Another great SaltCon gaming weekend!
Last weekend I spent many, many fun hours playing board games at our local board game convention — SaltCon.
And once again, SaltCon reached record attendance — hitting 1,359!
Not too shabby for just being the 9th year.
This year SaltCon was extended one day so those wish to play a lot of games would have even more time to play. However, I went the opposite direction and was there for less time than usual the last few years.
This year I was only able to go Friday and Saturday. And I had to cut my time short on Saturday as well.
But that didn’t stop me from playing 22 different games!
Not bad for just a day and a half.
Pre-SaltCon Game Trades
Before I dive into a recap of the games I played, I’ve got to tell you about a couple of the other best parts of SaltCon — the Math Trade and Game Swap.
For those unfamiliar with a Math Trade it’s where people wishing to trade games let technology decide who gets which games.
A few weeks prior to SaltCon I went through our game closet to decide which games I’d be willing to part with for other games I might enjoy. Then I list those on the SaltCon Math Trade list on BoardGameGeek. After everyone who wants to participate has put their games on the trade list, we all go through the available games and indicate which games we’d like to get in return.
After the deadline to indicate our wish lists, the technology takes over and calculates all the matches. Most aren’t 1 for 1 trades, but instead are a series of matches to line up wishers with givers.
Let’s say Person 1 want game J. So he trades game A to Person 2 (who wants game A), who in turn trades game B to Person 3, who in turn trades his game C to Person 4, …. all the way through to Person 10 trading game J to Person 1. So in the end everyone gets games they want.
I may not know exactly how the algorithm works, but I sure like the outcome.
This year I put up about 30 games I’d be willing to trade and 16 of them made a match!
Once the matches are made, people label the games they’re trading and simply leave them on the SaltCon Math Trade tables. It’s such a slick system. I’d highly recommend doing game trades this way.
Even though SaltCon opened on Thursday, I didn’t make my way there until Friday morning. Of course, I made sure to get there early — even before registration opened at 9:00 am.
It wasn’t a problem getting there early because another SaltCon friend of mine (Doug) did as well. So we grabbed a table in the lobby of the convention center and dove right into some of the games we brought with us.
The first game we played was one Doug hadn’t played before. And I was more than happy to introduce him to Onitama. It’s a great 2-player chess-like game.
After two games of Onitama we played Control — a simple card game that plays very quickly as well.
Nathan and Logan got Clank! set up while Doug and I finished our game of Control.
Clank! was at the top of my “want to play” list and I was very happy to kick off SaltCon with what turned out to be a great game.
While a portion of Clank! is deck-building, the game is so much more than that. Players use their cards (and purchase better ones along the way) to move around the paths above and below ground to uncover treasures. But as they move around they also make noise and contribute cubes into the dragon bag. When the dragon attacks, cubes are pulled randomly out of the bag and those players suffer damage.
Players are also racing against the clock and each other. If they go too far into the depths they may not make it out alive. Because only those players who make it above ground when the game ends are in the running for winning the game.
Unfortunately I took way too much damage along the way and I got knocked out before I could make it out of the castle. But at least I was above ground and did get to count my points at the end.
Even though I was the first to meet my demise and sat out the rest of the game while the others kept adventuring, I had a great time playing and would love to get a copy to play Clank! again.
After that game, I took the games I was trading to the Math Trade tables, set our more games in the Game Swap area and perused the exhibitor area.
There’s a lot to do in Near and Far and multiple ways to play the game as well. Rather than go with the story mode we went with the encounter deck. I enjoyed the decisions that came up through the encounters as I tried to gather enough resources to claim a victory. However, victory was not for me. In fact, I came in last.
The next 5 games I played were also games on my “want to play” list: Valeria Card Kingdoms, FUSE, Imhotep, Fuji Flush, and Captain Sonar.
And I enjoyed each them for different reasons.
Valeria: Card Kingdoms has a similar play mechanic as Machi Koro, but I found I enjoy the fantasy theme of Valeria much more. I really like how all players can claim resources on everyone’s turn. There’s no down time in this game as players rattle through claiming cards for victory points.
FUSE is a 10-minute time game of rolling dice to solve puzzles / match patterns. It’s very difficult and we lost badly in our first game. So of course we had to go at it again. This time though we were victorious!
I’d heard a lot about Imhotep being a great family board game, but visually it hadn’t really appealed to me. But once I learned how to play, I could see why it’s been so well received. There are plenty of choices throughout the game that keeps it interesting and the scores close the whole time.
Fuji Flush is a very quick card game where players are simply trying to be the first to get rid of their hand of cards. We ended up playing 3 times in a row and could easily have played a couple more.
But it was time to break and get something to eat.
After grabbing dinner, I happened upon a group of guys setting up Captain Sonar who had an open spot for another player. I was more than happy to join in!
Captain Sonar is played in teams with 4 players on each team. Each player has a unique role to play on the submarine but all must work together to find and sink the other team’s submarine to win. Very cool game.
I then wandered around to check out the other areas of SaltCon — Hot Games, Play to Win, Game Library, RPGs, Miniatures Painting, and more. That’s also when a friend of mine (that I’ve been trying to convince to come to SaltCon for years), Branton, showed up!
