Tim's Detailed and Pedantic BGG.con 2017 Retrospective
Tim Shippert
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Richland
Washington
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As I have for every year since 2006, I attended BGG.con from November 14-19, 2017, in Dallas TX. This geeklist will list the games I played and whatever other nonsense I feel like typing up.

This year, we had no fewer than ten CBBS, CBBS-adjacent, and prodigal former CBBS gamers as part of our extended gaming cohort. Thus, the CBBS was responsible for approximately 0.33% of the success of BGG.con 2017. You are all welcome.

The active CBBS gamers in attendance were me, Andy, Shawn, New Eric, and Ian.

Andrew Korson
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Shawn Hampton
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As per usual, we hooked up with and played extensively with Doug, Jeff, and Debbie, from parts around the globe.

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Debbie Ohi
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Finally, on Saturday we even caught up with former CBBSers Steve and Laura, who interrupted their international jet setting travels to hang with us again for a couple days.

I generally use this Con, which is my only real vacation of the year, as an opportunity to play new games - which, in many cases, leads to my not needing to buy them. I treat this Geeklist like a gaming diary, so the entries are listed chronologically as I played them, which really isn't that interesting. So here is the TL;DR summary of the good, bad, and other:

Good
Yago Pool
Altiplano
Rajas of the Ganges
The Quest for El Dorado
Meeple Circus
Riverboat
Reworld
Memoarrr!
Nusfjord
Cat Lady
Captain Silver

Okay
Heaven & Ale
Transatlantic
Fast Forward: FORTRESS
Fast Forward: FLEE
Calimala
Peak Oil
Betrayal at Baldur's Gate
MS Batory

Eh
Agra
Riga
Night of the Grand Octopus

Games I really wanted to play but I never saw the game outside of the swamped Hot Games area
Azul
Photosynthesis
Keyper

Games I wanted to play but the jerks I came with wouldn't let me
Noria
Montana
The Expanse Board Game
Merlin

In the weeks before BGG.con 2017, we made a Google Docs spreadsheet of all the games we might want to play - it had 69 entries. Of those, I ended up playing nineteen, plus one really good one (Cat Lady) that I had previously not heard of. I say this every year, but there are Too Many Games. Not only does this destroy the common vocabulary gamers of fifteen or even ten years ago had, but it also makes it hard to find the appropriate filters to find the games you really want to play. There used to be maybe one game ever that hit any particular set of gaming tastes and interests - now there are five every year, and everybody who used to be just like you thinks a different one is best. This isn't a fatal development, obviously, but it does mean I end up playing a lot more games that I don't particularly like at an event like this than I used to.
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1. Board Game: Yago Pool [Average Rating:6.65 Unranked]
Tim Shippert
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Ongoing

As per usual, Andy and I played many rounds of Yago Pool whenever we had some time to kill and found ourselves in the dexterity games area. This year we had a scare as the powers that be threatened not to bring it, but thanks to Andy's impassioned plea in the dexterity games poll Yago Pool just squeaked in.

Andy claims I'm better at this than he is, but I think it's the other way around. Regardless, we both agree that we used to be a lot better - we might have hit that midlevel development plateau where you try things that are trickier than your skill level and thus suck more than when you are first starting out and just try to knock the damn balls in the holes.

Anyway, after this year, Andy and I are miraculously tied in our lifetime series, with one million victories apiece.
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2. Board Game: Agra [Average Rating:7.47 Overall Rank:1088]
Tim Shippert
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Wednesday, November 15, 2017
Splain time: 10:00am
Start time: 11:00am
End time: 1:45pm


After registration, which we got to do up front because of the premium badges we forked out for (although I never got my free CGE games - the registration guy said something I didn't understand about that, and Aldie said at the closing I should go back to the Glasscock room, which was locked tight), Doug forced me, Shawn, and Ian to play Agra, which was sitting all ready to play in the hot games area.

So, we all knew this was going to be long and complicated - you produce stuff to turn into other stuff to get cards and give to the Maharaja for end game points or to deliver to move your rickety, unstable pawns up this overly-elaborate scoring display. Sometimes somebody would snake you for something, sometimes you were able to plan around it to get the next thing. But at the end you are left wondering - why did I bother to do any of that? There wasn't anything particularly new here. The components were awesome-looking but nonfunctional, making it hard to see what was empty on the board and what wasn't, and impossible to avoid knocking over the scoring pawns several times during the game. The game mechanisms were elaborate and interlocking but not particularly fun, either to learn or to do. What is the point in spending three hours playing something like this? The game wasn't broken, but it didn't feel like you got anything out of the experience.

Doug scored 66, I scored 62, Shawn and Ian were in the 50s
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3. Board Game: Riverboat [Average Rating:7.56 Overall Rank:1544]
Tim Shippert
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Start time: 2:30pm
End time: 3:40pm


So now it was time to play my reserved game, Riverboat, a new Michael Kiesling solo effort. Once again, we eschewed Andy and New Eric and played with me, Doug, Shawn, and Ian.

You fill in your field with crops, harvest them, and ship them on boats. But you have to explicitly score various features, using rare scoring pawns ("Surveyors") in the final phase of each of the four rounds in the game, so the trick is figuring out what thing you are going to score with, and how to get enough surveyors to score everything you need to be competitive. Doug and Ian waited to build big boats in the first couple rounds, which allowed them to fill up New Orleans with agents, which score at the end of the game (without using any surveyors), so I focused on trying to make donuts of the same crops to score Barns and to get my Harbor Master far enough along that I could score more points at the end that way.

