BGG.CON was held November 18-22, 2015 at the Hyatt Regency DFW Airport in Texas. The location is super convenient unless you accidentally fly into Love Field Airport (when SOMEONE, cough...snoozefest...cough, makes the wrong flight arrangements).
This year early-bird registration opened in March at $95 per person, with regular registration in April at $120. Attendance this year was about 2,800 (compared to last year's 2,750). This has pretty much maxed out the hotel. There are no plans to expand the convention further, but rather to grow in other ways, e.g., by adding the Spring Con and Cruises.
We weren't able to attend in 2014, so I'm not sure if this is something new: The "_25" room on every floor (e.g., 225, 325) was reserved for board gaming. Along with the quiet gaming rooms and other spaces for gaming, the convention doesn't feel crowded even though there are a lot of people attending. The downside is that you may not run into your friends quite as often, so you may have to make "play dates" in order to get together. Texting was a huge help...except for the couple I got where it listed the phone number but no name. Awkward!
L to R: Tom Lehmann, Ted Alspach, Toni Alspach — Bézier Games Booth
Designer Tom Lehmann was at the Bézier Games booth signing copies of Favor of the Pharaoh. Ted is so tall, his wife Toni has to stand on a chair to match his height. (It also doesn't help that she's rather height challenged.)
A Note About Images...
Once again I decided not to bring my professional camera, instead opting to use the one on my iPhone. This was mainly for convenience since I already lug around a video camera and computer. Ugh. The photographer inside me died a little bit at seeing the above image — and I can't even blame Ted this time! Although this one is probably the worst of the bunch, the lighting in the game rooms and especially in the Exhibit Halls is TERRIBLE. Most images came out too yellow (even after adjusting color), containing both hot spots and overly dark patches. Sigh.
The First Fun Fact!
Fun Fact: (Provided by Jeff Anderson, BGG) "Halfway through the convention (on Friday) we had to go back to my house/hangar to meet a container shipment direct from Essen, containing four pallets of MegaCiv and ten pallets of Advent Calendar (which will soon be available in the Geek Store. The Advent Calendar, not MegaCiv)." Editor's note: Mary submitted this report on Dec. 2, and the Brettspiel Adventskalender 2015 has already been made available through the Geek Store and sold out. Sorry! —WEM
Last month on a trip to San Diego, my husband and I used Uber for the first time. It is MUCH less expensive than taking taxis. During BGG.CON, we ended up using Uber for almost all our forays to restaurants (and getting to the right airport). Most rides were excellent, definitely better than many taxi rides I've had...with the exception of one ride where the driver must have had one foot on the brake and the other on the accelerator, resulting in much lurching throughout the ride (blah!). If you use a friend's link, both of you get a discount on your next ride (like $15). If you don't have Uber friends and want a link (or if you just want to be nice!), PM me or my husband. We'll get one to you!
In the app, you can click on the type of vehicle you would like. For example, we took the Uber XL with five people so we would have extra space. It costs a bit more than the regular Uber but definitely not as much as taking two smaller vehicles.
All attendees received several free games! The earlier you were in line, the better your choices, of course. Since I didn't want to wait for hours, we played some games then lined up around 3 p.m. when the wait was only five minutes. Some people camped out all night. Many people brought games to play while in line. Check out the video! There's a quick shot of the prize table games in there, too.
Debbie Ridpath Ohi, writer, illustrator, and all around great gal, was kind enough to draw a little sketch of me on my badge. She also drew one for Henning Kröpke...then bombed my photo (below). Henning was helping to promote 504 in the Stronghold Games booth, representing 2F-Spiele.
Illustration by Debbie Ridpath Ohi
Debbie illustrating Henning Kröpke
This year we didn't get out as much as in previous years. I didn't even make it to Hard 8 (sigh). I did get to a few places though, including Taco Diner and Babe's. (Mouth is watering just thinking about them!)
