So I attended Board Game Geek Con this year for the first time. It is a convention hosted by the people who run the website Board Game Geek. The convention focuses on board games, card games, and war gaming, although there was token appreciation for poker and video games, the later in the form of Rock Band, if that counts.
So I’ll take you on a little ride and describe the convention and how it differs from most conventions, then give you a summary of what I did, including the games I played and possibly short summaries or reviews of these games, and then I’ll give you a review of the con itself.
Board Game Geek Con, The Con
The convention runs from 10am Wednesday until sometime past 1pm on Sunday, pausing usually between might night to 3am until 8am to 10am every day, depending on your schedule. Unlike most of the conventions I attend, being primarily science fiction and fantasy or media conventions, this one has several aspects missing.
For example BGG Con has no guests, nearest as I can tell. It has no panels although it does have gaming tournaments. It has no dealer’s room, except in that the con hosted various spaces for notable board game distributors to demo and sell their games during the day.
BGG Con has several features unique to any convention I have ever attended. The first and perhaps most prominent being that you, just by attended, receiving several free board games. The system for this is somewhat complicated to explain but then, the board games we’re talking about are normally fairly complicated as well. This year, after you registered, you were allowed to pick two games, and had a chance for a third. The first pick was between two games (Terra Prime and Homesteaders), the second between three (Architekton, Aton, and Inka), and the third was a random draw between three options, receiving the Board Game Geek the Board Game, a chance to select a game from a room full of various games, and receiving a second ticket for the daily raffles for prize packages, which contain games.
But the biggest deal about BGG Con is the games library. They literally setup a library that has almost every board game released in the US and tons that aren’t. Your badge has a bar code, as does the game. You go to the front desk, both codes are scanned, and then you go play your game. It’s brilliant. They offer these flags that say “Players Needed” that you can take to your table to tell others that they should come sit and play. This library also contains games not yet available in the US, typically called Essen games, as they are games that were announced or made available at the big board gaming convention known as SPIEL (held in Essen) in Germany. An extension of this was that the main lobby area where free to play dexterity games were set out.
Besides those, BGG has several of the more common features most conventions that focus on geekery also have. For example, like DragonCon, the hotel sold box lunches, which some considered rather expensive at nine bucks for a sandwhich, chips, soda, and two random items (fruit, cookies, candy, pastries, etc). And it was, but I still appreciated that it saved me a lot of time if I wanted to play games. New this year but was very interesting was a bus which ran hourly, taking people from the con to various nearby food spots.
The convention holds a lot of tournaments. More than any other convention I have attended. For example there was a poker tournament, a tournament for the game Tichu, a scavenger hunt, a tops tournament, a tichu tournament, a trivia tournament, and several others. The con also had open gaming rooms that are counter point to the huge open gaming room, and the “hot games” area where Essen games are required to remain (which was attached to the library).
So now that you know all the major points of BGG Con, you’re likely wondering what I did there.
So the primary thing you do at BGG Con is play games! So I did! The forums of Board Game Geek have a guide as to how to survive BGG Con. It is a decent guide, although I broke the don’t learn a game at the table rule most of the time. There was two games where we had players leave because we didn’t know the game, but after having figured the game out I feel they got the short end of the stick. Perhaps we didn’t get to play as many games but eh. I had fun.
The only other rule I didn’t follow was the eat out with strangers rule, as while I did play several games with strangers, I never got the chance really to do the eating out thing. I did make a point of playing games with people I didn’t know, which should be a rule. I tended to follow the leave around 11pm and get into the con around 9 am to 10 am pattern. Most of my friends didn’t come in till later so I always played at least one game with new people early in the morning. A fact which I am proud of.
So here is the list of games I played. I’ve included if they were a new game for me, if they were an “Hot” game, that is a game that was either from Essen or was popular enough that it couldn’t leave the library area. Also a quick rating if I don’t want to get into the game. I’ll also record number of total plays and if I won or lost, or if the game was incomplete. I’ll also note if it was a demo given by the publisher.
- Borderlands (New) – Fun war game. Incomplete.
- Resident Evil Deck Building Game (New, Hot) – Decent, few problems but will still buy. 1 Loss.
