Kublacon 2017 Report
Steve Valladolid
United States
San Diego
California
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I consider KublaCon in San Francisco, my birthday con. Not because it is around my birthday but because it is the location of the rebirth of my love of boardgames a few years ago. I used to live the Bay Area and attended this con every year but missed a lot of years when I moved out of the area in 2000. Now I make it a point to go back every year and hang out with old friends and get lots of games in.

It was a great con this year. The hotel had been remodeled, and there were new gaming spaces in adjoining board rooms. Attendance was at all time high at over 3,300 gamers, but there was always enough room. Bravo!

I did more pre-con prep for this event than any previous con. I hooked up online with a friend from my college game group (late 80's) and a new friend I met a couple of years ago. We spent over a month coordinating which games to bring to the con and sharing teaching duties. It was a really fun process. We brought over 50 games which was overkill, and got about 25 of them played. The 3 of us played the bulk of the games together with a variety of 4th and sometimes 5th players joining in.

This was my most hardcore con, where I started at 9am after breakfast and played to midnight every day. I did very little else beside, play, play, play, which was very awesome and very exhausting. Can't wait to do it again next year.

Below is a list of games I played at the con.
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1. Board Game: Akrotiri [Average Rating:7.34 Overall Rank:600]
Steve Valladolid
United States
San Diego
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First game of the con. Actually precon. A friend and I met up after breakfast and played in the hotel atrium before the registration desk opened.

This is one of my favorite 2-player games. I love the building of the board and trying to figure out the puzzle on how to arrange them to score your the temple cards. My friend was a little rusty and I won in a blow out.
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2. Board Game: Fjords [Average Rating:6.73 Overall Rank:1144]
Steve Valladolid
United States
San Diego
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New to me

My first play of this game. Really a fantastic, tactical filler game. Another tile layer, where you build the board, but in this case you are trying to control areas for future scoring. It is sort of similar to Battle Sheep, or Hey! That's My Fish where you try to cut off your opponent and claim entire areas for end game scoring.

Beautiful presentation, fast and fun to play. Now on my wish list. Unfortunately it is out of print and seems difficult to find.
 
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3. Board Game: Glüx [Average Rating:7.19 Overall Rank:1494]
Steve Valladolid
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San Diego
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Next was Glux, which is a neat abstract filler. Each player starts in their corner and lays down round chips, which are double sided with the pips of a die, 1-6, 2-5, 3-4. After the initial placement subsequent placements must be exactly equal to the number of the value of a previous placement in an orthogonal direction. The goal is to have the largest value of pip presence in multiple "rooms" on the board. Another very tactical game.

The set up is trivial, and the play so fast, that it is a great filler to have on hand. We played it one other time at the con.
 
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4. Board Game: Tiny Epic Galaxies [Average Rating:7.41 Overall Rank:231]
Steve Valladolid
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Another quick game before our third player showed up. My opinion of the game has cooled a bit, but it was alright. I made several errors which allowed my opponent to claim planets by following my actions. I just wasn't paying enough attention.
 
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5. Board Game: Consumption: Food and Choices [Average Rating:8.12 Unranked]
Steve Valladolid
United States
San Diego
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New to me

Very polished prototype game now being shopped to game manufacturers. The theme of food and choices is a bit odd, but it was really well done.

You can go grocery shopping collect ingredients for recipes. The food is stored in your kitchen and each type of food has a different shelf life. Things like fish/poultry must be used almost immediately. These ingredients are used to fulfill recipes that you have previously collected. Once made, the nutrients get transferred to you "body" which has cube spots for the various ones. For example, you need to get enough fruits and vegetables to move from negative points to the positive point range. You can take a small amount of things like sugars or fats without going into negative points range. If you go over these ranges, you need to exercise to get rid of the extra stuff. Each fitness activity targets specific nutrients to burn. Some were pretty funny thematically, like "Snowball Fight" requiring alcohol.

