Observations from My First Geekway
Steve Bennett
United States
Grinnell
Iowa
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My wife and I ditched the business and the kid and drove the 5+ hours to St. Louis for our first Geekway. Spoiler alert! It won't be our last. We had a great time, and we're already looking forward to our next one.

Follow me down while I use the geeklist format to riff on various things I played, saw, or did.
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1. Board Game: Barbeque Party [Average Rating:5.20 Overall Rank:13600]
Steve Bennett
United States
Grinnell
Iowa
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One of the things we like to do on any trip is get in some good eats. We left home at noon on Wednesday so we could hit St. Louis in time for a memorable dinner.

With Guy Fieri as our guide, we chose the Old 61 Roadhouse and Kitchen. It's a barbecue joint with a Cajun bent. All things considered, it was a disappointment. A couple of months earlier we hit The Shaved Duck when we passed through St. Louis. That was also featured on Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives. It was also a barbecue joint. The difference is The Shaved Duck is simply better. We didn't have a bad meal at the Old 61, but we wanted something that we would still be talking about years from now.
 
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2. Board Game: Jaipur [Average Rating:7.53 Overall Rank:106]
Steve Bennett
United States
Grinnell
Iowa
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After we checked in to the hotel and wandered the premises getting the lay of the land, we hooked up with our friends the Bennetts from Newton, Iowa. While we share a name and a hobby, we are not related.

Our wives retired to their rooms to read and relax. Bill and I played 3 two-player games. He taught me Jaipur, which I will probably have to get.

We played Splendor as a tune-up for Bill's participation in the next day's Splendor tournament. I won the game by 2 points and did it without gaining a noble. I don't think I've ever won without a noble before.

Then we played Parade. I had played it once before. Bill prefers it two-player, and it's a pretty good game that way. Bill beat me when he forged a majority in one of the colors that we were both going to take a hit on.
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3. Board Game: Things... [Average Rating:6.12 Overall Rank:3015] [Average Rating:6.12 Unranked]
Steve Bennett
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Grinnell
Iowa
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When Roni and Erin and their posse got in, we reconvened to another room and played some party games until too late in the early morning.

"Jay's soft touch."

I brought Things... It's a game that tends to develop some catchphrases that dominate the game as it descends into ribald nonsense. And that's the charm of the game. "Jay's soft touch" was the phrase of the evening. I doubt that I will ever be able to look at Jay again without thinking about his soft touch. Fortunately, Jay is a good sport and a great guy.

We also played Time's Up: Title Recall. Despite being dubbed Secret Weapon Steve, I was only a secret weapon for the other team. Apparently my assumption that a gyrating pantomime was Jailhouse Rock qualified as both wrong and stupidly unaware.

It was a fun evening, and Geekway to the West hadn't even started yet.
 
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4. Board Game: Skyscrapers [Average Rating:5.03 Overall Rank:14141]
Steve Bennett
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Grinnell
Iowa
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On Thursday morning we got our badges and free games. Judy got Sushi Go! I got Warmachine: High Command. These were randomly drawn games. Knowing I would never play Warmachine, I immediately asked if anyone wanted to trade for it. Kevin wanted it and offered his free game, Skyscrapers. I accepted. Basically I got rid of a game I wouldn't play for one I might play, and I made a fellow geek happy.

I still haven't cracked the shrink on Skyscrapers. I invite anyone reading this to look at the games I like and make me an offer.

Sushi Go! was new to us, and we played it a couple of times at the con.
 
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5. Board Game: Quilt Show [Average Rating:6.49 Overall Rank:3465]
Steve Bennett
United States
Grinnell
Iowa
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When Judy and I got to the main hall, there weren't many people down there. We kicked off the con with a game of Quilt Show. I got burned in the first show when one of my quilts didn't win a prize. In the second show I didn't enter any quilts except the one loser from the first show. That won a prize the second time. Now I was way behind. I swept the three prizes in the third show and beat Judy $40K to $35K.

