BGG Con: 2017 — Another awesome convention!

Hello, friends! I know I’m totally super duper late with this post, but immediately after BGG Con, my family came to visit for Thanksgiving (which was an awesome time!), and I’ve been taking some time to catch up on life events. So, without further ado … grab a drink and settle in, it’s gonna be a long recap. But that’s cool, right?

These are all the volunteers who made up Team Geek 2017. (Photo by BoardGameGeek)

This is my fourth BGG Con, my third time on Team Geek, and let me tell you, the experience is still pretty rad. It’s just like summer camp, seeing folks you talk to online all year, for an intense, sleep-deprived five days of nonstop board-game debauchery. Well, as much debauchery one can get into at a board-game convention.

I arrived in Dallas on Tuesday afternoon and worked a few volunteer shifts (Team Geek members are required to do eight two-hour shifts during the course of the convention). It’s always wonderful to see fellow Team Geek members and catch up on life and all things gaming, plus we get a fun dinner to start things off that night. And now one of the best parts of being on Team Geek: getting access to the Hot Games section before the convention starts.

These little tiles remind me of Starbursts.

My friends and I played  Azul. This tile-drafting game is so pretty and puzzly, too. I’ve been calling it the new Sagrada. You collect all of the tiles at one location (and the rest go to the center), and then you place your tiles on one of the rows on your player board. Game play continues until there are no tiles left in the center of the board.

If your row is complete, then that row will move a tile to the right side of your board to score at the end of the game. If your row isn’t complete, those tiles will stay there for future rounds until you fill it up. If while drafting though, you collect more tiles than there are spaces on your row, you’re forced to put those extra tiles at the bottom of your board, giving you negative points.

Look at all these pretty trees!

We also got in a game of Photosynthesis, another gorgeous game where you’re growing trees and and using Life Points, but the sun moves each round, so if you’re in the shadow of a tree, you won’t get points for it.  There’s a spacial element to planning and planting where your trees will be situated. Game play continues for three rounds, and it lasts about 60 minutes.

The next day, Wednesday, was the start of the convention. I worked a registration shift, and Team Geek was happy to report that we got through that registration line in under an hour. Yay teamwork!

Dairyman and Zany Penguins are two fun filler games!

After my morning shifts, I taught some folks how to play Zany Penguins and Dairyman, which I’ve written about before here. These are two fun filler games that play in about 30 minutes each. Zany Penguins is a hand-management card game in which you’re trying to gain the majority of different terrains so that the cards in your hand will score. It has an element of Sushi Go where you pass cards to your neighbors and simultaneously reveal, and, also like Sushi Go, the artwork is just too adorable.

Climbers are trying to get to the highest point and block others from doing that.

That afternoon, Greg and the rest of my Arizona friends got into Dallas, and we played The Climbers. This game is a 3D strategy game where you’re building and climbing to get to the top, and working to keep your opponents from getting to a higher point than you. Each player has two ladders they can use one time each, and the climbers must follow color and neutral rules in order to get to a higher peak. And you can totally block each other by changing the sides of a block.

The guys and I then went to dinner at Hard-Eight. Food is amazing as always, and the line wasn’t too bad because we went on a Wednesday night.

All the meats! This place is so yum, even for me who doesn’t eat red meat.

We came back from dinner to play Skulls, which is a bluffing bidding game, also with pretty cool sugar skull artwork. I also taught the guys Shiba Inu House, which has been a hit with every single group I’ve introduced the game to. Who doesn’t love cute doggies?

Skulls is a bidding-bluffing game where you try to guess if people have placed flowers or skulls.

I worked another shift, and then met the guys after my shift to start Railways of the World … at 1 a.m. I hadn’t played this game in three years but managed to eke out a second-place win. It’s a pick up and deliver game, and you’re building your railroad network and upgrading your engines. There are also objective cards that come up where you can score extra income. Each player doesn’t have any income and must go into debt to start building things, so there’s the balance of how  much debt is too much debt for the game.

In Railways of the World, you’re trying to deliver goods to various cities while expanding your railroad network.

Thursday was more volunteering, and then I got a chance meet up with the lovely Netters for some gaming.  First we played a quick game of Kokoro: Avenue of the Kodama, which is a line-drawing game where you’re trying to connect your sanctuaries. Cards come up and you draw that pattern anywhere on your board, in hopes that they will connect to gain victory points before the round ends.

My favorite game of the con: Altiplano. It’s a bag-builder like Orleans, but with more complexity.

Next, we played the one game I was most excited for at BGG Con: Altiplano. This game is awesome. It’s by the designers of Orleans, with an added complexity of being able to access locations to activate that action. Like Orleans, it’s bag-building, and you’re trying to gain resources to deliver goods, store them in your warehouse, or trade them up for higher-valued goods. There’s a lot that’s going on, and it takes some getting used to where different locations are in the center of the table. Plus, that alpaca is just adorable, even moreso when it has googly eyes.

That night, Netters and I hosted a gathering with some of the other awesome ladies in board gaming.  We all had drinks and played an 8-person game of Limes, which is a quick tile-placement game.

Each terrain scores differently, but everyone simultaneously places tiles as they get called.

