So most of my blog posts recently have been convention recaps, which is fine, right? I mean, if I wasn’t writing convention recaps, I probably wouldn’t be writing anything (probably), but also, conventions are like a whole bunch of board game activity condensed into a single weekend. I do play testing, I play new games, I play old games, I hang out with cool people. It’s all right there. The whole board game industry, intensified.
So it works. Writing about board game conventions, I’m able to spew out all sorts of information on any number of topics, which may be valuable, or it may not. I suppose that is up to you.
With that said, I just got back from Dice Tower Con a couple days ago. It takes place in Orlando, set against the backdrop of extreme heat, ridiculous humidity, and resort hotels. It’s an experience, and because you’re indoors most of the time, those first two things don’t actually matter much. What matters are the games, and the people, and all the other cool stuff there is to do in Orlando.
So let’s get to it then. A list of my most memorable experiences from Dice Tower Con, in roughly chronological order as I remember them.
Publix: My wife and I came in on Wednesday afternoon, we were going to be there until Monday morning, and the food situation is a little dire. I mean, there’s food around, but you need a car to get to any of it (other than an Indian restaurant and a CVS across the street), and we didn’t have a car. So we decided to take an Uber to a grocery store. I’ve never taken an Uber to a grocery store. Maybe that’s normal to you, but it felt a little weird. Anyway, we went to Publix, because my wife is friends with some native Floridians, and they informed her that she had to get a “Pub Sub” with chicken strips and some sort of special mayonnaise. Honestly, I wouldn’t consider this trip to Publix all that momentous, but she was smitten with her sub sandwich, so I thought I’d mention it.
Magical Athlete: After the grocery store, I was able to actually go down and play some games. I didn’t actually play Magical Athlete, but I watched some of my friends play it, and, well, I’m pretty sure I was better off not playing it. It is a rare and sought-after game, but, umm, it is just roll-and-move nonsense. Like, pure nonsense.
Dark Tower play testing: I think Justin from Restoration ran something like nine Return to Dark Tower play tests over the course of the con, which is a little crazy to me. I only sat in on one of them, but it was great. The game continues to move along, and we had a lot of great feedback from all the players that we will use to continue to make the game better! One thing we’ve been neglecting until recently is the very end of the game, which is a big climactic fight. We actually had people play it in the test I sat in on, and it went pretty well. We had our first group who got through the whole thing and won the game, which was fun.
Gloomhaven play testing: In contrast, I ran four games of Gloomhaven, play testing some new classes I am working on. These went really, really well. I am now in love with this set of four classes we were running. I mean, not everything was perfect. Lots of tweaks still need to be made, but I am looking forward to introducing them to the world when the time is right.
1822MX: For my soon-to-be customary 18XX game of the con, I tried out 1822MX, which lasted 6-7 hours and was a lot of fun. Not as engaging as 1817, but that’s a tall order. I think I promised not to get into the nitty-gritty of 18XX games in this blog. I’ll just say that the map was interesting and I like the auctions and the big national railroad, but I also felt there wasn’t enough station blocking. People could pretty much just run their trains wherever they wanted, which means there wasn’t enough of a spatial puzzle for me. Anyway, it was still a great game.
Disney Springs: Some of Kristyn’s friends moved to Florida a couple years ago, so we visit them every time we go to Dice Tower Con. Last year we went to Universal Studios, but this time we just walked around Disney Springs, which is like a fake tourist town sort of connected to Disney World, but is mostly its own thing where people just go and shop and eat and stuff. It was mildly entertaining. We went to a Morimoto restaurant, which I will just mention because this is the second time I have been to a Morimoto restaurant, and both times not only the only vegan option, but pretty much the only vegetarian option was just a bowl of vegetables and soy sauce. Morimoto, man, this is not cool or sufficient. Your restaurant was nice, and the sake sangria was great, but your vegetarian options suck.
Voodoo Doughnuts: After that, since we had access to a car, I requested we head to the Universal equivalent of Disney Springs, because that is where Voodoo Doughnuts lives. This place is the home of the best vegan doughnuts ever made and I go for them every chance I can get. I got a dozen of them, got sick after eating two of them, and immediately regretted my decision. Except not, because I saved the rest, and my wife and I had vegan doughnuts for the rest of the week. Getting into Universal City (or whatever it’s called) is a huge pain in the ass, but it was totally worth it, and I also got to share some doughnuts with my vegan friends Jess and Julie when I got back to the hotel!
Unmatched: I got some time to hang out with Danny Quach on Friday, and the first thing we did is try out Unmatched. It was a pretty fun game. I mean, the card draw is very random, but I still felt like I was making meaningful decisions. I’m not going to buy the game or anything, but, as Danny said, “I’m not mad about it.”
La Granja: Danny is a super-awesome guy, and I was very grateful to spend some time with him at the con. The next thing we did is play La Granja, one of my all-time favorites. He had never played it, so I had to rectify that. Did I mention how great of a game this is?
What We Found There play testing: Last on the play testing docket was my very work-in-progress worker placement game, What We Found There. I did two tests of this, and they also went very well. I got some great suggestions, a lot of insight on how to fix things, and we even totally broke the game in one of the plays, which was very interesting. I’m having very high hopes about what this game will be able to achieve when I finally pound out all the imperfections.
Fleet the Dice Game: I have not encountered a single “the Dice Game” game that has been worth any of my time. Nations: the Dice Game is abysmal, especially compared to the original game, which is great. Istanbul: the Dice Game is so boring, and don’t even get me started on the dice version of La Granja. But Fleet the Dice Game, well, it finally broke the trend. It was even…great? I might have liked it better than the original version of Fleet? Sorry for all these question marks, it’s just my whole world view got shattered, and I’m not sure of anything any more…
Pret-a-Porter: I randomly found myself watching a demo of Pret-a-Porter Saturday morning, and it was so interesting, I watched the entire game, then borrowed the pre-production demo copy to run my own game the next day. This was all ostensibly to give Portal some feedback on their not-quite-finished 3rd edition of the game, which I did, and, well, that’s all I’ll say about it for now.
Parliament House: So when I was hanging out with Danny on Friday, he was, like, “Hey me and my friends are going to a drag show Saturday night. Do you and your wife want to join us?” And I could not say yes fast enough. So we went to a drag show at a gay nightclub, then did some dancing at the nightclub, then saw a second drag show. It was all a very magical experience.
Passtally: When we got back to the convention, Danny and I partook of a very late-night game of Passtally, because I realized I hadn’t actually played a game all day. This game was much better than I expected. It’s an abstract spatial thing, but I had a lot of fun figuring out the puzzle of it.
Subtext: The last day was full of play tests and other things, but the new-to-me game I played on Sunday was Subtext, which was…not good. It’s a little difficult to explain succinctly, but basically, there’s a dealer with a word, one other person with the same word as the dealer, and everyone else has different words, and no one knows what anyone else has. Everyone draws a picture, and it’s sort of Dixit after that, where everyone is trying to guess which other person had the same picture as the dealer. The problem is that it just wasn’t fulfilling. In my game, I never had the same word as the dealer, so I was drawing all these pictures that weren’t useful or recognized or cared about by anyone, no matter how clever they were. I was doing a ton of work with no pay-off, which just didn’t feel good.
And then I went home the next day, having had a pretty amazing time all around, even if it didn’t actually involve much sleep. Because why would you sleep on a vacation? That’s just wasting time, since you can always just sleep when you get home.
Next up is Gen Con in about three weeks. I’m sure that will be an entirely different experience, but I am still looking forward to seeing all my board game friends again!