My BGG.con 2012 Hits and Misses (with a look back at BGG.con 2006)
Marshall P.
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"Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution" - Theodosius Dobzhansky
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Here's my annual BGG.con hits and misses list.

Previous lists are here:

2005
2006
2007
2008
2009 (no list)
2010
2011
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1. Board Game: Sheepdogs of Pendleton Hill [Average Rating:6.03 Overall Rank:8840]
Marshall P.
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Wichita
Kansas
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"Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution" - Theodosius Dobzhansky
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There is grandeur in this view of life, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.
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Plays: 1
Players: 4
Verdict: Miss

Sheepdogs wants to be a cute gateway game suitable for gamers to play with families, kids, or new gamers. It may well appeal to kids and new gamers, but for experienced gamers (even ones understanding that this is a light gateway game) I don’t think it will hold up.

In the game you want to get your sheep from the bottom of the hill to your shepherds which are near the top of the hill (and the higher you get them before they meet a shepherd the more points they score) without getting them eaten by the wolf. The sheep move in “flocks” each of which contains sheep from multiple players. Similar to [gameid= 4636] players take turns moving these mixed flocks around the board trying to navigate their sheep to their shepherds while culling their opponent’s sheep with the wolf.

Game action is driven by play of one of three types of cards. There’s a card that lets you take two actions with your pieces (either place a shepherd on the board or move an entire flock with at least one of your sheep in it) or take two actions with the wolf. There’s another card that lets you take an action with your pieces and then an action with your opponents’ pieces. And finally there’s a card that lets you take an action with any piece (except the wolf I think).

All of this is relatively uninteresting which is why I think it’s meant to be spiced up by the threat of the wolf. Except (and I’m not sure when game designers are going to learn this) why move the wolf when all that does is sacrifice your development to hurt one other player? It’s the “let’s-you-and-me-lose” strategy. Why do people keep designing multiplayer games with a choice between doing an awesome move for yourself (move your pieces twice) and a shitty move to hurt someone else (move the wolf)? Once people figure that out, they tend not to do the shitty move very much.
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2. Board Game: Among the Stars [Average Rating:7.16 Overall Rank:453] [Average Rating:7.16 Unranked]
Marshall P.
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Wichita
Kansas
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"Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution" - Theodosius Dobzhansky
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Plays: 1
Players: 3
Verdict: Miss

This game wins the award for “the least epic game with the most epic name”. I mean seriously: AMONG THE STARS. That sounds like an awesome, epic, dashing, space adventure or exploration or 4x game. It sounds like a game I can’t wait to play.

Which is NOT this game.

This among the stars (henceforth I will refuse to capitalize it due to its shear un-epicness) is a mash up of 7 Wonders and Suburbia. And even that description sounds like not a half bad game, but it turns out that it is (half bad I mean).

In among the stars players draft a card from their hand and then pass the remainder to their opponents (ala 7 Wonders), they then play the selected card to their tableau according to the requirements and limitations printed on the cards. These plays generally trigger some victory points, or resources or something like that (vaguely like Suburbia).

I think the idea here is to have fun building up a cool space station that cleverly scores lots of points. But the base game (at least) falls rather flat. You don’t need to interact with your neighbors (ala 7 Wonders) and the base cards themselves don’t seem to trigger any interaction. Not that that type of interaction is my kind of thing anyway.

What can I say? Among the stars – I want my cool space opera name back and put on a better game.
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3. Board Game: New Amsterdam [Average Rating:7.11 Overall Rank:1301]
Marshall P.
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Wichita
Kansas
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"Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution" - Theodosius Dobzhansky
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Plays: 1
Players: 5
Verdict: miss

I would describe this game as a hot mess (or as one player at my table put it “this game needs a good developer to streamline it.” I agreed).

It’s “hot” because it’s got nice bits, a good theme, and some clever ideas, but it’s a mess because of unrelenting fiddliness out of all proportion to the enjoyment of the game.

Players represent Dutch business concerns setting up in the new world. They set up business districts in the city of New Amsterdam, trade furs with the natives, and clear forests for corn farms (which, in a clever mechanic, ends up pushing the very natives you want to trade with farther away from your trading posts).

There are three, what I’ll call “lines of action” each of which can score lots of points and each of which subtly interacts with the other. You’ve got the business line in New Amsterdam where you are setting up shops to take special actions, the farming line where you are building a tableau of farm cards which you must develop and clear before you can harvest corn, and the fur trading line where you acquire furs from the natives to ship back to the old world in exchange for resources.

All of these lines interact. For example, the special actions available to the business district allow players to develop farms, and buy random furs (among other things), but require wood obtained from clearing farms and corn to feed the business. Trading furs requires special actions to keep the trading post close to the natives and wood to build warehouses for the resulting goods from Europe.

All of these lines score massive points. Elections in the business district result in points for majorities, shipping furs results in points, and having a large Farm tableau gets a lot of points.

The major actions, however, are driven by action disks which are acquired in an auction. Each action disk triggers either Business, Farms, or Furs and allows the player to take one of two possible actions plus a special action from the business district.

