My GenCon 2011
Bill H
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Absecon
New Jersey
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"A master in the art of living draws no sharp distinction between his work and his play, his labour and his leisure, his mind and his body, his education and his recreation." LP Jacks
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WEDNESDAY

After a drive, a flight, and a shuttle bus... I arrived at the downtown Marriott. There was a brief issue with the room reservations, but they upgraded me to a Concierge room which was very nice.

I vegged in the air conditioning for a couple hours then ventured out. I saw a long queue (about an hour) for "will-call", and when I asked someone they told me I had to go through it to get my registration package.

Instead of getting in line then I headed out for dinner at The Ram, which really caters to the GenCon crowd and as such, is immensely popular once the event gets underway. I thought the night before might not be as crowded but it was a 2-hour wait for a table. As I was by myself I sat immediately at the bar and ate (peppercorn burger with pepper jack cheese, fries, and a pint of porter).

By the time I got back, registration had closed for the night.

THURSDAY

After a complimentary breakfast buffet, I got in the "Will-call" queue. This time it stretched from one end of the convention center to the other and doubled back halfway again (three hours?). Whatever their system, it isn't working well.

After 45 minutes or so I had nearly reached the point where it doubled back (the farthest point from the registration tables) when I asked another GenCon guy if I needed to go through this -- I had my ticket, I just needed to pick up the goodie bag. He explained that I didn't need to wait in this line and I walked around to Registration to find the goodie bag queue was about 3 minutes. It contained a 30-card Magic starter ("Jace Beleren", apparently a blue deck), RIFT (appears to be a new MMO), some catalogs and coupons.

I got over to the dealer room just as they were about to open the doors.

By 1pm the "Will-call" queue has shrunk by only 50 feet. Many people have spent most of the morning queued up and I overheard several talking about Thursday morning events they missed because of it.
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1. Board Game: JAB: Realtime Boxing [Average Rating:6.29 Overall Rank:2822]
Bill H
United States
Absecon
New Jersey
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"A master in the art of living draws no sharp distinction between his work and his play, his labour and his leisure, his mind and his body, his education and his recreation." LP Jacks
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As soon as the dealers' room opened I made a beeline for Tasty Minstrel games to snag a copy of this, a boxing game with some clever mechanics that I learned about via a BGG contest.
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2. Board Game: Eminent Domain [Average Rating:7.11 Overall Rank:444]
Bill H
United States
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New Jersey
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"A master in the art of living draws no sharp distinction between his work and his play, his labour and his leisure, his mind and his body, his education and his recreation." LP Jacks
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I also got a copy of this signed by the designer. It's a civilization building card game with roles and a bit of deck building.

I was given a stuffed dragon for being one of their first customers (which I accidentally left on the table, but came back for later).
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3. Board Game: SUTAKKU [Average Rating:6.17 Overall Rank:5346]
Bill H
United States
Absecon
New Jersey
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I stopped by Smirk & Dagger to say "Hi!" to Curt, and played a little demo of this game. It's a simple dice game, surprisingly (for Smirk & Dagger) without any "take that!" element (unless it's in some advanced rules -- I haven't opened my copy yet).

It was fun enough that I bought it, but I would have gotten it just for the chunky Chinese dice anyway.
 
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4. Board Game: Cutthroat Caverns Adventures: B1 – Savage Arena / B2 – Errand of Evil [Average Rating:7.48 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.48 Unranked]
Bill H
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New Jersey
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I also grabbed a copy of this (2 adventures for Cutthroat Caverns) and got Curt to sign it, but he used a Sharpie on the black background so it's all but undetectable
 
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5. Board Game: Martian Dice [Average Rating:6.33 Overall Rank:1904]
Bill H
United States
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New Jersey
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"A master in the art of living draws no sharp distinction between his work and his play, his labour and his leisure, his mind and his body, his education and his recreation." LP Jacks
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Had a demo of this game when I went back to fetch my stuffed dragon and ended up buying it. Pretty similar to Zombie Dice but a bit more decision-making and somewhat less brain-eating (which can repulse some spouses).
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6. RPG: Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (1st Edition) [Average Rating:7.14 Overall Rank:82]
Bill H
United States
Absecon
New Jersey
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"A master in the art of living draws no sharp distinction between his work and his play, his labour and his leisure, his mind and his body, his education and his recreation." LP Jacks
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I went through True Dungeon, the "Dragon's Redoubt" adventure. I don't think it's giving much away to say that we fought a dragon, or that we didn't win.

