Dice Tower convention 2016

The Game’s the Thing: Dicetower Con 2016

Dice Tower Con 2016

Well, I may not have made it to Realm Makers this year, or any other writing conference for that matter, but for the second year in a row, the Edwardson family made the trek to Orlando, Florida for Dicetower Con. And what a delight it was! If you haven’t been before the best way I know how to describe it is that it’s like having a birthday party over and over again for five days. I and my family played mountains of games. We played until board games came out our ears. We laughed. We cried. It was better than Cats.

If you’ve never been to Dicetower Con or something like it, the way it works is this. You are given a badge with which you can checkout one board game at a time from a library of over 1000 games and it’s open 24 hours a day. The library is located at one end of a giant convention ballroom in a nice resort hotel. This year it was at the Caribe Royale. You can also go into the hallways and side rooms to play your game if you’d like a little less noise. At the other end of the ball room game vendors are set up to demo and hawk their wares.

Around 1500 people attended this year, but it felt much smaller than that. We never had trouble finding a table where we could plop down and play a game and we even met some wonderful new friends in a Christian family from Texas who shared our love of board games as well. Meeting and talking to them was like bumping into old friends we never knew we had.

Between the five people in my family we played 48 different games in five days. And while almost all of them were wonderful, here are a few of my favorites.

The Big Book of Madness

Big Book of Madness board gameThis was probably my favorite game of the convention. It is a cooperative game in which you and your fellow players are students in a wizard academy and have done a very bad thing. You’ve opened the Big Book of Madness! Oh, you know you shouldn’t have, but you were just oh so curious and maybe a little too overconfident in your wizardry skills. You work together to defeat a series of monsters that are attempting to escape from the book while avoiding going mad in the process.

I loved this game because not only are you helping other players out, but you can, through “telepathy” get other players to help you out on your turn. So it has a great team-work aspect. Need some air magic to beat the next monster? Ask your friend, they might be able to help you if you’re fresh out. It’s wonderful, light fun and the fanciful artwork ensures that the only “madness” you’ll really experience is if you fail to win the game!

Dungeon Fighter

Dungeon Fighter board gameIn a very similar vein to Big Book of Madness, Dungeon Fighter is another cooperative game with a fantasy theme. This time you are a bunch of “wannabe” heroes trying to escape a dungeon, earn your freedom, and prove yourself a legitimate hero all in one fell swoop.

The twist here is that to make your attacks, you have to toss your die onto a target and it has to bounce once first. And as if that were not enough, certain monsters require you to fight them with a handicap consisting such as taking one step away from the table, flicking the die off your nose, or even shooting with your eyes closed! It’s zany fun and, like Big Book of Madness has a very strong team element to it. No grandstanding here, you are rooting for your fellow adventures and when you or they hit the bullseye it’s definitely a stand up and cheer moment!

Inkognito

Incognito board gameSwitching gears and crossing genres, time periods, and just about everything else, we also loved a game called Inkognito. No, auto-correct, that is not a typo. That’s the way they spell it. Inkognito is a game of mystery and intrigue that, while it technically plays 2-4 players is really a 4 player game. The reason is that there are four spies or agents or whatever you want to call them traipsing about medieval Venice, Italy. Of course all of you are appropriately masked and disguised, but that makes it all the harder to accomplish your mission. You’re supposed to rendezvous with your partner, you see, but who is it? The skinny man in yellow? The tall one in green? Or the short one in red? If you don’t find out before the opposing spies your mission will be a failure!

The reason it works best at four players is that there are two sets of spies. You move around the board bumping into the other players and asking their questions. They have to answer you with one true detail and one or two false ones. Through trial and error you will eventually discover which player is your partner and then you’ll have to secretly work together to carry out your mission, all the while hopefully keeping the other team in the dark and throwing them off your scent. If it sounds like this should be a novel rather than a board game, well, maybe now you see why I’m so bedazzled by board games! This one was tense, but as with all of them, a wonderful experience.

Defenders of the Last Stand

Defenders of the Last Stand

Okay, I better cut down on the gushing or I’ll never get through all the games I want to talk about. This next one, Defenders of the Last Stand is also cooperative (noticing a theme here? I love cooperative games more than any other kind).  This one has a post-apocalyptic theme, though. And boy does it. You’ll be scavenging for equipment, fighting off mutants and biker gangs, sabotaging oil rigs, and hunting for lost technology in this massive, sprawling game. This one was definitely the most rules-heavy, strategic game we played, but if you can get beyond that boy was it awesome. As a writer who has a little bit of an interest in post-apocalyptic and dystopian worlds, this one was an absolute blast. It was released at the convention so we were some of the first people in America to ever play it, which made it all the more special.

Smash Up

Smash Up card gameProbably the biggest hit with my kids was Smash Up. While this one is very easy to play, it is a little bit harder to describe. It is a card game in which you play numbered cards on one of three “bases” (also represented by cards). You try to play higher cards than your opponent. The one who plays the highest total value of cards gets more points than the others when that base scores.

Sounds sorta bland, but the fun comes from the fact that you “smash” together two factions to make your deck. Some of the decks we made were “Steampunk Wizards,” “Fairy Princesses,” “Kitty Ninjas,” “Robot Plants,” and “Ghost Pirates.” And the cards all have powers and special abilities that reflect their factions. It’s a crazy, back and forth game where everybody is kicking each other off bases, jumping from base to base, trying to get the upper hand. And there are like ten expansions to this one so the possible combinations probably run into the thousands. So much genre-busting fun!

