This weekend marked the close of the Gathering of Friends. It was an amazing ten days of gaming, sight seeing and socializing. There were a lot of new titles to check out and plenty of prototypes being worked on and shopped around. This year’s event was a really good time and despite the nice weather finally coming, we spent our days indoors gaming.
It was great to meet some of the red badges (i.e. the folks attending their first convention) – it’s lovely to see fresh faces and game with people I haven’t met before (from many places, too – but it was great to meet more Canadians and Aussies!). I am always happy to see the folks from publishers, too – friendly folks from F2Z, CGE, Stronghold Games, Eggertspiele, Bezier Games, R&R, IELLO, Repos, Toy Vault, Portal Games, Days of Wonder, Pretzel Games and so many more! Honestly, this industry has some really fantastic and friendly people – there’s a lot of designers that attend which is great, but it’s not often that the faces behind publishers get highlighted so I wanted to mention them here.
The prize ceremony this year was another great way to spend the last night of the con with all of the attendees. Alan is a great host, and very generous! Some of the special prizes this year were amazing – especially the game board quilt, the hand-made Tzolk’in game pieces and the 2 huge meeple pillows. I was lucky to have my name drawn out of the big box early on, so I beelined for one of those pillows which is now living on my couch 🙂 Along with Adam, we also ended up with the Gallerist, and Notre Dame. Good stuff!
Here are some of the games I got a chance to try over the conference. Some of them are brand new titles and some were just new to me. If the Gathering is any indication, 2016 should be a great year for the hobby!
Animals On Board from Eggertspiele- This game takes the “I cut, you choose” mechanic and builds in a theme of competing arks against Noah’s. The only difference is that you don’t want pairs of animals at all. Either you want one-of-a-kind or multiples sets of more than two. Pairs won’t score in the end game, so be careful you don’t get stuck with only two on your boat. This was one of the most accessible, family style games at the Gathering. It’s a quick teach, but there’s potential for quite a bit of light hearted fun.
Cry Havoc from Portal Games – This is definitely a ‘dudes on a map’ kind of game, but scaled back to the point where it’s 90 minutes and not hours on end. I had fun with the different ways you could play cards on your action turns – recruiting, moving units, or building special structures. As a unique way to resolve battles, there’s 3 options to take (fighting for territory, to take a prisoner, or to kill troops) and you’re looking to get the majority in those, placing the troops in battle from the map to that part of the board. Really neat! Much more interesting than just rolling bunches of dice to me, for a change. It was a little tough on us but this was an introductory game so I think with the full game (more special abilities etc) that wouldn’t be as much of an issue.
Networks from Formal Ferret Games – Had a lot of fun with the Networks, a strategy game of managing stars/advertising and starting/cancelling shows just at the right time. Flows really well and feels very thematic! Lots of bonus points for the funny cards and wacky art.
Codenames Pictures from Czech Games Editions – It’s so dang fun! It plays like the word-clue Codenames, but thinking about the way to give clues and use them to guess happens a lot differently. The illustrations are wacky, in a sort of silhouette style – not sure if they’ll be any different when it comes out, but they’ve had artists working on it.
Games that were new to me:
Ponzi Scheme from Homosapiens Lab (upcoming reprint from Tasty Minstrel Games) – I played 2 x 5 player games of this and had a great time! Much like games like Last Will, it’s always fun to have a go at being the best at being the worst. Ponzi Scheme lets you try out some financial foolery, bet on terrible investments and engage in clandestine trading in order to try and make it through the game without being the first to bankrupt. It’s HARD! But the whole experience is such ridiculous fun that it never feels frustrating.
Team Play from Schmidt Spiele – This is a delightful card game that came out at Essen last year and it flew really under the radar – thankfully Adam K introduced me to it! You’re playing with a team mate, sharing cards (hopefully usefully, there’s no table talk) so you each can succeed at goal cards (a straight, two pair, all odds or evens) etc and win. The perfect little filler game for my tastes. I need to track this one down.
Karuba from HABA – What a delightful, puzzley little game! I wasn’t sure what to expect, but had a lot of fun figuring out the spatial puzzle of the best way to lay out route tiles. I’m always looking for fun, easy to learn games like this (around Cacao-weight) to grab for playing with friends.
Xenon Profiteer from Eagle-Gryphon Games – This is a interestingly thematic deck-building/deck-unbuilding game. You’re taking on ‘packets’ of air (combinations of cards) which you’ll then try to cycle through to ‘distill’ Xenon from in order to gain goals, money, then buy/install equipment. I really enjoyed getting to know this game and it’s something I want to get a few more plays of soon because I think it’d be a great one to try different tactics in.