However, we got one major scoring rule wrong - I would have highlighted this rule in my initial reading of the rules to this game if I owned it. The Harbor Master is supposed to score full points for boats only to the first place person - everybody else scores half points. We discovered this in the middle of the final round, after anybody had any time to do anything about it, so we just scored full points for everybody.

Playing this way completely unbalances the Harbor Master versus the New Orleans agents - the two endgame area control scoring mechanisms. The agents score 20/10/5/0, which is an enormous spread and thus a key point of contention in the game. Our Harbor Masters ended up scoring something like ~21/18/16/12 - so you really need to halve the latter three to make losing the Harbor Master as painful as losing New Orleans, and to bring the same positions into roughly the same payoff scale. As we played it, fighting for New Orleans was way more important than fighting for the Harbor Master.

As it was, I was shut out of New Orleans - I was hoping the loss of all those early workers was going to hurt the early agent placers, but Doug didn't seem to have any trouble farming his crops and grabbing boats, so I guess not.

Doug finished with 129 (-8 if we halved his Harbor Master points), Ian scored 122 (-9), I ended up with 116, and Shawn had 91.

The mechanics were fun and interesting, with a couple different scoring methods and strategeries. It is also nice to play a middleweight game that runs just over an hour. It might be that you could see everything you need to see after five playings or so, but it probably wouldn't take less than that.
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4. Board Game: Nusfjord [Average Rating:7.53 Overall Rank:1066]
Tim Shippert
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Start time: 4ish
End time: 5:00pm


Next up was Nusfjord, the latest Uwe Rosenberg joint. Once again, it was Doug, Shawn, Ian, and Tim.

Nusfjord certainly feels like a Uwe Rosenberg game, but on the lighter side and without taking too long. You have three workers to place on action spaces, but several of them (e.g. build a boat or recruit an elder) allow multiples, so the blocking is not as strict and painful as in Agricola et al. There are also fewer total options - you want to get elders, buy buildings, build ships to get more fish, cut down (and replant) forests for wood, feed the banquet of Elders, and issue and buy shares in your fishing companies. Elders and Building are the cards you buy, and give you additional unique options, so the game arc is familiar: get resources to build your engine and then run it. Do that for seven rounds, and that's it.

The great thing about Nusfjord is that it provides about 70% of the full-Uwe experience, in about half the time and effort. It's deep enough to make you think about it after and want to try new things, and the cards that come out are varied enough that each game should be different and interesting, at least for the first dozen plays or so.

I focused on building my ships to the max early, converting wood and fish into those big schooners. But I stalled out in the last few rounds, because apparently just fishing out the wazoo isn't enough - you need some big scoring buildings (generally in the C deck) or some way to generate gold or some other way to score points, because piles of rotting fish in your reserve score you nothing at the end. One way to turn fish into points (gold) is at the banquet table, but unless everybody is doing nothing but running Elders (who eat the banquet fish), eventually that stops being very effective.

Doug and Shawn finished with 32 points - I neither know nor care what the tiebreaker might be. They probably both built more buildings than me, or some such crap. Ian scored 30, and I wound up with a measly 25.

The fun part about this game is looking at the available buildings and trying to build some synergy between them and maybe some Elders (who do not change from game to game, except maybe with the number of players). Once you are familiar with the possible C cards in each of the three available decks, it might become somewhat procedural. Still, a fast and satisfying Rosenberg game (a la Glass Road) is generally a good thing to have around.
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5. Board Game: Heaven & Ale [Average Rating:7.68 Overall Rank:571]
Tim Shippert
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Start time: 7:15pm
End time: 9:00pm


After dinner we had a discussion about what games to play, at which point New Eric, Ian, and I decided to play Heaven & Ale, a game about beer and beer.

Actually, it's a game about monks brewing beer - the key to which is to make all the ingredients equally good. Also to have your brewmaster be good, although probably better than your ingredients.

The schtick is that you take four laps (with three; six laps with four) around the track, doing stuff on whatever space you land on. But you can go as far forward as you like, so it's a little like Glen More, although the turns still rotate normally. Once you hit the end, you gotta wait for everybody else to get there, then you refill the board with stuff and go again.

If you land on crop or monk spaces, you buy the crop or monk tiles and put them on your board somewhere - either to make money or improve the crops, depending on where they go. You only get stuff when you land on the "score" spaces, which let you score in a variety of ways - all crops of a kind, all crops and monks next to a particular monk, or all crops with a given number. And you can score some of those tiles yet again and move up your brewmaster if you surround a barn.

At the end of the game, you convert your crop levels such that they are as equal as possible, then multiply the value of the backmost crop by the level your brewmaster is on for you point totals. The conversion rate also depends on your brewmaster, and there are some additional "first or second to do a thing" barrel tiles that will score at the end.

So there are a lot of things to consider - do I want to spend double to put my crop on the sunny side, which will score me points at the end, or do I need it to make me money? You need to focus on surrounding barns, which give you extra score possibilities and are the best way to move up your brewmaster, but sometimes you really need to put that green crop in the sun because it is way behind the others and there are no good sunny sides next to a barn. Etc.

But the puzzly nature of a game like this does not appeal to everybody. I like optimization problems, and deciding to jump halfway across to board to score a key 5 blue tile is a hard decision that cannot be completely solved by mathing it out, which is nice. But Ian and Eric were less enthralled, so I fear this might be a game that only I like.

