My Gigantic Post About Games I Played At GenCon (subtitle: Sorry In Advance)

I promised you a post about the actual games I played at GenCon, and here it is, in all its dubious glory. It’s really long and rambling. You might want a snack. Or, you know, just skip reading it entirely. Trust me, I won’t be mad. I probably won’t even know!
Anyway.

One of the goals I had for GenCon this year was to play actual games rather than to just wander aimlessly and be generally fucking afraid of interacting with anyone. I decided I was going to do the thing and that was that.

Except, then I looked at the GenCon events webpage and got instantly and horrifically overwhelmed by there being OMG TOO MANY CHOICES and I had to spend some time in a darkened room with a bottle of wine.

After a few weeks of making noise about how I really should schedule myself for some stuff and then drinking the idea right back out of my head in short order, I realized that in fact I had only TWO days left until GenCon and I hadn’t bought anything other than generic tickets.

Fuck.

At that point choosing games to play was pretty easy though, seeing as how I had specific time slots to work with and almost everything was sold out at that point. So really, I did myself a favor, procrastinating like I did. Honest!

I ended up booking tickets for three games: Dragoon, Concept and Mythe.

Dragoon was described as a Kickstarter-funded board game where you can “be the dragon”. I like board games and I already pretend I’m a pterodactyl on the regular anyway, so this seemed like a pretty good fit for me. In the game, the dragons (one per player) live on this island that a bunch of humans have invaded. You, as the dragon, can either make friends with the humans and get them to pay you gold in tribute, or you can rampage and smash shit up (both the humans’ shit and other dragons’ shit). The goal is to hoard as much gold as you can (because duh, dragon), and the first dragon to 50 gold wins. There are two cloth boards in the game – the main island map, and another board that is used to track your score. Each of the four dragons is a different metal – gold, silver, copper and…dark? I don’t know, it was a dark grey metal. Anyway, each dragon also has their own lair. During game set-up, everyone chooses where to place their lairs. From there, you then enter a “build” phase where you roll dice and set up little village (or city) cards on the island corresponding to the numbers on the dice. You, as the dragon, then get to move around the island, deciding if you want to torch the human villages for instant gold or claim them so that they have to pay you tribute. If you come to a village or city that belongs to another dragon you can fight them for it…or just destroy it out from under them. You can also sneak into other dragons’ lairs and steal some of their gold. There’s a deck of action cards as well, which let you do things like take extra actions on your turn, move extra spaces across the board, and everyone’s favorite, the “lay waste” card that basically lets your dragon go Godzilla-mode across the island, destroying everything in its path.

I really enjoyed Dragoon. It was quick to learn and there was a lot of potential for fucking people over (which, let’s admit it, is half the fun of many games). The art design was a fun kind of Cubist-meets-comic book style and the dice, dragons, little castles and other movable pieces all felt super solid and of high quality. And of course they were all appealingly shiny. Mmm, shiny! It played relatively quickly – I think it took us about an hour and that was with us getting the full tutorial and lots of hand-holding from the person running the demo. The only real downside I found to the game was a big one: the price. The “special edition”, (which is the only edition available as far as I can tell, although BoardGameGeek shows a non-metallic version), is $75. Considering the quantity of die-cast pieces and all the metal plating involved, that price doesn’t really feel out of the ballpark to me…it’s just not really something I can justify in my budget currently. If there’s a non-special edition available in the near future for significantly less money, I’d be all over it. All in all, I’d say if you have a chance to play this game you should definitely give it a try.

Concept is one of those games that’s so simple it becomes really hard to explain. There’s a game board with a whole bunch of little images on it – everything from shapes and colors to representations of really broad ideas like “faith”, “plant”, “warmth”, etc. You draw a card from the deck with three choices (easy, medium and hard) of words / phrases on it, and then you have to use the game pieces on the board to try and convey the word / phrase you’ve chosen, without using any verbal or physical cues other than placing the game pieces. The goal is for your partner to be able to correctly guess the word / phrase you’re trying to represent on the board. The team with the most points wins.

