BGG.FAM 2016 was last weekend. Since Comicpalooza is in June this year, we had a chance to slip out of Houston, escape the deluge, see some old friends, and to make new ones.
Here are some of the highlights from Dallas.
The convention library had a sizable stack of family games up front and after looking through them, I settled on Spinderella from Zoch Verlag. I didn’t know it at the time, but this spatial reasoning race game won the 2015 nod from the SdJ committee for best children’s game “Kinderspiel des Jahres.” It certainly earned it.
Each player has a set of three ants who are racing from the base of one tree to the base of another tree on the opposite corner of the game box. Using the game box to create the play space for a game is always a nice touch and doubly so in the case of a game meant for children. Eager to dine on our delicate ants is the eponymous Spinderella who is suspended by a thread to two other spiders above.
On your turn, roll three dice. The first die determines whether you will move an ant, the tree stump, or Spinderella herself. Moving an ant is just as you would in any Pachisi type game–pick an ant and move it the number of spaces shown on the die. Moving the stump covers or uncovers ants which either protects them (when covering) or frees them up to move (when uncovering). Moving Spinderella is the hook of the game. She is not moved directly. Instead, you move the spiders holding her aloft. As these two spiders near one another, she descends, as they move laterally, so does she. It’s a bit like having a claw crane on the tabletop. And when Spinderella descends but refuses to latch on to your opponent’s ant, it’s every bit as frustrating.
Track Spinderella down and check it out. You’ll be glad you did.
Epic PvP: Fantasy
World famous game developer Brent Lloyd and I hit the Saturday morning flea market together. This was a bad decision on both our parts since it turned out we were looking for the same kinds of games. Epic PvP was an impulse buy which the two of us quickly tried out. Brent beat me 2-0 but let’s not hold that against the game.
If you think of this game as a two-player version of Smash-Up, you’re halfway there. Each player chooses a race and a class, then shuffles the two decks together. This gets you classic fantasy gaming combinations like Dwarf Paladin or Human Druid. In addition to this deck, you get two additional powers from your race/class combination.
The game has a simple back-and-forth at its core. This is an asset to the design. It takes only a few minutes to understand the basic game which frees your brain to focus on squeezing advantage from every card. The game also features a constant dimension between energy–called “aggression” in this game–and hand size.
Epic PvP offers plenty of replay at a small price. I’m confident that I’ll be playing this one for a while.
Roller Derby Final Jams
Four years ago, Kevin Brusky hosted a company party for APE Games at a roller derby. We had a great time and I’ve appreciated the sport ever since. Two years later, Ref Tom Green, a roller derby referee himself, first showed me his prototype. Rather than trying to carry you through an entire game, Roller Derby Final Jams covers only the final 6 minutes of play. This enabled him to zoom in and pack the game with detail while still keeping the play time tight.
Even celebrities like a good roller derby!
The game has been tightened up since I first saw it and he was running demonstrations throughout the weekend. Featuring simultaneous action selection, token drafting, simultaneous die rolling, and press your luck die rolling, this game looks like it would be a hodgepodge of unrelated bits but each mechanism does a respectable job of simulating its part of live roller derby. For original theme and clever use of familiar game mechanics, Roller Derby Final Jams deserves to find a publisher and will hopefully find its audience as well.
Simon’s Cat and Bill & Ted’s Excellent Boardgame
I’ve known designer Randy Scheunemann for several years now. I do not know collaborator design partner Samuel Mitschke as well but it looks as if both of these are going to be popular with their intended audiences.
Simon’s Cat is in the Crazy Eights family of card games except that the deck is dealt out every hand. When you cannot play to a pile, take the pile in front of you as a penalty and lead a new card. The player with the most piles before them at the end of the hand loses the hand.
Playing Bill & Ted’s Excellent Boardgame is like playing duck! duck! GO! with two bird dogs and variable hand size. And that’s a good thing. Play two cards each turn to program your movement for the turn. Carry them out in numeric order. Pick up objective tokens. Each objective token adds to the beginning of your programmed movement for all subsequent rounds. Two characters hunt you across space and time–the sheriff and the knight. Each of these moves right after you do, using the same program you did, depending on the cards you played. If you hit one of these nemeses or they hit you, drop an objective token on the map where your pawn stands. The player with the most objective tokens at the end of the game wins. Fun Fact: if you put the cards in order, their art tells the entire story of the movie!
A group of us played one hand of Simon’s Cat and found the notes of hand management and card counting enjoyable.
A different group of us tried Bill & Ted’s with designer Scheunemann. Apparently, we were much more aggressive that most, seldom allowing a player to hold more than two objective tokens at a time.
Both of these games are, as they say, the sort of thing you like if you like that sort of thing. I enjoyed both. Perhaps I enjoyed Simon’s Cat a little bit more. Their intended audiences will love them.
Considering the big hit that was Village, it is only natural that there be a sequel. My Village takes a stab at using dice as an action selection mechanism. The result is a pastoral experience. My Village is a game to enjoy on a quiet afternoon. The difference between a weak turn and a strong one is pretty small and it will take careful consideration to make the right turn. Find players who naturally ponder the implications of each decision. Brew a pot of tea. Relax and enjoy.
Those were my highlights from BGG.FAM 2016. How about you? Were you at the con this year? What stood out for you? Share with your fellow readers in the comments below. And if you’re enjoying what you’re reading, create an account with WordPress and follow this blog. If you keep reading, I’ll keep writing.