6 minute read

The annual gaming convention hosted by BoardGameGeek has come and gone. The team Scott Alden has running the convention does an impressive job organizing and managing the event. Not to mention the fact that they continue to bring most of the new games released at the Essen game fair in October back from Europe in time for the convention.

As has become customary, Chris Brooks and I met in Dallas for our annual extended weekend of gaming. We’ve found a nice balance between playing familiar and new (to us) games at the convention. Ideally, we’d like to experience the newly released titles from Essen but the reality is those titles are in high demand and not always easy to find. For the rest of the new (to us) fix, we try out titles released within the last couple of years that at least one of us wants to play before making a buying decision (or play because we have an unplayed copy and need to decide whether it is worth keeping or not!).

My highlights were Innovation, Gettysburg and Runewars. Here’s a summary of everything I played …


Hanabi & Ikebana

Deductive, cooperative card game with the goal to stack each color (suit) of cards in order from 1 to 5. The twist is you can see everyone else’s cards but not your own and can provide limited information to another player by identifying all cards of a particular color or value. It’s quick and will appeal to those that enjoy logic puzzles.

Prototype playtesting

Played a light, politically themed card game with potential to be published. The final design is not yet settled.


My favorite dexterity game. Hilinski boards are awesome. Yehuda and I played on the Cthernie board that was made for this year’s convention.


Power Grid: First Sparks

Rick Thornquist did a wonderfully cheeky job ‘splaining the rules. This is a streamlined/simplified redux of Power Grid with a prehistoric theme. If you are looking for a quicker or less complex Power Grid experience, this is a good choice. Personally, I’ll stick with Power Grid.

Summoner Wars

Tactical battle game using cards to represent units on the board. Could easily have been a miniatures game and reminded me a little of WotC’s Dreamblade. It was quick and enjoyable. There are several factions and you can purchase boosters to allow deck construction. Plaid Hat Games is following a similar model to Fantasy Flight’s living card game model.

Alien Frontiers

An area majority game using dice to take actions. Although very different, it reminded me a bit of Mission: Red Planet. I enjoyed playing and would certainly play again. I do wonder whether the potential for a single player to monopolize the Terraform action 2 or 3 turns in a row is too powerful or not.


Lightly themed civilization card game. Use the powers of your inventions and discoveries cleverly to score achievements and advance more quickly than other players. Chris and I liked it so well after a single play, we each purchased a copy at the on site FunAgain store.

Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer

Another deck-building game. It’s differs from other Dominion clones by using a single deck to supply the cards players can acquire for use in their personal decks during the game. Quick and fun. Will likely look at picking up the digital version available for iOS devices.


Poseidon’s Kingdom

This year’s Fragor Games release. Like all Fragor Games, PK is a beautifully produced game. Players are sea creatures trying to rescue their friends from the mean ol’ kraken. It’s another game making clever use of dice. Once you understand the rules, the game plays quickly. It’s cute and moderately fun but unlikely to swim into my collection at $100+ price tag.


This is the 2nd time I’ve played Troyes and I still don’t quite get this game. There’s no doubt it is a good game but I’m not sure it’s for me. It’s a solid worker placement game using dice to pay/execute actions on the board.



A fantasy themed adventure/area control game. Certainly felt like an epic game that didn’t suffer from too much downtime nor overstay its welcome. I liked it. Chris liked it. Could be a good substitute for Twilight Imperium although the recently released science fiction themed, Eclipse, may be an even better choice. The Eclipse table in the Hot Games room was constantly in use and neither of us were able to try it out.



An abstract game from the GIPF project where your goal is to connect opposite sides of the board with your pieces. Another solid entry in this series. You must be extremely observant and have an eye for spatial reasoning.


The latest from the designer of Dominion. It’s a light, wacky card game of players in the role of mad scientists vying for world domination. It’s silly, short and moderately fun but wait until it is released in the US or you’ll be paying quite a lot for a relatively simple and short card game.




A light war game release from last year by Martin Wallace covering the Battle of Gettysburg. Command blocks are placed on the board where you can then place orders to move your pieces into battle. The blocks identify the maximum number of orders that can be placed in an area and is unknown by your opponent. We didn’t play a full game but enjoyed it nonetheless. Should be able to complete the full 3 day battle in about 3 hours.


An 18XX game has become a regular staple. This year, Chris and I played 18AL with Mark Hamzy. We played 18AL a couple of years ago at BGG.con. This year, Chris was nearly bankrupted when he suddenly faced the need to buy a train midway through the game. It was a race to the finish though as Mark’s higher cash routes edged out my better performing stocks by a margin of less than $400.


Another tradition after playing a web/video conference game at BGG.con with Yehuda Berlinger a few years ago when he was unable to attend. Agricola continues to be enjoyable several years after its release. It takes no more than two hours to play with four players who are familiar with the game.

A Game of Thrones: The Card Game


A few years ago, Fantasy Flight moved away from trading/collectible card games and introduced their living card game format. Instead of starter decks and booster packs, they release a base game and expansions. You can buy the perfectly playable base set and have a lot of fun with it. If you like the deck construction aspect, you can buy expansion packs and know exactly what cards will be in the pack. It’s a nice compromise. AGoT is especially good with 3 or 4 players.


D&D: The Legend of Drizzt


The latest release in the D&D board game series. I have the first in the series. Chris and I were both interested in trying this one out since we’ve read many of Salvatore’s novels about Drizzt, the main character in this release. Nothing new or different to report other than the characters and monsters are a little more powerful than the earlier Castle of Ravenloft release. It’s still a fun, 60-90 minute dungeon crawl/adventure.


The mechanic from the card game, Lost Cities, in a board game. I don’t need to own a copy but I enjoy playing.