Board game convention season is rolling on with Gen Con around the corner, but last weekend gamers of all ages gathered in Lancaster, PA for the World Boardgaming Championships, an event where the best of the best compete in games of all types.
There may have been some records broken, or new champions crowned ... but instead I spent my time in the open gaming area, opting for the unpublished and up-and-coming games over the tried and true classics. Nothing beats the energy, passion and talent of the unpublished games, and nothing is more motivating than seeing what's out there. This time around I was able to squeeze in a few published games as well.
Click through the jump for more from the World Boardgaming Championships! We played new and unpublished games like The Great Heartland Hauling Co., and published wonders like Alien Frontiers and Cards Against Humanity.
Since this was my first year at the WBC, I wasn't too sure what to expect. The Lancaster Host hotel and convention center was small in comparison to the major conventions, but there was plenty of gaming space. A few big halls filled with tables. That's basically all you need for a board game convention.
The main floor hosted a few competitive events, and the basement held the dealers room, but the second floor was where it was at. An awesome theater room that doubled as the open gaming room. The stage area was taken over by tables of games that you could borrow to play, which makes it possible to pretty much play any game you have ever wanted to play.
Cards Against Humanity I saw a few friends (including our guest contributor Taylor) and I jumped right into a game of Cards Against Humanity. If you've never seen it before, it's basically Apples to Apples offensive neighbor. Instead of cards like Michael Jackson or Bigfoot, cards say things like "A snapping turtle biting the tip of your penis." or "Another goddamn vampire movie.". It's way too much fun, and I don't think I've ever seen anyone laugh as much as I did in this session.
The Great Heartland Hauling Co.
The first unpublished game that I played was The Great Heartland Hauling Co. from DiceHateMe Games. It's a beautifully developed card game about truckin' (which you think would be a great contrast, but it meshes well). In the game players will pick up and goods in the form of tiny wooden cubes, and deliver them around the map. With a map made of cards, the game changes every time you play it and your plans will shift. We all had a great time trying to determine the best goods to pick up and store and the best time to drop them. Goods, gas and space are limited, so the choices can be very tough. The game is very easy to teach, quick to setup, and light enough to get anybody to dive right in. I'm looking forward to getting my copy from it's successful, and ongoing, Kickstarter campaign.
Next I jumped into a game of Rock Babies by TC Petty III. It's a game about babies climbing rocks, but there is more than that. It's essentially a press your luck race to the finish using coin flips in a unique way. Each coin / token that you flip gives you a space of movement, and if you flip the bad side you will lose that coin. If you flip the good side, you can keep using it to continue moving. You can stop at any time, but if you press to hard your baby will fall! Back to the checkpoint for you, and the steep, steep wall will see you on your next turn. Lots of fun, and such a good theme.
Time's Up: Title Recall
We closed the night with a massive 13 player game of Time's Up: Title Recall. This is movie-themed charades with a little twist. Each round you lose a little bit. In the first round you can say words and act it out. In the second round you can act, but only say one word. And in the third round you can't say any words at all. What makes it work is that each round uses the same cards, so there is a little memorization involved as patterns form. Example: "Rambo" - Round one: Shooting guns while saying "Stallone, not Rocky but…". Round two: Shooting guns while just saying "Stallone". Round three" Shooting guns while making an open-jaw face. Great game with the right group. This group was awesome. I am terrible though. Sorry team!
Alien Frontiers (and Alien Frontiers Factions) The next day I played my very first game of Alien Frontiers, one of the first huge board games to come out of Kickstarter. In 2010, it received about $15,000 in funding and started the wave of board game Kickstarter projects. It then went on to receive huge critical success, as many bloggers voted it as their top game of the year. We played with the brand new Factions expansion, which brought over $70,000 on Kickstarter, setting even more records.In the game players roll dice and assign the results to the many options on the board. Some provide you with resources, others give more dice, or more abilities, cards, and resource points. There is so much depth in this game, and the expansion multiplies that considerably. (We spent a lot of time referring to the rules for the new components). After playing, I can totally see why this is so successful… it's a great game. There is an iPad version in the works, which will allow me to play the game more often than I could ever play a physical version, and I can't wait for it.
Joe Hopkins invited me over to a game of Traveling Salesman and before we knew it, the table was full. Zev from Z-Man games jumped in and quickly defeated us at the game about wheeling and dealing. Players each pick up and deliver items that are in supply or demand, based off of the region. The mechanics played very well as it's based off of a math problem that Joe explained afterwards. We just wanted to see a few more choices/options to get deeper into it and we chatted about it afterwards. As awesome as it is playing games, the best part of these events is the conversation that follows the game session.
I played Wartime first at Unpub 2 and I was blown away by the amount of sweat and stress involved with a game where you spend most of the time watching sand timers. This time, I felt a little more prepared because I was playing against the world champion. It's safe to say she destroyed me, but I had a great time losing. Here's my recap from the first time I played Wartime. http://www.fruitlesspursuits.com/2012/01/unpub-2-recap-yesterday-myself-and-many.html
I've been eyeing this game since designer TC Petty III tweeted a few vague images of it. It's an abstract game, (meaning little or no theme, often 2 players, Example: Chess / Checkers / Go), and it's made of little wooden gear/cog pieces. The object of the game is to complete connections and gain majority of the gears that surround an open space, with a few surprises thrown in. The movement of each piece is one of the most beautiful mechanics I've seen in a while. You can move a piece in a circular motion around the cogs it's connected to, and the pieces on the edge of the board can move around the edge and internally as well. It's a little tough to explain but it all clicks into place about halfway into the game. Early enough that I was able to sneak in a win, my first and only of the entire weekend.
Who knew a game about fortune telling could be so captivating? This game looks amazing, and plays really well. It's basically a game about memorization and deduction, in that you are trying to determine how many of each of the 4 card types are in the randomly assembled deck. Each player takes a set # of cards, and passes a smaller number of cards to the person to their left. This happens a few times and you get to see a little bit of what is out there. Then you will commit to a bet by placing a card of it's type by the matching board. In doing this you reveal that there is at least one card of that type, and you reveal how many you think are out there. Over a few rounds, all of the cards are revealed and you see who was correct. If your guess was way off you will lose points, and sometimes it's better to not guess at all because each number can only be guessed by one player and you can get forced into a bad guess. I hear it plays a little differently with varied amounts of people (4 players had a bit more of "screw your opponent over"). I want to try this one a few more times, as well as everything else Asmodee is releasing now.
Mars Needs Mechanics & City Hall
These are the two games that I wanted to play but never had a chance to do it. My time was limited in Lancaster and split between hanging with the family and playing board games, so I never got to play either of these, but I did get to sit and chat with the designers about the upcoming Kickstarter launch for their games. We've seen Michael Keller's City Hall a few times now, and he's wrapping up the convention circuit with a few last sessions before diving into the joys of crowd funding. This was the first time I got to see Benjamin Rosset's Mars Needs Mechanics and it's nice metal prototype board and components. It's launching on Kickstarter very soon from Nevermore Games. Both will be at Gen Con, and I'm sure we'll have more to say about both of them in the near future.
This week is Gen Con in Indianapolis. See you there?