Anyway, I got my brewmaster farthest along, which gave me an easy victory with 55 points. Ian finished with 39 after score a slew of late barrels, while Eric wound up with 24.
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6. Board Game: Riga [Average Rating:6.54 Overall Rank:8367]
Tim Shippert
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Richland
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Start time: 9:30pm
End time: 10:30pm


Andy then forced New Eric and me to play Riga.

This is one of those card games - you draft either some money cards or a building card, then play a building card. Do that lots of times. Whoever score the most wins.

It's slightly more interesting than that - the buildings have powers that might help you score or build based on symbols, and different buildings get a bonus with different colors of money.

There's nothing wrong with Riga. The game works, and isn't annoying to play. There are dozens of games that give exactly the same experience.

New Eric won! With 73 points. Andy and I scored 59 and 57.
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7. Board Game: Memoarrr! [Average Rating:7.20 Overall Rank:2175]
Tim Shippert
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Start time: 10:45pm
End time: 11:05pm


It had been a long day, and we were getting tired and loopy. So it was a perfect time for New Eric, Andy, and me to play Memoarrr!, a godforsaken memory game, of all things.

You lay out a 5x5 grid (minus the center) of square cards face down, then you get to look at the middle three of the side nearest you. Then somebody flips up one card, and then everybody has to flip up a card that matches either the animal in the foreground or the landscape in the background of teh card before. If you miss you are out; last guy in gets a random treasure card. Do that seven times.

The great thing about this game is that you do not reset the cards from round to round. So everybody knows that the card to the right of the center is an octopus in the jungle. Right? Or...is it the one above that? I can't remember! Maybe I should flip the penguin in the jungle that I know is in the lower left. Crap! That's the penguin in the ocean! I'm out.

You get the idea. It's a hysterical late night game. Like dexterity and speed games, the fun comes from failing, so if that kind of thing stresses you out, too bad for you.

I got three treasure cards to the two for the others, but New Eric found the four ruby treasure to win 6 to 5 to 4. It might be funny to play with the treasure cards face up, so you know which rounds are more important, to add to the stress.
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8. Board Game: Altiplano [Average Rating:7.62 Overall Rank:666]
Tim Shippert
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Thursday, November 16, 2017
Start time: 11:30am
End time: 2:30pm


Thursday morning I got up at the crack of eleven and wandered down to see what was up. The other losers in my group were playing some damn thing, so I meandered over to the Hot Games area and fortuitously stumbled onto a game of Altiplano. It is basically impossible to play any hot games in the Hot Games area without looming over the people already playing there, waiting impatiently for them to finish their insignificant game so you get a turn. That always horks me off when people do it to me, so I never do it to anybody else, either, with the result that I rarely get to play any Hot Games at these things.

Nevertheless, you can get lucky, especially before noon, and thus I got into a game with three gentlemen named Max, Danny, and David, splained by John Melby.

Altiplano shows it's Orléans roots, since you buy new tokens to put in your bag and draw them out to do stuff. You spend food to move to various areas, each of which has different things you can do - mostly involving using tokens to get more tokens, but also using them to generate money, using money to buy extensions to improve your available actions, getting a variety of cards to help you score and get resources, and dumping tokens permanently into a warehouse, which will score increasing number of points as you fill in sets during the game.

Oh, and most of the advanced tokens score points themselves at the end of the game, too, so just getting silver or cloth or glass is worth doing, even if you never use them for anything.

So there is a lot to explore here - is getting a cacao engine more effective than the alpaca to wool to cloth sequence? You want wood and stone to build the road, to increase the number of tokens you can draw each turn. Silver is a good source of money, which can be really valuable, but you also can run an engine that completely avoids trading for and with money. Lots of extensions take fish to get advanced, hard to get tokens, so maybe you want to focus on the lake - but you also want to get a lot of different tokens, so you can store different sets in the warehouse and get to the really high scoring sets on the right side.

The downside of Altiplano is that there is not a lot of player interaction - you are building and running your own engine, and generally it doesn't matter what anybody else is doing unless they snarf an extension you really wanted. Later on in the game you definitely will be stepping on each other's toes as you fight to get the last cloth before somebody else gets it, or to get your share of corn to help in the warehouse. But for most of the game its definitely multiplayer solitaire.

In this game I started with alpacas and thus hung out in the cloth area, generating food, more alpacas, wool, and cloth. This got me some points, but it meant I didn't have a lot of trees or stone, so I wasn't able to keep up with the others in the road. Danny spent most of his early game int he forest getting tons of trees and eventually generating cacao, which he then used to get all kinds of good stuff. Max got a silver engine going, generating huge piles of cash and spending most of the game at the market. I didn't really pay attention to what David was doing, as per the multiplayer solitaire comment above.

By the end Danny's engine was humming along spectacularly - he always seemed to have lots more actions than the rest of us for some reason, even when we caught up on the road. Once the village was cleaned out of alpacas and cloth I pivoted to the forest and mountain to try and max out my road and fill my last couple sets with corn - but Danny and David snarfed me out of the last corns by fulfilling contracts, which ended up costing me something like 20 points. So, the end game is definitely not solitaire, as resources are limited and running out will trigger the end, and everybody but the winner probably will find that it happens at an inconvenient time.

