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BGG Spring 2019 Recap

BGG Spring 2019 Recap

Over Memorial Day weekend, I got to attend BGG Spring in Dallas, Texas. I played a lot of games and lost a lot of sleep, but it was totally worth it.

But before we talk about the games, I want to mention a few people by name that made this trip special.

First, Chad with BGG. All of the BGG staff and volunteers were amazing as usual, but we got to spend some time with Chad playing Res Aracana. He was a great guy, great teacher, great competitor, and great resource for suggesting other games. If you have a chance to sit down and actually play a game with a staff member or a volunteer, rather than just relying on them to teach it to you, do it. We are all bound by the same hobby and it’s a great opportunity to talk about more than a specific game you're trying to learn, but the hobby in general.

Next, Christoph Schlewinski with the Spiel des Jahres delegation. Christoph was an absolute pleasure to interact with. Not only was he able to teach us games, but he also provided insight on the Spiel games, the process, and some fun games that haven’t made it over to the U.S. just yet. If you’ve ever been curious about the Spiels or just want to get a peak behind the curtain of how that process works for each of the different awards, be sure to talk with the SdJ delegation members if you have a chance.

It should be a surprise to no one at this point, but Rodney Smith is an absolute gem of a person and such a great ambassador for the hobby. My interaction with Rodney was limited to one sentence, but it was one of the highlights of the convention–he remembered playing Mansions of Madness with me at TokenCon. I mean, I hadn’t said anything or even brought it up. He saw me, said it was good to see me again, and I almost fell out of my chair. The Rodney you see in the videos is the same Rodney in real life.

Finally, Bekah, Dallas, Jenny, Chris, and Kelly. Conventions are so much fun with friends and I am glad that you are mine. Let’s do it again next year.

Without further ado, let’s do another round of...


Best Dressed: Wingspan

Designer: Elizabeth Hargrave
Artists: Ana Maria Martinez Jaramillo, Natalia Rojas, Beth Sobel
Publisher: Stonemaier Games
Year Published: 2019
No. of Players: 1-5
Ages: 10+
Playing Time: 40-70 min.

(From the publisher) You are bird enthusiasts—researchers, bird watchers, ornithologists, and collectors—seeking to discover and attract the best birds to your network of wildlife preserves. Each bird extends a chain of powerful combinations in one of your habitats (actions).

You may have heard of this one, but in case it flew under the radar, go check out the hype and then believe it. It wasn’t as complex as I would have guessed, but it was a lot of fun and worthy of the praise it has received. The gameplay is silky smooth and the production quality is second to none. It was one of the few games that I insisted on playing more than once.

Most Spirited: Catch the Moon

Designer(s): Fabien Riffaud, Juan Rodriguez
Artist: Emmanuel Malin
Publisher: Bombyx
Year Published: 2017
No. of Players: 1-4
Ages: 6+
Playing Time: 20 min.

(From the publisher) All you need in Catch the Moon are a few skillfully placed ladders, a good sense of balance, and a touch of imagination. The moon waits impatiently for your arrival, but she's a sensitive lady and the smallest mistake can make her cry. The right mix of skill and luck will help you become the most agile dreamer...

There are games that catch your eye and peak your interest simply by seeing them on a table and seem inviting. Walking past the Surfin’ Meeples booth, we noticed Catch the Moon and knew we had to stop. Catch the Moon embodied the spirit of the warm and inviting nature and had a game play to match. Players take turns adding to a stack of precariously placed ladders, meeting the placement conditions required by a dice roll. It is a unique and challenging dexterity game that will be a hit in casual gaming situations with friends and family of all ages.

Most Athletic: Flamme Rouge

Designer: Asger Harding Granerud
Artist(s): Ossi Hiekkala, Jere Kasanen
Publisher: Lautapelit
Year Published: 2016
No. of Players: 2-4
Ages: 8+
Playing Time: 30-45 min.

(From the Publisher) The excitement in the air is electric as the leaders round the last corner and head for the finish line. Each team has used cunning and skill to position their sprinter for this moment, but only one has done enough to pull off the win!

