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BGG.CON 2013: What More Could a Gamer Want?

Mary Prasad
United States
North Carolina
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BGG.CON took place November 20-24, 2013 at the Hyatt Regency DFW Airport in Dallas, Texas. The location is super convenient as you could actually walk from the terminal, but the free shuttle takes only a couple minutes. It's a wonderful hotel, with nice rooms and friendly service. The rooms must be pretty well sound-proofed because you don't hear the jets taking off.

For some, this year's trip was cut a bit short due to an ice storm making its way into Dallas. I, like many others, opted for an earlier flight. Sadly this meant I couldn't say goodbye to many of my friends or get in one last game (not sure which hurt the most).

Early-bird registration was $85; regular registration was $110 after May 31, 2013. The convention does sell out, so if you would like to attend in 2014, be sure to register as early as possible. (Note: No one under 12 is permitted; children under 18 must be escorted by an adult.) If you flew American Airlines, you could have used a promo code for a 5% discount, which was posted on the BGG.CON webpage. (I wish I had known this BEFORE booking my flight!) Also posted was a discount for Budget car rental.

Attendance for 2013 topped 2,300; last year's attendance was just under 2,000. Even with this many people, tables were fairly easy to find – although you may have had to wonder down to the smaller rooms reserved for the con. Many of these were quieter, although some were designated for louder games such as party games or Werewolf. Attendees came from 46 states and 19 countries! The only states not represented were West Virginia, Wyoming, South Dakota, and Alaska. I know some gamers from West Virginia – they even run the gaming convention CharCon. Charlie Davis is one of the organizers and was at this year's BGG.CON, but he moved out-of-state, so he no longer represents WV. Where are your buds, Charlie? Bunch of slackers. There was quite a large number of newbies, maybe 25% or more.

NOTE: A big thank you to Jeff Anderson for providing statistics and some of the other information included in this article.


This is probably my least favorite "feature" of the convention: having to wear a wristband throughout the whole thing (and the same one at that, which means sleeping and showering with it on). I've even scraped myself with it (sharp-ish edges). You certainly won't catch me doing what this guy did. Be sure to scroll down to see the altered sock photo.


Once again Rio Grande Games sponsored free shuttle service to nearby restaurants and shopping throughout the convention. Unfortunately Hard 8 and Babe's were not on the routes, but they were on friends' "to eat" lists. It was the first time for me at both of these restaurants. I think trips to them will need to be annual events though. To get to Hard 8, twelve of us rented two SUV taxies and split the tabs. It was rather pricey at about $17 each, but I was glad to have experienced Hard 8! Seems we'll have to either rent a car next year or find new friends (with cars).

Waiting in line at the Hard 8: Mark Kaufmann (DoW), Madison Sites (DoW), Zev Shlasinger (Z-Man), Peter Hawes (designer), Stefen Brunell (Asmodee), Ravindra Prasad, some guy, Ted and Toni Alspach (Bézier Games), others

A note about my photography: sorry the photography in this article isn't up to my usual standards. I decided to try iPhone-ing it to play with the Pano feature. Regrettably, the images are incredibly noisy, difficult to color balance, and distorted. Also, if anyone moved during the pan, they'll look a bit like a mismatched puzzle. I'm going to just say the photos have a lot of character and bring my 35mm next year.

Hard 8 is a meat lover's paradise (although that probably could just as well be said about Texas in general). You order it by the pound, right off the grill, served in front of you. Don't go there too hungry or you may end up with many (many!) pounds of meat to bring home. I must also mention that meat slapped down on a tray lined with paper looks much smaller than on a plate, but trust me – there is more there than seems. My favorites were the jalapenos stuffed with chicken and wrapped in bacon (I believe these were the chicken poppers), followed by the ribs, the ham (surprised me too!), the jalapeno sausages, and the brisket. Yeah, that was a lot of meat – and I didn't even mention all of it (so embarrassed).

A grill full of meaty yumminess!

To get to Babe's, a friend of ours (thanks, Tom McCorry!) "volunteered" to drive (slight maneuvering involved, no violence, though — do threats count?). I highly recommend the fried chicken and the smoked chicken (best to bring friends and split – there's a lot of chicken there). I also tried the chicken tenders and chicken fried steak, both were okay but not nearly as good as the aforementioned. Dinners come with family style sides. Loved the mashed potatoes & gravy and the creamed corn.

Hotel Restaurants

The first night we tried the steak house, Mister G's, in the hotel. We were really disappointed. The worst part was that the restaurant was so cold that we had to wear our winter coats (literally cold blowing wind! I thought the door was left open). The food got cold quickly as well. There were some other issues but the manager gave us free dessert to make up for them. I heard from others later that they had better experiences than we did, including a normal temperature in the restaurant.

The larger restaurant, Jacob's Spring Grill, was pretty good. The staff really tried hard to accommodate us. We also received a 10% discount for being part of BGG.CON. The only thing that really annoyed me was that at breakfast we couldn't order off the menu; we could order only the buffet. I didn't really want a big meal for breakfast; I was just looking for a piece of toast and an egg. I ended up ordering the steel cut oatmeal from Jett's Coffee Bar (it was good) but also a sweet coffee drink that I didn't need!


Orphans and First-Timers Meet-Up

Those new to BGG.CON could meet with other first-timers at the convention on Wednesday evening. The event was hosted by Team Geek (the volunteers in the white football jerseys). They gave an overview of BGG.CON. At the end, there was a challenge to pair up, check out a game from the library, plant a "players wanted" sign on their table to find two other players, and start a game.

Open Board Gaming

The game library has over 5,000 games in it, including some of the latest releases from the Spiel convention in Germany. If you are interested, there is a full list on BGG. You use your badge to check out games; there is a bar code on the back. The game is checked out, using the barcode. It's under your name so you need to be sure to return games in a timely manner and in good condition. Games have barcodes in either white or blue. The blue bar-coded games are new to the library and are found in a different section than the white; they have a maximum check out time limit of four hours. Only one game plus expansion may be checked out per person (although you may also check out game accessories, such as poker chips, clear Plexiglas, or dice). Note: Before entering the game library, you must check your bags/backpacks or oversized purses.

Here's a list of the most checked-out games. (The number listed is the number of times it was checked out, although there may have been a problem with the counts; see the comments.)

78 Tash-Kalar: Arena of Legends
63 Bora Bora
53 Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Rise of the Runelords - Base Set
49 La Boca
44 CV
43 Relic Runners
43 Steam Park
42 Rokoko
40 Prosperity
40 Amerigo
39 Firefly: The Game
38 Tokaido


This year's guests included Alan Moon (Mr. Ticket to Ride), Eric M. Lang (co-designer of Quarriors!), and Rich Sommer, game enthusiast, and actor from Mad Men).
Rich Sommer
United States
North Hollywood
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Well, this is just silly.

From L to R: Rick Thornquist, Alan Moon, Matthew Frederick, and Tom Lehmann

Game Show

Here's a description of the game show, sponsored by USAopoly, from a post by designer Peter Sarett:

This year's game show will be Pointless, a format which debuted at BGG.CON 2010 to rave reviews and is inspired by the British game show of the same name. The content, as usual, is all-new.

In Pointless, 100 respondents have been given 100 seconds to list as many things as possible in a category. Your team must give three answers in that category that you believe were the least common. You score 1 point for every respondent that listed your answer, and you're going for the lowest score. An invalid answer (e.g. "Gandalf" for "Harry Potter Characters") scores 100. A perfect, "pointless" answer is valid but listed by no respondents, scoring your team a perfect 0.

