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BGG.CON 2017 — Part 1

Mary Prasad
United States
North Carolina
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Author's Note: Sorry about the delay; I brought home some "con crud" that knocked me out for about two weeks after the con. Of course by then I was also way behind in my other jobs. Some people probably don't realize that my BGG.CON coverage takes a ton of work (a labor of love! but with some hate thrown in when I'm tired). Just editing and loading the images that go into the two parts takes me about five full days!

I'm usually behind the camera! Jeff Ridpath (L) and me (R). Debbie Ohi took the photo; Jeff is her husband

BGG.CON was held November 15-19, 2017 at the Hyatt Regency DFW Airport in Texas. This will be the location for 2018 as well, with the same number of attendees expected, but in 2019, BGG.CON will be moving to the Hyatt Regency Dallas where everything will be about 50% bigger, including the exhibit hall (which will be in one room rather than two), ballroom space, and number of hotel rooms. The hotel will handle about 5,000 attendees but BGG.CON will not max out in the first year due to extra growth issues/logistics. The new location will be closer to Love Field airport — good news for those who fly Southwest (plus a few other airlines). We've actually been flying into Love Field the last couple years since we discovered it was a lot less expensive for a direct flight, including Lyft to and from the hotel. Plus, the airport is smaller — easier and faster to get in and out.

Fun Fact: This year's theme was vikings. Some people really got into it.

Nick Medinger, COO of Funagain Games

There were about 3,000 attendees in 2017 (same as the previous year). The first attendees in line for registration had about a 45-minute wait; at approximately 10:15 a.m. the wait was down to around 25 minutes. The only change this year was the addition of a separate line for premium badge holders.

Premium Badges

For the first time BGG.CON offered premium badges. 150 premium badges were sold via a Dutch auction style system that was announced in January and held February 7, 2017. Badges started at $1,000. Each subsequent evening, the price was dropped by $50 for remaining badges. This continued until all 150 badges were sold. The floor price of $300 would have been hit on February 21, but all badges were sold by February 20, bottoming out at $350. Regular badges went on sale March 1. This was a way to get an early badge plus some other cool stuff. Once inside the event, there was no difference between premium badges and regular ones. Premium badges came with the following benefits:

• One badge to BGG.CON
• Option to purchase a “Companion Badge”
• Guaranteed room reservation at the convention hotel (you still paid for the room)
• Premium registration check-in
• One library game reserved and pre-checked-out in your name
• One complimentary convention T-shirt
• Priority when purchasing Premium Badges in future years

Premium badge holders also received a complementary copy of an upcoming summer release from Czech Games Edition. The price breakdown was as follows.

5 sold at $1,000
2 sold at $950
0 sold from $900 to $700
1 sold at $650
1 sold at $600
17 sold at $550 (leaving 124)
12 sold at $500 (leaving 112)
10 sold at $450 (leaving 102)
28 sold at $400 (leaving 74)
74 sold at $350 Sold out*

There were 129 companion badges purchased at $150.

*I added up the numbers and they were off by 1, i.e., 75 at $350… not sure where it was from so I just deducted one off the last.

One of the nice things about the board gaming industry is that many of the publishers and designers are friends. Sean Brown (L), Mr. B Games, with Coleman Charlton (M) and Morgan Dontanville (R), Catan Studio, playing a Catan Studio game in Mr. B Games' booth. See the exhibitor section for info on this new "Game of Thrones."

Free Games!

Every attendee received three door prizes, one in each category:

A - Asmodee Digital - Small World 2, Steam code
B - Mayday Games - Twist of Fate
B - TMG - Bomb Squad Academy
B - TMG - Bottlecap Vikings
B - BGG Store - Mars Needs Mechanics
B - Mayday Games - Nerdy Inventions
B - Mayday Games - Mini Meteor
B - Mayday Games - Mow Money
B - Decision Games - Magazine Games
C - Decision Games - Magazine Games
C - SolarFlare Games - Thrash-Car
C - TMG - Bomb Squad
C - Lock 'n Load Publishing - Warparty
C - Bezier Games - Favor of the Pharaoh
C - TMG - Steam Works
C - Passport Game Studios - HOP!
C - Stronghold Games - Among the Stars

Fun Fact: BGG.CON had some unexpected but significant media coverage this year. Jeff Anderson was up at 4 a.m. Wednesday morning to do a live interview with the local NBC station. Be sure to watch it! Jeff also did a live radio interview that afternoon with their local AM News Radio station KRLD, which you can listen to below:

A special thanks to Jeff Anderson for providing much of the information above, as well as details about tournament results, puzzle hunt, etc. I'd also like to give a big shout out to Team Geek 2017. These are the people who make the event run so smoothly. And don't they look sexy in those jerseys? Especially the two in front, woo hoo! (Hahaha)

Team Geek 2017

Geek Buzz

Every attendee is given a Geek Buzz code with their badge. The Wiki Geek Buzz page has information on how it works. Results are posted on the full leaderboard. Here are the top ten (as of December 18, 2017).

1. Azul
2. Altiplano
3. Robotech: Force of Arms
4. Photosynthesis
5. Clans of Caledonia
6. Meeple Circus
7. Rajas of the Ganges
8. Bunny Kingdom
9. Merlin
10. Majesty: For the Realm

The Hot Games Area

Hot Games

The following is a list of games that were available in the Hot Games area (otherwise known as my Christmas list):

Majesty: For the Realm
Heaven & Ale
The 7th Continent
Venus Next
Dinosaur Island
Rajas of the Ganges
Indian Summer
Pulsar 2849
Gaia Project
Clans of Caledonia
Ex Libris
Alien Artifacts

This year, many of the tables on the Hot Games side of the room had Game Toppers. From their website: "Turn your own kitchen or dining room table into a premium, portable game solution with all the features of a high end gaming table at a fraction of the cost."

Snooze Fest (a.k.a. my husband) waiting to play Gaia Project on a Game Topper in the Hot Games Area

Game Library

The BGG.CON Game Library contains 6,383 games. The full collection is listed here. This year there were 15,908 checkouts (up from 11,815 in 2016) of 2,464 unique titles.

Photo of the entire library, posted by Scott Alden

Here is a spreadsheet of the BGG.CON 2017 releases. Below are the top ten games checked out, preceded by number of checkouts. You may also peruse the full list if so desired. (Information posted by Scott Alden.)

127 Merlin
125 NMBR 9
105 Meeple Circus
89 Queendomino
80 Istanbul: Das Würfelspiel
78 Dragon Castle
75 Montana
74 Photosynthesis
71 The Thing: Infection at Outpost 31
70 Codenames Duet


This year I didn't get out of the hotel much for meals. However, I did manage a trip to Babe's Chicken Dinner House and Shake Shack, the Dallas Uptown location. Both trips were thanks to the DiLorenzo brothers, (R&R Games), who kindly drove my husband Snoozefest and me around, as well as a few others.

Nom, nom, nom...chicken!

We went to the Babe's in Arlington this time. It was much less busy than the other location I've been to (original? they all look quite a lot alike and I never drive). The fried chicken tenders are my favorite — very light and crispy, although the regular fried chicken is pretty awesome, too. It is a family style restaurant. The fixins are also very tasty. They include buttermilk biscuits (especially good with honey), a simple but delicious salad of iceberg lettuce and dressing, green beans (strange wide flat type but yummy — I think they are Italian green beans), sweet corn, mashed potatoes, and cream gravy. I'm sure there are hardly any calories in the meal. Besides you'll wear them off with all the board gaming anyway. After dinner I was too stuffed to eat dessert, but I highly recommend the banana pudding, which I had last year and really enjoyed.

Dan DiLorenzo (L), R&R Games, and Rick Schrand (R), Vile Genius Games/Flying Lemur Games. You must admit, these two look like trouble...

Fun Fact: Dan and Frank DiLorenzo are not exactly shy or quiet, and usually take any opportunity to embarrass either each other or anyone within range. On this trip to Babe's they had a brand new victim: Alex Flagg, Crafty Games, and I must say it was pretty entertaining — for the rest of us anyway. I innocently invited him and Kevin Wilson, game designer, to join us for dinner. Mind you, this is Alex's first acquaintance with the DiLorenzo brothers. Near the end of the meal the waitress had Alex stand up, don a chicken hat and beak, and flap his "wings". Alex: "Dan just very sneakily told them [the wait staff] it was my birthday. It was not, and he wouldn't have known since we had known each other for maybe a half hour. The other detail I recall is that he told the waitress I was 34, and she thought I was 28 (I'm 40). Either way I was very flattered and proud to wear the manky chicken hat and paper-cone beak."

Alex Flagg, Crafty Games, who is one really good sport!

I discovered Shake Shack during a recent trip to Washington DC and fell in love. They have delicious burgers, fries, and concretes (frozen custard!). Each location has a few exclusive specialty items available only at that particular location, usually burgers, shakes, and concretes. I was so delighted when I found out that they have one in Dallas. I split two different burgers with Frank DiLorenzo: the Link burger (a specialty cheeseburger topped with griddled Pecan Lodge jalapeño cheese sausage link, pickles, and ShackSauce) and my current favorite: the SmokeShack burger (cheeseburger with all-natural smoked Niman Ranch bacon, chopped cherry pepper, and ShackSauce). The Link burger was not bad, but the SmokeShack was excellent.

We also split some crinkle cut bacon cheese fries (yum!). For dessert I had their exclusive concrete made as a sundae (i.e., I asked for the toppings on the side, not mixed in). It had vanilla frozen custard, salted caramel, toffee, and pecans. I also had a bite of another of their exclusive concretes, made with chocolate frozen custard, toffee, chocolate sprinkles, and one or two other chocolate items — very decadent. I tried to link the location specific menu but couldn't find it. For some reason they are constantly changing their website. (It's not the easiest to navigate either.)

After our Shake Shack stop, we went to Daiso, a Japanese "dollar store" where most things are $1.50, although some items are $2 to $5. Most of the stores are on the west coast, in California and Washington. I was so excited to discover a couple of locations in the Dallas area. They have awesome but cheap office/art supplies like super cute sticky notes, pens with a light on the tip, paint brushes (5 for $1.50! not the best quality but great for stuff like masking fluid, which tends to ruin brushes), calligraphy inks/brushes, binder pouches, watercolor paints, paint pens, and much more.

Art/Office Supplies from Daiso

For the rest of my meals, I went to the hotel restaurant, Jacob's Spring Grille, or Jett's Coffee Bar, both of which are off the lobby. Jacob's Spring Grille offers a breakfast, lunch, and dinner buffet, plus a set menu for BGG.CON. The food is discounted for the convention ($14.95 – up from last year's $12.95). It was hit or miss — some items were pretty good, others not so much. Unfortunately, the last couple years they have scaled back the buffet (not sure if this is a chain-wide thing or not). They used to be better, e.g., more offerings, better service, and you could easily do special orders, such as any style egg you wanted for breakfast.

Proto Alley

Attendees could try out prototypes at Proto Alley, sponsored by Unpub who ran this event at BGG.CON for their fourth year. The event was held over three days (Thursday – Saturday) from 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. each day. There were special guests, special games, and a few surprises (does anyone knows what the surprises were? I didn’t go to this event).

Special Guests

This year's special guests included Eric M. Lang, Jeff Cannata, and Rich Sommer. There was a guest panel Saturday afternoon where you could meet them.

Panel of Podcasters

Hosts Erik Dewey and Bill Corey, along with Stephen Buonocore and Paul Grogan, provided answers to questions that both listeners and podcasters had about broadcasting in the board gaming hobby. This year they had a panel guiding things, but strongly encouraged questions or comments from the audience. After the panel, Donald Dennis (On Board Games podcast) lead a discussion with publishers about how to make the most of their podcast appearance, how to best record tracks, and what makes an interesting guest.


