The Definitively Overly Detailed Who Is This Guy Anyway BGG CON 2018 Games I Played Review!
Shaun McCormick
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Austin
Texas
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BGGCON was a blast. Over many rounds of Tichu, an ill-prepared poker stint, and a late late night of a few 2 Rooms and a Boom V2 Prototype rounds (it had a name, I swear, but it was 2-freaking-o-clock in the morning on the last night of the con), I managed to sneak in quite a few fun games. Here's my ratings, reviews, and rantings on those, in the order we played them:
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1. Board Game: Critical Mass: Raijin vs Archon [Average Rating:7.12 Overall Rank:5586] [Average Rating:7.12 Unranked]
Shaun McCormick
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ROBOT SMASH! We started out with this little duel game. We pulled the Raijin vs Archon set, and I played as Archon. It's a pretty standard duel deck builder, with specialized passive powers and simultaneous card play. There's definitely a strong psychological element, especially when you're frustrating your opponent by spending half the game buffing instead of attacking (what jerk would do that? I mean, really).

The game was fairly tight; the draw mechanics worked fairly well, and I appreciated the targeting strategy for attacks on where you could hit the other player. The bluffing element on dodges was nice - a few times I was able to squeak by a well-timed dodge to put me in good position. I was down most of the match but able to get a strong 1-2 combo near the end to squeak out a win.

Near mid-game I was a bit underwhelmed; it felt like there were a few specific powers (I'm looking at you, shield regen!) that were way too swingy, and a few other powers that made the game a bit one-dimensional. That said, we only got one play-though (and haven't yet tried the 2nd variant), so I'm interested to give this one another shot.

Overall thoughts? A good 30 minute duel game, at a nice (current) price of $22, makes this a fun buy.

5/7
 
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2. Board Game: Lewis & Clark [Average Rating:7.52 Overall Rank:165]
Shaun McCormick
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(Old Game Alert!) So, being slightly embarrassed I'd never gotten around to playing this classic, but also being fairly confident I'd never spend the money to buy it, I snuck this off the shelves and plopped it down on the table. I distinctly remember, "Really?" coming out of my friend's mouth. Now that we've got that embarrassing tale over, let's get to the game!

Yay engine deck builders and hand management combinations! The creme de la creme! The base of nearly all semi-gratuitous tension and "that seemed like a good idea at the time but I hate it now!" feelings you get, and no, I'm not talking about most experiences in high school. By the end of the game my tablemate had run away with the river and scorched me for nearly half of the game. There are worker placement elements here - with blocking aplenty - but for the most part you're just managing your hand to get rid of junk, optimize for progressing your path, and making sure you don't stray too far from camp before scooting it on up. A balance of things, for sure, but fairly simple and straightforward.

You can buy cards to augment your deck, get resources (shooting for boats and ever-rare horses) to get you on your way, and recruit local natives to give you more actions. But beware! A boat loaded with too much stuff will prevent your camp from moving forward, and although you'll be rich, you'll be in last place, and there's a wise saying "Never carry too much fur and food and horses in your boats that you can't fit your tent in it to move upstream!" Or something like that.

I had problems with the game, though. There were a lot of cards I thought to myself, "Why would anyone ever pick up that card?" There were collection spaces that felt completely wasted. And generally, I felt that the game was deep in content but lacking in depth of strategy.

Lewis and Clark had me feeling most of the game "I'd rather play El Dorado instead". Maybe it was just the 2p experience, as opposed to a more raucous 3/4 we could have tried? Maybe I picked a horrible strategy of optimizing for boat-building while thinking "it'll be fine" trying to get past those blasted mountains, as my opponent cruised over them with a card I swear he doodled before-game? Maybe I just need more plays?

Nah, let's go back and buy me some Millionaires in El Dorado. Pass!

2/7
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3. Board Game: Sidereal Confluence: Trading and Negotiation in the Elysian Quadrant [Average Rating:7.81 Overall Rank:566]
Shaun McCormick
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So, let's get this out of the way first. If you pick up this game, and look at it, it will look like my 11 year old self playing with Photoshop in 1998. The art is terrible. I mean, made-in-flash-on-some-random-internet-site terrible. The rulebook is not much better, and I'm a software engineer by trade, so I'm used to looking at unreadable things. The phases are all over the place, it's in dire need of better examples, and nothing seems to connect or flow in the explainers like it should. Oh, and did I mention the art is horrible?