Later in the day, Lindsay borrowed our copy of Quilt Show to try it out. It was a big hit with her family. And the next day Judy played the game with Jenn and Jim, a couple of our friends from Iowa City.
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6. Board Game: Cinque Terre [Average Rating:7.06 Overall Rank:1314]
Steve Bennett
United States
Grinnell
Iowa
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Later we walked the hall and found John and Karen (I hope I've got that right. Names sometimes elude me.) sitting down to learn Cinque Terre, a game we own and like. We had met them at Origins last year, and they introduced themselves while we were playing Quilt Show.

Cinque Terre is a fun pick-up-and-deliver game where you are trying to fulfill fruit orders. I got lucky when a couple of orders came up that I was well-positioned to complete. I was able to close out the game before the others were ready.

Reconnecting with nice people you've met at previous conventions is one of the joys of going to a con. That will only get better as we go to more.
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7. Board Game: Finca [Average Rating:7.06 Overall Rank:543]
Steve Bennett
United States
Grinnell
Iowa
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Keeping up with the theme of picking up and delivering fruit in the Mediterranean, we grabbed Finca from the library. It was a game I had read about and was excited to try.

The rondel/windmill is a clever way to get resources and donkey carts out to players. And the idea that if there aren't enough of the resources available to the collecting player, all players must return their entire hordes of those resources is deliciously brutal. It didn't come up in the two-player game we played, but the next day we played a 4-player game, and I got burned by having to return a bunch of bananas early in the game.

I won the game, but Judy loved it, just as I thought she would. Unfortunately it's out of print and very hard to come by. (Perhaps someone wants to trade me this for Skyscrapers?!!!!)

We did have a rules question involving the "?" tiles and "?" finca markers. We played the game as the rules stated, even though the example and common sense suggested something else. When we taught the game the next day to Michael and Eric, the question came up again. On the forums here I see the answer is to score the "?" finca marker as the example shows. We didn't access the forums while we were playing. We just slogged through. It's a better game playing it as the designer intended.

I can't wait to play it again.
 
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8. Board Game: Cult [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Steve Bennett
United States
Grinnell
Iowa
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For lunch we walked a few hundred feet to Fuzzy's Tacos. The food wasn't as good as good tacqueria versions of the same thing, but it was better than most fast food Mexican. I'll happily go there next year.

While I was waiting for Judy to get out of the bathroom, I was watching the Cardinal game on a TV on the wall. I was standing near a man who I don't think was at all associated with Geekway. He was just some weird dude at Fuzzy's. He started asking me if I had any kids and telling me about his. He had a creepy, brainwashed cult quality to him. Everything about his manner and his end of the conversation was off. Fortunately, my wife appeared and rescued me before I needed to be deprogrammed.

Now that little exchange will be one of my lasting memories of Geekway.

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9. Board Game: Camel Up [Average Rating:7.08 Overall Rank:385]
Steve Bennett
United States
Grinnell
Iowa
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I played my first-ever game of Camel Up. Played with Jay, Erin, Chris, and Tina. I finished a dismal last. I wasn't dazzled by the game, but I'd like to play it again. The stacking and movement rules for the camels are a nice touch.
 
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10. Board Game: Ra [Average Rating:7.47 Overall Rank:135]
Steve Bennett
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Grinnell
Iowa
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I sat down to a game of Ra with Bill, who had coined the misnomer Secret Weapon Steve, and Gina and Nick, who were eager to try out Ra.

This is a game I'm usually awful at. This playing was no exception. However, it was still fun because it's a good game and I enjoyed the company of my opponents.

Bill crushed us, though Nick challenged him for a while.
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11. Board Game: Wasabi! [Average Rating:6.55 Overall Rank:1202]
Steve Bennett
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Grinnell
Iowa
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At some point we wandered over to Kobe, a Japanese steakhouse next to Fuzzy's Tacos, with our friend Michael. We didn't encounter any cultists.