All of this is potentially interesting, but it bogs down horribly. Turn order is established in the action disk auction, but isn’t consistent in any way. It’s resolved by disk type so a player with the “1” turn order may get the first turn with the business disks, but not get another turn until the Fur disks come up. Each action requires an assessment of turn order status to figure out who is up.

The special actions are easy to forget and require constant vigilance to make sure they are being executed right. The business district is extremely busy with “areas” congested with the player’s building meeples making majorities hard to read and covering up the special action iconography.

Scoring is similarly convoluted. Each business district can give a player 1 coin for presence or 2 coins for absolute majority, but 2 points for tied majority and 3 points for absolute majority (plus, remember it gets crowded to figure out majorities). Shipping scores 3 points per fur tile for the first set of matching tiles then 2 points for the next matching set (if that’s not clear….. well, that’s the point). Farming may be the worst, players score the “right-most, full, uncleared” farm in their tableau. Whatever.

So, the whole thing became more tedious than enjoyable as we constantly lost track of turn order, lost track of special actions, forgot what obscure icons meant, and constantly had to clarify scoring.

I’m not anxious to play again.
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4. Board Game: Tokaido [Average Rating:7.05 Overall Rank:454]
Marshall P.
United States
Wichita
Kansas
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"Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution" - Theodosius Dobzhansky
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Plays: 2
Players: 4, 4
Verdict: Miss

No one is more disappointed in Tokaido than I am. I’m a huge fan of Japanese themed games and I was prepared to love Tokaido sight unseen. Reports out of Essen were luke warm, but it seemed like a matter simply of expectations of a heavy thinky game not lining up with a light weight breezy game. That’s fine, I thought, I’ll adjust my expectations to anticipate a good gateway or family game and it’ll be fine.

But it’s not fine.

The problem with Tokaido has actually been very accurately ascertained. There’s simply no real point in strategically skipping stops on the road. A player seems far better off just going to the next open space than spending any time planning or thinking about strategic stops along the route. A player who skips ahead to land a juicy spot is brutally punished as he watches his opponents take multiple stops for basically the same points per stop as he just got.

Inns are supposed to provide a counter balancing mechanic by rewarding the first person to arrive with choice of meal for a very important 6 points, but in practice most players manage to score the meals anyway, and even missing the meals may be ok if an extra couple of stops before the inn are obtained. Worst, the “last-in-first-out” mechanic negates any small advantage from getting to the inn first.

Tokaido, in my opinion, just doesn’t work in its present form. Which is such, such a shame. I wanted so badly to fall in love with the game.

So, please help me “save” Tokaido. Let’s come up with a variant to fix the game. Most ideas I’ve seen so far focus on the scoring at each stop, trying to “differentiate” the expected points to give incentive to skip over spots for better spots. As it stands the expected points for a given spot is a relatively uniform 2 to 3.5 (with those yielding more generally costing coins which will eventually require a stop at a farm thus pulling their average back to the non-coin stops).

This may be a valid approach, but it is the “major surgery” approach. I’m interested in the simplest possible variant. To that end, I’m thinking of creating a disincentive for dawdling down the road slower than other players. I think if we encourage players to take fewer moves, then the natural small variance in the spots will be enough to induce difficult decisions about jumping ahead (without jiggering with the scoring already in place).

I have two ideas.

The first is the simplest. Just require players to pay a coin for each move. To offset the new expense and restore balance to the game’s economy, each inn would give a player 2 coins when they leave (including at the start of the game). Farms would either not require a coin for stopping, or would pay 4 coins instead of 3 (however you want to look at it).

A slightly more thematic tweak would be to add a component called a “bento box”. Each player starts with 1 bento box and gains 1 bento box upon leaving an inn. After the first player reaches an inn, then each subsequent move by the remaining players which does not bring them to the inn requires them to consume (discard) a bento box. Unused bento boxes would be worth 1 point each at the end of the game.

In addition to one or the other of the above variants I would definitely change the rule for shared spots to be first-in-first-out instead of last-in-first-out.

Any comment on those ideas?
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5. Board Game: Suburbia [Average Rating:7.58 Overall Rank:99]
Marshall P.
United States
Wichita
Kansas
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"Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution" - Theodosius Dobzhansky
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There is grandeur in this view of life, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.
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Plays: 1
Players: 4
Verdict: miss

Suburbia is an tile laying game where players purchase tiles from a market and play them into their “city” thereby triggering the effects of the tile and other tiles (either by adjacency or other special rules). Effects of tile play are mostly to adjust player’s turn by turn income and points engine.

Large end game points are available via public objectives and one private objective per player.

So, that’s it, it’s a conceptually simple game that seems to work as intended, but it’s just not my cup of tea. I didn’t particularly find it interesting to track all the activations from each tile play. It didn’t really feel “dynamic” or “constructive” to me. It felt like more an activity after which we all compared scores.

I built an airport (which scores points for each subsequent airport built by anyone). Well, no one else built an airport during the game (or worse, I missed them building an airport and thus triggering my airport). I’m not even sure I saw another airport come up during the game. So, I don’t know, that wasn’t very exciting.