The final scores were Danny 132, David 101, Me 90, and Max 60. I've been thinking about this game since I played it, and there are lots of different options to try, so that's good. It remains to be seen whether there is an optimal strategery, though - I'm always skeptical that this is the case in complicated, interlocking games like this. It also took a long time to play, although we did have an extensive splaining session at the start. It might be best with three or even two, since extra players don't interact much and just make the game go longer.
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9. Board Game: Fast Forward: FORTRESS [Average Rating:6.57 Overall Rank:2774]
Tim Shippert
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Start time: 3:00pm
End time: 4:00pm


The others had started playing some other damn game I probably wanted to play, so I tracked down New Eric and forced him to play Fast Forward: FORTRESS. These "Fast Forward" games are Friedemann Friese's latest iteration on the "fable" game concept, where you modify the deck from game to game. In this case, you don't even have to read the rules - the game is explained (and changed) as you play and new cards become available. You just crack open the deck, do NOT shuffle, and start playing.

The basic idea is to capture the most Fortresses by the end of the game. There are slight differences between the Fortresses as they come out, and new mechanisms for fighting your opponents and defending, so the progression of games was kind of interesting.

But one wonders how much replayability there is in a game like this. The mechanisms work and are interesting, but the main appeal is seeing what new mechanism or card type is going to come next - so you really want to sit down raw and play several games until you've seen every card. After that, you can keep playing, but I don't know if the game itself is interesting enough without the anticipation of seeing something new next time. That does make it a really good con game, though - run through it once, and then never play it again.

Anyway, we played six games in an hour - we thought it would be better with four, but we never got the chance to try it out with that number. I might still pick it (or one of its siblings) up for a late night run through once a year or something.
 
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10. Board Game: Captain Silver [Average Rating:6.17 Overall Rank:9005]
Tim Shippert
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Richland
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Start time: 8:15pm
End time: 8:45pm


After a stint in the library, Andy wanted to play Captain Silver, and roped Debbie and me into playing. We got rogue gamer David to join us by prudent use of the "Players Wanted" sign, and we were set.

This is a dumb game. There are four tracks on the board, and you simultaneously try to draw the right object out of your bag to fill the next spot on each track. Any object that doesn't go (either because you grabbed the wrong one or because somebody snaked you) earns you penalty points; any object you get on the track will earn you gold or eventual ship movement, which will earn you a treasure card each time you complete a circuit.

The end.

Obviously, your opinion on this will depend on how you like speed games, but it was pretty funny trying desperately to find your parrot in your bag only to have somebody get theirs down just in time to beat you. And you did get slightly better at it as you went along, learning to recognize the various pirate-themed objects.

David turned out to be a ringer, winning easily with 23 points. Andy scored 15, I wound up with 12, and Debbie scored either 6 or 8, depending on how forgiving we were about some late game mistake that I don't remember.
 
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11. Board Game: Transatlantic [Average Rating:7.29 Overall Rank:1329]
Tim Shippert
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Richland
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Start time: 9:15pm
End time: 10:50pm


I decided to walk the earth looking for a pickup game, and found a gentleman by the name of William looking for players for Transatlantic, a game on our playlist. We roped Andy back in and played three player.

This is kind of a deck building game, especially with the President variant (which is apparently the way Mac Gerdts wants you to play)...but a slow moving one. You have a set of action cards that you use to draft ships, get coal, build various scoring and production buildings, and run your ships for profit. By the midpoint the seas are all full, so older ships get cycled out (for full points - they just can't run any more), so you are constantly needing to get newer and better ships, with an eye towards building your point scoring capacity and trying to dominate a given sea to get extra benefits.

The deck building part comes after you've played four of your cards - then you are eligible to play the President, which lets you pick up your action cards AND draft a newer (better) action card AND play it immediately. Since the new cards are better than anything in your old deck it is rare that you will want to do something else. But it doesn't really feel like a deck-builder, since you might cycle your deck only a half-dozen times in the game - so the new cards get played only a couple times, including the time when you bought it.

So it's really a money and resource management game, and a point builder. As such, it was interesting and fun, and I like the industrial theme (although actually picking up and delivering is all abstracted out). And it played pretty quickly, so it had that going for it. But, like so many games these days, one wonders how much there is there. It feels like the kind of game that you will have sussed out by the third time around, and after that it will all depend on what comes up when.

Anyway, I was able to build my scoring track evenly, which gave me a lot of bonus points on the end, earning me a 106 point victory. William ended up with 93 and Andy scored 76.
 
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12. Board Game: Gravity Warfare [Average Rating:7.32 Unranked]
 
Tim Shippert
United States
Richland
Washington
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Friday, November 17, 2017
Start time: 12:30pm
End time: Whatever


After a leisurely breakfast at the buffet, I wandered down again and found myself in a game of Gravity Warfare, which is apparently self-published or kickstarted or some damn thing. There was a giant version out in the dexterity area, but this was a tabletop version, governed by a gentleman that was either the designer or some other representative. There were four of us playing, although I didn't get any other names, because I am lazy and stupid.

This is dexterity game of putting things on a platter balanced on a spike. You roll dice to see what piece you have to put where, and then other people can play cards to make it harder - you have to use chopsticks or spin the platter or close your eyes. The actual rules seemed kind of loose - I had to spin the platter, but the runner seemed unsatisfied because I didn't spin it hard enough, which, okay, but I want something a little more objective than "that's not good enough". It was pretty funny, though, when they took a poll and denied my blind placement of a tank, because it wasn't quite on enough of the target area.