I like games based on athletics and I’d had my eye on Flamme Rouge for years, but had never got the opportunity to play it. It did not disappoint. It is a very simple game to teach/learn, but does a great job of capturing the excitement of a last minute sprint to the finish line. It also includes a really good catch-up mechanic that makes players carefully consider the amount of energy they exert on each turn. The one down-side is that there was a tie and only one tie-breaker (which still led to a tie) so we didn’t have a winner. Guess we’ll have to play it again. This one pedaled its way right on to my buy list.

The Black and White teams surged from behind to share the victory.
Party Animal: Arraial

Designer(s): Nuno Bizarro Sentieiro, Paulo Soledade
Artist: Nuno Saravia
Publisher: MEBO Games
Year Published: 2018
No. of Players: 1-4
Ages: 8+
Playing Time: 30 min.

(From the publisher) In the game Arraial, players try to make their neighborhood traditional event the most popular by attracting visitors to their celebration. Grab the most beautiful decorations, hire the most inspired performers, serve the most traditional delicacies, take to the streets, and host the party of the year! Arraial is a fast-paced game in which players take turns spending action points to get the best tiles (decorations, artists...) and place them on their player boards to form the perfect match and attract visitors to their party. In the end, whoever attracts the most visitors in their neighborhood wins.

Arraial is another game that I had been wanting to play since the pictures started hitting social media last year. It’s like the hard-partying love-child of Patchwork and Tetris. It seems really simple, and it is in theory, but the take-that aspect amps up the challenge considerably. If you like Patchwork and are looking for a new challenge, check it out.

Arraial is a party and everyone is invited.
Best Couple: Fire in the Library and The Legend of the Cherry Tree...

This may be a stretch, but I played a "couple" of new-to-me press-your-luck games at the convention.

Fire in the Library

Designer(s): Tony Miller, John Prather
Artist(s): Katie Khau, Beth Sobel
Publisher: Weird Giraffe Games
Year Published: 2019
No. of Players: 1-6
Ages: 8+
Playing Time: 15-30 min.

(From the publisher) Fire in the Library is a press-your-luck game in which players must try their best to rescue books and accumulate knowledge. The game is played in rounds with a variable turn order in which earlier players have more risk but a higher possible reward. Everyone starts with tools to help mitigate their luck or change the probabilities for their opponents! Gain more tools when your luck runs out or if you take the safe route and exit the library before things get too risky. Hurry, as the game ends immediately when any one wing of the library completely burns.

I’d been kicking myself for missing the Kickstarter so I was happy to see a copy in the convention library. It’s a tricky little press-your-luck game where players are attempting to rescue as many books as possible from a burning library. Players draft cubes from a bag representing different types of books they can rescue, or fire cubes that can end their turn and all of their potential scoring along with it. It does have cards that can mitigate the luck factor, so players are constantly weighing the option of going for more, or taking what books they have and gaining helpful items for future turns. I enjoyed it and another bonus is that it can play up to six and has a solitaire mode.

The Legend of the Cherry Tree that Blossoms Every Ten Years

Designer: Hinata Origuchi
Artist: Tohad
Publisher: Iello
Year Published: 2018
No. of Players: 2-4
Ages: 8+
Playing Time: 15-30 min.

(From the publisher) Do you know the legend of the cherry tree that blossomed every ten years? The story goes that once every decade, the cherry tree would shroud itself in beautiful flowers during the first days of spring. Thousands of buds grew on its branches and stretched elegantly toward the sky before becoming magnificent flowers of inestimable quality.When the flowers on the cherry tree begin to fall softly to the ground, you rush to collect them before they wither: The one who can gather the most flowers will have their wish granted by the cherry tree. But if you are too greedy, the cherry tree will find you unworthy of its gift, and you will lose the chance to make your dream come true...

This one is very much a push-your-luck game with little recourse if you push it to far. The art and presentation are great, but the game play was just so-so. Players are drafting flowers from a bag and then placing then in front or behind a screen for end game scoring. If you like this type of game, it may be for you, but it wasn’t for me. It definitely wins for the longest game title.