We went out to eat with some of the Splotter folk, Jeroen Doumen, Bianca van Duijl, and one of their friends, Ragnar Krempel. The Aldens are foodies (like me!), so I asked Michelle (a.k.a. Mrs. Aldie or simply the "Queen") to recommend something fairly close. She recommended Taco Diner, which happened to be a place they had taken my husband and me (plus others) after one of the conventions a few years ago. I had the special: chicken fried in waffle batter wrapped in a soft corn tortilla with bacon and syrup topping (plus extra syrup on the side). It was interesting... The flavors were good but unfortunately the batter soaked up too much oil, making it very heavy. I couldn't eat much of it. The fresh guacamole and queso blanco dip with brisket were excellent, though (It probably didn't help that I had eaten a lot of the appetizers and loads of chips to start.)
Saturday night I was invited to go to Babe's Chicken Dinner House with some geek buddies. (Thanks Tom McCorry for driving!) This is one of our favorites. We got there around 5:30 p.m., almost peak business time, especially on a weekend. They don't take reservations and won't put you on the wait list unless you are there in person. The wait was going to be 45 minutes to an hour, plus there was a group of 30 ahead of us (ugh!). On top of that, the kitchen was backed up about 40 minutes or so. Part of the reason the food here is so good is because it is made fresh, the trade-off being it can take longer to get your food. We were trying to get back before the 7 p.m. ceremony (raffles!) so we decided to order to-go. We all ordered the chicken fingers, hoping this would simplify things (and they sounded good). Since we had some time, we found a table on which to play Tichu. (The table was outside and a bit cold but it worked.)
When the food was done, we each received a big bag with a large box and smaller bag inside. The small bag had containers with salad and dressing in it, plus honey-mustard dipping sauce for the chicken fingers. The box had 12 to 15 good-sized chicken fingers (!!), along with 8 oz. portions of mashed potatoes, gravy, green beans, and creamed sweet corn. You definitely needed two hands to get into the box. We hopped in Tom's vehicle and were soon on the road back to BGG.CON.
The food smelled divine, and by now we were all really hungry. None of us could wait to eat. Tom, who had ordered extra biscuits, which came in a separate bag, kindly offered the biscuits to anyone who wanted one, in trade for one once we got back and could break into our boxes. I declined but the others each had one along with Tom. I managed to get a hand in under the box lid to grab a chicken finger. It was sooo good! It didn't need sauce at all. The guy next to me saw me then did the same, followed by the guy in front. Tom, who was driving, was the only one still eating biscuits. Eventually he must have heard us crunching (the car was silent except for the sounds of munching) because he yelled "Are you guys eating the CHICKEN?!" The guy in the front seat had to stop eating to dig out some of Tom's chicken fingers. Heh.
The Hot Games area in the main board gaming room is where you can play the latest releases. The games in this area included:
Every attendee is given a Geek Buzz code with their badge. Geek Buzz is a live meter of what's buzzing during the convention. Attendees may "like" as many games as they want. The top ten are listed below (preceded by the number of "likes" as of November 30, 2015) but the full leaderboard is available as well.
In one of the exhibit halls there were four booths that would change each day. Mainly these were reserved by small independent game companies. When at BGG.CON, be sure to stop here every day to see what's new.
One of the Indie publishers, Vile Genius Games Inc.
Mystery! Motive for Murder – Released at BGG.CON. Mayfair worked with Masterpiece (PBS, out of Boston) to create this game. Edward Gorey did the artwork. Among other things, he's famous for his B&W art in The New Yorker, authoring and illustrating The Gashlycrumb Tinies, illustrating Christmas cards, and illustrating TS Elliot's Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats (on which the Broadway show Cats is based). He created promotional artwork for Masterpiece, which was also used in the game.
Mystery! Motive for Murder is not a deduction game. The rulebooks contain several game variations, one of which is an intro game for non-gamers, playable as a full game but more simplified (i.e., a gateway game). The full game rules introduce new elements in layers. It also includes a solo game. In the game, each player is a detective interviewing suspects via tile-laying to try to discover the motive through connections/relationships. Players gain points for interviewing. Usually the most points are gained by interviewing the prime suspect, i.e. for being the "closer". In the full game, players play a generic version of detectives based on PBS mystery series, e.g., Sherlock Holmes and Miss Marple. Three cases are played. At the end of each case, the murder victim is dead (out of the game) and the prime suspect goes to jail. The player who earns the most motive points wins the game. Bruce Glassco, the game designer, also created Betrayal at House on the Hill.