Instead of shopping and cooking you can go to a fast food spot, which will save you time as the nutrients go right into your body, but they are higher in things like fat, which moves you into negative land in your "body".

Another aspect is that each turn you draft a "coach" of some type that slightly breaks the rules.

There are lots of moving parts, but everything is incredibly intuitive. A real winner, imo.
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6. Board Game: Vasco da Gama [Average Rating:7.29 Overall Rank:461]
Steve Valladolid
United States
San Diego
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New to me.

First play of this What's your Game offering. I have a goal to to play through their games this year. This was a strange one. The action selection mechanism was very interesting but also incredibly strange. The first part of a round involves each player selecting an action spot and choosing a 1-18 priority token. Actions are taken in order of priority tokens. The cost for each action depends on the relative value of the market that is determined at the start of the phase where you take actions. The cost of your action depends on the relative value of your priority token to the value of the market. Sometimes, it is free (but a late action) or early, which costs a lot. Money is very tight so this is a tense decision.

The sail/explore action and the scoring of the points is not very intuitive, but incredibly important. I didn't figure it out until very late in the game.

I'm a bit torn on this game. I thought the mechanics were very interesting but they were so divorced from the theme, that it made it very non-intuitive.
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7. Board Game: Sail to India [Average Rating:6.78 Overall Rank:1185]
Steve Valladolid
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San Diego
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Fun micro game by the designer of the currently hot Yokohama. The cube management is very cool. Your cubes change roles constantly during the game. Sometimes they are bankers to track your money, captains to sail the seas, merchants to trade in goods, and finally historians to keep your score.

I chose the harbor engine technology which generates points if three of your captains/ships sail from a single port. I also chose another tech later that allowed me to buy a victory point every turn. Two players were exploring very heavily and trading points. The other player was getting a lot of points with buildings.

It ended up being a very tight game with a 5 point spread from first to last. I waited one turn too long to buy a building technology, that would have thrown me over the top. My early point lead was finally erased by the explore strategy.

Good game.
 
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8. Board Game: Lancaster [Average Rating:7.46 Overall Rank:254]
Steve Valladolid
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San Diego
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I love this game at 5 players. Lots of opportunity for tactical play and everyone is constantly in each others face. The icongraphy is so good that it makes it easy to play/teach. We were all rocking and rolling by turn 2.

I managed to get all but one of the counties, which formed the bulk of my points, but was blocked out by another player to slow my roll. Close game, where I lost the largest army end points by a single knight.

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9. Board Game: Kepler-3042 [Average Rating:7.50 Overall Rank:1622]
Steve Valladolid
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San Diego
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Really fun tech tree game with a space exploring theme. I usually do pretty good at this, but somehow really struggled this game. I tried to advance a lot of tech to have better options later, but I ended up being too aggressive and burned too many resources. Then once I got rolling I decided to try and get all 5 of the planet types to try and catch up. I got 3, then the 4th one got swiped from me by another player. Then with no real options, I just switch to trying to squeak out points and ran out of time.
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10. Board Game: Russian Railroads [Average Rating:7.80 Overall Rank:70]
Steve Valladolid
United States
San Diego
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New to me

First play of this well regarded classic. Lots of available actions which was a little confusing. I had a tough time assessing the value of things during this first play. I did like what I saw. I had forgotten that gold could be used as workers and unintentionally stiffled my production. I had a comboriffic last turn that made the scores respectable, but lagged behind the entire game. Looking forward to trying this out again.
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11. Board Game: First Class: All Aboard the Orient Express! [Average Rating:7.57 Overall Rank:330]
Steve Valladolid
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New to me

The natural double-feature to Russian Railroads, as it plays very similarly although card driven. Experience obviously matters a lot and my two opponent were much more efficient in their actions.

I worked the train tracks and scored some good points but did a poor job of developing my conductor tracks. It was close for a while until the end of game when the conductor tracks of my opponents went nuclear.

