Final BGG.con Thoughts

I participated in a lengthy conversation with Tom Lehman and the Tasty Minstrel gang.  They had just finished playing Eminent Domain and Tom was providing his feedback.  Tom is a game designer with such credits as Race for the Galaxy and the expansion for Pandemic, On the Brink.  It was fascinating being part of this conversation as Tom has so much experience with not just designing games, but with how to make it more accessible and how to grow it as a brand as he’s helped with developing the Dominion series.

Tom’s biggest feedback was about scalability.  He had some comments that made me think differently about some of our games.  The game might play perfectly today – but if it were to become a big hit, what would the expansion include?  If it includes new powers or cards – how will that impact the game?  It seems easy and obvious at first, but when Tom dug deeper he made me realize that there’s more to it than I first thought.

In Eminent Domain, when players play Research cards they can look through an 8 card tech deck.  While it can be overwhelming to a newbie to look through these 8 cards, experienced players will not have any issues.  However, if an expansion were to add 4, 8 or 24 new tech cards – then what would be the mechanism for choosing cards then?  Can they look through all 24 tech cards to find the card they want?  Would a rule have to be added that a player can only look through a certain amount of tech cards – or should that be taken into consideration now for the base game?  It was very interesting to chat game design concepts with an experienced veteran of the industry.

I got to see a bunch of other designer’s prototypes as well, like Seth’s Wizard’s Tower or Jonathon’s spinner game about space exploration, or a game that was based on those castle-defending type of online flash games.  Seth’s Wizard’s Tower game was an interesting though abstract area control game; Jonathon’s spinner idea was brilliant but I’d love to see it in a way more simplified game; and the castle defence game was a lot of fun that was just missing some balance issues.  It was interesting to be surrounded by so many like-minded designers!

I had a lot of fun at BGG.con, but not just from what I’ve shared in my previous posts.  I met a lot of great people like Tim from Australia, Chris, Tim and the other Chris, David, Peter, Kimberly and Steve and many more that I can’t remember now!  We stayed up to 3am almost every night playing all sorts of games – from party games like Time’s Up and Spot It to silly games like Kackle Dackle (seriously a game where you catch slimy poo out of a dog’s bum!).  I even found one group of people playing Monopoly!  I’m not sure if that’s a statement on the level of quality of the current crops of games being released or not though.

I also really liked the Geek Chic furniture that was all over the main hallway.  Geek Chic is a company that makes the most amazing gaming tables I’ve ever seen.  The tables look like normal tables, but can be converted into these sunken gaming areas with removable plexiglass to place your board or map below, as well as fold down areas for each player to keep their pieces or secrets!  Very cool! If my place could accommodate it, I’d definitely want one of these tables! Check out more of their furniture here.

Overall this was a huge opportunity for Sen and me, and I think I made the most out of it!  I had a blast and would love to return next year!

-Jay Cormier

BGG.con – Games I liked, disliked and bought!

I had time to play some games while I was there of course and here are my likes and dislikes:

Likes:

Troyes – Warning – try to get someone who has played the game to teach you the rules!  The rules are very convoluted and hard to understand.  The game is also convoluted and hard to understand, but it gets easier and easier as the game progresses and by the end of the game I found myself really enjoying the mechanics.  The game has players rolling different coloured dice, depending on how many of their workers they place in the different coloured zones, and then using the numbers on those dice to fulfill specific actions.  What makes this game not as luck based as other dice-rolling games is that you can buy other players’ dice from them.  So, not intuitive at first, but a game I would like to play again.

Tikal 2 – Surprise, surprise – the sequel to my favourite game is a lot of fun!  The similarities between the two are mostly thematic and the fact that hexagonal tiles are placed on the board – that’s about it.  So if you’re one of the few who don’t like Tikal, then you should still try out Tikal 2!  Players sail their boat around the perimeter of the board and pick up one tile that gives them a specific action to do in the temple.  In the temple players are going from room to room placing flags and collecting points.  Gone are the 10 point action point system from Tikal, and instead players are free to go anywhere on the board that they want, as long as they have the right coloured key.  Overall a fun game (did I mention that I managed to squeak out a win in the end?) that I will definitely be buying!