Grand Austria Hotel – Just released. Produced in conjunction with Lookout Games. Players are hotel owners trying to attract guests. Dice are rolled and placed on action spaces. Players choose an action space and carry it out; the number of dice on the space determines how much the player gets: resources (food for the café), staff for running the hotel, rooms, or money. Customers come into the hotel café looking for certain food, in the form of cubes. Once an order has been filled, the customer can go to a room if one is available; the color of the customer must match the room color. Rooms are in a grid of colored blocks. Fill contiguous blocks of the same color to get money, points, or emperor points (i.e. fame of the hotel to attract the emperor). Best with two or three players.
Fun Fact: The characters pictured in Rickshaw Run (a Catan Geographies Scenario) are real people. They formed a rickshaw team that went across India for charity. Characters from the game and their real life counterparts: The Story Guy/Pete Fenlon, CEO of Mayfair; The Viola Player/Pete's wife Olivia Johnston; The Fixter/Ron Magin; The Jobber/Ron's wife Cathy Doherty; The Instigator/Claus Teuber's son Benjamin. Some of the others are from the KOSMOS game company. The Spark and Puck are good friends of The Instigator. Unfortunately, near the end of the race there was an accident; Ron and Cathy’s rickshaw was hit by a truck; Cathy suffered the worst of the injuries. Fortunately both are doing well now. The overseeing charity Adventurists organized the rickshaw run; Childaid Network was chosen as the partner charity.
The Gallerist – Released in October 2015. This is a worker placement game in which each player is an owner of an art gallery. Players discover artists, purchase their works, promote the artists to raise their artwork values, sell their works for profit, and promote their artists in the international market – all in an effort to gain prestige and money to win the game.
Loop, Inc. – Released at BGG.CON (along with Dexikon and Fleet Warfside). This is a time-travel game by Scott Almes. You work for a time-travel agency called Loop, Inc. and visit historic events. The game is played in three rounds with three actions per round. The actions are used to obtain materials needed to equip your time-travel ship(s) for the specific time period(s) you want to visit. The game is all about planning – programming each day. Each day repeats, so you use the previous day(s) actions plus three new actions to be able to launch your ship(s) to different time periods.
Terra – Released at Spiel 2015; U.S. release end of November 2015. This is a follow up to the SDJ winner Fauna, both by Friedemann Friese. The main difference between the two is that Terra is general knowledge whereas Fauna is specifically about animals. In Terra, some simplifications were made to the rules, e.g., easier point calculations. The game length is always six cards (English version) and it has both imperial and metric measurements (imperial on one side of the board, metric on the other; both measurements on the cards). There are two difficulty levels vs. four in the non-English version. It also deemphasizes some of the Euro-centric questions (e.g., fewer questions about soccer). Party Game.
One Night Ultimate Vampire – Previewing at BGG.CON, releasing in January 2016. What's new: Everyone gets a "mark of clarity". Different characters may exchange these in the night, for example vampires can turn another player into a vampire; that player still retains their original role ability. There are fourteen new characters, which may be combined with the original One Night Ultimate Werewolf. Now you can have games where werewolves fight vampires fight villagers in a three-way battle.
Fun Fact: Each One Night game has been tested over five hundred times.
The Prodigals Club – Released at Spiel 2015. This is a modular game with three modules. Players may choose to play with any two, then once familiar with these play with all three. One of the modules is about losing money, a là Last Will – you may even replace the module with the game itself! Another module is about losing connections in high society. The last is about losing elections – i.e., you want to ruin your political career. Players need to focus on each module because the one that performs the worst is going to be the one who scores. There are seven total combinations.
Next year there should be a release for Alchemists that adds another deduction element to the game. CGE also plans to release new cards for Through the Ages.