Most Laid Back: Noctiluca

Designer: Shem Phillips
Artist: N/A
Publisher: Z-Man Games
Year Published: 2019
No. of Players: 1-4
Ages: 8+
Playing Time: 30 min

(From the Publisher) In Noctiluca, 104 colorful translucent dice fill the pool on the game board to represent the different glowing noctiluca. Players take turns diving into the water from the edges of the shore to collect the noctiluca dice from the board and keep them safely in jars until they can deliver them to healers. After two rounds, players compare points from their successful deliveries and the player with the most points wins.

I love Raiders of the North Sea. In fact, I love the entire North Sea trilogy. I like Architects of the West Kingdom and am a Kickstarter backer for Paladins of the West Kingdom. I guess you can say that I like Shem Phillips' games.

So, if you were to have told me that my next must-buy game from Phillips would be a pretty little dice game about divers collecting noctiluca in jars I would have told you that you were crazy. Well, we’re living in crazy times and here we are. Noctiluca is great. It seemed a like a mixture of Sagrada and Siekatsu and fits right into my abstract game wheelhouse. It was one of the few games that I played twice at the convention, and I had it ordered before I left. Check it out and see if it is right for you, but I highly recommend it.

Noctiluca dice and board.
Most Studious: Detective: A Modern Crime Board Game
Designer(s): Przemyslaw Rymer, Ignacy Trzewiczek, Jakub Lapot
Artist(s): Aga Jakimiec, Ewa Kostorz, Rafal Szyma
Publisher: Portal Games
Year Published: 2018
No. of Players: 1-5
Ages: 16+
Playing Time: 120-180 min

(From the Publisher) In Detective: A Modern Crime Board Game you are going to solve FIVE different cases and find out what connects them, you are going to BREAK THE 4th WALL by using every resource you can, you are going to browse the game's DEDICATED DATABASE simulating your agency's resources, you will enter a city maze of old mysteries and fresh CRIME, and you will be able to COOPERATE with other agents or solve the mystery on your own.

Another Kennerspiel nominee, but I’m torn on this one. For every good thing about Detective, there seemed to be something that was underwhelming. It requires a computer for play and it interacts with the game in an innovative way, but that also adds something that I look to get away from when I play board games. I played the stand-alone story, which now that I am done with it and can’t play again, but there is a legacy case that unfolds over several plays. We solved the case, but it seemed a little too easy. It was very theme-rich, but it took hours to play.

No spoilers here.

Ultimately, it fell a little short of my expectations. That’s not to say it was bad, because it isn’t by any means. But when compared to similar one-and-done type mystery games (e.g. Sherlock: Consulting Detective and T.I.M.E Stories) it seemed easier and added more note taking than playing. If you’ve ever wondered what detective paperwork is like, this may be for you. If you like the addition of having to play with a computer, then this is for you. If you’ve finished the Sherlock: Consulting Detective cases and all the T.I.M.E Stories scenarios, then by all means pick this up. But for me, I’m going to wait until I am done with both of those before I think about adding this one to my collection.

Most Likely to Succeed (Spiel nominees)

All the nominees are already successful, but here are my picks for each of the spiel categories.

Kinderspiel des Jahres: Go Gecko Go!

Designer: Jurgen Adams
Artist: Gabriela Sileira
Publisher: Zoch Verlag
Year Published: 2019
No. of Players: 2-4
Ages: 6+
Playing Time: 20 min

(From the Publisher) Go Gecko Go! is the roll and move game that’s all about piling smaller animals on top of larger animals while keeping an eye on the height of the next bridge that needs to be cleared.

Every swimming team is comprised of a crocodile, a turtle, a frog, and a gecko. In order to advance their animals, one player rolls three dice and then selects a combination of icons from the result. The player has to keep in mind that bigger animals can give smaller ones piggyback rides. Also, animals that are piled too high will run into the bridges that span the river and be knocked off. The first player whose full animal team reaches the goal is the winner.

Go Gecko Go! is a race game similar to Camel Up, but even though I am not the intended target audience for this game, I think I like it better. A perfect balance of luck and strategy for younger gamers. This is on my buy list.

Jump onto other your other simmers to make it to the end, but be careful that they don't get knocked off by the bridges.

Kennerspiel des Jahres pick: Wingspan

See “Best Dressed” above.