That said, DO NOT LET THAT DETER YOU FROM THIS WONDERFUL GAME.

Sidereal is a trading game. Do not mistake it for a euro. Or an engine builder. Think of it like you took your copy of Terraforming Mars, smashed it into a 1959 copy of Diplomacy, and drew 3d shapes on it. That is Sidereal Confluence. Review over.

Ok, ok, so the game plays pretty simple, if you can manage it from the rulebook - build stuff, get stuff, trade stuff, bid for stuff, buy stuff. Your planets and other things produce items, but you want to upgrade them to make them better, so you can do it by bidding for planets and techs (that you can later spend to upgrade). Did I mention you should upgrade tech? You should. Upgrading tech is everything in this game, and your success will depend on doing it, and doing it fast. That said, if you have forgotten how to negotiate deals, you should probably find another game. Because this game is pretty much all that.

I spent a majority of the game convincing the other players at the table why my pile of useless-to-me cubes were really important to them. And how it'd help them. Or not help that guy to their right that was going to beat them. Or I'd promise them lucrative things in the future (that were again, useless to me). Because in Sidereal, you produce a lot of things, and not everything is useful to you, and *all deals are binding*. This makes getting your opponents to say "Okay, okay, yeah, I'll do that." the real golden trophy.

And that's what makes it so fun. It's a lot less about getting those two blue cubes, and more about that feeling where you just negotiated a three-way trade where you got the two blues (and snuck in a couple greens) for a pile of garbage to you that mathematically worked out way in your favor, and your opponents have no idea it did, or just happened to be desperate enough in that turn to go along with it. Then, the next turn occurs and you realize you shouldn't have traded one of those cubes away, and your left neighbor is smirking as he upgrades his tech and now can produce everything you need, at a price to you of eleventy billion dollars of cubes.

THIS IS AN AMAZING THING.

I would happily play this game again. With the same people. With new people. With non-people. Why? Because Sidereal guarantees that every game will be _different_ and new (and not just because there's a ton of different races with different strategies to play, and hundreds of techs), and funny, and tense, because people are people and people make for excellent game opponents.

Excuse me, I need to go lie down. Could you spare me a blue cube so I can rest?

6/7
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4. Board Game: Tyrants of the Underdark [Average Rating:7.88 Overall Rank:223]
Shaun McCormick
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Ah, the semi-lovecraftian theme with 1800s cultists, bats everywhere, and more gothic architecture than you can shake a gargoyle at. I have to admit, I was not eager to play this when it came down on the table. I was assuaged otherwise by the admonitions of the table, but I was more thinking at the time about the next game after this. I almost missed a great little game. Ok, not so little, because the board is overwhelmingly large for what it needs to be, but hey, it's gothic!

Tyrants is Ascension meets Area Control. Yes, you heard me. A deck-builder at heart, you buy cards Ascension-style and then can use them to start to take over sections of the board (killing off neutrals in your way, and eventually opponents). You can plant spies to supplant your enemies sneakily later. You can swoop in and claim the +1 VP and $ spots just in time to get the card you need. You can play some ungodly good card right as your opponent is smirking at his capture in the last round, only to wipe the smile from his face like he tasted bat guano. Tyrants manages to keep all the fun hand management tension of Ascension while focusing it less on some abstract center area and points, and a lot more on strategic placement of your troops and deployment.

This could have gone really poorly - but Tyrants keeps it tight, and the end-game ends up being surprisingly close. Every skirmish feels consequential. My only comment is the 2p setup leaves little to be desired in options on initial placement, which can really swing this game in the end, but that's probably manageable in subsequent plays. Overall, thumbs up here if you want to scratch the deck building itch but are looking for something a tiny bit different.

6/7
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5. Board Game: Ex Libris [Average Rating:7.26 Overall Rank:615]
Shaun McCormick
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Books! Libraries! Old dudes! Slightly odd old gnomes! The alphabet! Wait, what? Enter Ex Libris, an interesting worker placement/tile management game where your goal is to build the best, most organized, tailored-to-your-tastes library of all time. I was pretty eager to play this, and not disappointed. While it comes off a bit heavy at first, and you spend a bit more time in the rulebook than you'd like, the excellent art (with one caveat) and immensely replay-able gameplay made Ex Libris one of my favorites of the con.