You keep going until somebody fails and everything falls off, and then you score points or something, and then you go again. It was fun enough, but I have lots of dexterity games like this, and there wasn't anything particularly special about this iteration of the same thing.
 
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13. Board Game: Rajas of the Ganges [Average Rating:7.71 Overall Rank:418]
Tim Shippert
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Richland
Washington
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Start time: 2:00pm
End time: 3:15pm


Next I wandered over and met up with New Eric and Ian to play Rajas of the Ganges.

This is a dice management slash worker placement slash tile laying game - you put guys out and pay money and dice to do stuff, and get tiles to arrange on your board to build your engine and score stuff. The scoring is kind of interesting - you track money going one way and fame points going the other, and you win when they meet. I'm still not convinced this is mathematically different than just scoring them both on the same track (with fame scoring 2 moneys apiece) - you can spend money and not fame, which might matter a little bit in the early game if you are going fame heavy and can't buy something you need, but otherwise it's more of a gimmick than a real difference.

But the game itself is very interesting and fun. Most key actions take dice of specific or total values and colors, so you are always having to plan ahead - how to get more dice, how to manipulate them into the numbers or colors you need to do a thing. The tile placement is non-trivial, too, because you get bonuses depending on where they go, and you have to worry about road connections to make sure you can hit the next spot you want. And it has the classic worker placement dilemma of needing to do a lot of things in a specific order and having to deal with other people snaking your spots. Finally, there are lots of ways to get things done and score points - markets to get money, buildings to score fame, a river to get extra stuff, lots and lots of places to go, which suggests multiple paths to victory.

Ian went heavy into merchants, while Eric focused largely on buildings. I used my early tiles to move down the right side of my board, which get some pretty big bonuses when you get down towards the bottom. I was the first to get the two extra workers (up both the fame and money tracks), which gave me a couple turns of extra actions, and by the end I was scoring money and fame in pretty solid chunks. My scores met at 32 fame, 60 rupees for the victory, right at the far corner of the board, meaning I had scored both currencies evenly. Ian had 72 rupees and 12 fame, while Eric was at 22 fame and 24 rupees.
 
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14. Board Game: Reworld [Average Rating:6.83 Overall Rank:3609]
Tim Shippert
United States
Richland
Washington
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Start time: 3:50pm
End time: 5:30pm


Because we were too lazy to change anything, New Eric, Ian, and I stayed right where we were to play Reworld, the 4325th game by Michael Kiesling to come out this year, this time along with longtime collaborator Wolfgang Kramer.

Reworld is played in two phases - a setup phase and a scoring phase, so it presents a weird problem when splaining: you have to start at the end of the game, so everybody knows what everything does, so you can set them up correctly. In the first phase you draft colony ship components and stack them on your ship. The interstellar trip happens offscreen, and then the second phase is unstacking your components to build your colony on the new planet.

So how you stack things in the first phase will determine how you can play them in the second phase. There are five drafting rounds in phase one, so you can't expect the right components to come up in the right order, which means you have to be clever in how you build your five stacks, and you may have to grab some stuff on spec, hoping to get the right tile in a later round. The draft is governed by an interesting card play mechanism, which restricts what is available to you and where it can go, which adds some additional complications to your calculations.

The reason why the second colonization phase is not a simple rote "Tower of Hanoi" problem is that you are competing with the other players for a bunch of "first to achieve a thing in your colony" bonus tiles. You get points for first to empty each of your stacks or get enough satellites up or start all five cities or get four shuttles or five corporations or have a city of eight tiles big, etc. There are fourteen of these, and the points they represent are a big part of your final score - and, since they are all "first" bonuses, this makes the colonization phase quite interactive. You need to have a plan while building your stacks in the first phase, but you also need to be able to adjust and respond in the second phase to secure your share of the bonuses.

At the end of the game there is an area majority scoring for defensive shields and the size of each city.

In this game Ian focused on getting satellites early in the supply phase, eschewing extra corporations (each corps builds in exactly one of your cities) in favor of terrabots and planning on using his shuttles mostly for defense. Satellites will score different in-game bonuses when played, which means you probably want to supply them early so they come out late during colonization and score you more points. Ian caught on to this strategery before the rest of us - meanwhile, I was trying to get terrabots for all five cities as well as all five corporations AND enough corps of one time to push for the size 8 city bonus. I had built a sizeable in-game lead by taking a lot of terrabots early, and scored a couple early bonuses during colonization - but soon Ian was scoring his sattelites and he and Eric snarfed some other bonuses I was aiming for, and I wasn't able to keep up. In the end Ian won handily, 137 to my 110 and 105 for Eric.

The scoring and planning felt different than most games of this type, which was kind of exciting, and I've been thinking about this game ever since we played it, so I will probably pick it up to explore it some more.
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15. Board Game: Exodus Fleet [Average Rating:7.59 Overall Rank:4708]
Tim Shippert
United States
Richland
Washington
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Start time: 7:00pm
End time: 9:00pm


I finally hooked back up with Doug, Shawn, Andy, and Ian all at once, and Doug forced us to play Exodus Fleet, a game he put on our list that I hadn't heard of and didn't learn anything about before hand.