Celestia

Celestia board gameAs much as we loved all these other games, the one we actually bought and brought back home as a souvenir was Celestia. It, too, was released at the convention and the demo table where it was played was almost always full. It has gorgeous artwork and a light steampunk theme, but it’s really just a press your luck game where you try to ride an air ship as far as possible without crashing. The one who stays on longest usually wins, but you can kick people off or use a special jetpack card to land safely. The tension and drama in the game come from deciding when to get off and play it safe and when to try to go just one step more to the next port.

We got to play it with our new friends from Texas and it was just a delightful experience. We’ve already played it a couple of times since getting home and I think this has become a new Edwardson favorite.

The game must go on

Now that I’m back home and back to writing I certainly won’t be playing 50 games a week, but I do cherish the times I get to spend with my family around the table, making memories, plotting strategy or being silly. Board games at their best are somewhat like a shared story that we can all take part in together. They get us talking and help us stop, slow down, and unplug from this frenetic, fried circuit world and just enjoy the blessing of being together.

So how about you? Played any good games lately? Any games here you think you’d like to try or that you’ve already played and loved? Let me know in the comments below!

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Comments (6)

  1. Jenelle July 21, 2016 at 9:44 pm

    Sounds like a blast. My in-laws are moving to Orlando soon… hmmm… might have to keep this con on my radar for next year… not that Orlando in July sounds super pleasant… but that’s what AC and board games are for, right? haha

    We’ve been playing a lot of D&D lately via skype with friends back “home” so haven’t gotten a chance to play very many board games lately. In May we played a very entertaining round of Munchkin – which made a lot more sense now that I’ve played D&D. The kids continue to enjoy Dragonwood and Dungeon! – which is fun. We played Tenzies with my in-laws a while back. And we keep meaning to get together with some new acquaintances here for some board game fun, but haven’t managed to actually schedule it yet.

    I’m really looking forward to trying out the Princess and the Goblin game from that kickstarter project! I’m so glad they made their goal.

    I think my absolute favorite games ever are History of the World and Letters to White Chapel. Unfortunately, both are out of print. Fortunately, I own a copy of each. 🙂

    • DJ Edwardson July 21, 2016 at 10:23 pm

      Oh, you should totally come. You and your husband would love it. It’s only $75/person for 5 days. It’s hard to find a cheaper Orlando vacation! And the AC was actually so cold I had to put on a sweatshirt. I may as well have been in Wisconsin 🙂

      They even have a children’s room where the kids get to play simpler games and they get to earn prizes and have other activities (Kid’s tickets are $40). My kids are a little too old for that “kiddie” stuff, but I bet yours would love it. (Not sure about the wee little fellow, though) And if they get tired of games the hotel has a massive pool and other fun things to do. It really is one of the best family vacations I can think of. It would be awesome if some year you can go. Who knows, maybe some year we can go as guest authors? Ha ha. Seriously, be sure to let me know if you ever do go, because I plan on going pretty much every year if I can.

      D&D over Skype, eh? Sounds like fun! And I love History of the World and own a copy, but haven’t played White Chapel. I’ve heard of it though and if you like that one you might want to try Specter Ops. It’s basically White Chapel with a Blade Runner/Dark Future theme and each of the agents and hunters have special powers.

      Have fun gaming!

      • Jenelle July 21, 2016 at 10:38 pm

        I shall have to look into Specter Ops. I like the cooperative + competitive blend of White Chapel.

        Another one we’ve enjoyed recently is Resistance (though, as a fantasy fan with a huge soft spot for all things Arthurian I definitely prefer the Avalon spin-off on it).

  2. Abbey July 24, 2016 at 12:04 am

    All of these games look like so much fun! I’ve never heard of any of them except for Smash Up. Smash Up is a hoot. Defenders of the Last Stand looks especially epic.
    My uncle and cousin were here last weekend and we always enjoy playing board games together. We played Fleet: Wharf-side and introduced them to Fortune and Glory. We also played San Juan, which is a fun card game… and we played a good, old, classic strategy game: Empire Builder. It’s a train game similar to Railways of the World, but instead of laying down tile track, you draw your track in crayon.

    • DJ Edwardson July 24, 2016 at 8:20 am

      That’s great that your family loves games! I know you like Defenders of the Realm and Defenders of the Last Stand is basically like that only with more story and slightly better rules. I’ve heard of all the games you mentioned except Empire Builder, but haven’t played any of them except Fortune and Glory (which I love!) Drawing with crayons sounds really interesting though.

      Thanks for sharing those games with me. Agh! So many of them out there, aren’t there?

      • Abbey July 26, 2016 at 4:07 pm

        I’ll definitely have to check out Defenders of the Last Stand. Or, maybe, I’ll tell my dad about it and he can do all the research on Board Game Geek and then, if he likes the look of it, I can buy it for him for his birthday/Christmas/father’s day (that’s generally how it goes at our house).
        Empire Builder is super fun if you like train games. Unfortunately, I think it’s pretty rare these days and a little hard to find. Like Railways of the World, you build track and deliver goods. But, you have to pick up goods in one city and take them to another city, so your track-building is dependent on where you want to go, how much money you have to spend, and how much money you earn from delivering your goods. Also, you have to be careful because track could be washed out (AKA erased with a tissue; we are dealing with crayon, after all) by floods, by Mount St. Helens erupting, or by heavy snowfall in Canada.
        Just like books and story ideas, there are too many board games to fit into one lifetime.

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