You are a library manager, and trying to build the best library in a max-three-row-high grid, but you have a few constraints: you need to make the base (bottom row) stable and wide, and all the books have to be in alphabetical order. Otherwise you lose points. Oh - and there's banned book categories you don't want on your shelves, and prominent book categories you do.

Did I mention you can only place them only one at a time (usually), and once they're placed, they're _stuck_. So you quickly get into "oh no I shouldn't have put that S so near the end because now all I have in my hand is TUXYZs" and you start regretting prior decisions and sweating and wanting to burn books...ahem, excuse me.

There are a lot of locations you can also go to to...manipulate...your hand and your library. While this offers a ton of replay, it also means you're going to be spending the beginning of each turn going "Hey hand me the rulebook" to see what a tile does _a lot_, which kind of hurts the experience. It's a minor nit that will go away in replays, but worth noting.

Overall, I really enjoyed it, especially for a 2p worker placement which I wasn't sure was going to work well, but really did (surprising!). There's a really big annoyance in that the font is way, way too tiny on the boards, so make sure to bring your gnomish monocle to read it, but overall I enjoyed the art style and what they were trying to do. The theme is fresh, the gameplay fun, and there's enough places to keep you coming back.

5/7
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6. Board Game: Gaia Project [Average Rating:8.53 Overall Rank:8]
Shaun McCormick
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Thursday Night! Feeling good! Who doesn't want to start a game of Terra Mystica 2.0 at 9pm! Oh...ok. Well, go with me on this!

Gaia Project, currently #8 on BGG rank, had me a bit stumped. Why is it so high? I mean, if it's basically "Terra Mystica in Space", does that deserve #8? Terra Mystica (TM) is a great game, but extremely deep and punishing to newbies, and it has many annoyances that would definitely keep it off my top ten (though BGG differs to me in that it's #10, so....). So what does Gaia Project offer that's better? One word: streamlining.

TM can be overwhelmingly complicated, and its strategies heavily depend on your first few turns. Screw those up, or have bad luck, and you're likely dead in the water for another 2 hours of gaming. Also, each race is heavily weighted toward a few strategies, so you have to spend a ton of time learning each race's strengths and weaknesses to really be effective with them. This brutal learning curve can really push away many gamers. Finally, the cultist track in TM seems unnecessary at times, and often is more an afterthought in gameplay to trying to get cities.

Gaia Project manages this beautifully - it alters a few things: one, power is no longer a static quantity (certain things let you add/remove power from your board(!)), end-game scoring is partially dynamic per game, and the biggest difference: the newly introduced tech track to replace the cultist track. The tech track allows granting of powers (rather than just points) that can help you with your strategy, and offers a lot more complexity and nuance that is much more tightly integrated into the map than TM had. This area of gameplay was my favorite, and the opportunity for replay and experience here is limitless. It's also balanced extremely well - there weren't really any techs that I thought "that seems useless", and ones that I thought I wouldn't take in a game later proved invaluable as the game progressed. This is a huge improvement over TM, and really makes this game shine.

The game length is about the same, but each race is very different in their goals, and even tile placement on the board is much more competitive and constrained. While in TM I could often find myself just avoiding other players, here I had to really think about long-term placement and what was the best area and pathways to grow in.

I'd play Gaia Project again anytime, and it does something I felt TM never did: it earns its complexity with rewarding gameplay that encourages learning its nuances. This really sets it above the pack.

7/7
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7. Board Game: Food Chain Magnate [Average Rating:8.19 Overall Rank:28]
Shaun McCormick
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Early Friday morning, and what could be better than jumping into a three hour game about hamburgers and lemonade? Nothing, I tell you. Nothing. Stop staring at my hamburger.

Food Chain Magnate (FCM from here out) is a game really unlike any game I've played before. There's a ton of deck building, some card drafting, and a lot of competitive actions to screw over your opponent, but that's not really the heart of the game. I haven't really played a sim game that really encompassed the ruthless knife-throwing aspect of capitalism. Who hasn't wanted to play that? Well, my friends, here we are, we have found it and its name is Food Chain Magnate.