Fun Fact: After Vlaada Chvátil designed Through the Ages and Galaxy Trucker, he brought Petr Murmak from CGE three co-op prototypes, one sci-fi and two others. Petr asked him to work on one of the non sci-fi prototypes since they had just released Galaxy Trucker – he didn't want people to think of CGE as specifically a sci-fi game company. This was how well he listened: Vlaada came back with only the sci-fi game fleshed out. It became Space Alert.
Mow Money – Previewed at BGG.CON, to be released in December 2015. Mow Money is a card game in which each player owns a landscaping company trying to bid on lawns to mow. Companies each start with a push mower, then invest money to buy newer lawnmowers and bid contracts. The object is to undercut the competition and earn the most reputation points. The game scales well with the number of players (via more or fewer neighborhood cards holding contract cards).
Garbage Day – Previewed at BGG.CON, to be released February/March 2016. This is a dexterity balancing game that comes in a cool green plastic garbage can (the type Oscar would love!). Players in the game are roommates. Of course no one likes taking out the garbage; rather the roommates are stacking garbage on the lid. Garbage is represented by cards, each with two small holes near the top. The trick is you must be able to look through the holes and not see another piece of garbage (card). If the garbage falls, that player collects it on their room card. If you get too messy, the other roommates kick you out (i.e., you lose the game). Action cards may allow you to, say, put garbage in another player's room, forcing that player to stack that garbage on the can immediately.
Fun Fact: During a demo of Coconuts at the Mayday Games booth at the Hong Kong Toy Fair, a guy came up, grabbed three or four coconuts, popped them in his mouth, and walked away. The demo came to a complete standstill – a stunned silence with "did that really happen?" looks on their faces.
Castellion – Released at Spiel 2015. This is a new standalone tile-laying game set in the Oniverse. Players try to stave off nightmares by forming various pieces of their castles (walls, keeps, towers).
Fun Fact: Zev (the Z-Man) gets asked to settle "debates" often: He is asked which is correct, "Camel Up" or "Camel Cup". Even when he gives the correct answer, the person for "Cup" doesn't often believe him. The Camel Up: Supercup expansion certainly didn't help.
Mombasa – U.S. premiere at BGG.CON, to be released by early December 2015. This game has a unique card play mechanism and a heavy Euro feel. There is an area control element to the game, plus player interaction involving direct impact on opponents and their decisions. Players are investors trying to manage their acquisitions of various corporations while developing their diamond mine shares and maintaining profitability in their own businesses. It takes place in the late 1800s on the African continent.
Spellcaster Potions – Due to be released first quarter of 2016. The game is for 1-4 players, ages 14+, play time 15-20min. This expansion to Spellcaster adds potions to modify play, e.g., more power plus the ability to create confusion and disrupt player strength.
Fun Fact: It took Dan DiLorenzo only seventeen years (and thousands of attempts) to beat his brother Frank DiLorenzo at his own game, Overthrone. HA! He was finally overthrown. (Of course it took that long for Dan to comprehend the rulebook.)
Helionox: The Last Sunset – Previewed at BGG.CON, to be released early December 2015. Helionox is a movement-based deck-building game with varying player powers. Each player has an architect that allows her to flexibly use its powers as she sees fit, e.g., if she needs money, she adds tokens to the card (when empty) to get some money. One token is removed per turn. There is a slight cooperative element in that events occur each turn on center planets. The planets allow players to visit for a bonus, such as deck thinning. While a planet is being affected by an event, the bonus is unavailable. Players on the same planet could agree to defeat the event, splitting the points and making the planet's bonus available again. The winner is the player with the most points at the end of the game.
Posthuman – Previewed at BGG.CON, to be released early December 2015. Posthuman is a post-apocalyptic survival game in which players compete to be the first to make it to the last human city. Characters may level up their attributes and learn new skills. The game can change mid-stream when any player takes on too many scars, turning them posthuman; this changes their goal in the game to stopping the human players from getting to the fortress. The first human to the fortress wins the game. Posthumans can win if they change all human players into posthumans, in which case the last one changed loses and everyone else wins.