I don't know how Kobe rates on the scale of Japanese steakhouses, but we ate a ton of exotic food and were thoroughly entertained by the chef's knife tricks and constant patter. At various times he would flip trimmings and refuse into his hat to "feed the rat." Our daughter, who is a big fan of the Disney film Ratatouille, would have loved the reference.

Sated to the point of near unconsciousness, we headed back.
 
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12. Board Game: Rattlebones [Average Rating:6.57 Overall Rank:2306]
Steve Bennett
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Grinnell
Iowa
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The Play and Win room was constantly full and buzzing. Judy and I wandered up there and settled on Rattlebones, a novel game where you change the dice faces as the game progresses.

Bill and Charlie joined us. The game is a little fiddly with all the popping dice faces and replacing them, but it has a lot of interesting things going on. I liked the timing device, too. The Rattlebones marker moves backwards on the scoring track while the players' pawns move forward. Once the two meet, the game is over. This game ended with Bill winning.

We didn't do much Play and Win, but it's a great feature of the con. Everyone who plays a game writes their names on a card and puts it in cup for that game. At the end of the convention, a card is drawn and one of the listed players gets to take the game home. You or your badge must be present to win.

Apparently we didn't win any games...
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13. Board Game: Yspahan [Average Rating:7.11 Overall Rank:445]
Steve Bennett
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Grinnell
Iowa
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Looking for one more shortish game to finish the day, Judy, Bill, and I selected one of our favorites: Yspahan. I love this game. It sets up quickly; it plays quickly; it has a number of strategies to pursue; it has a great way to use dice.

I won a tight one. Bill did the caravan strategy but got a late start to it. Going into the final couple of turns, the game could have turned in any direction.

It was an excellent game to finish an excellent day.
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14. Board Game: Baseball Highlights: 2045 [Average Rating:7.63 Overall Rank:367]
Steve Bennett
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Grinnell
Iowa
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We met Michael after breakfast on Friday so he could teach me Baseball Highlights: 2045. This was the game of the convention for me. You need only look at my avatar to know that I am a huge baseball fan. I had read about the game and had thought there was a good chance this would be really stupid and unfun. Boy, was I wrong!

Michael and I played 2 series. I won the first one 4-3, going down to the very last card. Michael got his revenge in the second one 4-2. I immediately walked over to the Miniature Market booth and ordered it along with the Coaches expansion.

I haven't had a chance to teach it to Judy yet, but I think she's going to love it, too. While Michael and I were duking it out, Judy was next to us playing Quilt Show and then Lords of Scotland with Jim and Jenn. When I returned to the table after ordering Baseball Highlights, Judy sent me right back to order Lords of Scotland. She's not often so taken with a game that she immediately springs for it, but she really liked that one. We haven't played it yet since returning home.

This is as good a place as any to sing the praises of Miniature Market. They had a big selection of games with them and then a warehouse full of titles nearby. The two games I ordered weren't at Geekway, but they delivered them to the con later that afternoon. We were satisfied customers.
 
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15. Board Game: Rise of Augustus [Average Rating:6.77 Overall Rank:778]
Steve Bennett
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Grinnell
Iowa
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Jim taught this Roman bingo game to Judy, Jenn, and me. It was quick to pick up and fun. When you fill a card, you are supposed to yell, "Ave Caesar!" That soon degenerated into, "Ave Maria!" and "Oy vey, Maria!"
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16. Board Game: Santiago [Average Rating:7.13 Overall Rank:529]
Steve Bennett
United States
Grinnell
Iowa
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I picked up Santiago in an auction with Geekway delivery. This is a great game I hadn't played in many years. It's about bribing the canal overseer so he'll extend the irrigation canal by your crops.

I reacquainted myself with the rules during the morning and then brought it out in the late afternoon and "taught" the game to Judy, Jay, Eric, and Erin. I managed to screw up a key rule about the bribes. I need to contact the players, explain the error, and beg for clemency. Judy won the game. I thought the game was still good, but it wasn't nearly the game it was meant to be. I hope the other players will give it another crack.
 
