Hey boardgamers, BJ from Boardgame Gumbo here, and I survived my first day at my first ever Dice Tower Convention here in what I assume is sunny Orlando (I got more of a neon tan today than a real one).
Just steps away from Walt Disney World, the convention provided its own magical times on day one. First up, there was free breakfast for all of the attendees, which helped since the line for registration covered the entire convention hall. The staff announced several times that players could jump right into the hall and start playing or visiting, but I am pretty sure there were a number of attendees who wanted the first crack at that juicy experience from the MASSIVE game library or to be first at the Exhibitor booths.I wandered backstage to the Stronghold Booth way early, but head man Stephen Buonocore was already there prepping the booth for the onslaught. Once a few other knights showed up a couple of minutes later, we started breaking out the games and playing.
I was lucky enough to get a deep dive play with Dan (you know him from his adorable game videos on the Dice Tower with his daughter Cora) on Fields of Green. This new American release of the game really shines. I like engine builders a lot, but many times I get outclassed by other players who are longer range planners. This distills the fun of an engine builder, with a new theme of modern farming, into 45 minutes. Dan is a great teacher with a wonderful sense of humor and even shared some amazing treats from his side of the pond. The Stroopwaffle (think Stinger energy waffles with better flavor) from the Netherlands was particularly good.
One of the memorable games was teaching the crew from Must Love Boardgames, a funny movie directed by Jessie Seidule of Baton Rouge. Jessie, Melissa, and Ronald were fun to hang around with during the game, and it was nice to catch up about gaming in South Louisiana.
I also had a chance to slide around to greet people and play games when I could. One of the highlights was an epic Pit Crew battle with Jon V from Montreal. It came down to the wire, and they used one of Geoff Englestein’s diabolical monkey wrench cards to draft around us for the win.
The guys from Dukes of Dice podcast turned me on to the Draft Mechanic podcast a few weeks ago, and I have been enjoying listening to Jake and Danielle riff on boardgames and craft beer. So, it was fun to meet them in person and teach games at the booth. They are both deadpan funny people, so say hello if you get a chance.
After the booth closed, a bunch of listeners to the Boardgames Insider podcast (co-hosted by Ignacy from Portal and Stephen from Stronghold) gathered at the hotel for a podcast meetup. I think even Stephen was surprised by the large turnout on short notice.
Ignacy had challenged Stephen to a Crokinole match, and I got to watch almost to the end. When I left, the “Pride of New Jersey” was in the lead, and on my way back from dinner with Sneauxbunny, I saw Ignacy racing to the designer panel. When I asked him about the finish, he just smiled and said “No talk about it, I don’t know what happened!” If you haven’t met Ignacy yet, you should because he is one of the smartest gamers and funniest guys in gaming.
After dinner, Alex and Sean of the Dukes of Dice podcast invited us to play games in the main hall. I finally got to play some convention games that I have seen at GenCon but never got to play, like Pitchcar, Rhino Hero, and Monikers.
Pitchcar is a great dexterity racing game where players flick cars one at a time in a race to complete a lap around the track. This was a huge track set up right in the front of the hall. (I’m not sure what regular Pitchcar looks like, but this was a really long track.) Had a great time flicking the car around, but one lap around the track was plenty enough for me. The best part of pitchcar to me is the smacktalk, and since I was in a large group of people that were pretty familiar with each other, there was a lot of that going around.
Rhino Hero — I bought this for my nephew in Maryland for Christmas years ago, but never tried it. I liked it, but I might like it better on a steadier surface than the table we were using. Needless to say, we did not last very long in the game.
Monikers is a Time’s Up clone, but with weirder titles and explanation. Team Sean won after we had a couple of big turns.
Jake from Draft Mechanic broke out Vegas, a game from Rudiger Dorn (the designer of Karuba and many other games). What looked like a simple dice fest — okay, it is a simple dice fest — turned out to have some strategy. Players toss a handful of dice, and then use the results to claim casinos each worth random amounts of money (but at least $50k each). The player with the most of her colored dice on the casino at the end of the round claims that dollar amount. There is a catch — ties are no good as they knock you completely out of the running for the prize. You have to look at the other players hands of dice to gauge how much you need to support your own hold on a casino. This is a perfect beer & pretzel game for my brothers, and I will have to try and hunt down a copy.
After we finally finished playing these deep, brainy, mind burning strategy games, we decided to lighten things up with a game of Ethnos from CMON games. We had six players, so Ethnos was a good choice. Plus, plus, the library copy has the Fairy promo which I had never played.
Ethnos may not look like much on the table, but man is there a lot of gameplay. Players try to play sets of cards with the same color or race on them in an effort to put down their token on one of six areas on the board, with each area having a randomized value at the start of the game. Each faction has a unique special power that if played effectively can lead to awesome combos.
You’re only picking up one card at a time, but there’s lots of tense decisions because of the dragon timer. The bottom third of the deck is seeded with three dragons, and when the last one comes out, the round is over and any cards in your hand that have not been played are worth nothing.
The last time I played was just a learning game where I was trying to understand the rules, but this time, I was able to see the nuances of the combos in the races. Ethnos is one of those games where you are tempted to go for everything, but specializing in three, maybe four areas seems a better choice. I had the lead going into the final round, but tried to shoot the moon on a troll combo that didn’t work. Awesome, awesome game made better with some great players (Ellison, Jay, Jake, Danielle, and Alex).
It was almost midnight, and I had an early morning shift at the booth, so I said goodbye to some new friends. I did see my son Jack at a different table, and got to visit with him about his epic Game of Thrones experience. Sounds like he was having a blast running House Stark.
I’ll have more thoughts on the Stronghold games we are demoing tomorrow, and hopefully can report on some of the other booths and games that I plan to play.
Until next time, Laissez les bon temps rouler!