Spiel des Jahres: Just One

Designer(s): Ludoivc Roudy, Bruno Sautter
Artist: Eric Azagury
Publisher: Repos Production
Year Published: 2018
No. of Players: 3-7
Ages: 8+
Playing Time: 20 min

(From the Publisher) Just One is a cooperative party game in which you play together to discover as many mystery words as possible. Find the best clue to help your teammate. Be unique, as all identical clues will be cancelled! A complete game is played over 13 cards. The goal is to get a score as close to 13 as possible. In case of a right answer, the players score 1 point. In case of wrong answer, they lose the current card as well as the top card of the deck. Thus losing 2 points. In case of lack of answer, the players only lose the current card, and therefore only 1 point.

Not going to lie, I wasn’t blown away by this year’s SdJ nominees. Especially when compared against the 2018 class of Azul, The Mind, and Luxor. But of all the nominees, I enjoyed Just One the most and it stood out as a much better game than the other nominees. The active player is trying to guess the mystery word based on one word clues provided by the other players. It is a simple game, and very much a party game, but one that I wouldn’t mind playing again when a casual game is needed.

Can you guess the mystery word based on these clues?

Most Likely to Succeed (at an upcoming Kickstarter campaign)

I played three coming-soon-to-Kickstarter games and I think they will all find success.

First is The Quest Kids. This is a children’s game for ages 4+. It is a dungeon crawl without all the killing and looting bodies (players instead scare away monsters and discover treasure and other items to assist them on the journey).

One cool thing about game play for kids is that it requires cooperation and sharing. Players will need to share resources (and receive shared resources in return) to scare away the monsters and score victory points for end game scoring. All the pieces are big and colorful (the “miniatures” are more like action figures, which are planned to be fully-articulating) and will be hit with the kids. The production of the components, especially considering that what I saw was a prototype, was impressive. It’s a game that not only teaches some good habits (sharing) but is one that the parents won't dread having to play with the kids.

The Quest Kids prototype.
Next is Knights of Glory from Blue Gear Games. In KoG, players are competing in the “Royal Games,” an event where the bravest knights delve into a dungeon to complete tasks to gain the king’s favor. This was an interesting push-your-luck dice roller that integrates a strong bluffing and deduction element. It isn’t cooperative, but it does have a feel of all players against the board, as the dungeon tiles can fall off and eliminate players that didn’t get out of the dungeon quickly enough. It does a good job of combining the push-your-luck and bluffing elements into a quick game. Brody's review of Knights of Glory for Everything Board Games is out now.

Finally, Mixed Company. This was unlike anything else I played all weekend. In short, players select a conversation topic, for example “Which are better: Vampires or Werewolves?”. Players then assign a condition to one of their opponents that they must then use in their argument such as making the argument sound “academic” (e.g. citing sources and statistics, using fancy college words, etc.).

Players then make their case for their position and take turns offering points and counterpoints. At the end of the round. Players award trophies (victory points) to their opponents for certain things like having the most convincing argument or providing a new view point that others hadn’t thought of before.
This may sound like debate class: the game, and in some ways, it is. But I was really surprised by how much I enjoyed it. It was a great icebreaker, it encouraged social interaction, and if used with kids, can develop some useful social and listening skills, as well as learning to provide support for positions and constructing an argument. I may be a sucker for games that are subversive educational tools, but I think that this may be one of the best. It's Kickstarter is live now. I got to do a review of Mixed Company, but stay tuned for another review from Alexa coming soon.

Most Popular: Roll and Writes (various)

Roll and writes seemed to be some of the most popular games this year. Everywhere I looked, players had them at their tables. I got to play several and I saw several more that I need to try. Here are a few that stood out:

On Tour from BoardGameTables.com. I saw this one everywhere. I backed it on Kickstarter so I was familiar with it and didn’t play it during the convention, but it seemed very popular with the attendees. In On Tour, players are attempting to create a continuous line of tour stops across the United States. Sounds easy, but it isn’t.

Railroad Ink from Horrible Games. Players are attempting to connect road and railways from one side of the board to the other, but they can't always cross paths. It’s really easy for players to back themselves into a corner, especially towards the end of the game. This is the roll and write for the player that likes the train theme. Probably my favorite roll and write that I played at the convention.

