Board Game Review -Fisticuffs!

Disclaimer: We were provided a review copy of this game by The Nerdalogues.  This has not influenced our review.


Quick Facts

Designer: The Nerdalogues
Genre: Take That
Players: 4-6
Time: 1530 minutes

In the 20s, an eccentric billionaire flies his airship around the world in search of pugilists willing to fight each other in order to claim the incredible prize of any wish granted.  You are one of the eight participants in this year’s bout, ready to take on your opponents one-by-one in a gentlemanly sporting match.  What you discover, however, that these Fisticuffs bouts are free-for-all brawls where almost anything goes: from the simple jabs and kicks to uppercuts and haymakers, and even spitting on your opponents is allowed in the ring!  Do you still think you have what it takes to knock out all of your opponents and claim the title?

Fisticuffs is a veritable free-for-all of a Take That game, where each turn players will instigate combat against another participant, who can block and counter, or throw in the towel and allow others to tag in and join the fray.

Continue reading “Board Game Review -Fisticuffs!”


As we mentioned in a recent post, we’ve updated our review scoring system to be a bit more objective and meaningful.  Well, today we went back and updated all of our reviews to use this system!  From our first review (…and then we held hands) to the latest before the switch (The Red Dragon Inn), everything is up-to-date!  So if you want to check out all of our past reviews, click on the Reviews category and dive right in!

Board Game Review – Tides of Madness


Quick Facts

Designer: Kristian Čurla
Genre: Card Drafting
Players: 2
Time: 20 minutes

The sky have begun to darken; waves continue to lap on the shore, crashing harder and harder as time passes.  Collecting the artifact will bring you closer to the great Old Ones, but send you spiraling slowly into madness.  The chanting begins to fill your head and you began to chuckle against your control.  Will you be able to find the most artifacts before your foes?  Or will you descend into madness long before then?

Tides of Madness is a sequel to the 2015 game Tides of Time.  Like its predecessor, Tides of Madnessis a quick 2-player card drafting microgame, consisting of 18 cards and three short rounds.  However, it adds a new element, Madness (it is a Cthulhu game, after all), and some additional ways to score.

Continue reading “Board Game Review – Tides of Madness”

Interview with Jamey Stegmaier

One thing that I love about Ethan is that he always finds great opportunities for us to do things that are fun and exciting.  So as we were preparing for GenCon 2016, Ethan found this great opportunity for us to sit down with Jamey Stegmaier from Stonemaier Games.  We were able to ask him some questions and get to know him a bit better!

A: So we’re on Sunday at GenCon . . . .what has been your favorite part about GenCon this year?

J:  Really it’s seeing people face-to-face.  Meeting you guys is great, seeing . . . the many faces of people . . . or face that I’m putting names of people that I’ve seen online, that I’ve chatted with, or who are backers whose names that I did or didn’t know.  It’s neat to see those people face to face and make those connections.

A: Yeah, I’m sure that’s . . . .it’s been good for us even to be able to say, “Oh, that’s what Jayme is in real life!”  .  . . Where do you draw inspiration from when designing, especially games like Euphoria, which is another that we own and love, and Scythe where they’re a more Sci-Fi/Fantasy theme?

J: For Euphoria, I love dystopian fiction in all forms; I love reading it, I love . . .there are a couple TV shows, a lot of movies, and so . . . I paired that with an idea that I had during Viticulture . . . it was . . . you know in worker placement games you’re putting workers on the board and they never question you, right?  The workers always go where you tell them to go.  And so I was trying to think of pure game where the workers would question you or a game where thematically it would make sense that they wouldn’t question you.  And so a dystopia made sense for that.  So I combined that one theme that I liked with a question that I thought of.

E: So the workers abandoning mechanic was the central focus and then built a game?

J: Yep, exactly. And then for Scythe it was . . . Scythe started with the art.  I found the art about two years ago; Jacob had been working on the world and the art for a few months at that point and I  . . . just immediately drew me in and captured my imagination. And I just wanted to design a game in that world.

A:  Awesome.  So, what is your favorite dystopian fiction world, book, show? *laughs*

J: I do love the Hunger Games, I know many people do . . . I loves Fringe, as a TV show, which wasn’t quite dystopian but there was certain dystopian . . . I won’t spoil it if you haven’t seen it!

A: No I haven’t! *laughs*

J: And then I love . . . uh . . . what is . . . there’s a movie where people stop having babies . . . what’s the name of it . . . like the world’s population is dying because no one can have babies anymore . . . “Children,” “No Children” . . . I should know the title of my favorite movie.

A: *laughs*

J: “Children of Men!”  Children of Men.  It’s just a beautiful dystopian style movie.

A:  Cool.  Umm, what are your current favorite games to play?

J: Yes!  Uh, I’ve been having a lot of fun . . . so there are a few games that have gotten into my top 10 list this year, because I do the top 10 list every 6 months.  T.I.M.E Stories is one of them.  I love T.I.M.E Stories

A: Oh my god, we love that game.  We love it.