Pointless is for teams of four players, and as with all the game shows I run, there are no turns – all teams play all the time. We're running it twice (same content each time, so only sign up once!), but slots fill up very quickly, so please be sure to get to the sign-up sheet early if you want to play.

Puzzle Hunt

This year's puzzle hunt was hosted by Dave Arnott and Aaron Weissblum. Four-person teams competed for two hours in a variety of puzzles and challenges. Sign-up was unlimited, although you had to sign up a bit ahead so that they knew how many puzzle packets to print. This event was sponsored by USAopoly and Blue Panther Games.

Flea Market

"I'm not going to buy anything; I'm just going to look." My last words to my husband before coming back with three games and a roll of (pink!) vinyl tape (for holding card decks and game boxes together). The flea market is one of my favorite events of BGG.CON. There are some awesome deals to be had and even some hard-to-find games. Near the end, the prices really come down; it's totally worth another pass! The flea market is usually held Saturday morning for one crazy, frantic hour. By the way, for those selling, sign up early – it does fill up.

Virtual Flea Market

Well over 3,600 games were listed in the virtual flea market this year! Wow!! This is a blurb from the original post describing the virtual flea market:

Here is the concept — while the BGG.CON Flea Market is great, for some of us who are traveling to the convention, carrying games to the convention that you may or may not be able to sell is a hassle at the very least, so use the "Virtual Flea Market" instead. If you have items that you'd like to sell at BGG.CON, list them here with the condition of your items, and the price or terms you'd like to sell for. With any luck, the deals will be done ahead of the convention and you can just do the physical swap in Dallas.

The type of listing, fixed price, auction, Dutch auction, etc., was left up to the seller. The swap was done during a designated hour on Thursday.

Math Trade

I noted over 1,400 games listed in this year's math trade! This is a no-ship, low risk trade. Transactions are completed in person unless otherwise arranged. One hour was reserved on Saturday for this purpose. From what I heard, this year's math trade went very smoothly.

Learning Madeira: Mo Cassidy (left), Rick Thornquist (middle), Ravindra Prasad (right)

Hot Games

Ooooh how I love the Hot Games Room! People like Rick Thornquist and Jennifer Geske patiently teach the "correct" rules to the newest game releases. This year's games included:

Caverna: the Cave Farmers
Russian Railroads
A Study in Emerald
Glass Road
Lewis & Clark
Bruxelles 1893
Machi Koro

Unfortunately, I didn't have nearly enough time to play even half of these, but I did manage to play Russian Railroads, Madeira, Glass Road, Machi Koro, and Caverna: the Cave Farmers. I played Bruxelles 1893 as a prototype at The Dice Tower Con, but didn't get to play the final version. Sigh.

Learning Glass Road: Ravindra Prasad (left), very kind woman who taught us (middle), Bay Chang (Right)


You may view the full list, comments, and a simple graph (performance throughout the con) for each game from the overview page. Here's the top ten:

Rank/Name/Number of Votes
1 Francis Drake 104
2 Amerigo 79
3 Triassic Terror 73
4 Rokoko 57
5 Caverna: the Cave Farmers 52
6 Russian Railroads 47
7 Concordia 43
8 Love Letter 41
9 Rampage 40
10 Nations 37


Each attendee received three or four games to take home, plus a couple of meeples from MeepleSource. There was a big prize drawing on Saturday night during the closing ceremonies that included stacks of games from most exhibitors, two beautiful Crokinole boards, $1,200 worth of dice from Artisan Dice, and a Queen Games Escape Experience (see below, under tournaments).

The Dice Tower Recording

On Friday, The Dice Tower held a two-hour live recording. Each guest was given two minutes to speak, although there may have been some extra time given to Aldie and Jeff from BoardGameGeek (cough, favoritism, cough). They also took some time out to banter with Rich Sommer at the top of the show and talk briefly about the Jack Vasel Memorial Fund in the middle. Notable guests included Alan Moon, Eric Lang, Tom Lehmann, Ted Alspach (more big than notable), Paul Petersen, Mike Selenker, Mike Fitzgerald, Diceychic, and Matt Leacock, among others. They also had the casts of some podcasts drop by, including Flip the Table and Plaid Hat, as well as the cast from YouTube video series, Board with Life. (Thanks to Eric Summerer for the details!)

Eric Summerer at Babe's; he just loved the wait staff's pen (maybe a little too much...)


The Spiel-a-Thon was a fun-filled board game event held to raise money for The Spiel Foundation. Prize bundles were given away. Two-player teams played for 25-30 minutes in a trivia game specifically designed for this event. Sign-up was allowed both before and during the convention (up to 24 hours prior to the event). Each person was asked to donate $15 to help The Spiel Foundation provide games to children's hospitals and senior citizen's centers. The event was held over three hours on Friday. They had 108 participants and raised $2,100! The winning team this year was podcasters Flip The Table: Flip Florey, Chris Michaud, and Matt Saunders, with celebrity guest team member Scott Alden. Sponsored by The Spiel, i.e. those meeple jacket guys, Stephen Conway and David Coleson.


ProtoZone, formerly known as Proto Alley, was where game designers could go to have attendees playtest their games and give feedback. Attendees could try out the newest up-and-coming games — or at least the hopefuls. A list of many of the games demonstrated is available on Unpub's website. This event was held all day on Friday.

Designer/Publisher Speed Dating

Ahh, a match made in Heaven — or not? Two separate times on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday evenings, eight designers and their games each sat at a table, awaiting a publisher to woo them. Every six minutes a new publisher visited the table to hear their six-minute pitch of the game. Later in the evening, designers and publishers (if interested) could play full sessions of the games at the provided tables. Signups were requested in advance.


Texas Hold'Em Tournament

This seems to be a popular event, but it doesn't really appeal to me. Note: It is open to newbies – they teach the rules if you show up 15 minutes early. The winner was John Krieg (Johnny K) from Fort Worth, TX. The runner-up was Jason Hinkley (deitied) from Irving, TX. No money was involved but prizes were awarded to the winner.

Tichu Tournament

Oh yeah, THERE WASN'T ONE! Jeff Anderson: what are you doing to me??

Playing Tichu, not in the tournament, L to R: Ravindra Prasad, Ted Alspach (my partner – it's a wonder we EVER win...), Toni Alspach

...this certainly doesn't help me

Ticket to Ride Regional Qualifier

Hosted by Days of Wonder, the Ticket to Ride tournament included a three-game preliminary round (Thursday afternoon), followed by semi-final and finals (Friday afternoon) to determine the Regional Qualifier for the North American Championship. The winner received an invitation to the North American Championship at Gen Con (plus a four-day Gen Con pass), a special Ticket to Ride championship medal, complete set (five colors) of limited edition translucent Ticket to Ride trains, and their choice of one of the Ticket to Ride Map Collection expansions. Each participant received a single set of 45 limited edition translucent trains (one color only).

Forty-eight players participated in the tournament. Response to the event was overwhelming as sign-ups lasted less than 15 minutes before all the slots were filled. The winner of the Ticket to Ride tournament was Alex Johannigman from Denver, Colorado, who took two out of three games in a very close final match from runner-up Ryan Lynn from Wichita, Kansas. Thanks to Mark Kaufmann for the preceding information and following photo.

Alan Moon (L) and Alex Johannigman (R)

Going, Going, GONE! Tournament

Hosted by Stronghold Games and Professor Scott Nicholson, the Going, Going, GONE! tournament was fast and frenzied as players tried to stay in control during the very short game play.

