BGG.CON 2010 Report

I thrust myself back into the world of gaming this weekend with my return to BGG.CON 2010. This convention keeps me coming back largely because of it’s simplicity. It is a relatively short direct flight away and a short free shuttle ride away from the DFW airport. There are special events that I mostly ignore, and any more I don’t even bring games with me. The game library is simply too vast and convenient and often leads to surprising and delightful choices. And, as you’ll see, it often leads to replaying classics that otherwise might be neglected.

I applaud Aldie, Derk, and the rest of the BoardGameGeek crowded for having the vision and tenacity to start, grow, and sustain BGG.CON. They listen to feedback and make adjustments every year, but are not shy about sticking to what they feel is the right recipe for a boardgame oriented convention.

The accommodations were good and could even be great if the restaurant and bar service were better. The food and beer served are first rate for hotel fare but they always seem to be understaffed for the volume. They must lose a lot of revenue as people leave before ordering a second drink, or because the wait staff feels compelled to comp the second drink because service is slow (happened to us twice). Still, the menu is good and we always enjoyed our food.

Let’s get to the gaming. Once again my gaming activity was all with Jim, and also mostly with his friend and co-worker Bob who is also from Indianapolis. I played a mix of classics and new-to-me games, many from my hope to play list that I posted last week. Sadly I did not get to try 7 Wonders – there were very few copies available and I never felt like waiting for a turn in the “hot games” arena. Same for Civilization, but I’m sure I’ll here a report from my group soon.

New (to me) games

Carson City

Someone commented on my post from earlier this year that I need to try Carson City and I so I did. Liked it enough to purchase the game (arrived yesterday!) and I look forward to trying it with two or three players. Good mix of worker placement, geometric placement, and direct player interaction.

Macao

Jeff was eager to to teach us a game that I had overlooked (surprisingly – it is the 13th game in the Alea big box series). Glad I tried this – surprisingly good Euro with dice, plenty of forecasting and planning, and very simple rules. Purchased!

Claustrophobia

This game wasn’t even on my radar going into the convention but Jim mentioned that it was a new entry in the short duration dungeon crawl genre (like the next game on my list, Castle Ravenloft). This is quite different as it is a two player “heroes vs monsters” game and we loved it. My only concern is the lack of depth and variety in the heros and monstors, but the game is begging for expansion which I suspect will come next year. Very quick to play and easy to learn and it has surprising tactical depth.

Castle Ravenloft

This is a cooperative dungeon crawl game that is modeled after D&D 4th edition (many of the player powers are derivatives of D&D powers) and while we got crushed in our only try it was quite fun. Descent, while a great game, can be a burden to setup and play (3-4 hours is a minimum IMO) so if you are looking for a comparable experience in a 1-2 hour package this might fit.

Cyclades

I’m glad I tried this one before buying as I’m not sure there’s much of a game here. Multi-player wargames require a certain finesse and constraint and I’m not sure this game has either – I think I’d find myself wishing I was getting out Nexus Ops or Small World each time I played this. The cards are fun but can create some crazy combos and chains that can add quite a bit of chaos to the game.

1861

We set aside Saturday for our big 18xx play and with Nate Sandall willing to teach and the game conveniently in the library, 1861 was our choice. This one reminds me a bit of 18EU – major public companies primarily form from minor companies merging. The game ramps slowly with plenty of opportunity to develop route synergy for mergers. While on the long side, I think this is a decent intro 18xx game as it doesn’t throw too much at you too quickly.

Ra: the Dice Game

This was a late night grab from the library and while a decent game, I can’t imagine wanting to play this over Ra itself. It doesn’t seem any shorter and lacks the elegance of its ancestor.

Classics and Replays

Thunderstone

I finally picked up a copy of Thunderstone plus the expansion Wrath of the Elements (highly recommended as you can consolidate all of your cards into the expansion box) and taught Jim how to play (incorrectly, it seems) before the library closed on Sunday. Matthew has already taken to this game and I think this will hit the table much more than Dominion in the coming months.

Pillars of the Earth

This seems to be our new tradition at BGG.CON. Odd because I don’t seem to enjoy the game enough to own it, but I’m always attracted enough to play it at least once a year.

Power Grid

Could this be the best game ever designed? In my book it is a close race between Power Grid and the next game on my list here (Agricola). This game is just about perfect and the expansions keep the game lively and provide a bit of an even playing field by introducing new geographies.

Agricola

Bob, Jim, and I played this twice with the interactive deck. Love it, love it, love it. Must play more two player at home.

Steam

Jim and I taught Bob how to play (or rather, we both taught the rules but Jim taught Bob how to play well). I generally stink at this game and need to better understand some core principles if I want to improve. My biggest mistake is always being too short-sighted with routes and engine development and I tend to fall off by mid game. Classic Martin Wallace game that I’ll play any time.