William Bussick
United States
Reno
Nevada
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You want to know something? I don't think Mozart's going to help at all.
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This was my first BGG.CON. If you have never been there before, I hope you can learn some interesting things that may influence your decision to go next year. I hope you other veteran folk will enjoy reading it too, but you’ll probably end up wincing right away.

My exciting, fun, and terrible BGG.CON 2008 experience.

THURSDAY
Matt Fullenwider (maelic001) and I flew from Reno to Dallas direct Thursday afternoon. This was the first time I set foot in the state of Texas (only previously in the airport). It was much like Reno, only flatter. I called the Westin when we got our bags and they sent a shuttle right over.

Checking in was very simple, and within 10 minutes of arriving, our bags were dropped off in the room, and we were at the registration desk. There was a line of…no one. (Hey, we got in at 5pm, after all.)

At the registration desk, they explained the yellow-and-blue-ticket thing (for the raffles later in the con), the library card (to check out games), and they told us to each select a door prize from a rack of games. “What, to keep?” “Yes, to keep.” Matt grabbed Fresh Fish and I passed up Duel of Ages (sorry, Tom Vasel), among others, and picked up Igor the Monster Making Game: something that has been on my list for a couple months.

We met up with Paul Allwood (pallwood) right away who was teaching someone Ice Flow. He quickly volunteered to teach Matt and I Dominion. We graciously accepted. What a great game! I never played Magic before, and I understand there are shades of that game in here, but wow, this was much more fun than I expected! I thought I was in for another head-scratching first play of Race for the Galaxy (with its nasty learning curve), but I was pleased to be wrong. Yes, we only played the beginner game, but it was quite accessible. It played quickly, with pretty much ZERO downtime. (By the end of the weekend, I had given money to a supporter of the con, Thought Hammer, for a copy of this and Strozzi. Er, online. blush )

I then took Paul and Matt to dinner at the hotel’s sole restaurant. We stayed in the bar and ordered burgers. We nearly died of hunger while waiting for our food. The whole endeavor took 90 minutes away from gaming! The food was pretty decent, and not too expensive. Do what I did the rest of the trip: order “carryout” from the restaurant. Nothing carried-out took more than 20 minutes. They have a carryout pizza menu too, but you must ask for it.

Paul next taught us Uruk: Wiege der Zivilisation. It was an invention building card game. It had some seriously complicated card iconography which required near-constant referral to the rules. I didn’t know what to make of the game until nearly the end, when it finally started clicking. Not a bad game, but not one I’d run out and buy.

We checked out a copy of Cities, something Paul had wanted to try (even though neither Paul nor I enjoyed the designer’s last game, Wadi). This was very much a re-jiggered version of Take It Easy, mixed with Carcassonne. I liked the scoring mechanism here much better than the former game, but it’s a type of puzzle game I don’t gravitate to. We had two plays, one with beginner scoring and one with advanced. During the plays, my opinions ranged from “bah” to “meh.”

I checked out Amerigo before the library closed at midnight. A quick note about the library: yeah, there were many, many games there. Many that I had never heard of. Many that I’ve been wanting to try. But somehow…I thought there’d be more. Is that weird? The new releases were thankfully altogether in the center of the room, and we choose plenty from there during the con.

We hung around for the first midnight raffle, and then we checked out WeyKick. That was more fun than it should have been! I was reminded of my old air hockey table when I was a kid. There was much shouting and laughter to be had. Paul, Matt, and I traded off for a few games. I was on my third game when Rick Thornquist came looking for players for Snow Tails.

Paul called it a night, while Matt and I joined Rick and Scott Tepper. I own the game but had not played it yet. It was pretty much what I expected: a very pleasant mixture of Ave Caesar and Mississippi Queen. I definitely look forward to more plays, but I might actually like Powerboats better.

Matt and I went back to the room about 1:30am. I caught up with my work emails and read the Amerigo rules until 2. A quick note about the room: it was not unlike any other mid-to-upper end room I’ve stayed in (I do travel a bit). Nothing exceptional, but it was comfortable, clean, and lacked for nothing…except perhaps a bathroom fan (weird!).


FRIDAY
Woke up around 9am. I got some Starbucks for breakfast. They have decent breakfast sandwiches until they run out around 10. Matt and I made our way down to the gaming hall and decided to play some of the games we brought. (I know we weren’t supposed to bring any, but I brought about a dozen of my unplayed Essen imports and got to play most all of them.)

