Board Game Gumbo: Louisiana Comic Con 2018 Wrap Up
Some of the best parts of this hobby is meeting new people and sharing great game experiences with friends. That’s why the Krewe de Gumbo makes an effort to attend conventions near and far (and of course, to play the latest hotness and all time favorites, too.)
This October, the Krewe volunteered for the third year in a row to staff the board game library at the Louisiana Comic Con. (Here's a wrap up of our first con back in 2016.) We brought in the amazing board game library from Gulf Coast Gaming Events, and also were the beneficiaries of some awesome play to win games donated by various companies including Stonemaier Games. And this year, we had a LOT of help from the awesome folks from the Southern Board Game Fest, which is coming up in March.
The board game room was open all day on Saturday and Sunday, but personally, I was only able to make it on the final day. Here are some of the highlights of my time staffing on Sunday.
My Little Scythe
When we visited with Jamey Stegmaier of Stonemaier Games back in episode of Gumbo Live!, we chatted about some of his upcoming projects, including this gorgeous looking game, My Little Scythe. As if the story behind the game was not enough (Dad and daughter create an homage to her favorite IP using Jamey’s epic Scythe board), the game itself is a fun, quick learning and quick playing romp through the eyes of cuddly little woodland creatures.
I finally got to play My Little Scythe this weekend. (Jamey was gracious enough to donate Play-To-Win copies of My Little Scythe, Euphoria, and Between Two Castles of Mad King Ludwig to the convention).
Not to spoil this outcome of this short little write up, but I give it two thumbs up.
After playing a quick two player game (yes, quick -- Bradly beat me 4-2 in maybe 15 minutes?), I ended up teaching it a couple of more times. One of the players called it Scythe Light, and that’s not a bad description. Players familiar with Scythe’s action selection mechanism, combat, and movement will easily get this game, but even the new-to-the-hobby gamers that attended and played very quickly grasped the rules after only a turn or two.
Players will take the reins of two cute little animal miniatures, and send them around the board looking for gems, hearts and quests in an effort to be the first two put four “trophies” on the top of the board (think “stars” in Euphoria or Scythe.) Players can pick up the goodies and even deliver them to the center castle, where they can exchange four goods for a trophy, too.
And of course, as a Scythe game, there’s the threat of combat --- or in our case, lots and lots of actual combat. Players on the same space immediately go to a pie throwing duel (just using the deck of cards in the hand plus the amount of “pies” the characters have built up through their “seeking”.) The winner of the fight gets a trophy, and the loser loses all of the gems and apples carried to the winner, and gets sent back to the starting spot -- but with a few bonuses that make losing not altogether that bad.
The artwork and production values in this game are top flight. The pieces all fit into this handy plastic tray, and the miniatures are detailed enough for painting (and a painting guide is included!) The game takes minutes to set up, and I was easily able to cover the rules in a few minutes. The turns are quick, and as one of the players ruefully noticed when she lost by one trophy, the game ends quicker than you expected! Is it a deep strategy game that can sustain an entire night’s worth of gaming and after-game-night talk? Of course not, but as a good family night game, or a good gateway game with friends, or even a break for your regular game group, My Little Scythe deserves a place in most people’s collections.
Next up, we played Reef by Emerson Matsuuchi and published by Plan B Games. If you follow the blog, you know that I love SdJ weight games -- games you can play with your family and friends, take an hour or less, and can be fairly easily taught but have delicious decisions. Reef hits all of those notes for me, plus it has a toy factor that looks amazing on the table.
Players compete to score victory points by drafting cards and playing cards that give you plastic coral pieces in one of four colors. Every time players play a card, they not only get the coral, but they also have a chance to score the points on the bottom of the card if their current board state matches the pattern of colors on the board. For instance, your card may require you to have four green pieces connected in a tight square to score, and so long as your top piece of each stack of coral, you get those points.
The rule of four is important here: you can only hold four cards in your hand, stacks of coral can only be four pieces high, there are always four cards showing in the market, and you can’t build more than a four by four grid. The juicy decisions come when deciding whether to take a free card in the market, or spending one of your own victory points to choose the top facing card on the deck. Or when you have to play a card you want to score points on, but don’t have the set up yet, but you need to play it to get the coral pieces you need to score an even bigger card!
Again, this is not a heavy game. Some gamers in our group have complained that the decisions are too obvious. But, if you like a “friendly” weighted game, that does have some player interaction once you know the game well enough to start looking at other people’s player boards, and that can easily be planned a couple of times in one hour, then Reef might be right up your alley.
We had a number of other games taught and played during the weekend. Devir Games was gracious enough to give us a copy of Gretchinz! for the play to win table, so Bryan was busy teaching that one on Sunday.