Okay, so like anything trying to encompass capitalism, FCM has a lengthy manual made of a very large number of pages of tiny print. In two columns per page. I mean, seriously. The manual definitely could use some love, more pictures, better examples, something. That said, it had answers to nearly every question I'd encounter in the game, and some answers to questions I'd encounter out of the game. Erm. Game setup was also fairly straightforward, and once I had parsed the game mechanics, everything was pretty straightforward.

This was a punishing game. Mess up, and your opponent will ruthlessly milk you of all cash for the remainder of the game, assuming they don't mess up. I would not recommend playing this heads up vs an experienced player. We played 2p - which I would not recommend (you really need more sideways competition to make this game work) - but both of us were new, so that balanced things up a bit. The too long, didn't read gist of the game is this: you build your restaurant, hire workers to do things like make food/drinks, train other workers, and start marketing campaigns.

Yes, this game has marketing campaigns, in which you cravenly tell people living houses they need a slice of pizza RIGHT NOW. Or rather, next turn. And, for some reason, this is a city of lemmings, so they obey your marketers every whim. Or your opponents marketers, which gets extremely frustrating when your restaurant is optimized to be a Hamburger Heaven machine and your opponent just did a radio campaign to make every house in the city want pizza. Which you can't make. Meaning you get nothing.

Yes, FCM is a game of ruthlessly screwing your opponent by stealing their customers, and self-managing your own enterprise to not get screwed. Don't think of this as an engine builder. Think of it like you're making backstabbing-knife builder while constantly watching your back. Oh, and training your employees and hiring SO MANY MIDDLE MANAGERS. By mid-game I was hiring middle managers like nobody's business. You get a VP! You get a VP! Everyone is a VP!

Overall, I enjoyed Food Chain Magnate, and could see myself getting really into this game. It's a massive min/maxer with lots of depth and strategy replay, and some very entertaining gameplay that has a bit of press your luck to it. Will your mailbox campaign to press everyone to buying Coca-Cola over your opponents' darling lemonade stands work? Who knows! But it's fun. Now would I pay over $100 USD (the going rate for this game these days) for this? No. Absolutely not. Would I pay $50-60? Maybe, yes. The price really strikes this one out of my wheelhouse, but I enjoyed my BGG play of it.

5/7
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8. Board Game: Flamme Rouge [Average Rating:7.59 Overall Rank:204]
Shaun McCormick
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I'm going to preface this review with the fact this was the only game at the con we played twice, once with 2p, and once with 4p. The game plays very differently, and while enjoyable at 2, it really shines at 4p. Both were extremely close games, but the mechanics are much more fun with more players.

In the same vein as Formula D and Downforce, Flamme Rouge is a hand-management racing game. You're trying to max the value of your cards in certain circumstances to get the best bang for your buck, all the while trying not to get too far ahead (or too far behind) of the pack, in order to make a mad last dash at the end. I haven't really played a racing game that so perfectly fit the theme of the sport - I felt like I was really in the Tour de France here - and paired the game mechanics so well with the actual sport nuances.

You have two racers - a Rouler and Sprinter - whom have different limited sets of cards, of which you have to pick from 4 each turn, and then permanently discard, depleting the deck as you play on. This means choices are extremely consequential. Go too fast too early and you'll be exhausted near the end, unable to beat everyone as they sprint ahead. Play too small cards too early and you'll find yourself behind the pack and hitting headwinds, which will dampen your ability to sprint likewise later. You want to be mediocre until the end, which is a wonderful gameplay experience, and you want to stay pretty much in second.

Having no one in front of you means you don't get 2-space exhaustion cards that you may have to choose from later, and that means you'll be primed to sprint at the end. This means successfully guessing what your opponent (and your other rider!) does is extremely important. So don't, as I did the first game, assume that your rider is going to try and take a mid-game sprint ahead, and leave your two riders up front sucking wind. It won't go well for you. Trust me.

With four players, the game shines more, as there's more strategic opportunities, and the tracks get crowded. Also, each game is crazily close, as if you're a 1 space gap between riders, the ones in back move up a space automatically, meaning that no one really rides too far ahead, which makes the endgame super tense and exciting. All in a 30m playtime. Wow! And there's lots of modular tracks and expansions for this, so it's even more fun to replay.

Would highly recommend owning this one. It's accessible to newer gamers, deep for experienced, and equalizing for all. Totally worth it.

