CinCityCon 2018: My Top 10 Games
Patrick Simmons
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Harrison
Ohio
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Prior to this past weekend, I had never attended a board gaming convention (I'd only been to one convention at all - Comic Con Hyderabad - and while they did have a small booth with board games, I never ended up playing any the one day I was there), so I wasn't 100% sure what to expect from CinCityCon. That said, I liked what I found, which was exactly what I went for: games.

I went to the con with my brother and a friend (Michael and Don, respectively - neither of whom are on BGG, and neither of whom, like myself, had ever been to a board game convention), and with two exceptions basically just played games with them all weekend. I had intended initially to try to meet a few new people to play with as well (a bit more on this later in the list), but I think all three of us ended up overwhelmed a bit by how many games were available and going on, so we just sort of hit the library and started into it.

All in all, we played 17 games (18 if you count the one video game we played). Of those 17, 14 came from the library, two I brought with me, and one I purchased there from a fellow BGG user. We played only one game I had previously played (one of those I brought), so 16 of them were entirely new to me, 13 were new to Michael (who had played three of our library picks before), and all of them were new to Don.

This list is my best attempt to pick a top ten from those games.
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1. Video Game: Artemis: Spaceship Bridge Simulator [Average Rating:8.02 Overall Rank:793]
Video Game: Artemis: Spaceship Bridge Simulator
Patrick Simmons
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Harrison
Ohio
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#0 - Artemis: Spaceship Bridge Simulator

I wanted to include a shoutout to Artemis, even if I'm not including it in the actual rankings, because we still had a blast playing it. It was one of only two games where we were joined by another player (our pilot - of the rest of us, Michael ran weapons, Don was the science officer and a fighter pilot, and I ran engineering and communications), and, after a few minutes of the instructor showing us the basic controls (during which we may or may not have accidentally crashed the ship into a minefield and needed to start over), we all got into our roles pretty quickly.

If you happen to see this at a con and wanted to experience being on the deck of the U.S.S. Enterprise (or nearly any other sci-fi ship scenario that would let you give and receive commands like "all power to forward thrusters" or "scanning sector for hostile lifeforms"), you should absolutely give this a shot.
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2. Board Game: Space Hulk: Death Angel – The Card Game [Average Rating:6.99 Overall Rank:605]
Board Game: Space Hulk: Death Angel – The Card Game
Patrick Simmons
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Harrison
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#0 - Space Hulk: Death Angel

I brought a few games with me to the con, but only two of those were played. Of those two, one I had never played before, but this one I had - a lot, almost all solo. Since I'd played it, I'm also excluding it from my top 10.

Other than Artemis, this is also the only game we played with people outside out threesome. It was the last game we played (as the con was being cleaned up) and we were joined to two other gentlemen for a total team of 5 players (the most I've ever played this with).

I'll be honest, I think I fudged two rules while we played: I think I let someone use an ability for a dead marine (I didn't want to check their action cards as we were short on time to wrap it up before needing to get out as it was), and I think I let someone slightly misuse another marine's ability (same reason as above). It had been a few months since I got this out but we were a bit short on time so I didn't want to re-read EVERY rule and ability while everyone just waited, so that's really my bad.

That said, we still just barely one - two marines left out of our original 10 at the end. I think the close call endings in this are still the reason I love it.
 
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3. Board Game: Hamsterrolle [Average Rating:6.81 Overall Rank:1490]
Board Game: Hamsterrolle
Patrick Simmons
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Harrison
Ohio
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#16-11 - The Ones that Didn't Make It

#16 - Tides of Time
Possibly the only game we didn't really enjoy. Admittedly, we only played it once - Michael and I while waiting on Don to arrive - but it just didn't click. It was attractive, sure, but we didn't quite grasp the strategy, so that in the end I won (despite spending the whole game convinced I was losing) and Michael lost (despite appearing to both of us to be ahead the hole time), and neither of us could pinpoint how we "pulled it off" or what we did wrong. I generally like pass-and-plays, but I'd probably pass rather than play this one.