Eminent Domain – the big deck building game from Tasty Minstrel that has received twice as much funding from Kickstarter as they needed.  The game is only in prototype form, but other people had printed out a copy for themselves and brought it with them – so it was being played by a lot of people throughout the convention.  I’m not a huge fan of space games, but there are some great mechanics in this game that makes it not similar to Dominion at all.  I enjoyed the fact that you could specialize in one area, and that players could follow the actions of other players.  That kept everyone interested on everyone else’s turn.  I didn’t like that the tech cards that you can research were too confusing for a newbie to understand.  Because of that I decided to not specialize at all in Research and that was a big mistake and I knew I lost early on in the game.  Still, with some minor refining, the game could be made more accessible to us newbs and will probably be a big hit for Tasty Minstrel.

Rattus – While it’s a bit unpredictable, I enjoyed the theme and variability the game has based on which roles you use in the game.  Players place their player markers in different regions and then move the plague indicator to a region.  If there are rat tokens and player markers in that region, then they are turned over to see if any player markers die because of the plague.  Fortunately players can recruit various roles to help them, though the more roles they use, the higher the probability that a player’s markers will be infected by the plague.  Interesting, but possibly a little too unpredictable.  I’ll play it again though.

 

Dislikes:

Merkator: This is Rosenberg’s next game after Agricola, Le Havre and Gates of Louyang.  The only good thing I can say about this game is that it at least doesn’t feel like a derivative of any of these games.  I like Agricola and Le Havre is pretty good, but there are a lot of shared mechanics between those and even Gates of Louyang.  In Merkator players move a shared marker around the world in order to collect a specific resource.  While he’s there a player can fulfill a goal card if it’s for that location and he has the proper resources.  Did I mention there are about 16 different resources?  The game feels very abstract and has no theme at all.  If I wanted to play a spreadsheet, I’d just go to work.  Boo.

Games that were getting good buzz but I didn’t get a chance to try yet:

Navegador – seemed like I would enjoy this new Rondel based game.

K2 – a very themey game about mountain climbing that was getting some good buzz.

7 Wonders – this was the big hit of convention, though it had its haters as well.  I learned the rules but never had a chance to play it.  It plays up to 7 players but probably is best with 4-5.  You only ever interact with a player on either side of you so some people didn’t like that.  Almost everyone liked that it could play up to 7 in under an hour though.  Still can’t wait to try it!

Hansa Teutonica – I saw some people playing this and it seemed to generate a lot of positive buzz, though it doesn’t look like a game I’d like.  I’ll reserve judgement of course, until I’ve played it – which I want to do.

Nuremberc – Had the rules explained to me and it seems simple enough but I’m worried that the theme is irrelevant.  Looks pretty, as it’s illustrated by our friend Josh Cappel!  I’ll try it when it comes out.

I managed to increase the size of my game collection as well as I purchased the following games from either the vendors or from the flea market that was held on Saturday:

Grand Cru – the new game about making wine.  I got this to play with my friend Matt who’s also making a wine game – which unfortunately is becoming a saturated theme!

Merchants in the Middle Ages – a ‘new’ game from Kramer.  It’s really just a reprint of Die Handler, which I haven’t played but I’ve been happy with Kramer’s game more often that I haven’t.

El Capitan – an older Kramer game that I never played – but as I mentioned above, it’s Kramer!

Gheos – a tile laying game – which I always like.

Aton – a 2-player game from Queen games. This was one of the free games that everyone could choose from.  I heard this was good!

Atlantis – a more complicated Cartegane ??? which is cool – plus it’s Atlantis…!

Money – a Knizia game I’ve enjoyed but never picked up.  Got it cheap at the flea market.

Pick Two – a good word game that I got super cheap.

Boardgamegeek the Boardgame – I heard it’s not really good, but it was another free game from BGG.con!

Now I have to go rearrange my game shelves to somehow accommodate these new games!

-Jay Cormier