J: How many modules have you done so far?

A: We’re all the way . . . we’re current.  We’re waiting for Expeditions to come out.

J: Awesome.  That’s exactly where we’re at. I love that experience. Umm, Isle of Skye is another . . . a Euro Game, but I really, really love Isle of Skye.  Yeah, those are the two newest entrants on my list. What about you two, what are the two newest entrants on your list?

A: Oh gosh.  T.I.M.E Stories is definitely up there.  Umm, one game that I personally love, umm, is Jaipur. That’s probably . . . my friend is actually working on . . . he’s got a kind of algorithm  that he’s working on where he can figure out what people’s top 100 games are based on question that they asks . . . he asks about them and I’m sure Jaipur will be in my top 5 if not number 1.

E:  Uhh, we just played Food Chain Magnate the other day.

J: Yes!

A: Whoo!  Yeah!  We’re, uh, chomping at the bit to play it again.  Yeah, that one was really REALLY heavy.  A really thinky one.  I really liked that the luck level being at zero . . . was really . . . was really good.  I liked that about it.

J: Yeah!

A: Yeah.  Umm, okay.  So you’ve been hearing a lot of pitches for game idea, I’m sure. Umm, what makes an idea an instant no?

J:  That’s a good question.  When it’s just an idea.  We’ve had a few pitches where . . . very enthusiastic, creative people with something that’s got no . . .  it hasn’t gone past the idea stage yet.  So I’m looking for something that is at least somewhat developed and play tested.  If they have a prototype to show me that can actually play right here, if even for a few minutes.  So that’s the only . . . that’s really the only instant no – WELL, the one other category, we’ve had it before, is if people come in and pitch RPGs to us? Which is, again, I love to see the creativity . . . one guy brought in a fully fledged Dungeons and Dragons sort of world that’s just beautiful; I don’t play Dungeons and Dragons and we don’t publish RPGs.  So, it’s been interesting to talk to those people and get their perspectives and see another world, but it isn’t, that’s not what we publish.

A: So how do people the the idea stage . . . what’s their next step after that?  Like, what should they do after that to get their process moving along?

J:  Well for me, and I think for many designers, it goes from idea to . . . ideas are brainstorming, thinking of what the game could be and translating that to an actual prototype and rules, something that you can actually play with and then actually playing it.  That’s the key stage.  Getting it to the table, even just once, to see if there’s anything there.  If it can possibly be something more than just an idea.

A:  Awesome.  What thing makes an instant good impression when somebody’s pitching a game to you?

J: An instant good impression . . . yeah. I always, well, the first part is they have an actual game on the table, that is great to see.  Honestly, in the environment of GenCon, like this in an event, it’s nice to see someone who’s relatable.  I wanna see if I can work with this person for 6 months, or 2 years, or 5 years.  Can I have fun working with them?  So that makes a nice impression.  And then, for any game it’s nice if we can just start playing the game without, because they only have thirty minutes to pitch, if it takes 30 minutes, and I know many games take 30 minutes to actually learn the rules, but if we can at least start playing and learn the rules on the fly . . . my favorite thing is when designers come in and give us a 2 minute spiel about the theme of the game, and some core ideas, and then we just start playing.  Even if they’re directing my turn and Alan’s turn and whoever is playing the first few turns and then we get into the swing of it.  That’s . . . I love doing that.  That way I really get to get the feel of what the game is.

E:  So a good thing for a designer to do would be to probably go through the vendor hall at like GenCon and see how people pitch their games?  Especially games that would be similar weight . . .

J: Yeah, that’s a big part of it.  Definitely helps.

A:  What theme do you think is currently overrepresented?

J:  An overrepresented theme . . . a few years ago I would have said like, Zombies . . . and Trains . . .

A: *laughs* Yes!

J: And those are still, there are more games that are coming out, but it doesn’t feel like quite the level of oversaturation.  I think that people maybe have realized how saturated it was.  Right now . . . umm . . . I don’t know if there is one that jumps out.  You guys have had more time in the hall, what do you think?  Have you seen anything?

A:  Yeah.  I feel like it’s pretty diverse.  This year, I uh.  I mean, the top games that are popping out right now are  Scythe, obviously, Cry Havoc (gone), Seafall (gone).  Last Friday is another one that we actually didn’t expect to be gone that is gone that I’m very disappointed that it is.  But yeah, it’s not really honed into . . . like, this year it’s all about serial killers or something like that.  There is a lot of sci fi/fantasy this year but yeah.  There doesn’t seem to be like a big, you know.  Yeah.  Do you think there’s anything that can use more exploring?

J:  Oh yeah.  Many themes.  Umm, I’m still looking for a really wonderful time travel game.  I guess time stories kind of does that, but that’s more like you’re escaping to a world for a while.  There are some decent time travel games out there but I want something . . . nothing has really captured my imagination.  Do you have anything that comes to mind in the time travel genre?