#15 - Guardian's Gambit
I brought several games to the con but only played two - of those I brought, one I hadn't actually played yet, and this was it. Gambit has it's flaws - there's a few character specials we needed to make educated guesses on (esp. the Paladin), and a little luck in picking which hidden opponent card to attack can go a long way - but for what it is, it was good: a very, very compact (smaller than Love Letter) game that can be played without a table and in only a few minutes while still providing some actual interesting choices and moments. No regrets and I'll definitely be bringing it more places with me.

#14 - City of Horror
I have exactly two complaints with this game: a) the water tower wobbles because the notches in the standee aren't cut deep enough (it drove me nuts) and b) it takes longer to read the rules and set it up the first time than it does to play the game. I'm not saying it wasn't fun to play - it was. The thing is, it isn't really even complicated - it took us an hour and a half to read the rules, set it up, and play it, but we all felt confident that we could get through a game, with setup, in 45 minutes if we played again (probably 30 or less if it was already setup). While a 4 turns long game seemed a bit odd at first, esp. given not a whole lot happens per turn, we picked up pretty quickly that this isn't a game about doing a lot of things (despite all the bits), but about making the most out of the few things you can do.

#13 - Niya
Michael and I used to play a lot of Koi-Koi and we both have Hanafuda decks, so when we came across this, we had to try it. We were both pleasantly surprised by it as we found more and more ways to think ahead and work out best moves. It is simple, and, as I understand it, solvable, but for a quick and attractive game for two, we enjoyed it - sort of a much-upgraded Tic-tac-toe without the constant draws.

#12 - Hamsterrolle
Full disclosure, two of the black slats and one cone were broken off the library copy of this, so we were a bit more limited in our play possibilities. That said, we played this as a wind-down game before dinner one night and we all enjoyed it a lot: like Jenga, it is almost more of an activity you can win than a game as most think of them, but it was a blast nonetheless. It takes less than a minute to pick up, is tense, produces laughed, and doesn't require too much brain-power when you just want to have fun.

#11 - Tsuro
This was one of my two "games I'm a little surprised I've never played," and one of the ones Michael had played before. That said, I've played a lot of online games that, while solo, are more or less the same concept, and it isn't exactly hard to pick up. I think the more players this has the more it may excel for me, because while you get less moves to make, each move also is all the more intense and important.
 
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4. Board Game: They Who Were 8 [Average Rating:5.64 Overall Rank:13574]
Board Game: They Who Were 8
Patrick Simmons
United States
Harrison
Ohio
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#10 - They Who Were 8

I bought this at the con from:
Peter Max
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Cinci
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We both said we'd try to play something together sometime during the weekend and texted each other a few times, but both always seemed to catch the other already mid-game, so, alas, we never pulled it off (maybe some other time, Peter!).

That said, I did get this out - I don't really know what I'd think of it. I'd watched Vasel's review ("just moving stuff around") and, like him, would readily admit to being attracted to this for the art more than anything else. I'd also admit that maybe the art and theme here does come across as a bit pretentious. However, I enjoyed the game a lot more than he did.

I don't know how it'll hold up to many more plays, but the two times we played it were fun - trying to ensure the pair you share with an opponent is the highest-scoring pair while also trying to contribute the least to that pair (the lowest side of the highest pair wins) is a fun mechanic. That said, since nearly all cards only let you affect other player's Gods (rather than your own), it may be that the best strategy is just to load up the God's whose pairs yours share in the hopes you load you opponents faster than they load you. I can't say for sure - we did spend a reasonable amount of time manipulating each other into focusing on the wrong areas so we could build other's up, so while I see a potential opening for it because the same strategy every time, I can't say for sure if that will happen, and I obviously hope it won't, because I enjoyed our first two games and, once again, the art really is pretty cool.
 
