Your Convention Family is Waiting for You!

I love to go to conventions.

At most conventions, I am stationary…meaning I either work for someone else’s booth, or I have my own. With the creation of Ginger Ale Games, I suspect this will be a continued trend and I am OK with that. In fact, I love the idea.

I run a craft/artist alley table at small conventions when I am not doing Ginger Ale Game stuff. And then at large conventions, I usually work for another gaming company as well as do things to promote whatever project we have going on for Ginger Ale Games.

I find being at a booth or table at a convention is one of the best ways to get to talk to and meet a lot of new people. When you are an attendee at a convention, you are on the move. Sure, you get to attend more panels and events then I generally do…but hundreds of people come by the spot where I am stationed and I get to see, talk to and meet all of them!

This past weekend I attended a very small first-year convention in Evansville, IN called Tri-Con. Their attendance was just under 500 – which wasn’t what they had hoped for, but still a good number for their first year. With the exception of a few grumpy vendors, I heard nothing but good things about the staff and volunteers of the convention from other vendors and special guests alike!

As usual, I was stationary at Tri-Con. My best friend and I were running our artist alley table, peddling our nerdy crafts (like purses, hats and jewelry). Feel free to check out our stuff on Facebook! We got to see and meet so many new people at our table and I have to say, sometimes small conventions are even better than the excessively large ones.

Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE GenCon and Origins Game Fair. But at conventions like those, you meet so many people that sometimes faces and names just start to run together and if the convention has any special guests, you will be lucky for 5 seconds of face time with them (if you’re a fan). Small conventions are so different, their feel is different. Everyone is there to meet other like-minded people and to celebrate our nerdy fandoms together.

I am a HUGE Star Trek fan. Like seriously. It is one of my three absolute favorite franchises/shows/series. That includes fan-made Star Trek and I was lucky enough to get to spend a little time with a couple of cast members of Star Trek Continues – a very professionally done, fan-made Star Trek web series which continues the five year mission.

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Here I am with my best friend and Star Trek Continues cast members Michele Specht and Chuck Huber at Tri-Con.

I wouldn’t have had such a fantastic opportunity to chat with these talented folks at a large convention. For example, I got to meet William Shatner at two different larger conventions (with the help of a good amount of money spent on my part). And while I am glad I got to “meet” him, each time the interaction lasted about 3 seconds. Same thing goes for when I got to meet Walter Koenig at GenCon. I’m glad I met him, but the interaction lasted long enough for him to autograph my Star Trek Catan game box lid.

When you attend small conventions, you get a more meaningful experience with everything you do…from the smaller, more intimate panels to your interactions with special guests. By the end of a weekend at a small convention, you get this feeling like you’ve spent the weekend with family.

Next time you have the chance to attend a small convention, don’t balk at the cost to attend…instead, GO! You won’t regret it! No matter how small the convention is, you will have a great time!

Your convention family is waiting for you! You just haven’t met them yet!

Deck-builders…my go-to games!

I like board games.

OK, I think we have established that face, eh? I will add to that statement, however, that I like ALL KINDS of different styles of board games and card games. But, a question a board gamer gets asked fairly often is “What is your favorite kind of game?”

A few short years ago, I wouldn’t have had an answer. But I do now.

If I HAD to pick a favorite kind of game, it would definitely be Deck-Builders. I couldn’t tell you exactly WHY I gravitate to deck-builders, but I do. I love discovering the different card combinations, “buying” up cards for my deck, watching to see what other people will do… I like deck-building.

Several years back I got to do some demo work for Japanime Games for Tanto Coure. Previously, I hadn’t played any deck-builders, so this was a whole new genre of game for me. Once I learned it, I liked it a lot and while demoing it, I often told players it “plays similarly to Dominion,” though at the time I had never actually played Dominion. I knew I liked Tanto Coure, I thought the art was adorable and I enjoyed the gameplay with its seemingly infinite possibilities.

Fast forward to now. I have played Dominion…and many other deck-builders. And I will say, I STILL like Tanto Coure and it DOES play similarly to Dominion. BUT, I think it takes Domion and makes it into a better, more solid game.