You play a space faction trying to score points by getting ships and transporting colonists. Each turn somebody chooses a roll and everybody bids on it - those who bid the most do it better, while somebody will probably get shut out and not get to do it at all (with a consolation prize in resources and cash). So everybody is doing the same things at roughly the same time: getting money, mining resources, building ships, transporting colonists, that kind of thing, but you have to determine how big you want to go to do a lot of that thing.

Each ship has different scoring abilities and carrying capacity, so along with your faction powers you quickly become very diverse, and the trick is finding an advantage for yourself in all those differences.

The cards were small with tiny text, which makes old people like me angry.

I got an early storage ship which could carry a ton of resources, and scored for having a ton of resources, plus I got a couple bonus cards that let me transport some extra colonists relatively cheaply. So basically mined to fill up my ship, got colonists when I could, and otherwise took money so I could win the bids on the things I really wanted. That was good enough to get me to 41 points, enough to tie with Doug, who had a bigger and better scoring fleet but one fewer colonist. As it turns out, colonists were the tiebreaker, so I claimed victory throughout the known universe. Shawn just missed out with 40, while Andy scored 36, and Ian scored 35, so the game was close, at least.
 
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16. Board Game: Eggs of Ostrich [Average Rating:6.64 Overall Rank:4459]
Tim Shippert
United States
Richland
Washington
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Start time: 9:20pm
End time: 9:35pm


Everybody else was taking a food/phone/urine break, so Jeff introduced Eggs of Ostrich, a game for exactly three players, to Andy and me.

Each round you turn up a card giving a number of ostrich eggs (or sometimes a ruby), which will be divided equally amongst everybody who stays in. The goal is to fill up each of your four bags to exact capacity, which will score you more points than partially filled bags - but if you overfill a bag it asplodes and will score you nothing.

So you simultaneously choose either which bag you are going to fill, or your skip card. Everybody who stays in has to fill their chosen bag with their eggs, and you can't play the same card twice in a row.

That's it.

This is the best filler game for exactly three players I have ever played. Seriously, there is always room in every collection for a quick filler game for a couple players, as you wait for a Game Night reconfig or something. If somebody can find me a copy of this game, I will pay up to one grillion dollars for it.

Anyway, I was able to maneuver and/or luck into a situation where Jeff and Andy both had to skip the penultimate round, which left me alone to grab the (indivisible) ruby and snatch victory, 13 to 10 to 10.
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17. Board Game: Calimala [Average Rating:7.27 Overall Rank:1566]
Tim Shippert
United States
Richland
Washington
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Start time: 10:00pm
End time: 11:30pm


After their various breaks, the fivesome of Andy, Doug, Jeff, Shawn, and me convened once again to play Calimala, for some reason. Probably because it was there.

Calimala has an interesting action selection mechanism - the actions are laid out (randomly) in a 3x3 grid, and you put a disk between two actions and do them both. If there were any disks already there, they then also get to do those actions again, until the fourth time when instead they trigger the next scoring area and their disk moves up to help determine tiebreakers (of which there are a lot). So you want to take actions that other people will also want to take, so you get extras and eventually get some tiebreaker equity.

The board is made up of a bunch of cities, each with various ways to add your influence to them. So, the top cities want marble and wood and bricks and statues, and the bottom cities want silk. There are eighteen scoring tokens laid out randomly in order that will score in all kinds of ways - individual or groups of cities or rows of donated resources, and when they score you do an immediate area control calculation to distribute points. So there is a timing element involved, too - you can see what is coming next, and what is coming after that, and you can kind of tell when they are going to score, so you have to decide which areas you are going to fight for, which you are going to ignore completely, and which you will try for a quick and easy third place, because, hey, a point is a point.

There's also a hidden endgame area majority scoring for half the cities (each player knows one from the beginning), which turn out to be a lot of points and cannot be ignored.

I liked the game and found it interesting and frustrating, but that was mostly because it took several scorings before the timing became clear. Also, nobody ever wanted to jump on my actions (in retrospect, "building" and "sailing" were never going to work well together except in specific early-game circumstances). Because of the random setup and reliance on actions of others, it seems like this game should play out a little differently every time you play, which is a good thing.

Andy went first, chose the tiebreaker city for his bonus card, slapped down a bunch of tiebreaker cubes there, and basically scored a giant pile of points because of that all game long. If that turns out to be a killer strategery, then that would be kind of disappointing. Anyway, I went last and wanted to build up my silk houses and deliver to the lower parts of the board - I even managed to trigger the first scoring of Lisboa when I was the only one with a single cube there. But after that Doug and Shawn did a better job of getting their silk and shipping routes going, while I missed getting much marble and statues until most of the spaces for those were already gone, so I ended up trailing far behind. I caught up a bit in the midgame when the sailing routes started to score and I was able to weasel first or second in most of them, but fell behind again when the wagon routes came in.

But! At the end of the game I was able to win my city (Lisboa) as well as the other sailing city that scored, and because I had a bunch of wood was able to steal Jeff's city on speculation, because there was no place else I could score with that wood. Those 15 points more than doubled my score and vaulted me into second place, with 27. Nobody could catch Andy at 33, of course - Jeff, Doug, and Shawn finished with 23, 22, and 19, respectively.
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18. Board Game: Peak Oil [Average Rating:6.96 Overall Rank:3494] [Average Rating:6.96 Unranked]
Tim Shippert
United States
Richland
Washington
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Saturday, November 18, 2017
Start time: 11:00am
End time: 12:00n


One of these BGG.cons I'm gonna make a concerted effort to get down to the game room by 10am each day.

