BGG.Con 2018

We have had a busier Fall than usual, with me traveling for 2 out of the last 4 weeks. Luckily all of the travel has been for pleasure, though with a virtual business I’ve still been on the clock while out and about. In the midst of this frantic Fall, my wife and I attended BoardGameGeek Con in Dallas. Last year I talked about what BGG Con is like for those who haven’t been able to attend, and this year was very similar. We mainly played with our regular game group from home, as well as some new and old friends.

A few hot games had just come out at Essen and were set out for play in the main hall…but I didn’t get the chance to play any of them. Fortunately the games we did get to play were mostly really good. Before I dive into discussing some of them, I wanted to share a quick story about a game I bought at the Board Game Bazaar--a one-hour frantic shopping experience at the Con.

Wandering around the Bazaar with its overcrowded aisles is stressful, but occasionally you discover a game that you absolutely must have, or find a great deal. While wandering the Bazaar this year I found someone selling two different versions of Junta, a game about running a small Caribbean dictatorship to your own personal benefit. I talked to the guy about the differences and picked the older version of the game which he mentioned he’d owned since college in the 70’s. When I got home I was surprised to find in the box a letter that the previous owner had received from the store he ordered it from checking to make sure he’d received it, as well as a letter he’d written to the publisher with a few rules questions which they answered on the same sheet and mailed back. As someone who became a serious board gamer in the age of this was really neat to see. I hadn’t thought about how you would answer those nagging rules questions about a favorite game without an online community with forums dedicated to each game, FAQs, and designers actively engaging with their audience to add clarification. What was even cooler, I emailed the seller and asked if I could share the letter and thanked him for including this amazing letter. He told me he always includes any rules clarifications he collected over the years in games he sells so the new owner doesn’t have to go searching for the same answers.

Now on to some of the games we played over the four and a half days.


We started with one of the brand-new games from Essen. Ceylon is about the tea farms that took over the area after a blight that destroyed the soil’s ability to grow coffee. The game has a fun mechanic where each turn you play a card which has two actions on it, you pick the one you will do and everyone else gets to do the other action. It scaled well between 2 and 4 players but wasn’t something that stood out. Even later the same day that we played it I had to look back at pictures to remember what the game was like.



This was a classic game by Vlaada Chvatil (who has designed several amazing board games). Graenaland was a lot heavier and I didn’t grasp some of the strategy until later in the game. I’d be happy to play again, maybe without the person who has done the most in-depth write-ups on the game on BGG being my immediate neighbor on the map….


Deep Sea Adventure

Okay, so the guy who taught us Graenaland and then thumped us in it redeemed himself entirely when he showed us this little gem. This is a super small-box game, and trust me if you see it on the shelves somewhere, buy it! In the game, you push your luck, but as you push your luck you are also pushing everyone else’s, and they are pushing yours. Similar in a way to Clank, but much faster and with dice rolls instead of deck building. This was by far the hit of the Con for us.



One of many games I really wanted to try out, Reykholt is by Uwe Rosenburg, my favorite designer by far. In the game, you place workers on a shared board so you can build greenhouses and grow vegetables in Iceland which you turn in to move along the score track. The game feels very similar to At the Gates of Loyang, a family favorite, and we quite enjoyed it. It’s lighter and shorter than Loyang, but probably not different enough for me to own both, but if we didn’t have Loyang I’d be buying this as soon as its available in US.


Railroad Rivals

One of several railroad themed games we played, Railroad Rivals was similar to the hit game we enjoyed last year, Mini Rails, but with a little more meat on the bones. Each round there is a stock and a city for each player to draft. Owning the highest valued stocks is how you win, but controlling which railroads connect to each city and which routes are used is how you influence the value of the stocks. We had enough fun playing it that we checked it out again later to show it to a friend that didn’t get to play.


Welcome to…

While this was not a new game for me to play at the Con I’m still going to mention it here because you should BUY IT! (It should cost about $20 - 25, but it’s been out of stock for a bit and some people are trying to sell it for $75 on Amazon) This is a Roll and Write game, like Yahtzee. Except there are no dice. Instead of rolling dice you flip over cards, and instead of having your own random things to write down, everyone sees the same options and has to pick one of the three possibilities to record, and choose where to record it. Watch a video playthrough of this, then buy it, laminate several of the scoresheets, buy some nice dry erase markers, and enjoy!