Around the same time that I learned Tanto Coure, I was introduced to Max Holliday (oh that fateful day…LOL). So, with my acquaintance with both Max and the family behind Mayday Games, Eaten By Zombies came into my radar. I bought it all up and was excited to play a new deck-builder (since I discovered I enjoyed Tanto Coure, I guessed I would like this style of game) with a kick-ass theme. Because who doesn’t like zombies? 

Eaten By Zombies was released before the market was saturated with zombie-themed games, and it is STILL one of the only zombie deck-builders. At the time of its Kickstarter, Eaten By Zombies was one of the 10 highest funded board/card games on Kickstarter. It made Tom Vassel’s Top 10 Card Games of 2011. It was a solid game. It still is.

Eaten By Zombies is a game that I never mind playing or teaching. The art is just the right amount of scary and funny, I love all the different swag card abilities and I STILL haven’t played with every single card in my set (probably because I have favorites I like to bring out). It remains one of my favorite deck-builders and I am both excited as I work with Max to mount the Kickstarter for the new expansion, Burn it Down.

There are a lot of great deck-builders out on the market now…and many of them just keep on cranking out expansions. I say YAY! As long as those expansions keep adding new layers of play and fun to the games I already enjoy…bring them on!

Marvel Legendary is one such deck-builder that keeps churning out those expansions…and each one adds new and exciting elements to the game. Even as recently as GenCon 2015, they released Secret Wars…which is the first chance for players to play AS the Mastermind!

If you follow comic books at all, you know the possibilities for fun new elements to Marvel Legendary are nearly endless. It is a solid game, and thus far all the expansions have been a lot of fun…adding new cards, new masterminds, new elements and new layers of enjoyability.

Of course, then Upper Deck upped the stakes and came out with Legendary Encounters. I have to admit that I have NOT played Encounters yet…as I have never seen any of the Alien movies OR Predator (as Upper Deck released the Predator version of Encounters at GenCon this year). But, I have heard nothing but good stuff about encounters, and despite not having seen the movies, I am now very eager to play the Encounters games. (And I MUST rectify this issue of not having seen the movies too).

Confession time: I own two of the DC Beck Building Game versions, and have for quite some time…but until recently I never played them. I made the mistake of listening too much to what some other people said about the game…that it was too basic, that the game didn’t go with the them…etc. So, despite owning it, I had never played. I admittedly BOUGHT the game because I had enjoyed Marvel Legendary so much, but I am not a Marvel girl. I am a DC girl and I wanted to have a deck-builder with the characters I know and love.

Fortunately, a new acquaintance I made at GenCon 2015 loved the game and had his copy with him one of the nights. He set it up and we played…with at least one expansion mixed in, but I don’t know which one it was. I thoroughly enjoyed the game and felt it did an OK enough job at going with the theme…plus I was playing characters and villains I really know and enjoy seeing. It isn’t as solid of a game as Legendary, but it is a fun enough game that I will be playing it more in the future…and am likely to pick up more of the expansions (including the Teen Titans one that was released at GenCon!).

Deck-builders also make for great mobile apps. If I am bored somewhere and need to kill time, Ascension and Star Realms are my current go-to apps to play. They are fun and designed well enough for me to even enjoy playing them on my tiny iPhone 5 screen. I intend to download more of the deck-builder apps as well, including Tanto Coure.

I own many more deck-builders…some that I haven’t had a chance to play yet, and some that I have played many, many times.  When I glance up at my board game collection, there are many styles of games….party games, kids games, euros, heavy big box games, farming games, card games…even a Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer Monopoly…but the ones I am always the most eager to play are those deck-builders.

GenCon…Disneyland for Dorks!

I have been known to refer to GenCon as “Disneyland for Dorks.” If you have ever attended the giant gaming convention, you likely understand why I call it that. It really kind of is.

I remember my first GenCon, actually it was my first convention ever. I’d gotten my badge months in advance, but as the actual convention dates got close…I almost backed out of going. It’s true! I was young(er), and had just gone through a bad break-up. My ex would be moving out of our shared place while I was at GenCon…and I decided I wanted to just stay home and mope. My friend who was planning on going with me refused to allow me to do that. He pretty much forced me to go anyway.