The Spiel-a-thon is a fund raiser for The Spiel Foundation, a non-profit organization that donates bundles of quality board and card games to children's hospitals and senior centers. The money raised at the event helps bring fun to kids and seniors across the country.

Spiel-a-thon — lots of gaming going on!

This year's Spiel-a-thon was different from previous years. It was a three-hour event where ten or so game stations (with teachers) were set up in the one of the ballrooms. Each game was fun and quick to learn. Here is a list of this year's games:

Go Go Gelato, Tricky Trunks, Flying Kiwis, Panic Mansion – published by Blue Orange Games
Oh No, My Bacon is Flying Away – published by HABA, USA
Strike – published by Ravensburger
Finger Twist, Speed Cups – published by AMIGO
Cudaki – published by Mindware
Meeple Circus – published by Matagot
Boom Blast Stix – published by Moose
Fold-it – published by Happy Baobab
Looping Louie – published by Hasbro

To participate in the Spiel-a-thon, players received a punch card from the cashier table. No registration or sign up was needed. For each game played, players received a stamp on their punch card. When finished, they paid $3 per stamp on their card. Players could play for as long as they wanted during the event; the longer they played, the more chances they had to win free games in the regular raffles during the event.


If a player scored enough stamps, they could compete in the final round for a chance to win a stack of games. The ultimate winner of this year's Spiel-a-thon at BGG Con was Noel Strickling.

The big winner, Noel Strickling, is one happy guy!

This year's celebrity guests included:

Scott Alden (BGG)
• Brittanie Boe (The Game Wire)
Stephen Buonocore (Stronghold Games)
• Marguerite Cottrell (Maggibot on BGG and YouTuber)
Rich Sommer (actor and host of Cardboard!)

This year's finalists and celebrity guests

Check out the official Spiel-a-thon summary page for lots more photos, a list of sponsors, and more. Information provided by Stephen Conway.

Fun Fact: The Spiel-a-thon raised over $2,600 in less than three hours.

Board Game Bazaar (Formerly the Flea Market)

Stay tuned for BGG.CON 2017 Part 2 for information on the Bazaar! There might even be a slide show/movie.

One of the tables during the Board Game Bazaar set-up

Virtual Flea Market

The Virtual Flea Market allows people to pre-sell games before the convention so that they know which games to bring, i.e., they don't have to speculate on which games will be sold. This is especially convenient for people flying to the convention. Participants could sell their games via Fixed Price, Auction, Dutch Auction, etc. — they just needed to list them on BGG according to the instructions. Games could be delivered at the convention one evening, during an hour-and-a-half time slot, in one of the ballrooms. There was a map posted with tables organized by the sellers' BGG user names. Sterling Babcock helped organize the room, which included letters on the tables so usernames could be more easily found. Alternatively, games could be picked up by arrangement between seller and buyer.

For those picking up games at the ballroom, one recommendation for buyers was to bring one envelope for each seller they were buying from. Each envelope would be marked on the outside with the seller's user name plus the items being purchased, with the inside containing exact change.

There was a request list available online before the convention, just to encourage sellers. There was also an option to ship games to the hotel (with extra costs involved, of course). Sales went through BGG Marketplace. Anyone participating in the Math Trade (see information below) were asked to list those games after its completion so as to not list a game in the VFM that would be traded away. This is only good etiquette.

Fun Fact: There were 226 participants with 3,079 games listed this year in the Virtual Flea Market. According to Sterling Babcock about 2270 games were sold. (It's difficult to get an exact count for various reasons.)

Math Trade

This was the 10th year of the BGG.CON math trade (or possibly the 11th — there seems to be some confusion here). There is a bit of a process to a math trade, which might be daunting to new people, but there are a lot of resources available, as well as people to help answer questions. In addition to the actual list of offers (i.e., games to be traded, and a virtual store front!), there was a request list for games people were interested in (basically a wish list!). If you would like to participate next year, look for the math trade announcement on BGG near the beginning of October. The deadline for game offers is usually the end of October. Want lists are then due the first week of November, with the results following on its heels. Trades are completed one evening at BGG.CON, in a specific ballroom.

Math trades pose no risk since traders get to decide their preferred games in the trade – at worst they will keep the game they started with. This year there were 61 users with at least one trade, 1,079 games listed for trade, and 225 games traded (leaving 854 untraded). The results included an alphabetized list of untraded games. There were a lot of duplicates — which might explain why a number didn't trade. For example, there were five copies of the Pathfinder game that was one of BGG.CON 2016's door prizes; it's not surprising that none were traded. You can check out the full list of results, you just have to enter your BGG username to log in (they will send you a link). Organized by Mischa D. Krilov.

Two Rooms and a Boom

Two Rooms and a Boom is a social deduction game/hidden role party game. It was held most nights of the convention around 10:00 p.m. in the foyer area around the Lower Level elevators. The publisher, Tuesday Knight Games, joined the fun by bringing along expansions plus other games for people to try.



Tichu is defined as the most awesome partnership climbing card game in existence (although there's a possibility I’m prejudiced). This year's tournament had 24 teams (48 participants). The winner was Team Crumblezzz (Melissa Johnson & Shari Stidam). They each won a badge and a guaranteed hotel room reservation for BGG.CON 2018. The runners-up were The Blanks ([]Aaron Fuegi[/user] & Richard Irving) who each won a badge for BGG.CON 2018. The event was hosted by Jeff Anderson.


This year's winner was Jonner Purinton, who had his choice between two badges and a guaranteed hotel room reservation for BGG.CON 2018 or a custom set of BGG poker chips. He took the poker chips. The runner up, Pseudo Pserious, got the two badges and hotel room reservation.


Mayday Games ran a Crokinole tournament, but I haven't received their information about it yet, so hopefully in part 2!


Queen Games hosted a tournament for one of their new games, Pioneers, at their booth. The winner received a copy of the game.

In Pioneers, players attempt to populate cities shown on the game board with their pioneers. Each pioneer has a specific profession, and can be settled only in a city where their work is needed. After all pioneers riding in a coach have been deployed on the game board, the player controlling the coach earns money and victory points. Players also construct roads between cities, expanding their own network and earning money from other players who use the roads. At the end of the game, each player is rewarded with additional victory points based on the number of their pioneers in their largest network of connected roads. Pioneers usually plays in around 45 minutes.

Fun Fact: Debbie Ohi, a superstar children's book illustrator and author, loves to take photos. She took many of the Spiel-a-thon images (plus a few others) in this article. She's also an all-around great person.

Scheduled Games

Click the links below to find out more about them.
BGG.CON 2017: Wargames, Meetups, and Mules
18xx at BGG.CON 2017 (Plans)
BGG.CON 2017: Epic Games Meetups (and Mules)
BGG.CON set aside dedicated boardrooms in McCombs and Lady Bird on the Convention Level, Dennard, Kilby, Matthews on the Lobby level, and on the 11th floor rooms 1103, 1104, 1109, and 1110 for scheduling RPG's, games that could use the larger tables, and attendee events. Find more information on the Boardroom Scheduling and Attendee Scheduled pages.

Dedicated Areas

There are certain areas or rooms in the hotel/convention area that were dedicated for specific games. I really like that spaces are set aside for things like these: quiet games, wargamers HQ, scheduled games, social games (Werewolf, The Resistance, Two Rooms and a Boom, etc.), Artemis (see below for more information), and a card-playing lounge.

Other Events


Artemis returned once again. Players could sign up for half-hour sessions as captain/engineer/pilot of a starship hurtling through space where they may encounter alien races or battle other starships. For more information, including a training video and 2012 video of an experienced crew playing, see this Artemis thread.


Once again AssassinCon ran in the background at BGG.CON. This is a meta-game in which BGG.CON attendee participants are given a special ribbon to attach to their badges. Each player has a target (card). Players must find their target and have them sign their card (the target is eliminated); the player then gains their target's card as their next target. Players must report in to the Mayday Games booth periodically. The player who gained the most targets by Saturday afternoon became the Master Assassin. Advance sign-up is required to participate; this is usually done a few days before BGG.CON begins. From the information page: "Welcome to AssassinCon at BGG.CON, the time each year when all the cloaks and daggers gather to attend seminars on practical invisibility and browse the latest in ninja hoods. But the real action is in the games, sneaking silently though the shadowed corridors. Pursue as you are pursued! Eliminate your opponents! In this game, skill and strategy mean the difference between success and a truly heinous headache. Good luck! And may the best assassin win!" Sponsored by Mayday Games.

Master Assassin $100.00 gift card to Funagain Games
2nd Place $75.00 gift card to Funagain Games
3rd Place $50.00 gift card to Funagain Games
Ties broken by date and time of earliest target trophy recorded at Mayday Games

BGG.CON 2017 Ultimate Sponsors

Asmodee Digital -
Bézier Games -
Decision Games -
Lock 'n Load Publishing -
Mayday Games -
Passport Game Studios -
Stronghold Games -
Tasty Minstrel Games -

Exhibit Halls – Part 1


In one of the exhibit halls there were four booths that would change each day. Mainly, these were reserved for small independent game companies. When at BGG.CON, be sure to stop here every day to see what's new. This year's schedule included the following companies. Thursday: Neddy Games, Randover Games, Lucky Duck Games, Magic Meeple Games; Friday: 8th Kid Games, 5th Element Games, Ole Rebel Game, Grand Prix International; Saturday: Distribution Le Valet, New Comet Games, Warehouse 13: The Board Game (yeah, I'm not sure how a board game ran a booth either, but that's how it was listed), Quixotic Games.

Some of Saturday's IndieLand Booths

Bézier Games

The Palace of Mad King Ludwig was released at SPIEL '17 and will be available in stores January 2018. This is a tile-laying game in which each player builds rooms one at a time in a single gigantic palace. As rooms are completed, a moat slowly forms around the outside. When the ends of the moat connect, the palace is finished. Arrange and complete different room types, while cleverly collecting swans. The player who contributes the most to the palace wins the game. Author's note: Ted Alspach, Bézier Games Publisher, wouldn't say why you want to collect swans. When asked to elaborate he said, "They're swans, everyone wants em. Duh. Add to that the fact that there are Secret Swans in the game, and if we told everyone about them they wouldn't be secret anymore, now would they?" He wasn't being very cooperative, and I was afraid to ask anything more out of fear of being crushed under his giant foot.

Ted Alspach, Bézier Games, is BIG

Fun fact: Ted Alspach, Bézier Games: "This was originally supposed to be 'Castles of Mad King Ludwig: The Card Game' but as development took place, it clearly did not want to be a card game, and it evolved into the tile-laying game it is today."

Werebeasts is due to be released February 2018. In this game, players are bidding to collect particular werebeasts — specific werebeasts that are more valuable to them. Sneaky players may also obtain werebeasts they don't really want in hopes of throwing off their opponents so they don't get caught.

Fun fact: Ted: "Purina was not interested in providing any resources to help us promote the game [Werebeasts], even though each box comes with 80 cans of Werechow (which, as the can says, now has 90% more villager!)."

Passport Game Studios

The newest edition of Antiquity was released at SPIEL '17. This is the third printing, with an updated design of components and a new box size. For example, the pollutions chits have been replaced by clear gray disks so you can see the resource below them.

Professor Evil and the Citadel of Time released in November 2017. This is a cooperative game. Players are members of the adventurer's guild working against a game AI. The goal is to rescue four artifacts before the Professor steals four artifacts. On a player's turn, they can choose to unlock doors, disarm traps, or rescue treasures. To rescue treasures, certain traps need to be disarmed. Variable set-up makes each game different. The game difficulty is adjustable, e.g., for younger or newer players.