The first of which was Los Banditos. This was obviously Knizia’s dice version of Schotten Totten. No real surprises, but it was light, fun, and just different enough from the original to warrant keeping. Er, and I love dice. That helped too.

Following along the “Easy Play” line, we next played Finito!. An interesting take on Bingo. You have to try to get your numbered chips to be placed in sequential order before the other players. The placement of the chips is dictated by a d20, as opposed to a bingo hopper without replacement. Good idea and breezy fun.

We got in a quick game of Simply Ingenious (an entertaining push-your-luck game that we’d played previously) before we ran into a couple of guys new to the con and looking for a game. We invited Jake Spencer and Doug Serven join us in a game of Amerigo. I liked the designer’s Hanging Gardens and after reading the rules, I knew I would like this one too. It was a clever little sailing, exploring, set collection, market game that uses a 110-card deck of multi-purpose ship cards. I really dug it and look forward to buying it…uh, when that is possible…

Somewhere in there, I grabbed a boxed lunch of a deli sandwich, chips, and water for $10 from the hotel vendors outside the hall. The sandwich, though very bread-y, was quite satisfying.

Matt and I perused the vendors area, and met up with Paul along the way. I ended up buying Wasabi!, Covert Action, and Power Grid China/Korea. Matt bought Knizia’s Municipium, and Paul offered to teach us the game. It was a pretty interesting area-majorities-within-an-area majority game. It was more complicated than I expected, but also more fun. I’ll be picking this up, but I am disappointed by the miserable card stock.

Matt broke out Pack & Stack. I knew there was a speed puzzle element to the game, so I was apprehensive. The speed element was not huge, but the puzzle side seemed a little broken to me. Matt and Paul seemed to like it, but it was just not my thing. Sterling Babcock (solamar) stopped by to watch the last few rounds.

About this time, I was starting to get run-down, maybe even a little sick-feeling or dehydrated.

We were all up for another game, and I broke out Sator Arepo Tenet Opera Rotas. Matt Kramper joined us just before we started. This game was a brain-burner in the worst way. It was a big spatial puzzle mess. Matt K. said that it “hurts a whole new part of my brain!” The rotating and moving of the walkways pretty much prevents you from planning your move ahead of time, and it’s a big AP game, so it took a LONG time. Three of my books were bunched together on the other side of the board, so the guys just kept me corralled in my starting corner the whole game. I’ll try it again, but it wasn’t my favorite.

The four of us then got in a quick game of Boss Kito. Whoever called this a cross between Cheeky Monkey and Felix Cat in the Sack pretty much hit it dead on. Somehow it fell a little short of either of these titles (its length was longer than the others). It would be worth picking up…if the box wasn’t so big. (Hey, that’s the way I roll.)

I was starting to feel pretty worn out at this point. My back was hurting from sitting so long also. Our group broke up, and Matt Fullenwider and I got in a game or two of WeyKick, while I took stock of my situation.

We talked Paul into trying out Wasabi! with us (he wasn't keen on the theme). As we were punching it out, we were joined by John Garnett. I taught the game, but my mind was not doing well at this point, so I was glad to have John (a veteran player of the game) help out. Debbie Ohi (inkygirl) sat and watched most of the game, snapping pictures and scribbling. (Here is the photo from her: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/image/400727) The game is the tops in terms of component quality. The play was decent enough, but I found the last few rounds a little wonky. It became very hard to string together any combo of long length, so the endgame wasn’t tense and it kind of wimpered. I’d like to try it again, to see about holding back some shorter recipes for later.

By then, my ass was dragging and I just felt ill. I left everyone to go rest. So, I ordered carryout hot ham and cheese from the restaurant and ran across the street to get some Vitamin Water. I scarfed the meal down in my room and weighed my options. I ended up soaking in the hot tub on the roof for about 45 minutes. The jets worked the kinks out of my back (for the rest of the trip!). I then rinsed off in the shower and laid in bed for 15 minutes or so and read the rules for Taktika. Somehow this break really energized me without taking a nap.

I found Matt and he didn’t think he was at risk of getting sick, so at 10pm we sat down in the lounge and played some Taktika. It was very much just “battle Crokinole.” It was fun and clever enough to put on my to-buy list, but I knew it wasn’t really getting published at the moment. I got to introduce Matt to Knizia’s new Robot Master game, which I had played before. A fine and tiny, tiny(!) game.

