Tag Archives: Pat

Gen Con 2016 Impressions

This year was my first attending Gen Con in Indianapolis. My expectations were pretty mild. I am not a big fan of crowds, and to be honest, I tend to prefer my smaller groups of close friends for gaming experiences, especially for tabletop RPGs. That being said, I was very excited to go, and expected to have a good time. My hope was to check an item off of the bucket list with a nice “Been there, done that.”

So how was it? It exceeded my expectations in every way, and I would make it an annual pilgrimage if I could. Plans to make that a reality are afoot!

Why was it so rad? Let’s do six sides of awesome!

  1. I went with a great group of friends. A big hats off to Scott, Kayne, Matt, and Bill. Four of us drove out and had an epic road trip. We played some Dear Leader during the drive and had a stop in Ohio for Skyline Chili and Graeter’s ice cream.  Is chili the best food for a road trip? Mebbe not, but if the shoe fits…
  2. We had a great hotel, though not one right by the convention center. We were close the airport, and the drive in was ten minutes and pretty much a straight shot with pretty much no traffic. We had a two bedroom suite with a third pullout bed, two bathrooms, and full kitchen. And free hot breakfast! And free internet! It was awesome! Oh, and our fifth person flew in and out, so that really helped with convenience for him.
  3. The food trucks! A whole slew of food trucks every lunch and dinner (they rotated in the afternoon) was an awesome way to get a quick bite to eat that was reasonably priced and typically great quality. There was also a really great coffee shop right next to where the food trucks were as well, Bee Coffee Roasters. There coffee was great (and essential to my functioning) and they were super cool.

    Just a bit of the decoration at the Ram brewery.
    Just a bit of the decoration at the Ram brewery.
  4. Which brings me to another point. Indianapolis really opened their doors to Gen Con. I’d read comments like this, but I really saw it in action. I really felt welcomed and wanted and valued every where I went. Great experiences from one restaurant to the next, to Uber drivers, hotel staff, convention center staff, everyone.
  5. The people were wonderful. Tens of thousands of gamers descended on Gen Con, and pretty much everyone I chatted with was awesome. I tend toward introversion, but I made a conscious effort to talk to people around me nearly all the time I was at Gen Con. It was a great decision because I met a ton of cool people doing rad things at an epic convention. I also spent a fair amount of time in lines, so what else are you going to do? Wednesday night, we stood in the will call line for a while. (I’ll write some more on this in my upcoming “things not to do” post) I ended up chatting the whole time with two fellows, and it was great. In hindsight, I wish I did a better job of writing down names or snapping pics of badges. One was from Tennessee and the other from Iowa and both had been to Gen Con multiple times before. They gave me great tips and we just had fun comparing stories, what gaming do we do, what we were looking forward to, and more. And this type of interaction repeated itself again, and again, and again. All show long, I reflected on a comment from my linemate from Iowa. He mentioned the opening remarks and how the host will say something like “welcome home” and how this reflected the camaraderie of the show. It struck me as quaint but unlikely to my virgin ears, but he was right. It felt like I was with friends the whole time I was there.

    A tiny sliver of the crowd waiting for the exhibit to open Thursday morning.
    A tiny sliver of the crowd waiting for the exhibit to open Thursday morning.
  6. It was huge! I was blown away. I go to trade shows pretty regularly for my job, and some big ones. Or so I thought. It was enormous. The whole convention center! And spilling over skyways to four or maybe five hotels connected! And to the stadium next door! I was walking about 9 miles a day while I was there and doing something from 8 AM until 1 or 2 in the morning pretty much every day.

I’ll do a couple more posts on Gen Con. Next I’ll cover a few things I would do differently going to future Gen Con events. After that, I’ll write up the really special stuff I saw or played while I was there.

A La Carte Review

Let’s review A La Carte!

Overview – A La Carte is primarily a lighter dexterity game for two to four players with a listed playing time of thirty minutes. It is recommended for ages 8 and up and both the theme and gameplay work well with children. The 2009 Fantasy Flight Games version of the game was used for this review.

Inside the Box – The components for A La Carte are excellent. As a dexterity game, you might expect that good quality and highly tactile components would add to the “feel” of the game, and that is certainly the case for pretty much everything found the box. From the cardboard stovetops with dials that you assemble to the plastic seasonings and their shakers to the metal cooking pans, the components are high quality and clearly “set the table” for a fun, engaging, and good-looking game experience.  All of the various Recipe and Coffee Cup tokens are easy to handle and the icons are clear and readable. The rulebook is short but clear with examples and illustrations. This game was easy to get on the table with a short, well-written rulebook, a small amount of component assembly, and about five minutes of set-up time.

Gameplay – In A La Carte, you play a chef trying to create perfect dishes. Each completed dish earns victory points and perfect dish earns a star. The game ends in one of two ways:

  1. A chef wins immediately upon finishing their third perfect dish.
  2. A chef prepares five dishes. The winner is determined by number of victory points.
  3. A chef cannot place a new dish in their pan. The winner is determined by the number of victory points.

Gameplay itself is fairly straightforward. First, you select your dish. Each dish token shows the temperature and condiments needed to prepare the dish. The dishes are also color-coded and loosely grouped by difficulty. You then have three actions each turn and can use them to add seasonings or heat your dish.

You season your dish by shaking a bottle filled with colored “chunks” of green, red, yellow, or black seasoning (herbs, paprika, lemon, or pepper respectively). Each shaker also has a few “chunks” of salt. One action can be used for one shake of a particular condiment bottle. The goal is to shake the correct number and type of condiments in to your pan, without overseasoning. A dish becomes overseasoned when it has three or more of the same condiment in the pan. Likewise, three or more salt will also overseason your dish.

