My first Geekway/convention experience!
Joshua Hamer
United States
Oakville
Missouri
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Having only been in the hobby for a few years, this was my first time to go to a con. I'm fortunate enough to live in St. Louis so I could attend Geekway to the West, which has had a reputation for being one of the more friendly cons.

I was crazy excited when I walked into the Sheraton Chalet and found the library. There were dozens of games that had been on my list to try, and all of them for free. I was a little overwhelmed the first day, but as I settled in, I found that every single person I spoke to was warm, friendly, open, and ready to play anything.

I came away from Geekway with half a dozen gaming memories I'll carry with me forever, and I'll be buying a pass for the 2016 con on day one!

A huge thank you to everyone who played games with me, chatted, taught me a new game, or just smiled as they passed. To paraphrase The Dice Tower, we're there for the games, but it's really all about the people.

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1. Board Game: Panamax [Average Rating:7.37 Overall Rank:476]
Joshua Hamer
United States
Oakville
Missouri
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I ran into Jorin and Patrick in the library, who were checking out a copy of Panamax. We started to set up and I read through the rulebook... and after 45 minutes of setup, we were still trying to parse through the rules and hadn't even taken a single turn. Panamax (which I'd try again later - hold that thought) has one of the worst laid-out rulebooks I've ever encountered. So when I realized that this was going to run into a game I already had scheduled, I relinquished my seat and vowed to give this one another shot when I could find a teacher.
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2. Board Game: The Great Heartland Hauling Co. [Average Rating:6.97 Overall Rank:994]
Joshua Hamer
United States
Oakville
Missouri
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While waiting for my scheduled game to start, I was able to try out this game from my wishlist. It ended up being a really neat, simple pickup-and-deliver and set collection game. I liked it better than the other pickup-and-deliver I've had an opportunity to play thus far (Cinque Terre), and I'd really like to try out some more games in the genre. And I won fairly handily, 40-25-25.
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3. Board Game: Agricola: Farmers of the Moor [Average Rating:8.11 Unranked] [Average Rating:8.11 Unranked]
Joshua Hamer
United States
Oakville
Missouri
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This game was the main reason I'd been looking forward to Geekway. I never get a chance to play games this heavy or dry with my usual group or regular meetup, so this was the first game I scheduled.

I was fortunate enough to play with some great competitors - Duane, Eran, Chris, and Joe. Joe provided his custom set, and estimated that he's played 400+ physical games and 2,000+ online games. (I can't imagine playing ANYTHING that many times.)

It was exactly what I'd hoped for, a true brain-burning experience that left me simultaneously thrilled and drained. This was my first time playing Farmers of the Moor, and I was mentally taxed that by the fourth hour of the game I completely forgot about heating my home. That mistake probably cost me 15 points by the end.

Chris and I had contacted each other on BGG before the event as fellow craft beer enthusiasts, so we exchanged beers and he would continue to bring stuff for me to taste all week. Thanks again Chris!

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4. Board Game: Splendor [Average Rating:7.50 Overall Rank:116]
Joshua Hamer
United States
Oakville
Missouri
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As I was playing in the tournament on Thursday morning, I was happy to get in a practice game with Duane, who had won a copy as his registration prize. I played fairly terribly (as I usually do in 2p) and lost 15-10.
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5. Board Game: Star Realms [Average Rating:7.63 Overall Rank:87] [Average Rating:7.63 Unranked]
Joshua Hamer
United States
Oakville
Missouri
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I grabbed one of the many Players Wanted meeples around the event and sat, hoping to get a pick-up game of something going. A lovely woman named Laura came over and joined me for a quick game of Star Realms. It was my first time playing with my recently-obtained Gambit expansion -- it adds a little bit to gameplay, but not enough to justify playing with it every time.
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6. Board Game: Colt Express [Average Rating:7.18 Overall Rank:303]
Joshua Hamer
United States
Oakville
Missouri
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I made my way up to the Play 'n Win room and was able to join a six-player game of Colt Express. It didn't do much for me, as it has way too much randomness and I never felt like I was in control of anything. The components are really something though; it would probably make a great entry-level game for kids.

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7. Board Game: Splendor [Average Rating:7.50 Overall Rank:116]
Joshua Hamer
United States
Oakville
Missouri
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The Splendor tournament started at 9a on Friday, and I provided my set to use in the tournament. Game 1 started well, but as usual I got stuck on the second tier and couldn't get a foothold into the nobles. I finished third of four.