7/7
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9. Board Game: Railroad Ink: Blazing Red Edition [Average Rating:7.27 Overall Rank:973] [Average Rating:7.27 Unranked]
Shaun McCormick
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We snuck this one in, and I totally destroyed myself by playing way too many train tracks that went nowhere. I mean, trains are awesome, why does a game punish you for having too many!? WHY. I just want more trains! More trains! Traiiiiiinnns....

Railroad Ink is really neatly packed and just requires the board and the marker. You draw whatever the dice rolls, which seems easy but then later you realize the dice are horrible and evil and never listen and we really should get new dice because these are hopelessly biased against your work of art on your board which would do so much better had the dice just listened to you and give you a damn road omg...

Ahem. So, I think you've gotten an idea of the feeling of the game. I will say, however, that while this was fun, it wasn't _amazing_. I feel like I've played a lot of games like it - standard route-builders - and this didn't really offer anything new. While I'll give it points for a clever theme and nice packaging, it's a fairly simple game and was pretty forgettable by the end of the day. Nice game. That's about it.

4/7
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10. Board Game: Fireball Island [Average Rating:6.47 Overall Rank:2644]
Shaun McCormick
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Austin
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ALL BOW TO THE FIREBALL MOUTH OF DOOOOOOOOM.

We played the original. The new was impossible to get your hands on. I'm not going to review this. This game lives in the hearts of all whom have experienced it. It needs no review. Beware the long routes of blazed glory. Beware the jewel thief. Never underestimate the cave. DOOOOOOOM.

7/7
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11. Board Game: Space Base [Average Rating:7.47 Overall Rank:418]
Shaun McCormick
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Austin
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I knew going into the con I'd love this game, so take this with a bit of bias attached to it. I really enjoy "everyone always gets something on everyone's turn" games, as you always feel good even if you're just getting pennies, because who doesn't love pennies!

Space Base is a simple dice roll + card draft game, where you roll dice and maybe get something and then maybe buy something. But the neat part about it is that you get stuff when other people roll too if you've built, so all of a sudden that crappy card in the middle that happens to have a low number (meaning it can be used more passively) is all of a sudden really valuable, and that badass 12 card that you thought you wanted to trade your 2019 BGGCON hotel reservation for is not really that nice in the long run.

Also, the game does a deceptively nice ploy in making you think economy and engine is where its at, when point generation really is the long-name of the game here. You have to balance that with passive gains to beat your opponents to 40 points, and that will all of a sudden happen really fast, like it took off from a rocket or something...

Space Base is a really accessible, fun game that has lots of nice idiosyncrasies that will keep you coming back for more. This was on my list of games I'll probably eventually buy that I played at the con, and if you haven't played it, I'd recommend you go do that now. Just beware the "You Win!" card...its shine is not what it seems...

7/7
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12. Board Game: Welcome To... [Average Rating:7.66 Overall Rank:150]
Shaun McCormick
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Ah, the hype. We'd heard a lot of hype about this game. Besides being named something nearly impossible to search for, and a name that leaves people always asking "Welcome to what?", the game was pretty high up in buzz. We snagged it on Saturday and brought it to a table of 5.

The object is to build a nice neighborhood, with nice pools, and nice parks, while doing it all in a nice orderly fashion. Enter Pleasantville in board game form. Also, have virtually no player interaction at all, which is why this game has a player count of 1 to 100. You just need to buy that many boards and markers. And friends.

Similar to Ex Libris, you're trying to keep the houses in your rows in a nice, numerical order, and not accidentally place a middle number too far from the relatively unknown middle so that you don't get stuck having to subdivide lots or miss your estate (grouped houses) targets before the game ends. Add to that a choice of cards and bonuses to get every round and you get some strategic variety.

It's a min-maxing placement exercise, but in the end I found it a bit staid, like a boring clean white shirt. There's a lot of potential for analysis paralysis here, and the game feels like it should move fast (because turns are really simple - write a number, do a thing), but doesn't move as fast as you want because people are trying to min/max points. Fun for a first play, but probably won't pick it up again.