Fun Fact: Ryan Skinner, Marketing Manager for Passport Game Studio, won the state championships for Star Wars Destiny DDS for Idaho. His co-workers were not impressed since there probably weren't that many players in Idaho.

Stronghold Games

Space Freaks was recently released. This is a tactical combat game with a big twist. Before you start the game, you create your freak using various heads, arms, and legs (cards on a player board), each of which gives you different powers during the game. This provides much replayability. And it comes is a pink box (you can see boxes in the photos further below)!

Terraforming Mars: Venus Next will be released December 2017. This is the second expansion to Terraforming Mars; you need the base game to play it. It adds a side board for Venus, a new global parameter (the percentage of Venus that has been terraformed), a new milestone, a new award, and about 50 new project cards specific to Venus, including new corporations.

Fun Fact: Stephen Buonocore, President of Stronghold Games, was both at BGG.CON 2017 and PAX-Unplugged 2017. How can he be in two places at once you might ask? See photos.

Stephen Buonocore at BGG.CON 2017

Stephen Buonocore at PAX-Unplugged 2017

Everybody loves Stephen (even the photo bomber)... possibly a little too much?

TMG (Tasty Minstrel Games)

Harvest was released at SPIEL '17. It is a compact worker placement, farming
game. The goal is to have the biggest harvest at the end of the game. Along the way you can build buildings, plant seeds, tend crops, etc. utilizing two worker (actions) per round over five rounds. You also draft initiative cards that determine your turn order for the next round, with better bonuses for going later in the turn order. Worker spots change every round (cards). Variable player powers really differentiate how each player will play.

Pioneer Days was also released at SPIEL '17. It is a dice-drafting game reminiscent
of the old computer game Oregon Trail. There is one die more than the number of players so the die that is left after drafting determines which disaster track marker will advance. Once a disaster track marker has reached the end of a track, all players must deal with its effects. Players collect resources such as equipment, townsfolk, cattle, etc. to gain points and abilities. At the end of four rounds, the player with the most points wins.

Fun Fact: Though Pioneer Days perfectly evokes the old Oregon Trail computer game, which is a surprise to the designers, who are from Great Britain.

Lock ‘n Load Publishing

And because my life is chaos, I contacted Lock 'n Load Publishing redundantly. So you get two for the price of one! But I get the feeling that working for LnL is crazier than my life... (see "Fun Facts").

Entry one, interview at BGG.CON with Blackwell Hird, Graphic Designer and Associate Producer:

Lock 'n Load Tactical: Solo was released in September 2017. This is a standalone title that works with every standalone boxed Lock 'n Load Tactical game currently released. It lets you play the game solo.

Space Infantry: Resurgence is due to be released Q2 2018. This is the third printing. It was formerly a solo game but now has options for a player vs. player and cooperative play. The chit draw random number generator has been replaced by dice.

Fun Fact: Blackwell Hird: "Falling Stars is a role-playing game. The book was written by Paul Lell. David Heath, CEO of Lock ‘n Load Publishing, decided to turn the game into five more products, including a dungeon crawl-type game, maps, and a campaign book. The challenge was that he wanted it done and published in five days so that it would be released at Gen Con, the next convention. And his team was successful! Although they didn't get much sleep."

Entry two, contacted David Heath, CEO, because I hadn't realized I had already had information for LnL:

Lock 'n Load Tactical: Heroes of North Africa released July 2017. It is a squad-based tactical game. Players use a chit-draw initiative system to take turns moving, shooting, and rallying their units on geomorphic maps in order to achieve set scenario objectives. What distinguishes this system from other tactical systems is the ability for your units to become heroes during the course of your game.

This is the first game in the Lock 'n Load Tactical series that takes players to the Africa Campaign. Players command either the combined forces of the Axis or Allied powers. This includes the German Afrikacorps, Viche French, Italians, British, American and Free French Forces. It's the largest Lock 'n Load Tactical we've published to date, with 18 geomorphic (tiling) maps, over 300 counters, and 6 player aids.

Falling Stars Tactical Role Playing System released at Gen Con 2017. It is a role-playing game for 3-6 players that uses an unique, Opposed D10 system to drive all its mechanisms. Players and DM roll against one another rather than trying to beat a set number, meaning players always have a chance to progress. The game also features a solid tactical system for combat, using action points to perform actions, and reactions. You manage that pool to defend as well as attack on both yours AND your opponent's turn.

The Falling Stars RPG is the first RPG published by Lock 'n Load Publishing. Because of the Gen Con deadline, we literally took four straight, no-sleep days, breaking this product into four separate release items, including a boxed Beginner's Game with counters and maps, a Campaign Module, Map pack, and fully fledged Core Rulebook.

Fun Fact: David Heath: "I wanted you to know we did something not normally done. We went and printed and released 17 games at the same time on Oct 1, 2017. Ten of the games were from one series titled Lock 'n Load Tactical, three were from the Nations At War series, and the rest were all standalone games."

The Broken Token

The Broken Token makes awesome wood inserts for your favorite games (time consuming and slightly frustrating assembly required... but totally worth it!).

Three awesome inserts for three awesome games

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Mr. B Games

Aviation Tycoon, designed by my bud Ted Cheatham, is due to be released Q1 2018. This is a light economic game, comparable to Ticket to Ride. Players are investors in the aviation market. The game has a pick-up-and-deliver component to it. Cubes represent passengers and their colors correspond to the city they want to go to. For the first half of the game, players may deliver passengers one route distance (one segment). In the second half of the game, passengers can go two. Players start with shares. There are also shares on display, and a player may take one on their turn, then play one. When an airline route is used, that airline gets paid. When dividends are paid, those with shares get paid (they keep getting paid until the airline has no money left). There are also events and special player actions (each player gets dealt a power, which they use once then pass to their neighbor — once that set has made the rounds, a new set is dealt). The player with the most money at the end of the game wins.

Mr. B, a.k.a. Sean Brown, (L) showing Morgan Dontanville (R) Aviation Tycoon

Helionox: Deluxe Edition is due to be released Q1 2018. It plays from 1 to 4 players (the original Helionox game is for two players, you had to buy another copy for 3-4 players). The deluxe version includes the first expansion (which adds pick-up-and-deliver) plus two boxes of the original set. It comes with index cards to help you organize, as well as all wood bits. They added player mats and a double-sided game board (one side is better for solo, the other better for multi-player). They also clarified the rules.

Fun Fact: Sean Brown, Owner Mr. B Games: "One time, on a trip home from a convention in Utah, I ran into Flavor Flav at a TCBY stand in the airport. He was super nice, and on the same flight as me, along with the guys in Public Enemy. Nobody knew who any of them were, and they were all so gracious and kind. Flav insisted we do a selfie, which to this date is my Facebook profile pic!"

Sean Brown and Flavor Flav

Catan Studio

A Game of Thrones: Catan – Brotherhood of the Watch was released November 2017. This game has the basic workings of Catan but with the addition of elements and characters from A Game of Thrones. Players each have a character from A Game of Thrones to help them in some way. The Wall allows players to put knights upon it to help protect the kingdom from the Wildlings. Wildling raids will take out areas (similar to a robber sitting on a tile) but if too many invade, the game will end and the winner will be the player with the most knights upon the wall.

Fun Fact: It's probably a good thing Catan Studio dropped "The Settlers of" from their game names; A Game of Thrones: The Settlers of Catan – Brotherhood of the Watch is just a wee bit too long, unlike it's real name.

Catan: Legend of the Sea Robbers was released September 2017. It is an expansion to Catan: Seafarers. There are four scenarios that are intended to be played as a campaign (although any can be played in isolation). Each scenario has one or more goals that can be achieved by any player. Players may gain characters (cards) by meeting certain objectives. Those characters give minor powers. Characters stay with you through the campaign. The ultimate goal is to earn campaign points. Players earn campaign points by meeting objectives as well as through usual Catan victory points (which convert to campaign points via a chart).

Fun Fact: Morgan Dontanville, Chief Creative Officer, Catan Studio: "Catan Chocolate is the perfect gift for a family member because they will want to play it, and whoever builds their pieces gets to eat them. So no one has to know that you are just using this as an excuse to eat chocolate."

R&R Games

Rajas of the Ganges was released at SPIEL '17. It is a worker-placement game using with dice resources. The dice work as the key resources of the game: the values of the dice determine how much the workers may do at their particular locations. The objective of the game is to get the most points by balancing two tracks: wealth and fame. The game comes with pieces and rules for two advanced variants.

Fun Fact: R&R has sold over four millions copies worldwide of Time's Up!

CGE Games

Pulsar 2849 was just released. This is a dice-drafting game with space exploration and technology development. Players snake draft two dice, then take turns allocating all of their dice on their turns. Dice may be allocated to spaces to construct and activate transmitters (tiles), develop technologies that provide various effects (e.g., immediate, during game, end game scoring), move and explore, claim/purchase/activate gyrodynes, or develop personal technologies (each player has their own unique technology tree tile). There also are various ways to gain a bonus die (action). Careful planning is crucial.

Tash-Kalar: Arena of Legends – Etherweave was just released. This is an expansion for Tash-Kalar that contains a new faction, Etherweave, that introduces a time travel element. The new element allows its controller to summon combatants then pay for them later.

Fun Fact: A squirrel is featured on the cover of That's a Question, and players are squirrels in the game. Squirrels are protected in the Czech Republic. There is even a squirrel sanctuary. People may donate money to it.

Formal Ferret Games

Wordsy was released August 2017. This is a word game that, in general, rewards longer words. There is a deck of letter cards, all consonants. Each letter card is designated as common, uncommon (with a one point bonus), and rare (two point bonus). A tableau of eight cards is laid in a 2 x 4 grid (i.e., four columns). Each column is associated with a point value card (at the top). The game is played over seven rounds. Players simultaneously look at the grid of letters and try to come up with the longest word that contains as many letters as possible. The first player to get their word writes it down on the personal score sheet and flips the timer. The other players must finish writing their words down when the timer runs out. After seven rounds, each player crosses out their two lowest scoring words, then the game is scored. The player with the most points wins.

The Networks: Executives is planned to be released mid-2017. It is an expansion to The Networks. The game includes executives, which add asymmetric powers for players. The executives replace the old player boards. It also includes a variable starting set-up for each player via card drafting.

Fun Fact: Gil Hova, owner at Formal Ferret Games, spent a lot of time recording and mixing music in college. One act that he recorded and mixed played covers of the avant-garde jazz/hardcore/speed metal band Naked City. The keyboardist of that cover band went on to be musical director of the plays In the Heights and Hamilton.


Echidna Shuffle is due to be released Q2 2018. This is a family game with really great pieces. The echidnas, bugs, and delivery stumps are all made from a soft, colorful PVC plastic. It is an easy-to-learn pick-up-and-deliver game on a cloverleaf track.

Fun Fact: Kris Gould, Owner of Wattsalpoag: "Wattsalpoag's first three games all had name changes at the last minute. Claim It! was originally "Claim Jumper", but we didn't want to compete with the restaurant. Nomads of Arabia was simply Nomads, but we added "of Arabia" to distinguish it from another game called Nomads. And Fruit Fair was going to be called "Fruit Fight", but my German friends all said it wouldn't sell in Germany with the word "Fight" in the title.”

Kris Gould (R) thinking hard about his next move


Pack O Game 2 came out in August. It includes eight new games: SPY, ORC, RUM, DIG, GYM, BOO, BOX, SOW. This set includes a couple of team games. SPY can be played standing in line, e.g., while waiting to get through registration for BGG.CON.

Perplext is planning a new line of roll-and-write games under the brand name of Roland Wright, and the first two should be out by the end of 2018.

Fun Fact: SPY has technically been in development for fifteen years. It was originally planned as a full-sized card game with 28 cards. Chris Handy, President of Perplext, was able to adapt it to this pack of gum-sized format.