We spent some time in the library and I checked out Heinz Meister’s Peanuts for the night. Matt and I got in a couple more games of WeyKick before it just degenerated into some weird mutant version of the game that still was really entertaining. Players flew across the board, but we didn’t care and played on.

Matt and I stopped long enough to watch the midnight raffle. Too tired to get in a real game, we played two games of Le Passe-Trappe and two games of Loopin' Louie before calling it a night. (I believe we even got in a game of Piratenbillard somewhere around there as well.) I laid in bed and tried to read the translated rules for Peanuts on my Blackberry, but it was no use: my brain had shut down. Lights were out at 12:30.


SATURDAY
I woke up at 8am (my alarm was set) and I felt like hell. My throat hurt and I could hardly talk. I got a shower and bought some hot chocolate and a breakfast sandwich at Starbucks and felt marginally better.

Matt, Paul, and I waited in line for about 45 minutes for the flea market. When it opened, I got in and got out pretty quickly. Ian Cooper was selling his Taktika game there, and I picked that up for $25. I also got used copies of Pick & Pack for $7, Babel for $10, and King of the Elves for $10. At some point around there, I picked up the RA shirt from GameInk.

After dropping that stuff off in the room, Matt and I headed for the main gaming hall. We met up with Paul and I started getting out Wind River, while he rounded up Michelle (caesarmom), who expressed interest in this before. My voice was terrible and I squeaked through the rules for the game. It had some interesting ideas, but I believe I glossed over a rule that should have been made more clear: that you can only gather resources in a space that you alone are represented in. The result of this was my own player elimination midway through the game, and a playing time probably 30 minutes longer than it should have been. Michelle left the table 15 minutes before the end, and she still ended up winning in a tie-breaker! There were some unique ides, but needless to say, the vote is still out on this one.

Matt and I found a quiet place to play 2 games of Robotory. It was a very fast, simple game. I dug it, but there just wasn’t much there. We also got in a game of Mow, another Essen filler. The rules read very much like 6 Nimmt!, but the play was actually closer to Escalation. Like Boss Kito, it ran pretty long for a filler, but the size of this one can’t be beat (smaller footprint than a deck of cards, but double-thick).

I parted from Matt because I was miserable. I grabbed another deli sandwich ($6 alone, without the chips and drink) and a Vitamin Water from the gas station and ate my meal in the hotel room. I laid down to read at 3pm and slept until almost 6. I made it down for the Golden Geek announcements with a few minutes to spare, so Matt and I got in a quick game of Sushizock im Gockelwok in the con’s dex game lobby.

After the awards, Matt and I went back to the lounge area. While he ordered a carryout pizza from the hotel for us, I set up IGOR: The Monster Making Game. It was a clever game, very much like Sharp Shooters. I liked everything about it except the box: it’s about 90% air. Grr…

We played a quick game of Drachen Wurf afterwards. This was an amusing little dice game. I think it would have been better with more than 2 players (it scales up to 6). There didn’t seem to be as much thieving of tiles as I would have expected.

I went and checked out Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation from the library, as Matt had never played it (and it had been a few years for me). I read the rules while we ate our pizza (basic, not bad, and fairly cheap). We played Confrontation after that, and I enjoyed getting reacquainted with it. It’s a deep game, but also pretty short. Good tension. I’d consider picking up the Deluxe Edition, if I played this more often…and the box wasn’t so big!

We dropped that game off in the library and picked up a couple more things to take back to our lounge area. I messed around with Bottle Topps while Matt read the rules for Cthulhu Rising. Cthulhu had terrible production values, in terms of graphic design. The worst part of it was that the “6” and “9” tiles were virtually indistinguishable from each other. I’m glad we found a few microscopic identifying marks, as otherwise the game would be unplayable. And that would be a shame…because it was quite good! We played a second time with the variant, but found the first version better. Sure, the theme was 100% disconnected from play, but I’ll be picking up the game and making sure to Sharpie on some dots for the numbers!

I checked Tiku out of the library just before midnight. A quick note on the con: most of the play areas tended towards the rather cold side. Bring a coat or a sweater. I know I was sick, but Matt and Paul noticed the temperature too.

I read the rules for Tiku and Quo Vadis? and hit the sack around 1:30am.


SUNDAY
We woke up at 10am (I felt not much better than Saturday) and after some Starbucks breakfast, we checked out of our room about 11 and had our bags checked at the bell desk.

