Saturday, December 5, 2009

1.24: BGG.Con Day 1 - What we played

I've already listed what we played on Day 1 of BGG.Con, but here it is again:

Fluch der Mummie
Pack and Stack (x2)
Homesteaders (Just me, Jackie was doing homework)
Crokinole  (x3)

I'll give a run-down of what each game is, and a blurb on our own play of it.  Writing this, I realize this is going to be a long post, so I've titled each section with the game's name; also, the last paragraph or so a little info on our play experience, and the rest is info on the game itself. 


Fluch der Mummie was designed by Marcel-AndrĂ© Casasola Merkle and released in 2008 by Ravensburger.  It supports 2 to 5 players and takes around 30 minutes, though our game was shorter.  The game is played on a vertical magnetic board; one player acts as the mummy and attempting to catch the players, while the players act as explorers trying to gather their treasures first.

Everyone is dealt one of each colored treasure, corresponding to the five areas on the board, and places their magnetic pawn on the starting area.  The mummy player places their white pawn on their starting area (on the player side), and the moving token on their side of the board; the mummy never looks at the player side of the board, but instead must surmise where the players are by their actions or when they reveal themselves.  Moving the mummy token moves the pawn on the other side, and when the mummy pawn comes into contact with a player pawn, it scoops it up onto itself.  The explorers roll 5 dice, which either have a number to move, a slide, or a mummy, which gives that die to the mummy; the player tells the mummy what one action they're choosing to do, and the Mummy must guess where they are.  After all players have moved, the Mummy moves according to the number of dice they've been given, plus the number rolled on the mummy-movement die.  Eventually the players will run out of dice, but they are free to ask for all the dice back, but immediately gives the Mummy player the chance to move.  Players are only revealed when they stop to pick up a treasure (the Mummy can see where the treasure is on their side of the board), and wins if they can capture the explorer players a total of 7 times. 

In our game Jackie and one of the other players were in a solid lead, having collected four of their five treasures (I only had two), but the Mummy also had captured us 5 times.  Ultimately the Mummy won, with both Jackie and the other player near their final objectives, by capturing myself (I blame poor movement dice--I couldn't get far enough away) and the other player.  I believe I was actually captured around three times, never actually being able to move far enough away from the Mummy.


Next, with the same husband and wife that invited us over for Fluch der Mummie, we played Pack & Stack.  Pack & Stack was designed by Bernard Eisenstein, and released in 2008 by a lot of companies--for our purposes we'll mention Kosmos and Mayfair Games; it supports 3 to 6 players and takes 20-30 minutes.  This was a very fun and quick game with a simple goal--suck the least; at least that's what it felt like. 

In Stack & Pack each player starts with 50 points, and will generally only lose them from then on.  Each turn the players will each roll five dice, colored to correspond with the five colored "goods," and takes the number rolled on the dice.  It's possible to end up with zero of one type of good, and a lot of others.  Next all players receive two face-down "truck" tiles, and simultaneously flip them over; each truck has open space to be filled in with goods, and a number that represents how high this space can be stacked.  Players may choose any but their own trucks, or may choose a random truck from the draw pile.

Once a truck is chosen, players stack the goods, attempting to fill as much space as possible. For each "single" space left open in the truck (ie, the space equal to the white cubes above), the player loses one point, and for any goods left over, the player loses two points per amount of space it takes (in the picture above, left to right the goods take up 5, 1, 4, 3, and 2 cubes of space).  At the end of each turn players settle up, and the player who lost the least points gets a 10 point bonus--even with this it's likely the scores just keep descending.  The first person to lose all their points ends the game, and the player with points left wins the game.

We played two games of this back to back, and both Jackie and I enjoyed it.  In the first game, both gals did very well, while the other guy and I were nearly eliminated at the third turn of the game, though we both miraculously managed to hold on for two more turns--somehow taking a random truck did better for me than choosing one.  I somehow ended up winning the first game, and the wife (I feel really bad that I can't remember her name) won the second game by a lot (she still had her 50 starting points, for Pete's sake!).

At this point we wandered a bit and broke for lunch, and by chance ran into Stephen, Dave and Francie from The Spiel, who were arriving to the hotel from the airport.  They joined Jackie and I at Denny's, and we split up on arriving back at the con, knowing they would soon have to meet my challenge in a game of Clout


Here Jackie and I got a little adventurous and decided to check out Agricola; I'd been wanting to play this since it came out in 2007, and Jackie had apparently had interest since 2008 when she amazingly did her own research when purchasing Christmas gifts for me, but neither of us could pull the trigger on the $70 price tag.  We found a table, sat down to open the box, and stared dumbfounded at the 15 page rulebook...which happens to be in German.  Ah, yes, Aldie had purchased that at Essen in 2007.  There were English rules printed out, but an initial skim through told me we were in for some trouble.  Thankfully Guy from Canada (GUY!) stopped by and showed us how to play, and another convention attendee who had played 3 times before joined us. 