A: You know, TIME Stories really . . . I’m trying to think of any . . .

E:  I know there’s Loop Inc.

J: Yeah.

A:  What’s the other one?  Tragedy Looper?  Tragedy Looper kind of does that, but it’s . . . it’s . . . you’re travelling to the same points, you know what I mean?  You’re just repeating a point instead of . . . so I think that would probably, in my opinion, be the most successful one at doing that?  Because you’re resetting yourself, so . . .  okay, yeah, that’s interesting.  Okay, our friend Christy wants to know what you can tell us about Charterstone.

J: Yeah, yeah!

A:  I’m pumped about that!

J:  Did you see the box over there?

A: Oh, I’ve been checking it out.  I’ve been watching it.

J:  Charterstone, I mean what you probably already know is, it’s a village-building legacy game, it’s 1-6 players, so you’re building a village together with other players, and then whenever you build a new building in the village, in your own designated area that you’re building it, but it’s shared village.  Anyone can place their worker on that building, you can place it there or you can place workers on other building.  There are . . . basically when you open the Charterstone box, there will be . . . you won’t see much of anything.  Everything will be enclosed in envelopes and tuck boxes . . .

A:  Is it modules like Pandemic Legacy where you need to open certain things?

J:  There’s a lot of things.  Pandemic Legacy, it had those 8 packets that you punch open and open but that deck of cards were that . . . oh!  They had . . . I guess there were a lot of things to open.  Similar thing.  There’s like, 50 or 60 different tuck boxes in there to open . . .

A:  Wow!  That’s a lot!

J: Yeah, I love that experience of opening something that is secret and hidden and, yeah.

A:  So do you have any nasty, “do not open, please don’t get to this box” box? *laughs*

J:  Not yet, many I’ll throw something in there for . . . maybe there will be something in there that will have a little surprise, but Charterstone is a much more constructive game.  It’s a game of progression, it’s not as much of a game of struggling against something like Pandemic Legacy is.  Thematically.

A:  Awesome.  Umm, our friend Rob wanted us to ask, we have . . . we’re part of and help run a fairly successful meetup group.  We are currently at about 300 members in our meetup group.  We do meetups about 2-4 times a month.  And we cap our meetups at about 20 people and they’re been full for about the past 6 months.  What do you think we could do to help ensure the success of our meetup group?

J:  That’s a good question.  Is it not considered a success as is?

A:  I think he’s just a little . . . he gets worried.  *laughs*  We had an article in our local paper newspaper about it, I think that helped really spike the success of it.  I personally feel like the word of mouth has been good, I mean people are adding and adding and adding to our group. Umm . . . I don’t really know why he wanted to know that! That’s a good question.

J:  One thing we look for in our group and the groups I play with is that we’re not clique-ish.  We don’t end up excluding others just because we’re comfortable with each other. So, this might tie to his question, but the key for growth and making sure it’s sustained is making sure that people feel welcomed.  If people come many times, they continue to feel welcomed, or that new people feel welcomed to join in.  If they’re new to games or experienced with games, different types of personality types . . .

A: And I know that’s something that he’s really worked on, we . . .there’s five of us that we consider the leadership team, and we all have very different ways that we game. And I think that that has definitely helped us, like, take new people. We have a, we have our designated euro gamer. We have . . .we [Amber and Ethan] pretty much, we can float pretty much to any other kind of games. We have someone who is like our designated “new gamer” person. And then we have a family friendly, like, a 1 hour game, so the 1 hour gamer. *laughs*

E: Yeah, so we always watch for new people and make sure to have intro-level stuff, like, I know that there’s going to be people at our . . .new to our group or new to games.

A: Yeah, we actually meet in a public space. Our . . .the game store that we meet at is in a mall, and it’s split between a game store and, it’s like a sports memorabilia [store]. So we have lots of different people that wander around our tables *laughs*.

E: We did get one person that joined from just seeing us, by wandering around.

A: Yeah, so . . .awesome. I think that answered Rob’s questions. Rob wanted to ask on behalf of us: We’re still pretty new for reviewing games; we had the idea in 2015, so this is something we wanted to do for fun. We started in January 2016. We’ve got, oh, up to, I think we’re up to 40 posts now.

J: Awesome.

A: We get at least a few hits every day on the blog. What can we continue to do to be more accessible and give more exposure for our reviews?

J: That’s a good question. In terms of exposure, whenever you write a review, do you let the publisher know that you posted it?

A: We’ve been working (well, I’ve been working *laughs*) a little on trying to establish a Facebook and a Twitter presence. We do have a Facebook page. I was told by someone else who does reviews that it’s very hard to get likes on a Facebook page, just from their personal experience. Twitter seems to have been a little easier, maybe because it’s limited to the 140 characters, and it’s really easy to press the retweet button.