Empires was released at SPIEL '17. This is a negotiation game set in 18th century colonial Europe. It has a Euro side backbone with all negotiation. It's a cousin to Sidereal Confluence. Start by drafting a nation, each has a unique set-up and power. (Negotiations may begin here!) During the game, players are trying to gain the most supporters to win.

Who Should We Eat was also released at SPIEL '17. Players are survivors who have crashed on a remote island and resort to cannibalism way too quickly. It is a card game where each player is a character, who is trying to build a raft together with the other players/characters. Along the way, they need to eat, so the question is "Who should we eat?"

Fun Fact: Empires was brought to Zev Shlasinger, Director of Board Games, at BGG.CON in 2016. What drew his attention to the game was the player count and negotiation, along with the streamlining.

Gamelyn Games

Tiny Epic Quest was released August 2017. It features ITEMeeples. The game uses limited movement selection to visit temples, dungeons, and spell obelisks, as well as to slay goblins. Once movement actions have been taken (during the day), the night phase begins where dice are rolled and the actions take place. For example, to move in the temples, you need to roll torches or maps; to fight goblins, you need to roll punch symbols.

Heroes of Land, Air, & Sea is due to be released in March 2018. This is a 4X big box game (Explore, Expand, Exploit, Exterminate) that contains 80 highly detailed miniatures. It features 3D cardboard constructs. This is an asymmetrical game pitting orc against humans, elves against dwarves. Each player has a player board on which actions may be selected. Actions may be followed by other players, so the game has little down time.

Fun Fact: Nathan Hatfield, Chief Sales Officer at Gamelyn Games: "We have a Gamelyn suit of armor inside of our office."

Devir Games

Fast Food Fear was released September 2017. This is a cooperative real-time, turn-based card game in which players are communicating to trade cards, feed monsters, or flip the timer. It plays in 5-10 minutes.

Michael Strogoff was released October 2017. It is based on the Jules Verne novel of the same name and set in 18th century Russia. This is a racing game that hinges on risk management/resource management. The goal is to move down a track of 12 spaces, all representative of different parts of Russia (based on the book). On a player's turn, they may either advance or rest, i.e., get cards or energy. There is also an assassin track with an assassin meeple, which is rather like having another player. If the assassin gets to the end of its track, the game is almost finished; the further the assassin gets on its track, the more difficult it will be for a player to win, e.g., if it gets to the end, it is more likely the players will all lose.

Fun Fact: Matt Hyland, US Managing Partner: "Many in North America don't know us, but this is Devir's 30th anniversary in the comics and games industry! We started in Brazil in 1987 as distributors of indie comics in English and now have offices in nine countries, selling products in Portuguese, Spanish, Italian and English."

Ravensburger North America

The Castles of Burgundy: The Dice Game was released at BGG.CON 2017. This is a dice game version of The Castles of Burgundy board game. There are five dice, two D6, two six-sided colored dice, and one six-sided timer die. Each round, any player may roll the dice and all players use them to fill in their player sheets. There are four different pads, each with a unique map on them. The maps vary in groupings of hex areas, which are colored purple, silver, blue, orange, green, and yellow (representing monasteries, mines, rivers, cities, castles, and pastures respectively). The goal is to earn the most points by filling in the groupings. If you are first to fill in all of one color, you get the higher number of indicated points, according to the color. There is also a lower number of points for the second person to do the same. Players may get points by filling in groupings of pastures for double points. Bonus moves are available whenever you complete a grouping (only one bonus per turn) — you may earn points in this way for selling goods.

The Quest for El Dorado expansion is planned for Q3 2018. It must be used with the base game. It includes new boards and more market cards.

Fun Fact: Lunch at Ravensburger is very exciting. They line up on their long table and play head-to-head, with a game starting at one end and moving down the table. Winners are tracked; at the end of the week the winner of the week is announced to the office.


Meeple Circus was released in November 2017. This is a party game with a dexterity element. Players earn applause points by fulfilling card objectives over three rounds as well as using three levels of acrobats (blue, yellow, and red meeples). For example, the beginner meeple (blue) just needs to be on the ground to earn one point. Character and animal meeples, planks, barrels, and other wooden pieces are stacked and manipulated into positions. The winner is the player with the most applause points at the end of the game.

Okanagan: Valley of the Lakes was released at SPIEL '17. This is a tile-laying game. Players start with one tile, five goal cards (of which they choose three), and a number of structures of three different types. On a player's turn, they play a tile, then draw a tile from a display of three. Players create enclosed areas, then gain resources (tokens) which they use to meet goals to gain points. The player with the most points at the end of the game wins.

Fun Fact: Stefan Brunell, Director Communications & Marketing, Matagot: "We received a complaint about Okanagan, the person wrote he was tired of all the Asian or 'exotic' themes in board games; he proposed making more American-themed games. We still didn't answer back, still don't know if we should explain where Okanagan is or just send a map of the area."

Game Salute

Archmage is due to be released Q1 2018. Players are mages who are competing to become Archmage by collecting resources via area control on the main modular hex board. The map is initially unexplored. A player has five action points for their mage, which allows the player to move the mage, explore hexes, or attack another player's followers. As a player's mage explores the board, it may drop a follower meeple in an empty hex, which allows the player to collect resources. If the hex isn't empty, the mage will have to attack the follower in the space. Each player also has a "tower" board where apprentices battle and learn spells. Two apprentices in adjacent spaces battle be promoted to the next level, after which one is removed. There are three levels of apprentices: fundamental, advanced, and master.

Fun Fact: Tim Heerema, the designer of Archmage, is a family doctor who started designing games as a way to avoid burn out at work — creative head-clearing fun.

Farlight was released at SPIEL '17. This is a blind-bidding game in which players bid on resources, parts for their ship, missions, and scientific knowledge using five cards, 0 through 4, each turn. The goal is to win the most points through missions.

Fun Fact: The staff of Game Salute is really into Pokemon GO. In the last year they have traveled to three continents other than North America and hunted Pokemon: Australia, Asia, and Europe.

SolarFlare Games

Nightmare Forest: Alien Invasion was released July 2017. It is a cooperative card/dice game in which players are trying to clear the forest of an alien invasion before time runs out. The forest is made up of a grid of cards; the size scales for the number of players. Each player has a character card with a unique ability and a pool of dice that may grow through play. They use the dice to fight aliens or search for gear that will help them to fight the aliens. The game is set in the same universe as Nightmare Forest: Dead Run.

Robotech: Force of Arms has a planned release in June 2018. This is a two-player head-to-head card game, with RDF (Robotech Defense Forces) vs. Zentraedi. It is based on the 1980s anime Robotech Macross. The game is a combination of area control and bluffing.

Fun Fact: All of SolarFlare Games has Sofie, the dog from Madness Games & Comics, in every game or on the boxes somewhere.

Sophie (awww!) on Nightmare Forest: Alien Invasion Card

Blue Cherry Faerie

Blue Cherry Faerie sells all sorts of fun gaming paraphernalia as well as useful gaming accessories. For example, they have themed clothing (ties with dice images!), dice containers, handmade dice bags that double as dice trays, and dice towers.

Bellwether Games

Windup War was released in August 2017. This is a simultaneous action programming game of toys in combat. Each player gets a small faction pack of toys. They select the units they want for the battle. Each player programs five actions, then simultaneously reveals and resolves them one card at a time. The winner is the last army standing or the first to score three points. Players can score points by programming a "Charge" card when no other player has.

Mars Open: Tabletop Golf (L) and Windup War (R)

Mars Open: Tabletop Golf is due to be released mid-2018. This is a dexterity game utilizing uniquely folded cards that fly like disks. Players flick through a course of punchboard obstacles and the box, with the goal of flicking the card into the hole in the fewest number of flicks.

Fun fact: Dennis Hoyle, Owner: "Bellwether Games was founded with seed money won through an e-commerce entrepreneurship business plan competition at Mississippi State University."

Days of Wonder

Ticket to Ride Map Collection: Volume 6 – France & Old West recently released. This latest installment in the Map Collection series, an expansion for Ticket to Ride, includes the France Map and the Old West map. France is really specific, as routes on the board are not colored, unlike all previous existing maps. Instead, players must choose colors themselves by placing punchboard tokens on the map.

Fun Fact: The France map was actually hard to put into production as it required a map bigger than usual; the country being almost a square, it was impossible to fit on the usual rectangle format of Ticket to Ride board.

Academy Games

878 Vikings: Invasion of England was released in November 2017. This game is based on the Birth of America Series, which includes the wargame of the year 1775 Rebellion. This is the first game in the Birth of Europe Series. The next game will be based on the Crusades.

Agents of Mayhem: Pride of Babylon will be on Kickstarter at some point. This is the first game in the new division Apollo Games. It is also the first game in the Saints Row Series based on the video games. It is a 3D tactical game where your actions in the game have consequences. It may be played as a campaign or in head-to-head tournament play.

Fun Fact: Uwe Eickert, Academy Games Owner: "We handmade our first hundred games. Cutting and gluing the boxes, stamping out the counter sheets, stapling the rules, and cleaning out the glue vats afterwards!"

Indie Boards and Cards

Kokoro: Avenue of the Kodama was released at BGG.CON 2017. This is the U.S. version of the game Avenue. Each player has a dry erase board with a 6x7 grid. The grid has six shrines labeled A through F (each board is the same) as well as 0 to 4 flower and caterpillar icons in the rest of the spaces. It is roll-and-write game; one player draws one card at a time from a deck of 42 cards and announces it to all the players. Each player draws that shape in one of the grid boxes. 22 of the cards are yellow; after four yellow have been drawn, there is a scoring round. The goal is to connect as many icons on a path to a shrine as possible for scoring. The twist is that during the scoring rounds, you must get more points than you did in the previous scoring round.

Path of Light and Shadow is due to be released at the end of January 2018. This is a big box civilization, area control, and a sort of deck-building game. Players have one leader on the board who they move around trying to conquer provinces, thereby gaining troops who help increase their strength. Troops (cards) may be promoted or murdered as the leader sees fit. (This will affect their morality rating.) Players can research technologies in order to gain special abilities. Points are gained in different ways, e.g. through conquered areas, techs, and promoting troops. This is not a traditional deck-building game as players do not choose the troops they recruit.

Fun Fact: Nick Little, Director of Manufacturing and Product Development, looks a lot like Brian Posehn, comedian, actor, and writer of Deadpool. He has a photo of the the two of them together.

Everything Epic Games

Big Trouble in Little China: The Game will be released soon. This is a very thematic, licensed cooperative game with iconic replicated scenes. It has a double-sided board. The first side is based on the beginning of the movie, including familiar locations. The second side is based on the latter half of the movie, when things get more difficult and the stakes get higher. Each player is a character from the movie with asymmetric abilities and their own unique deck of cards. There are character quests based on the movie (locations, etc.). Other players may help the primary character complete their quest but the primary character must initiate the quest. The object is to defeat Lo Pan and other iconic enemies.

Rambo: The Board Game will be on Kickstarter in January 2018. This is a story-driven, campaign-based tactical cooperative game. The game may be played as a campaign or as single scenarios. Players choose their characters, including Rambo, and weapon and tactics cards. The scenario is also selected or played as dictated by their campaign. Luck is mitigated in this game.

Fun Fact: Delving into the world of art for weapons, Adrienne Ezell, Marketing Manger, has spent well over twelve hours researching time period and location appropriate weaponry for just five characters — and the game will include at least eight characters plus enemies, so she still has a long way to go. She's also worried that she may now be on an NSA watch list due to her research.

