Hazy Memories of BGG.Con
Dennis Ugolini
United States
San Antonio
Texas
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My first Geeklist, based on what was easily my favorite game convention ever. Note that I am terrible with names and I don't take notes, so if I describe you as "that guy with the beard", please do not take offense, particularly if you are female.
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1. Board Game: The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Game [Average Rating:3.23 Overall Rank:14586]
Dennis Ugolini
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San Antonio
Texas
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I arrived Friday morning with my crew from San Antonio -- the ones wearing the "Gaming Sluts" T-shirts. They offered to make one for me too. I respectfully declined.
 
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2. Board Game: Stage II [Average Rating:6.39 Overall Rank:6121]
Dennis Ugolini
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I drew a red prize-table ticket, and was surprised to find this trivia game that Brian Bankler and others have turned me onto recently. It felt great to know that regardless of the raffle results, I'd already come out ahead -- which was good, because our entire group was shut out in the raffles except for one copy of Blue Moon City for Vanesa. Kirk from my group was kind enough to run all of our goodies back to the hotel room, so that the rest of us could hit the Game Library.
 
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3. Board Game: Loopin' Louie [Average Rating:6.87 Overall Rank:626]
Dennis Ugolini
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San Antonio
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Upon entering the Game Library, and after picking my jaw up from the floor, I found a group of three checking out Loopin' Louie. Three? For Loopin' Louie? I must save them from themselves! The newer version (at right in the photo) feels smaller and lighter than the original, and Louie had a tendency to come straight down on top of chickens without knocking them off, but otherwise it was the same great filler.
 
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4. Board Game: Lectio [Average Rating:6.88 Overall Rank:2112]
Dennis Ugolini
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Reentering the Library, I encountered Jason Little (ynnen), probably my favorite of the people I met (more on that when I get to the Game Show). He and a pair from Weaselpenis Circus (Alisha and Matt? I told you I was bad at names) invited me to join them for a game of Lexio. That was the great thing about BGG.Con above any other con that I have attended -- joining games with strangers was extremely easy, and I don't think I played more than 3 games with any one person all weekend.

Lexio is similiar to a game I played in college called Capitalism, a Great Dalmuti-type game with poker cards. The twists here are that (a) the cards are replaced by wonderfully thick black tiles, and (b) each player has chips, and pays/receives the difference in tiles remaining once someone goes out. Having played this game for so long with cards, I would find the price for the tiles hard to justify, but they make the most pleasant clacking sound when shuffled. I finished second in four out of five rounds, but still couldn't catch Jason, who won just as many rounds.
 
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5. Board Game: Crokinole [Average Rating:7.79 Overall Rank:66]
Dennis Ugolini
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San Antonio
Texas
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I played more than ten games of Crokinole on Friday on one of the boards shown in the photo, including a marathon session with Alfredo, Joseph, and Bryan from Thoughthammer Games. I take some pride in my play, and managed to handle all comers except for Chad Krizen, who blew me off the board 100-5. I suspect telekinesis was involved.
 
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6. Board Game: Puzzle Perfection [Average Rating:7.00 Unranked]
Dennis Ugolini
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San Antonio
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I couldn't participate in Dave Arnott's outstanding puzzle hunt because I was one of the playtesters. So if you thought it was too long, blame me. It was tough to see groups agonizing over puzzles I'd already done, knowing that one little hint could push them over the top. If you're interested in trying to do this sort of thing again (and if no one else volunteers, I'll gladly make one for next year), here is some solving advice:

1. Multitask. Nearly every group I saw had all four members poring over the same puzzle. With 24+ puzzles to solve in this hunt, that was death. I found it more efficient to split 2x2 or 1x4 -- the easier puzzles get knocked out more quickly, and there's less distraction from your own thoughts. If you're still stuck after a few minutes, rotate, and eventually huddle up for the toughest ones.

2. In a good puzzle hunt, not every puzzle has to be solved, or solved *completely*. For instance,
Spoiler (click to reveal)
if you've solved three out of seven in a packet, and the solution grid reads B_Z___A, what else could it be?


