TTN: 6-8 November 2022
BGG.CON: 9-13 November 2022
Day 6 – Friday 11 November
Friday started with cereal, in our room, then toothpaste, then Vocalzone, which I can tell you right now makes for an awful taste experience. But I kept my voice for the whole convention, and my judicious use of Vocalzone pastilles will have been a major part of that, so I accept the awful taste that goes with it – good medicine should taste bad, it’s part of how you know it’s working!
The Exhibitor Hall
One of the big things I like about conventions is being able to see and play new games before they come out to the general public, and often, buy or back them on a crowdfunding platform.
I hadn’t managed to spend much time doing that yet, for many reasons – mainly, I didn’t need to find anything to take up my time, and I didn’t really have the budget for much shopping, either. We made sure to allow suitcase space for purchases, but we didn’t have very much, so I was leaning hard on myself not to go too crazy – we also have a LOT of games at home, still in shrink, and I plan to start working my way through those, soon, too – so we didn’t need to buy anything much.
It meant that shopping wasn’t a priority, but meeting my fellow designers, especially those I knew from the Board Game Design Lab Community, Small-Batch Game Publishers Group, Board Game Broads+, and BoardGameHype Community, was something I have been wanting to do for years – it’s been really hard, isolated in New Zealand and unable to join in the fun, so it was pretty awesome to wander around, seeing people whose games I have been watching in the design groups.
I saw a lot of games I wanted to play, but by this point, I was tired and my brain was like a squirrel with ADHD (that’s ADHD squared), so while I was intrigued, I wouldn’t have had much luck sitting still, let alone learning games.
As we moved around the space, we bumped into Mallory and CW, people we had met previously, and allowed ourselves to be convinced into buying handmade chocolate and cleverly-packaged tea.
I had one game that I had promised myself to buy if I saw it, the limited edition Azul Chocolatier Edition, so I got that, and we also played Echidna Shuffle, Graveyard Chess, and Ults with their respective designers, and George got the run-down for Mine Your Business, too.
It was raining, we were all sick of the hotel, so we trooped over to Cindi’s Deli again. This time, we finally used the secret tunnels under the hotel.
Forewarned and forearmed, I ordered a half sandwich this time, and gave away most of my fries, so I survived the meal without leftovers, and our tiny hotel bar fridge was grateful.
The goodbyes begin
As soon as we got back to the hotel, it was time to say goodbye to our new friend, Fagner, which was sad – it’s crazy how close you can get to strangers in a few days of intense board gaming!
After we got over Fagner’s departure, we went back to the Landmark Ballroom and played Waleed’s copy of Echidna Shuffle on hard mode, which was a lot of fun – the noisy ones got distracted and clever Ellie slipped in under the radar to take the win.
Because Lucio was going to have to leave, soon, too, the next game Ellie and I played was his prototype, a sweet game about the perfect date – each player is trying to guess the preferences of the other and set up a series of activities that will meet both people’s “perfect date”. It’s sweet and quick, and possibly a little too easy, but I can see it being a charming little gift for new couples. A friend group/poly version with more variables could also be cool, so while Ellie had some thoughts on how best to make the current game a little more challenging, I was thinking more about how to make the choices more complex and interesting (and potentially multi-player).
At this point, Evan showed up, and I convinced him and Lucio to tango for me, which was honestly extremely cool – I wish I could dance!
Lucio, Waleed, and Ellie all left during the afternoon, which left us with a much-depleted little group by the end of the day – only Will and I were left standing from our original TTN cohort, and with George and Mallory, there were still enough of us to make up a group, but the dynamics had changed. It felt like the end of the school year, as people’s parents arrive to pick them up and you know you aren’t going to see some of your school friends until next term.
Just before dinner time, Eric Reuss showed up and told me he had secured the next play of Horizons of Spirit Island, a kind of lite version of the game that he thought would be a good way to help George and me identify what it was we were missing, but there was a catch – all the games have a time limit on them, and he was going to get this copy in about an hour, so we couldn’t go away for long to get dinner.
We were going to attempt Tex Mex, but a Friday night in Dallas is not going to be a short or easy trip, and delivery was going to take almost as long, so we pulled together a meal from what we could find at the cafe and the BGG cafeteria, and after we had refuelled, it was time to play Horizons of Spirit Island!
Spirit Island with Eric Reuss
I spent the whole week playing games with their designers, but Spirit Island is one of my top 3 games.
Spirit Island has certainly gone through its share of controversy, and I absolutely accept that it is not for everyone. For me, it was the first time I played something that truly modelled colonialism with a truth and inevitability that shook me to my core. The first time we played, we lost horribly, and sat there, stunned, feeling deeply how so many other populations have felt as the invaders stole and poisoned their lands, disrespecting their gods and the spirits of their ancestors. I sat with that pain and discomfort, feeling the contradiction in my own whakapapa, the daughter of white colonists and brown colonised.
I was incredibly nervous, because I haven’t played many co-operative games, and Spirit Island is definitely not an easy beginner co-op. Eric was in another group at TTN, so I didn’t get to interact with him much, and while he did show up and play with us several times, I was still acutely aware that I was asking him to take time out of his convention to teach me his game. I flagged down another new friend, Ben Miller, who is very familiar with the game, and he was kind enough to agree to be my guide, so Eric worked with George, and Ben worked with me.
With their help, both of us identified several errors that we were making – focusing on the wrong things at the wrong time, forgetting to record when we took particular actions, allowing ourselves to be distracted by looking at only one aspect instead of the whole picture – and we were able to win the game incredibly easily! Now that I can identify those turning points, and how to leverage them, I think there’s a chance that we will eventually figure out how to win the full game, too! I haven’t tracked how many times we have played Spirit Island, but I believe it’s somewhere between 10 and 15 times, and not only have we never won, we also couldn’t figure out why. This time around, if we lose, at least I think I will be able to understand it!
I really can’t express enough how kind everyone was throughout this convention, with all the feedback I got being constructive, no one gatekeeping or being cruel because I was new or inexperienced, and I know a lot of that was because I was picked up by a group of really awesome people at TTN who carried me through the whole event, and their energy meant anyone else who joined our group was also swept along in the positive current. Having experienced, published designers take the time to play and comment on my work is the height of privilege – but having them teach me their own, published games, to help me become a better designer, that’s really big. Eric wasn’t the only designer who did that, but he was the only one with whose game I already had a connection, so it definitely felt different, and really special.
Late into the night…
Once again, we allowed ourselves to be talked into another game – a party game called 13 words, which is actually a good example of elegance in a very simple game. The game is set up around a kind of clock face, with a card bearing a word choice at every hour. A 13th word in the centre is the first prompt. Once all the cards are in place, it looks like the wheel of a ship. Each of the cards is double-sided – one side is the choice, the other, once solved, becomes the next prompt.
Each player takes a turn as the Captain – secretly choose the word you most associate with the prompt, and move your dial to that word’s number. All the other players secretly move their dials, then reveal them to see what the group score is. If they guess correctly, each player adds one point to their score. The aim is for the overall group score to be as high as possible.
We did our best, but scored the absolute minimum required to pass. Oops!
I wanted the chance to see the Library, so I offered to return the game. My goodness, it was overwhelming! I am really glad it wasn’t up to me to choose what to play, I would still be in there…
Once I got back, George was testing TWOIT with several people, so I watched Will, Mallory, and CW play Cat in the Box, and realised that we got something horribly wrong in our attempts to decipher the rules, eek. I was too tired to play it myself, though, so I just watched the pretty colours until George was ready to go to bed.