We then played some super intense Word Slam.  In Codenames fashion, each team is trying to guess the same word, where the person in the hot seat for each team is using adjectives on cards to get their team to the right answer. The two teams are simultaneously doing this, and it’s funny to hear some of their guesses because sometimes you’re left wondering, what exactly are they guessing and are we going down a very wrong path? It’s a fun wordy party game.

It was a great time hanging out with all these rock stars: Netters, Nicole, Maggie, Beth and Kimberly!

Players are trying to surround these tokens by placing tiles of different values to gain a majority.

I then rejoined my group for a game of Samurai.  This is a tile-laying game in which you are competing for majority around one of three factions on the board. The factions are represented by these awesome components that are shaped like a pagoda, wheat and Buddha statue.

Next up was Lorenzo. You already know how much I love Lorenzo. The guys loved it, too. Hurray!!

The last game of Thursday night was Pie Town. I was pleasantly surprised by the game because at first glance, it looks like a family game. But upon playing it, I discovered it’s puzzly and has depth, and there’s the deduction part of the game where you’re trying to guess your opponents’ secret recipe. There are dice in this game, but it’s not a dice game. They simply represent your workers and what level they’re at. You then place your “workers” onto locations either to harvest, bake, sell, or upgrade your workers or kitchen area.

By Friday morning, sleep deprivation had started to set in (I was averaging about 4 hours of sleep each night, but who cares? It’s convention time!). I got up early, of course, to play Clans of Caledonia. This game is great, guys.

Let’s process some meat, dairy or wheat. Or better yet, let’s make whiskey!

It reminds me of Terra Mystica but with a market you can buy and sell from, and manipulate resources prices. You’re trying to score points from round objectives, and upgrading, exporting or trading. The more wood pieces you have out on the board, the more income or abilities you unlock on your board. Players continue taking turns until they’re out of money. Plus, there’s an element of stock manipulation with the various contracts you complete. The game also comes with different clans and various sea bonuses so each game is different.

Next up was Montana, a 45-minute worker-placement game where you’re trying to build settlements, recruit workers and gain resources. Plus, there’s a spinner! There’s something so satisfying about giving that doodad a whirl. The only negative about this game is that there’s a million pieces, and it kind of takes forever to set up, for not a long game.

I didn’t get a photo of the spinner, but you can see a part of it in the far right corner there.

Friday night, the gang and I went to Babe’s Chicken Dinner House. Another excellent dinner outing with yummy food and good company.

This place is so yum. Pick a type of chicken (or catfish) and all the sides come with, family style!

After dinner, we played Ponzi Scheme. My friend Charlie has been on this kick about this game, and we’ve seriously played this game about a bunch of times in the past few weeks leading up to BGG Con. This game does nothing but stress me out!! (Also, I have no idea what the best strategy is for this game and — I swear — that amuses the group).

This game, which you’re trying not to go bankrupt, seriously stresses me out!

We then caught a few minutes of Battling Tops, and then I met up with my girlfriends Lina and Michel for our annual Friday night tradition of Coconuts.

It’s hard to see what you’re drawing when you’re wearing these!

But first, we played some Googly Eyes. It’s like Pictionary, but you wear these glasses that distorts your vision, and hilarity ensues. For example, what are these things?

If you guessed a barbershop and Hello Kitty, well you, my friend, are a genius. Then of course Coconuts. Which led to a very late and very fun night.

And … now it’s Saturday morning. It’s almost like I didn’t sleep.

I was lucky enough to meet with Netters again on Saturday morning to talk about how she got into the hobby, gaming with family, and what’s the gaming scene like in the Bay Area.

Here’s Netters and I playing the awesome Altiplano.

My first game scheduled for Saturday was my very first play of Through the Ages. A wise gamer once told me that the mark of a good game is that you can’t stop thinking about it days after playing it. Well, two weeks later, I’m still thinking about this game.

I, unfortunately, did not win Through the Ages. It’s really great, though.

I’ve always been a Nations fan, and I always heard comparisons between the two, so I wanted to see what TTA was all about, and Nick was cool and patient enough to teach Julie (a fellow Team Geek member) and me how to play the game. The verdict: ‘Tis excellent. There’s a steep learning curve on how the resources play out on the board, but once you grasp that, game play is pretty straightforward in terms of civilization building.

Closing ceremonies happened at 7 p.m. that night, which is always a great time seeing all those board games being awarded to conventiongoers.

Lastly, the guys and I played an EPIC game of Battlestar Galactica, my favorite. And by EPIC, I mean that it went way, way longer than normal, because of one guy completely new to the game and a few others who hadn’t played it often. The picture pretty much sums up the end of the game. Poor Charlie, even though he was on the winning team! Alas, us toasters lost this epic battle.

Even though this game went epicly long, it’s still my favorite.

Before I knew it, it was Sunday, the last day of the convention. I slept in (as I was seriously averaging about 4 hours of sleep each night the entire convention), and worked my last two volunteer shifts before saying my goodbyes to fellow Team Geek members and flying back home to Phoenix. I survived another year of BGG Con without getting sick, hung out with lots of cool folks, and I’m still floating from all the awesome fun I had.

So the game count: 22 games altogether. My favorites from the con: Altiplano, Clans of Caledonia and Through the Ages. Best party game surprise: Googly Eyes.

Will I go back next year? Definitely! I already can’t wait. Thanks for reading all the way down here! Happy gaming, folks!

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