This game seems well received, and that’s fine, but it’s a miss for me.
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6. Board Game: Myrmes [Average Rating:7.31 Overall Rank:426]
Marshall P.
United States
Wichita
Kansas
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"Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution" - Theodosius Dobzhansky
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There is grandeur in this view of life, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.
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Plays: 1
Players: 4
Verdict: slight miss

I’ve been racking my brain trying to think of some deep insight about Myrmes. Some profound explanation for why it didn’t engage me. I can’t think of anything. I just didn’t like the game very much and that’s about all there is to it.

So I’ll settle for a brief overview.

In Myrmes players control an ant colony through which they build workers, larvae, and soldiers. These ant units are then deployed to their specialized tasks to further expand the colony, to explore the outside world, and collect resources. Player interaction occurs as ants leave “pheromone trails” outside their colony and run into the trails of other ants.

Everything in your colony is driven by the nurse unit and acquiring more nurses seems crucial to success.

In my game, I pretty much got pushed off the board, but I went heavy for the end game bonus points scoring more than anyone else. I just got edged out.
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7. Board Game: Village [Average Rating:7.55 Overall Rank:115]
Marshall P.
United States
Wichita
Kansas
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"Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution" - Theodosius Dobzhansky
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There is grandeur in this view of life, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.
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Plays: 1
Players: 4
Verdict: slight miss

Wow, Village sure is a popular game. More than any other game random people stopped by our table to tell us how much they liked this one. It just didn’t engage me though.

I appreciate that the game has a clever aging mechanic whereby your people gradually die. I like that part (although I admit it’s weird that sometimes you want them to hurry up and die). I was less blown away by the uninspired action selection mechanic.

I think, fundamentally though, Village didn’t excite me because it’s just a “typical day” (or whatever time period) in the Village. In other words, most games have you building the cathedral or fighting the plague or something similar to give “story” to the game. Village just has the administration building, the church, the market etcetera. And as I surveyed the board prior to starting the game, I really had no idea why I wanted to do any of it. I mean, I understand that it all scores points, each in its own way, but why go to the church over the admin building (we’re not doing anything grand such as building the cathedral). Is it better to farm with my horse and plow or sell them? Should I try to travel? It seems like a lot of work.

So, there’s no story arc to get you started. I understand that after you’ve played the game, and even as you play it the first time, you figure out what you want to do. And if I were to play again, I’d go into it with a definite understanding and strategy, it’s just that it still felt kind of…. purposeless. Just another day in the Village doing what we do and eventually dying. Isn’t that real life? Maybe the Village should have had some kind dragon threatening it or something.
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8. Board Game: Snowdonia [Average Rating:7.45 Overall Rank:366]
Marshall P.
United States
Wichita
Kansas
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"Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution" - Theodosius Dobzhansky
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There is grandeur in this view of life, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.
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Plays: 1
Players: 4
Verdict: slight miss

Unlike Village above, Snowdonia is a game with a definite story context. Players are trying to build the rail line and stations to the top of Snowdonia Mountain. So I can’t complain about that. But I still wasn’t overly grabbed by Snowdonia.

I think the game is one of micro-efficiencies. Everyone is doing basically the same things, selecting from the same action pool. It’s just whoever does it slightly better, and with slightly luckier timing is going to win. And just to make sure that there is luck in the timing, there’s a whole mechanism by which the game will play itself every so often thus upsetting whatever plans were in the works and opening up unexpected opportunities.

It was ok, it didn’t overstay its welcome. It felt a little too tight in the decision tree and the actions felt a little too “micro.” I would play it again, but I wouldn’t seek it out.
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9. Board Game: Caylus Magna Carta [Average Rating:6.94 Overall Rank:704]
Marshall P.
United States
Wichita
Kansas
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"Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution" - Theodosius Dobzhansky
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There is grandeur in this view of life, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.
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Plays: 1
Players: 3
Verdict: Neutral

I acquired Caylus Magna Carta at the BGG.con Math Trade several years ago and proceeded to play it exactly never. Now that my shelves are full and I’m trying to keep a tight collection I had to see if this one deserved a spot. So when I saw a game starting up I inserted myself into it.

Sure enough, Caylus Magna Carta does pretty faithfully give a taste of full Caylus with substantially less overhead. There’s not much to say except that it’s basically Caylus without the favors and with a quicker end condition. If that sounds like what you want then you’ll probably be pleased.

I respect the original Caylus but I’m not the hugest fan in the world. I own it and basically never play it, but have decided to keep it anyway. I think Caylus Magna Carta may be in the same boat. Having played it, I certainly wouldn’t seek it out to own it, but now that I do I guess I’ll keep it even though I expect it to see sparse play. It just seems like I should have these good games in my collection.
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10. Board Game: Manoeuvre [Average Rating:7.30 Overall Rank:677] [Average Rating:7.30 Unranked]
Marshall P.
United States
Wichita
Kansas
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"Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution" - Theodosius Dobzhansky
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There is grandeur in this view of life, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.
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Plays: 1
Players: 2
Verdict: slight hit

This is a game I’ve had my eye on for a long time, and even had on pre-order at one point through GMT but cancelled it. My son is 6 years old now, though, and we’ve played Memoir ’44 and I’m looking forward to the day when we step it up to the next level and I think this game might be it.