In Going, Going, GONE!, the new game by Scott Nicholson, players bid on five auctions carried out simultaneously over about ten seconds (which one player counts out). Players try to build sets of similar items to sell for more "money" (cubes), so they can ramp up and bid increasingly more. At the start of the tournament, Scott taught everyone the game. Players then competed in multiple rounds (some with rule variants) to attempt to reach the finals. All participants received a coupon for $5 off a purchase at the Stronghold booth at BGG.CON 2013. Prizes included copies of Stronghold Games products and a badge for next year's BGG.CON. Scott created an oversized version of the game for use at the final table. The winner was Bhavin Shah. Thanks to Stephen Buonocore for the preceding information and following video links.

At some point in the tournament, Scott recorded the "Harlem Shake", started by himself alone, then joined by the everyone in the room. Watch this crazy dance below:

Video by Scott Nicholson, "Harlem Shake"

There is a modification to the previously published version of Going, Going, GONE! due to the paddles bending over time. I thought this was amusing (near end).

Pandemic: The Cure Tournament

Pandemic: The Cure prototypes were used for six teams of five players each. Matt Leacock, the designer, taught the game and officiated the tournament. The tournament ran for two rounds, then the top two teams played in a final for a $50 gift certificate for each team member. The winning team players were Seth Jaffee, David Short, Mike Tunison, Dan Keitner, and Ryan Metzler. Everyone seemed to really enjoy playing this new take on Pandemic. Thanks to Zev Shlasinger from co-host Z-Man Games for the information provided above.

Annual Battlin' Tops Tournament

This was a two-team race between defending champions "A-Nation" versus "Players of Pain" (POP). "A-Nation" were the "good guys" in red, white, and blue costumes. POP were the "bad" guys; of course they were dressed in dark, sinister costumes. The "Chief of Pain" made it to the final round for the "Players of Pain" and was up 2-0-0-0 but was finally defeated by one of the players from "A-Nation" for the win. Thanks to Stephen Buonocore for the preceding information.

A few friends of mine participated and were a bit too enthusiastic about it. One even asked me about joining them next year. (They had me until they mentioned the costumes.) The event was held late Friday night (past my bedtime really) in the convention lobby and was hosted by Chad Krizan (BGG Advertising Manager) and Matthew Monin (BGG Community Manager). Sponsored by Looney Labs.

Amerigo Tournament

The Amerigo tournament was hosted by Queen Games. The highest scoring player won a copy of the game and all four mini-Expansions (Queenies). Second- and third-highest score won a copy of Amerigo.

The Escape Experience

This event was hosted by Queen Games. Attendees could play Escape: The Curse of the Temple to be entered into drawings, including one for the big (GIANT!) prize: a trip to Essen with airfare, hotel, and free entry to the Spiel convention. The winner of the trip was announced Saturday night at the Closing Ceremonies. It was won by a first-time BGG.CON attendee! Other lucky players won Escape packages that included Escape: The Curse of the Temple, Escape: Illusions, and Escape: Quest.

Closing ceremonies, my pano around the room


Days of Wonder

Ticket to Ride Nederland made its North American debut at BGG.CON. From DoW:

The fourth in the series of Ticket to Ride Map Collection expansions is set in the Netherlands low-country - a region filled with hundreds of canals and rivers, and just as many bridges that cross them. Along with the new map, this expansion introduces bridge tolls. Double-routes now have a cost, which players must pay for with Bridge Toll Tokens. When taking the first route of a Double-route the player pays tokens directly to the bank; but when a second route is claimed, the tokens due are paid to the player who claimed the first route instead. Players score bonus points based on the total value of Bridge Toll Tokens they still own at game's end...

Ticket to Ride Nederland includes a single-sided map; 44 Destination Tickets; new Bridge Toll Tokens and multi-lingual rules booklet. Designed for 2 to 5 players, ages 8+, this expansion requires train cards and trains from either Ticket to Ride® or Ticket to Ride Europe.

Box art

Game components

Days of Wonder also debuted these beautiful four Small World figures - Skeleton, Spiderine, Wizard, and Amazon:

Small World figures

Eagle Games

Rococo, released at Spiel 2013, was running almost continuously near the Hot Games area throughout the convention. Most of the time an expert, Ralph Anderson, was available to teach it. I enjoyed my first play of the game (even more so since I WON!). Rococo is a board game with some deck-building (players may purchase cards during their turn to give them more options; cards usually have more than one use), hand management, and a lot of area control. The theme is all about making dresses and coats during the reign of Louis XV with a grand ball at the end of the game for final scoring. I love the theme!

The reprint of I'm the Boss! is due to be released in January.

Gryphon Games

Roll Through the Ages: The Iron Age (IA) is expected to be released during the second quarter of 2014. It is a standalone game with similar mechanisms to Roll Through the Ages: The Bronze Age (BA) but it is a different game: different buildings, developments, monuments, and peg-board. Resources include armies and navies. According to Tom Lehmann, the designer, the difference between Roll Through the Ages: The Late Bronze Age (LBA, a more advanced game of BA) and Iron Age is that in LBA high scoring empires look fairly similar:

By contrast, high scoring IA empires often look totally different. One might have 6 ports, lots of monuments, several pricey developments, and 0 points in Tribute. Another might have 6 provinces, one large monument, just a few cheap developments, and over 50 points in Tribute. A third might be "lean and mean", with just 4 empire dice from 4 ports and 4 provinces, lots of middling developments, almost no disaster points, and about 20 points in Tribute. A fourth might have 6 ports, a large navy, no monuments (having invested population in armies), and will zip from 0 to 40+ Tribute in the final rounds. And so on.

This strategic diversity is what many players cited as their favorite aspect of IA when they tested it.

If you prefer swapping goods to buy large developments to exploring strategic diversity, then you'll probably prefer LBA over IA. If you prefer the cut and thrust of different strategies and jockeying for military power, then you'll probably prefer IA.

IA does have a short and a long game, but the IA short game is mostly just an intro game, as it tends to pit Port players trying to get their economies up and running before a Province player wins on Tribute. If you're looking for a fast die rolling game, you'll probably prefer the BA to the IA short game.

The Mediterranean expansion adds another dimension and set of trade-offs to IA. Now, do you use your population for provinces, armies, monuments, or colonies? Do you use your ships to build a Navy or to found colonies? This further increases the IA "strategy space".

The Med. expansion also gives the game a different "feel". One player at BGGCon — we played an IA short game without the expansion and then an IA long game with it — commented that this different feel is what moved IA from "play" to "buy" in his opinion (given that he already owns BA and LBA). How important the Med's central play focus and increased interaction is for you is another factor to consider, along with IA's greater strategic variety.

Stronghold Games

Going, Going, GONE!, designed by Scott Nicholson, was pre-released at both Spiel and BGG.CON. It was made available to the public at the end of November 2013. See the tournament entry above for Going, Going, GONE! for more information.

Space Sheep!, by Anthony Rubbo was pre-released at both Spiel and BGG.CON and made generally available at the end of November 2013. It is a cooperative puzzle game, with a parody theme of Star Wars. Players start with four cards in hand. During their turn they play a card then draw a card. One person is the Supreme Flock Commander (SFC) who controls the timer and wolf. The goal is to get the "shepherd class ship" (or just shepherd) and sheep both to their matching colored system. The wolf token will be on one of the systems. During the game, the timer needs to be kept going. One player will have to play the same color card as the wolf's system in order to knock over (attack) him. When the timer gets close to running out, the SFC turns over the timer and rolls an eight-sided die to determine where the wolf will go next. If the timer runs out before a player can attack the wolf, the wolf attacks instead and the players lose four cards. When the cards run out, the players lose the game.