Having not done that on this day, I found New Eric and nobody else available, so I made him play Peak Oil two-player. In this game you are nefarious oil companies, trying to pump out the last bit of oil left on earth while funneling the profits into alternative energy technologies that will take over once it's all gone. It's kind of a worker placement, where if you have the majority of workers in an area you get to do two things, but otherwise just one, and you can pump or ship oil or buy stock or jack up the value of your startups.

Peak Oil is probably not at its best with two, as your turns come quickly, negating the need to have to plan much, and the area majority calculation becomes trivial. But it gave me a sense of how the mechanics would work, and I am mildly interested in playing it again wtih four - also, in trying out the "advanced" game, in which the actions are more limited and less forgiving, and had some other options as well.

I won, 26 to 21.
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19. Board Game: Nusfjord [Average Rating:7.53 Overall Rank:1066]
Tim Shippert
United States
Richland
Washington
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Start time: 1:15pm
End time: 2:30pm


Ian wandered over so he, New Eric, and I played my second game of Nusfjord.

In this one I angled all game for the C building that took 15 fish and N gold, where N was the round you build it. It was worth 11 points, but since it took until round 6 to do it was only worth a net of 5, which hardly seems worth angling all game for. Although I had another C card ("Boat Museum") that required me to turn in one of each boat (worth 7 VPs) for 10 gold, so, whatever.

New Eric got horked off because both Ian and I bought his shares - but fish are easy enough to come by and turning a -1pt unissued share into 2 gold is the same net as that Boat Museum, even if you don't buy it back yourself. But, if you go last in a round you will go first in the next, so issuing a share and buying over your double turn is an easy trick that we discovered in this game.

I scored 18 in buildings, 6 in shares, 9 in gold, 4 in ships, and -1 in penalties to finish with 36 points. New Eric had 5 in buildings, 2 in shares, 12 in gold, 12 in ships, and -2 in penalties for 29, while Ian had 1 in buildings (he had more buildings than that, they just weren't worth anything), 5 in shares, 18 in gold, 4 in ships, and -3 in penalties for 25. He had a card that would have let him turn that gold (and equal amounts of wood) into massively more points somehow, but he couldn't quite get that plan to come off.
 
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20. Board Game: Fast Forward: FLEE [Average Rating:6.28 Overall Rank:3930]
Tim Shippert
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Richland
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Start time: 3:00pm
End time: 3:30pm


At this point Steve and Laura finally showed up - and, because it was Saturday and we had to squat on our tables to maintain possession for the closing ceremonies, I ended up playing several games in a row with them. (During bathroom breaks people would always come over and ask if we were abandoning our tables - nice try, folks.)

First up was another Fable game from Friedemann Friese: Fast Forward: FLEE. This is a coop game, where one player always has the Monster and if he ever starts his turn with it you lose. So there is always this pressure to find a way to skip the Monster player's turn or move the Monster somewhere else or reverse player order or whatever.

Like all these new Fable games, you start without reading any rules, you just start drawing cards from the top of the (ordered) deck and go. The problem with this, though, is that there are a lot of fiddly rules, as is Friedemann's way, which are listed on the cards you draw. So the first thing you do is read a bunch of rules out loud. It's kind of fun having new rules occur at planned intervals during the game - and, really, that's the primary source of fun in a game like this - but it does also kind of cause the game to grind to a halt as you read a full card of text and then discuss what it means and the implications are.

Friedemann tried to make the game replayable by making you play the first chapter once - if you lose during the second chapter you can refigure some of the deck and go again, and the same with the third (and final) chapter. But, once you have won, you can set up the deck and randomize what you can, but what's the point? The fun is uncovering the scope of the game and figuring out how not to lose. Still, it's a fun puzzle while it lasts.

We actually made it through Chapter 2 handily, but immediately lost at the start of Chapter 3, which is too bad because it finally suggested how we might win rather than simply avoid losing. We rabbit hunted the final cards of the deck and saw an even bigger twist than we expected, which would have been fun to encounter during the game. Oh, well. That's what we get for sucking.
 
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21. Board Game: Night of the Grand Octopus [Average Rating:5.52 Overall Rank:12339]
Tim Shippert
United States
Richland
Washington
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Start time: 3:40pm
End time: 4:17pm (two games)


Laura had checked out this game from a couple years ago on spec, so we played a couple games.

It sucked.

Each turn you move to a new space and try to be where nobody else is. If you do that four times, you win, as long as you haven't lost power by being where other people are too often. That's it. There's not really a game here. The name is kind of amusing, though.

I won game one, New Eric and Laura tied in game two. Steve manged to lose all his power in both games, so that was kind of funny.
 
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22. Board Game: Cat Lady [Average Rating:7.35 Overall Rank:1565]
Tim Shippert
United States
Richland
Washington
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Start time: 4:40pm
End time: 5:00pm


Every year at BGG.con there's some game that comes out of nowhere to get a lot of geekbuzz. One sometimes suspects a conspiracy of hoaxers to push a zany game to the top of the lists, but that's part of the fun, too. At any rate, Cat Lady was this year's geekbuzz dark horse, and it turned out to actually be a really fun filler.

As the name suggests, you are a Cat Lady, trying to score the most points by getting cats and ancillary cat-based objects like food, costumes, and toys. You lay out cards in a 3x3 grid and each turn someone takes all three in a row or a column, and then refills the board. Do that until the deck is gone, add up your points, and there you go.