I was a druid, and was a-healin' my butt off, first trying to keep the cleric alive (who was doing most of the healing) then just trying to coax a bit more life into our party as the adventure spanked us good.

In the climactic battle I turned into a bear but was most effective when I nudged one of the fighters into a critical attack. I managed about 16 points of damage before the dragon bit me in half. Our wizard staggered out of the dungeon, escaping from the dragon with a single hit point left -- all that was left of our party.


Afterward, there was a little trouble attributing my experience (you always get experience, just more if you "lived") to what I had earned two years ago (the first time I'd played True Dungeon). In trying to resolve it I was sent to ask someone else, then to Jeff Martin (the creator of True Dungeon) who happened to be standing nearby. He was very friendly, chatting about early D'n'D druids and such, and took me behind the scenes to a computer and fixed everything. I told him how much I loved his creation and thanked him.

I then went to do a few "treasure draws" to pick prizes we had earned in the dungeon. One of my draws was a "treasure map" which I then had to take to another area where I got 10 "ancient treasure" draws (several rare and a couple collector's pieces).


This was a blast, the moreso for meeting the guy who created it all. I have another adventure just before midnight tonight ("The Lair of the Sea-Lich") and on Saturday I'm doing a more combat-oriented adventure called "Bloodbeard's Bounty".


NOTE: After the game we were shown a video where Jeff Martin explained that there will be a big announcement in October about True Dungeon growing and becoming a "destination event" in itself.
 
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7. Board Game: Chopstick Dexterity MegaChallenge 3000 [Average Rating:6.22 Overall Rank:4138]
Bill H
United States
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New Jersey
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"A master in the art of living draws no sharp distinction between his work and his play, his labour and his leisure, his mind and his body, his education and his recreation." LP Jacks
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Noodles for dinner, so good I went right back around and had a second meal there, too.
 
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8. RPG: Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (1st Edition) [Average Rating:7.14 Overall Rank:82]
Bill H
United States
Absecon
New Jersey
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"A master in the art of living draws no sharp distinction between his work and his play, his labour and his leisure, his mind and his body, his education and his recreation." LP Jacks
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My second True Dungeon this trip was a puzzle-oriented game. We still encountered some combat, and a couple had some clever twists. The puzzles seemed even harder than usual. We had a good group and did pretty well, but missed several (one we had basically figured out what to do and how to do it, but misspelled a word).

A very nice adventure, completely different than the one earlier, and this time we all lived!
 
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9. RPG: The Dresden Files Roleplaying Game [Average Rating:7.75 Overall Rank:17]
Bill H
United States
Absecon
New Jersey
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"A master in the art of living draws no sharp distinction between his work and his play, his labour and his leisure, his mind and his body, his education and his recreation." LP Jacks
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FRIDAY

I tried to crash a Dresden Files game this afternoon, hoping someone didn't show and I could secure a seat with generic tickets. Not only was the group full, but there were 4 or 5 already waiting.

I was clutching my iPad which has the game books and should have just taken the plunge and asked them all to a pick-up game in the lobby, but it didn't occur to me until I had already left.

At least the "will-call" queue had dropped to just a few people today, so I picked up my ticket for Saturday's Alderac Entertainment Group event (whatever that turns out to be).
 
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10. Board Game: RoboRally [Average Rating:7.11 Overall Rank:349]
Bill H
United States
Absecon
New Jersey
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"Shijuro" in Awatum (Serpent's Tongue)
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"A master in the art of living draws no sharp distinction between his work and his play, his labour and his leisure, his mind and his body, his education and his recreation." LP Jacks
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I stopped and watched a huge RoboRally game in progress, with real (remote-controlled) robots about a cubic foot in size.

I took a picture but am having great difficulty getting it into my gallery to display here.
 