The second game was a disaster. I was probably overthinking things as a result of my first game, but I was boxed out of one color entirely and never got into a groove. I finished fourth, but I still had a great time.

Unfortunately, when my set was returned to me, it was missing one of the gem chips. Since I never cataloged the game before I put it in my bag, I assumed that a piece had missed from whoever borrowed it last. Hold that thought.
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8. Board Game: Panamax [Average Rating:7.37 Overall Rank:476]
Joshua Hamer
United States
Oakville
Missouri
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I was finally able to revisit this one after the Splendor tournament. I first sat down with a guy named Dillon and started reading through the rulebook. After fifteen minutes with more frustration, two kind gentlemen named Doug and Charles came by and offered to play with us.

It's a really interesting game, one with a lot of intricacies and moving pieces. The economics of the game are fascinating, with the ability to invest in other players' companies and manipulate their stock. However, only one play is not nearly enough to grasp what the optimal moves are.

I'd like to try this one again, but I know that it's way too heavy for my usual group. So I may seek this out at a meetup.
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9. Board Game: Ghost Stories [Average Rating:7.37 Overall Rank:194]
Joshua Hamer
United States
Oakville
Missouri
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I ran into Jorin and Patrick again, who were checking Ghost Stories out of the library. I'd heard good things, so I was happy to join them.

Wow. This game is intensely hard. I couldn't foresee ever beating this game, regardless of how skilled I was or what luck we had.
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10. Board Game: Diamonds [Average Rating:7.01 Overall Rank:659]
Joshua Hamer
United States
Oakville
Missouri
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I was able to join a game of this near the Play 'n Win room, my first game with a full six players. I'm still not totally in love with this -- it's an interesting variant to the usual trick-taking game, but I don't know if there's any more strategy than throw off as quickly as you can. One of the guys in the game is a designer, who attempted the strategy of avoiding tricks the entire game. I got lucky on deals (and sitting to the left of the guy avoiding tricks like the plague) and managed to take at least six tricks every hand. Johnny No-Trick actually pulled it off and won by two.
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11. Board Game: Loopin' Louie [Average Rating:6.84 Overall Rank:692]
Joshua Hamer
United States
Oakville
Missouri
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I ran into Jared in the library, who was checking out this "classic" from the library. We quickly found out that the battery hadn't been replaced in quite a while, as Louie didn't loop so much as saunter. I promised to get a replacement battery before I came back on Saturday.

The next day, I returned with a fresh C cell in hand and we got in a proper game. It's a lot of fun - not the most entertaining thing ever, as the ratings would suggest - but it's fun.
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12. Board Game: Star Realms [Average Rating:7.63 Overall Rank:87] [Average Rating:7.63 Unranked]
Joshua Hamer
United States
Oakville
Missouri
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Jared and I got in a quick game of this while his girlfriend Emily was taking a phone call.
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13. Board Game: Sushi Go! [Average Rating:7.11 Overall Rank:345]
Joshua Hamer
United States
Oakville
Missouri
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Once Emily returned, we jumped into a game of Sushi Go, my first using my recently obtained Soy Sauce promo. I don't know if I've played a game of this yet that I haven't enjoyed, and this one was especially close, finishing 47-46-44.
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14. Board Game: Dominion [Average Rating:7.66 Overall Rank:72] [Average Rating:7.66 Unranked]
Joshua Hamer
United States
Oakville
Missouri
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I found a nice couple named Matt and Sarah, who were in the library looking for a good game with about a 60 minute play length. I ended up teaching them Dominion. Fortunately, I've gotten better at explaning the game to deck building virgins, and they really enjoyed the game once they started to understand how all the card interactions work.
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15. Board Game: Tajemnicze Domostwo [Average Rating:7.31 Overall Rank:413]
Joshua Hamer
United States
Oakville
Missouri
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This was one I was really looking forward to trying, and it really lives up to the hype. It plays like Dixit with a purpose, with fantastic artwork and very simple mechanics that anyone could get into. Levi played a perfect ghost in a four-player game, providing perfect clues to everyone to solve their mysteries. I'd love to see how this one plays with more players, because I'd imagine the difficulty ramps up pretty aggressively.