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17. Board Game: Math Magic [Average Rating:6.45 Unranked]
Steve Bennett
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Grinnell
Iowa
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I participated in the no-ship math trade for Geekway. I had put up 4 entries and 3 of them traded. We were all crammed into a foyer between some conference rooms. It felt like the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Easily enough, though, we got our games to their new owners and took possession of our new games.

I traded
Quilt Show (What the heck. I have a bunch of them!)
Coda and Jukem Football
Agricola and Farmers of the Moor

I received
Airlines Europe
Pressure Cooker
Ubongo 3D

Since I wasn't paying to ship the games, I could afford to be more flexible with my want list. I'll happily participate in future no-ship trades.
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18. Board Game: Piece o' Cake [Average Rating:6.60 Overall Rank:1479]
Steve Bennett
United States
Grinnell
Iowa
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I love me some San Marco, which is built around an I-split-you-decide mechanic. It was suggested I ought to look into Piece o' Cake, which also employs this mechanic. About a month ago, I got a chance to play it. I immediately ordered my own copy.

I taught the game to Bill and Charlie. You lay out 11 cake slices to form a circle. Then one player decides how to divide the cake into segments equal to the number of players. You can't rearrange the slices. There are 9 types of cake, each having a different number of slices, ranging form 4 to 11. Each type has 1, 2, or 3 dollops of whipped cream on it. When you choose which segment of the cake to take, you then decide to either leave the cake face up in front of you or to eat it. If you eat it, you earn points for every dollop on the slices. If you leave the cake in front of you, you are trying to achieve a majority in the various types. After 5 rounds the game ends. When you have the majority of a type, you score points equal to the total number of slices available in that type (not how many you have). You add in your points for the eaten slices. Most points wins.

I ate a lot of my cake and won the game. The next day we saw Bill and Charlie teaching the game to Vickie while they waited for Charlie's slot in the Crokinole tourney.
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19. Board Game: The Hanging Gardens [Average Rating:6.78 Overall Rank:1195]
Steve Bennett
United States
Grinnell
Iowa
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This was a game I had never heard of until Bill suggested it. He had only played it online. It dates from 2008.

At its heart, it is a set collection game. The face of the playing cards is divided into 6 sections. Some sections are blank; others have symbols for particular garden types. When you take a card, you have to place it in your garden in such a way that any of the garden spaces on the new card are resting over other cards. It's OK for the blank spaces to extend beyond the garden, but the garden spaces must be over cards. You are trying to create sections of 3 or more of the same garden. When you do that, you claim them with a marker, which allows you to take a tile. The tiles form sets and give you victory points. The thing about the markers is they interfere with where and how you can lay down other cards.

Fun game! Charlie won. I would definitely play it again.
 
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20. Board Game: China [Average Rating:7.02 Overall Rank:637]
Steve Bennett
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Grinnell
Iowa
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Judy and I checked out of the hotel on Saturday morning. We had tickets to that afternoon's Cardinals game and then we planned to drive home. Unfortunately the weather forecast was terrible and getting worse. We decided that just because we had invested $100 in tickets didn't mean we had to compound our problems by being miserable in the rain and the long rain delays.

Instead we headed to the library to find a game. I was dressed for the ballgame in my Sox cap and shirt. In the library I met Paul, who was wearing a '59 Sox cap like Nellie Fox is wearing in my avatar. Of course we started talking and discovered we share a love of area majority games. We grabbed China and one of his favorites, Rheinlander, and headed to the main hall.

We conscripted Justin to be the third player. (Judy wanted to wake up her brain by doing a crossword puzzle.) Justin was new to the game but picked it up easily. Justin was winning at the end of play, and he added to it with 8 points on roads. I came from behind with emissaries and won the game. 5 points separated first from third. I had been able to steal the emissary majority in one key province and that proved to be the deciding factor.

