BGGcon 2013, A First Timer's Epic In 40 Parts
Steven Tan
United States
South San Francisco
CA - California
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Wow. I had no idea what to expect from BGG.con, but I have to say, I was not disappointed. This word gets thrown around way too much lately, but the only way to describe it would be epic. So much so, that I remember just about every experience I had there, and remember it vividly enough to put it into geeklist form. Thank you everyone who made this experience so memorable for me and my girlfriend. We'll be back with reinforcements next year.
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1. Board Game: Free-O [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Steven Tan
United States
South San Francisco
CA - California
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Wednesday:

When we arrived, we went straight to our room to drop off all our baggage. On the way up, I noticed someone holding a couple of games. I asked how they were and they said that they didn't know, and that they got them downstairs for free with registration. After getting to the room and excitedly foaming at the mouth and seizing on the ground at the prospect of free games, we registered, and I picked up Queen's Sparta and Stronghold's Little Devils, while my girlfriend picked up Minion's Venture Forth and R&R's Pressure Point.

It only got better from there.
 
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2. Board Game: Alhambra: The Treasure Chamber [Average Rating:7.09 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.09 Unranked]
Steven Tan
United States
South San Francisco
CA - California
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The Vendor Room: We ventured into the vendor's hall, where I immediately found 2 hard-to-find games that I'd been trying to hunt down. The amazingly addictive Click Clack Lumberjack and what was most surprising: a Kickstarter edition of Coup that Indie Boards and Cards sold me at their booth. Both reasonably priced at $15. I could not believe my luck.
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3. Board Game: Spin 'n Win [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Steven Tan
United States
South San Francisco
CA - California
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We also found out our registration came with one free spin on Minature Market's prize wheel. We got in just under the wire as the vendor room was closing. I've never randomly won anything in my life, but lo and behold, I hit the wheel's only Free Board Game space. I picked up Le Fantôme de l'Opéra and tried not to squeal at my luck. I only succeeded up to getting back to the room to drop off our haul.


Pictured: The haul.
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4. Board Game: Yago Pool [Average Rating:6.65 Unranked]
Steven Tan
United States
South San Francisco
CA - California
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The Lobby: I should mention that the lobby itself was amazing. There were a variety of dexterity games set up for free play: Some that I own (PitchCar, Tumblin-Dice), some I've only heard of (Crokinole, Destruct 3) and many more that I hadn't, and still don't know the names of. One that we took to immediately was Yago Pool, an extremely addictive mix of tic-tac-toe and billiards. I think we played at least 4 or 5 games that day.
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5. Board Game: Diamant [Average Rating:6.83 Overall Rank:613]
Steven Tan
United States
South San Francisco
CA - California
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After wandering a bit, we ran into a geek-volunteer and started chatting. He found out that my girlfriend didn't have a BGG account (she just logs on with mine), and promptly handed her 30 geek-gold for an avatar. Then he asked if I was awesome, to which I quickly responded "Hell yes." 10gg for me.
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6. Board Game: Brew Crafters [Average Rating:7.61 Overall Rank:457]
Steven Tan
United States
South San Francisco
CA - California
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The Beer Exchange: Right after I registered for BGGcon, I stumbled upon a thread about a beer exchange. We love craft beer, so we decided to attend. We said to ourselves "For our first day, we should take it easy, just get the lay of the land, enjoy a few brews at this gathering, and catch up on some sleep." Little did we know how epic the scale of this exchange would be, and what it would lead to.


This was one of two tables.

About 30 of us gathered in a small hotel room and brought diverse beers from all over the country. These beers included the hard-to-find New Glarus from Wisconsin, 21st Amendment from California, Upland Brewing from Indiana, and various homebrews. They all ranged in style from hefeweizen to sour to barley wine. The one thing they had in common was that they were all amazing. There we met some other beer and game lovers, and headed off to play our first game of the con.
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7. Board Game: Firenze [Average Rating:7.27 Overall Rank:746]
Steven Tan
United States
South San Francisco
CA - California
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Open Gaming: I went up to my room to grab Firenze, a new favorite game of mine that we were fit to play in our, shall we say, less than attentive state. After teaching it pretty quickly, there was plenty of screwage and trash-talking, and in the end, we got crushed pretty badly. But, it was a blast, and we made some excellent friends who we gamed throughout the con with.
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8. Board Game: Heartthrob [Average Rating:7.09 Overall Rank:6624]
Steven Tan
United States
South San Francisco
CA - California
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After that game of Firenze, we wandered over to the enormous open gaming area, where one of our new friends introduced us to:

Flip Florey
United States
Brewer
Maine
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of the Flip the Table podcast. He ran an amazing game of Heartthrob for us, where hilarity obviously ensued.