I played as the French versus the English and somewhat disconcertingly I won a lopsided victory… like, extremely lopsided. That such a result is possible – a newbie thoroughly trouncing a veteran – calls into question the amount of luck in the game. That plus the attacker seemed pretty strong, had me questioning whether I really wanted to pick up this game.

But I finally realized those two traits probably make it good to play with a young boy, so I went ahead and picked it up for $25 in the flea market. It’ll be a few years before my son is ready to play it, but I think it will pay off when we get to that point.
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11. Board Game: The Palaces of Carrara [Average Rating:7.23 Overall Rank:570]
Marshall P.
United States
Wichita
Kansas
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"Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution" - Theodosius Dobzhansky
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There is grandeur in this view of life, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.
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Plays: 1
Players: 2
Verdict: slight hit

I think I got real lucky in the number of players in this game (only 2). With two players this was a pretty tight, pretty fast moving game with lots of interesting decisions. I really like how the market dial works. When you choose to go to the market you rotate the dial one position which automatically discounts all the goods (and there are 6 types) by 1. Some goods may become free and you can pick those up then buy whatever else you want. Clever.

Goods are used to buy buildings in your city. Buildings have a name and each name is common across a set of building (you want to try to pick up identically named buildings) and a number (the number is how many goods it takes to build it and how much it pays off when activated). Buildings go in one of your six cities for a cost in goods related to how much the city pays off when activated. High payoff cities use expensive goods meaning you can probably only put smaller buildings in them.

You can then activate your buildings in one of two ways. Either activate them by name (all of your villas for example) or activate them by city. Once activated they pay off in either money or points at a rate determined by the city they’re in. In any case, each type of activation can only be used once (so at most you can activate a given building twice, once by name and once by city). It’s all pretty clever.

We played the base game which honestly felt like half a game. I hope they didn’t break a full game up into a base game and an expansion just to grab sales, but it’s possible. Flipping through the expansion rules after the game, it seemed to include all the features that I thought the game needed (like something to do with the different monument pieces you collected).

Anyway, as the base game stands. I think it’s a solid 30 minute 2 player game. Not enough to purchase it, but happy to play. I think the game would quickly get chaotic with more players and you’d probably want to add the expansion.
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12. Board Game: Article 27: The UN Security Council Game [Average Rating:6.53 Overall Rank:2532]
Marshall P.
United States
Wichita
Kansas
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"Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution" - Theodosius Dobzhansky
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There is grandeur in this view of life, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.
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Plays: 2
Players: 5, 5
Verdict: slight hit

I’m not one for pure negotiation games but this one was a lot of fun. Each player has secret objectives that they want to see passed and they play in rounds trying to bribe each other to pass the objectives they want and vote down the ones they don’t. There’s a timer to keep the game moving and the objectives are straight forward things like colors and symbols.

Of course this one is highly group dependent. I heard from one of my local buddies that his game fell totally flat, but my two plays were enjoyable with dynamic, engaged groups.

I do think the best number of players may be exactly 5 because that is an odd number for voting.

I think I’d get tired of it relatively quickly so I’m not going to buy it, but it’s a solid game if that sounds like your thing.
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13. Board Game: 1969 [Average Rating:6.40 Overall Rank:4210]
Marshall P.
United States
Wichita
Kansas
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"Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution" - Theodosius Dobzhansky
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Plays: 2
Players: 3, 4
Verdict: slight hit

I know some people complained about the abstract nature of this game, but honestly, I saw the theme shining through. The whole deal where you assign scientists to work on certain technologies then “test” those technologies in increasingly integrated missions leading up to the full scale moon shot is just …. Right.

I just really enjoyed my two games and I’d pick this one up except for two niggling concerns. The first is the amount of luck in the game. It actually doesn’t really bother me, but in each game I saw one player pretty much get hosed by the dice. To me, it’s a short enough game that you just accept it and move on, but there is the possibility of having a bad experience with the game.

Secondly, it seems to me that the replayability might not be there. I don’t know for sure, but I suspect that if you played this a few times you’d figure out the ideal algorithm for buying and placing scientists. Once you do that, it’s just a matter of who rolls luckiest.

So, I think the game may only be good for half a dozen plays or so, which isn’t quite enough for me…. Yet. This one goes on my radar as a game not to forget about. Most of the games on this list (even ones further down) I never intend to come back to again, but I’ll keep my eye on 1969 for a chance to get more plays or even acquire for the right price.
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14. Board Game: Goblins, Inc. [Average Rating:6.46 Overall Rank:2455]
Marshall P.
United States
Wichita
Kansas
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"Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution" - Theodosius Dobzhansky
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Plays: 2
Players: 4, 4
Verdict: hit

Goblins Inc is Galaxy Trucker meets battling robots, and yes, it’s about as fun as that sounds.

