Dice Tower Con 2017...A Great Time Was Had By All!
Jonathan
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Maitland
Florida
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I look forward to Dice Tower Con all year. I've been gaming a while, and though I've been to a bunch of game conventions, organized tournaments, and other such events, Dice Tower Con is, by far, the best I've ever been to...and each year it gets better. Unlike Origins or Gencon, which feature all kinds of speakers, events, and panels, Dice Tower Con is, at its heart, bare-bones.

The majority of the convention area is full of tables. There's a large game library, and plenty of signs that say either: Players Wanted, Teacher Wanted, or Experienced Players Wanted. The idea is that you get a game from the library, or bring your own, and put up a sign. Before you know it you've got a game going, or a someone has volunteered to teach you the new hotness. It sounds simple, it is simple, and it is amazing. Dice Tower Con does feature a few panels, game shows, and other events, but with one or two exceptions, I completely skip them, and focus on the games.

Every year I swear I'm going to make a geek list. Every year I get busy when the con is over, and skip it. Finally, I'm going to make one...I hope to encapsulate the fun I had, and offer a few observations and a few pieces of constructive criticism. Here we go!
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1. Board Game: Hotel Ritz [Average Rating:4.83 Unranked]
Jonathan
United States
Maitland
Florida
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Dice Tower Con is held at the Caribe Royale close to the Orlando parks. This is the second year at the location. I actually like the old location, the Double Tree better, for purely selfish reasons...they offered fresh cookies, and the Double Tree is fifteen minutes closer to home! That said, the Caribe makes perfect sense for the Con...it boasts a huge convention center that is absolutely necessary as attendance numbers skyrocket year-to-year and I found the staff to be friendly and reliable. I live roughly 35 minutes away, so I don't stay at the hotel.
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2. Board Game: Funny Friends [Average Rating:6.48 Overall Rank:1689]
Jonathan
United States
Maitland
Florida
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From my first Dice Tower Con I attended alone, to this one where I had nine friends joining me, each year sees an uptick in the number of pals who want to come along. Invariably friends see pictures I post on Facebook and want in next year. I expect more friends to come in 2018...it's also great to see some familiar faces each year, you guys and gals know who you are.

In a way, having so many friends at the con is a little limiting. Someone always wants to play something, so most of my played games were with old friends. Still, that's OK, and we all had fun.
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3. Board Game: The Great Zimbabwe [Average Rating:7.76 Overall Rank:331]
Jonathan
United States
Maitland
Florida
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My first game of the con! Nikolas taught me TGZ a few years ago at Dice Tower Con, and it is a gem. We play it quite a bit, and my first game was between Nicole, Gary, Jim, and myself. Jim had never played before, but he grasped it quickly. The only moderately confusing part was the rule regarding secondary craftsman. I love playing this game, and Gary and I had a photo finish with a mere point separating first and second place.
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4. Board Game: Onitama [Average Rating:7.54 Overall Rank:183]
Jonathan
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Maitland
Florida
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Onitama is a solid, fun game. It's actually rather thought-intensive for such a short game, which I like. I taught Nicole while we were waiting to head to lunch.
 
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5. Board Game: A Game of Thrones: The Board Game (Second Edition) [Average Rating:7.68 Overall Rank:89]
Jonathan
United States
Maitland
Florida
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One of my David friends is obsessed with Game of Thrones. He and his playgroup have printed out a huge 9-player version of GoT. I couldn't wait to play this. Despite scheduling our game in advance, we had a last-minute drop-out, but Nicole was kind enough to stick around for our game. I had House Arryn, which put me in an interesting position...House Arryn has very few chances to build the fleets so essential for moving armies and launching surprise attacks, but it does have a highly-defensible position with excellent character cards focused on defense.

I quickly expanded to create some buffer room, and built ships as often as I could. While I was never able to go anywhere with my tiny fleet, it did serve to guard my home waters, and because I kept it concentrated it was strong enough to resist my opponent's more numerous but more defuse navies. With House Bolton to the north busy crushing Stannis Baratheon, and House Targaryen locked in a civil war with the pretender Targaryens to the South, nobody bothered me too much. After driving Bolton off in some initial skirmishing, I slowly expanded until I was close enough to grab for the win. Targaryen, Lannister, and Greyjoy both tried to stop me, but it was too little, too late, and the excellent defensive cards given to Arryn helped a lot. I won in about two and a half hours, pretty good for a regular game of GoT, let alone the nine player version. I think if we had gone another round or two, Lannister might have won, as they had been left alone by Greyjoy to grow strong.