Corinth from Days of Wonder. The friends referenced at the beginning of this recap voted me as most likely to have a meltdown over a game. They were right, and it was this game. Despite trying to stab my pen through the table at one point, I actually liked this one once the rules were clarified. It’s a dice drafting game where players are racing for the most points based on the goods they produce. It’s not as puzzly as On Tour or Railroad Ink, but instead is based more on the luck of the roll and your order in the draft.

Tag City from RUNES Editions. Ever wanted to be a graffiti artist leaving your mark all over the city? Maybe not, but with Tag City you can pretend you are. Players draft Tetris-like shapes to fill in the grids of various locations on their boards. Along with the city locations, players can also score for completing rows and columns. Another one that relies on the luck of the draw and your draft order, but it offers a unique theme.

I was not the best graffiti artist of the group.
Dungeon Academy from Matagot. This was a different take on roll and writes. Players roll 16 dice and then determine a path on their 4x4 dungeon grid to move. Players decide where to enter the dice dungeon, which dice to pass through, and you draw a continuous line on their grid until they exit at a point of their choosing. But, each space you move through can provide points, health, mana, or damage. That part sounds simple, but there is a very short time allotment for making this decision and players don’t always have the opportunity to do all the math of the potential move before deciding their path. It’s pretty stressful for a causal roll and write.

Finally, 2018 Kennerspiel nominee Ganz Schon Clever from Schmidt Spiele. I have played this several times and have even made the illustrious 300 points club. It is one of my favorite roll and writes and I hadn’t intended to play it at the convention, but I had taken a lot, and I mean A LOT, of losses over the course of 4 days and needed an ego boost. So I taught this to my group, and then unleashed the fury. Like, Cobra-Kai-mercy-is-for-the-weak type fury. I scored 282 and beat the nearest player by over 100. Am I proud of that? Not really, but a win is a win.

In Clever, players draft dice to create chain-scoring opportunities that can lead to big points. One cool thing about the game is that while there is an active player, the passive players still get to draft from the dice that the active player discards. A game that lives up to its name, Clever is one of the best roll and writes on the market. Just don’t let me teach and play with you when I’ve been on a losing streak.

Best All-Around: Carpe Diem 

Designer: Stefan Feld
Artist: Lalanda Hruschka
Publisher: Ravensburger
Year Published: 2018
No. of Players: 2-4
Ages: 10+
Playing Time: 45-75 min.

(From the Publisher) The players slip into the role of rich patricians in ancient Rome. Everyone is trying to build a lucrative city district to score as many prestige points as possible. The novel way to get to the individual buildings of a district combined with a large variety of score cards make for an unusual game with a large number of strategies. From the successful designer, Stefan Feld.

Though I think Wingspan will win the Kennerspiel, I preferred Carpe Diem. It may be the ugliest, hardest-on-the-eyes, non-colorblind-friendly game I have ever played, but my goodness is it good. From the first round to the last, players are faced with tough choices that can greatly impact the outcome of the game. There are several things to track for scoring and the required foresight beginning with the first tile placed is remarkable.

I try to not be too much of a hype man, but if you have a chance to play Carpe Diem, play it. If you have a chance to buy it, buy it (Seize the day? More like seize this game). If you like slightly different shades of greens and browns, this your game. If you have a chance to complain about the color schemes, complain away. But what Carpe Diem lacks in aesthetics, it more than makes up for in gameplay. It was by far my favorite new game of the convention.

As always, I owe thanks Everything Board Games, and all of the Board Game Geek staff and volunteers for helping make this weekend possible.

Until next year.

Nick Shipley - Reviewer

Nick is a compliance consultant by day, a board gamer at night, and a husband and father always. When he is not bringing a game to the table, he is running (most often to or from his kids) or watching the New York Yankees. Nick lives in Oklahoma.

See Nick's reviews HERE.
BGG Spring 2019 Recap BGG Spring 2019 Recap Reviewed by Nick Shipley on June 14, 2019 Rating: 5


  1. I recently got to play Carpe Diem and I share your enthusiasm. It was a lot of fun and had so many stimulating and difficult choices.

    1. I've since bought it and still enjoy it as much as I did then. The choices are often enjoyably frustrating.