J: Sure.

A: But we try to, I should say.

J: Because I think one of your best assets . . .I love it when someone posts a review and sends me the link, because I’m not . . .I subscribe to a lot of blogs, and I use Mention – do you know Mention?

A: No.

J: It’s . . .if someone posts, like, the words “Stonemaier Games” on the Internet, anywhere, I get an alert from Mention telling me that someone did that. It doesn’t always work; if they misspell the name, I never see it.

A: I’m sure you get that. *laughs*

J: Yeah. Well, if they just mention “Stonemaier”, it doesn’t come up, or if they misspell it – yeah, any slight misspelling. So I love it when a reviewer will send us, “Hey, I reviewed your game.” Whether it’s good or bad, I love to hear about it. That way I can put it on my website; I can share it if I want. I don’t like when – and this might be just personal preference – but I don’t like when a reviewer reviews a game and then says, “Hey, I—“ it depends on how they ask me to post it. I think the best way is just to give me that information that it’s out there, and then let them [the publisher] do with it—

A: And do what you will, yeah.

J: Right. But some say, “Hey, I’d like you to retweet it, I’d like you to put it on Facebook, I want. . .” and I’m like, why do I have this list of, like, I just sent you a free game, or I didn’t send you a free game, and I still appreciate it, but . . .yeah, they’re commands.

A: Or they command you to send them a free game because they didn’t like your game? *laughs*

J: Yeah. So, those things definitely. Because your publishers are your biggest asset if you write a review, and really I think it’s whether it’s good or bad. I’m sure in many of your reviews you have a few good things and a few bad things to say, and publishers really—

A: Yeah, we do have pros and cons of each game, and I mean, we haven’t reviewed anything that we thought was completely terrible; every game we’ve reviewed has been in our collection, so there must have been something that we liked about it? Except for, Quantum, but that’s just my personal preference.

J: Can I tell you another thing there too?

A: Yeah!

J: On Facebook, or on Board Game Geek, I’ve found that . . .so I do a video series every week on game design; I don’t know if you’re familiar with it?

A: Yep!

J: And so, whenever I do that – and I’m not trying to market that at all, but it really, it’s just for fun. Whenever I do it, I put it on Board Game Geek, and I link the – you know, you can tag the game or the designer; I usually do that. Not necessarily for the person that published it, but for anyone who follows that game, so they can see it come up on their subscribe feed.

A: And I know we’ve done a few . . .putting our photographs on, you know, for the games, linking them [our reviews] in the Reviews section, so yeah, we’ll just need to keep on top of that a little more.

J: Yeah.

A: Yeah. So, this is something that’s coming from my heart. I’m currently waiting on a Kickstarter that’s two months behind. People have started to get their Kickstarters while we’re here at Gen Con, and the people are upset about how they’re arriving. As a consumer I’m mad about that, because I know I’m going to be going home now, and my game’s going to be destroyed. As you, who is somebody who produces Kickstarters, what should I know as the consumer that can help me ease my mind a little bit about things like that? What’s something that I should know that would maybe make me sympathize a little bit more with – when bad things are happening during a Kickstarter?

J: Ooh, that’s a good question. Sympathize with the creator?

A: Yes.

J: Do you feel like you have that expectation to sympathize with them?

A: I . . .I guess I kind of hope that I do, because the games are arriving in pretty bad shape, and I think kind of there’s a little bit of mob mentality that’s going on with this game right now, in that, like, more than half the people are getting their games destroyed.

J: That’s a lot.

A: Yeah. And, I mean . . .and the company has – it’s trying to take care of it, but it’s started to kind of be – they’re saying the same kinds of things to everybody, but not really saying any really new updates about things that are happening, and it’s . . .I think everybody’s starting to get a little frustrated. And so, me personally, I want to find a reason that – ok, this is happening and I can feel a little bit better about why this is happening.

J: Well, I can speak to that, personally, a little bit. We just delivered Scythe around the world, and we had two fulfillment companies that I had, I gave them very specific instructions on how they should pack it. And they have not followed those instructions at all, and that was a company in Australia and a company in Europe. And Europe – Australia was pretty good – but Europe was around 6000 packages they were sending out. And they were terribly packaged.

A: That’s interesting.

J: *laughs* And it’s the type of thing where, as the creator, I feel somewhat helpless, because I had given them very specific instructions; this is a company I had worked with before, and they’d done well in the past, and they just didn’t do it this time. And even throughout the process, when the first game arrived, we realized it was a problem, and we told them to fix it for everyone, for all the other games, because they don’t ship them all in one day; it took them three weeks to ship all of them. And yet, despite almost daily instructions to fix it, fix it, fix it, they didn’t. So, if you want to sympathize with the creator, you can do it for that reason. It is kind of out of their control. At the same time, it’s still our responsibility to get your game to you untarnished and perfect. And so, I don’t think we deserve the sympathy for that, if your game doesn’t . . .I consider it, even though this shipping company in Europe is the one messing up, I still consider it my responsibility. If the game is damaged . . .If it’s only got a dent on the corner, ideally I would just give them a partial reimbursement, a partial refund. If it’s mangled, or the box is unusable, or there’s a big dent, then we have the customer send it back to the fulfillment center, and the fulfiullment center sends them a better-packaged, mint condition . . .So it’s my responsibility to manage that communication, make them feel secure. So I try to be very active on social media to make sure – social media and personal e-mails – to make sure customers know that I’m there helping out the facility, and so if a creator’s not doing that I don’t think they deserve your sympathy.