Again, I really liked what I saw. The best of the new to me games I played at the con.
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12. Board Game: A Feast for Odin [Average Rating:8.17 Overall Rank:30]
Steve Valladolid
United States
San Diego
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New to me

I had successfully avoided playing this for months, but couldn't avoid it when I came back to the table from a restroom pit stop between games. This type of game is so unappealing to me. It looked to be a bloated, unnecessarily fussy game.

Options were to struggle through it or find something else to do for 3 hours. Decided to be a buttercup and suck it up.

The set up and rules teach were extensive. The 38 actions spots were a dizzying. The large expanse of of negative fields on the player board to be covered was intimidating.

I muddled around a couple of turns until I found and engine to work. I ended up splitting most my time between, hunting and pillaging. I essentially made the game "smaller" by ignoring most of the other portions of the action board.

I did pretty well playing Tetris on my player board and got everything filled. I thought I was doing pretty well, but finished a distant last. I lost a lot of points by not using the Emigration actions. I was so focused on my board, that I didn't notice every other player gaining 25+ points doing this.

All and all, I didn't hate it, and might play it again now that better understand how it works.
 
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13. Board Game: Dynasties: Heirate & Herrsche [Average Rating:7.24 Overall Rank:1548]
Steve Valladolid
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San Diego
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Great area control Eurogame fueled by card play designed by Matthias Cramer. Cards are used to populate capitals, collect goods, and recruit the help of characters. Several of the actions lead to a "I split, you choose" situation which add drama and interest. The game pivots nicely at the end to area control of the various provinces where there is a race to get to the cities to score end game points.

Lots of cute touches and very interactive game play make this is a winner, IMO.
 
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14. Board Game: Lignum [Average Rating:7.32 Overall Rank:2232]
Steve Valladolid
United States
San Diego
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New to me

Another game with a reputation for being super heavy. I actually found the game play to be very intuitive once it was explained. This is essentially a logistics game that starts out super tight, and then flowers as you start making money. Actions are pretty straightforward. Move and select the action. The game comes in the timing of everything. Lots of minutia to explore. It seems odd that you have to find or buy a saw every time you want to cut wood. There are lots of little ways to improve you efficiency. It was very engaging with the full complement of 4 players. It seems like it would be too open with less players.

I'm glad we got to play this as I've owned a copy for 6 months but hadn't gotten it to the table yet.
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15. Board Game: Guilds of London [Average Rating:7.00 Overall Rank:1193]
Steve Valladolid
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San Diego
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Four player game. Played poorly as characterized by the on turn / off turn pattern. One new player really took to the game and seemed to be in full combo the entire game. The neutral liverymen were key in this game and were particularly brutal, and really affected the outcome of the game. I had some mad plantation combo thing going but got shut down at the end. I really felt constrained by card draws in this one.
 
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16. Board Game: NUT [Average Rating:6.56 Overall Rank:5765]
Steve Valladolid
United States
San Diego
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Cute little 5 minute filler game from the Pack-O-Game series. Played 3 players. The active player chooses a row of 3 cards to take a card from. The other players grab what is left. You build a tree and try to create clusters of nuts of various colors. You score points depending the size of the clusters. The game ended in a tie between two players and was decided by tie breakers.
 
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17. Board Game: Railroad Revolution [Average Rating:7.43 Overall Rank:683]
Steve Valladolid
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San Diego
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Really fun game with a train theme, but not really a train game. You score points passed on progress along 3 tracks. You need to carefully balance your available pool and type of workers for taking actions and fulfilling using them to complete contracts which removes them from your pool. At the start of the game we discussed the controversy regarding the strength of the Western Union track in relation to others. We decided to play base rules. The WU track was good but not overpowering, IMO.