It's always interesting to play GoT with new people...this game was about a quarter people I regularly play with, half of another group, and a quarter strangers. The other group apparently doesn't do much table talk...that's what my group spends most of its time doing when we play, with breaks between rounds to plot strategy, and note-passing a hallmark of our games. I will say that the minimal chatter kept the pace roaring along, but I missed the buzz of plotting! Things did pick up towards the end as various houses finally started to chat regarding how to keep this or that player from winning. In any case, this was a treat, and great fun to play!
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6. Board Game: Ginkgopolis [Average Rating:7.43 Overall Rank:335]
Jonathan
United States
Maitland
Florida
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After a brain-burny game of Game of Thrones, I called it a day and headed home. I began day 2 teaching Joe and Dave how to play Ginkgopolis. They enjoyed it, and we got two games in.
 
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7. Board Game: Justice League Strategy Game [Average Rating:6.55 Overall Rank:9135]
Jonathan
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Maitland
Florida
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I've had this game sitting around forever, unplayed. I was determined to get it to the table this year. I rounded up Joe, Gary, Dave, and Nicole for a play...we didn't love it, and a work crisis arose mid-game. We all agreed to abandon it while I made some phone calls. I'd describe the game as a bit like Pandemic with a sentient virus. For whatever reason it just didn't "click" (ha ha) with us.
 
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8. Board Game: Captain Sonar [Average Rating:7.67 Overall Rank:105]
Jonathan
United States
Maitland
Florida
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One of the hits of last-years Dice Tower Con. I love this game, but getting eight people to play is tough, and you really want a full group for Captain Sonar. Fortunately, Gary's friend Jim was in attendance with his own group of pals, and we were off to the races. We split, each winning a game, and having a good time.
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9. Board Game: Two Rooms and a Boom [Average Rating:7.04 Overall Rank:776]
Jonathan
United States
Maitland
Florida
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Dice Tower Con features a lot of late-night gaming. I usually head home around 7, but Thursday night I stayed on to try Two Rooms and a Boom. I like werewolf style games, and wanted to give it a try. It was fun, and our moderator was game. I do think that an odd number of players throws off the game...In both of my plays the odd character card added in was either dominant (zombie), or awful (MI6). I would like to play again though, and see how it handles an even number.
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10. Board Game: Anachrony [Average Rating:8.14 Overall Rank:63]
Jonathan
United States
Maitland
Florida
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One of the neat features of Dice Tower Con is the ability to schedule games in advance. In the past, I've gone crazy with this, but experience has taught me that can be a mistake. Days when I have games scheduled usually mean I have patches of an hour or two to kill in between scheduled games...and I hate to start something unsure if I'll have time to finish. This year Anachrony was my only scheduled game, and it was set for early morning. I think I'll keep that trend going next year, and schedule any games I want to play as early as possible, leaving me the rest of the day for spontaneous stuff...

Anyway, Anachrony was awesome, and my hit game of the con. We had a great teacher, and I was honestly very surprised how much I enjoyed it. I knew half-way into turn one I was going to love the game. One friend called the game over-produced, but there's nothing wrong with that, and I found the worker placement and time travel mechanics to blend together into great fun! I immediately pre-ordered a copy of the reprint.
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11. Board Game: Rebel Yell [Average Rating:6.19 Unranked]
Jonathan
United States
Maitland
Florida
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And now for a word about announcements. The Dice Tower Con staff had an excellent PA system rigged up this year, and announcements were loud and easy-to-hear anywhere in the entire convention center. And therein lies the problem. Everyone can agree that in a convention of 3,000 people, some announcements are important. On the last day, a child was looking for his or her parents. I think at one point a car was blocking someone in. Letting people know about a huge event coming up is valuable. Stuff like that. But every time an announcement was made, it disrupted any game I was playing, particularly teaching games.