- Crokinole (New) - Fun dexterity game. Love the boards. 2 Losses.
- Dragonriders (New) – Alright racing game. 1 Win.
- Agricola – Reminded me I do like Agricola occasionally. 1 Win.
- Summoner Wars (New, Demo) – Demoed, then bought. Mixture of Magic: TG and Chess. 1 Loss.
- Settlers of America (New, Demo) – Awesome version of Settlers of Catan only in America. 1 Loss.
- Lemming Maifa (New, Demo) – Umm… bidding on racing lemmings with concrete shoes. Kinda weird but cute. 1 Loss.
- Isla Dorada (New, Hot) – Learned at the table, exploration bidding game. Alright. Would play again. 1 Loss.
- Betrayal at House on the Hill - Incomplete due to me being the traitor with a bad scenario.
- Water Lily (New, Hot) - Fun “kids” game where you help frogs race. 2 Wins, 2 Loss.
- Last Call (New, Demo) - A game about mixing drinks. Kind of fun. Very fast. 1 Win, 1 Loss.
- Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer (New, Demo) – One of my new favorite games. I made a point of buying it almost immediately after demoing it. Even went to the tournament that was held. Almost got to the final table. I won’t count tournament plays but actual plays I have 1 Win, 3 Losses.
- The End of the Triumvirate (New) - Fun game, would play again. 1 Loss.
- 51st State (New, Hot) - This is also one of my new favorite games. Set in the same world as Nueroshima Hex, it’s a card game I’d compared to Race for the Galaxy, although it doesn’t share very many mechanics. 1 Win, 1 Loss.
- Felinia (New, Hot) – Resource game with bidding. Alright. 1 Win.
- Goldbrau (New) – Echo game about brewing beer. Didn’t quiet get it. 1 Loss.
- City of Thieves (New, Hot) – Incomplete but a lot of fun. Thieves running around a city stealing and grabbing treasure. Really need to find this game.
- Arkham Horror – Won with 28 points.
- Monkey Lab (New, Demo) – Ended up buying this one after demoing as my new “light game”. You play ninja monkeys, freeing other monkeys. Kinda fun. 2 Loss.
- Fresco (New, Hot) – Learned and played but incomplete. Fun game. Would play again.
Total Games Played: 31
Total Games Won: 8 (25.8%)
Total Games Lost: 17 (54.8%)
Total Games Incomplete: 4 (12.9%)
The Good and the Bad
So yeah. Seventy five dollar ticket if you pre-order, and when you factor that most board games cost a minimum of $40 and usually more like $60. So you get your money back almost assuredly, plus five days of tons of gaming. Definitely worth it from that point alone, if you ask me.
The con also had a really good hotel from the attendee standpoint. The hotel provided the box lunches, allowed signs to be hung everywhere. Staff was tolerant of games being played all over the place. I did hear one complaint from vendors regarding the lack of wi-fi in the main exhibit hall, and requiring a significant surcharge to have it turned on. I am curious about possibly staying in the hotel next year, although I did like seeing my friends and crashing at their place.
The con itself has a few hiccups here and there. I’d say as far as conventions go, BGG Con is in it’s teenage years. Registration went smoothly but the hot games room was excessively loud due to it’s small size. There was a cool system called “Geek Buzz” which allowed you to rate the games you played using a code given to you in your bag, but very little explanation on how that worked. You had to go ask. Additionally the “teacher” system did not seem to work well, although several game vendors were on hand to demo, which always made finding a game easy when friends weren’t around, until you had tried every demo, that is.
The biggest blooper was the bracelets. A blue “concert style” plastic bracelet, the kind that can’t come off, was given and to be worn the entire con as a way to combat fake badges. The problem being that no new bracelets were going to be issued, so you were expected to wear the bracelet the entire con, including sleeping and showering with it for five days. My wrist still feels kind of weird. Since the BGG Con badges are kind of generic, I can see why they need to do this but security at the con was already pretty lax compared to most cons I know, and this is a problem more easily solved with badge art than forcing people to wear a bracelet for five days.
There was still war more good than bad at the con though. It was very refreshing to meet other board gamers and play with people I don’t normally play with. I didn’t really meet anyone I disliked and I did meet a few people I did like and I hope to see them again next year!