Quick Simple Fun Games

Information provided by Michael Mihealsick, Project Manager at Quick Simple Fun:

Noxford was released October 2017. "In Noxford, each player leads a syndicate in a steamwork city, competing against one another for influence over the city's wealthy districts. The game begins with two neutral districts in the center of the play area, and each turn, you play one card to the city. You may play a card from your syndicate deck, which will increase your influence over the adjacent neutral districts. You may also play your syndicate cards atop other players' syndicate cards in the city, effectively 'overwriting' them for scoring purposes. Finally, you may also play new neutral districts to the city, thereby creating new scoring opportunities. The game ends after the first player runs out of syndicate cards in his/her deck. Then, each neutral district is awarded to the player with the greatest amount of influence surrounding it. Each district you control scores one point for each of its icons, plus an additional two points for each time your leader’s 'preferred' icon appears among your scored districts. The player with the most points wins."

Muse will be released in January 2018. This is a team game for teams of two or
more. There is also a cooperative variant for 2 or 3 players. One member of the team will be the muse; the rest will be artists. The opposing team chooses a masterpiece card (from six) and an inspiration card (from two) and gives them to the muse player. Masterpiece cards each contain art, a là Dixit. The inspiration cards each contain an instruction, such as "Name a nonfictional plant or vegetable" or "Name a nonfictional animal". The muse then comes up with a clue to help the artists identify the masterpiece card and tells everyone. The opponents take back the masterpiece card and shuffle it with the rest. The artists must guess which card was selected. If they guess correctly, they get the card (one point), if not the opponents do. Play then passes to the other team and the process is repeated. The game ends immediately when one team gets five points.

Fun Fact: Michael Mihealsick, Project Manger at Quick Simple Fun: "When we first came across Celestia, our CEO found it being demo'd on a window sill at SPIEL in 2015. We sat down to play it, and signed a contract on the spot!"

Big Kid Games

Montana was recently released at SPIEL '17. Big Kids Games is bringing Montana: Heritage Edition to the U.S. as a deluxe version due to be released by Q2 2018. This is a settlement-building, worker-placement, resource-management game set in old west era Montana. The deluxe edition will include screen printed wooden components, thicker cardboard, linen finishing, and more.

Sweet Mess will be in Kickstarter in February 2018. This is a baking competition game in which the main board is made up of a tile grid of 16 round tiles, representing bowls of different ingredients. The game starts with each bowl containing one ingredient matching the bowl's type (ingredients are wooden disks, each with an ingredient sticker and coordinating paint color), except the wild bowl which starts empty. There is a display of five recipe cards, each with a list of required ingredients and a number of stars (points). Some have a timer icon, event icon, and/or kitchen tool icon. Each player has a player mat "chef card" with a pastry bench at the bottom (five spaces), a master ingredient area, and two ability lists. They also have a stove card with two spaces.

On a turn the player has four choices, one of which may be done, plus two free actions that may be performed. For example, a player might choose to pick up all ingredients from one bowl. This creates a mess, i.e. the bowl type ingredient is spread to all orthogonally adjacent bowls. A bowl can accumulate up to four ingredients before it is considered contaminated, then empties and flips. The flip sides of bowls contain differing ingredients. Once a player has accumulated the necessary ingredients to fulfill a recipe, they may take the card. It may require time to cook it. It also may give the player a kitchen tool — a one-time use bonus of some sort. The first player to 11 points wins

Fun Fact: Jason Moughon, CEO of Big Kid Games, has done some graphic design over the years, including in his own business. He designed the logo for Big Kids Games, which includes his likeness.

Whew! If you made it this far, you have my sincere thanks! I still have a lot of work to do for BGG.CON — Part 2, but I hope you will check it out once I get it together! Happy holidays and best wishes to you in the new year!
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Fri Jan 5, 2018 4:05 pm
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Early 2018 Convention Coverage from BoardGameGeek: Spielwarenmesse/NY Toy Fair/FIJ/GAMA

W. Eric Martin
United States
North Carolina
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The year 2018 is only a few hours old, but BGG has already been planning our convention coverage in the first quarter of the year.

To start, we will once again be at the Spielwarenmesse trade fair in Nürnberg, Germany in early February for three days to record a hundred or so game overview videos. I'll be joined on camera by our new Director of Media Lincoln Damerst, who has been talking with me about a funky two-camera, one-monopod set-up that I'm curious to see in action. I just need to ask questions and look pretty, though, so I'll still have the easy part of the job.

I'll hit NY Toy Fair for a day-and-a-half in mid-February 2018 to snap pics and take notes on what's being shown on the U.S. market. That trade show tends to be light on hobby games — and I'll already have seen some of them in Nürnberg from international companies like KOSMOS, Ravensburger, IELLO, and Asmodee — but I love having a chance to see what's being shown to U.S. mainstream retailers in terms of current games.

I attended the Festival International des Jeux in Cannes, France for the first time in 2017, and now we will have a booth at FIJ in late February 2018 to do a mini-version of the livestream broadcast that we already do annually at the GAMA Trade Show, Origins, Gen Con, and SPIEL. As in Nürnberg, Lincoln and I are making this trip on our own. Consider this a scouting run for future years as we have no idea how well this set-up will work at this show.

To check out the games that we'll be previewing at these shows, head to BGG's Spielwarenmesse/NY Toy Fair/FIJ 2018 Preview, which I've just published. We have only 24 titles listed in the preview right now, but since most German publishers start announcing their early 2018 line-ups in January, expect that preview to swell soon, with news from French, U.S., and other publishers to follow.

Finally in Q1 2018, BGG will once again be livestreaming game demonstrations from the GAMA Trade Show, which as of 2018 has moved to Reno, Nevada. I have no idea whether the set-up will differ significantly from what was done in Las Vegas, but we'll find out — and looking back at our GAMA 2017 playlist on YouTube, I see that we recorded 112 videos over two days, which seems like madness. Can we repeat that madness in 2018?!
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Mon Jan 1, 2018 1:05 pm
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Tokyo Game Market, Autumn 2017 — Report from Table Games in the World

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Editor's note: I missed out on Tokyo Game Market in December 2017, but Saigo — who translates game rules between Japanese and English (hire him!) and who tweets about new JP games — has translated reports about the event from Takuya Ono, who runs the Table Games in the World blog. Mr. Ono has given permission to reprint the photos from his posts, and I've linked to each post in the section title. Many thanks to Saigo for translating these reports! —WEM

Day 1 (original report in Japanese)

On December 2, the first day of the Autumn 2017 Tokyo Game Market took place at Tokyo Big Sight. Game Market was initially launched in 2000, and the 34th Game Market has expanded to a two-day show for the first time because one-day events are no longer sufficient to serve the increasing number of participants and attendees by merely expanding the size of the venue. As a result of shifting to a two-day show, the number of participating exhibitors (when compared to the Autumn 2016 Game Market) increased by 35% to 730 groups, and the number of new games released at this event increased by 35% to 466 titles (provisional figure).

From the entrance, Catan's red and Oink Game's blue colors look prominent

When the event opened at 10:00 a.m., the people who had been queuing since before 6:00 a.m. rushed in at once. The venue, which covers an area of 11,680 square meters, did not feel overcrowded, but people formed long queues in front of some booths to buy limited items and expansion sets of popular games. A reported four hundred people queued in front of the BakaFire Party booth to buy the latest expansion set for Sakura Arms. There was a line of almost two thousand people waiting before Game Market opened (according to Rael-san's report), so one in five people among them are estimated to have queued for Sakura Arms.

After the crowd rushed in at the opening, I walked around to visit each booth and check the newly-released games. The Game Market management office has gathered information on newly-released games through its questionnaire survey, but the information gathered so far is still not complete, which might affect choices in the Game Market Award selection, so I decided to visit each booth to view everything first-hand.

It took me almost all day until closing time, but eventually I managed to visit and check all the booths, except for some that left early. Quite a few people may have noticed me walking around with a laptop in one hand. It was a hard work, but it allowed me to talk with many people and also make some lucky finds, so I think it was worth it.

At this Game Market, I heard some people mention the presence of many overseas visitors and couples. Many of the people from overseas were apparently Chinese. I asked Game Market participants from China about this, and they said that such visitors probably included many people studying in Japan as well as board gamers who came all the way from China, Taiwan, etc. Many people from Western countries were also seen in the venue.

The attendance on the first day is estimated to be approximately 11,000 people. With some booths having sold out their stock for this day, I have high hopes also for the attendance on the second day.

I managed to try out two games this day.

In Laurel Crown, designed by Seiji Kanai, the players collect fighters through drafting and battle in tournaments. The fighter cards, whose ranks range from from C (lowest) to S (highest), each have a different ability. These fighter cards are lined up, and the players take them one by one.

Five tournaments then take place according to various regulations (such as battles between S-rank fighters and those between male fighters). The players send fighter cards from their hand to the battle and reveal them at the same time. The fighters' powers are determined by dice rolls combined with special powers. The players, in descending power order, gain honor points, then move on to the next tournament. In this way, the player with the most honor points wins. The fighters' powers are hugely influenced by dice rolls. I also enjoyed the occasional surprises, such as a C-rank fighter defeating an S-rank fighter. (2-4 players / 14+ / 20-40 min.)

Troika from Oink Games is a tile-flipping game to gather jewels and fuel from a planet and return to the home planet. Tiles numbered 1 to 15 are placed face down in the play area. On your turn, flip a tile and choose to take a tile (whether face-up or face-down) or return an unwanted tile to the play area. The tiles transform into a gem when you assemble a straight of three tiles and serve as fuel when you assemble a three-of- a-kind; you lose points based on the remaining tiles not used.

Each round ends when all the tiles have been flipped, and among those who have fuel, the players with more valuable jewels gain more points. After three rounds, the player with the most overall points wins. The quantity of each numbered tile is open information, so you can assess which tiles to take according to other players' acquired tiles. There are relatively many 7s that are useful for both scoring and forming the fuel, which increases the competition for them. This is a fairly light game with a clever twist. (2-5 players / 7+ / 20 min.)

The cloth game board and shiny checkers of Graffiti Gammon (from HAPPY GAMES)

Appetizing German beer cards of Willkommen, Bierfest! (from 10-Shiki Gameworks)

Raid on Taihoku (from Mizo) is a serious game from Taiwan

Wooden Domemo (from Chronos) sold as an alternative to the recently released cardboard version

In SAN_GE SHAKA (from ADGGames), place flowers on a wire netting via magnets to form patterns

Darekara Dice (from Hakonosoto) is a communicative item to determine the start player

New Board Game Party exhibited various versions of TimeBomb published in different languages

An untitled prototype by Northgame — it is pure beauty

Exhibiting various accessories, such as meeple buttons and dice trays

Vol. 2 of the manga "Bodoge de Asobuyo!!" (Come to Play Board Games!!), which appears serially on this website (TGiW) was released;
Ojisama Hige Atsume (Dandy Beard Collection), the imaginary card game that appeared in this manga, was also sold as a real card game


Day 2 (original report in Japanese)

Continuing from yesterday, here is my report on the second day of the Autumn 2017 Tokyo Game Market. The turnout is slow compared to the first day, with approximately 1,200 to 1,300 people queuing before the opening (according to the Rael-san's report). Nonetheless, there was much attendance after the opening, and it was a lively event until the end.

Who will win the Best Game of the Year?

After checking the booths exhibiting only on the second day (Sunday), I participated in the awarding ceremony for the Game Market Award. The ceremony was held at the farthest corner of the venue, but nearly eighty people gathered at the ceremony, perhaps partly due to it being the only special event held in the venue at this Game Market. The ceremony was hosted by Tetsuya Ikeda, who was assisted by Rameru Suzuno (from Spiel Yuenchi).

First, the Awards of Excellence, which had been announced on November 4, were given to the people who had produced these five games. Following that were announcements for Kids' Game of the Year, Expert Game of the Year, Special Award, and Best Game of the Year.