4/7
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13. Board Game: Everdell [Average Rating:7.96 Overall Rank:157]
Shaun McCormick
United States
Austin
Texas
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So, I got really lucky snagging this game. The buzz on this was incredible - didn't find it till early Saturday, and when I returned it I had literally 6 separate people stop me in the short walk to the library to see if they could follow me to check it out (someone else caught me while we were playing to reserve this honor). I was pretty surprised at the fervor for this game, but to be fair, you get to build a giant tree, so, I mean, giant tree, on the board, cute furry animals, fun naming, okay, okay, I can see why.

This is a worker placement game with card drafting and some elements of sets and hand management (as you pretty much sit at the hand limit most of the game due to the "discard to your opponent" mechanic). So yes, it's a euro. One interesting thing is that discards are offensive, in that you're trying to give junk cards to your opponents to mess up their future turns. You're also collecting very scarce resources to build buildings and critters that live in them, whose combos net you all kinds of things.

Overall, I was pretty underwhelmed - oh the curse of the hype! - after the play, because it felt like a pretty standard worker placement game. I didn't see much too it. However, since the con, I've had some time to think about it, and there really is a lot of replay and depth to the game - from the type of city you build and the chaining combos you can get from it, to the effect the randomized events (basically trophy cards) you get that affect the entire game. There's a large enough card set too that cards become interesting, and card interactions are very nuanced.

Also, Everdell doesn't suffer what a lot of worker placement games do - limited player interaction. And it does it not just through blocking by placing a worker - worker placing only felt like a small portion of this game - but a lot in what the cards in your city do. A lot of them can affect other players, and used properly can really swing a game in your favor.

Finally, I'd like to give a specific callout to the art direction and theme here. You're separate cities of animals trying to prepare for winter by building the best city, and the transition of seasons flows nicely with the game cadence. And the art is gorgeous - wonderfully illustrated and written with wit, the cards are just great.

On first play, I'd probably have put this as a middling game, but Everdell has stuck in the back of mind more than most of the games I played at the con. I anticipate this game working its way back to a table near me soon.

5.5/7
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14. Board Game: Champions of Midgard [Average Rating:7.79 Overall Rank:92]
Shaun McCormick
United States
Austin
Texas
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I could not play this game without thinking of Skyrim. And why I could not fireball enemies. Fireball! Fireball! Level up!

Okay, okay. Champions of Midgard is a game where you recruit vikings to slay trolls, draugr (try saying that like "draw-gair" with emphasis on air for extra fun), and beasts to get points and glory and gold. It feels a lot like an old classic Stone Age, but set to Nordic theme. You try and optimize your army so they don't get slaughtered (too badly), and produce enough food to get in boats and kill the later game monsters for more gold. Also, there's a troll every round someone on the board has to kill, and people can get shame for not doing it.

If this sounds kind of boring, I can understand. I felt like that starting it. It felt boring, trite, and played before as a theme. But as I played on the mechanics played nicely and I started to enjoy the game. The end was quite tight, and there were a lot of divergent play strategies I could see working. Plus, it seems like it'd scale nicely with more players (we had 2).

That said, this game wasn't anywhere near my top of the con, but it was enjoyable.

5/7
 
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15. Board Game: Too Many Bones [Average Rating:8.52 Overall Rank:97] [Average Rating:8.52 Unranked]
Shaun McCormick
United States
Austin
Texas
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And the winner of most convoluted, hard-to-understand rule book goes to...Too Many Bones! Okay, so maybe I should have seen that coming. A game trying to be a video game RPG is likely to be complicated. Also, a game with hundreds of dice is bound to be complicated. Maybe I am really bad at preparing for games. I spent about 30 minutes before playing this trying to get the rules into my head from the book. In the end, we winged it, and probably fudged some rules. I would not go into this game again unprepared - I'd watch some how to plays, read some FAQs, maybe watch a playthrough or two.

That said, this is an amazing game, if you're willing to do the investment to learn its nooks and crannies.

Too Many Bones (TMB) is a dice roller RPG where you as a team go baddie hunting and eventually fight a boss. Along the way, you level up characters and try to get the best rolls to do so. It has varying difficulty levels, and is challenging in its own right, and really nails the RPG element well. I haven't played many games like this game. The pieces are also really well designed, and I'm just a sucker for lots of dice, so this game drew me in.

You roll die, potentially do things, go on encounters, and suffer consequences. Then you - hopefully - upgrade to get new things. I won't go into the details (that'd take forever), but suffice to say if you've ever played a RPG, this is basically that. It's pretty fun, but we probably made a mistake playing it so late in the con, as the amount of rules are just overwhelming for a first play.