The first game we played was Deception: Murder at SaltCon Live.
It was run by Meeple Nation and was a lot of fun. Rather than using cards like in Deception: Murder in Hong Kong, they had props for all the players to use. On one table were weapons and on the other table were bits of evidence. Everyone was secretly given their roles and then we selected two weapons and 3 pieces of evidence each.
All the props were funny and we had a great time in a live game of Deception with 15 players.
Oh, and we did nab the murderer.
Then I introduced Branton to a bunch of my SaltCon friends and we dove into more games to finish the night — The Golden Sails, America, Between Two Cities, Best Treehouse Ever, Jump Drive, and Ponzi Scheme.
The Golden Sails is an interesting card game where all of the square cards can be used in 1 of 5 ways to score points.
America is a trivia game we recently reviewed and it was also a hit among this group. In fact, so much so that we played a couple games in a row.
At this point we had 7 players wanting to play together so we pulled out Between Two Cities. I really like this tile-laying game where you have to work with the player on both sides to construct a joint city. Check out our full review to see why it’s so cool.
Best Treehouse Ever looks like a simple kids card game. But it turns out that it’s fun for adults too.
Then we played a quick game of Jump Drive. It’s themed in the Race for the Galaxy universe so I was a bit familiar with some iconography because of Roll for the Galaxy. But it still took a bit of thinking before I was off and running with it.
The last game of the night was Ponzi Scheme!
I had played it at SaltCon last year and really enjoyed it and once again had a great time playing. We played a 5-player game and there was plenty of wheeling and dealing with crazy loans. What an interesting concept for a game.
By this time it was just after 2:30 am. So we decided to call it a day.
After a few hours sleep, Branton and I were back at it Saturday morning.
We started the day with a couple games of Santorini.
What a terrific 2-player game that I just got a copy of from Roxley Games!
Not only is it a beautifully produced game, but the game play is fantastic. I love strategic 2-player games and Santorini is full of back-and-forth positioning. Check out our full review of Santorini.
Then we joined up with a few other friends to play New York Slice. It’s a game where one person splits up the pizza into groups of slices and then everyone gets to pick a set of slices — with the person who split the pizza choosing last. Points are scored by players who collect the most slices of a that value. So the person who collects the most “8” value slices will score 8 points. It was a quick and fun game.
Next to the table was another game I was interested in trying — Quests of Valeria. It’s in the same realm of Valeria: Card Kingdoms, with some of the same visuals and symbols, but the game play is completely different. In this game players select characters to add to their guilds who will then complete quests that arise by matching symbols on the cards in their guild. Between the two Valeria games I played, I enjoyed Card Kingdoms more.
Doug then introduced me to Animals on Board which also involved players dividing up sets of animal tokens and then collecting them for their arks. If players can collect 3 or more of an animal type, each token is worth 5 points. However, if they only have 2 of that animal, they don’t get any points (because Noah has a monopoly on animal pairs). It was a nice, light game that I can see appealing to families.
Then we tried out another light game I had brought along — Kingdomino. It’s a tile-laying game where players vie for the tiles they want as well as turn order in the next round. At the same time, players must be aware of the kingdom they’re building so it doesn’t extend beyond a 5 x 5 grid while also matching up terrain types. Tiles score for connected terrain areas based on the number of crowns and tiles in that area. Simple and light fun.
Branton and I then wrapped up our game playing at SaltCon with a game of Quadropolis — that I had acquired as part of the Math Trade.
I had played Quadropolis once before. It was on my birthday last year at a game store in Washington D.C. I have fond memories of that fun night, but Quadropolis wasn’t as big of a hit as I had hoped. But I still wanted to give it a second chance and this was the perfect opportunity.
And sure enough, the second time playing was much better. I like games that have puzzle-like elements and Quadropolis is full of those. Tiles are set out on a central board and players use number tiles to claim the tiles from those coordinates in the central board. They then must place the acquired tile on their own board on a numbered space or area that matches the number they used to claim the tile.
Players score points for the various types of building tiles based on the type of building and it’s arrangement in the player’s city.
There’s a lot to think about as you play and many paths to take. You definitely can’t do it all so you must figure out how to balance what you want to do (and claim) with what the other players are taking.
While I still didn’t win, I had much more fun playing it this time around. I think the familiarity with the game went a long way to making it more enjoyable.
After Quadropolis it was time to pack up my games, make some final rounds to say goodbye to my friends, and head on home.
There was still plenty of time left in the day and I still had enough energy to keep going (even with just a few hours sleep). But we had some family things going on that I had to get back to. So I made the journey home with a big smile on my face.
And I already can hardly wait until next year!
Here’s the quick list of games I played at SaltCon this year. So fun!
- Near and Far
- Valeria: Card Kingdoms
- Fuji Flush
- Captain Sonar
- Deception: Murder at SaltCon
- The Golden Sails
- Between Two Cities
- Best Treehouse Ever
- Jump Drive
- Ponzi Scheme
- New York Slice
- Quests of Valeria
- Animals on Board
If you’d like to see a video rundown of SaltCon, check out this video by my friend Cody, The Discriminating Gamer (Cody and I chat at the 19 min mark):