Fun Fact: From Sean Brown (a.k.a. Mr. B): "Three years ago at Gen Con I had the honor of having one of my close friends Aaron with me at the show. This was great because he used to get me into Gen Con for many years prior, and now I could return the favor. He came to the booth to work one morning wearing a sweet Pac-Man lanyard for his badge. I instantly fell in love with it, walked over to him, took it off him, and put it on. I then poked him in the chest, and told him that this was like when we were kids on the schoolyard, and used to get our lunch money taken from us, only now I was the bully and he worked for me and it was my lanyard because I got him into Gen Con. He never asked for it back, and to this day I wear that lanyard at cons, especially ones that Aaron attends with me!"
Tanto Cuore: Oktoberfest – Pre-release at Spiel 2015, to be released in the U.S. in December 2015. This is a Dominion-style deck builder. The maids decide to open a beer hall. The goal is to sell and drink as much beer as possible without becoming drunk. There is a push your luck element in that as you drink more (draw cards), you increase the possibility of getting drunk (i.e., drawing a drunk card).
El Alamein – Just finished on Kickstarter, mid-2016 release. This is the sequel to Barbarossa. This version takes place in Africa with anime school girls trying to take over cities in Africa. Players may take cities from each other and re-take them, creating a tug-of-war mechanism.
Fun Fact: Tanto Cuore: Oktoberfest is the first game in the Tanto Cuore line that was developed in the U.S., by a U.S. designer (with help from their "professional beer maid", Nadja – who incidentally has a card in the game). The others were done in Japan by Arclight Studios. All the beer maids in the game are actual people from Essen. The promos are photos of them posing like their card characters.
Ticket to Ride: United Kingdom & Pennsylvania – To be released in December 2015, previewed at BGG.CON. This expansion has a double-sided board with UK on one side and Pennsylvania on the other. The UK side is all about technology cards. Players build rails as usual but have to gain technologies to build, e.g., across water, longer trains, etc. The board has a ten train route worth forty points. Pennsylvania has a stock market element. Routes have symbols; when you build, you choose one symbol stock market share card. At the end of the game the people with majorities get points.
Quadropolis – To be released in the second quarter of 2016. For 2-4 players, takes about 40 min. Each player is a mayor who builds a city. You each have four architects numbered 1 to 4 and a grid for your city. There is a main board with building pieces. Use your architects to move building pieces to your city, following certain building rules. Play four rounds, then score for how high your towers are, adjacency, etc. depending on how the buildings have been activated. Pollution and energy management are part of the game. There are two levels from which to choose: classic and expert.
Fun Fact: The four characters on the Ticket to Ride: United Kingdom box are based on the Sherlock Holmes movies and TV shows. The artist likes to illustrate and caricature things from other parts of his life that interest him. The actors on the box are based on: Benedict Cumberbatch, Kelly Reilly, Jeremy Brett, and David Burke.
Jumbo Jets – Q2 2016. Expansion number two for Jet Set. This expansion adds extra cards, jumbo jets that stay on the board as you use them, and hotels. When you get a flight card that goes to/from your hotel location, you add a guest to your hotel. Players start with four hotel cards and may play the cards in front of them to attract guests for points and income. Charter flights give you cash when you complete their paths. City bonuses: each city starts with a disk; the first player to visit that city gets the disk plus a bonus. Bonuses get better as the game goes on.
Echidna Shuffle – Q3/4 2016. 2 to 6 player game, designed by Kris Gould, play time 15 min, ages 6+. This is a family game in which you want the echidnas to pick up your bugs and deliver them to stumps of your color. Each player has three stumps and three of one type of bug they must deliver e.g., butterflies, grasshoppers, ladybugs. Echidnas are not owned by any specific player. The paths are one way on the board; echidnas move via a die roll.
Fun Fact: Kris Gould, designer of Echidna Shuffle, was walking through a store (Archie McPhee's), when he came across a plain cardboard box that had "12 Echidnas $16.95" written in Sharpie on it. He couldn't resist buying it (no game in mind...yet). At a zoo in Wellington, NZ, Kris saw echidnas running around their enclosure along paths, each in one direction; they had overpasses and cross paths, but were in a line following each other nose to tail. This is what gave him the idea for Echidna Shuffle.