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5. Board Game: Jaipur [Average Rating:7.51 Overall Rank:133]
Board Game: Jaipur
Patrick Simmons
United States
Harrison
Ohio
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#9 - Jaipur

I have wanted to play this for a long time, and was glad to finally get to do so. This is one of a couple games that hold that strange position for me of "I loved it, but I don't think I'd buy it because it likely wouldn't get enough play" (based on my schedule and who I play with - usually more than two people). This game is just the right length, I think - one play is satisfying without overstaying its welcome, and leaves you open to play another game but not feeling like you need to play the same one again.

I also found it attractive, easy to learn, and pretty clever - while billed as a trading game, the mechanic of earning sets of cards to buy valuable wares for points made this feel perhaps the most like a two-player Ticket to Ride to me, in all the right ways and with a fairly quick setup.
 
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6. Board Game: Shear Panic [Average Rating:6.37 Overall Rank:1955]
Board Game: Shear Panic
Patrick Simmons
United States
Harrison
Ohio
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#8 - Shear Panic!

Michael insisted on this, having played it before. Any questions I had stopped as soon as he opened to box to reveal the big, heavy, sheep figures inside. I was sold.

The game itself is a bit unlike anything else I've ever played - all about moving the sheep in the rows in certain ways to ensure you score while preventing your opponents from doing so, with score criteria changing several times during the game so that what may be a scoring position now might not be later, and with available moves simply being a set amount which, once used up, are gone, so planning to ensure you have the right moves available for scoring in the next phase available is paramount. It may look silly from the outside, but there is quite of bit of game going on here.

It is strange. It is unique. It is packed with truly awful puns. I'd play it again in a heartbeat.
 
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7. Board Game: Santorini [Average Rating:7.52 Overall Rank:152]
Board Game: Santorini
Patrick Simmons
United States
Harrison
Ohio
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#7 - Santorini

I played this twice - once with two players, and no god powers. Michael and I both enjoyed it - a fun, clever game that, essentially, was an abstract with an attractive and surprisingly fitting theme placed on it. The decisions are deep without being agonizing, the game is easy to learn, it looks great, and it was fun.

So, of course, we decided to play a second round right away (always a good sign), but Don showed up right then, so we decided to add in the god powers and switch to three players (though the rules say it is "best with two" as a sort-of warning).

...and we still loved it, though for slightly different reasons. It was a bit less abstract and much less symmetrical, and occasionally we found two of us working with each other to shut out a particularly close call to a win with the third, but we still had a great time. A bit more likely for a "no available moves" win this way, but still great fun nonetheless!
 
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8. Board Game: The Lord of the Rings [Average Rating:6.75 Overall Rank:858]
Board Game: Lord of the Rings
Patrick Simmons
United States
Harrison
Ohio
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#6 - Lord of the the Rings

I have wanted to play this for years. Don, however, is the one who picked it out of the library. Michael, thankfully, had already played it, because we were short on time (we finished - well, lost - within two minutes of needing to return it).

Honestly, part of me feels like if we rushed slightly less I may have placed this a notch or two higher. On the other than, if I wasn't such a sucker for Tolkien, maybe it'd be a notch or two lower? Regardless, the simple mechanics combined with the rather clever way of handling the major plot points (as moments of being given new cards, switching out the board, or having potential "bad things" happen) from the story made me really enjoy this!

...even if Sam died in Helm's Deep...

...and Sauron took the ring from us in Shelob's Lair.

These things happen.
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9. Board Game: Mountains of Madness [Average Rating:6.57 Overall Rank:2010]
Board Game: Mountains of Madness
Patrick Simmons
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Harrison
Ohio
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#5 - The Mountains of Madness

Real-time elements. "Acting" mechanics. Relatively basic main mechanic. Co-op. I can totally see why a lot of people wouldn't - and don't - like this.

But we did. A lot.

The basics here are really very simple: there are four suits. Each location gives you a challenge which consists of playing, as a group, card that equal either a range within or a specified number (or one of two numbers) within two or more suits. For example, "8-10 of tools and 12 of weapons" would indicate that if one players put down a 4 of tools, and another put down two 6's of weapons and a 5 of tools, the challenge would be complete.