A: Interesting.

J: Because even if it’s out of their control, they can try to be there for backers, to show they’re doing something. So I can’t speak to this issue you’re having, if that deserves your sympathy or not, but it’s nice of you to be compassionate towards creators. But you give them money for something, than you want it in perfect condition.

A: The wait has been killing me. *laughs*

J: Yeah, I’d bet.

A: Especially when they sell it at Gen Con.

E: And at UK Expo.

A: And at UK Expo, months before it was even . . .but nevermind. Ok, so, at a panel that Ethan attended on Thursday, Rodney from Watch it Played suggested that when referring to people who troll or make mean comments . . .That, remember there’s always a person behind the computer and kindness is always the answer. I’ve seen you personally respond to some people who were not very kind, and took it a little bit further than that, I would say. What is your process to, like, deal with people like that?

J: My process is probably a little different from Rodney’s, but I love that mentality that he expressed, and I. . .

A: It’s ‘cause he’s Canadian. *laughs*

J: Yeah. My process differs. Depending on the day that I’m having, and ideally regardless of my mood I would treat someone with respect and kindness, and try to put myself in their shoes. Some days it’s easier to do that than others, especially if it’s a lot of things like that. For me, I draw the line if someone is really insulting or bringing . . .They’re just trying to disrupt and hate. And I . . .whether it’s against a game, or against a person, or against all the other backers . . .That I don’t have much patience for. I understand that it’s still a person behind the computer, and face-to-face at Gen Con we’d probably have a very different interaction. But I don’t think that’s an excuse for spreading hate in any form. And so that’s kind of where I have a hard time drawing, or where I do draw that line, and I don’t have a hard time removing them from the Facebook group, or removing them from our e-newsletter. But what I’ve struggled with, and what I think is great about that message that you said with Rodney is that, sometimes it’s not a message of hate. Sometimes it’s an expression of passion that comes out in an ineffective way, and so I try as hard as possible to differentiate the two, and to create a connection with those people, and maybe give them a chance to say it in a different way; have them be more constructive, so that they can benefit the conversation and be a part of that conversation. But it’s hard sometimes. Have you seen that on your blog; have you had trolls?

A: We actually released a survey, and this is the only time we’ve ever received this, and like I said, most of the people who read our blog are out friends, so I know they would support things a little more kindly. But we posted a survey on what people think that we should review next, and that’s something that I really – I want to be able to review things that people are interested in. And we got, we had an option at the bottom to write, you know, something in. And somebody wrote, “Maybe you should just stop.” That’s like, oh, and I think I took a day . . .And it was anonymous, so I mean, there’s nothing really I could do about it. So I kind of just had to stew about it, and say why would somebody say things like that? It’s the Internet, I mean . . .people are going to do things like that, but that’s . . .I kind of remember that’s not why we’re doing it, you know what I mean? We started it because it’s fun, we started it because we want to do it for our friends who know we have a 300 game collection and want to know which ones to pick, you know what I mean? So I guess that helped a little.

J: So did you leave the comment?

A: No, I kind of just let it be. I didn’t even acknowledge it, because we had posted it in our friends group, but we had also posted it on the BGG Facebook group, so it wasn’t worth my time.

J: That’s a good way to . . .yeah.

A: It wasn’t worth my time.

J: But I can understand that’s tough to read. It doesn’t move the conversation forward in any way. I’m sorry someone wrote that.

A: No, it’s ok. It’s over; we’re over it.

E: Unless it was you.

A: “Jamey wrote something nasty. . .” No, I’m just kidding. What is your starting player color?

J: I’m always . . . I like to be red.

A: Oooh. *laughs* We have a friend that’s always red. What do you do to relax?

J: To relax? The main thing I do, I play soccer, which I love to play pickup soccer. And then every night, my thing to turn off my brain so I can actually fall asleep is to read fiction. I love, especially sci-fi and fantasy fiction, but all types of fiction. And that’s able to, like, switch off my work brain, because I basically . . .I wake up and start working. I work from home, and so I’m at my office in two seconds, and then I work all the way through until about midnight when I go to bed, and so just switching off a little bit and just reading is . . .That relaxes me.

A: Perfect, and that kind of tied into our last question so I don’t have any other questions, [to Ethan] do you have any other questions?