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11. Board Game: The Walking Dead: The Board Game [Average Rating:5.78 Overall Rank:6876] [Average Rating:5.78 Unranked]
Bill H
United States
Absecon
New Jersey
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"A master in the art of living draws no sharp distinction between his work and his play, his labour and his leisure, his mind and his body, his education and his recreation." LP Jacks
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I watched a demo game of this for a while then tried to pick up a copy but they were sold out of all they'd brought to GenCon. Of the two (The Walking Dead: The Board Game and The Walking Dead Board Game), this is the one I'm most interested in (I'm enjoying the comic but couldn't get into the TV series, and I trust Z-Man to do it up right).
 
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12. Board Game: Conquest of Planet Earth: The Space Alien Game [Average Rating:6.93 Overall Rank:1302]
Bill H
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New Jersey
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I was hanging out at Flying Frog's booth, trying to get into a demo of Fortune and Glory: The Cliffhanger Game and was asked about a demo of this game. Three others joined and we raced to conquer the Earth!

Each player gets a unique alien with different stats and a couple special abilities. Mine was the best at straight out fighting, with a special that lets me shake off a hit that would otherwise destroy one of my flying saucers.

We were only going to play to 5 victory points (a demo game) but after the first turn I had a couple victory points and was positioned to kick some earthling butt. Inexplicably, the player who went before me played a "take that!" card on his son(?) taking him from 2vp to 1, instead of trying to slow me down (he did play one on me, but I countered it with an event from my hand). On my turn, I flew past 5 points and finished with 8, which would win a full game.

We finished out the round (not sure if that's the official rules or not) but I wish we'd let the young man get one more turn in, he was all set up to use his alien power well and I wanted to see how it played out.

But this was enough to see how much fun the game could be, how well the theme was implemented and how much replayability there was. It supports competitive play like we just did, either individually or in teams, as well as cooperative play against a tougher Earth resistance. It also supports solitaire play and like all(?) Flying Frog games comes with a CD of custom composed soundtrack music for the game. These soundtracks are outstanding: they add great ambiance to already thematic games and are good enough that I sometimes listen to them at work.

It became an immediate purchase.
 
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Bill H
United States
Absecon
New Jersey
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"Shijuro" in Awatum (Serpent's Tongue)
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"A master in the art of living draws no sharp distinction between his work and his play, his labour and his leisure, his mind and his body, his education and his recreation." LP Jacks
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As the Conquest... game finished I realized that the actress/model that played "Sally" in the various Last Night on Earth games and expansions was demoing LNoE at the next table.

Flying Frog uses live actors to portray their game characters throughout the artwork (cards, rulebooks, packaging, etc.) and they have some of them, in character, at their GenCon booth.

I was sorely tempted to take the open position as the game started just to have played LNoE against one of my favorite characters in it, but I refrained from wasting her time and mine (just as well, she went on break immediately after so I wouldn't have gotten my chance).

I had chatted briefly with Jake the Drifter who was wandering about, and the Doc watched us play for a bit. There were characters from other Flying Frog games around, but I'm not as familiar with them.

 
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14. Board Game: Invasion from Outer Space: The Martian Game [Average Rating:7.12 Overall Rank:1672] [Average Rating:7.12 Unranked]
Bill H
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Absecon
New Jersey
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"A master in the art of living draws no sharp distinction between his work and his play, his labour and his leisure, his mind and his body, his education and his recreation." LP Jacks
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I lingered in the Flying Frog area, still hoping to try Fortune and Glory, when a demo game of Invasion from Outer Space broke up. I had been interested in this one when it first came out until I found out about the circus-folk. Seems the entire game has the oddly-specific theme of a Martian invasion of a circus in the USA.

Now, Last Night on Earth captures all the things that typically happen in zombie flicks, so I had expected Invasion to do the same for 50's sci-fi movies. It kind of does, but in a very circusy way.

So, I tried a game. A gentleman joined me to play a circus sharpshooter, and I played the dancing bear. Yes, the dancing bear. Yes.

We needed to take out 10 Martians within 10 turns to persuade them that the Earth might not be the easy takings they thought it would be. Note that there are about half a dozen scenarios for this game with varying setups and goals.

The Martians swarmed down upon us, and the sharpshooter began picking them off. I charged a couple groups and mauled some Martians.