Trade on the Tigris

I wasn’t seeking this game out as some of the previous designs by Geoff Engelstein (whose podcast I thoroughly enjoy) have fallen flat in my group. This game, however, was great. You really need to have 5 or 6 people because the game revolves around trading, and with fewer people the trading isn’t as frantic, and just not as fun. I also thought the scoring was quite clever as each track, representing either a religion or a government, scored the most points on its penultimate space. In other words, if you took your democracy too far it became a bureaucracy and wasn’t worth as much.


Rise of Tribes

We did a demo of Rise of Tribes and found it to be a fun light game with some area control. The part of the game I enjoyed most was that you roll two dice at the start of your turn. Those dice don’t limit what you can do, but they may increase or decrease the efficiency of your turn or of other player’s turns depending on how you play them. The upgrade kit, while not needed to play the game, is very nicely done and adds good flavor to the game.


Fireball Island: The Curse of VulKar

Yes, you read that right. FIREBALL ISLAND! This is not a great game, but it is a fun game that is full of nostalgia and significantly better than the original where the only point was to hit your figures with as many marbles as possible. That’s still a big part of this game, but there are decisions you can make and ways you can influence the result of the game. If you want a strategic game, pass this by, but if you loved Fireball Island in the 80’s or just want to watch marbles knock over bridges and unwary explorers, give a shot.


Symphony No. 9

Produced by MOAI Ideas, the same company that brought us Mini Rails and Tulip Bubble last year. That alone made this a must play for me and the rest of the group. Unfortunately, the game didn’t live up to its predecessors. Everyone understood the actions we could take, but no one understood how those actions impacted our score at the end of the game. The score came out really close, but none of us knew why we placed where we did, or what we could have improved to do better. I like the idea and want to like the game, but this game won’t be added to the collection.


Sid Meier’s Civilization: A New Dawn

This has been out for a little while, but we were wanting a large civilization game and had heard good things about how this simplified and improved on the previous Civilization which I sold a few years ago. The game did not disappoint. It was simpler and much improved. Plus I was able to win by stabbing an ally in the back in a move that kept us talking about the game the rest of the Con. If you like Civilization on the computer and can get 3 or 4 players to the table, this is a nice 1 - 2 hour Civ game.


Spring Meadow

Another Uwe Rosenburg design, Spring Meadow is a tile placement game similar to Patchwork, a two-player favorite in our house. Remember that the game scores like Tetris and you’ll be in good shape. I haven’t played the other games in this series, but this one was really fun and makes me want to seek out the other two games in the line.


Xia: Legends of a Drift System

This game has been on my gaming wishlist for a looonnngg time. Each time we’ve picked it up we’ve realized we probably didn’t have the time or headspace to learn the game. But this year we decided to dive in. In the game you fly your ship around the galaxy exploring, delivering cargo, fighting, and doing anything else you can think of try to make a name for yourself. The production of the game is AMAZING with painted ships and metal coins in the base game, and I’m extremely glad we learned to play. I’m looking forward to playing this one again and starting to add some of the expansions in.


Railroad Ink

Another Roll and Write, but with dice and dry-erase markers. If you can’t find Welcome to… and you really want to buy a game for someone *cough* you should get this game. I like Welcome to… significantly more, but this is still a really fun game with lots of replay value. The box even includes two expansions so you can build roads and rails while a volcano is exploding, or while meteors are raining down from the sky!


Gaming Stats:

Games Played: 27
New-to-me Games Played: 23
2017 Releases Played: 18
Games Played Multiple Times: 5
Number of people played with: 10
New (free) Games Acquired: 8
Games Purchased: 2


Games Played:

Ceylon (x2)
Deep Sea Adventure (x2)
Dice Fishing: Roll and Catch
Fast Forward: Fortune
Fireball Island: The Curse of Vul-Kar
Raccoon Tycoon
Railroad Ink: Blazing Red Edition
Railroad Rivals
Rise of Tribes
The River
Sid Meier’s Civilization: A New Dawn
Spring Meadow
Sushi Go!
Symphony No. 9
Trade on the Tigris
Trellis (x2)
Welcome To… (x2)
Xia: Legends of a Drift System