3. Remember that every puzzle has a designer, and try to think like that person did. Take the climactic puzzle, "Oh, I Finally Get It", for example.

Spoiler (click to reveal)
When I first saw this puzzle, three things occurred to me:

1. The title had been a hint in most other puzzles. What stood out in this title was the unnecessary "Oh". Why include that?

2. You were asked to put four items in a circle and determine the missing item (which means they must form a group of *exactly* five). The item that stood out for me was the "Namtab", which was a Batman Pez dispenser. Why so important to spell it in reverse?

3. The Batman item could've been a sticker, an action figure, a picture from a comic or TV show or movie...but the designer chose a Pez dispenser. Why?

If you combined those three ideas, you inexorably hit the solution.


Anyway, I hope those of you who worked on it got to see the final puzzle, and how cleverly everything wrapped up in the end. As Dave said, "I love that when you get to the end, you realize that the answer has been staring you in the face the whole time."
 
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7. Board Game: Medici [Average Rating:7.15 Overall Rank:427]
Dennis Ugolini
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San Antonio
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With so many knowledgable people around, I rarely had to teach a game. This blast from the past was an exception, and one I was quickly punished for. With bids running very high in the second round, and few of my matching goods coming up, I chose to forgo all purchases and take my whole boat at random -- and promptly dealt myself 0-0-5-1-2 of four different types. Last place for me!
 
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8. Board Game: Poker [Average Rating:6.70 Overall Rank:843]
Dennis Ugolini
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San Antonio
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It's tough to balance giving players a decent amount of play, but making sure the tourney ends in a reasonable amount of time, especially with 120 entrants. And while the blinds rose a little quickly, the organizers did an overall good job, especially with breaking tables. By the end of the first hour I had cautiously chipped up from 800 to 1600, but by that time we were at 100-200 blinds, so I needed a bigger stack soon. A few hands after the break I pushed AJ preflop into a 500 chip pot, was called by K-10 suited, and lost to the flush in about 35th place.
 
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9. Board Game: Boomtown [Average Rating:6.57 Overall Rank:1315]
Dennis Ugolini
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San Antonio
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I didn't play a single game all weekend that I didn't like, but there were two that I would pass on playing again, and this was one. It has a bit of a death spiral too it -- it is to your advantage to bash on the person in last, because it is easier to take mayors from that person. And don't waste money on saloons!
 
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10. Board Game: Ave Caesar [Average Rating:6.63 Overall Rank:1030]
Dennis Ugolini
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San Antonio
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(Oops, didn't mean to hit "Submit" there.)

Next up was my first purchase, and both one of my old favorites and the best game of the Con for me. I could only find three players so close to the raffle time, so we played two chariots a piece, which made for some interesting "designated blocker" tactics. I think Rob Ramirez won, but I'm sure I was in last.
 
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11. Board Game: Catan: Cities & Knights [Average Rating:7.47 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.47 Unranked]
Dennis Ugolini
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After midnight, the laws of probability go out the window. There was a stretch in this game where we had six rolls of two, ten rolls of five, and only one of eight. Mercifully Diana jumped from 8 to 13 points in just two turns, preventing the embargo-the-leader stall.
 
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12. Board Game: Cathedral [Average Rating:6.50 Overall Rank:1422]
Dennis Ugolini
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San Antonio
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Ah, childhood flashbacks. Saturday morning at the Flea Market Mosh Pit, I was able to grab a game I'd always wanted as a kid, but was always too expensive -- the all-wooden Cathedral. I also picked up a cheap copy of Doom, and grabbed the expanions from Twilight Games later. Thanks to Blake for having both purchases complete and neatly organized.
 
