawn to interesting themes. Now most of us will say it is secondary to gameplay, but put an interesting theme on it, and watch our eyes widen and ears perk up. What makes Lignum so great is the planning and trying to predict what the other players are going to do. You will pick up items and do actions in a linear path, never being able to back track. Feel free to go as far down the board you want to go, but you better be sure you don’t need anything you are passing by. It was a fantastic experience, and I can’t wait to finally own a copy.

Another game I was excited to get taught is a game called Forged in Steel, published by Knight Works LLC and designed by Wade Broadhead. I love history, and Wade created a Card Driven Game in the same vein as Twilight Struggle, but used the tumultuous past of Pueblo, Colorado as a backdrop. The game mixes in area control, role selection, and it has a very light touch of a war game in it. Although I can see how it needs a particular type of gamer, Forged in Steel is ridiculously under the radar. If you like heavier games, go track down a copy.

Carmen Petruzzelli, owner of Boardgame Surplus, playing Forged in Steel. (photo courtesy of Matthew Ward).

I was truly surprised at how many prototypes were at a 100 person convention and Captains of the Gulf was my favorite. I know Jason Dinger, a fellow contributor to Board Game Gumbo, will feel awkward about me talking about his game, but he has put his heart and soul into it, and it shows. Now I have lived in the gulf region of the United States a majority of my life including a large amount of time in Louisiana. It’s where my heart called home for a very long time, so when I heard about a game of fishing boat captains in the Gulf of Mexico, my ears perked right up. I made it a mission to get a play in. There are a few mechanics that immediately make me obsess, and that is rondels, and multi-use cards, which Captains of the Gulf has in spades. This game is all about timing, tough decisions on the card play, area control, planning, and movement. It has a lot going on, but it all works together like a great shrimp etouffee. Lucky for all of us, Spielworxx is publishing this next year, and I definitely will be pre-ordering it.


Captains of the Gulf by Jason Dinger. (Photo courtesy of Matthew Ward)

Conventions are the ultimate venue in promoting our hobby, and even more importantly, creating our community. We all pitch in our knowledge, time, and games to make a great experience, and there is no such thing as zero-sum. One of my favorite contributions was running an Exit: The Game Escape Room tournament. I enlisted three teams of four to venture into an Abandoned Cabin, and try to be the fastest to get out without using too many clues. EXIT: The Game – The Abandoned Cabin is the only one of the series I had done, and I have to tell you that it was fascinating to watch how the other teams tackled the puzzles. I loved the aha moments, and empathized with their struggles. Markus Brand and Inka Brand are designing this series of Escape Room board games, and they are fabulous designers. If you’ve never played Village, seek it out.

Top left: Kat Deameanor, Amanda Uhler from Heavy Cardboard, Adrian Richardson from Mile High Game Guys, and Scott Kippen (Skippen); top right: Ed Uhler from Heavy Cardboard, Brandon All from Brawling Brothers, Stefan Ebner, Derek Yeung; bottom left: Christian Winkler, Joe Sturgiss, Ambie Valdes, and Toby Mao from Board Game Blitz (Photo courtesy of Matthew Ward)


I managed to play a bunch more games, and there are lots of stories that I can’t fully relay. I am going to give a quick summary of the rest, so I don’t go on too long on trying to write up a five day convention recap. Games I didn’t talk about, but I got plays in of Yokohama, The Banishing, Century: Spice Road, and Pax Renaissance, There were so many podcasters I got to spend time with including Travis from @LowPlayerCount, Ambie from Board Game Blitz, Jim from @Punch_Cardboard, Brandon from the Brawling Brothers, Adrian from Mile High Game Guys, and of course Ed and Amanda from Heavy Cardboard. Hopefully I didn’t miss anyone. I got to hang with a few game designers including Alex Berry who did High Treason: The Trial of Louis Riel and The Gumbo’s own Jason Dinger. I really enjoyed hearing some of their game design philosophy.

As sad as I get leaving my family for a convention, by the end of HeavyCon I was sad to leave my newly made friends and the ones that I had not seen in a while. HeavyCon was a great experience. It was small, intense, and heavy. Can’t wait for next year!

— Matthew Ward @uncouthtooh


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. 


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. 


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, 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.


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. 


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


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.

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.

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.

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.)


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.



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.

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!

Cry Havoc — Dustin found some experienced war gamers and converted them into board gamers, at least for the weekend!
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.

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.

(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.

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.

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.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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



There was a Cajun invasion at Gen Con, and somehow the convention (which turns 50 next year) survived! Traveling by pirogue, by air boat, and even by modern day conveniences like planes, cars and hypertubes, nine members of the Krewe de Gumbo stormed into Gen Con 2016 for their first ever experience (well for some of us — Bradly and Bryan were experts) and it was everything as advertised. It was huge, it was overwhelming, it had amazing games (and more than a few duds), but above all, it was the Super Bowl of gaming.

You have probably heard that there are a lot of game companies showing off new games at Gen Con, or that there are a lot of games being played, or that there’s just a lot of people there.   Well, Gen Con is everything you heard, and much, much more.

Lots and lots of games — Stockpile at the Secret Cabal meet up


Here is a recap of the games we saw, and the games we played on Friday.

On Friday morning (which for early birds, was the second day of the official Con), we poked around the dealer hall while waiting for the Dice Tower Live show. We had just enough time to see that many of the hottest games around were already sold out: SeaFall, Cry Havoc, and The Networks to name a few. Yeah, that was a downer. But, it was a good sign for the industry. Many game companies like Stronghold Games went to the added expense of flying in games from China for the con, creating a big expense. When the owners were rewarded with sell outs of games like The Dragon & Flagon (a game that was definitely on my radar — but never had time to demo, unfortunately), you gotta think guys like Mr. Buonocore were happy to be rewarded for going the extra step.