You must also heat your dish to the correct temperature. You heat your stove by rolling a die, which will show you how much to change the temperature on your stove. Possible results also allow you to raise the temperature on everyone’s stove, raise your own stove your choice of 1 to 3 units, or get a Coffee Break.

Coffee Breaks are special actions, represented by tokens, that can make your mission to become the top chef easier or perhaps make the journey harder for your opponent chefs. And sometimes both. They may give you extra actions, allow you to switch stoves, add seasonings to another chef’s dish, or simply give you some victory points.

You can “complete” a dish by burning or overseasoning it, in which case it is thrown in the disposal. If the temperature and seasonings match the recipe exactly, you score a perfect dish star token and add the dish to your completed dish stack. You can successfully prepare the dish if you have the correct temperature and condiments along with a few extra condiments, so long as it is not overseasoned. In this case, you still add your dish to your completed stack. All of these empty your pan, and you can then choose a new dish. Your new dish must be of a different color than your successfully completed dishes, provided their are different colors available.

One final gameplay note regarding the Crepe! Everyone has a Crepe that they may choose to cook. In order to successfully cook the Crepe, you must heat your stove without burning the Crepe, but you must also flip the Crepe token to its opposite side with your pan. This can be nailed in the first attempt, or can tie up your pan for many turns.

Impressions – A La Carte when from sitting on the shelf in shrink-wrap to a regular on the gaming table, especially in family or party groups. Why? It is fun and funny. It looks fun and interesting. The theme is accessible and the game just exudes kitchen mayhem. This is in a large part due to the fantastic components. The stoves, pans, shakers, funny recipes with weird pictures all add up to a great looking and fun playing experience.

A La Carte is heavy in both dexterity and luck. Through no seeming fault of your own, you can get two salt crystals and no condiments of interest to come dropping out of the shaker with any given shake. Far more common is to shake and have nothing come out. Some players may find this to be frustrating, but we found the light theme and physical gameplay to simply make for fun and laughs. Likewise, the heating die is still more randomness, but if you burn your dish, then throw it in the disposal and grab another one. Players who dislike chance in their games or perhaps require a little more “gravitas” in a theme may not find A La Carte to their tastes.

Gamers looking for a fun game to play with groups across a range of ages and towards the lighter end of game experience should find A La Carte a good addition to their collection.

Roll of the Dice Rating – 8/10

  • Great theme supported by gameplay
  • Dexterity and luck elements make for light and fun atmosphere
  • Fantastic components take you in to the kitchen
  • Accessible to wide range of ages and gamer experience skill levels
  • High degree of chance may turn off some gamers
  • Dexterity elements may not appeal to everyone and could limit accesibility


Troyes early impressions

Setting up Troyes
Setting up Troyes

We had a great time with our play of Troyes. There were a few rule misinterpretations during the game, but we sorted them out without much trouble. For example, in the first turn, when a player was out of dice in their quarter, they didn’t make any further plays. However, we quickly realized our error and corrected it in subsequent turns.

The game was very strong, and was surprisingly well recieved by the group. I say surprisingly because not all of us are Euro-gamers. The great art and the variety of actions quickly pulled us all in.

Upon some reflection, the theme does feel pasted on. However, that really didn’t detract from the look of the game nor the quality of the gameplay.

An exceptional positive is the depth to this game. As all brand new players, we started to see goals and plays. However, not being familiar with the event, activity, and character cards, the play should deepen quite a bit as players become more familiar with the game. Adding that element of deduction to the game as well as speculating on what activities or events may or may not come up offers tremendous potential to an already strong game.

Nearing the end!
Nearing the end!

Earth Reborn play session early impressions

Last evening, we did a play through of the first scenario of Earth Reborn. I was the “rules master” for this and did an adequate but not exceptional job of leading Adam and Denny through the basic rules and the first scenario.

Earth Reborn box cover image from boardgamegeek.com

The game was surprisingly well received, given that this is not the type of game either Denny or Adam would identify as in their wheelhouse. I think we are all quite excited about that though. Just a few games in, and this adventure has already given us exposure and playtime to games we may not have pulled off of the shelf otherwise.

The rule book and scenarios are explicitly laid out to guide you through learning the rules. In the first scenario, you employ the basic rules like turn order and actions. These are filled out with movement and close combat. That’s it. Given the amount of rules, I think this was an excellent decision and through the first scenario, everything was well laid out and accessible to first time players.

The bits were quite nice, though there were a ton of them. Punching and setting up the game took nearly as much time as playing the first scenario. It is also still sprawled over my table awaiting clean up and organization.

We’ll have some videos and a more thorough write up soon.

CabinCon break

We just completed our annual CabinCon, a four day festival of gaming in a cabin in the Pennsylvania mountains, this year by Raystown Lake.  It was a great chance to get some R&R, play some great games and enjoy the winter weather. Pat, Adam, Denny and I were joined by 10 others, many of whom you’ll meet over the next weeks and months.

We’ll be digging in to Dungeon Lords next week with Adam walking us through this game!


Dungeon Lords


A la carte Impressions

We just completed our play of A la carte, and it was delicious!

Sequence 01.Still001

Pat read the rules beforehand and walked Denny and I through. As we remarked when we opened up the game, the components are extremely high quality. In this case, the physical nature of the game really supports that. I don’t think the expense of the components is wasted; rather, it spices up the game nicely.

It took us just under an hour to finish our game, and I think  you could reasonably trim that time even further as you get comfortable with it. The rules were very well laid out, and Pat did a good job shepherding us along. This was a very easy game to get on the table, and I imagine it will continue to spend time there.