I've heard the expansions help address some of the problems here (like main stat points being way more valuable to upgrade than skills), and better rulebook assistance manuals are easy to fix. With that in mind, this isn't a game you want to bring to a game group cavalierly. This is a game you want to get a group of people in and invest in, and if you do, it's likely to pay back big time. Just beware the bones.

5.5/7
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16. Board Game: Container: 10th Anniversary Jumbo Edition! [Average Rating:7.81 Overall Rank:859]
Shaun McCormick
United States
Austin
Texas
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There are so few things as gratifying as moving a completely unnecessarily heavy boat filled with crates toward a random island and saying in your best new yorker voice, "ITS AUCTION TIME FELLAS".

Container is a quintessential economy game. Buy things, set prices, buy more things, auction them at the end. Move around boats. Try to underprice your opponents, without screwing yourself. Try and make just a high enough bid to get the crates you want (which differs for each player) without bankrupting yourself. Take out loans, but not too many that you bleed dry at the end.

Apparently, I am not good at this as I lost badly, but I had a blast doing it. There are tons of reviews of Container out there, so I'll leave them to handle the details, but this was a way fun bidding and speculation game.

Now, the downside. It currently is priced at anywhere from $70-200, depending on what edition and what seller. I would not pay anything like that for a game like this. I would maybe pay $40-50 for this game, but even that feels heavy (pun intended). The pricing really kills this game. It's a fun con game, and that's about it for me.

5/7
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17. Board Game: The Fox in the Forest [Average Rating:7.35 Overall Rank:413]
Shaun McCormick
United States
Austin
Texas
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We played this while waiting for Blackout: HK, so I have to admit I was a bit distracted while trying to nicely stalk a Hot Games table, but I'm also always up for a good trick game, and had heard good things about this wonderfully priced $13 2-player game.

Fox in the Forest plays pretty quick. It's your standard trick-taking game (numbered 1-11), with odd cards having extra abilities that can alter the play itself. Plus, 7s are worth lots of points, so even though they sit fairly high, you have to be fairly strategic about playing them. There's also a trump suit, which can change as players play the Fox (3) to swap it out, giving another level of strategy. Don't like that you have all orange, and the trump suit is purple? Fox it out! (I really think I should say "Fox it out!" more often. Has a nice ring.)

Overall, I liked this little game and will probably add it as a fun travel or family game for holidays. It's simple enough to learn in 5 minutes, cheap enough to not break the bank, and deep enough to enjoy lots of plays. A++ would play again.

6/7
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18. Board Game: Blackout: Hong Kong [Average Rating:7.59 Overall Rank:703]
Shaun McCormick
United States
Austin
Texas
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Ah, the game I had been wanting to play. I love cubes on a map games for some reason, and this game has lots of cubes. On a map. Area control, hand management, and routes all in one? Cool! Dice to add randomness? Neat! B:HK is very similar to Great Western Trail, in that there are multiple ways to win, and lots of varying strategies. I'm a huge fan and owner of GWT, so I was eager to try this.

You roll dice, get things (or spend "trucks" to get other things instead), and spend them to complete objectives, which add to your hand to empower you to unlock more objectives better and faster. Simultaneously you must risk cards in your hand to scout out tokens on the board, which are hidden point objectives, and everything ties together really nicely to make for an interesting playthrough. There's a lot to the game, and a lot of rewarding things if you learn its nuances.

I enjoyed the play, even though I made some crucial mistakes early, which, when compounded with some very unfavorable dice rolls, left me in a bad spot near the end of the game. I'm not sure I loved the game, though out of everything I played at BGGCON, B:HK was at the top of my "I want to try this again" list. There's just a lot in this game - varying starting objectives could change the play, different players and styles could alter the table game direction, and even initial rolls can really change your long-term strategy.

Would this replace Great Western Trail for me? No, probably not. Would this be more accessible for my friends that aren't as turned on to GWT as I am? Yes, probably. Was it everything the hype had said? Nope. Do I want to play it again, not as the last game of the con where I'm running on low sleep. Absolutely! I'd recommend this as a fun game, play it, see what you think. Similarly to GWT, this game may or may not be your fancy, but if it is after a couple of plays, you'll probably love it.

6/7
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