Some cards score in familiar set collection ways: most costumes gets a bonus, zero costumes is a penalty; sets of different toys score in a triangle series; sets of wanted posters give extra cats or straight up points. But what makes this game interesting is the way cats score: each cat needs a particular kind or kinds of food, so for each cat you get you also get a requirement that you have to try to fill. Unfed cats cost a penalty at the end (because it costs money to transport them to that nice farm upstate where they can live happily and well fed forever), so the fact that you get exactly three cards each round suddenly becomes a lot more interesting.

I spent too much time worrying about feeding my cats in this game; you will need a lot of fed cats to win (unless you get a giant pile of toys or something), so grabbing a lot of food and cats on spec in the early rounds is probably a pretty good strategy. But there are other ways to score, too - my problem is that I didn't do any of those, either. Laura proved that feeding seven cats in a four player game is possible - she wound up with 29 points and the victory. Steve was just behind with 28, while New Eric scored 25 and I made a miserable 23. (None of my cats went upstate, though, so good for me.)
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23. Board Game: NMBR 9 [Average Rating:7.04 Overall Rank:816]
Tim Shippert
United States
Richland
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Start time: 5:00pm
End time: 5:30pm


Solving puzzles is Laura's oeuvre, so it is not a surprise that she came up with NMBR 9 to play next. This is typical of a number of puzzle games like Take it Easy!, where everybody has a set of identical pieces (in this case, numbers from 1-9) and everybody plays the same one each turn. In this case, the shape of the number tiles is important, as you can only stack tiles on top of others such that you cover more than one and there are no empty spaces below. At the end of the game, you score each number times the level it's on. The End.

Laura was able to engineer an early nine on level two, while I almost made up for it with a lucky late eight. Nevertheless, Laura prevailed with 77; I scored 76, New Eric wound up with 43, and Steve finished with 41.
 
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24. Board Game: MS Batory [Average Rating:6.17 Overall Rank:9811]
Tim Shippert
United States
Richland
Washington
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Start time: 6:15pm
End time: 8ish (across the closing ceremonies)


We needed another game to play to the imminent closing ceremonies, and I had seen MS Batory set up around the con, so this seemed like a good time to see what this game was all about.

The physical bits are awesome - a giant 3D cardboard cruise ship with cardboard standups of all the characters. And the game itself is a fun and well-thought-out mystery game, a better version of Clue - you deal out all but one of the characters, and try to deduce which one is missing (the "thief"). I liked how the events gave you a reason to move characters around (if you match the condition you get more question cards), and the way the question cards governed what you could ask.

Unfortunately, the board and bits also really got in the way of the game. The character standups had Polish names on one side and English on the other, and while they showed the characters a lot of them looked the same and the distinguishing characteristics - e.g. old vs. simply adult - were hard to tell from the pictures. It was also hard to see all the characters at once on the ship, as the supports and walls got in the way. I would suggest setting the ship to one side rather than putting in the middle of the table, so that everybody could look in through the same side - and then you could keep the characters turned broadside (and English-side out) so you could see everybody and what their names were.

But, really, the standups should have had some other distinguishing mark - just numbering or lettering them prominently would have helped. The clue sheet you get was practically useless, since it didn't list character names and had weird spaces to, I guess, make notes in such a way that weren't going to help you solve the mystery. Laura actually constructed a full-on logic puzzle grid to figure out what everybody had, although that is overkill since you are actually just trying to figure what everybody doesn't have. At any rate, the mystery solving tools you were given were severely inadequate.

It's actually hard to tell who won, because Laura and Steve didn't know you could accuse at any time and were waiting for their turn, and I had figured out it was probably the Opera Singer (I knew Laura and Eric didn't have her, and I had an "S" marked next to that character but couldn't remember why I had marked that Steve didn't have her either) but since nobody else seemed close to guessing I decided to wait until I could ask Steve something to nail it down. So we all knew it was the Singer at basically the same time.

It's too bad the awesome game bits turned out to be such a dud. After the game was over I kind of wanted to just play Barbie's Mediterranean Cruise or Love Boat: The Game or something with the pieces.
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25. Board Game: Meeple Circus [Average Rating:7.32 Overall Rank:1054]
Tim Shippert
United States
Richland
Washington
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Start time: 8:30ish
End time: 9:25pm


After the Closing Ceremonies, we all realized it was Saturday and we were totally burned out, so it was time to get silly. Hence, Steve, New Eric, Ian, Andy, and I played Meeple Circus.

This is a stacking game, where you draft various wooden circus meeples and pieces and try to put them together to construct various tricks and poses. All of this is governed by cards, so it will be different each game, and everybody ends up with different pieces and different things to try to do. There is a timed element to it, too, as there is an app that plays annoying circus music as you try to get your seal to balance on the ball or whatever.

This is great, silly fun, with even a hint of strategery as you draft the pieces that will best help you score the most points. There is also some tactical elements as you choose which tricks you are going for and what is the best way to put them all together and get the differently colored meeples where you want them and also build everything up for those bonus height points.

I was ahead going into the final round, but hypertension, coffee, and neuropathy caused by years of bad living finally caught up to me in the end and I couldn't quite get the final red meeple up onto his platform. That allowed Steve and Andy to pass me by, 49 to 49 to 48. Ian finished with 42 and Eric scored 41.
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