This isn't a big deal for short announcements. Many of the announcements were not short. Many of them were repetitive. Many were long, and repetitive. "If you want to get a taco in the hot food area, we have ordered 500, and they are either chicken or fish." OK. The first time, sure. This announcement was made over and over. By the third iteration, everyone who wanted a taco was getting one. There were other, much longer, rambling announcements made. They were unnecessary and often dealt with issues of concern to one or two people. It would be great if next year, announcements were limited to stuff that was important, and kept short. This isn't a blanket denunciation, just a friendly piece of constructive criticism. I talked to a number of people who felt the same way.
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12. Board Game: Pyramid Poker [Average Rating:6.74 Overall Rank:3299]
Jonathan
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Maitland
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I don't know when I was first made aware of this title, but it's been in the back of my mind for a while. I'm not usually big on demos, but the R & R Games booth had it, and it looked like a quick learn. George and I picked up the rules quickly, and had fun in our fast game. I wouldn't say Pyramid Poker is going to replace Agricola in my collection, but it isn't trying to. It's fun, and quick, and would go over well with non-gamers. the volunteer who demoed it did a great job too.
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13. Board Game: Virtual [Average Rating:6.67 Unranked]
Jonathan
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Maitland
Florida
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The Virtual Flea Market is fun, and a great way to thin my collection. I sold a few games this year, but I was annoyed when no fewer than four people bid on my items, then later withdrew their bids, in one case after the auction was over. Don't do that. I think I'll be posting some kind of policy on my auction listings next year. Additionally, two people who were supposed to pick up games from me just never showed...I had to track them down later...if you aren't going to show to pick up a game, don't make me wait around for an hour to realize you aren't coming. I'd rather be playing a board game. Send a message or text or something.
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14. Board Game: Ginkgopolis [Average Rating:7.43 Overall Rank:335]
Jonathan
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Maitland
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I played with Katie and George. It was Katie's first time playing, but that didn't stop my friends from crushing me. I think Katie eked out a one point win over George... I was waaaaay behind. Katie liked the game so much she's now on the hunt for her own copy. I hear that there are French versions available... Thus ended Friday.
 
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15. Board Game: Lines of Action [Average Rating:7.19 Overall Rank:2650]
Jonathan
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Maitland
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I don't know what it is about a sale, but people love them. Cool Stuff Games is always present at the con with a selection of items. They also sell ding-and-dent games at a discount. Let me tell you, I don't think I walked by their area once without seeing a huge line of people waiting for a crack at the next ding-and-dent games selection. It baffled me then, and it baffles me now. I go to one game con a year, and the last thing that I want to do is waste an hour (or more!) in line to save a few dollars on a board game I probably don't need anyway. This goes for the Flea Market too...some people started lining up for the 10AM Flea Market at 7AM. I guess whatever makes you happy! The final Sunday sale from Cool Stuff was 50% off already low ding-and-dent prices. That's a good deal, but as I reflect on the games on offer, I still think it's a trap. I'm trying to reduce my game collection, not grow it. The last thing I need are a bunch of so-so games that I bought for short money. Resist Jonathan, resist!
 
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16. Board Game: Terraforming Mars [Average Rating:8.39 Overall Rank:4]
Jonathan
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Maitland
Florida
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Saturday morning dawned with Katie and myself at the game room floor bright and early. I'd been wanting to learn Terraforming Mars, and it was available at the Hot Games area. We sat down, and quickly had not one but two teachers. I was impressed. The two experienced players at our table did a great job getting us up to speed. Being new to the game, we didn't draft cards, but I can see how that would improve the experience. Katie crushed us all with her greenery-based strategy. I'll definitely be picking this up.
 
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17. Board Game: Pyramid Poker [Average Rating:6.74 Overall Rank:3299]
Jonathan
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Maitland
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After learning Terraforming Mars, I ran into Bob, an old friend from Dice Tower Cons past. He usually teaches me a cool game each year, and the last game I wanted to learn was The Great Western Trail. Sadly, it was being played in the Hot Games area, and all the other copies were checked out of the library. Bob put his name on the waiting list (a new innovation this year that worked out well), and we killed a little time playing this at the R & R booth. It was quick and fun. I came back on Sunday to pick up the game, and I'm glad I did.
 