E: No, I don’t think so.

A: No, I think we covered everything that we frantically added in at the end of this, so I just wanted to say thank you again. This has been a lot of fun. You’re the first person that we’ve actually been able to interview in person, so this is really exciting.

Jamey was a great first interview for us, I hope you enjoyed our question and answer session!  We hope to get to speak with him again at other Cons.


Gen Con Review, Part 2

And now onto the second half of our Gen Con experience!


Vendor Hall

With our high-priority purchases taken care of on Thursday, we headed back for our next foray into the vendor hall, prepared to take a much more orderly approach this time.  We started at the far end of the hall (Aisle 3000) and snake our way through them, one by one.  On Friday, we made it through about 8 or 9 aisles before our next event, and since the last few rows were longer than the others and had a lot of smaller companies rather than the larger publishers in the middle section, I’d say we covered over a third of the various booths in the hall.  Some highlights: We found the game Brewin’ USA (which Amber had been interested in anyway), and after discovering it features some Wisconsin cities and craft beers, along with decent-looking gameplay, picked it up.  We discovered that The Broken Token does not make an insert/card holder for Food Chain Magnate, which is something we decided we really needed after our first play of it.  We tried out the upcoming Word Domination from Fowers Games, which was touted as a spiritual successor to Paperback — we’ll be looking for its upcoming Kickstarter!  At the Dice Tower booth, we met almost all of the Dice Tower crew, except Tom, who already needed a vocal break from talking too much on Thursday.  Near the end of our vendor hall time, we stopped by the Action Phase/Indie Boards and Cards booth, hoping to pick up a copy of the game Grifters, which we didn’t back on Kickstarter with the understanding that we’d be able to pick it up at Gen Con.  Unfortunately, they were sold out, but they recommended that we head to the Indie Boards and Cards booth (since the two publishers merged only recently, they still had separate booths, but were selling games from both at each).  Just our luck though, we made it to Indie Boards and Cards just as the last copy of Grifters was sold, so we’ll just have to look for it online when it’s available.  Now worried about some games we didn’t think would sell out, we skipped a few rows to the Asmodee booth, hoping to get the expansions for Shakespeare and Five Tribes, which we didn’t think would be in short supply.  To our chagrin, they were both sold out, with no sign of more becoming available later in the con.  Since it was nearing the time for our next event, we took our leave of the hall, happy with our purchases but slightly saddened by what we were unable to buy.

World Championship Russian Roulette

This is a game we’ve been looking forward to ever since demoing it last year at Gen Con (and now are patiently awaiting the Kickstarter reward).  At the surface, this is a pretty straightforward press your luck game, as the title might imply, but there is also a bluffing element and a bit of strategy to it.  The premise, of course, is that each player controls one of the teams in the titular championship. Players have one bullet card and and six blank card, and each round they choose one card to “pocket”, meaning they can cheat by leaving the bullet card out of their gun.  Then everyone uses a die to wager how many times they’re willing to “pull the trigger” (between 0 and 5) by drawing cards from their deck.  At this point players can accuse each other of cheating if they think they pocketed their bullet card; otherwise players simultaneously draw as many cards as they’ve wagered, hoping not to draw a bullet card, which kills one of their team members and earns them no points for the round (players who survived the round earn a point for every card they drew, plus an additional one for surviving).  There are action cards which make the game a bit more strategic in addition to the bluffing and press-your luck elements, and the winner is the first player to 15 points, or the last one standing.  For this event, we played against a guy who had played before at Origins, and one guy who was completely new.  We all did pretty well for the first few rounds, until everyone was pretty even around 11-13 points.  At this point the game got intense, as the veteran player needed fewer points to win so was playing a bit less riskily.  The rest of us had some catching up to do, so were making bigger wagers, but still didn’t want to accuse each other of cheating.  In the end, the other three of us shot ourselves in the proverbial foot by having our characters shoot themselves in the head, letting the veteran player win.  We still had fun though, and after playing the full game are even more excited for our Kickstarter copy!

One Night Ultimate World Championship

One Night is a game that our group knows and loves, which made us super interested in this tournament. Add in the fact that over 100 people were going to be broken up and playing the same games of werewolf and we were sold! As a little surprise, Eric Summerer (voice of the narrator on the app and Dice Tower Co-host) narrated the first round! It was definitely different playing the game with people we didn’t know; with a regular group, you may begin to learn tells and habits which may lead to better knowing who had what role.  During an intermission, Ted Alspach gave us a sneak preview of One Night Ultimate Alien (Kickstarting soon) and allowed questions. We unfortunately had to leave the tournament early for our next event, but it was still a great experience.