Matt and I ran into Seth Jaffe (sedjtroll), who was looking for 2 players for Space Alert. We were happy to oblige! While Seth rounded up Brian Graham, Matt and I got in a quick game of Tiku. A nice abstract that will be nigh-impossible to find in the US, but it is being called Knizia’s YINSH. Having never played that, I can’t confirm or deny, but it was simple and not without depth for those looking for it.

Space Alert was a wild ride! We played the intro game, closely followed by an advanced game. It was like a pleasantly chaotic, cooperative-play cousin to RoboRally. You’ll definitely need to find the right group, as the theme is enveloping, so those turned off by sci-fi won’t dig this.

Another con note: the library closes at 1pm on Sunday. The large amount of gaming dissolves about then also, and it got hard to find a game to get into. Going again, I’d probably get an afternoon flight back instead of an evening.

Matt and I were able to get in on a game of Shadow Hunters run by Lisa Bjornseth (Nightmare) and Brian Modreski (StormKnight) (we were joined by Doug Paust and Anni Foasberg as well). It was just an okay game, somewhat Bang!-like, with lots more text to read. The wordy cards seemed wildly powerful and it made the game extra volatile. The best part of the game, though, was Lisa getting into her role and snarling as the Werewolf. She was very animated and fun, and I will hold it as a fond memory of the con.

Matt and I retreated to the lobby and played some more WeyKick, another of my con favorites. Lisa and Brian found us out there and we had a 4-player game of Piratenbillard. We started a quick Loopin' Louie tourney, but had to stop it short as Lisa and Brian had to leave for their plane. Matt and I got in a good game of Crokinole, and then we said good-bye to the convention.

We got our bags and caught the hotel’s shuttle for the airport around 3pm. We hung out in the C terminal for a while before we travelled to the D terminal for some dinner at Cousin’s BBQ (something I really enjoyed when passing through DFW from Essen last year). We got into Reno around 9pm.


OVERALL
Some thoughts on the experience. I got sick and that was really terrible having body aches, a sore throat, and nearly no voice. That really sucked. (Matt did not get sick.) Outside of that badness, it was a great time! I recommend the convention highly for anyone who hasn’t gone before. It was the highlight of my boardgaming year. I very much look forward to going again next year. I brought nearly all of my Essen acquisitions and played most all of them. Strangely enough, I played only games that I was really interested in; I didn't play anything bland to just pass the time. I got to play so many games, that for me, it was probably 1-2 months of gaming wrapped up into a long weekend.

Finding a game to play was criminally easy. Every couple of minutes, someone in the main hall was holding up a box cover, looking for more players. You walk up and they’re grateful to have you. That’s it! The library always had several things I wanted to play. Staff and attendees were friendly, and most importantly, I always found a place to set up a game.

Next year, I would make more of an effort to stay healthy before the con. Cold water dispensers were plentiful in the convention areas, but I’ll probably try harder to tote a bottle around with me next time. Overall, I didn’t meet too many new people, but most of the time, it hurt to talk, so I’m sure that would be different under better circumstances.

I hope this report gave you some entertainment and perhaps some tidbits you didn’t know about the convention.

Happy gaming!

(Matt's comments about the con can be found here: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/37108)
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A Derk appears from the mists...
United States
Portland
Oregon
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Glad you could make it. We certain enjoy putting it on. It's always amazing to me to read all the post-con traffic, with everyone's reactions to the games. Especially this year, as I took the extra time to play the games in the run-up to the con, so I know what they are. Except Wasabi... I knew it'd be Stateside, so I didn't bother with it.
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Debbie Ohi
Canada
Toronto
Ontario
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YAY, a chance to play games during the DAY!! (I am cursed with morning person genes)
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I tweet about board gaming at @BGGgirl, about writing/illustrating at @inkyelbows.
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Thanks for the great report, William! Sorry you weren't feeling well during part of the convention.

Debbie
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Jake Spencer
United States
Norman
Oklahoma
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William, thanks for welcoming Doug and I to the Con by teaching us Amerigo. We had just driven in from Oklahoma, and within no time we were already in a game thanks to you and Matt. We were a little overwhelmed at first, but you really put us at ease. We also enjoyed getting in a game of Caledea with Matt later that night. Thanks!
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Matt Fullenwider
United States
Reno
Nevada
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Thanks for letting me tag along, Bill. It was a lot of fun.

Debbie, it was nice meeting you. Very cool sketch of us playing Wasabi.

Jake and Doug, it was nice meeting and getting to play a couple games with you guys as well.

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