I am so glad he did!

I had no idea what to expect when I went that first year, but if my eyes could have popped out of my head when I got my first look at the exhibit hall they would have. For those four days, I don’t think I remembered that real life existed. I played and played and played…and played some more!

Fast forward to this year. I have been attended, and working, conventions for several years now. I always look forward to them and always have a good time…but there’s just something about GenCon that I especially love. Maybe it is because it was my first, or because it is in my home state…who knows. But it is the one convention I look forward to all year. I pay attention to what games will be releasing, watch for events that I might want to participate in (if time allows) and I even think about what tasty restaurants I want to eat at!

This year I get to attend a Legendary VIP Party given by Upper Deck Entertainment at Hard Rock Cafe, which sounds like it will be a good time. I hope to have time to meet Marina Sirtis (as I am a big ole Trekkie), Summer Glau and I would LOVE to have a book autographed by Terry Brooks (one of my all time favorite authors)! And there are games on my radar I hope to get to play, and maybe purchase.

Shiny Dice (from Upper Deck Entertainment)

(From Upper Deck’s blog) Firefly: Shiny Dice is a “press your luck” style dice game. Your goal is Every time you complete a mission you’ll get a chance to risk what you’ve gained. Do you have Mal’s courage to put it all on the line? You might have to in order to stay ahead of your opponents, for they’ll be trying to do the same. Not only will you have to outplay your competition, but you’ll constantly be facing obstacles brought on by Badger, Nyska and Saffron.

I love Firefly and this dice game really has my interest piqued. While I do enjoy the large Firefly board game from Gale Force 9, it is entirely too big to play at my house and so it doesn’t get played much. On the other hand, a little dice game can be broken out to pass time with your friends in many different settings. Add a fun theme, like Firefly, to it and I don’t see how it won’t be a winner!

Vs. 2-Player Card Game (Vs 2PCG) (from Upper Deck Entertainment)

(From BGG)

In Vs. System 2PCG, players choose a main character, build a deck with at least sixty cards, and attempt to reduce the other player’s score below zero in a game of superhero battle. The first set contains characters only from the Marvel Universe, but future sets may add other IPs. Vs. System 2PCG is superficially similar to the original Vs. System collectible card game, but is a completely rebuilt game that takes some inspiration from the original. Combat has been streamlined, the turn structure is different, the resource system has been revamped, and the game is no longer collectible, with cards instead being released in a non-random format.

I never played the original Vs. system, but I have heard a lot of hype about this one and it sounds like a lot of fun. It may not be my cup of tea because the idea of building my own “deck” scares me a little. But who knows? Maybe once I learn it, I will love it. Either way, this will very likely become a part of my game collection.

Animal Upon Animal: Crest Climbers (HABA Games)

(From BGG) Animal Upon Animal: Crest Climbers uses the same basic gameplay as Animal Upon Animal: Each turn a player rolls the die and either places one or two animals on to the stack of animals, passes one of their animals to another player for them to place, or places an animal on the table, extending the base for other players to build upon. Of course, if any pieces fall off whilst you are building, you get up to two of them back. The first player to have used all of their animals wins.

If you follow me on social media, you know I play a lot of games with my nephews. HABA Games only recently came into my radar, and I am so glad they did. Every game I have seen of theirs looks absolutely amazing for kids and they are games I can include the younger one in on…which is always a HUGE plus! This one plays on the fact that I am also an animal lover and so are my nephews, so it is a theme I am pretty sure will hit home for all of us!

Takenoko: Chibis  (Bombyx/Asmodee)

(from BGG) A long time ago, the Emperor of China offered to the Emperor of Japan a giant panda, a symbol of peace. Your delicate mission: Take care of the animal by planning a bamboo field. Now as a reward for your great work, you are being offered a second panda…a female!

I love the first Takenoko. It is such an adorable game, great gameplay and wonderfully adorable pieces. I expect to love the expansion just as much!