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16. Board Game: Battling Tops [Average Rating:6.11 Overall Rank:5200]
Joshua Hamer
United States
Oakville
Missouri
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This was another event I'd been looking forward to, the annual Battling Tops tournament. It was as raucous as anything I've seen, with several players wearing luchador masks, with "managers", with players screaming at their tops. I met Bill Corey Jr., who was kind enough to pose for a picture. Sadly, I flamed out at the tournament, getting knocked out in the first round. But since I wasn't drinking, I'm not sure I got the most out of the experience.
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17. Board Game: Doomtown: Reloaded [Average Rating:7.27 Overall Rank:841]
Joshua Hamer
United States
Oakville
Missouri
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My buddy Jason was able to join me on Saturday, so I asked him what he was wanting to try out. We grabbed a copy of Doomtown Reloaded out of the library and headed down to the ballroom. I ran into Scott, who I'd met on a local Facebook group, and invited him to join. After finding a teacher who wandered past, we got in a couple games of this LCG area control game. It's just okay for me, but I don't have a place in my life for LCGs. Really interesting mechanically, though.

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18. Board Game: Five Tribes [Average Rating:7.80 Overall Rank:52]
Joshua Hamer
United States
Oakville
Missouri
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I'd been hoping to get another shot at this Hottest of New Hotness, and there was a copy in the Play 'n Win room. So Scott and I joined a nice couple named Brandon and Kalene, I taught it really quickly, and off we went.

This isn't nearly as complicated as I thought it was on my first play, and I think the learning curve is shallow enough that most people could play it. I went heavily for a merchant strategy, but overlooked the viziers. Scott ended up edging me out by four points; if I'd gotten one more vizier, I would have tied for second and passed him.

This was the one game I walked home with a copy of, and I hope to get many years of great play out of it.
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19. Board Game: Alchemists [Average Rating:7.73 Overall Rank:81]
Joshua Hamer
United States
Oakville
Missouri
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The table appeal of this one is undeniable, so Scott and I sat down to start reading through the rules. Fortunately, Czech Games Edition does amazing work with their rulebooks, building small concepts on top of one another until the whole thing fits together into a seamless whole.

Another local gamer, Daniel, joined us early on, and we all enjoyed the heck out of this mix of logic puzzle and worker placement. The most surprising moment of the con was when we got to the final exhibition round, Daniel failed on a potion, and we all realized that at least two of the alchemicals were wrong. Then I failed mine, and we knew that we'd have to have a conference after the game finished to figure out where we went wrong.

This is an amazing game, and I hope to pick up my own copy soon. I'd love to get to the point where the logic puzzle is second nature, and I can concentrate on the worker placement.

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20. Board Game: Castles of Mad King Ludwig [Average Rating:7.66 Overall Rank:82]
Joshua Hamer
United States
Oakville
Missouri
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After dinner, Scott was keen to teach me this Ted Alspach game. I was reluctant because I disliked Suburbia, but I really dug this one. The combination of spatial tile laying, adjusting price points, and tile combinations really works well. I'm looking forward to trying this out with more players.

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21. Board Game: Viticulture [Average Rating:7.69 Overall Rank:122]
Joshua Hamer
United States
Oakville
Missouri
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I passed by a game of this just starting up, and was happy to sit down to join. The theme had intrigued me since I first heard about it, and the fact that it's from a local designer (who I'd met earlier in the day - hi Jamey!) made it that much better. Little did I know I was sitting across the table from another guy I'd been intending to meet up with!

It ended up being not being the best sales pitch for the game, as it was late, players were taking way too long for their turns (for such a simple WP game) and the game dragged on for a full three hours. I'd like to try it again under better circumstances with a better grasp of the strategy. I discovered too late that it's like Lords of Waterdeep in that you really need to churn through the wine orders until you get something favorable, rather than just taking what you're given and making it work. Neat game, though.
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22. Board Game: Sheriff of Nottingham [Average Rating:7.26 Overall Rank:245]
Joshua Hamer
United States
Oakville
Missouri
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I finished out the con on Sunday playing Sheriff of Nottingham, again with Jared. We found a couple of other players (including Sparr) walking around and jumped in.

As expected, I'm as terrible at this game as I am with most bluffing/negotiation games, as I simply lack the mind to deceive people. (I'll take that character flaw for game playing.)

After the game, Sparr had won a game from the Play 'n Win room, and wandered down from the pickup area with a piece in his hand from the box of lost bits - THE BLUE CHIP FROM MY SPLENDOR SET. This topic never came up during our game, and I have no idea why he had it in his hand. I'm still astonished at this coincidence. A pretty amazing end to a pretty amazing con!
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