To quickly cheer us up, Phillip and I challenged a box of rocks to a trivia game. That’s right a box of rocks. And we won, just barely. (At the point we played, the humans were only about 4 games ahead of the rocks). Simply put, Box of Rocks challenges the players to answer trivia questions that only have the answer 0, 1, or 2. Then the rocks are random ally shaken in a box, to reveal either a 0,1, or 2 guess. Who can get three answers right before the other player? Well, for us it was the humans, but there were a lot of dumb humans around (or lucky rocks).

Phillip is smarter than a box of rocks by far

But I did manage to meet Chris from Calliope Games, who did a great video with Eric Summerer of The Dice Tower fame back at Origins where they had a “Gravitas Voice” showdown. (Check it out at the Dice Tower videos for sure.). He was kind enough to do his Gravitas Voice for us while we checked out the expansion to Tsuro of the Seas. (That’s a “sequel” game that really improved on the simple game play of the original, adding more strategy and deeper game play.) I liked what I saw out of the expansion (can you say Tidal Waves and cannons?) Definitely on my radar…

But Phillip is not smarter than a dragon

I also finally got to demo a game of Spike. It gets mixed reviews on the Internet, and admittedly I am not a big fan of the graphic design on the board or the cards or the  layout, but man I love the pick up and deliver aspects of this game. I want to get a full play of it, but I could see myself rating this one very highly at least for game play.  And an added bonus — we had a great teacher. Good job R&R Games for recruiting good volunteers.

R&R has great teachers for their games.

The Dice Tower Live show was fabulous, and was plenty long enough, capping at about two hours. There were some game announcements that were the scoop at the con.  I think the one that put the envie into the room was Eric Lang’s announcement that he was releasing a “spiritual successor” to Diplomacy, which he called Rising Sun. I got a chance to see the art work later in the con, and wow — I was impressed by the talent. I love Japanese themed games, so I am intrigued but this one is definitely on a wait and see list.

Check my Twitter feed @boardgamegumbo for more info on the news announced at event, but by now most of the board game media have surely covered the meat of it. However, a surprise announcement from Rob Daviau had the hall twittering (and even the normally most-unimpressed Krewe members talked about it all weekend) — he and a friend have started a new game company called Restoration Games. Their aim? Final older games that are beloved by gamers, freshen them up with better game mechanics and release them into the wild. Think Dark Tower with better components and a cool storyline, or PayDay with mean take that mechanics and upgraded components.

The Krewe will be watching for their first release. I was impressed by the marketing strategy — they invited all gamers to come by the booth and let the team know what game they wanted updated, which of course created tremendous traffic and buzz in the halls.

Next up, back to the dealer hall where I saw Islebound from Red Raven games being demoed. I could kick myself for not….well kick starting that game. I got to visit with Brenna and Craig, key components of the development of the newest release, Near and Far (which I have already backed.) Nothing earth shattering to report..yet…but the Kickstarter is smashing all of its early stretch level goals.

Embarrassing Brenna and Craig with pictures.

My viewing was cut short, because I had to get over to the playing area to catch Tyrants of the Underdark. This 2016 release from Gale Force 9 carries the WOTC name and theming and blessing, so you are thinking “four cayenne peppers”, right? Well, I have to separate my ratings here. From the first turn on, this game is a lot of fun. Love the card mechanics, love the mutilple ways you can win, and love the interaction between the players. But VOODOO — the board and card art and graphic design just puts a damper on your enthusiasm. I can’t sugar coat it, I hate the layouts and color schemes. Maybe it is something we will get used to, but I don’t think so. This game (already) needs a second edition with better graphics and card art.

Doc working on his next move in Tyrants of the Underdark

I think Doc is saying, “Is that really the best card art they could get?”

From the swamps to Slidell, everybody is in the Krewe de Gumbo. And yes, I did come out last and showed it off.

Gale Force 9 had some excellent teachers. This guy knew the game backwards and forwards.

But we were lucky enough to have two or three great teachers from Gale Force Nine to help us, including one very nice young lady who should be a honorary member of the Krewe de Gumbo — she grew up on the North Shore of Lake Ponchartrain before working for GF9. What a welcome break, to reminisce about Louisiana right in the middle of the con.

We ended the night with some rousing games of Celestia (shout out to Krewe member Dustin for being way ahead of the curve on that game!),  Elysium (Krewe member Phillip’s first win–and he owns the game), and Usual Suspects back at our hotel near the Paizo play area. I did not play the latter, but it looked like people were enjoying it.  As for the other two, Celestia should be in EVERY gamer’s house. It is easy to set up and has great eye appeal. The game play is VERY ENGAGING, and with the right crowd, the money being won takes a back seat to the joy of bluffing and pushing your luck.I think our group brought back at least four copies!




What’s a game night without Elysium? Phillip’s first ever win. And it is his game!
Unusual Suspects

Love those bits and artwork. Hear that Gale Force 9?

So to wrap up day one (reminder: for me, that was Friday):

Spicy new games to me — Tsuro of the Seas (just need to trade out the original) with expansion, and Celestia.

On the radar — Spike and Tyrants of the Underdark

Great gag gift that actually has some fun (but limited) gamer  appeal — Box of Rocks

Until next time, Laissez les Bon temps Rouler!