There is a lot to say about this game, but let's hit the highlights.  Agricola was designed by Uwe Rosenberg and released in 2007 by Z-man games (in the US, it was released by a lot of other companies in other countries as well).  It plays 1-5 players and takes about 2 hours to play.  It has won a butt-load of awards, including the Spiel des Jahres in 2008 (Special Prize for Complex Game), and is currently the #1 ranked game on, unseating the multi-year holder of that position, the now #2 Puerto Rico.  This is a worker placement, resource management game with a lot of choice; if you're interested in playing, I make the same recommendation I was given--have someone who knows how to play teach you.

Each player has their own board, an open are with a two square hut--part of your goal is to fill in the rest of the open area with more hut (ie, extend your hut), fenced pastures, plowed fields, and stables, but you must collect resources for each of these, and also feed your people and extend your family (ie, make babies).  You score points for doing each of these things, or score negative points for each that you don't do, or for unfilled spaces on your board at the end of the game.  On each turn, players take actions equal to the number of people they have (you start with two), and though new actions are added as the game progresses, each action can only be claimed by one person a turn.  You may need to gather stone, but lumber is produced at only one location, family expansion is available only at one location until late in the game, and so on.  You're probably thinking, wow, this game sounds really easy, can you make it harder?  Yes, sure, how about you have to feed your people after every few turns, and the penalty for not feeding them...yep, you lose points.

I went into this game interested and optimistic, but the hype didn't do it justice.  I did win this game, thanks to my strategy of wholesale slaughter of innocent animals (really), which provided not only enough food for my people to eat, but also allowed me to play all but one of my Occupation cards.  This allowed me to upgrade my house from wood to stone (without the intermediate "Clay") using almost no resources, which meant I didn't have to spend time collecting resources as much as Jackie or the other player.


Tasty Minstrel games was holding teaching sessions for their two games, and afterword did what they called "Winner Cleans Up" play sessions, where the winner of the game kept the copy of the game.  Jackie was still a little jet-lagged at this point, so she went up to the room and rested while I wandered around, incidentally into the teaching session.  The rules were unexciting and the game actually seemed a little clunky, and I was going to walk out, but for whatever reason I figured I could burn two hours.

I'm very glad I did.  This ended up being the surprise of the con for me.

Homesteaders was designed by Alex Rockwell and was published in 2009 by Tasty Minstrel games.  It isa game for 3-4 players, and takes approximately 80 minutes (our game took a little over two hours, but that was with us struggling with the rules...and some coallation problems--more on that later).  The goal of Homesteaders is to get the most victory points by the end of the game, gained by judicious auction wins and selling of goods.  There are three auctions each turn, and each player is able to win only one per turn; in a four player game, obviously someone isn't going to win one, though they do get to advance on the railroad at the bottom of the bidding board, which provides small bonuses such as an extra worker, a trade chit, more income, or the resource of your choosing.  The winners of the auctions gain the ability to build one of several types of buildings, each giving a combination of victory points, goods production, or special rules. 

Two interesting aspects of the game are debt and trade chits.  In order to conduct any trade with the market (selling or buying), you must expend one trade chit; while several buildings provide them, they always seem to be in short supply.  Next there's debt--you can feel free to overbid whatever monetary amount you have, and can simply take "debt" tokens and get two silver each.  Of course, you do have to pay this back at the end of the game, at a cost of 5 silver each; every unpaid debt token is negative points, one for the first, two for the second, three for the third, and so on.  One debt token is no big deal, five, however, is negative 15 points.  In our game the scores ranged from the high 40's to the mid 30's (me), so even having three or four debt tokens can take you out of the running.

 Wow, did I lose this one.  My main problem was that I figured out the game about a turn too late, and as a result missed a few essential auctions and the opportunity to purchase some buildings that would have been a great boon, but beyond that I made some strong and important plays that made me at least somewhat competitive.  We did not purchase this game (and obviously I didn't take home the copy we played), but if Jackie had played this game we likely would have.  Still, I am strongly considering puchasing this in the near future, especially since it's from a smaller publisher.

Two items of note on this game--first, the games we received were slightly damp; this could be for any number of reasons, but I suspect it's because they were not completly dry after printing.  I've been told keeping the game open overnight (before punching any pieces out) gives it enough time to dry, and there is no adverse affect on the game. 

