Do you know that feeling you get when you are three hours into a five-hour drive back from Geekway to the West and you’ve just gulped down 32 oz of Mountain Dew to stay awake and you have this odd “I’m going to have a heart attack” pain in the back of your skull while at the same time you are still falling asleep at the wheel?
Yeah, well, all I can say is that it was absolutely worth it. Looking over all of my past convention experiences, I can easily say this was, by far, the best convention I attended by myself. Sure, going to BGG Con with my wife was better because I got to play games and hang out with her, and going to GenCon with my best friend whom I only get to see once a year is also a better experience because he makes it a better experience.
But if you are going to a convention by yourself, Geekway to the West is where it is at. Everyone was so friendly and welcoming, you’d sit down to play a game with a random group of people and realize you’d be happy to play games with them for the rest of the convention.
So, anyway, let’s get onto the awards! I did a write-up of Geekway to the West last year, but it sadly wasn’t in award-form. I have since remedied the situation. I will say up-front, though, that no negative awards will be given out, because I have absolutely nothing negative to say about the convention.
Most Played Game: All right, so we’ll just get it out of the way that I played Gloomhaven a lot during Geekway to the West. I think it was seven times in total: once on Thursday, twice on Friday, and four times on Saturday. I’m just happy that so many people wanted to demo it even without any scheduled events planned beforehand, and that everyone enjoyed it so much. The highlight of the demos was that after the first one Thursday evening, doing the basic intro scenario with two brothers, Tim and Todd, they were itching to play it again as soon as possible. So we did two more demos over the course of the weekend playing a couple of the advanced scenarios that still needed a bit of testing. We also roped in a fourth player for these adventures, Jerry, throwing him into the deep end from the start. Over time, they got to see how their characters would evolve and level-up and seemed to have an amazing experience throughout.
Most Headache-Inducing Game: But let’s move on to awards for games that weren’t designed by me. I believe the next game I played was the simple dexterity game Lift It!, which involved constructing various combinations of blocks using an unwieldy crane with a hook. Looking at the BGG page, this game apparently came out a while ago, but it was everywhere at Geekway. No matter where you turned, someone was trying to construct a tower of blocks with a crane on their head. I think the spectacle of it encouraged other people to give it a try. It was a lot of fun, but I was already developing a headache before we started, and the amount of concentration and head control required to make some of the advanced structures did not help the issue at all. I was thankful when the game ended, because any more and I might have had an aneurysm or something.
Most Times Being a Spy: So I went downstairs and was roped into a game of Spyfall. Not exactly a stress-free game, and I really needed to just reduce the tension in my head, but I gave it a go anyway. I decided to just approach the game in a casual and care-free way, which apparently worked since I was dealt the spy three out of the four rounds that we played and didn’t get caught a single time. I attribute my success to the fact that many people at the table had never played it before, but I’ll take the victory none-the-less.
Most Disheartening Loss: Not all games went so well, however. Friday in particular was a game of big losses. The first of which was with my favorite game Terra Mystica. I joined a table of strangers, because, well, they were playing Terra Mystica, and I couldn’t say no. I proceeded to have a pretty great game as the Swarmlings, building all my stuff at the right time and getting lots of bonus points. I was fairly confident I was going to win up until the last couple rounds when I started to realize just how good the guy playing the Chaos Magicians was. It ended up being close. It was a satisfying game because I still played well, but I would have rather won.
Most Beautiful Components: I was not expecting to play Scythe during the convention. I didn’t even know it would be there, let alone in the Play and Win section where Stonemaier games was actually giving away a pre-production copy months before its release. Apparently the sign-up sheet to play the game got filled up within a couple minutes after it was made available. Imagine my surprise, then, when Friday evening rolls around and I get a text from Kevin, one of the guys who wanted to demo Gloomhaven, saying that they had a free spot at the Scythe table and did I want to play? Well, yeah, sure I’d like to play. Playing Scythe is such a pleasant experience simply because of how gorgeous all the art and components are. I had played it once online before, but seeing it in the flesh was a totally different experience.
Best Game I Never Want to Play Again: After that, Kevin and I were deciding what to do next, and he mentioned he had a fully painted copy of Star Wars: Rebellion out in his car. Now, I am not really a fan of head-to-head, dice-chucking games of combat and sabotage, but everyone in the board game community is going nuts for this game, so I figured this would be the perfect opportunity to try it out. At around 8 pm, we broke it out in all its glory and Kevin started running down the rules for me.
Six hours later my rebels had finally brought the empire to its knees right before the Death Star got in range to blow me off the face of the galaxy. Six hours. It was an intense, grueling experience, and I am glad I played it, but I don’t think I’d ever want to play it again. It is a fantastically thematic game. You feel like you are re-writing the original Star Wars trilogy. But while the mechanics were solid, I just didn’t find them interesting enough to justify the play time. But, like I said, I’m just not into that type of game.
Most Improved Game: Last year I wrote about a horrible experience I had demoing La Granja after it came out at Origins. It seemed like a solid game, but the experience left such a bad taste in my mouth, I more-or-less wrote it off. At Geekway, though, I saw a copy of it on the Play and Win shelf and decided to give it another go. Wow, am I happy I did. It was definitely the most satisying game experience I had at the con. The mechanics are just beautiful. La Granja is a legit amazing Euro game.
Easiest Game That Took Way too Long to Figure Out: After a game of Food Chain Magnate fell through Saturday night, I decided to instead descend into the realm of party games with the guys from Action Phase Games and other equally silly individuals. We played a lot of ridiculous games long into the night, but it was surprising how even a little bit of alcohol could derail a rules explanation for the classic card game 6 Nimmt. Given the group of people I was playing with, it seems like they could derail pretty much anything. It was a fun night.
Closest Finish: Sunday ended up being a pretty low-key day. With no demos scheduled, I was just wandering the convention when I was lucky enough to run into Jamey from Stonemaier Games and play one of his grail games with him, A Castle for all Seasons. I’d never even heard of it before, but it was a pretty solid game that flew by very quickly but had a lot of interesting decisions to make. In the end, three of us were within one point of each other, but, sadly, I was not the one out front.
Seriously, Geekway to the West was an absolutely fantastic time and it is the perfect start to convention season. Now I am even more excited to head out to Origins and GenCon and meet more awesome people in the months to come!
One final note: Since development of Gloomhaven is winding down a bit, I am planning on writing posts more frequently again, hopefully returning to a weekly schedule. Thanks for being patient with me!