For replayability and increased difficulty the game was made to scale up in the number of systems (4-8). There is also variability in instruction tiles (one set for each system). These tiles are actions that allow players to move the pieces about the board according to the instructions on them. There is also an advanced play variant that allows for player roles.

Z-Man Games

Z-Man's hot Spiel 2013 game releases included Bruxelles 1893, Tash-Kalar, Glass Road, and one of my new favorites, Russian Railroads.

Blueprints box

In Blueprints, players try to earn the most victory points (VP) by building structures of dice over three rounds. Players start each round with a blueprint card. At the beginning of each round, dice are rolled and made available as a central pool. The dice represent building materials, wood (orange), stone (black), glass (clear), and recycled material (green). Players take turns choosing dice from the pool and placing them on their blueprint cards. Players may alternatively choose to build their own designs. A completed design will earn the player 6 bonus points. At the end of a round, players score their building materials depending on their type. For example, glass will score the top facing pips as points and stone will score based on its height (position) in the structure. The player with the most points is awarded the 1st place prize (3 VP), the next most is awarded 2nd place (2 VP), followed by 3rd place (1 VP). The player with the least points will always score zero, thus the number of prizes awarded is dependent on the number of players (e.g. in a 3 player game, only 1st and 2nd place prizes will be awarded).

Players also score for design patterns, 2 VP each. There are four available, including a straight (having each die face value in their building) and a skyscraper (having a building of height 5 or more).

A sample of cards

Carcassonne: South Seas, the first in the "Carcassonne Around the World" series, is a new twist on the classic. Players place meeples on tiles to collect bananas, shells, and fish, then sell these goods to traders via ships (drawn tiles) in exchange for points. Since points are printed on each ship, a scoreboard is no longer necessary. Yay!

Czech Games Edition

CGE was showing the Rubik's Futuro Cube in its booth. It enhances games designed by CGE, e.g., it generates missions for Space Alert. They also had several digital devices running the pre-release of Galaxy Trucker and the developer version of Through the Ages.

Mayfair Games

Asgard's Chosen can be a one-player solo game, two-player co-op, or a 2-4 player conflict game. It was released about two months ago. Asgard's Chosen is a deck-building, conflict game set in the early years of the Vikings. Players build armies, take over territory, and use special powers in their quest to appease gods (cards). What is unique about this game is that players start by constructing their decks, then they will deconstruct them later in the game to score victory points. Each god card gives a player a particular power; this is more necessary at the beginning of the game but less so as the game progresses. Players give up resources to appease the gods, allowing them to score. The game ends when a certain number of gods have been appeased; the winner is the player who appeased the most gods.

The Witches: A Discworld Game is Martin Wallace's game set in the Discworld universe conceived by author Terry Pratchett. It is a light card and dice driven adventure game. Players are fledgling witches who must build up their characters by solving "problems" such as healing a sick pig, mending a broken limb, or curing someone of death. Players gain points for solving these problems. The object of the game is to have the most points at the end. Movement is done with actions, although there are cards that let you teleport. In the competitive game, there is a co-op element – not to let the crises get out of control or every one will lose – but there is only one winner of the game. The game also may be played as a coop or solo.

The expansion maps for Star Trek CatanStar Trek Catan: Federation Space — were released before Spiel in Essen. The designers used the background from Star Trek to create this expansion, i.e. the "Explored Galaxy" map seen in Kirk's quarters itself. These two maps allow players to settle the famous worlds of Federation "known" space using pieces from the base game. Players gain victory points by building to locations. They can also establish trading posts (harbors in Catan) by building. Trading posts are not limited to the edges of the board; they are scattered throughout. Although there is competition, this game is more about exploration, as you would expect in a Star Trek game.

Mad City is due to be released in the first quarter of 2014 as part of Mayfair's FunFair line of family games. It is a real-time competitive tile-laying game with one-minute rounds. Everyone has nine tiles, each with some mixed of territories: residential, industrial, and urban. Tiles might also have parks and lakes on them. Roads divide many of the tiles. Each player must arrange their tiles in a 3x3 grid to try to get the best score by wisely using the territories and number of elements in them. During the first part of the game, players may grab a scoring marker if they finish their grid and it is still available. The scoring marker gives that player extra points their parks and lakes. One player will also score for the longest road.

Villainy by Nicholas Trahan is planned to be released Q22014. It is a 2-4 player, 120-minute card-driven game. Players are up-and-coming villains who are given tasks to complete. They choose cards with evil deeds and henchmen (via Ticket to Ride-style card drafting) and get involved in fights. Evil deeds are fairly tongue-in-cheek, such as spray painting their name on city hall or putting a kitten in a tree. They evolve into more serious deeds though the game, e.g., stealing caffeine from the world's coffee supply. Characters build up attributes, gain weapons, and gather henchmen. They also have alter egos with "day jobs" to help support their evil misdoings. Players start with Evil Plan number 1, progress to Evil Plan number two (draw 2, choose 1), then finally must accomplish the Magnum Opus (card) to win as hero Fantastiman tries to foil their evil plans.

Hot Tin Roof, by Leo Colovini, is planned to be released Q2 2014. It's for 2-4 players and playable in 60 minutes. The game board has action spaces (represented as dumpsters) as follows: 3 cat placement tiles, 1 catwalk (bridge), 1 shelter. Each player has their own colored cats as well as tokens for catwalks and shelters. At the start of a turn, a player will put 5 sardine tokens (i.e. cat money) out on the dumpsters, one on each, then will choose a dumpster and take the associated action. The longer a dumpster is unused, the more sardines will accumulate. The idea is to get your cat couple to meet at a deck to gain a big fish (worth ten points). During the game, players place catwalks for cats to move as well as shelters on decks (to claim ownership – cats may meet at decks without shelters). When you use another player’s catwalk or shelter, you pay that player in sardines. Once a certain number of big fish are claimed, the game ends. Sardines and big fish are totaled; the winner is the player with the most points.

Bedpans and Broomsticks, by Fredrick Moyerson, has a planned release in Q2 2014. It is a game for 2-5 players, 60 to 90 minutes. Bedpans and Broomsticks is an asymmetrical semi-cooperative game that takes place in a two-story old folks' home. One player represents the staff (e.g. nurses); the other players are the old folks trying to escape the home. The old folks will start in a particular room on the second floor of the house, and they must explore their way out. If they encounter a nurse or doctor, that character will come into play. It takes two nurses or one doctor to catch one old folk. If the staff player catches a certain number of old folk, she wins the game. Each of the old folks has a doppelgänger decoy to throw the staff off track. Players trying to escape must first find the elevator, then the door to the outside to escape and win the game.

Due to be released Q1 2014 is the new Steam expansion double-sided board Southern Africa (3-6 p) and Poland (3-5 players with a two-player variant). Southern Africa has mining and an off-board market. Players have to do prospecting for goods; when they deliver, they have the option to buy then sell goods in the off board market for victory points. Poland has two gage tracks. Partway through the game players will be able to build outside Poland, but it requires upgraded track. Players may not deliver across two types of track so they must upgrade existing track to move goods.