Pictured: Hilarity.
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9. Board Game: Ka-Boom [Average Rating:6.32 Overall Rank:4525]
Steven Tan
United States
South San Francisco
CA - California
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Someone then got Ka-boom! out of the library to try. It's a game where there are tiles depicting buildings of varying complexity set up in the middle of the table, and on your turn you try to build one or more of them to score points before the timer runs out. Simple, right?

...I should also mention that the other players at the table are catapulting dice at you while you try to do this. These 6-siders have 1 face with a symbol on it. If 2 of them come up, then the player who flung that die can yell "KABOOM!" and slam their fists on the table to wreck up the place. Hilarious when you're not the one building, and frustrating when you are. Ridiculously fun either way.
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10. Board Game: Pictomania [Average Rating:7.35 Overall Rank:588]
Steven Tan
United States
South San Francisco
CA - California
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Our last game was this amazing Vlaada Chvátil party title. I wish it weren't so rare, because, even though it's a party game, the scoring system is still Vlaada-level brilliant, the gameplay is Vlaada-level difficult-but-intuitive and I would love to have it in my collection. Thus concluded our day at around 3am. So much for taking it easy and taking in the lay of the land. We didn't even visit the library that day.

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11. Board Game: Steam Park [Average Rating:6.95 Overall Rank:676]
Steven Tan
United States
South San Francisco
CA - California
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Thursday:

That morning, we finally went to visit the library, and saw Steam Park on the new games shelf. I'd initially seen it on the geek and loved the art and 3-D rides, but was afraid it was all nice components and hype. It wasn't. It was the game of the con for us.

After the girlfriend ran through the well-written (and often funny) rules, we were set up and playing within 10 minutes. It was a combination of real-time dice rolling, waste, space and action management. And of course, the components were amazing. We ended up teaching it again to some new friends later. Can't wait until this one comes out in December.

When I tried to vote for it on the GeekBuzz, and it wasn't there, I made it a point to find one of the geek-admins in order to tell them that it was an awesome game that needed to be there. It was up the next day.


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12. Board Game: Grapevine [Average Rating:4.83 Unranked]
Steven Tan
United States
South San Francisco
CA - California
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Outside the Con: We woke up very late that morning as we were still on California time, and had gone to bed very late the night before, so by the time we finished Steam Park, it was quite late in the afternoon and we were starving. The only bad thing I can say about this convention is that it's located in a food desert. The cash and carry station wasn't too good, and we didn't want to burn out on it, so we decided to take the shuttle into downtown Grapevine provided by Rio Grande Games. After the bus driver dropped us off half a mile past our stop, even though we told him what it was, we found that the cafe we were looking for was closed. The guide failed to mention that they only served breakfast and lunch. We then ended up at a bar called Tolbert's on the recommendation of a fellow geek on the shuttle. The chili was good, and the burger was decent, but the beer was excellent.



Overall, the shuttle wasn't too great: it only ran once an hour to go back to the con, the schedule was very confusing to read, there wasn't too much to do downtown, and the bus driver was very unhelpful. On the bright side, we found this place which made the girlfriend very happy:


Pictured: Christmas as FU*K
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13. Board Game: Saved by the Bell Game [Average Rating:4.28 Unranked]
Steven Tan
United States
South San Francisco
CA - California
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Flip The Table Live Show: After we came back, we got into the Flip the Table show just as it was starting. They were reviewing this piece of work with special guest Eric Summerer, who had an absolutely encyclopedic knowledge of Saved by the Bell. They were of course hilarious and entertaining as usual.

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14. Board Game: PIX [Average Rating:6.68 Overall Rank:2425]
Steven Tan
United States
South San Francisco
CA - California
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Open Gaming: When we got back, our adoptive game group had pulled this out of the library for us to play. It was a blast. This is definitely on my to buy list.