Game Market Award 2017
• Best Game of the Year: 8bit MockUp (from Sato Familie)
• Kids' Game of the Year: Kittys (from Little Future)
• Expert Game of the Year: The Founders of ENDE (from imagine GAMES)
• Award for Excellence: Path to Yaaru (from Fukuroudou)
• Award for Excellence: Bob Jiten (from TUKAPON)
• Special Award: - KUFU - (from ruri ruri games)

Jun Kusaba, chairman of the awards committee, hands the award certificate and shield to Tori Hasegawa, illustrator of 8bit MockUp, which won the Best Game of the Year

Toshiki Sato, who designed 8bit MockUp, could not attend the ceremony and was apparently on his way to Hokkaido. Mr. Hasegawa commented, "Neither of us can drink, but I would like to go for a drink to celebrate this with Mr. Sato and the people who helped us", to which the host Mr. Ikeda replied, "Then you can celebrate with milk or something."

Since we couldn't hear from him at Game Market, I interviewed Mr. Sato by email. I heard that, from the game design idea of using oblique lines on the tiles, Mr. Hasegawa came up with the idea of applying 8-bit game artwork, seeking a feel of video games such as Populous, Dragon Quest, and Xevious.

TGiW: Please tell us about the process of this game's creation.

Sato: After building the game system in the winter of 2016, we worked on deciding the theme and adjusting some details. Actually, I was hesitating whether to actually release such a game. Its mechanisms are similar to Carcassonne and Karuba, so I was not sure if it was worth releasing a game without much innovation. When I first talked to Mr. Hasegawa about it, he said, "How about an 8-bit game?" and that inspired me. The production of this game owes much to our desire to create an 8-bit world, regardless of it being innovative or not.

TGiW: What point did you think and work out the most?

Sato: We had its rulebook proofread and refined quite a lot. Around the time of the Autumn 2016 Tokyo Game Market, there was much discussion about doujin game rulebooks, so we worked on this game's rulebook carefully, hoping that it could be a good example.

TGiW: Please comment on receiving the award.

Sato: I am truly grateful for this fortune whereby we can create games with so many people's help. Please keep watching us as we will keep creating new games.

TGiW: What are your future plans?

Sato: We have sold out the second edition of 8bit MockUp at this Game Market, so please wait for a while before we print more copies. We are planning to release a new game at the Spring 2018 Tokyo Game Market, so please try it when it comes out.

Five people receiving the awards. Congratulations!

I met and talked with G. Benassar, the Licensing & New Business Director of Asmodee (France), at the venue. Here is my summary of his comments. He said that after encountering the board games that initially debuted at Game Market and were later introduced to Western countries — games such as Machi Koro and Love Letter — he began visiting Game Market starting in May 2017. Mr. Benassar said that at Game Market, he was impressed by the amount of passion put into the games as well as the unique graphics and fresh ideas. Hoping to extend such ideas more professionally, he said that they were considering the distribution of some titles.

In addition to its office in France, Asmodee has offices in countries such as Germany, USA, and China, and it sold 34 million copies of analog games globally in 2016. It distributes games through labels such as Fantasy Flight Games, Days of Wonder, What's Your Game?, and Pearl Games. If the games that initially debuted at Game Market were to be distributed from Asmodee, Mr. Benassar said that the game circles' names would be kept likewise as labels, so it seems that the names of more doujin circles will be known globally sooner or later.

I managed to play three games on this day.

Rattaneer from OKAZU Brand is a middleweight game with a playing time of less than one hour. From ten area tiles arranged in a row, each player chooses two tiles as their destinations, then all the players reveal their choices simultaneously. You can earn money, hire pirates, loot boats, then convert that loot to victory points according to your chosen areas. Starting from Area 1, check whether there are any empty (unconnected) area tiles. The actions stated on the areas after the empty area do not take effect. Aiming for a destination that's farther away brings you a higher risk of having your chosen action negated paired with the outside chance of monopolizing an area and gaining more reward. I enjoyed the gameplay whereby you try to lead and predict other players' actions to have their tokens placed up to your destinations. (2-5 players / 10+ / 30-45 min.)

Sly Knight Seekers from COLON ARC is a card game in which the players seek a robber by team play. Play your card to identify and take a card at an end of the hand of your opponent, who is holding their cards in ascending order. Using the cards you have exchanged with your teammate and what you have heard as clues, try to guess the whereabouts of each card by counting. It is also possible to take a chance on simultaneous investigation to take many cards at once, so you had better stay on your guard at all time. (2-5 players / 10+ / 30 min.)

The Queen of the Hansa from Yuruart is a board game in which the players, as Hanseatic traders, compete for trade supremacy. On your turn, play one card from your hand of two cards, then replenish your hand with a card from the area of the matching color. Settle accounts regularly after playing five cards. The players who have played cards with more trade goods per each color gain more points. The points gained from each area fluctuates.

Along with the set collection of important figures and competition for majority in Lubeck City (with cards being played face down and revealed at the end), this game requires thoughtful decisions despite the simple choice between two options on each turn. (2-4 players / 10+ / 30-45 min.)

Fumie no Tame ni, meaning "For Fumie", is a two-player deduction game designed by Seiji Kanai and published by One Draw that also gathered attention. I could not play it at the venue, but it is worth mentioning.

The game takes place in a world where a high school girl named Fumie met a mysterious death. The players travel back in time to a few days before her death and try to save her. Fumie no Tame ni contains a secret whereby some cards' effects are gradually revealed during the gameplay. Demoing by playing the game was not available at the venue, but it is not a game with a legacy system. You can play it to the end and play it again. I also heard that its illustration by Noboru Sugiura, who did the artwork of the initial Love Letter, also drew attention, and many of the people who bought this game were female visitors. According to Hayato Kisaragi, who runs One Draw, Fumie no Tame ni is a very unique game and the people's opinions on it would be divided. I could not play it, so instead, here is a photo of Hayato Kisaragi and Seiji Kanai.

According to Keiji Kariya, general manager of the Game Market Management Office, there were slightly more exhibitors on Saturday and the advance tickets for Saturday sold more. However, many people attended the event on Sunday with a day ticket and Mr. Kariya guesses that many of them were families who came by casually. With regard to that, opening the kids' game section on Sunday worked out well.

Among the 730 groups who participated in exhibiting, 42% of them exhibited on both days, 33% did only on Saturday, and 25% did only on Sunday. Mr. Kariya said that he had not expected that the Saturday and Sunday shows would be so well-balanced.


Attendance Figures (original post in Japanese)

The Game Market Management Office has announced that a total of 18,500 people attended the Autumn 2017 Tokyo Game Market, Japan's largest analog game event. The attendance was 10,000 on the first day and 8,500 on the second day. In total, this number was 5,500 people and 42% higher than the 13,000 attendance figure for the Spring 2017 Tokyo Game Market in May.

In recent years, the attendance at Tokyo Game Market, which is held semiannually, has increased by approximately one thousand people at each show: 5000→6500→7200→8500→9500→11000→12000→13000. At this pace, the current Game Market would have had an attendance of approximately 14,000, but even more attendance was expected by expanding to a two-day event for the first time. The attendance did not double from the previous one, but it nonetheless increased significantly.

The dispersing of attendees over two days reduced congestion and also brought some advantages, such as ease of moving in the venue and joining demo tables. On Sunday, I noticed people who had participated on the previous day as exhibitors were now visiting other booths, and I saw an aspect of this event where people can enjoy and communicate interactively as both exhibitors and visitors.

The upcoming events are the 2018 Osaka Game Market, which will be held on Sunday, April 1 at Intex Osaka; the Spring 2018 Tokyo Game Market, which will be held on Saturday, May 5 and Sunday, May 6 at Tokyo Big Sight; and the Autumn 2018 Tokyo Game Market in November, which will also be a two-day event.
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Wed Dec 13, 2017 1:00 pm
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Remember SPIEL '17? We're Still Posting Videos From That Show

W. Eric Martin
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North Carolina
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Yes, six weeks after SPIEL '17 ended, we're still posting game demonstration videos that we recorded during that convention. Our SPIEL '17 playlist on YouTube boasts more than 170 videos so far, and I still have at least sixty more to post.

In 2015 and 2016, we ended up with more than three hundred videos in each SPIEL playlist, so we probably have even more than sixty in the pipeline. I have several on my camcorder, for example, and someone else is processing all the day-long feeds that we recorded at SPIEL '17 and chopping them into individual game segments, feeding the parts to me bit by bit on our YouTube channel so that I can add thumbnails and publish them. We ran into a slight delay ahead of BGG.CON due to hard drive backup issues that made it tough to pull off files, but now we're hobbled only by the massive quantity of videos.

I'm still not sure whether this publication schedule makes more sense than dumping a few hundred videos on BGG and YouTube all at once, but in any case ideally we'll finish everything before Christmas to give us (and you) a break before we head to the Spielwarenmesse fair in Nürnberg, Germany at the end of January 2018 to start the convention cycle all over again...
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Sun Dec 10, 2017 1:00 pm
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Tokyo Game Market Preview for December 2017

W. Eric Martin
United States
North Carolina
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I've created convention previews for Tokyo Game Market since November 2015, often because I was going to the show and wanted to create a list of what I should check out, a list I would then make public in order to share my work with others. I'm not attending TGM this time, which is a shame since this is the first time that the event will be held over two days — December 2-3 — but (1) I hope to publish an overview of the event from someone who is attending and (2) I have the bare bones of a preview that I had started to create a few weeks ago, then faltered on.

Instead of wasting that work, though, I'm sharing it with you now and inviting you to check out the Game Market website, submit listings for games to the BGG database, then post a comment about those submissions here. I'll approve those games and add them to this preview, along with other games that I submit or run across myself. If nothing else, maybe we can find titles that you'd like to see in the BGG store later.

These previews I create tend to have less than 10% of the titles that will debut at TGM due to language restrictions on my part, but it's better than nothing and at a minimum a window into what's happening on what I feel is the most exciting part of the game industry. (I think I find JP games exciting mostly because I don't know what to expect. Many of the designers seem driven solely by a desire to create, without regard for whether or not something is saleable. They did the thing, and now they're presenting it to whoever might be curious enough to check out what they've done.)

In any case, here's the Tokyo Game Market • December 2017 Preview.
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Thu Nov 30, 2017 5:05 pm
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Lucca Comics & Games 2017 III: New and Nearly-New Games at the Show

W. Eric Martin
United States
North Carolina
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When I first looked around the games pavilion at the 2017 Lucca Comics & Games festival, I had flashbacks of the just finished SPIEL '17 event, the massive convention in Essen, Germany that had ended only three days before Lucca opened. Many of the new games from that earlier show were on the demo tables once again, but this time in Italian, such the Cranio Creations' title A Tale of Pirates (which I had meant to preview ahead of SPIEL '17, but didn't as I ran out of time — still embarrassed about that...):

Cranio Creations also had the Italian edition of Gaia Project on hand, even though Lucca seems more oriented toward a family audience and casual play than SPIEL, which is itself very family-oriented, albeit with a rich vein of geeks running through that mainstream crowd.

As with designer Eric M. Lang, who I had highlighted in my first report from Lucca, Photosynthesis designer Hjalmar Hach had traveled from SPIEL '17 to Italy, with the main difference between the two being that Hach is from Italy, so he had a home-turf advantage when it came to signing copies and talking with game fans.

Dungeon Digger from Tin Hat Games was a title that I had added to the SPIEL '17 Preview, then forgotten. I had thought the game was brand new at Lucca until I started looking into it. Perhaps I have reached the limit of what my brain can hold.

HABA had its standard child-friendly set-up, with more Rhino Hero: Super Battle ready for action.