Jolly Roger: The Game of Piracy and Mutiny

(from BGG) In the card game Jolly Roger: The Game of Piracy & Mutiny, you’re a crew member aboard a pirate ship and have just elected a new captain. This man will lead you toward either fortune or disaster — and thankfully no matter what course of action he takes, if you don’t agree with his choices, you can always start a mutiny and become the next captain yourself…

What isn’t more fun with pirates? Pirate games intrigue me because it is such a fun theme and, in my opinion, endless possibilities, for tongue-in-cheek and serious adventures! I definitely want to check this one out!

Meow (Foam Brain Games)

(From BGG) You are either Meow, or Not Meow. An eloquent game of deception, fun for all! Infiltrators are among us! Some of our friends might be…Not Meow. Find them! The rules of Meow are simple: On your turn, draw a card into your hand and say ‘Meow’. Most cards are Meow cards, but some are Not Meow cards. Skeptical Meows at the table can accuse you of being Not Meow after you draw and meow, which means you must reveal your hand of cards.If they’re right, and you have a Not Meow card, they win. If they’re wrong, they’re out of the round! And if you’re the last Meow standing, you win!

I’m a crazy cat lady…really, I am. I adore my kitties, and I have 4 of them! So any cat-themed game is a game I want to check out!

Viceroy (Mayday Games)

(From BGG)

Viceroy is a board game of bidding and resource management set in the fantasy universe of the famous Russian CCG Berserk. As the players struggle for control over the world of Laar, they recruit a variety of allies and enact various laws. These cards allow players to develop their state’s military and magical might, increase their authority, and get precious gems they need to continue expanding their nation. As the game progresses, each player builds his own power pyramid using character and law cards. Each card has its own effect that depends on the level of the pyramid where the card is played. These effects may give more resources, more cards, or victory points. The player who has the most power points at the end of the game becomes the ruler of entire Laar and the winner!

I have been hearing about this one for quite some time, and as its release got closer and closer…the buzz about it got louder and louder. At this point, even if the game didn’t pique my interest (which it does, because I’ve heard what a great game it is), I would feel OBLIGATED to at least check it out because of all of the buzz!

Star Trek: Five Year Mission (Mayfair Games)

(From BGG) Star Trek: Five-Year Mission is a cooperative dice placement game for 3-7 players who take the roles of crew members of either the USS Enterprise (from the original Star Trek series) or the USS Enterprise-D (from Star Trek: The Next Generation). Each crew member has a different ability and the crew’s ability’s differ on each crew. In these roles, players try to cooperatively solve a series of blue (easy), yellow (medium) and red (difficult) alerts to score point attempting one of 6 different difficulty levels to win before failing five such alerts, or the Enterprise being destroyed. Players must deal with injuries which lock dice out of play, ship damage that can force players to attempt harder alerts, urgent events that must be completed in 3 minutes, the prime directive, as well as yellow and red alerts that force additional alerts cards to come into play pushing you closer to failing.

If you know me, or follow me on social media, you learn very quickly that I LOVE Star Trek. LOVE IT. So, I am always looking for Star Trek-themed games to bring two of my greatest loves together: Star Trek and Gaming. I hope this one is a good one! If it is, I predict I will be coming home with it!

My First Bohnanza

(from BGG) My First Bohnanza serves as both an introduction to Bohnanza and as a children’s game in its own right, with the goal of the game being the same as its parent: Have the most Talers at the end of play. As in the original Bohnanza, the game includes multiple types of beans, with each bean having a number on it to indicate how many copies are in the game as well as a “beanometer” at the bottom of the card to show you how many cards of this type you need to harvest in order to collect Talers. My First Bohnanza has simplified beanometers, with four types of beans having only a single exchange value — e.g., five Gemeine (common) beans get you one Taler — and six types of beans having two exchange values. Games with the youngest players (or newcomers to the Bohnanza universe) should use the single beanometer cards with the other cards forming a Taler stack.

I love the Bohnanza games. They are a lot of fun. I always eye the games on my shelves when looking for games to play with my nephews, but I never grab them because they aren’t quite ready for it. But NOW with the junior version, I can get them in on the bean-y fun!