Wattsalpoag Games

At its booth was the U.S. premier of Buccaneer Bones, due to be released in a few weeks. Each player starts with six ships at the top of her player mat. The player mats each have six rows of ports, sea spaces, and islands. Ships will move down their own numbered column, from their port, out to sea, and to their island. Column numbers match pips on a six-sided die. Players roll four dice on a turn and are allowed one reroll. Islands give players extra advantages, such as rolling an extra die, adding/subtracting one from a rolled die, or rerolling any number of dice once. There are two of each type of island available, thus if a player's ships are on both islands that give an extra die, the player will roll six dice instead of four. If a player rolls two of a kind, she may move one space. If a player rolls three of a kind, he may move two spaces OR if he has a ship on an island he can claim a treasure token, in which case the ship goes back to port and any advantage it had goes away. Once a player collects three treasure tokens, the game ends; the player with the most treasure wins. There is also a first mate token that allows a player who rolled poorly to use an empty island one time for its advantage. Game rules include play variants, including rules for a solo game.

Queen Games

Escape from Zombie City, designed by Kristian Amundsen Østby, is due to be released Q1 2014. It is a real-time game like the original Escape but lasting fifteen minutes instead of ten. It includes a soundtrack (DVD or mp3 download). Instead of temple tiles as in Escape, Escape from Zombie City includes parts of a city (e.g. streets and buildings). There are five custom dice, like Escape but with different symbols. Zombies spawn in certain areas and attack nearby characters. They come out with a combination of dice; different combinations produce different zombies. To win, players must get on a bus, with one player as a driver and one as a navigator. Direction is controlled by rolling dice, thus the bus may end up going in the wrong direction and even be attacked by zombies.

Amerigo, the new action point allowance game by Stefan Feld, was recently released at Spiel in Essen. Player actions are determined by putting cubes through a specialized tower, reminiscent of Wallenstein. It ended up as number two on the GeekBuzz listing.

APE Games

Island Siege is a two-player game, although two sets can be combined to play up to four. The anticipated release date is January 2014. Island Siege is a fast-playing game of fort-building and colonization in the Caribbean Sea. Players build shore-side forts to defend their colonists from attack and to score points. Forts allow you to put colonists in play, which in turn can safely build ships and buildings that provide abilities and points. Attacking allows you to chip away at your opponent's fort while gaining cubes, to be used to build forts of your own. Your goal is to score 20 coins or get all of your colonists in play.


Asmodee has a number of new releases/reprints; click on their names to see Asmodee's game information: Nations,
Expedition Northwest Passage, Dixit Origins, Skull, C3K, Eclipse Ship Pack One, Jungle Speed Safari, Prosperity. Here are the BGG links: Nations, Expedition: Northwest Passage, Dixit Origins, C3K, Eclipse Ship Pack One, Jungle Speed Safari.


Heroes of Normandie (Prototype – included here with permission; to be released by the end of 2013) MSRP $70. This is a two-player World War II game, Germans vs. Americans, with platoon level play. It is scenario-based, with a template to set up player units. Players use hidden activation tokens to determine initiative and bluff. A die is used for combat, along with action cards.

Guardians' Chronicles (Prototype – included here with permission; to be released by the end of 2013) MSRP $70. This is a superhero themed semi-cooperative miniatures game with one player posing as the archnemesis: Professor Skarov. The Skarov player will have his lair in the center of a 3x3 tile grid board (the tiles are double-sided). Each player receives a character and a certain number of cards. Characters enter the board on one of the side tiles and will advance around the outside, meeting objectives on each tile. For example, an objective might be to stop a nuke or save the president's daughter. Minions and traps will be encountered along the way. As players try to complete objectives, success (blue) or fail (red) newspaper headline cards will be placed. Players lose if there are more red than blue. To win they must defeat Professor Skarov and maintain more blue headline cards than red.

Zombie 15 (Prototype, to be released in 2014; included here with permission) MSRP $65. With a 15-minute play time, players may choose to run the 15-scenario progressive campaign. Zombie 15 is a scenario-based, cooperative game with a soundtrack and miniatures! When a zombie is heard growling, players must flip a card to reveal how many zombies come out. Players can search the board for items and weapons. Players must quickly make decisions or be overwhelmed with zombies. Shudder!

The English version of Think Again! has a planned release date of December 2013. MSRP about $20. This is a party/trivia game playable in about twenty minutes. Players take turns reading questions off cards. Once a question has been read, the player flips over the next question card, showing the back. It will be either green or red. Green is straightforward – the players need to answer the question correctly. Red is trickier – the players need to answer the questions incorrectly but the answer must remain in the same category as the correct answer. For example, if the question was "What's the capital of the U.S.?" for green the answer would be Washington DC, but for red it would have to be any CITY but Washington DC.

Columbia Games

This was Columbia Games' second BGG.CON. ITS biggest releases are Hammer of the Scots and Slapshot. There is an iOS version of Slapshot available (Barnard Enterprises Technology, LLC, version), which will be updated soon with a drop in price. It will have a multiplayer option (through Game Center) and will be a free upgrade for current owners. Napoléon: The Waterloo Campaigne, 1815, fourth edition was its first Kickstarter. Its second Kickstarter, Bobby Lee (third edition), was funded November 10, 2013, with an expected release in December 2013. It covers the American Civil War around the Virginia area from 1861 to 1865. The new edition is an upgrade with a larger map (physically), almost twice the size of the original map.

Steve Jackson Games

Chupacabra: Survive the Night (re-release) was released by SJG on November 18, 2013, MSRP $19.95. From the manufacturer:

Can you survive the night? Night falls, and the bloodsucking Chupacabra stalks its prey. Its red eyes mean doom... Divide up the 24 glow-in-the dark dice. When you roll a Chupacabra, you can take dice from your opponents – but they can do the same to you. Claim all the dice, and be the only one to survive the night!

On November 14, 2013, SJG released a Zombie Dice Brain Case (accessory for Zombie Dice) with an MSRP of $9.95. The new case is a "stylish, noisy dice cup with a screw-on lid ringed with 13 braaaaaaaiiiins". It also includes a score pad.

Ogre Designer's Edition was just released on December 6, 2013, MSRP $100.00. From the manufacturer:

The giant tank rumbles toward its target. Its guns are destroyed, its movement crippled, but only a few defenders are left. Will they stop the robot juggernaut, or will it crush the Command Post beneath its gigantic treads?

In 2085, the battlefield is deadlier than ever. Hovercraft, tanks, and infantry slug it out with tacnukes. But the most feared weapon of all needs no human guidance. It’s the giant cybernetic tank called the Ogre!

In the gigantic new Designer's Edition, five giant-sized mapboards provide the battlefields. Extra overlays let you change the maps a little...or a lot. Regular armor and infantry are represented by oversized, full-color counters for regular units...and the Ogres and buildings are huge 3-D constructible models!

The rules have been completely revised and reorganized into a rulebook, a separate scenario book, and a handy player reference sheet.


This German publisher was showing its hot title Bora Bora. Made available for the first time was expansion pack number 4 for Castles of Burgundy (which sold out at the show) and the first expansion pack for Bora Bora. Its highly anticipated game Sanssouci will be available in the U.S. around May/June 2014.


Your source for custom bits! That's the company's tagline, but also its product. Some of its items include money disks, T-shirts, cubes, and meeples – now featuring characters. Go crazy collecting Storm Troopers, Pirates, Ninja, Aliens, and many more to add to your game collection. You know you want 'em!


