BGGcon has come and gone for another year, leaving us to the holidays and getting some of all these delicious new games to the table (we hope!). Even with the larger event of debut con PAX Unplugged happening up in Philadelphia the same weekend, BGGcon 2017 was still packed with hot games, folks playing (2900 of ‘em!) and plenty of vendors. For those of you unfamiliar, BGGcon is primarily geared towards a lot of game playing – with a massive library and loads of open gaming space, plus scheduled events for games, it’s the most I tend to play at any con throughout the year. A lot of my time was geared toward playing shorter games and I missed out on some of the newer Euro games coming out of Essen this year, but I did try a heck of a lot to tell you about!
Meatier games in the hot games “parlour” in the main gaming hall were tough to drop into, especially Gaia Project (aka Terra Mystica in space) from Z-Man Games, hit alpaca bag-builder Altiplano from DLP, Dinosaur Island from Pandasaurus Games, and Clans of Caledonia from Karma Games. One quick game that was nigh-impossible to get a spot at the table for, however, was Azul from Plan B games. Gorgeous plastic tiles and a vicious little interactive abstract game created a lot of buzz and the hype is definitely real! Remarkably, I hadn’t heard about the other fantastic short game parked nearby from Z-Man Games, Majesty: For the Realm. From Splendor Designer Marc André, it hits that same sweet gateway spot and plays in possibly less time – build up your tableau of characters to mine points, and 15 minutes in it’s all done! I’m dying to get my hands on it for game nights back here in Toronto.
This year’s vendor hall was a little less busier in the times I popped in, but I wasn’t doing quite the hardcore shopping that many folks were – and it seemed like Funagain Games didn’t have as many of the Essen releases as I’d hoped. At any rate, despite PAX Unplugged dragging a lot of publishers both ways, a lot of them were still represented well – and there were still a lot of indie designers and publishers around – Gil Hova’s Formal Ferret booth was hopping all the time, and new publishing house Kolossal were demoing an upcoming game (heading to Kickstarter in the new year) called Kami-Sama which looks intriguing. Mid-weight publisher CGE were there pushing Vlaada Chvátil’s newest party game That’s a Question, but it seemed that Vladimir Suchý’s Pulsar 2849 was getting a lot more attention – and it was hit up quite a bit in the hot games area thanks to rules-man Paul Grogan on hand to guide players. And of course, the Asmodee behemoth was on hand with a wall of demos – from Stuffed Fables under the Plaid Hat Games studio, to the aforementioned Majesty and Gaia Project from Z-Man, to When I Dream from the overall Asmodee umbrella.
Back to playing games, I managed to hit up some great stuff from the new shelves in the ever-impressive BGG game library. (Impeccably run by the volunteers, as always!) Indian Summer, the newest tetromino-palooza from Uwe Rosenberg was a delight to look at (oh those fall colours and forest critters), and was actually quite a satisfying little puzzle to play. There’s obviously some familiar elements from Patchwork, Cottage Garden and a Feast for Odin, but it approaches gameplay in a new way – especially with the aspect of lining up holes in tiles to get bonuses! A surprise from Quick Simple Fun hit me one morning when friends introduced me to Muse, something of a slightly tricker, and team-based, Dixit. Prompts to guess cards are any number of things from having to hum a tune, to naming a historical figure, and you’re really aiming to try and pull a swift one with misdirection when choosing cards and prompts to provide to the other team to then act out and hopefully have a team member guess correctly! One last one, because I think it was one of my favourites overall – Istanbul: The Dice Game! I love, love, love the original game, and this würfelspiel does a great job at taking the little engine-building and resource management parts of it and making it its own quick and fun game. Good old Rüdiger Dorn.
Special guests this year – Eric Lang, Rich Sommer and Jeff Cannata – were around playing games and meeting folks, as per usual. After their panel Saturday afternoon they undertook the massive job of announcing raffle winners for the 60+ amazing prize packages at the closing ceremony that evening. I have to say, it’s a silly and fun event that leaves me feeling warm and fuzzy at the generosity of folks in the industry. Other than these big events, there were lots of things happening over the 5 days of the convention – like the charity Spiel-a-thon (raising over $2500), Saturday evening Two Rooms and a Boom, Artemis at all hours, and the yearly puzzle hunt. I finally got a chance to take part in the latter this year, and it was quite a brain burner! Our team of four managed to do reasonably well, finishing about 45 of the 50 overall puzzles – not too bad considering 3 of us weren’t American and the puzzles were all USA-centric!
Next year is BGGcon’s last year at the DFW Hyatt Regency venue. As the event has grown over the last few years, it’s managed to use that venue to the best of its ability (and the Hyatt’s been helpful at opening up areas like the 11th floor, and the x25 rooms for open gaming on all floors, for instance). I know that PAX Unplugged will not directly overlap in the years to come, however I am still interested in the impact on attendees to both conventions (because it will be slightly easier for publishers to attend both). Regardless, it will be great to see BGGcon move to downtown Dallas in 2019. And I can’t wait for the last big bash at the DFW Hyatt – see you there! And in the meantime, keep an eye out for some reviews of games I played and loved at BGGcon this year before the year is out.