I took a strong building strategy which recruited workers and minored in contracts with a dash of Western Union which wasn't quite good enough for a win but it was close. 3 players with 3 different approaches and scores were tight. I really like this game.
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18. Board Game: Navegador [Average Rating:7.57 Overall Rank:175]
Steve Valladolid
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5 players, 4 of which were new. Very crowded board as we all fought over colonies. The game got off to a fast start with a boat rush towards the spice colonies and then stalled as the rushers ran out of boats. The other players tried to catch up on points in the meantime.

Several strategies, but lots of colonies won the day. Shipyards with multipliers was next. My mixed approach...not so good. I tried to get into production buildings but wasted a lot of turns gaining workers and then losing them to collect privilege tiles. I think in the future, I need to get at least one extra church yard to be able recover workers more quickly. Great game that was a hit with all the players.
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19. Board Game: Yokohama [Average Rating:7.95 Overall Rank:92]
Steve Valladolid
United States
San Diego
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New hotness. The game layout looks like a disaster, but once you know the language of the game and the general flow, the play is easy. I took a different approach than in previous games. I concentrated on meeting the 3 game objectives. One of them, was the first to reach 4 technologies so I went for those. At the end of the game, I had majority in technologies and had scored all the game objectives. I only made one delivery to the customs house and no deliveries to the church track. I also gained some points with the various set collection of the country flags. Squeaked out a victory.
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20. Board Game: Vanuatu (second edition) [Average Rating:7.57 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.57 Unranked]
Steve Valladolid
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San Diego
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New to me

The action selection and execution portion of this game is super interesting. Players have a total of 5 tokens to place over field of 8 or so action spaces. The tokens are played 2, 2, 1 over 3 passes. The actions are taken first by the players with a simple majority in each space. This can lead to some players getting completely blocked out depending on how things turn out. The game seems to be correctly assessing who needs to do what and when. I was pretty good at this and only managed to get "screwed" once the entire game. Unfortunately it was the last round of the game, where I got completely locked out and wasn't able to take a single action which lost me the game.

Gorgeous looking game, with a very interesting mechanic. Sort of a jerk faced jerk game, but I thought it was pretty cool and would play it again.
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21. Board Game: Egizia [Average Rating:7.45 Overall Rank:291]
Steve Valladolid
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San Diego
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Very cool game that is out of print, so I was happy to find a copy in the library. I had played a single online game, had done a quick review of the rules ahead of time, but still managed to make a major rules gaff that we didn't uncover until the last round. A bit embarrassing, but at least we know how to play now.

The game is all about a one way trip up the Nile where you claim action spots along the way. You score points by building the Egyptian monuments in a variety of ways. There is some jockeying around to claim key Nile cards along the way and to score bonus points by building key parts of the monuments. You also have to manage the size of your workforce and make sure you can feed them every turn. Great game.
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22. Board Game: L'Aéropostale [Average Rating:7.01 Overall Rank:4378]
Steve Valladolid
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New to me

Richly thematic, beautifully produced game about the early age of aviation. The game is about making deliveries, and earning flying badges in a race to be the best pilot.

There some nice touches and but it felt too long for its weight, but it was enjoyable. I decent game somewhere between super filler and light strategy game. Gorgeous to look at.

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23. Board Game: Helvetia [Average Rating:7.01 Overall Rank:1024]
Steve Valladolid
United States
San Diego
California
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Last game of the con.

Very fun game with an unusual flow. You are a family building a village. The game is interesting as your workers marry into the villages of other families.

You gain points by making and delivering goods to the market. Some goods are simple and can be sent directly. Others are complex goods and require chaining of building actions by your meeples to make. Water feeds goats, which make cheese. Ore makes ingots, which is then needed to make brass.

Your meeples can get married and move to the next village. New workers for added buildings come from taking the midwife action to make babies from married couples, but they need spend a turn at school before they can become productive workers.

Having attractive buildings, can lead to marriages as your opponents want to use your buildings. You can then have children, which gives you more workers and gain more possible action spaces.

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