You get a 9x9 magnetic grid, 20 pixels, one red pixel and a red arrow-shaped piece. You are competing individually for points, but put onto teams which change from round to round. Your "team" gets a card with a word on it. You try to make a pixel-drawing, and the other team gets to shout guesses until the timer runs out.

Now here's the clever part: whoever uses the fewest "points" worth of pixels--the red bits cost extra--gets to show their "drawing" first. Points are awarded to the first person to guess on the other team, as well as the artist. If no one guesses, the player with the next fewest points gets to display their work along with the previous work. If the clue isn't guessed by the time everyone on the team has shown, a clue phrase is read aloud, and a final guessing round is conducted with only the guesser receiving points.

This forces you to choose between making a good drawing and risk going last, or using less pixels in the hopes that it's good enough for the other team to guess before your "teammates" get a shot at it.
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15. Board Game: Relic Runners [Average Rating:6.68 Overall Rank:1418]
Steven Tan
United States
South San Francisco
CA - California
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They also checked this out. It was a good game, but it didn't jump out at me as something to buy. The components like every other Days of Wonder game were first-rate, but the gameplay was only so-so.

You try to build routes through the jungle, and explore temples in order to make "runs" from relic-to-relic in order to score points. The further your routes can take you through the jungle, the more points you score. I can't really say why this game didn't click with me. It has a tech-tree your character can advance on, and an excellent theme with components to match, but it didn't feel completely intuitive to me, nor was I immersed in the game. It's a game I'd play, but I wouldn't suggest it.
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16. Board Game: Mord im Arosa [Average Rating:6.60 Overall Rank:1694]
Steven Tan
United States
South San Francisco
CA - California
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After a long game of Relic Runners, we got into some light, silly games. This one was really fun, as the main gameplay mechanism was something I'd never seen before in any other game. If I had to categorize it, I'd call it a "sonic deduction" game themed as a murder mystery.

Your turn generally involves dropping cubes into the tower. The tower is made of a stack of small, inverted boxes with a hole a bit bigger than a standard sized euro-cube in the top of each.

In the first half of the game, two red cubes--"the bodies"--are dropped into the tower. The players then try to listen for how many floors each cube ended up falling, and guess where the bodies are. If they are correct, the bodies come out of the tower. They are placed on the corresponding floor of a scoreboard with each of the 7 towers depicted on it. If they're incorrect, they have to put on of their own colored cubes into the tower for "sloppy investigation", which could lead to penalty points later.

Once the bodies are out, the players then try to "accuse" each other by guessing whose pieces are on which floor or "clear their name" by naming a floor where they think they have pieces.

After an accusation, the players lifts up that level of the tower to see if he was correct. If he was, the accused player adds a penalty point to the scoreboard, and adds in another of their cubes--possibly leading to more penalties later. If incorrect, he adds one of his own cubes to the pile for being sloppy. Either way, the previously cubes in the tower are dropped along with the newly added cubes of the accused or the accuser.

Clearing your name involves guessing which level your own cube(s) is/are on. Guessing correctly allows you to remove that many cubes from the scoreboard on the level you guessed. The game ends when a certain number of cubes from a player end up on the scoreboard. Cubes on or adjacent to the level the "bodies" are on score more points. Fewest penalty points wins.

Girlfriend ruined our faces at this game. She had 3 cubes in the tower to each of our 10+, which means she only made one incorrect accusation through the whole game. She is clearly a witch of some sort.
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17. Board Game: Bugs in the Kitchen [Average Rating:6.29 Overall Rank:2502]
Steven Tan
United States
South San Francisco
CA - California
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Around 2am, we played the German version of this with the unpronounceable name. If it's wrong to play kids' games, I don't want to be right. This one was a blast. The day we flew home, I went to Target to buy this.