While Placentia Games had sold out of Danilo Sabia's Wendake for its debut at SPIEL '17, more copies were in reserve to ensure that the game could debut at Lucca as well. Plenty of publishers operate this way, and it's understandable why they do. You want to make a splash at each show, creating fresh buzz for a game in each territory it's available, with a limited number of copies getting into the hands of buyers now in order to (ideally) drive retail sales down the line.

Along that line of thinking, copies of Ares Games' Hunt for the Ring were in short supply, while...

...the new Hamilcar game hadn't quite made it to the finish line in time for Lucca after showing up at SPIEL in multiple non-Italian languages.

While not new at SPIEL '17, Balance Duels is a SPIEL regular, with designer/publisher Bum van Willigen (in the yellow shirt) having appeared at that show year after year since he debuted the game at SPIEL in 2005. Apparently he makes the rounds to other European game shows as well.

Not everything proved to be an echo of shows past as numerous publishers featured titles that were new on the Italian market, new to me, or both. When I didn't recognize games, I snapped pics, figuring that I could investigate them later. Cranio Creations had an Italian version of Piotr Siłka's deduction game Kryptos, for example, with this game having been first released by Trefl in 2014. Into my camera you go! And now you're in the BGG database, too.

Tolomeo is a new release from designer Diego Allegrini and relatively new Italian publisher Dal Tenda. Here's a description of the game from the publisher:

In Tolomeo, players demonstrate their knowledge of astronomy to observe the sky and anticipate the planets' movement. Be careful because the speed of each planet differs in line with the Ptolemaic model, and you should consider the sun and moon as well. If you want a shot at victory, you have to spot astral conjunctions, make the best use of the comet, and take advantage of the planets' influence on each other.

Did you know that Shanna Germain's No Thank You, Evil! from Monte Cook Games is available in Italian? No? Me neither! Someone please investigate and add a version listing for this item to the database, please.

We already have Prestige and Dwarfest from Il Barone Games S.r.l. in the database, but not Stupido Umano. Another cry for action!

I was previously familiar with neither Italian publisher playagame edizioni nor Russian publisher Simple Rules, which is the originating publisher for all the kids' games being sold by playagame at Lucca 2017. This might not matter for you, but I aspire to know as much as I can about who's doing what where, partly out of self-interest but also out of curiosity to see what's happening in the industry at large.

War Titans: Invaders Must Die! from Crawling Chaos Games has been on Kickstarter twice without funding, but this title from a half-dozen Italian designers was being previewed at Lucca 2017 all the same, perhaps to gear up for Kickstarter attempt #3.

Misantropia is a design from Francesco Stefanacci and CosplaYou in which you try not to hate your fellow humans too much. From the description on BGG:

In this game, you are a modern worker with an average job, particularly unlucky. Gradually it will happen the most different things during the day (round of play) and your patience will decrease. When you finish the patience your hatred for humanity (misanthropy) will increase and you will begin to develop psychosis and phobias of all kinds. To win you must be totally sane after a fixed number of turns. This is quite difficult, so the player with less "insanity points" will win.

Apparently Misantropia Express challenges you not to hate your fellow humans too much in a shorter amount of time. All the Italian text made this a non-starter in terms of investigating further, alas.

Other new titles from CosplaYou in 2017 include Tié, a party game in which you set rules for everyone to follow, and Sushi War: All You Can Hit!, in which you try to get the right sushi ingredients in the right places to complete orders, using only chopsticks to maneuver the dice.

CosplaYou had plenty of other titles on display as well, all of them published since 2015 when they started and all of them new to me.

I thought that one more post about Lucca would be enough to cover everything, but with so many pics to publish, I'm splitting my final wrap-up into its own post and leaving you for now with a few more random pics of games available for purchase at the show.

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Thu Nov 9, 2017 1:00 pm
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Lucca Comics & Games 2017 II: Putting the Play Into Cosplay

W. Eric Martin
United States
North Carolina
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As I mentioned in my first report from the 2017 Lucca Comics & Games festival, the event attracts tons of cosplayers, many of whom circle the pedestrian walkway around the center of town posing for shot after shot by other fairgoers. The level of effort and realism varies widely from model to model, but I'm impressed and appreciative of all of them as I'm unlikely to ever attempt such an effort myself.

Here's a sampling of the cosplayers I saw during the festival, with many more pics not making the cut (like the Ghost Rider who had a great flame collar but was too small in my pics) and still more people not photographed at all, such as the one hundred Harley Quinns and fifty Jokers pacing the walkway. I'll follow this fun post with one centered on games at the show to wrap up my coverage of Lucca 2017.


Fantastic work, but what do you do when you need to use the bathroom?!

Fancy steampunk couple with bonus Roger Smith(?) on right

Carl and Ellie Fredricksen with bonus Sandy Olsson on right

Melisandre and Robb Stark(?)

A trash can with dreams of being a Dalek

Not sure how mobile this set-up was

Saw several camo guys; probably missed seeing many more

She looked giddy to pose with this guy

"Hey, how you doin'?"

"Let's-a go!"

Professional(?) Star Wars cosplayers along with a few amateurs

The TV, skateboard, and more were all part of their props

A skeleton, two Deadpools, soldiers, and some actual EMTs

Someone from Dragon Ball Z, I assume

Cosplay for the older audience

Professors Sprout and Trelawney

The only person was stopped for photos more than Paul Stanley (who was shown in my first report)

No idea who these six might be

No clue on this trio either

Zabuza and Kakashi from Naruto, and Roronoa Zoro from One Piece

Taking a picture of someone taking a picture of someone taking a picture of two jedi

The last thing you'll see at the Lucca Comics & Games festival...
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Sun Nov 5, 2017 1:00 pm
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Lucca Comics & Games 2017 I: Walking the Landscape

W. Eric Martin
United States
North Carolina
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For years, I had heard about the annual Lucca Comics & Games festival in early November, mostly from Italian publishers and designers who planned to highlight new games at that show in the wake of the SPIEL game fair in Essen, Germany. While the fair sounded fascinating, I never had a reason to attend. Come 2017, however, when SPIEL took place at its latest date ever (October 26-29), when Lucca ran November 1-5, and when my in-laws wanted to take a trip to Rome in November, and I suddenly found a reason.

The easiest way to describe Lucca to U.S. residents is to ask you to picture a state fair — those annual events in which fried food galore is sold on sticks and miniature vendor booths hustle all manner of tchotchkes that you'd never consider buying any other time of the year — spread out across an entire city, and you'll need a city to accommodate all the people who show up. Attendance is huge, with an estimated 400,000 visitors over five days in 2016!

Lucca, a city of 87,000 residents located in central Italy a half-hour train ride northeast of Pisa, has hosted this annual fair since 1966. (More specifically, the Salone Internazionale del Comics ("International Congress of Comics") started elsewhere in 1965, moved to Lucca in 1966, and changed its name to "Lucca Comics & Games" in 1996.) Central Lucca is still surrounded by the brick and dirt walls from centuries past, and this defensive rampart now serves as a pedestrian walkway: the Passeggiata delle Mura Urbane, or "Walk of the Urban Walls". You'll find most of the food vendors on this raised walkway, which is accessible by a few places around town where the walkway dips down toward the town center, along with multiple walkways in the side of the hills, some paved and some little more than patches of stones.

One of the shallowest and widest walkways (on the right)

A view over the wall to the right...

...and to the left

Looking over the wall into the central city

Fried foods aren't the main offering at Lucca, but you'll find plenty of other treats to grab and eat, whether you decide to mosey around the four-mile circumference of the walkway or sit on the wall to watch all the cosplay. Gen Con has plenty of cosplayers on hand, but Lucca easily has that show beat in terms of number of participants, ranging from the simplest (dozens of people wearing fuzzy onesies featuring unicorns, Pikachu, Jake, Mike Wazowski, etc.) to incredibly elaborate creations that barely allow them to move, whether due to their legs being largely immobilized (as with a mermaid who had her legs wrapped in a tail and a couple of minotaurs that walked on raised metallic "hoofs") or due to them being so awesome that everyone wants to take pictures of them.

I shot pics of dozens of cosplayers while circling the town, none of whom turned down my fumbling, miming efforts to show that I wanted to take a picture of them. Everyone seemed pleased to pose for pictures, and why not? They were putting on a show for thousands of attendees, street actors in a performance that began and ended with how enthusiastically they embraced the role. (I also walked halfway around the town filming passersby, cosplayers, the fair booths, and the surrounding town, but you'll have to wait until I get better wifi coverage before you can experience my shaky cam directorial efforts.)

At a certain point, it became difficult to tell exactly who was cosplaying and who was merely dressing in a fancy manner. That person is definitely living the steampunk dream with their gear-laden golden armband, but what about that person's top hat? Do they just think they look good in it? Is that woman dressing in a Victorian manner or simply wearing European fashion unfamiliar to me? That person is clearly a jedi, but that person might authentically be a monk.

Bulbhead is clearly a costume, but of what?!

The lines of "cosplay or not?" have became blurred, highlighting the way that geek culture has become more mainstream over the past decade. We're not yet to the point that someone wearing a Pikachu onesie around town would be ignored, but we're getting there, and I can't help but celebrate. Everyone should feel comfortable enough and safe enough to do their own thing, and everyone else should be cool with folks doing their own thing as long as you can do the same, without anyone getting damaged in the process. (The same applies to your choice of games played, books read, movies watched, and so on. You don't owe anyone an explanation for what you enjoy, and if they don't like it, I encourage them to go find their own things to enjoy.)

I spent hours circling the walls of Lucca — 10.5 miles walked that day! — and when I wasn't walking, I was sitting to people-watch. So much effort spent on dressing up to have fun!

One of the most photographed cosplayers I saw;
he could barely move ten feet before someone else asked him to pose

Aside from being a watcher on the wall, I visited a few sections of town to check out the displays. Whereas Gen Con and SPIEL (and pretty much every other convention) take place in a hotel or convention center, the exhibitor halls and vendor booths at Lucca are spread throughout the town.

Keep this map handy while walking! (PDF and real-life version)

Want to see what's in Japantown? Start walking east! Curious to learn what Blizzard has on hand to play? Head north! All of these halls and booths are behind fenced-off areas in town, and you must show both your bracelet and ticket to enter them.

What do the residents of Lucca do during the fair, when hundreds of people fill the streets from 9:00 to 19:00 and you can't drive or shop where you normally would. Many of them rent their apartments or homes to out-of-town visitors, similar to what people do when the Olympics take place, and they head elsewhere. Along the same lines, non-geek shops and restaurants sometimes don the trappings of geekdom to attract fairgoers and participate in the spirit of the event.

The comic areas featured hundreds of titles that weren't familiar to me and which I couldn't read, so I didn't spend much time there, although I'll note that western comics still seem to be popular in Europe, something that I recall from managing a comic store in the late 1980s when Marvel Comics issued translated versions of Moebius' Lt. Blueberry. Japantown featured a dozen booths filled with the otherworldly , highly elaborate statues of animé characters that you'll find throughout the Akihabara region in Tokyo (minus all the neon), along with manga in Italian, plush manga characters galore, and plenty of other collectibles.

The Netflix show "Stranger Things" seems to have a strong following in Italy as two booths devoted to the show had huge lines throughout the day. (I've never seen it, and that lack combined with a similar absence of Italian language skills made it easy for me to head elsewhere.)

Naturally I devoted a decent chunk of time to walking the board game pavilion at Lucca, but despite being on par with "comics" in the name of the event, the game pavilion is small relative to the amount of space devoted to comics. (If you add in the video game booths elsewhere in the city, then the two topics might have the same amount of space devoted to them, but I don't do video games, so I saw those booths only in passing.)