Players are assigned to partnerships during the game and work with their partners to build a battling robot by laying tiles on a 5 by 5 game board. Partners take turns laying five tiles each without being able to consult the other. Tile placement is governed by some rules that make it challenging to build a robust robot and players much consider the position they are leaving their partner to build on.

Once the robots are built the battle begins! Once again partners share duties. One partner is the “pilot” who selects the orientation of their ship (which determines their attach strength) and how to attack the enemy ship. The “tactician” selects one of the three tactics cards to use, which give bonuses to the coming combat. But watch out if both sides select the same tactics card, only one team gets to use it!

Combat is carried out by dice which determine where on the opposing ship hits are scored. As tiles are hit they are removed, sometimes with cascading consequences as large chunks of the robot can come off from a well placed hit.

Combat proceeds until one robot is knocked out of action or for four rounds whichever comes first. All of this is a fun, light hearted romp which takes advantage of the inherent, child-like fun in building something then knocking it down which exists in all of us.

After the battle, scoring occurs. There is a bonus for the winning team, then bonus cards are scored. The bonus cards award knocking tiles off your opponent whie keeping tiles alive your robot.

Partnerships then swith and it’s done all over again. After two of these rounds the winner is the player with the most points.

The annoying weakness in the game is in the scoring. Since winning a battle is almost by definition going to yield more points, and since partnerships are switched one player is guaranteed to win 2 battles to the other players 1, why even bother scoring at all? Just declare the undefeated player the winner. But, of course, that means that the players on the losing team from round 1 are essentially out of it and playing for second place.

All of this is fixed by simply not switching partners. That way everyone can at least hope to end 1-1 after two rounds and the scoring will at least be fair, with everyone having an equal chance of winning. If one team goes 2-0 that is also fair as the winner will be decided between those two players. But at least everyone was in it for the second round.
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15. Board Game: Edo [Average Rating:7.12 Overall Rank:1075]
Marshall P.
United States
Wichita
Kansas
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Plays: 1
Players: 4
Verdict: hit

Japanese theme? Ok, I’m in, let’s give it a try. Edo is a game about…. Ooo… tough to say what it’s about. You move guys around the map building houses in cities and trading with the market for points. I guess that’s what it’s about.

The thing that succeeds about it, and sets it above most other games, is the way in which program your turn.

You start with 3 “cards”. Each card has an action printed on each edge. On each round you select an action from each card, and then assign a number of workers to execute that action. For most actions, workers need to come both from your supply and from the board.

The tough thing (and it’s really tough) is that using one action on a card precludes using the other 3. And the actions seem assigned to cards in just the right way to frustrate your best laid plans. This combined with the tight limit on available workers makes Edo a real brain burner. At least until you get the hang of the game, you really have to concentrate on programming the actions for your turn and mistakes were common in my game, where actions didn’t play out exactly as intended.

But this is also the enjoyment of the game. If you like this heavy, complex planning type game then you’ll like Edo. And I like it.

Even though I rated it as a “hit” and even though I love Japanese games, I probably won’t buy it. The reason is three-fold. First, there’s the potential for AP here big time. Even though our game moved along nicely, there’s a high chance of having the game bog down in down time I think.

Second, the board is rather unpleasant to look at. Loud garish colors in bright splotches. One of the appeals of Japanese themed games is their aesthetic, and this game is lacking the style that I like. I actually had a negative reaction to the board. I just don’t want to look at it anymore.

Finally, while I enjoy the game mechanics and enjoyed my play, I sensed something off about flow of the game. I think there’s a hiccup in the pacing of your thoughts if that makes any sense. In other words, individual rounds require strategic thought to formulate an objective for the round (get rice, build a house, trade with the merchant, some combination, or other things), then execute the objective with the action cards and workers available. The whole thing has to be planned out. But round to round is totally tactical. You can just leave yourself in whatever board position you want and pick it up next round all over again. I mean, you have to give some long term thought to increasing your worker population, getting enough workers on the board, and having enough rice to feed them. But these are your typical worker placement type concerns. What I mean is that your board position (where to build houses, what space to leave your board workers on) seemed to not require you to have a long term strategic plan. Instead you could optimize those things within each round.

I don’t know if that makes any sense, but I didn’t come away from the game entirely intellectually satisfied (even though I had fun and enjoyed it).
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16. Board Game: Trains [Average Rating:7.21 Overall Rank:389] [Average Rating:7.21 Unranked]
Marshall P.
United States
Wichita
Kansas
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"Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution" - Theodosius Dobzhansky
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Plays: 4
Players: 4, 3, 3, 3
Verdict: hit

Trains is a straight up Dominion clone and it doesn’t even try to hide it. The major differences from Dominion are that you have unlimited actions and buys each turn (so there are no +action or +buy cards), you tend to pick up a lot of “waste”, which is like a curse except without the minus one, and you can trash whatever waste is in your hand by passing your turn.

And, of course, the board. And it’s the board that really makes the game. On the board you lay track segments trying to connect to cities and other bonus locations. In cities you can add stations which give you big end of game points. The beauty of the board is that it adds context to your VP race. Now instead of racing to grab abstract VP cards (they still exist in the game, you just won’t get most of your points from them) you are racing geographically to cut off juicy scoring locations, and that’s a fundamentally fun and strategic thing to do.

