I left at night instead of in the morning as in the past few years, with a VIP send off from my kids. We were meeting for dinner at the airport before I left; coming from Tel Aviv, Ginat and Yona got there earlier, so they waited in line for me, and Eli carried my luggage in. I watched five movies: 500 Days of Summer, San Andreas, Wild, Inside Out, and Minions. At Customs in Newark the agent asked me where I lived and why I moved there, then what I was doing in the U.S. I said family and board game convention, he asked what my favorite game was, I said Puerto Rico, he said “that’s a game?” I slept on the way to Dallas, got my hotel room upon arrival, checked email and went to sleep. I had arranged to meet some FBRSP people for dinner and thought we could play afterwards, but they didn’t even like the same types of games as each other.
There is an anticipatory energy at the hotel during the preparations Tuesday night, I hadn’t arrived early since 2011. A lot of people had brought games, I saw someone I had played Witches with sitting with a pile of games, I asked him if he wanted to play, he said OK, I asked if he wanted more players, he said OK, so I found someone.
We played Scoville, where you plant and harvest peppers, then convert them into victory points through recipes or cards. Nice components and mechanics. You bid for turn order and first choice of free peppers to receive, you go first in either planting or harvesting, and last in the other. With three players, being in the middle worked very well, so I never bid. First player also has first choice for fulfillment, but the ones I wanted weren’t competitive. I decided to go for intermediary contracts more frequently rather than saving up for the big ones that someone else could grab, which worked really well because no one managed any big contracts by the end. The game owner also got lots of contracts, I thought he would get a big one. We tied, and I won on the tie with one extra leftover pepper. It’s mostly tactical, though you have to plan ahead for fulfillment, a nice game. Looks like it would be very chaotic with six, allowing for less planning.
When I looked out my window the weather was nice – sunny and clear, and I thought it’s too bad I’m going to be inside for three days. I got in line before 9, but the line was already out the door. So I was outside, but not in the sun, it was a bit cold but not bad, everyone remembered how freezing it was last year.
A girl in line with me was from Las Vegas, her boyfriend joined a friend further up in line. I admired her nails and rings, nails are stick-on. We talked with some others in line, and I went down to take pictures of the free games so we could plan which to take. We started playing Lords of Waterdeep on someone’s phone once he figured out how to get multi-player to work, but didn’t finish the game. The Geek entertaining the line offered geekgold for a meeple, not on your phone, a flashlight, not on your phone, and who came from the furthest away. My line friends said you have that one, and I did, but with close competition from Denmark, who probably didn’t expect to lose out. By the time registration started at 10 and we got to the table showing the prize games, a few, such as Wits & Wagers, were gone. I registered before 11, and went straight to Hot Games, I had brought a bag for the free games so I wouldn’t need to go up to my room.
I had heard of and voted for a few games for Hot Games that sounded good, The Gallerist was one of them. The main Hot Games I wanted to try were Shakespeare, 504, M.U.L.E. and Food Chain Magnate. There was an opening at The Gallerist with players who needed to leave at 1:45, which was good for me because I had a PR game scheduled for 2. Most people who played liked it, I didn’t, it seemed dry and not exciting or interesting. You get one action per turn, plus actions when people displace your one worker. So there can be 7 actions before it’s your turn again. You invest in artists, buy paintings, try to raise the fame of your artist/s, and try to get majorities on track areas. You need to have the right type of meeples in your gallery or atrium in relation to different actions. Beautiful board, color palette, and components, but not enough. We didn’t finish the game. 57, 52, me 41, 24.
Abe had been in touch, he was coming at 11, we both thought the line would be done but it wasn’t, people were saying this is the first year that happened. There’s no wifi reception downstairs so it’s hard to find people, but he found me. He wanted to walk around the vendor areas, and had to be available for phone job interviews so we didn’t play together til Saturday night.
I arranged this through the Play the Classics Geeklist. It seemed a reasonable time to be available, I figured I’d eat lunch in my room beforehand. As it was, I barely had time to run up to my room to get some food to eat while playing. True to promise, David D had the fancy anniversary edition, with heavy metal coins, that I had never played with, in 2011 it hadn’t been available in the library when we looked. We were going to be four, but the fourth was tied up, so we switched to playing three. David D taught the game, completely mixing strategy and rules from the start, I could see why Jon complains about that type of teaching. He also had some rules wrong which I corrected, such as you don’t have to ship your higher value goods such as coffee before corn, you just have to use the largest boat you can fill. We gave advice to the new player. David had three large buildings, I could have bought a second one but not mayor it. I had harbor and factory, David was sitting behind the new player and had a factory and coffee monopoly, tons of money. 51, me 42, 38.
Tales and Games: The Hare and the Tortoise
David suggested we play this, and I was happy to play a light game. It’s a cute and quick racing game where each animal has different movement, you have some control but not much. I wanted to bet on the wolf but didn’t get a wolf card so I couldn’t. 7 5 3 2, I think I came in second.
Food Chain Magnate
A very nice and popular game, with a lot of relevant decisions and interesting options, by the designer of Indonesia and Roads and Boats, known for unforgiving games. You hire, train and deploy workers to produce, price and market food from your restaurant/s. We decided that we didn’t need to play the beginner game, quite a mistake. Game length is based on player votes on how much to restock the bank in the second phase, we played the shortest version. Two players marketed earlier than I and another played did, because they realized that no marketing means no sales or income. It’s challenging to hire and train the right employees at the right time, I did almost everything wrong. There are game Milestones that reward the players who are ahead, I did get the First Pizza Sold bonus which added $5 to my income from each pizza. The player who won got a few bonuses, including not having to pay workers for most of the game, which led to him being the first to have $100 with a bonus of doubling his income every round. He also placed houses with gardens early on, we even forgot to add the extra income he should have gotten from the gardens.
I was selling a lot of pizzas for a while, but then another player got a pricing manager, and then another one, which let him reduce his prices so that he got all the sales generated by our marketing campaigns. The initial employees are free, but trained ones are expensive, especially when you have no income because someone stole all your pizza sales. I switched to red drinks, but was only able to produce one with the employee I had. There are also road/route factors to consider. My ‘catch on to the game as you go’ strategy did not work at all here. Overall an excellent and fun game, though I’m still skeptical about the balance with the Milestones. 569, 62, 60, me 44. Not a typo on the score! The winning player is a professor of economics at Claremont McKenna.
Flick ’em Up
They were looking for players, I said I’m not so ‘dexterity,’ but they said that’s fine and encouraged me to join. I did manage to kill one cowboy. We played the simplest scenario, the others sound more interesting but of course harder. You can move your cowboy by flicking a marker, or shoot at another cowboy with a cube. A fun action game. My team lost, but we were black so maybe had to.
I saw people reading the rulebook. They had played once a long time ago. I refreshed them on a few things. The first time I did a loop and assassinate was the last, after that they got it, even though I had mentioned the option, and took all the opportunities. Only one player collected cards. I collected yellow and was ahead, and got the Djinn 3 points for yellow. Me 164, 142, 132, 129