I'll leave you with this little anecdote. I was interviewing a publisher for this article when someone walked up. The publisher said to him something like "I'm in the middle of an interview; I'll be with you in a few minutes." To which the guy said, "I'm here to talk to Diceychic" and proceeded to tell me how he liked my Dice Tower segments! It made my whole day! Thank you, sir!
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Sat Dec 21, 2013 11:38 pm
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Illustrated Report from Gen Con 2012

Mary Prasad
United States
North Carolina
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Gen Con Indy was held at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis, Indiana, August 16-19, 2012. This marked the 45th anniversary of the nation's largest annual consumer hobby, fantasy/sci-fi, and adventure gaming convention, as well as its tenth anniversary in the city of Indianapolis. With record-breaking numbers, the convention recorded a turnstile attendance of 134,775, including more than 41,000 unique attendees. Show turnstile attendance rose more than 12% above last year's record of over 120,000. Gen Con will return to the Indianapolis Convention Center for next year's show, August 15-18, 2013.

Fun Facts: (taken from Ten Fun Facts and Figure from Gen Con Indy 2012)
• Gen Con raised more than $14,000 for the Stars Youth Foundation charity this year.
• Nearly 9,000 events were run as part of Gen Con Indy.
• Gen Con Indy hosted the first-ever World
Magic Cup with players from 71 different countries participating.
• Notable media guests of honor included Wil Wheaton, Nichelle Nichols, and Wes Bentley.
• Press attendance topped the record at over 500, including five television crews.
• There were over 300 exhibitors in the Exhibit Hall, premiering more than 45 games.
• The Gen Con Indy Facebook page topped more than 780,000 during the convention week.

Family Fun Pavilion

The Family Fun Pavilion has been running for six years. It is an area dedicated to family gaming for all ages and includes exhibits, demonstrations, activities and more. Some features: face painting, music and activities by Radio Disney, demonstrations from a list of exhibitors over the entire four days, craft events, and dress parades. Mayfair had many of its giant games in this area.

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Mon Sep 10, 2012 11:00 pm
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Origins 2011 – Part 2

Mary Prasad
United States
North Carolina
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Note: Since this report comes several months after Origins, I've updated the game information to be as current as possible. As mentioned in Part 1, the dates for Origins are changing in 2012; check the end of this article for details. (Editor's note: My apologies to Mary for not posting this report weeks ago when she submitted it. Holidays! —WEM)

Exhibit Hall

In the exhibit hall, which sold out for the second year in a row, a section was reserved for the Library, which allowed Origins' guest authors a place to interact with attendees: selling books, signing autographs, and socializing. Another space (at the top of the stairs in the Seminar Hall) was reserved as a reading room, with authors such as Timothy Zahn, Michael Stackpole, Aaron Allston, Walter Hunt, and Jean Rabe conducting readings from about 6-9 p.m.

Mayfair custom hotel key card

Mayfair Games

Mayfair really expanded its presence at Origins, with custom hotel key cards for some nearby hotels as well as custom street signs in the Exhibit hall. (You can see one in the photo below in the upper-left, but the light caught one face, so it is pretty blown out.)

Some of the beautiful custom tables for Catan games

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Sat Jan 7, 2012 6:30 am
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Origins 2011 – Part 1

Mary Prasad
United States
North Carolina
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The 36th Origins Game Fair was held in Columbus, Ohio, June 22-26, 2011. Attendance increased from 2010 by 7.8%, going from 10,669 attendees to 11,502, while the number of full show badges ($75 onsite) went from 6,444 in 2010 to 6,545 in 2011. The number of day passes went from 4,225 to 4,957. (Statistics are from the Origins Game Fair website.)

NB: For 2012 and 2013, the dates for Origins are changing to May, specifically May 30 – June 3, 2012 and May 29 – June 2, 2013. These dates land in the school year for many people, possibly causing problems for people with children, university students, and teachers. If you would like to voice a concern, be sure to fill out the 2012 Date Change Survey. Scroll down to the bottom for the survey. More on this in Origins 2011 - Part 2.


Since my 2010 Origins article went down with Boardgame News (Whoops! —WEM), I'm going to repeat a little of what was written, plus I'm sure there are some "newbies" here who may not have seen the article at all. Such a shame! It was awesome. (Insert winking, grinning smiley here.) Okay, so what are ribbons and how do they work? They are actual physical ribbons in various colors that are stuck on badges, usually along the bottom. They typically have foil lettering on the front identifying the type.

The cost of event ribbons went up, from $16 last year to $20 this year. These ribbons allow access to all events covered by the corresponding ribbon. These should not be confused by the "fun" ribbons given out or sold at the convention, or the ribbons used for participating in the Mayfair Ribbon Quest. Nor should they be confused with the ones given to Guests, Press, Educators, and any number of other special attendees. All-in-all, there are quite a lot of ribbons. I have seen kids walking around with ribbons hanging from their badges down to the floor. Likely a tripping hazard, but what do I know – I don't have kids.

Here is a list of the event type ribbons:

1. Amtgard – unlimited play in the Amtgard boffer combat area (I have no idea what that means)
2. Big Experiment – access to all Looney Labs events (except in 2012 they are adding a separate "Are You a Werewolf" ribbon)
3. Board Room – access to the Board [Game] Room (The "must have" ribbon!)
4. HOT – access to all historical miniature events
5. Mayfair – access to the Mayfair Games room, including all scheduled events and tournaments
6. Origins After Dark – access to the Origins After Dark events. Events began at 6 p.m. each evening; geared towards the 18-and-over crowd
7. Puffing Billy – access to Puffing Billy train game events and tournament qualifiers
8. War College – access to the War College seminars
9. War Room (Ending 2011) – same as the Board Room except for war games. Starting in 2012, this ribbon will be merged into the Board Room ribbon, i.e., war games will be available in the Board Room
10. Werewolf (Beginning 2012) – $10, access to Looney Labs "Are You a Werewolf" events

Board Room

Started in 2006, the Board [Game] Room continues to be very popular. CABS (Columbus Area Boardgaming Society) is the host. For 2011 it was moved to Exhibit Hall F, behind Exhibit Hall E, with access from Exhibit Hall D (the open gaming, board games, and miniatures hall). I can't say I'm enamored with the location; it's quite a hike to get back there. Good thing I brought my Skechers Shape-ups(TM). At least the added exercise helped me to wear off the overabundance of yummy food I ate while attending Origins (see the "Food" section below). It may be all hype, but I'm willing to believe.

My Skechers Shape-ups, like walking on a cloud (Photo from Skechers website)

The Board Room ribbon ($20) gives attendees access to the huge CABS library of games. This year's library contained 1,018 games. Over the course of five days, there were 1,720 checkouts: Wednesday 328, Thursday 373, Friday 449, Saturday 491, Sunday 79. A total of 479 different games were checked out.

Top fifteen breakdown:
Dominion (checked out more than twice as often as second place!)
Dominion: Prosperity
Dominion: Intrigue
• Tie between Small World and Can't Stop
• Tie between The Settlers of Catan and Carcassonne
• Tie between 7 Wonders and Alien Frontiers
• Tie between Power Grid and Tichu
Code 777
Twilight Struggle

I'm sure the only reason Tichu was not at the top was because most players bring their own decks! For comparison, the top thirteen games checked out in 2010, starting with most popular, were: Dominion, Dominion: Intrigue, Innovation, a tie between Stone Age and Carson City, a tie between Lost Cities and Power Grid Factory Manager, a tie between Power Grid and Small World, and a tie between Fresco, Race for the Galaxy, Agricola, and Founding Fathers.

Quarriors! in the Board Room, slightly over-acted

Again this year, every ribbon holder received a free game. I am not sure how many companies donated; I couldn't get a list this time. I did see the following games go by though: The Heavens of Olympus, Chicago Express expansion, Mousquetaires du Roy, Asteroyds, Black Friday, and Priests of Ra.