Trains was probably my hit of the con at one time, but it faded a tiny bit with each play. I noticed that while the board play is good, there’s actually not that much variation in the deck building side of the game. No matter which random set of cards we played with, the game seemed to flow the same way, which was towards huge, bloated decks. Every deck I played tended to feel the same towards the end even though they were filled with different actions.

And there’s a much more muted quality to the card play. Big gold hands were quite rare for me. I continually filled my deck with much cheaper cards.

All of this is to say I like Trains a lot. I played it four times (basically every time I saw it open with someone trying to learn the rules), but it was already starting to feel samey, whereas Dominion just keeps surprising after many more plays.

I think I would buy Trains if it were available. But I would hope for some expansion boards and cards to spice it up a bit.
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17. Board Game: King of Tokyo [Average Rating:7.25 Overall Rank:236]
Marshall P.
United States
Wichita
Kansas
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"Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution" - Theodosius Dobzhansky
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Plays: 1
Players: 6
Verdict: hit

And yet more Japanese theme. This isn’t the first time I’ve played King of Tokyo, but it’s probably the play that convinced me to buy it. At a certain point I just have to face facts: this game is pure fun! And there’s no reason to be a snob about it.

Quick, light, monster bashing for the win! You should try this game if you haven’t already.

Strategically, I think, it’s better to go for a survival victory than a points victory. Most games I’ve played have ended with one monster standing. To that end, I favor heart rolls over most other results. And I tend not to stay in Tokyo any longer than I have to. I don’t buy too many power cards, but of course you inevitably accumulate some energy and sooner or later will buy one.

I plan to pick it up by Christmas.
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18. Board Game: Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar [Average Rating:7.93 Overall Rank:38]
Marshall P.
United States
Wichita
Kansas
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"Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution" - Theodosius Dobzhansky
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Plays: 1
Players: 4
Verdict: hit

I was towards the very front of the registration line, so upon registering I made a bee line for Tzolk’in. This was a very popular game in the hot games room and was typically full for the remainder of the con.

The thing about Tzolk’in, of course, is the gears. And I’m pleased to say the gears are not just a gimmick. They really are integral to the game and to your strategy in it.

Tzolk’in is a worker placement game were you put your workers on the gears then let the gears carry them to the action that you want. Generally the longer they stay on, the better actions they get to. You choose when to pull them off, but you must either place a worker or pull a worker each turn and this is part of the tension in the game.

Tzolk’in has a different vibe than most worker placement games in that you don’t necessarily want more workers (you have to feed them which is expensive), and you don’t necessarily want to place your workers in batches for efficiency. You may want to dole them out singly to let them stay on gears longer.

In my game I chose a starting hand that gave me an extra worker, but in a mistake, I chose to start with less food and more advancement on the technology and gods tracks. As a result I spent the first half of the game chasing food and wood and trying to buy the building that fed my people. I fell behind, but upon getting the building I started to catch up (due to the extra worker). Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough and I lost a tight game.

Another different thing about Tzolk’in is that there is a lot that you could do, but only so much that you can. In other words, in most games, the balance seems to be that you can get most of what the game offers accomplished but in Tzolk’in you can’t (or at least I don’t think you can). I mean, there’s the technology tracks to move down, the god tracks to move up, the crystal skulls to collect and play, buildings and monuments to buy. It seems to me like you can do well in a couple of those things but not all of them.

I guess that’s ok, but it may leave some players feeling frustrated.
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19. Board Game: Ginkgopolis [Average Rating:7.43 Overall Rank:334]
Marshall P.
United States
Wichita
Kansas
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"Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution" - Theodosius Dobzhansky
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Plays: 2
Players: 4, 3
Verdict: hit

That leaves Ginkgopolis as my hit of the con among the new games. This game wasn’t even on my radar and I sat down to it just as a lark. It turns out to be a really interesting game.

You’re building some kind of city and you accomplish that by playing tiles matched with cards. There are two types of cards: letters and numbers. Letter cards let you build the city out, numbers let you build it up by playing over existing tiles. The gimmick is that the deck of cards corresponds exactly to what is built out in the city. Therefore, when you build over a tile you take that card into your tableau where it gives you certain benefits. And when a tile is added to the city (either by expanding it or by building over a tile) you add that tile’s card to the deck.

Whenever a card is played it triggers some benefits for you from your tableau depending on being able to match the type of card played.

If all that sounds uninspiring, you’ve really got to try it. I think it’s probably more than the sum of its parts.

My concerns are: 1) that the action where you play a card without a tile is too weak. There are a ton of endgame points available for having resources in the city, and you get those in the city by playing tiles. Therefore, while you can play a card without a tile for some benefit I suspect you shouldn’t, and starting sets that reward playing lone cards would appear to be weaker.

2) The theme, name, and cover art are just so unappealing to me. I mean, I’d buy this game but I really don’t want it sitting on my shelf, and I really don’t want to pull it out for someone who hasn’t heard of it. I guess I’m “that guy” because if this were themed as some sort of renaissance castle building game with a color palette of muted browns and grays… I’d be all over it.

