Saturday was a long but successful day.
I woke up a little after 6AM to make the almost 2 hour drive to Euroquest. This ended up being a relatively pleasant drive down Interstate 95. There was an incredible moment as I was crossing the Susquehanna river, and the fog on the river was lit with the early morning sun, and I could just make out the silhouette of a train starting to cross a bridge in the other direction a half mile down the river.
I arrived a little before 9, and was able to sit in while Geof Gambill explained Black Diamonds (BGG entry). This is an unpublished game about the history of coal mining and Unions in the Lehigh Valley, in Pennsylvania. As a PA native, relative local, and fan of the time period, I was excited to see this. This is a heavy economic games, and between the railroad, canal, industrialization, the market, mining operations, and the constant threat of unionization, there are a lot of well thought out thematic elements that have to be carefully balanced. There are also a lot of moving parts, in the physical sense, which is a bit daunting to me. Parts of the mining and shipping reminded me of whaling in New Bedford, so it’s great to see how other designers approach some similar problems. I had to jump out after the rules explanation to set up New Bedford at the next table.
There was a small crowd ready to sit and play New Bedford, as soon as I got it set up. The first four player game lasted about 1 hour and 15 minutes, excellent time for new players. There was a lot of building and whaling during the game, and then everyone remembered the bonus buildings toward the end. All players did well, and the winner had 29 points, which is impressive for a first play. The last few rounds came down to a fight for the sperm whales and the church.
It was only just after 11 AM, and I had the table reserved until noon, so I met up with Kevin Kulp, designer of Pigpen, which was recently Successful on Kickstarter. He sat for a 3-player game that I participated in. We finished just after noon, for about a 55 minute game. I am afraid I was a bit of a thorn in his side for this game (a trend which continued through the afternoon). The game ended with a 2-way tie at 25 points, with the third player winning the tie-breaker with the most whales.
I was afraid that the game would stretch out to more than 30 minutes per player with extra time needed for rules explanation. But these plays showed me that even first-time players could play through pretty quickly. Then again, maybe that is to be expected from players at a board game convention specializing in Euro-style games.
I also discovered an error in my current printing. The Lighthouse uses a version that I had tested and rejected for being too overpowered, but I guess I never changed it in the files for printing. Fortunately, I had some older (correct) versions of it in my older copies, and was able to switch one out when I handed off a copy for another blind play testing session.
After cleaning up, I sat for the Game Designers forum. Luke Peterschmidt led the roundtable discussion with Ryan Miller, and I got some great advice for how to take New Bedford to publishers from them, Ben Rosset, Andrew Parks, Volko Ruhnke, and others.
After the forum, I was fortunate enough to play Ben Rosset’s Brew Crafters, which is currently nearing the end of its Kickstarter Campaign and heading for the 5th stretch goal, or so. I want to write a more formal review of it this week before the Kickstarter campaign ends, but suffice to say this is a fantastic deep worker placement game in the vein of Agricola, but with better theme integration and some elegant and more natural mechanics. It convinced me to rush home and back it.
After Brew Crafters, I took a break and sat for a while. I showed a new game to Kevin Kulp and Eric Handler, who provided me with some critical advice on how to move the design forward, so expect to hear more about this game soon.
I finished the night with a play of Castle Dice. This is a clever take on dice drafting to grow your village and castle. It was for the most part, easy to pick up and jump into, with some great mechanics for competing, interacting and selecting dice. It took us a long time to play, which I will attribute to the fact that I was tired and had no idea what I was doing.
After not winning any of the Essen games that were given away as door prizes, I had to call it a night and started my drive home. I really appreciate the work done by the organizers of EuroQuest to help promote new games and designers.