There was some snafu regarding the ribbons. CABS was not selling them this year, and they were available only at registration. For some reason, Origins ran out of ribbons fairly early. I'm not sure why this happened; they sold out last year so they should have been ready. Some other ribbon was substituted but I heard that there were issues with these such as the guard for the room didn't recognize them as valid and neither did the CABS people giving out the games. Hopefully next year things will run more smoothly.

Board Games Room and Origins Awards Games

The Board Games room in Exhibit Hall D (not to be confused with the Board Room, run by CABS) usually has lots of stuff going on with a large space for open gaming. Some companies run demos in there, for example, this year WizKids was showing Star Trek: Expeditions. Table Top gaming events are run in there; these are ticketed events generally run by a GM (Game Master) and listed in the Origins Event Guide. Note: You may download an Excel spread sheet of Table Top events from the Origins website. You might also find a few giant games to play as well.

In an unprecedented move, this year GAMA made available all the games to be voted upon, during Origins, for the 37th Annual Origins Awards. The games were available for checkout in the open gaming area of the Board Games room. Voting was also moved to the front of this hall. In the past the games were simply displayed in a glass showcase. Attendees still received one vote. I am not sure whether this solved one of the biggest problems, in my opinion, with voting in the past: Vendors who had a game nominated would hand out ballots in their booths in the exhibit hall and ask attendees to fill them out, voting for their game. I saw this happen successfully three times. At least this is a step in the right direction.

Rio Grande Games Room

Another ribbon was required here, but this one was FREE! Actually they ran out of ribbons but no one was turned away. Over 1,000 attendees visited the room. The Rio Grande Games room was upstairs, across from the Exhibit Hall D. It was a little tricky to find but they put banners around to direct attendees. It was very well organized, with several friendly representatives available to teach a variety of Rio Grande games. (Over 20 different games were available.) The room held about 25 to 30 tables and was open roughly between the hours of 10 a.m. and 10 p.m. Snacks were available a couple times a day. The room did fill up – there was even a line Saturday evening.

For 2012 the Rio Grande Games room will be on the first floor across from the exhibit halls so it should be easier to find. Likely it will be the former location of the Big Experiment. Looney Labs told me it would be canceling the Big Experiment in 2012 due to the date change as the publisher lost most of its student volunteers.


This year GAMA (Game Manufacturers Association) ran the auction. In the past it had been run by Troll and Toad. It was done in two parts: a silent auction and a live auction. Bidding was free, although bidders had to register for the live auction in order to participate. Sellers were charged a registration fee of $1 per item for each type of auction. The website listed a 15% commission on the sale price as well, but it is unclear whether it was on all auction items or just on the live auction items.

Unfortunately there was no consignment shop this year. This was my favorite part of the auction area. The regular auction takes too much time to sit through, so I rarely go to it. (There's no set schedule for items.) I emailed John Ward, the Executive Director for GAMA, about why it was discontinued but did not receive a reply. Hopefully he'll read this and reply in the comments. My only guess is that GAMA sees the silent auction as a replacement. If anyone participated in the silent auction, please leave a comment and let us know how it went!


One of my favorite topics: FOOD! If you aren't already acquainted with the North Market, located about a block from the convention center, it is the place to eat lunch during Origins. The second floor has seating all round the open middle, which looks down on the main floor. There are picnic tables out front. If you are lucky (or unlucky, depending), there may be live music outside.

View from the second floor of the North Market

There is also a room with a studio kitchen, called The Dispatch Kitchen, where food editor Robin Davis' weekly cooking segments are filmed for WBNS-10TV Columbus. This is also where they hold their School of Cooking Series classes.

Sadly, my favorite stop for lunch, Barry's New York Deli, has closed. It had been sold (over a year ago) and was no longer run by Barry's family. This year I ended up at Tom Vasel's favorite deli, Heil's Family Deli instead.

Heil's Family Deli – you can just barely see the owner, Alex, peeking out from above the large display case near the customer

The Reuben sandwich is huge and quite tasty, although I wish they could grill it. (It is served warm, but I don't think they have a grill.) Check out the photo below. I don't drink Mtn Dew – a friend put it there as a size reference. Another friend (Bob!) put the red bull in front; it's especially helpful I'm sure. You can see a photo of Bob playing Quarriors! earlier in the article – he's the one on the far right.

Heil's Family Deli Rueben and farm fresh deviled eggs

This year a friend helped me to "branch out" by trying the big dogs at Best of the Wurst. The hot dog was pretty darn good. I even went back later in the week for another. I also tried the pork and beef BBQ at Holy Smoke. The portions are huge. (Good thing I had someone with whom to share it!) They offer a variety of sauces, from mild to super hot.

I love love love Taste of Belgium – not only for their deliciously sweet Belgian waffles but also for their crêpes. (At rush hour it may take a while to get your crêpe since they make them up fresh.) The waffles are thick and almost as sweet as a cookie, chewy on the inside and crisp on the outside. They are best when served still warm off the griddle. You may add chocolate, strawberries and/or whipped cream toppings too! Mmmmmmmmm waffles.

Taste of Belgium waffles <wipes up drool>

If you want to be really decadent, try a scoop of ice cream from Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams on top of your Belgian waffle. My favorite is the Dark Chocolate. I took some video while walking around, both from above and on the main floor. Warning: You may want to eat something before watching.

Here's a quick tour of the North Market with a few stops at my favorite places

The Dice Tower Annual Dinner

Once again, listeners, hosts, co-hosts, and contributors of The Dice Tower podcast converged upon Max & Erma's restaurant for dinner. We pretty much take over the downstairs dining room every year. Of course I had one of my favorites, the Tortilla Soup (an excuse to eat lots of cheese in bowl; hey, there are a few veggies and some chicken thrown in). Of course we ordered the literally hot-off-the-cookie-sheet macadamia nut cookies. Um. Where's the cookie sheet? And the cookies were cold! We asked our waiter to explain and learned that someone either burned themselves on the hot cookies or the hot cookie sheet. Why do stupi… uh, certain people have to spoil things for others? Our waiter brought out replacement plate of cookies hot-off-the-cookie-sheet (minus the cookie sheet). He got a big tip.

Stay tuned for more Origins in Part Deux!
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Sun Dec 4, 2011 6:30 am
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Ludo Fact Tour: How Games Are Made

Mary Prasad
United States
North Carolina
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Editor's note: This article first ran on on Feb. 11, 2009. —WEM

Have you ever wondered how board games are made? This article will give you a glimpse into the making of many popular board games, including the products of Rio Grande Games, Kosmos, Abacusspiele, and Amigo Spiel.

After attending the Spiel game convention in Essen, Germany in October 2008, my husband Snoozefest (a.k.a. Ravindra Prasad) and I stayed in Germany to travel around. A friend of ours, Tom Hilgert, kindly arranged for us to tour Ludo Fact GmbH and Ludo Packt GmbH – those being, respectively, a game production company and a logistics firm that manages the inventory and shipping of games. The tour took place on November 7, 2008. Our tour guide, Gertrud Geiger, sales leader at Ludo Fact, did a fantastic job explaining how the factory works.

Facts, Facts and More Facts

Ludo Fact is located in Jettingen-Scheppach, Germany about 25 miles from Augsburg, a city you may remember seeing on the game board of Thurn and Taxis – a game which was likely made at Ludo Fact. Owner and President Mr. Horst Walz started the company in 1995, taking the name from Latin: Ludo from "ludere" (play) and Fact from "facere" (make). Mr. Walz wanted the name to reflect his main business, the production of game boxes and playing material.

