Friday, March 27, 2015

Great Plains Game Festival - A Brief Convention Review

I had the opportunity to attend the Great Plains Game Festival here in Lincoln, NE this past weekend.  Due to some other commitments, I was only able to go on Saturday, but it ran from Friday at 3pm until Sunday at 7pm.

The event was held at the NIC Conference Center on UN-L's Innovation Campus.  This is a very nice building and there was lots of space for gaming.  It would have been nice if there were some signs outside directing people to the correct spot, but I was able to find where I was going without too much difficulty.

They highlights for me were the game library and the play-to-win.

The game library was massive.  You could check out any of these games and go play it.  I have about 100 different board/card games in my collection.  The game library at this event included over 400 games.  I was in awe.  I would have loved to play many of them, but obviously couldn't get that many game in.  It was nice to crack open a few boxes and look at the components and rules of some games that I've been eyeballing and found some that will be added to my wishlist.

The play-to-win was a cool idea as well.  There were 6 or 8 games (I'm not sure of the exact count) that you could check out and play.  Everyone that playing in the game got to put their name in a drawing.  At the end of the convention, they drew a name from the pool for each game and that person won a copy of the game.  How great is that?

I was able to play several games in my short time there and took some photos of each and would like to share my thoughts on each.

Area 1851
Published by Five24 Labs and Game Salute

The first game I played for the day was Area 1851.  After playing this game, I learned that it was a play-to-win game so put my name in the drawing for a copy of the game.  The description at BoardGameGeek says, "In Area 1851, youare one of the area's top five Tinkerers and you're looking to prove your grit to the citizens of this Wild West town."

In this game players are trying to build and modify gadgets and then deliver them to their customers to earn reputation.  The player with the highest reputation at the end of the game wins.  There are a number of different actions each player can take during his turn.  To help in their work, everyone has apprentices that can be assigned different tasks as well.

I know the alien influence isn't readily apparent in the description so far...  That comes into play from with the gadgets and modifications that are used in the game.

The art work is pretty cool and the game was easy to pick up and play fairly quickly.  One of my fellow players said that this game has saved worker placement for her.

I probably won't be rushing out to get this one, but would certainly play it if I had the chance.

Published by North Star Games, LLC and Schmidt Spiele

The next game I got to play was Evolution.  This was also a play-to-win game.
Sorry, I can't seem to rotate this picture.
 Again I will use for the description of the game.  "In Evolution, players adapt their species in a dynamic ecosystem where food is scarce and predators lurk.  Traits like Hard Shell and Horns will protect your species from Carnivores, while Long Neck will help them get food that others cannot reach.  With over 4,000 ways to evolve your species, every game becomes a different adventure."

Here you are trying to develop a variety of species and keep them healthy and alive, while your opponent attempts the same thing, only he might consider your species to be food.  You earn points for how much food your animals eat in the game.  The larger the herd, the more they eat, but you have limited supplies so if you can't get enough to feed them, they die off.  And then carnivorous animals eat other animals which also reduces the herd size.  

The game has lots of options with the cards and it helps to pay attention to what the other players are doing so you can adjust your traits to protect or exploit.

I really like the artwork in this game and I found it to be an enjoyable game.  I think this is one that you need a play or two before you can make informed tactical decision.

I would like to play this one again before making a decision if I should buy it or not.

Published by Space Cowboys, Asterion Press, Gem Klub Kft., and others

From , "Splendor is a game of chip-collecting and card development.  Players are merchants of the Renaissance trying to buy gem mines, means of transportation, shops-all in order to acquire the most prestige points.  If you're wealthy enough, you might even receive a visit from a noble as some point, which of course will further increase your prestige."

This game plays 2-4 players, you have a couple of actions that you can take on your turn; collect gems (3 of different colors, or 2 of the same color), buy a card, or put a card in reserve.  You have to think about what resources you take and make your purchases wisely.  Then when you've saved up for the expensive card, the guy before you takes it and now you have to rethink your strategy.

Of the games I played at the convention, this one was my favorite.  It was easy to pick up and I was making informed decisions very quickly, but it was challenging the whole time.  We played a 4 player game in about 45 minutes.

The artwork and components in this game are all nice.  The chips have stickers on them, but I think they will hold up well due to a lip on the chip around the sticker.

I will be adding this game to my collection and have already claimed a copy from the Geek Market.

Nothing Personal
Published by Dice Tower Games and Game Salute

Next up, I joined in a game of crime, influence, blackmail, and bribery.  From, "The Capo is getting old and about to retire.  You think.  Maybe it's time for you to make your moves from behind the scenes, to put the gangsters into play that support your goals.  Will you gain the most respect?"

In this game, you are trying to influence a wide variety of gangsters with various jobs within the mafia, trying to put yourself in a position of power.  Ultimately you want to earn the most respect.  You have to be careful, because if you put to much influence on any one gangster then they will be arrested and thrown in jail.  This can be good for you as it opens up jobs that your lower level guys can be promoted to, but it can also suck losing a guy in a high position that you have lots of influence on.

I don't play a whole lot of game that negotiation and smooth talking are important, but this game was fun and I had a good time.  The art and components in this game were nicely done and I'm glad I had the opportunity to play it.

I won't be adding this game to my collection, but would be willing to play it again.

Tsuro of the Seas
Published by Calliope Games

The last game I played for the day was Tsuro of the Seas.  According to, "The basic game play of Tsuro of the Seas resembles that of Tom McMurchie's Tsuro: Players each have a ship that they want to sail - that is, keep on the game board - as long as possible.  Whoever stays on the board the longest wins the game.

I would say this game is quite different than Tsuro.  This game adds in dragons that move randomly around the board and will destroy your ship if you move onto one or if it moves onto you.  I did not care for this game.  The dragons add an element to this game that I just couldn't get past.  Tsuro is a great game and it is very much a battle of skill against the other players as you try to send them off the board while keeping yourself active.  This game misses that by the random movement of the dragons.  There was very little interaction between players as we were to busy worrying about the dragons.

The art work is very nice and the components are well made, but this one won't be joining my collection and I probably would find another game if this one was suggested.

Last up for discussion are the vendors.  A couple of local vendors were present with their wares and a couple of games were being showcased.  Area 1851, Discount Salmon, and The Battle for Solaria were all present and offered play test of each.  I played Area 1851 and enjoyed it.  I didn't get a chance to play the other two, but The Battle for Solaria has peeked my interest.  The art on the cards looks very nice and the game play sounds interesting.  I will be following up on that one when it hits kickstarter.

Another vendor at the con was Archer PixelWorks.  This guy takes little plastic beads and makes a variety gaming related things out of them.  These were very cool and came from lots of different source material.  My wife is a big fan of Dr. Who so I picked up one of the pieces that looks like the TARDIS.  He mounted a magnet on the back and now it will hang on my fridge.

Overall this was a great convention and I look forward to going again next year.  Hopefully, I will be able to attend the entire weekend next time and I might even try to run a game or two.

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