Fury of Dracula: Third Edition – Released just before Halloween. Several improvements over the previous version have been made. Combat has been totally re-"vamped" – it used to be dice/card driven, now it is simultaneous card play. The turn structure has changed to day/night/Dracula (formerly day/day/day/night/night/night/Dracula) resulting in a lot less downtime and a shorter game. Encounter cards contain more information (as opposed to the chits that were used in the other editions) resulting in less rules referencing. Train travel has changed; it used to be a die roll, now you take a train token that allows you to know your move in advance, removing some of the randomness from travel. When a hunter is defeated, it is now transported to the nearest hospital (rather than to a specific one). The map and cards were revised to make things more balanced and streamlined. The new edition keeps all the stuff players loved in the game but improved the experience.
Warhammer Quest: the Adventure Card Game – Previewed at BGG.CON, releasing soon. The game was inspired by the original miniatures board game by the same name. It's a fully cooperative card game that may be played as a single mission or in a series as part of a campaign. The game also has RPG elements, for example: upgrade character abilities, get better equipment, use dice to resolve action abilities.
Fun Fact: If you look closely at many Fantasy Flight titles, you might find current and former employees pictured or illustrated. The Whizzard Netrunner card is designer Kevin Wilson. Kevin was a special guest at BGG.CON 2015; you can see him in one of the closing ceremonies photos in Part 2.
7 Wonders Duel – Released at Spiel 2015. This is a standalone two-player game. It contains more decision making and more tension than 7 Wonders. There are three ways to win.
Colt Express: Horses & Stagecoach – To be released early December 2015. The game comes with little wooden horses. The player meeples start with the horses (although horses don't belong to players). This version allows players to decide where to start on the train, giving players a lot more options. A player must take a horse to get to the stage coach. The game also allows players to take hostages, which gives them money but also slows them down.
Fun Fact: The microphone at the center of the main gaming hall was used one evening by a woman announcing "Whoever has had T.I.M.E Stories for over five hours, please bring it back to the library."
Treasure Hunter – Released at Spiel 2015; U.S. release beginning of December 2015. This is a family friendly drafting game by Richard Garfield. Treasures range from 1 to 20 and -3 to -8 in points. There are three locations with two treasure cards each, plus a goblin cave with three goblins to face. The game is played over five rounds. Players draft a hand of nine cards. Draft cards contain Heroes (1 to 12) for specific locations, special action cards (e.g., alter totals, negate cards, double totals of certain color hero cards), guard dogs, and coins (straight points). Try to win the high treasure cards, while avoiding the negative. Succeed against the goblins or lose coins.
Liguria – Q2 2016 release; the German version was shown at BGG.CON. The general idea is to garner the best paint with which to paint a fresco in the cathedral. The object of the game is to get the most points. Liguria, for which the game is named, is part of Italy on the Ligurian Sea. In the first phase, players place buyers on a track to determine player order, number of tiles to collect, and number of coins to receive. Next, in player order, they collect tiles, then collect/draft cards, which contain actions, movement, and cubes to go in front of their harbors (which other players may retrieve). Cards have a red (negative) or green (positive) number. Ideally the numbers need to add to zero at the end of the game. The penalty for each negative is -5 points. Finally, players sail and take actions. Islands may be conquered (using sword tiles); paint cubes may be gained on that island if the player still owns it the next time around. If a player stops at his own harbor, he delivers the cubes he collected; if he stops at another player's harbor, he may drop off scrolls, representing diplomats, for points at the end of the game. Island owners also gain victory points at the end of the game.
Fun Fact: At Spiel 2015, Richard Garfield stopped by the Queen booth to show them his prototypes but the unknowing scheduler sent him away due to a full schedule, asking him to come back the next day. This caused a bit of a stir!
To be continued...
Stay tuned for Part 2: flea markets, library games, The Dice Tower Live at BGG.CON, a video tour of the exhibit halls, more new release information, and more fun facts!
Some of The Dice Tower guys at BGG.CON
Special thanks to Jeff Anderson for providing information and statistics about BGG.CON!