At one point in the game, I used a card that let me fire a circus cannon at the Martians. I rolled 3 ones, missing completely and proving once and for all that bears and large firearms don't mix.

The Martians beamed down a huge beast to aid them and it attacked me, but I had a bit of fun by running through a group of Martians so the beast trampled them.

In the end, we saved the Earth (you're welcome).

This game, too, includes a custom soundtrack CD to play by. It also has pages of rules dedicated to crossover games with Last Night on Earth -- how to use IfOS characters in LNoE and vice versa, how to have a massive game with the town and/or circus being attacked by both zombies AND Martians (a la "Plan 9 from Outer Space"). It also explains how to have the Martians attack the small town folk (which is the Martian invasion game I wanted to begin with!).

Despite the circus theme, I relented and bought this one, too.
 
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15. Board Game: Fortune and Glory: The Cliffhanger Game [Average Rating:7.11 Overall Rank:748]
Bill H
United States
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New Jersey
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Finally! As I was about to wander back to my room with my purchases, a slot opened up in one of the Fortune and Glory demos. I leaped into it, ready to find out if the game was as good as it looked. The theme is cliffhanger serials featuring Indiana Jones/Lara Croft -type adventurers, and it seems to capture it well.

It comes with a custom soundtrack CD (I know that I mentioned above that ALL their games come with soundtrack CDs, but it's still a pleasant surprise when I see it; a completely unnecessary extra that adds one more dimension to the experience). The board is a gorgeous map and the game includes over 165 plastic pieces (characters, coins, a zeppelin, etc.).

I knew the basics of how to play from watching others demo it. I learned that this game, too, can be played solitaire, competitive (individually or in teams) and cooperatively (against the game itself).

So, I prepared to geek-out on the game but the demo broke up a turn later. They began setting up for a quick demo before the hall closed when I realized I had to drop my stuff off at the room and meet up for dinner. Conveniently, the folks from [family=7344]The Spiel[/family] walked by and told me they were meeting up "outside the place you play board games". I said I thought I knew where that was and ran to drop off my haul.

I had just enough time to buy a copy of Fortune and Glory first
 
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16. Board Game: Who's Missing? [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
 
Bill H
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New Jersey
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I arrived at the "official" board game room to rendezvous with the Spiel guys but didn't see anyone I knew. I wandered around the area and checked outside, but no sign of them. I asked the door attendant if there were another board game room, but he said there wasn't another in the convention center but might be some off-site in the hotels.

After a few more minutes I became certain that I must be at the wrong spot and after another sweep of the area I went off to find someone else to ask. Outside the collectible card game area I was told of another "unofficial" board game room where you didn't have to pay per game. That sounded more like their style so I tried to find it.

It spans about 5 smaller rooms so I checked around it and outside, but still no luck (by now, they had probably left). Just in case, I went outside and began to circle the convention center but gave up at 6:30 (the time the dinner was supposed to start).

Too bad, I always enjoy getting together with those guys.

I ate at P. F. Chang's instead.
 
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Bill H
United States
Absecon
New Jersey
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As I suddenly had a hole in my schedule, I decided to catch a film in the hotel next to mine.

Browncoats: Redemption is a fan film set a few months after the events in the (Big Damn) movie Serenity. The acting varies from adequate to very good and the story was interesting, but poor sound editing made some of the dialog (and therefore parts of the plot) hard to discern.

The movie contained a number of references to events and characters from the Firefly TV series (perhaps too many at times, but the audience seemed to appreciate each with a little grunt of recognition). There were some moments of humor and drama, and they did very well choosing scenes and settings that could be filmed on a minuscule budget but still fit the story.

It's rough enough not to interest anyone but a Firefly fan, but it was good enough that I was happy I'd gone to see it.
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18. Board Game: The Adventurers: The Pyramid of Horus [Average Rating:6.79 Overall Rank:1349]
Bill H
United States
Absecon
New Jersey
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"A master in the art of living draws no sharp distinction between his work and his play, his labour and his leisure, his mind and his body, his education and his recreation." LP Jacks
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SATURDAY

(eventually) Got to demo this sequel to The Adventurers: The Temple of Chac.

