Hot Games area at BGG Con
John Mellby
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From the perspective of the Hot Games room BGGCon had a good year. There were four of us teaching hot games: Rick Thornquist, Jennifer Geske, Steven Sheasby, and me. We had 26 games in the Hot area this year – a record. Between the four of us, we taught 24 of these.
I’m writing this to showcase what were the top games on the convention from what I saw in this area. Note that while I could teach 17 of these games I had only played 3 before the convention. And by the end of the Con I had only played 10 of them. But I taught a lot (probably ~30 games taught) and here’s what I think people liked most. (BTW, I didn’t ask the other Hot Games teachers opinions, except for Steven, before writing this.)
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1. Board Game: Altiplano [Average Rating:7.62 Overall Rank:657]
John Mellby
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The first three games were all busy and I could put them in any order.

Altiplano is a game by the designer of Orleans and builds on that style. It’s a bag-building game but also forces you to move around the action board to take actions with tiles you draw from your bag.

You play sets of tiles to get more (different) tiles and to get extensions giving you different actions. You tend to get more tiles than you can use so to avoid clogging up your draw you need to use tiles for victory point cards or put them in your warehouse for end-game VP.

Despite being about ~2 hours Altiplano was continually busy and I got lots of feedback that people really liked it. I have a copy and hope to play this shortly.
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2. Board Game: Nusfjord [Average Rating:7.53 Overall Rank:1056]
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Nusfjord is a middle-weight game by Uwe Rosenberg. After the recent years of his heavy games we were happy to see a shorter game by him that still offers nice choices. It tended to clock at 75 minute for the first game.

As a Norwegian fisherman you first gather fish. This has to be used to feed the Elders of your village and pay people who have invested in your fishing company (i.e. other players). The excess is for your use.

Using an action board like Agricola you collect resources and money. Then you acquire
(1) Elders; giving you extra alternative actions
(2) Ships; increasing your fishing and victory points
(3) Buildings; giving one-time or ongoing benefits and victory points

Everyone seemed to like Nusfjord, comparing it to the length of Glass Road. I hope this will come out before the Holidays. Both Steven and I intend to get this.
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3. Board Game: Azul [Average Rating:8.01 Overall Rank:47] [Average Rating:8.01 Unranked]
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Azul initially seemed to be too simple and I couldn’t understand why people were interested. But everyone raved about the game and just loved it. I tried to find time the whole convention to play this but it was amazingly busy, like all these first three games.
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4. Board Game: Agra [Average Rating:7.48 Overall Rank:1077]
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Agra may be the game that took the longest to teach at about 30 minutes. It also took over 2.5 hours to play. It’s by the designer of La Granja. Late Wednesday I waited until it was free and jumped into a game with friends. This helped understand how I needed to teach the game.

We had somewhat expected that since the game was long, and it was hard to learn without a teacher, this game might not be played a lot. Instead, except for late at night when I wasn’t around to teach, it seemed very busy.

This is a complex game with a lot of moving parts that maybe don’t flow together as smoothly as they could. I’ll have a better feeling after playing it more. The basic two parts are producing basic and processed goods, and then delivering these goods to Notables (cards) or Orders on the Imperial Board. These both move you up the three Guilds, giving you money (i.e. VP).

You need to do production well, use Meditation and Favors effectively, acquire Notables that support your plan. All this will get you the most money and win the attention of Akbar the Great!

A few people wisely bailed out of this game because it was too complex, or because they had seen enough in an hour to appreciate the game. It’s too long and complex for some people and a stark contrast with Azul. I’m getting a copy and I think it showed well at BGG Con.
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5. Board Game: Clans of Caledonia [Average Rating:8.16 Overall Rank:60]
John Mellby
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The next game, Clans of Calidonia, was another I really wanted to play but it was continually busy. It was just delivered to Kickstarter backers and had a lot of praise. This could easily be one of the top games of the Con.

The many different meeples, modular board, and ability to develop your own production areas give players a lot of interesting choices while being more approachable that Agra or A Feast for Odin.

Lots of people mentioned this as a favorite game. Luckily there are lots of copies of this around so I should be able to play this soon.
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6. Board Game: Gaia Project [Average Rating:8.70 Overall Rank:13]
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There is a limit to the number of games rules I can learn, especially when I don’t have a copy of the game. So Gaia Project was one I hoped others could teach. And it seemed like there were no big issues with people learning the game. I didn’t teach this and never got to play so all I can say is this was very very well received.
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7. Board Game: Pulsar 2849 [Average Rating:7.79 Overall Rank:550]
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Pulsar 2849, from CGE, had the advantage that the marvelous Paul Grogan arrived from Cornwall to teach it for CGE. This is the third year Paul has been teaching at BGGCon. We were ready to teach this but since Paul spent most of the days teaching we didn’t have to. We tried to get into one of his games but they were too busy so eventually Steven just bought the game and we’ll play it this next weekend.

This is a pretty, dice-based, space exploration game at about 1.5 hours. It’s a little more complex than most dice games. We are looking forward to this.
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8. Board Game: Rajas of the Ganges [Average Rating:7.70 Overall Rank:415]
John Mellby
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Rajas of the Ganges is another dice manipulation game. You can spend dice to get more dice, move up the river, go to the market, or go to the Palace. The goal is to move up the money track (going counter-clockwise), and the Glory track (clockwise) until they meet.