Concept is super easy to learn but actually guessing things correctly can be extremely challenging, which seems like it could lead to some endless games unless you employ time limits. To be fair, I think probably the fun of the game is much more in the ridiculous things that people end up guessing rather than the accumulation of points. For example, one of the people in the game I played had picked “tea” as their word. They placed tokens on the squares representing hot / heat, liquid / beverage, and plant. We all then sat there staring at the board saying “hot plant water?” over and over, trying to figure out what the fuck that could mean. No one actually ended up guessing “tea”, but we were all still talking about “hot plant water” even after the game ended. There was also a round that proved we were all degenerates because the person representing the word had chosen the tiles for “circle”, “brown”, “happy” and “love”, and more than half of us guessed “anal sex”. It turns out she meant cookies, for the record…but you can see how Concept would be a valuable tool for identifying the pervs in your group if you were so inclined. A good party game, to me, needs to be simple to learn and have the potential for hilarity, and Concept definitely checks both these boxes.

Mythe is a card-based game where you play a mouse hero questing to defeat a dragon and recover the Sacred Cheese. I didn’t actually end up playing it because I opted to play some other games with some friends instead. My brain was pretty thoroughly fried from sleep deprivation at that point and the idea of trying to learn a new game with strangers was giving me the twitches so I skipped it. I hope to be able to try Mythe in the future, though.

Aside from the games above that I bought actual tickets to play, I also ended up playing a bunch of Mayfair board games with some of my buddies. Mayfair gives out different ribbons for demo’ing certain games, and this year after you collected a certain amount of ribbons you got ANOTHER ribbon decreeing you a Knight of Catan, along with a sweet 50% off coupon for some of the games they were selling. My friends were on a quest to get ALL the Mayfair ribbons possible, so that meant playing a whole lot of Mayfair games. Here’s what we played:

–  basic Settlers of Catan, which I’ve played many times before and somehow manage to enjoy even though I continually suck at it.

Costa Rica, which is a tile-based game where you’re an explorer moving through the jungle and collecting animals, but you have to be careful because if you flip over too many mosquitoes your explorer gets malaria or Dengue fever or something and dies. Well, s/he may not DIE, but they can’t collect any more animals for you so it reduces your chances of being able to get a good score (you get bonuses for different kinds of animals, quantities of animals, etc). This game is really fun and pretty easy to learn, although our sleep-deprived brains were making it a lot harder than it needed to be. What we eventually figured out is that the whole game is really just a tile-based version of Chicken: you’re trying to go as far into the jungle as you can without getting mosquito’ed. Sometimes it works…and sometimes you die of Dengue fever with nothing but a box of chameleons to mourn your loss.

Empire Express – a game where you build train routes and then shuttle loads of goods back and forth to try and build up enough money to win. You have to pay for the track you build, though…and some cities only allow a certain number of tracks going in / out…and sometimes you have to pay other players to use THEIR tracks so that you can deliver your goods. So it’s basically Ticket to Ride crossed with Monopoly. This game took us like two hours to play, but the first 45 minutes or so of that was trying to figure out how the hell the game actually worked. Don’t get me wrong, I think Mayfair’s instructions were probably fine…we were just ludicrously over-tired and words stopped making sense pretty early on during this one.  Things quickly devolved into making very crude jokes about dropping loads, there were suspicions of collusion, and our unofficial alternative tag-line for the game became “There’s fucking NOTHING ‘express’ about this game”. I did enjoy it, though I’m chalking about 75% of that up to the company of the people I was playing with. I’d like to give it another try when I’m not hallucinating from lack of sleep, maybe.

Booty, in which you are a pirate trying to stash goods and treasure, accumulate political influence, and populate islands, all to build up victory points. The mechanics are interesting: there’s a deck of cards with all the different “booty” items on them, which the Quartermaster deals out mostly face-up in the middle of the table. The Quartermaster then groups the booty into piles that s/he thinks might be appealing to the other players (or NOT appealing, if it’s something they want to keep for themselves). Player number two has right of first refusal for the first pile of booty. If they don’t want it, it passes on to player number three and on, who can each accept or refuse. If THEY refuse, the pile goes to the Quartermaster. The process is repeated with the other piles of booty until it’s all distributed, then the next turn begins. The interesting thing though, is that the Quartermaster role can be passed off to another player. In other words, if you pick the first pile the Quartermaster offers you, you become the Quartermaster. This can be really advantageous if you’re good at it, but if you suck at it, it can hurt you. So there’s an element of gambling which not only makes the game more interesting, but is thematically clever. I really enjoyed Booty a lot and actually almost bought it…but then I talked myself out of it because I’m a cheapskate weirdo who can’t let herself have nice things. If you’re not a cheapskate weirdo and you like pretending to be a pirate you should totally buy it, though.