Of course there’s room in this world for different themes and it’s going to appeal to some people and that’s fine. It’s just not me. So, unfortunately I’ll pass. But I encourage you to try it out, especially if not put off by the theme.
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20. Board Game: Maori [Average Rating:6.62 Overall Rank:1721]
Marshall P.
United States
Wichita
Kansas
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"Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution" - Theodosius Dobzhansky
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Plays: 1
Players: 2
Verdict: hit

This was my first face to face play of Maori, but saying that is cheating a little because I’ve logged over 100 plays on Yucata.de. I’m just using this as an excuse to extoll the virtues of this gem of a game.

Maori is a tile laying game where available tiles are laid out in a 4 x 4 matrix. A shared pawn (represented by a ship) is moved by the players around the periphery of the matrix. Where the ship stops, the player may take a tile from that row or column and add it to their player mat (according to certain placement rules) in order to build valuable islands. Each player has a certain number of movement points (given by ships on their player mat) and shells (given by certain tiles played) with which to move the shared ship.

It sounds like a simple game and in fact it is. Expectations of something heavier may be why it’s not rated higher. But make no mistake, a skilled player will win against a newbie nine times out of ten. After starting 0-10 on Yucata, my record is now 61-43. So there is some skill involved.

Maori should be strictly considered a two play game. Because of the shared pawn mechanic it becomes quite chaotic with more players. You can never really anticipate where the ship will be by your turn. But with two players you MUST consider what your opponent wants and where he is likely to leave the ship.

It’s a quick, simply, underrated two player game that strikes just the right balance between randomness and control. Check out Maori when you get a chance, or look me up at BGG.con 2013 and I’ll teach you a game.
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21. Board Game: Kingdom Builder [Average Rating:7.00 Overall Rank:469]
Marshall P.
United States
Wichita
Kansas
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"Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution" - Theodosius Dobzhansky
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There is grandeur in this view of life, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.
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Plays: 2
Players: 4,4
Verdict Strong hit

We had about an hour before the poker tournament started so I and three other guys from my local game group checked out Kingdom Builder.

KB was my second favorite game from last year’s BGG.con and I would have to say it exceeds anything I encountered this year. With four experienced players at the table, ones who knew the rhythm of the game, had internalized the powers and victory conditions, it was truly an enjoyable experience.

We planned ahead to leave ourselves options for future card draws, we cut-off and blocked where we could, we maneuvered and optimized. It was two tough but really fun games.

Even ranked 278 I would say this game is underrated.
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22. Board Game: Sekigahara: The Unification of Japan [Average Rating:8.05 Overall Rank:142]
Marshall P.
United States
Wichita
Kansas
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"Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution" - Theodosius Dobzhansky
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Plays: 1
Players: 2
Verdict Strong hit

You really owe it to yourself to at least try this game. It’s got excellent cross-over appeal between euro, AT, and wargamers.

The game is about the battle of Sekigahara which unified Japan and ushered in the era of the Shogunate. The central Japanese island is represented on the map with a road network. Armies of about 5000 are represented by blocks (but not the step loss blocks as in a Columbia wargame). Movement is point to point and driven by cards. Because the road network is constrained, the decision tree is constrained to something approaching a complex eurogame.

The battles are where the real magic happens though. In the historical battle, the loyalty of armies from various clans could not be counted on. In fact, it actually happened that armies would refuse to engage in battle and even switch sides! This is represented by tactical card play wherein an army block must be “motivated” to battle by the play of a matching clan card. When engaged in battle armies deal “impact” to the opposing force. The amount of impact dealt in the battle determines the winner and also the respective losses.

Even with an appropriate matching card, the deployment of an army can be challenged by an opponent with a “loyalty challenge” card. The challenge is defeated if the attacker has another card of that clan in his hand. But if the challenge is successful that army defects and deals its impact to its erstwhile allies.

Sekigahara is not for everyone. I know some in my local game group feel that it lacks control due to its dependence on cards to do everything and how often the cards cycle in your hand. But if you can manage to roll with the swings of the luck of the draw, then you’ll find an exceptional game.
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23. Board Game: Tigris & Euphrates [Average Rating:7.71 Overall Rank:72]
Marshall P.
United States
Wichita
Kansas
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Plays: 1
Players: 4
Verdict: strong hit

Nothing made today really stands up to T&E in my opinion. To generalize, today’s games are all ones of micro-efficiency, of “magic spots” where you place a meeple, read the iconography, and “poof” something happens. T&E is a wide open game where geography matters, as such, it doesn’t really feel similar to anything else being released today. For me, after three dozen face to face games, sitting down behind the player screen feels like sliding into well worn saddle on my familiar horse. Before the first move is both comfortable and anxious at the same time as I know the conflagration that is about to come.

The game I played in this convention was one of the most amazing games of T&E I’ve experienced. Even though I rate it a 10 I recognize that T&E has two pronounced weaknesses. In this game I experienced them both but still came back for the win.