It’s a little quicker than people expected but it’s a very good length for a dice game. It's lighter but a lot of people like it, and I intend to buy it.
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9. Board Game: Noria [Average Rating:6.74 Overall Rank:2175]
John Mellby
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Noria, by first-time designer Sophia Wagner, is a business/stock game cloaked in a Steampunk/mining floating islands theme. It’s a very pretty board, maybe the prettiest of the Con. (Some otherwise nice boards, like Agra, have non-optimal overlays. Others, like Rajas, are too busy.)

Noria is a little complex, but not nearly at Agra’s level. The triple wheel game device is very clever but is a little confusing for some. At least one person bailed on the game because this was above their desired complexity level.

The wheels show you what (three) actions you can take during a turn. They each rotate at the end of the turn and can be manipulated (by paying Knowledge) to get you the needed actions.

All these actions are to advance on the four Project Paths. Your level on these Paths, and the number of Politicians that support each path, are all that score at the end.

This is another game I didn’t have a chance to play, but after the first days there were a lot of people teaching this game so I believe it was well-received.
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10. Board Game: Photosynthesis [Average Rating:7.40 Overall Rank:344]
John Mellby
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Photosynthesis is a beautiful game that I haven’t played. It got a lot of buzz but I didn’t even get near to watch a game. You are growing trees and trying to be bigger than neighboring trees so you can gather sunlight which is used to plant and grow your trees.
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11. Board Game: The 7th Continent [Average Rating:8.74 Overall Rank:14]
John Mellby
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7th Continent is one of the best legacy/exploration games this year. You learn both the terrain, and new rules as you explore, build tools, and have encounters.
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12. Board Game: Transatlantic [Average Rating:7.29 Overall Rank:1325]
John Mellby
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Transatlantic is the top game that I didn’t get to play at all. It was designed by Mac Gerdts who did Concordia, Imperial, and other great games. You use cards similarly to Concordia – playing from your hand until you choose to pick up your cards (and gain a new card). You are buying ships between 1869 and 1914. You send these on voyages to make money and eventually score points through Blue Ribands, Coal Bunkers, Freight, Mail, and Passengers.
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13. Board Game: Keyper [Average Rating:7.56 Overall Rank:1207]
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Keyper, by Richard Breese, is a complex and highly interesting game. The rulebook is confusing and reportedly during the week of the Con Richard revised the rulebook several times. I played enough of a sample game to think this was excellent. Sadly I didn’t know it well enough to teach it and people were struggling with the rulebook when we could not get them a teacher. But people stayed at the table and kept playing this.
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14. Board Game: Ex Libris [Average Rating:7.35 Overall Rank:791]
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Ex Libris was available before BGGCon. I purchased it and had a chance to play once. It’s a library-building game (with humorous titles on the books). This makes for a different and interesting theme. It wasn’t hard to teach and seemed to be busy even though it was at the back of the Hot Games area. It’s a good game but not great although it gets a boost because of the interesting theme and nice graphics.
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15. Board Game: Lisboa [Average Rating:8.24 Overall Rank:131]
John Mellby
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Lisboa is a great game and is very difficult to learn from the rulebook. (Watch Paul’s video twice first!) When neither Paul nor I was available to teach this players were struggling. People still wanted to play this but we eventually swapped this for Pioneer Days, partly because Pioneer Days was hard to get in the library.
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16. Board Game: Dinosaur Island [Average Rating:7.98 Overall Rank:319] [Average Rating:7.98 Unranked]
John Mellby
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Dinosaur Island by Pandasaurus has some very nice mechanisms impeded by a difficult rulebook. I almost learn it well enough to teach but after 17 other games I just never got there. I think this was the one game none of us could teach.

Still lots of groups and down and played. Eventually, we swapped this game which was, in retrospect, a mistake. Even without a teacher, people wanted to play this a lot. If the garish colors on the game didn’t hurt my eyes so much I would have wanted to play this as well.
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17. Board Game: Heaven & Ale [Average Rating:7.68 Overall Rank:559]
John Mellby
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Heaven and Ale – you’re brewing beer in a Monastery. We eventually got a copy from the library and played it late at night.

It’s a very nice game where every round you race around the board buying items and building them on your map. Once at the end you wait until the others finish. So you can speed ahead to get something you really need or go slower and buy a lot of lesser items.

This is a very good brain-burner of a game and it deserves to be played a lot.
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18. Board Game: Riverboat [Average Rating:7.57 Overall Rank:1527]
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In Riverboat you are acquiring farm pieces that are 1-3 hexes big. These go onto your farm board to create patterns of goods that you can ship to New Orleans. Basically you are trying to collect and score sets of farm goods. There are some nice race elements here.
Like Heaven and Ale, this would have gotten more play if it wasn’t at the back end of the Hot Games area.
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19. Board Game: Merlin [Average Rating:7.16 Overall Rank:1143]
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Merlin is a very busy Stephan Feld game. It was highly anticipated and was played a lot but the most comment I got about it was “I liked Pioneers better”. When they say it takes 75 minutes they are joking. We took two hours and some group took longer than that.
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20. Board Game: Indian Summer [Average Rating:6.92 Overall Rank:1659]
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Indian Summer was continually busy and I never got to play so I have little to say.
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21. Board Game: Queendomino [Average Rating:7.47 Overall Rank:513] [Average Rating:7.47 Unranked]
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Queendomino seemed underwhelming. It might have been the game that go the least play even though it was at the front.
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