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13. Board Game: Shogun [Average Rating:7.57 Overall Rank:115]
Dennis Ugolini
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San Antonio
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I then joined a group for Shogun, with Rick Thornquist teaching with the elegance of a do-it-yourself instructional video (that's not meant to be facetious -- his pacing was so relaxed and consistent, it felt like he was pre-recorded). The over/under on the "Is this like Wallenstein?" question from bystanders was about 12. While I liked the game, I wasn't as high on it as everyone else. I don't mind luck in games, but if I'm going to make that many decisions over that long a time, I don't want a single random event to have more than a 10% effect on the score. But that's what happened to Rick Nichols, whose rice fell one short, causing a revolt in his one poorly-defended territory (out of nine), and after a less-than-likely combat loss, he dropped four points from losing a castle (with the winning score being 37). Kind of a perfect storm of crappy luck, but still a sour note for me. On the plus side, the game took only 2-1/2 hours for new players, and there is no death spiral -- despite dropping from 7 territories to 5 early, I was able to sneak back into third.
 
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14. Board Game: Ave Caesar [Average Rating:6.63 Overall Rank:1030]
Dennis Ugolini
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San Antonio
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Wait, other than Crokinole, have I won a single game this whole convention? Time to Hail Caesar again! This time karma was in my corner. Down 4 to Diana Lopez going into the final race, an embittered competitor blocked her out of Emperor's Alley on the second lap, allowing me to tie if I could pass Rob Ramirez for second. Three spaces from the finish line, Rob's hand was...1,1,2, and I just nipped him at the finish line! Winner! Well, tied winner with Diana, but after a weekend of getting smacked around, I'll take it!
 
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15. Board Game: Desert Bazaar [Average Rating:5.74 Overall Rank:9783]
Dennis Ugolini
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San Antonio
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Brian Yu demoed this tile-laying game for us. Unfortunately the aging and colorblind need not apply, as much of the strategy revolves around the colors on tiny little flags, with nearly indistinguishable blues and purples. Otherwise there was a solid game in there, as evidenced by the tight 20-19-18-17-16 final scores. Dale took the win; I had the 19, and might have had a shot, if Dave Arnott had not pledged himself to seeing me lose at everything for the remainder of the con, and performing the monkey dance afterwards.
 
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16. Board Game: TurfMaster [Average Rating:7.21 Overall Rank:1289]
Dennis Ugolini
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This was the second of my new games played that I would pass on. Part of the problem was rules that would pop up at inopportune times -- not the explainer's fault, as teaching our rowdy group of seven must have been like adminstering a standardized test to a flock of pigeons. But it seemed like the sum total of strategy was "stay in the middle and have a 12 card at the end", especially since the leader could be heavily screwed at any time by a roll of 9 or more on two dice.
 
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17. Board Game: The World's Greatest Game Show [Average Rating:5.80 Unranked]
Dennis Ugolini
United States
San Antonio
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The Game Show itself was quite fun, but made doubly so by sitting in the back with my adopted team (the increasingly inebriated We Have Bourbon) and Team Mangina behind us (including Derk and Jason Little, two of the loudest people in the world), basically playing the grumpy Muppets in the balcony. We Have/Had Bourbon jumped out to fourth place early, but after completely blowing the "What political issue is most important to you" question, we realized we needed someone much younger on our team (or at least emotionally so) to look into the mind of the average Geek.
 
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18. Board Game: Wits & Wagers [Average Rating:6.97 Overall Rank:487]
Dennis Ugolini
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Past midnight on Saturday, the Gaming Sluts got together for a party game so loud, I thought we would be asked to leave. The game quickly devolved to everyone waiting to see where I would put my chips, and then quickly following along. I had to start placing just as the timer ran out, or switching my bet at the last second. And I *still* lost both games when Rick and Kirk hit all-ins!
 
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19. Board Game: Time's Up! [Average Rating:7.34 Overall Rank:363]
Dennis Ugolini
United States
San Antonio
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And what's a party without Time's Up? Snowden joined us and paired with Kirk, and until a third-round breakthrough, the two struggling to communicate suggested what first contact with an alien species will be like (which one was the alien remains to be seen). Vanesa and I jumped out to a quick lead and managed to hold off Rick and Diana, largely thanks to Kirk and Snowden clearing the deck with *seven* correct in a single 30-second round of charades.
 
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20. Board Game: Home You Go [Average Rating:4.06 Unranked]
Dennis Ugolini
United States
San Antonio
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And that was it! Thanks to everyone involved for making it such a great experience, and I'll be sure to make the drive next year as well.
 
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