Pathfinder Society

One event that was a no-brainer for us was the annual Pathfinder Society game that kicks off the new season; over 1000 players and GMs work together to unlock mysteries and advance further into the adventure until we all complete the mission together. The Pathfinders are broken up into groups of six; since we only had a group of four, two other players joined our table. Unfortunately, while one of the players was very nice and fun to play with, the other player was not into the game and even was making snide comments under his breath which Eric could hear. One thing that’s tough about Pathfinder is that there are “correct” ways to play a character, but necessarily characteristics that need to be followed to a tee. Eric later told us that this unsavory fellow didn’t care for the way I (Amber) played my barbarian, especially disliking that I moved away from the group, was at times alone, and some of the choices that I made in general. This is a character I’ve played six or seven times now and have developed a pretty good understanding of why she does things; this is a part of pathfinder I really enjoy. My regular group knows how I play and let’s me deal with the consequences; this is not something that can be explain well or quickly to a stranger. While I was a bit bummed that he made those comments, no characters died, we had a good GM, we contributed to the adventure, and most importantly we had fun.


Vendor Hall

On Saturday morning, we picked up where we left off the previous day, and continued working our way up and down the aisles, and we made it almost the rest of the way through.  Highlights for this session include: We stopped at the Board Game Geek booth, and found a card organizer for Food Chain Magnate, exactly what we were looking for!  That may have been the best purchase of the day.  We both spun the prize wheel at R&R games — Ethan got a dollar off any purchase, while Amber won a free game, Igor.  At Smirk and Dagger, we got J’Accuse (which admittedly we were interested in just due to the title), and designer/owner Curt Covert showed us a fun little dice game, Sutakku, which we ended up buying as well.  In addition, we learned how to play Nevermore, which is another game we own but haven’t tried out yet.  The CoolStuffInc. booth was incredibly popular, so we couldn’t really get in and look around, but we did find the Labs expansion for Scoville, which is something we’d been looking for.  While we weren’t really interested in the game at all, Legendary Big Trouble in Little China was the main focus of Upper Deck’s booth, complete with a mini-Chinatown and the actual cab of the Pork-Chop Express, which was really cool.  Flying Frog, a publisher we really like, unfortunately didn;t have anything new of interest for us (it was all Shadows of Brimstone), so we gave them a pass.  The end of our shopping day, though, again ended with disappointment, as we finally made our way to Ares Games to find that The Last Friday, which Amber was really interested in, had sold out.  With as popular as it sounded like the game was, it probably sold out early Thursday, so we likely would have had to queue up there right out of the gate to get one, but nevertheless the rejection was a bit sad.  On a happier note though, after both of our Saturday afternoon events were done, we headed back into the hall briefly to get to meet Chaz Marler from Pair of Dice Paradise at the Dice Tower booth.  He was very nice and genuine, and very excited when we used the codewords he told us on Twitter to say when we saw him (“rutabaga” and “socket wrench”).  I think one of the best parts of this Gen Con was getting to meet a lot more people that we watch, follow, and interact with online.

Smash Up Championship (Amber)

Smash Up us one of the biggest boxes in our collection (thanks to the Big Geeky Box) and I had zero interest in playing Onitama, so I figured I’d do ok in the Smash Up tournament. Boy was I wrong. One thing I really liked about this tournament was that we were able to choose from every available faction through a snake drafting system, where the first player picks first, second second and so one and the last person to pick gets the first pick in the second round.  The first round I played two factions from the Obligatory Cthulu expansion, which makes use of a madness deck. Unfortunately, I didn’t get my engine going early enough and struggled through the round, getting 4th place in my pod. The second round I did a bit better, tying for second with Fairies and Mythic Greeks. Between rounds, while chatting with my competitors, someone suggested Mythic Greeks and Mad Scientists would be a good combination  due to both their abilities to strengthen the minions. I tried this out in the third round, but lost to a bunch of dragons.  I discovered during this tournament how important to know how the different factions worked together and a lot of different people had more information on this than I  did. None-the-less it was a good experience.

Onitama (Ethan)

While Amber was smashing up different factions, I was engaging in a much more zen type of battle.  Specifically, I was playing in the Onitama tournament.  I had only played Onitama twice before going into the tournament, but had won both games, so I had high hopes for myself.  The format was the Swiss system, where the initial 32 or so participants would play 4 games, and then the top 8 with the best records would advance to the single-elimination quarterfinals.  I managed to win the first three games, with my opponents getting tougher each time.  Then, for the fourth match I was paired against another guy who was also undefeated, so I knew I was in for a challenge.  Fortunately for me, he made a pretty reckless move that allowed me to capture his master, and move into the final 8.  My opponent moved on as well with his 3-1 record, so he probably had wanted to try something interesting, knowing his spot was safe.  As one of the top 8, I won a pack of Onitama cards with gold foil showing the character and movement, which I’m really excited about.  If I advanced to the top 4, I would also win a copy of the game, but alas, I was bested in the quarterfinal round and my hopes of going all the way were dashed.  I’m still very happy with my accomplishment, though, and the proud owner of the special Onitama cards, which I don’t believe you can get outside of special events like this one.  Participating in tournaments is one of my favorite parts of Gen Con, and this is the best I’ve done at one to date.