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18. Board Game: Onitama [Average Rating:7.54 Overall Rank:183]
Jonathan
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Maitland
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The Great Western Trail was still nowhere to be found, so I taught Bob Onitama. I think he liked it.
 
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19. Board Game: Rat Hot [Average Rating:6.33 Overall Rank:2756]
Jonathan
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Maitland
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And now, a word about Hot Games. Each year, Dice Tower Con sets out an area for what they think will be the hot games of the con. This is a great idea! The games are left permanently set up, and it's easy to grab a seat when one is available. This year, it felt like maybe they were a little off in some of the selections, as some supposedly hot games I never saw get played once, but even so, I love the idea and hope they keep doing it.

Actually, this leads me to another point. I lost count the number of times I saw someone sitting on a copy of a Hot Game (usually Terraforming Mars or The Great Western Trail) and not playing it. I didn't keep a close watch, but in most instances the box stayed closed for at least twenty minutes, sometimes while the holder played other games. I get that people may be waiting for a friend to join them, but come on...one of the longest, saddest announcements was a series of lengthy requests to return Terraforming Mars to the library so it could be used for a demo. finally, I saw someone at a table near me pack his library copy of it up mid-game (games go 3-4 hours) and return it. He wasn't happy. That shouldn't have happened. Either hold the game knowing there's a demo coming, OR Stronghold Games had a booth. Buy a new copy, or get them to donate one...it was a demo promoting a game they're selling...
 
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20. Board Game: Great Western Trail [Average Rating:8.29 Overall Rank:10]
Jonathan
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Maitland
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Finally, our time on the wait list was over. Bob taught me this much-anticipated game, along with two other very nice people. I was surprised by how unimpressed I was. I really wanted to like this game. I'd describe it as OK, and I wouldn't veto playing it again, but it just wasn't my jam. I think I won by a single point. This was the game that felt most disrupted by loud, repetitive announcements, including, the raffle...
 
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21. Board Game: The Capture of Mr. Raffles [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Jonathan
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Something needs to be done about the raffle. When Dice Tower Con was 400 people, you stood a pretty good chance to win something. That's no longer the case, which is fine, but raffle winners are still announced live over the PA in an event that took well over an hour on Saturday. Totally unnecessary. Every other day featured a list posted after the drawing of which ticket won what. Just do that, and maybe announce the 5 big ticket raffle items live. I always feel compelled to stand around and see if I won, and ultimately it's boring and takes time away from gaming.
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22. Board Game: Werewolf [Average Rating:6.59 Overall Rank:1273]
Jonathan
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Maitland
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Although there's late-night werewolf gaming every night of the con, by tradition we only play one, on Saturday night. This year, I died almost immediately, but stuck around to see how things played out. The moderator was clearly exhausted (poor guy), but everyone had a blast. George almost made it all the way to the end after giving an impassioned speech about how he is killed each year for not talking much, despite always being a villager. He was a villager this year too, but the Hunter still killed him. He was one day away from retirement!
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23. Board Game: The Networks [Average Rating:7.29 Overall Rank:534]
Jonathan
United States
Maitland
Florida
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Sunday is always a weird half-day at Dice Tower Con. A lot of people have left or are leaving. I sat down at the Hot Games table for The Networks to look at the rules, and quickly found a teacher. We had a three-player game. The spoof names are cute, but the gameplay didn't impress me. I'm glad I tried it, however.
 
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24. Board Game: Fallen [Average Rating:8.04 Overall Rank:1897]
Jonathan
United States
Maitland
Florida
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I played Fallen with Katie. I like this game, but haven't played in a while. We got up to speed presently, but while I had fun, I don't think Katie was sold. I did finally get to play as an adventurer as opposed to always being forced to be the bad guy.
 
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25. Board Game: Ginkgopolis [Average Rating:7.43 Overall Rank:335]
Jonathan
United States
Maitland
Florida
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It turns out Ginkgopolis was my most-played game of the con. I started a new game with Katie and Dave, but we gave up mid-way through as we all decided our brains were fried. This was kind of ending the con with a whimper, but everyone had a great time!
 
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