Patchwork – a two-player game where each person has a board they’re trying to fill with Tetris-like quilt patches. Buttons are used as currency to buy patches with, and certain patch pieces will net you more buttons each turn than others. You don’t get to just paw through the pile willy-nilly to pick out the pieces you need, though. The pieces are set up in a big circle around the main board and you can only pick up to three ahead of where the turn marker is. You can also choose to not buy any pieces for your turn, which allows you to move your piece ahead of your opponent on the board and net more buttons. There are some pieces you can only get if you pass them on the board, and you can sometimes manipulate it so that you get an extra turn or two if you buy pieces that don’t move you far enough along the board to surpass your opponent. Game play ends when both players make it to the center of the board. Score is calculated by adding up how many blank spaces you have left on your quilt (each empty square counts as two), then subtracting that amount from the buttons you have accumulated. Highest button count wins. This game was really fun, and not just because I’m a Tetris freak. It’s very elegant in its simplicity, but there’s also that underlying element of gambling again – do you spend all your buttons buying a piece you know your opponent would really like, and just hope that you can fill in around it in time to get your money back? Do you skip buying for a couple turns to amass great button wealth, in the hopes that you’ll be able to catch up to your opponent in terms of filling up your board later on? There’s a lot more strategy involved than one might think at first glance.

Happy Salmon – we actually bought this game right before GenCon and brought it with us. It’s a ridiculously silly, fast and fun game. Each player gets a deck of 12 cards which show four different actions: high five (self-explanatory), pound it (a fist-bump), switcheroo (you and the person you match with have to physically swap places at the table), and Happy Salmon (you and another player hold your forearms together and slap each others’ forearm three times). The object of the game is to get through your deck as quickly as possible. Everyone tries to do this by yelling out the name of a card and looking to see if anyone else has the same card. If you and someone else are both yelling “high five”, then you execute said action, chuck the card and move on to the next. If no one is matching what you’re yelling out, you can move that card to the bottom of your deck and try another action. It’s complete and utter chaos, with people fist-bumping and Happy Salmon-ing across the table, running around to switch places, etc. You do need a table where you can stand up and move around so it’s not exactly a play-anywhere type game, but it’s SUPER fun. It could also very easily be adapted into a drinking game. I’m just saying.

Dastardly Dirigibles – this is a card-based game where you have to built an airship. Each airship has the same basic parts, but there are eight different styles denoted by symbols on the cards and you get bonus points for having more coordinating style parts. In other words, if you’ve got an airship with three “wrench” symbol cards, you’re going to earn more points than if you’ve only got one “wrench” symbol and the rest wild cards or something. You HAVE to play part cards in your hand if someone else plays that part, so you can really screw people over by making them replace their chosen style of tail or nose cone with another random one in their hand. There are also action cards that have various ways of screwing people over, like stealing parts from their airship or their hand, making everyone discard a certain part, etc. The game is meant to be played over three rounds with a cumulative score at the end. Even with three rounds, the game goes quite quickly. The art on the cards is neat – they’re basically all variations of steampunky type stuff, but some look more military, some more art deco style, etc. There are plenty of opportunities to screw people over in-game as well, which I find is key to a game being fun for me. What that says about me I’m not entirely sure…ahem. Anyway, I’m going to pick this game up the next time I’m at our local games store, as I think the folks we usually do game night with will really enjoy it.

I think that’s everything I played! We also did a True Dungeon run, which I’ll talk about in a future post because this one has exceeded the bounds of sensibility at this point and I also have to get some actual work done today. Apparently.

2 thoughts on “My Gigantic Post About Games I Played At GenCon (subtitle: Sorry In Advance)

  1. Brown love circle. Why the F would you think anyone would guess COOKIE? Why won’t you put one of the markers on FOOD? That’s hilarious. I own and enjoy Concept but you have to play with the right people. Was Cookie a hard word? I’m trying to think I would mark it… Food… Holiday… Round… ?

    So glad you played Patchwork! I still have to read the rules to it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I can definitely see how Concept could go pretty wrong if you played with people who weren’t into it. We played as teams and there was one team that was just…I don’t even know. It’s not that they were unintelligent. It was more like they just couldn’t NOT think absolutely literally, you know? Like, the “hot plant water” one, when the person finally said “it’s tea”, that group was like “WELL TEA CAN BE MADE FROM STUFF OTHER THAN PLANTS”. Way to miss the fucking point, Sherlocks.

    Patchwork was really a lot of fun. The tracking board has two sides so you can play a shorter version or a longer version. We liked the longer version better…it’s more strategic, I think.

    Like

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