Ubongo/Dimension (Ethan)

After my fun (though fairly intense) time at the Onitama tournament, I decided to relax a bit, while still stimulating my mind with two great Kosmos games: Ubongo and Dimension.  This was an event billed “Mastering the Art of Puzzles and Riddles”, which piqued my interest, but it turned out to really just be learning and playing these two games.  Understandably so, the more popular game in the Kosmos area was this year’s Spiel nominee Imhotep, but there were still some exhibitors available to demo these two.  I was joined by another couple, and along with the exhibitor, we sat down to learn and play Ubongo.  This is a game about fitting shapes into a specific area as quickly as possible.  This reminded me a lot of the weapons station in Space Cadets, so I’m sure it’s something our friend Jesse, who’s the weapons master, would love.  Next up was Dimension, which I actually have played a few times before, but am always up for playing.  I thought it was funny that the guy demoing the game was very careful to always call the round pieces in the game “orbs” or “spheres”, but had no problem referring to them as “balls” to his fellow exhibitor.  This was funny to me because when we learned this game from Rob, he pointed out that the instructions are likewise very careful to never use the word “balls” to talk about the wooden balls.  Oh well, que sera sera.

Set (Ethan)

And for my final solo event of the con, I decided to try my hand and brain at the Set Competition.  I had entered this event last year, and failed miserably, taking third place (out of four) during the preliminary round.  I was determined to do better this year, but unfortunately that wasn’t in the cards.  As opposed to several preliminary rounds leading to a separate final round on Sunday, this event was self-contained.  Similar to Onitama, it consisted of a round-robin where all of the 12 competitors played in 3 different games against 2 different people each time.  I knew I wasn’t going to be advancing to the finals after scoring the fewest sets in my first two rounds, but in the third round something amazing happened: all three players got exactly 9 sets, and we used all of the cards in the deck, which was in itself a rare occurrence.  So even though I did abysmally and probably won’t be trying out my Set skills again next year, I at least got to have an interesting experience!


In our second night of Burlesque of this GenCon, we got to see D20 Burlesque perform their acts.  This was the same troupe we saw last year at GenCon and we were really excited to see them again this year, but something was a bit off this time.  They seemed to need to fill up more time and there were fewer acts.  It was a bit disappointing because we had so much fun at their show last year, but after a bit of research we came to the assumption that they had someone that wasn’t able to come along, which lead to the difference from last year.  But, we did get to see a really neat Portal burlesque, Daredevil, a “very serious” Batman routine, and a few we weren’t as familiar with.  Still a fun show, I hope they are able to work out their kinks (in a manner of speaking) for next year.


Hungry Hungry Hippos World Championship

As our Sunday morning GenCon tradition, we packed up and headed to the Hungry Hungry Hippos tournament.  And as per tradition, we were out in the first round.  What’s nice about this tournament is not only is it a fun, light-hearted way to end GenCon, it’s also a nice tribute to Mary from Rogue Judges, who passed away early 2015.  The tournament is broken up into children and adults, with the top 2 from each category advancing to the final four and winning one of the coveted trophies, adorned with a working hippo much like the ones we played with during the tournament.

Vendor Hall

For our last day at the con, we needed to finish up the last 6 or 7 rows that we hadn’t gotten to yet.  Since we had been going from right to left previously, this time we switched it up and started at the first row and worked our way in the opposite direction to get to where we had left off the previous day.  We saw Geek Chic’s super fancy tables and figured out what we’d do if ever we found ourselves with a spare $20,000.  At Green Couch Games and Kids Table, we found a playmat for Wok on Fire, which we decided would be very useful for that game.  We also found a cute little game called Foodfighters that we bought on a whim; if nothing else, it will make for a good prize for our Meetup group.  I have long maintained that Asmadi Games makes games that are either somewhat complex or completely silly, with no real middle ground.  Well, this time we picked up a couple from the silly end of the spectrum, Flower Fall and Save the Cupcake, and expect them to be as great as they sound.  We saw a few other booths, but nothing else incredibly noteworthy.  And we were able to see and walk the entirety of the vendor hall, which is no small feat!

Interview with Jamey Stegmaier

Stonemaier’s meeting space was in a fantastically lite room in a nearby hotel, which made the space super cheery.  They had set up two different tables to allow each 30-minute time slot to allow for set up, so we were able to get comfy while Jamey finished listening to a game demo.  We’ll be posting information from the interview coming soon, but overall the interview went really well!  We were able to ask quite a few questions and even had Jamey help us with a bit of a prank for a friend that messed up the rules in Scythe.  This interview with Jamey from Stonemaier Games really nailed down our respect for Jamey and Alan as designers, as well as people behind the games.


And with that, we bid adieu to Gen Con 2016.  We will be back next year for the 50th anniversary, and are already looking forward to it!