T&E has a distinct turn order advantage, the first players are at an advantage due to the possibility of getting an extra turn relative to the later players, and the ability to choose the better starting spots. The other weakness is in the random tile draw. It is difficult to overcome an anomalous game in which one color simply isn’t drawn (especially red).

In this game I went fourth and simply never drew green. Normally, that’s a recipe for disaster as T&E offers no catch up mechanism. Quite the opposite actually, even though there are always ways to get back in the game and any position can be attacked, it is actually quite difficult in practice to regain tempo and position if you suffer a devastating defeat.

So I was having a rough game where I kept trying to cobble together a position in a fragmented and contested kingdom while other players scored off of monuments secure in their corners of the board. I got enough points through various conflicts to be secure in red, black, and blue, but as the end of the game approached I had ZERO green points (and had never drawn a green tile).

Finally, I was able to drop my green leader in a kingdom with reasonable green strength and a nearly complete green monument site (three orthogonal green tiles lacking only the fourth). Then another player started an ill advised conflict which I was able to win in green purely based on the strength of the kingdom I had picked up. In the last few turns of the game I finally started to see green tiles so I was able to complete the monument and play a few other tiles to patch up my weakest color right before the end.

I was able to win the unlikeliest victory I’ve seen in T&E (which is not normally a game of dramatic comebacks). The game had such an unusual arc that we all stayed around afterwards and debriefed on the intense emotional rollercoaster we’d just been on.

Compare that response to a game to the ending of Snowdonia or Suburbia where we simply compare scores and quietly pick up the game.
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24. Board Game: The BoardGameGeek Game [Average Rating:6.04 Overall Rank:4379]
Marshall P.
United States
Wichita
Kansas
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"Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution" - Theodosius Dobzhansky
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There is grandeur in this view of life, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.
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And what of the convention itself? There’s already been a lot of feedback on the forums. My opinion is that everything was bigger and better! The hotel facilities were great. The main ballroom is a mind-boggling size. It’s hard to overstate how seemless were the transition to the Hyatt and the growth in the size of the con. The event oozes professionalism.

The hot games room is sized just right. feedback that it should be bigger is misplaced I think. There was almost always empty seats available in the room. True, not always at the hottest longest games (Tzolk’in and CO2) but that won’t be solved by using a bigger hot games room. That’s a function of the number of copies of a game they can get back from Essen. The fact is that at almost any time during the con you could walk into the hot games room and sit down at an empty table. That tells me the room is big enough.

Food is always a touchy issue subject to wide disparities in taste. In my opinion the food situation at the hotel was better than in past years. The cash and carry was passable (which means it did its job). The pizza was the worst ever encountered, but once I discovered the chili and the chicken tenders everything was fine. Yes sodas were expensive, but overall you could get a decent meal for under $10, which for a hotel of this kind is an amazing deal. I found the buffets to be excellent and at $12.50 a great value.

I personally have become a “con hermit” and don’t even try to leave the site so I can’t comment on the difficulties of off-site meals.

I actually miss the Westin as I had become very comfortable with the rhythm of the convention there. I actually had a bit of newbie jitters before this year simply because I didn’t know my way around the hotel. I was so glad to get in Tuesday evening to just have a chance to wander around and orient myself. After that the con slipped back into its familiar rhythm for me.

And the hotel staff! It took a few years to break in the Westin staff I believe. But the Hyatt was prepared from the get go. They never failed to be friendly and polite nor to give the 10% discount for food without even being asked. My sincere compliments to the hotel.

The biggest improvement is perhaps in the vendor area. For the first time BGG.con had an honest to god legitimate vendor area and the improvement was huge. Everytime I went through the vendor area it was crowded so I hope the vendors got their money’s worth because I’d like to see that level of support or even more at future cons.

The future looks bright for BGG.con. Things are only going to get better at the new location. Attendance was announced at about 1900 which is a little lower than hoped. I wonder if we haven’t reached the end of the era of explosive growth. No doubt BGG.con will continue to grow, but I imagine it might be at a more modest rate.

Here’s to 2013!
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25. Board Game: The BoardGameGeek Game [Average Rating:6.04 Overall Rank:4379]
Marshall P.
United States
Wichita
Kansas
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"Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution" - Theodosius Dobzhansky
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There is grandeur in this view of life, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.
Avatar
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And now for a look back at the second BGG.con in 2006. The disparity between the venues could not be more stark. Just about every nit that was picked on BGG.con 2012 was about a hundred times worse in 2006. Food? Nothing available after the food court shut down. Getting offsite? Everybody’s cars were valet parked and there wasn’t much close by anyway. Hot Games? None. Vendor area? An afterthought. Library? Checked out games were manually recorded.

Still, it was a good time and the con was on the verge of its first round of explosive growth at a new venue.

I left BGG.con 2006 pretty happy with the games I’d played. But I don’t think there’s been any other year in which my favorite games from the con stood up as poorly over time as these games from 2006. Basically nothing is left from the con on my current list of games I enjoy.

So, let’s take a look back….

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/17670/my-bgg-con-2006-...

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