At a convention like this I suspect most people play games with their homies. Certainly we did. Then that circle expands a little as you get into a group with some friends and their friends. Then there are games like China where it's three people who didn't know each other until they sat down to play. That's one of the joys of going to a good con. And the next time my circle of gaming friends will be a little larger because of this year's Geekway.
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21. Board Game: Spuren im Busch [Average Rating:5.33 Unranked]
Steve Bennett
United States
Grinnell
Iowa
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I like to visit ballparks. Over the years I've been to countless Little League, high school, college, minor league, and major league ballparks. Actually I can count the major league parks I've attended. Before Saturday I had been to 24 major league ballparks, including the first Busch Stadium (or second because old Sportsman's Park was known as Busch Stadium for a time). Now I've been to 25.

Before playing Rheinlander with Paul and Justin, we checked the weather and saw that the forecast had improved. Judy and I hightailed it out of the convention and drove downtown to the newest Busch Stadium.

We were running behind where we originally intended to be, so we decided not to eat before going in. That was a mistake. Busch is a beautiful ballpark with a lot to recommend it, but the food is beyond stadium overpriced and not very good.

The other thing I didn't like was that as you are walking the concourse in a lot of the park, you can't see the field for the suites. That detracts from the atmosphere a little.

It is a beautiful park. Reminders of the Cardinals' rich history abound. The sightlines from our seats in section 237 were good.

The game started and Miguel Cabrera launched his 400th homer into the batters eye in straightaway center field. 2 pitches into the bottom of the first, the heavens unloaded and the game was stopped. Looking at radar while on the concourse, we decided to cut and run. We had a long drive in front of us, and we were exhausted from staying up until 1:30 the three previous nights.

I walked down to my seats to tell the guy who was sitting next to us with his little boy that he could keep the crappy umbrella we loaned him. As I was doing this, they started pulling the tarp off the field! I got Judy, and as we settled back into our seats, the rain started again and they put the tarp back on.

That was enough for us. We walked to the car in moderate but manageable rain. A few minutes later, as we were headed west on I-64, the rain turned into a deluge. We could barely see in front of us. Fortunately that didn't last too long.

So my first trip to the new Busch Stadium was 1/2 inning plus 2 pitches.

On the way home we listened to the game. The Tigers won 4-3 in 10 innings. The rain delay was an hour twenty minutes long. If we had stayed for the whole thing, I don't think we would have gotten home on Saturday night.
 
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22. Board Game: We All Scream for Ice Cream [Average Rating:3.50 Unranked]
Steve Bennett
United States
Grinnell
Iowa
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As were were tooling down I-64, we saw The Smoke House. We exited. Barbecue right? Wrong! It was a smoked meat deli. I didn't want a deli sandwich, no matter how good. I wanted a full-blown BBQ joint. We gassed the car and got a doughnut and headed back on down the highway.

After not eating well before the ballgame or at the ballgame, and after not getting barbecue on the way home, our new plan was to just ride it out until Coldstone Creamery near Iowa City. We deserved something good.

I had an Oreo Overload in the Gotta Have It size. My standard order is Cookie Doughn't You Want Some made with Cake Batter ice cream in a Love It size. I felt like branching out. Judy got a Love It with Cake Batter ice cream, toasted almonds and hot fudge.

That was supper...

An hour later we were home. I still haven't put away all the games I took with me or acquired while I was there.
 
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23. Board Game: Thanks a Million! [Average Rating:4.50 Unranked]
Steve Bennett
United States
Grinnell
Iowa
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A big thank you to the organizers and all the volunteers who made Geekway to the West such a special convention. It's an incredible amount of work and commitment to put on a con. Judy and I are grateful for the effort. We had a blast.

A big thank you to everyone we played with, old friends and new.

A big thank you to everyone who attended, even if we didn't play with you. You added to the great atmosphere.

We had been hearing for years what a great convention Geekway is, but one thing or another (usually our son's baseball games) interfered. Everything we had heard was true. Now you can all hear it from me: Geekway to the West is a fantastic convention!
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