It is not my style of racing game, but it was a pretty big hit with the players who liked the Warhammer theme and the take that nature of the race.
Ponzi Scheme designed by Jesse Li (who also designed The Flow of History!) published by Tasty Minstrel Games was another big hit at the Con. Can you outwit your opponents by continuing to take loans, but pushing the d-day that comes with the exorbitant prices to pay back the loans as far down the road as possible? It’s an interesting mix of trading, valuation, manipulation and set collection that drives players crazy but is always good for a lot of laughs.
The craze of CCGs never stops, and Steve Jackson Games has a new one that some of the Gumbo krewe got to try out this weekend. To no surprise, it is the new Munchkin Trading Card Game. But, before you scroll past, this one has a pretty unique pedigree. All star designers Eric Lang and Kevin Wilson combined to put out this interesting twist on the TCG format. I did not get to play, so hopefully Bryan can comment below on how it went or ask him a question about it on Twitter.
One of my favorite all time designers is Antoine Bauza. Games like Takenoko and Tokaido have a permanent place in my "ready to play" pantheon. I've been playing a lot of both games on Board Game Arena with a regular group of friends on line, but every once in a while, it is nice to pull out the cardboard and give the games a swing. I was about to start another game at the time, but I did have a chance to teach Tokaido to a couple of experienced gamers who had never played this particular Bauza gem before.
Players play as tourists out for a leisurely four day stroll down the Tokaido Road in Japan. Players will score points for having the best journey -- eating the best meals, praying at temples, painting landscapes, meeting exciting people, and of course, buying souvenirs. There's definitely some player interaction, but the tranquil art and theme combine to make it more of an enjoyable experience than your typical Carcassonne style knife fight.
At Mobi-Con, I was introduced to a great new family style dexterity game called Drop It. Man, does this game look good on the table, and it is surprisingly fun to boot. Players take turns dropping colored shapes into a plexiglass tower. The pieces will stack up, and score points depending on the size, final resting place and color. But the sizes and colors also matter in that players can be blocked out of scoring points if they place the wrong sizes/colors in the wrong zone.
The board can be randomly set up between the colors and sizes restrictions, and the game itself can be played in about 20 minutes or so. This is a really good start of the night game with your regular crew, or the featured game at a family or couples game night.
For many people, one of Stonemaier Games most thematic euros is Euphoria, with its mix of engine building, worker / dice placement, and efficiency mechanisms. At first, the board looks like a crunchy, painted over spreadsheet.
As you play the game, read the text on the cards, and look at what your levers your actions are pulling at the time, you will probably see a story being woven in the game, explaining almost everything that happens. Jamey Stegmaier really dove deep into the dystopian future that is the theme of this game, and it shows in the artwork and game play.
This is a good medium weight euro, and is always a hit at conventions due to the table presence.
I know there is a social deduction game in the universe, but I would love to see this particular IP explored even more.
Between Two Castles of Mad King Ludwig
The final game for me was my first play of Between Two Castles of Mad King Ludwig. Again, thanks go out to Stonemaier Games for giving us copies of it (and Euphoria) for the play to win table.
This game represents a dichotomy for me -- Castles is one of my top ten all time games, yet Between Two Cities was a miss for me. I thought the cooperative elements interesting, but ultimately unsatisfying. I was hoping that the castle theme overlayed on the basic cooperative mechanisms would upgrade the experience.
Up to seven players compete to build out the most beautiful (i.e. highest point scoring) castle, by drafting tiles. The twist? Players are building two castles, one shared one with the person on the left, and one shared one with the person on their right. Players will select two tiles out of each passed hand (a la 7 Wonders) and place one (in conjunction with table talk with their partners) in one castle, and the other in the other castle. Players will use these tiles to score points and hit bonus marks. That part of the game will feel very familiar to long time Castles players.
At the end of the game, the player whose lowest castle of the partnership scores higher than any other player’s lowest scoring castle wins the game. A bit counter intuitive, sure, but it makes for some very interesting decisions as you have to build up both castles in order to win. Forewarned -- this is only a first impression from one solitary play, but on first glance, the upgraded theme (which I liked) still did not excite me to the game. It could be the group I played it with, so I will definitely give it another try.
And that’s a wrap on our local comic con’s board gaming presence. Thanks to all who came from all over the state to play games with the library and the Gumbo krewe. We now turn our attention to the Southern Board Game Fest, coming up on Saturday, March 30, 2019 at the University of Louisiana student center. We are going to pull out all of the stops for the second edition of our very own Louisiana board game festival, so come out and support a great cause!
Until next time, laissez les bon temps rouler!