In this one, you try to corral a vibrating "nano-bug" toy through a maze with pivoting walls in semi-real time. Each of the "walls" is a different eating utensil. Roll the die as fast as you can, and rotate the appropriate utensil as fast as you can in order to corral the bug into your goal. 5 goals wins the game.
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18. Board Game: Wasabi! [Average Rating:6.55 Overall Rank:1188]
Steven Tan
United States
South San Francisco
CA - California
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Got this one earlier in the day at the virtual flea market meetup. Everyone else had decided to call it a night at 3am, but me and the girlfriend had 1 more game left. I made it through the rules with bleary eyes, and played. It was a ton of fun, even though we were half-conscious at this point. A later play when we got back to California confirmed that it wasn't the sleep deprivation talking; this was an excellent game. Thus ended another day at 4am.
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19. Board Game: Pandemic: The Cure [Average Rating:7.38 Overall Rank:259]
Steven Tan
United States
South San Francisco
CA - California
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Friday:

We were lucky enough to get into the 12 remaining spots for this tournament. Our teams competed to be eliminated last in a series of games that got more and more difficult. My team was knocked out in round 2, and girlfriend's in round 3.

Winning didn't really matter to me though; I was just happy to be able to play it. It's an excellent dice adaptation of the original: it keeps the flavor while playing a bit quicker, and maintaining a faster pace.

The object of the game is the same: Cure all 4 diseases before your outbreak marker hits 8, before you run out of dice to pull from the bag, or before your epidemic track is full.


Pictured: We lost so hard the outbreak meter went to 11.

Turn order was very familiar too: Roll your action dice, take actions, attempt a cure, pass collected samples, then infect. You can re-roll your dice as much as you want, but every "biohazard" face locks that die and bumps the epidemic tracker up one tick. Every 4 ticks, an epidemic occurs. All dice in the treatment area are re-rolled and returned to the board as well as new ones equal to the new infection level. There are 6 regions on the board, with die symbols from 1-6. Each disease die had a different distribution of pips (which average to 3), and one face with a shield. When you infect, you roll the appropriate number of dice, as determined by the infection level. A pip face puts it on the corresponding region. A shield face takes it out of play and onto the "CDC" tile where they can be spent on one-shot actions as determined by a display of 3 event tiles. These are replenished from an event deck as they're used.

The really cool part to me was the each role got its own specialized set of dice. The medic had tons of "treat" symbols on their dice. The scientist had improved "cure" symbols. The dispatcher had an airlift symbol they could lock and use out of turn to transport other players to one of the six regions on the board.


This was my role for the first round.


Treating diseases put an infection die into the central "treatment center," or returned dice to the infection bag from the center. Curing diseases required rolling the "cure" symbols and taking those dice out of play along with an equal number of infection dice from the center. This represents collecting samples of the disease. At the end of your turn, you roll the disease dice you've collected and hope to roll a 13+. If successful, you've cured that color, and you get your action dice back! I'm definitely planning on picking this one up.

Also surreal and awesome was being taught the game by Matt Leacock, getting rules help from Tom Lehmann while being able to talk to Zev about production and release dates (Essen 2014), and gaming in the same tournament as Ryan Metzler and Seth Jaffee.
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20. Board Game: Whacky Wit [Average Rating:6.66 Overall Rank:5631]
Steven Tan
United States
South San Francisco
CA - California
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We played many more dexterity games after the tournament was over. This one topped them all though. We caught Eric Summerer playing this with someone, and he graciously taught us how to play as he was finishing up his game.

It feels just like Pac-Man. It's a roll-and-move, but it works somehow. Pac-Man gets a normal d12, and the ghosts get 2 special d12s. There's an even distribution of colors for the 4 ghosts on one, and another with no 10-12 (I'm not sure of the exact distribution on this one.) The ghosts either spawn or move if they're already spawned, and they chase Pac-Man around the board. They win if they can use up all 3 of Pac-Man's lives, and Pac-Man wins if he can grab every dot on the board. If Pac-Man can grab a power pill, he gets 3 rolls in a row and can send the ghosts back home.

In addition to the good gameplay, the board is phenomenal. The dots are pegs held up by magnets, and as Pac-Man lands on them, they fall into the board with a very satisfying click. And, good news everyone! You can have this for the low, low price of 400 Euros! I half-considered shelling out for it, because it looks so damn good.
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21. Board Game: Quantum [Average Rating:7.32 Overall Rank:371]
Steven Tan
United States
South San Francisco
CA - California
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At the Passport Games booth in the vendor hall, we got to demo this unique new game I'd been watching on the geek. The designer, who was running the demos, could only chat with us briefly before he went off to accept an award, but another volunteer at the booth was kind enough to teach and play with us.