I had read somewhere that the games would be compatible and you can use characters from one in the other, but our demoer didn't know anything about it and I didn't see anything covering it in the rulebook. I don't think some of the abilities would transfer well between environments. That's a shame, it would have been a selling point for me (I'm not sure why more companies don't do crossover rules and materials for their character figures -- the more people become attached to a character, the more they are affected by what happens to them in the game and the ability to bring them into other games by the same publisher would seem a cheap way to add value).

In any case, this is another crumbling ruin to loot before it seals everyone inside. This game is a little less fiddley than Temple of Chac was -- instead of a big rolling boulder steamrolling players and eventually blocking the exit, in this one stone blocks fall from the ceiling each turn (they have numbers underneath that indicate where they land) and once they block the exit, anyone inside loses the game. The trick is to grab treasure and bolt out before getting trapped.

Threats include snakes and scorpions mixed in with the treasures, and prowling mummies that guard the big-ticket treasures.

It was a fun game but didn't feel different enough from Temple of Chac to warrant owning both (character crossovers might be enough to tilt the balance).

I skipped the purchase of this one.
 
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19. Franchise: Tetris
Bill H
United States
Absecon
New Jersey
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It was cool crowd-watching. A lot of people were walking around in some very impressive costumes.

One of the most amusing was a Tetris piece. It seemed that everyone that saw him or her smiled.
 
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20. RPG: Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (1st Edition) [Average Rating:7.14 Overall Rank:82]
Bill H
United States
Absecon
New Jersey
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Another trip into the True Dungeon...

A "grind" this time, no puzzles just straight combat against a series of baddies, using the unique shuffleboard combat system.

We fought particularly well (if I do say so myself) and ground through the first few fights without trouble. Our final fight was more difficult however, and my character (a Fighter) managed to lose an arm and in the final round, was rendered completely armless.

We won the day, though, and got some nice loot (although I'm not sure how I carried it out... in my teeth?).
 
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21. Board Game: Nightfall [Average Rating:6.52 Overall Rank:1356] [Average Rating:6.52 Unranked]
Bill H
United States
Absecon
New Jersey
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I attended the Alderac Entertainment Group Event tonight. It wasn't quite the exclusive party I had expected -- several hundred people attended, it wasn't in a ballroom of its own but against the wall in a huge room with other events taking place, and there was no food. Also, instead of learning about their various products, they were holding tournaments so to learn how to play Nightfall I had to enter the tournament against people who had played before.

It's a supernatural-themed deckbuilding game with colored circles in the upper left corner of the cards that indicate if they can be played for free after the previous card. It's possible to set up a chain of cards that give you benefits or mess with your opponents, even when it's their turn!

It's certainly more complicated than Dominion or Thunderstone, but I may see more of the possibilities next time I play.

I came in 3rd out of 4 in the first round, eliminating me from the tourney.

I received a copy of the Nightfall base game in the AEG swag bag, along with half a dozen promo packs for the game.
 
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22. Board Game: Myth: Pantheons [Average Rating:5.58 Overall Rank:12387]
Bill H
United States
Absecon
New Jersey
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Another item in my AEG swag bag.
 
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23. Board Game: Legend of the Five Rings [Average Rating:7.14 Overall Rank:1073] [Average Rating:7.14 Unranked]
Bill H
United States
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New Jersey
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More AEG swag: A starter deck, 10 boosters and some promo cards for the latest expansion, "Before the Dawn". Also, promo for a L5R board game,
 
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24. Board Game Publisher: Alderac Entertainment Group
Bill H
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New Jersey
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Other items in the swag bag included several Thunderstone promo packs (Death Sentinel, Void Apocalypse and Stormhold); the Infinite City: Guild Hall and Salvage Yard promo and a discount coupon for purchases made tomorrow.
 
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25. Board Game: Quarriors! [Average Rating:6.79 Overall Rank:709] [Average Rating:6.79 Unranked]
Bill H
United States
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New Jersey
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While we waited for the tournament to go on, we played a partial game of this "dice collection" game. It's another descendant of Dominion but without the shuffling... because it's dice.

The cards in the shop area represent dice and once purchased they go into your own dice bag. Each turn you draw 6 out to roll, and the various effects are obvious or described on the card.

It was fun, I would like to play again but I don't feel the need to obtain a copy.
 
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