The main takeaway for anyone thinking of visiting Lucca to check out the board games is that you need to be fluent in Italian. A couple of vendors had small sections devoted to games in English or multilingual titles that had been imported, but other than those, you had to search carefully to uncover games that even included English rules in addition to Italian.

One of those finds was Mucho Macho, a card game by Evin Ho that is sort of the official game of Lucca 2017. Each year since 1994, the Lucca fair has held a card game design contest — Gioco Inedito ("Unpublished Game") — and since 2004 when publisher dV Giochi became a contest partner, the winner has their design released at the subsequent Lucca (and at SPIEL in the weeks prior). Each year, the competition features a theme or setting, which helps give designers a focus around which to build their creation.

The 2017 finalists

An interesting aspect of Lucca is that the game publishers you think you know from Gen Con, SPIEL, or (in my case) Spielwarenmesse take on a very different look at Lucca. When I think of dV Giochi, I think of them as being responsible for BANG!, the new Deckscape escape room games, and a handful of other titles — but when you see dV Giochi at Lucca, their booth is enormous and they have a huge range of titles that you've never previously seen. This shouldn't be a surprise, given that you'd never expect them to promote the Italian versions of Amun-Re, Happy Salmon, or Above and Below at Gen Con or SPIEL, but I never knew previously how many games they had licensed for the Italian market, so indeed the surprise was there.

An all-kids Tikal table!

The same was true for publishers like Cranio Creations and Giochi Uniti, although for the latter publisher I had a greater awareness of their breadth, given that they're often the Italian partner for Fantasy Flight Games.

Giochi Uniti also had a separate clearance booth outside the main exhibition hall for both its own games and titles it distributed, and I was astonished by the huge range of titles inside for bargain prices, including the second edition of Fury of Dracula (which wouldn't bring big bucks on eBay since it's in Italian); big box games like Magestorm, Venetia, and The Mystery of the Templars that had been highly anticipated a few years earlier; dozens of expansion packs for A Game of Thrones: The Card Game (again, only in Italian); and even a stack of twenty-year-old copies of Alex Randolph's Twixt from KOSMOS.

Even knights like to find bargains

Elsewhere in the main exhibition hall, I discovered who released Italian versions of titles from IELLO, what's been happening with Warangel designer Angelo Porazzi (who hasn't visited SPIEL in a few years), and what happens when you encounter Eric M. Lang in Italy. (He makes bunny ears on people, just as he does everywhere else.) As in Germany and other non-U.S. locations, Asmodee distributes CMON Limited titles in Italy, so Lang had made the trek from SPIEL to Lucca just as I had — on the same plane even! — to be a special guest at the show. One thing that Lucca had that SPIEL lacked as the presence of real-life Zombicide zombies. Maybe next year?

Bunnying others, and being bunnied in return

You'll have to imagine the shambling, which this performer did with gusto

I saw that while Italian publisher/distributor/retail has created straight translations of some games in its catalog, it's altered others to meet the tastes of its market. Machi Koro and Medieval Academy come packaged in tins similar to Sushi Go Party, for example, while Mysterium was given a more gothic, less cartoony look as Il Sesto Senso, Glory to Rome was blessed with a more professional cartoony look in Sit Gloria Romae, and Guildhall was transformed with a nautical theme as Seven Seas: il canto della sirene.

As is the case around the world, certain games are already in the mainstream, and they have an audience. Magic: The Gathering, Pokémon, and Yu-Gi-Oh! had multiple booths devoted to selling new and used cards, and Monopoly Tex (another western!) had a spot near the entrance to catch those just entering the pavilion.

The prime spot in the exhibition hall, however, was devoted to Bruno Cathala's Kingdomino, which had won Gioco dell'anno (game of the year), just as it had won Spiel des Jahres in Germany in July 2017 and been nominated for As d'Or in France in February 2017. Whatever our individual tastes in games, good distribution partners often allow for the same game to hit multiple markets around the world at roughly the same time, and some games hit the spot for more players than other games do.

I spent a couple of hours walking the hall, taking pics, noting what was new to me (both the games themselves and versions of existing games, although I'm unlikely to spend time adding game versions to the database when other projects are still in the docket), and surveying what folks were playing, then I walked through again with the video camera running. Again, I'll post that video later once I can.

While I'm taking home only a few games from Lucca, such as the Italian edition of Tichu from, I loved having the chance to see the fair firsthand and experience what I've heard about from afar so many times. I'm curious to think about what this fair would look like in a U.S. city, but none of the ones near me are centralized in the way that Lucca is. Any suggestions for cities that can be taken over in the future?

I'll post another round-up of pics from Lucca in the near future, both of games and cosplayers. For now, you can just imagine yourself being part of the crowd...

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Fri Nov 3, 2017 1:05 pm
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SPIEL '17: The Day After, and Plans for Lucca

W. Eric Martin
United States
North Carolina
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SPIEL '17 is over — but you knew that already, didn't you? All the tweets have ended, and the #SPIEL17 hashtag is being used only by those like me who still need to filter through hundreds of images taken and not yet shared.

Everyone is posting pics of the piles of games they took home from SPIEL '17 in order to prime their gaming groups in anticipation and establish a playing agenda for the next few weeks or months. I'd share pics of all the games that BGG is bringing to BGG.CON — which opens in just over two weeks on Wednesday, November 15 — but I don't have any as we did things differently this year. In years past, we'd box games and palletize them in the back of the BGG booth, carting them out only on Sunday after the fair ended.

For 2017, the time between SPIEL and BGG.CON is the shortest it's ever been, so we brought BGG.CON co-organizer Jeff Anderson to SPIEL '17 to serve as an extra pair of hands. Jeff used a handtruck during the day to move stacks of boxes to a truck in the parking lot, where he then further prepared them for the trip to Dallas. On the Monday following SPIEL, he planned to drive the truck to Frankfurt, where they would be air-shipped on Wednesday for arrival in Dallas by Monday, Nov. 6, giving the con crew roughly one week(!) to process 47 giant boxes filled with hundreds of games. That number is a bit misleading as a few boxes contain only promos that will show up in the Geek Store and one box consists of games I shipped home for myself since I'm still on the road (see below), but in any case, we shipped hundreds of games that will be available to BGG.CON attendees.

In addition to those boxes, we've asked a few publishers to ship games directly to Dallas for use in the BGG Library. We ask publishers who demo games on air in the BGG booth during SPIEL to donate games for use in the Library, but sometimes publishers sell out their stock without having set aside copies for BGG or the person who agreed to donate games doesn't tell the presenter to bring copies or the originating publisher can't get us copies in English or a dozen other things happen. This happens every year, of course, because SPIEL prep is a messy business, but we've already talked about how to put better processes in place for SPIEL '18 to ensure that we'll have all the new games on hand for attendees of BGG.CON 2018 in November. Failing to plan is planning to fail, and all that.

As for our SPIEL '17 coverage, you can see all of the material recorded on our Twitch channel, albeit with labels that don't match reality, given that we have four videos labeled "Day 3" and three labeled "Day 1". Whoops. Go by the day of publication instead, and cross reference that with our posted broadcast schedule, keeping in mind that "Day 1" for us was actually Wednesday, October 25, the day prior to SPIEL '17 opening. Many thanks and much Geekgold to MentatYP for posting summaries of the daily broadcasts with timestamps in that schedule thread. We'll post the individual videos on our YouTube channel and the BGG game pages as soon as possible, but I'm not sure how much we'll be able to edit given our need to prep for BGG.CON. That job is in someone else's capable hands, so we'll see...

As for me, I left Düsseldorf far too early on Monday morning and headed not west to the U.S., but south to Italy to attend the Lucca Comics & Games fair for the first time. I've seen pics of the incredibly crowded streets, and I know the fair is more about comics than games, but given that the fair starts on November 1 — only three days after SPIEL this year! — I thought it made sense to attend. What's more, I'll meet my family and in-laws in Rome afterwards for a few days of actual vacation. Woot!

Naturally I kept my eyes open for games during my travels, stopping into a toy store in the Munich airport to see this array of games:

This display features what might be considered a standard line-up of hobby games with the mainstream offerings, with many of those same titles appearing in an Italian toy store in Pisa:

"8-legged stretchiness"

As in Germany, advent calendars are a big deal in Italy, such as this very special one from Ravensburger in which children are taught all the scientific principles they'll need to know in order to kidnap Santa Claus. Educational!

Pisa also has some impressive graffiti along the tunnels that separate rows of houses and apartments:

Although far more common than images are tags reminiscent of my teenage years in which you felt that you had to publicize your cause the only way you knew how:

Clockwise from upper left in my rough translation: "Better no lying than lying", "No GMO", "Too much order creates disorder"

And since I was in Pisa, I took a walk around town to see You Know What:

While there, though, I mostly took pictures of other people taking pictures, finding it fascinating to see other people take this one idea they've seen others do and re-enact it:

Of course some people have different models for the fantasy images they want to recreate:

Wishful thinking, dude!

My approach to gaming conventions mirrors my attitude here. At conventions, I'm often content to walk around watching others play games instead of playing games myself. I observe their experience of the thing and their interaction with it, often because I've played the game myself and am curious to see whether they respond to the game similarly. How well did I read the gameplay and the experience that the designer and publisher tried to create?

In the end, though, I gave in and posed with the tower with the standard pose that everyone else does:

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Tue Oct 31, 2017 2:00 pm
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SPIEL '17: Pics from the Press Room — Charterstone, Gaia Project, and More

W. Eric Martin
United States
North Carolina
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The first day of SPIEL '17 is over, but as is often the case for me at conventions, I'm not even caught up to date after SPIEL's 0th day, that being the press day in which you get to take pics of all the new games in the press room. Here's a sampling of the 250 pics that I took on Wednesday, a ridiculous amount of photos to take given that I can hardly post them all publicly in a reasonable amount of time — yet not taking them also seems wrong given the opportunity. Hmm...


Frank Heeren from Feuerland Spiele told me today that their line on opening day stretched from their booth (about one-third of the way into Hall 3) to almost the back wall of Hall 3, a distance he estimated at 200 meters. Charterstone above and Gaia Project below were among the most anticipated new titles at SPIEL '17, and the Fields of Arle: Tea & Trade expansion further down hasn't been a slouch either.

Gaia Project

Fields of Arle: Tea & Trade

The 2016 Brettspiel Adventskalender came in two formats: one giant box in which each item was packaged in an individual space and a compact box in which all the promos were stacked togethere. The 2017 Brettspiel Adventskalendar is once again giant, and Matthias Nagy of Frosted Games told me that the large size is due to a special The Castles of Burgundy promo that can't be folded, which means that a small size box would still have been roughly two-thirds the size of the large box, which means it wasn't worth the hassle to offer in two sizes.

2017 Brettspiel Adventskalendar

You know what photographs terribly most of the time? Card games. They look somewhat lifeless or the light glares across them, obscuring the faces. In any case, here's one of Alexander Pfister's new titles at SPIEL '17, co-designed by Dennis Rappel and published by Österreichisches Spiele Museum e.V.

Tybor der Baumeister

One month ahead of the Justice League movie, Spanish publisher ABBA Games has brought its Justice League-themed game (which we previewed at SPIEL '16) to market.

Justice League: Dawn of Heroes

Another title that's not in the BGG database, must less on our SPIEL '17 Preview, is Terraformer by Russian publisher Rightgames. We'll see whether I can manage to discover what the game's about in the next few days.

Looking forward to running through these scenarios, whatever they happen to be, and Space Cowboys has already stated that they're working on more.

Simple yet appropriate decorations on the 2F-Spiele table.

Not sure what to make of this as "Pylos Brexit" seems like a joke, yet someone went out of their way to number boxes as if these were part of a limited edition production run and demo them in the press room. Bizarre.

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Thu Oct 26, 2017 11:15 pm
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