Assembly line, boxing up the game inserts and pieces

Today Ludo Fact can produce 2,500 game boxes per hour, per assembly line, with some variability depending on the number of components in the games. This production rate results in an average of 40-50,000 units per day, and over the course of a year, the company produces somewhere in the neighborhood of ten million games and puzzles. Its busiest season is from August to February when employees often work six days a week. The company employs about 170 staff members, with 30 or so in the offices (sales, purchasing, planning, etc.) and around 140 in production. Those numbers may fluctuate depending on the season. Currently, approximately 100 publishers from roughly 20 countries put their trust in Ludo Fact, and Ludo Fact plans to increase these numbers in 2009. (Whew! I was running out of ways to say "approximately.")

Fun Fact: When a game wins the Spiel des Jahres (Germany's "Game of the Year" award), the publisher must be able to quickly produce hundreds of thousands of games. Ludo Fact has been able to meet these requirements to the satisfaction of their clients.

Ludo Fact is a full-service company, producing game boxes, game boards, puzzles, and die-cut punchboards, in addition to purchasing game components (e.g., wooden cubes, pawns, cards) from all over the world to be included in games as needed by its clients. This gives customers "one-stop" shopping convenience and the ease of one point of contact for everything from determining prices to nailing down a delivery schedule.

Once the games or puzzles have been boxed up, they are handed over to Ludo Packt, a logistics company established in 2000. The Ludo Packt warehouse can store as many as 15,000 pallets and fills about 20 trucks a day. During its peak season, the company ships at least two containers a week just to the USA; a 40 ft. (12.19 m.) container can hold about 26 pallets (6.56 ft. high/2 m.), or if filled only with game boxes (i.e. with no wooden pallets), about 40 pallets. (More on pallets later.)

Ludo Packt offers clients state-of-the-art web access from which they may generate dispatch orders, as well as view their stock availability and dispatch information. The company also provides special services such as supplying shop-floor ready displays directly to the client's retail customers or adding promotional material, display holders, and other items to their shipments for trade fairs.

Fun Fact: Rio Grande Games alone ships 30-35 containers a year with about 40 pallets in each container.

The Process

Ludo Fact receives printed paper and cardboard from outside sources. These are fed into machines specifically made for gluing and will eventually become box tops, box bottoms, game boards, puzzles, or game pieces.

Stacks of cardboard and printed papers await gluing

Large customized dies are used to cut cardboard – after it has been glued – into game pieces or puzzles.

Dies for cutting cardboard pieces

Close-up of the die used for cutting Elfengold

Some of the boards will be partially or fully punched out in order to fit into game boxes. Below you can see Ubongo boards as they come off the die-cutting machine. Of course the game boxes are not that big!

Stacks of Ubongo boards, off the die-cutting machine

Different machines are used for making boxes, depending on their size. I've included a shot of the small game box production machine with some of the cases of papers in the background. The machines for making box tops and bottoms do both the gluing and assembling so that a full box top or bottom comes out of the machine.

Small box production machine; can you spot Bohnanza, No Thanks, Rage, Hornochsen, and Hick Hack in Gackelwack?

Empty boxes are stacked until they can be assembled with game pieces, inserts, and rules. Note the workers assembling a game in the photo near the beginning of the article.

Empty boxes of Zicke Zacke Hühnerkacke, Giants, Metro and other games

Once the games have been put together, and the lids put on, they are shrink-wrapped. Here is the same game from the assembly line going into shrink. Can anyone identify the game?

Into the shrink-wrap machine!

Next the games are stacked and placed into corrugated cardboard boxes. Here's that same mystery game.

Placing games into the corrugated cardboard boxes

The corrugated boxes are in turn stacked on a pallet (the wooden base) and put into another machine that wraps them for shipping. Pallets vary in size from about 4.27 to 6.56 feet (1.3 to 2 meters) for UK and the U.S.

Pallets of boxes, ready to go out

Some pallets are loaded onto trucks while others are placed into temporary storage racks. Note the worker in the truck, near the bottom right of the photo – this will give you an idea of just how tall those racks are!

Pallets in temporary storage, waiting to be shipped

Ludo Packt will ship all sizes of boxes, even single games. You can see some of the smaller items in storage at the bottom of the racks in this next photo.

Rows of boxes and pallets in storage. Can I just have one box? As a souvenir??

I want to thank Tom Hilgert for arranging the tour, Gertrud Geiger for being our tour guide and for providing most of the information in this article, and Jay Tummelson for providing additional information when my memory failed me!

My husband Ravindra Prasad and our friend Tom Hilgert outside Ludo Fact, empty-handed...
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Sun Jul 24, 2011 6:30 am
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Highlights of BGG.Con 2010

Mary Prasad
United States
North Carolina
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Note: This report was delayed first due to the demise of Boardgame News, then due to personal issues – still, I hope you enjoy reading about my adventures at BGG.Con 2010!

2010 was the sixth year of the BoardGameGeek Convention or BGG.Con, which was held once again at the Westin Dallas Fort Worth Airport hotel, November 17-21, 2010, now five days long instead of four! Attendance was about 1100, up from the previous year's 925. This pretty much maxed out the current space. BGG.Con is set to move to the Hyatt Regency in 2012, allowing them to expand membership once again. In 2011, though, it will be held at the same hotel, the aforementioned Westin, November 16-20. Unfortunately for those of you who want a ticket for 2011 but have not yet purchased one, BGG.Con 2011 sold out in only five days! There is a waiting list for tickets.

Typically there is a long line for registration but it moves fairly quickly. Well, technically there are two lines, dividing the alphabet by last name. Check out my short video of BGG.Con registration, which although less than five minutes long, took me around ten hours to put it together (thanks to having to reinstall/upgrade iMovie and having to relearn the interface, ugh).

This year attendees were required to wear wristbands. There is a shot of one in the video above; look for Michelle Alden as the lovely model. These were not a fan favorite. Some people were able to talk registration volunteers into allowing them to attach their wristbands to their badges or lanyards but this will not be allowed in the future.

John Boone posted this humorous photo on BGG

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Mon Apr 25, 2011 6:30 am
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Dragon*Con 2010

Mary Prasad
United States
North Carolina
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Dragon*Con is usually held in Atlanta, Georgia, over Labor Day weekend; for 2010 that was September 3-6. They hail themselves as the "largest multi-media, popular culture convention focusing on science fiction and fantasy, gaming, comics, literature, art, music, and film in the universe." Wow, that's a big tagline – not to mention possibly offensive to certain aliens.

Memberships usually do not sell out so you may wait to register at the convention. In fact, this year the line was so incredibly long for preregistration that it might even be faster to wait (although next year may see a switch as all those who were in the prereg. line figure this out). I will say that the badges for preregistration are larger and possibly valuable (to those who collect them). On the other hand, hosting hotels sell out very quickly. If you want to book a room in a Dragon*Con block, you should sign up as soon as they open. If you do not get one in a block, you can try to reserve a room anyway. I advise that you do not tell them you are attending the convention since some hotels will not allow you to book a room if they know you are attending the convention. Yes, this actually happened to me. If you belong to an organization like AAA, you can try to get a discount that way, or just ask what specials they have running. Once in a while I get a rate that is better than the convention rate (this may involve paying ahead). You should ask about refund policies before booking.

Fun Facts: (from the Media Relations Handbook) approximate number of attendees 35,000; volunteers 1,700; guests 400; years 24; hotels 5; days 4.

Three of the many Lara Croft/Tomb Raiders at Dragon Con. Note the preregistration size badges.

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Sat Feb 5, 2011 6:30 am
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