The above games are just a few on my radar…and of course, when I do have time to explore the exhibit hall, who knows what else I may find in the endless maze that is Disneyland for Dorks!

Some of the other games I am hoping to get a chance to at least look at:

  • Gothic Doctor (Ad Magic/Meltdown Games)
  • Sushi Draft (Blue Orange Games)
  • The Princess Bride: A Battle of Wits
  • The Princess Bride: As You Wish
  • The Princess Bride: Miracle Pill
  • Deck Building: The Deck-Building Game
  • Space Movers 2201
  • Ca$h ‘N Guns: More Cash ‘n More Guns
  • Survive Space Attack

I hope to get to see some of you at GenCon! Look for me in and around the Upper Deck areas, where I will be showing off Bring out yer Dead!

 

 

 

Polished Turds

I was recently a part of an ongoing Facebook group discussion about board game reviews and Kickstarter games. While the discussion is still ongoing, I have already confirmed the knowledge that a LOT of people in the board game community and industry have an opinion about how reviews/previews for Kickstarter games should be handled. I have also learned something that, frankly, annoys me a bit…apparently a lot of would-be boardgame publishers who are taking their games to Kickstarter send out unfinished games to reviewers.

While I get that boardgames on Kickstarter are subject to some amount of change, I just can’t fathom running a Kickstarter for a game that needs a lot more work done. When you start sending your game out to reviewers, it needs to be a fully developed game with most (if not all) of the production art and a proper rulebook. Apparently that doesn’t happen very often. How on earth can a designer or publisher expect a decent preview or review of their game without all of those things? And even moreso, why should they expect people to pledge their hard-earned money to support their game in Kickstarter if it isn’t even finished?

Yes, you can let your Kickstarter backers influence your game some…like adding new cards, different components or more art…but the mechanics and rules of the game should be pretty close to set in stone by this point in the process. Maybe I am naive to think this is possible, but I just don’t understand how game designers and publishers are getting away with this practice. As a writer, I have never sent an unfinished article off to an editor. When I did theater in college, we certainly didn’t invite a reviewer to view a show that wasn’t well-rehearsed and ready to be performed – so why would a game publisher invite a reviewer to play a game that isn’t ready for the masses?

 

I worked for two years in the pawnshop business as a social media manager and pawnbroker. During that time, I learned a lot about diamonds. Something I never knew before my time as a pawnbroker…there are some UGLY, crappy diamonds out there. My boss used to refer to those diamonds as polished turds.

You can polish a turd and even make it look kind of nice…but it’s still just a turd and it will never be a diamond in the rough.

I think boardgames are the same as diamonds. There are lots of different grades of them, but some of them are just polished turds. The sad thing is, I think a lot of these “polished turd” games have the potential to actually become diamonds instead of turds, the problem is that the designer or developer didn’t bother finishing the game before they send it to reviewers. Even worse, they polish up the turd to make it look shiny and plop it up on Kickstarter.

Why would you do that? Don’t polish a turd and send it out! Instead, work that game until it is a REAL diamond. Trust me, reviewers will appreciate it and so will your potential backers!

If I could ask ONE thing of my fellow Kickstarter game publishers, it would be this: Please take the time to playtest and really develop your game. Don’t polish a turd and send it out to reviewers. It makes us all look bad! Let’s band together, and bring up the expected quality of our prototypes!

Am I a Board Game Snob?

I hear a lot of “board gamers” lament about how they grew up playing board games, and then they talk about all these old, kind of obscure games like Dark Tower. I didn’t discover “designer” board games until I was well into my 20’s. Sure, I played board games when I was a kid…but I played games like Sorry, Monopoly and Disney Trivial Pursuit.

The first time I went to GenCon (I was pretty much forced to go, almost against my will), I had no inkling of the new world that was about to open up to me. I’m told by my traveling companion from that first GenCon that the look on my face when I got my first look into the exhibit hall was “priceless.” I really was like a kind in a candy store as I walked up and down the aisles of that exhibit hall. I think I played more board game demos that first year than I ever have since. I couldn’t get enough of them because I had never dreamed there were so many different kind of board games.

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