Second, in our game we got started late due to a coallating problem.  There are a specific number and arrangement of auction tiles for the #1 auction spot, and when we opened our copy we were missing eight of the ten tiles.  This does make the game unplayable, but the guys at Tasty Minstrel hopped on the problem immediately at BGG.Con, and continue to do so.  They've apparently been opening every one of their some-odd thousand games, checking the parts, throwing in a silica packet (to counter-act the moisture problem) and re-sealing them. 

If you have an hesitations after hearing these problems from this or other sites, I ask you to go ahead and make the purchase.  Printing issues are often not the fault of the company, and despite this Tasty Minstrel is making an excellent effort to pre-emptively take care of these two issues. 


Sitting in the lobby outside the main gaming hall there were a lot of things going on--registration was at a small counter area, nearby any stuff being given away later that day was on display, GeekChic was displaying their excellent gaming tables (we are so going to buy one), CrazyBooth was taking photos, there was a running tally for hot games at BGG.con, and there were a number of dexterity games set out.  We ended up trying every one of these games out, but Crokinole was one we went back to several times. 

Again, I had only a vague knowledge of the rules, but some people nearby gave us the run down, though we would run across several variations over the course of the weekend--kind of like playing tetherball in elementary school:  No poppies, no babysitting...

BGG has a few boards made every year, and they end up raffling off one of these boards (no, we didn't win the raffle, dammit), and they are gorgeous.  In the photo you can see one of the boards; they have a circular play surface with a series of concentric circles indicating the scoring areas.  In the center is a small circle just big enough for a puck to fit in, and the edge of the next circle has a series of pegs that make it all the more difficult to get into that area.  The goal is simple, be the first to score 100 points by shooting your puck into the center (20 points) or keeping it on the board at the end of the game.  Any pucks left on the table after both players have made their 12 shots score 15, 10, or 5 points, depending on their distance from the center--but only one person can score per area, so if both players have pucks in an area, they are eliminated in a one-for-one fashion, and then scored (in another variant, only one person can score for the board, so all the pucks are tallied, and then the person with more points subtracts the value of the other person's score, and adds this toward their total). 

The only other complication, if your opponent has a puck on the board, you must make contact with one of their pucks, or your puck is removed regardless of its final position.  As a result, most of the game is strategically flicking your puck so it glances an opponents puck on its way toward the center, or smacking an opponent's puck into the gutter and ricocheting yours to a benificial position.

Crokinole boards have a wide range of surfaces and overall quality, but these boards at BGG are excellent--from looking at the site of the guys that do these, they put anywhere from 7 to 20 layers of lacquer on the top surface, and it shows.  The pucks glide cleanly and easily over this smooth surface. 

As you can see in the photo, Jackie really started getting into this--despite complaints after my first victory of "I'm not good at dexterity games," once she started leaning down and squinting at the board, she couldn't miss a shot, and each turn one of my pucks would fly off the board and hers would scoot toward the center rings. Jackie stated several times, and I agree that "We should get a Crokinole board."  However, at around $200 each, I don't think it'll be any time soon that we do so.


That was far longer than I expected, I'll do write ups of the rest of our BGG.Con experience, but will do my best to make thenext ones far, far shorter.  Two things to wrap this up:

1.  Please leave a comment if you have anything to say or ask.  I write this and will keep writing this thing for several reasons, and several of you have said "Oh, I read that, you had some good stuff in there," but weeks after I posted whatever it was.  If you guys respond, it'll motivate me to keep doing this on time, and keeping a normal schedule where I write *anything* is one of the main reasons I'm doing this.

2.  We're in the midst of the Holiday season!  Hooray!  That also means I'll have some time off, and while I do intend to spend the large majority with my family, I'd also be happy to get some gaming in with anyone that's available; if you're new to gaming, all the better--I can coach you along with some new and engaging stuff that isn't scary.  Or we can do a scary game if you want, I'm sure I've got some games here that take 4+ hours and come with hundreds of pieces.

Take care all. 


  1. First I want to say you did a good job of capturing many of the games we played!

    Second I won the first game of Stack and Pack not you,

    Third, I was doing homework when you played homesteaders not relaxing.

  2. We have still to finish a game of Descent.

  3. We do have to finish a game of Descent, although I believe it is generally considered a full afternoon's entertainment.

    By the way, I mentioned Starcraft to Randy; he seemed interested, I'm sure in no part due to the fact that he was a big Starcraft PC game player back in the day.

  4. I can't finish reading the homesteader portion because the picture is stuck over the text. Also, I will actually volunteer to be your editor if you want one. I like reading these blogs, but get caught up in typos because of a minor amount of OCD I have.

  5. The picture is hiding a large amount of profanity, and the typos spell out a secret message.

    Actually, that friggin' picture posed several problems when I was adding it, but I think I've got it working now.