This weekend I went to my first CMON Expo, and it was a ton of fun! I really need to start going to cons. I am always nervous when I first get there, because it's hard to just start sitting down to game with random people. But then it turns out great! Of course, I don't know why that surprises me—board gamers are generally great, and that's what makes our hobby so special.
I spent a lot of time just yammering with people, but I demoed some games, too!
Spoiler Alert: None of them were solo games. I do occasionally play games with other humans. Surprise!
1. 13 Clues
This one was okay. Basically, you have a little cardboard screen that hides a couple of cards you can see... but it also has three slots on the outside that hold cards you can't see. One is a person, one is a place, one is a weapon. There are also several card colors. Your job is to ask questions about what other players can see (e.g. How many men do you see? How many yellow cards do you see?) and use process of elimination to figure out who you are. It wasn't bad or anything, but I'd rather just play Mystery of the Abbey, which is my process-of-elimination game of choice.
2. Dragon Castle
I very much enjoyed my first play of this! In younger days, I whiled away many afternoons playing Mahjong on my eMachine, and Dragon Castle totally brought back that addictive feeling. In this game, you and your fellow players take from a common stack of tiles that are piled up Mahjong-style. You can either pull two matching tiles along the edges, take one tile and one shrine (which can be built for points later), or destroy a tile you know someone else really wants. You use the tiles and shrines you take to build up your own little tile tableau, in which you try to get lots of matching symbols to touch each other, stack tiles, and build shrines. I am not entirely sure how I would feel about this game if I played it ten times in a row. Would I love it more? Would it all start to feel same-y? I'm not sure. But my first play was a blast, and I think my students would love this.
I got to play a prototype copy of Gizmos yesterday, and I really enjoyed it. It reminded me of Potion Explosion because of the contraption you use to draw energy—it's another one of those cardboard containers with a slide for colorful marbles. But I think I like Gizmos better. It's an engine builder in which you acquire cards that will score you victory points. But cards also allow you to perform extra actions. So even though you are only allowed to take one action per turn, the right chain of card effects can turn a simple marble pull into a whirlwind of activity. I've only played Gizmos once, but I definitely want to play it again—and I do not think it would be difficult to design a solo mode for this one. Gizmos has one other major benefit: The turns are relatively fast, so it does not take very long at all to play a full game, and you don't have to spend very much time waiting around for your next turn. That is never a bad thing! While I preferred the look of Dragon Castle, I think Gizmos might offer more long term enjoyment.
4. Blood Rage!
OK, so this was not an official demo game—I just got to play my first game of Blood Rage with a fun group of people, including Vernon Piper. In fact, we played Vernon's painted set. Didn't he do a great job?
I am just kidding, he had a few unfinished minis in the box and I'm cranky because he crushed the rest of us. Warning: If you play Blood Rage with Vernon Piper, hate draft every single card with the word "Loki" on it.
Actually, I had a blast playing Blood Rage and would definitely do so again. The card interactions are a lot of fun, the monster upgrades are fun, and it's definitely a game that gets better with repeated plays because it's easier to form a strategy when you know what you're working with. Make sure to play with people who will find it enjoyable to get into fights and who will be good sports about it, though! I think I had such a good time in part because my group was so great.
CMON Expo was a very positive experience for me, and I'm appreciative of everyone who made it that way—friends from my game group who have made my first year in Georgia a very good year, people from The Dice Tower I "know" from the internet but actually met for the first time, and all of the friendly strangers who sat down for a game with me and made my day a great one.
P.S.: I may or may not have closed out the evening with a game of Time's Up, but there is no way I'm showing you photos of that... what happens in Time's Up stays in Time's Up!