What makes this click is the madness mechanic, which fits the theme perfectly. The card playing itself is handled in a 30 second timed burst from the moment players see what the challenge is. Prior to that moment, they can't discuss what cards they hold. After they actually start putting them down (still within the same 30 seconds that have for discussion), they can no longer speak...

...and as you go, players gain madness, which effects them only during that 30 seconds, but can do anything from forcing them to shrug when talking to making them only play with their eyes closed or give all responses as only "yes" or "no." Toss in that players can't reveal or discuss their madness outside of the 30 seconds it is in effect, and you've got a game that, while some may find obnoxious, forces its theme right into the players actions and provides for some truly unique gameplay.
 
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10. Board Game: Mr. Jack [Average Rating:7.02 Overall Rank:515]
Board Game: Mr. Jack
Patrick Simmons
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Harrison
Ohio
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4# - Mr. Jack

I love asymmetrical two-player games. I like The Phantom Society, I like Ogre, I like Lord of the Dead, and I even like Mastermind - I just enjoy the feel of them, and Mr. Jack may have hopped right up to being my favorite one.

It's quick to learn, easy to play, but packed with careful decision making. It also feels balanced despite the large difference in goals as each player gains and loses their advantages throughout the game.

Michael and I played twice - both times, the detective won, but both times it was barely. I'd like to play again just to see if we can change that.
 
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11. Board Game: Puerto Rico [Average Rating:8.00 Overall Rank:25]
Board Game: Puerto Rico
Patrick Simmons
United States
Harrison
Ohio
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#3 - Puerto Rico

This was one of those "I'm surprised I've never played this before" moments for me. Michael had, so he grabbed it. This, along with the next two on the list, were part of a revelation for me: I really, really like games with player boards wherein each player attempts to maximize the options available on their board to win.

Which is to say, I really enjoyed this - much more than I thought I would. For some reason the box art always looked dull to me, but now it just makes me want to run out a snag a copy to play again.
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12. Board Game: The Networks [Average Rating:7.23 Overall Rank:556]
Board Game: The Networks
Patrick Simmons
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Harrison
Ohio
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#2 - The Networks

Here's where it gets difficult for me. This and the next game were neck-and-neck for this spot, and for a lot of the same reasons:

1. I love the art in both.
2. I love the theme in both.
3. I love the mechanics in both.
4. I won the games we played of each.

Ok, 4's not fair - but the others are all true. Both games look great in their own styles, both flow well with their chosen themes, and both are, as I mentioned above, games using my beloved "here's your board, now build things on it" system.

Honestly, the balance here came down to two things:

1. Do I chose the game that told a story, or the one that made me laugh?
2. Do I put this in 2nd place because, having now placed it, I'm very bitter with myself for not backing it on Kickstarter originally?
 
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13. Board Game: Above and Below [Average Rating:7.45 Overall Rank:232] [Average Rating:7.45 Unranked]
Board Game: Above and Below
Patrick Simmons
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Ohio
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#1 - Above and Below

If my top three here are "here's your board now build things on it" then can I call Ghost Stories "here's your board now keep things off it?"

Whatever. This is my top pick from the con, and one I've been wrestling with the decision to pick up since (Christmas is around the corner, and my wife is looking for ideas...but if she gets this, can I get another, or vice versa?). I adored every part of this game - from the gameplay to the theme, and found the added-on storytelling/choose-your-own-adventure risk-taking element utterly charming. This won me over in so many ways.

My only real complaint? The player who explored the most (Don) lost. We had a deep feeling that investing too much in the storytelling part may not be an effective way to earn points.

On the other hand, maybe that's good - it keeps it so that you never delve too deep in one game, and so the freshness of the choose-your-own-adventure cave exploration lasts longer as an endearing twist on this economic game.

All in all, I had an amazing time at the con, and only wish I had more of it - I'll 100% be back next year (unless I'm hit by a bus, in which case I probably won't).
 
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