I'd describe it as a mix of Alien Frontiers (in that dice are ships) and Chess (in that this game is essentially an abstract positioning game, and each die facing is a different piece with different powers)

It's better described as a mix between Chase and Nexus Ops.

The game is played on a variable tile grid with a planet in the center of each tile surrounded by 8 spaces. 4 of those spaces are orbital docking positions. The planets are also numbered. The object of the game is to drop "quantum cubes" on a number of planets determined by the scenario you're playing. To drop a cube, you must position your ship-dice at orbital docking stations and they must exactly total the sum of the number shown on the planet.

Lower dice are better in combat. To enter combat, you attack an adjacent ship for an action, and roll a d6. The sum of your facing plus your roll is your combat score. Lower number wins. However, lower numbers also make for slower ships, as the facing also determines how many orthogonal spaces you may move. You must balance your fleet between combat and agility in order to conquer the system.

There are also power cards to upgrade your fleet which you can receive by dropping cubes or researching.

The pace is fairly quick, and the game is very addictive. I'll be putting this on my Christmas wishlist.

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22. Board Game: Battling Tops [Average Rating:6.12 Overall Rank:5115]
Steven Tan
United States
South San Francisco
CA - California
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The Battling Tops Tournament: Apparently, no BGGcon is complete without the over-the-top Battling Tops tournament. A friend of ours signed us up while there was still space. I'm glad he did. Holy crap was this fun. There were a ton of people in luchador masks, crazy hats and other headgear.


Pictured: insanity.

The luchadors had apparently formed factions and were trash talking the whole time. It was like being in an episode of WWE Smackdown, but better. Spectators cheered for strangers and friends alike as if they were watching their children compete in the Olympics. Unfortunately, me and the girlfriend were defeated in round one. Me, at the hands of The Chief of Pain and her by Bagface, who, as you would expect, wore a plastic bag with holes cut out of it. At various points, Flip, as his masked persona "Corporate America," made it rain Monopoly money on the crowd. All this was made even better by illicit beers.
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23. Board Game: Terror in Meeple City [Average Rating:6.93 Overall Rank:629]
Steven Tan
United States
South San Francisco
CA - California
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After a good masked smackdown, there's nothing quite like flicking bus-meeples and dropping monster blocks to inflict mayhem on this poor unsuspecting meeple city I've dubbed Meepletropolis.


Pictured: Meepletropolis.

After having played once, I worry about the replay value, but it's a fairly simple dexterity game where it really doesn't matter who wins. Then again, since you score points for every complete set of 6 colored meeples, you could plan your moves very strategically for maximum points. I went for a mix of wreaking havoc and scoring points. This still won me the game handily. Rampage is also going on my Christmas wishlist, since the price point is a bit high at $60 for a game that has questionable replayability. I'd still be more than happy to have this in my collection if only for the novelty though.
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24. Board Game: Time's Up! Title Recall! [Average Rating:7.76 Overall Rank:290]
Steven Tan
United States
South San Francisco
CA - California
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After a few more beers, we were ready for this con-classic. I love it, and the girlfriend absolutely makes sure that it gets played at every con we go to. This time was no exception, except that we played with an excellent group and knocked out a full game in 45 minutes, which is definitely a record for us.
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25. Board Game: Skull [Average Rating:7.12 Overall Rank:445]
Steven Tan
United States
South San Francisco
CA - California
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We saw an extremely drunk table Thursday night in the Filmmaker's room. They were screaming and slamming things on the table, and I couldn't for the life of me figure out what they were doing. I went over to see what the commotion was, and saw that they were playing Skull and Roses. I'd heard of it in some mixed reviews, but after asking about the rules and getting some extremely slurred but enthusiastic answers back, I still had no idea what was going on.

Flash forward to Saturday. Someone in our group grabbed this out of the library. Suddenly, we were that table (we'd also had quite a few beers at this point.) I finally understood. Me and the girlfriend both won a game each, but I won mine with an epic 4-rose bet in a 6 player game. This resulted in me yelling triumphantly and taking a victory lap like I just scored the winning goal in the World Cup.

If you were there, and not at our table, I'd like to take this time to apologize. I'd also like to take this time to highly recommend this game to everyone. It's out of print, but coming back soon as just "Skull." And if you want, you can even make it out of a regular deck of cards or some paper coasters.
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