We recently attended our local gaming convention here in Michigan called Grand Con. This has become somewhat of a tradition for us as a gaming group. Every year, we come together to mass to game, converse, and just plain have fun.
In this review, I will be giving a brief review breakdown of every game I was able to play at the convention. I’ll also be writing some of my own thoughts about Grand Con as a whole.
David Noller is back again with his “Next Time” segment. Find out what was his favorite moment of the Con.
Quick Game Reviews
We played each of the games below at this year’s Grand Con. Click the image for a more in-depth review.
My Grand Con Overview
by Kyle Delgado
I want to share my thoughts about evolution. Evolution of my Grand Con experience.
I have attended Grand Con for the past 4 years and I noticed a dramatic change in my approach to it. Some changes have been positive, while others have been disappointing. Some have been changes in myself, and others have been changes in the convention itself.
One aspect of change that was obvious upon arrival was the feeling of scale. This year’s convention was in the Devos Center in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The convention hall is many times bigger than the hotel conference room where Grand Con used to be held. This change of venue wasn’t new this year, but it differed from last year’s convention as the vendor attendance was diminished. This was a detraction in my mind as I like the attention to new and upcoming titles that was emphasized in last year’s Grand Con.
The focus of this convention was about the players rather than the games. Small changes were implemented to emphasize this: table markers for players wanted, table markers for teachers wanted, and a much larger playable gaming collection. As board gamers are more of a timid bunch, I find these changes to be problematic. It relies on players to interact. I would love to see this implemented farther.
The changes I saw in myself were the most alarming. My first convention was like a kid on Christmas day. Everything was exciting and new. I had tons of research done on upcoming games that I was interested in checking out or even buying. I was ready to take the convention by the horns and I did. I walked in and grabbed everything I intended to grab, and played some new games that I hadn’t even researched. It was a blast.
This year was different. I came into this convention with little research done other than looking into a few of the publishers that would be in attendance. I had a couple games on my list that I would grab if they were available. I walked into the convention hall and started my frenzy and was done in an hour or two.
Played one new title: Rocky Road a la Mode.
I had made two purchases: Western Legends and an expansion for Sagrada.
This wasn’t normal for my convention fervor. I’m the one with games stacked to the sky early and never letting up. My tastes have never been this discerning.
I walked away from the convention with little more than what I bought in the first day. I purchased a few last minute games that were on sale and I took a chance on buying. I also walked away with a feeling of fulfillment with my haul, even if it was a scant haul. Obviously, scant is subjective in this instance, but you should understand that this was light for me.
Finally, I felt some changes in my expectations with my Grand Con experience. Past years were filled with the possibilities of gamers paradise: games with industry celebrity, game releases, and evenings filled with friends old and new. I found my gaming experience to be much different than expected and has become a new focus for me for Grand Con.
Grand Con is about the games but more than that. It’s about the people that you share the experience with that really matters. The group of friends who joined me on my annual board gaming pilgrimage was larger than ever. I enjoyed every game I played with them and couldn’t find enough time to hang out with them at the table or even outside the convention halls. Every person that I shared this experience with is the Grand Con I fell in love with so many years ago.
I would like to close by setting up my mindset going into future conventions I will attend. I want to put more emphasis on the people. I want to include them in my games and in my convention story. Chatting up people outside of the our group and being apart of their convention story as well. Learn more about people that make up the convention: Retailers, merchants, gamers, and designers. This is what these conventions are all about. The people of this great hobby.
Next Time with Noller
by David Noller
The best moment of GrandCon 2018: three unassuming, totally nerdy, super-nice teenagers joined the fight and saved the world.
FAZA is hard. Designed by Benjamin Farahmand, FAZA is a sci-fi game of us against them. Tap abilities and roll dice to attack the FAZA drones. Use FAZA rebels as meat shields. Take down the FAZA motherships to win.
It’s not that easy. If any player takes four injuries, you lose. If the FAZA transform all your tiles, you lose. If you run out of drones to place or lose your last rebel from the field, you lose.
Only by defeating all three motherships—the Carrier, the Destroyer, and the Fazaformer—does the team win.
Every time you hit a mothership, however, you draw a FAZA card which describes how something happens on a scale from “that’s not good” to “that’s [expletive deleted] terrible.”
On this day, however, the dice aligned. The gamer gods looked favorably upon our table and upon the three intrepid young people eager for a fight.
I sat down at 10:00 a.m. just hoping to have a group. The morning before, I had a spot reserved but no players. Yes, I judged myself by the fact that no one signed up. [See my previous post about my odd combination of confidence and insecurity]
But on Saturday, after I set up the game and wandered over to a nearby vendor, I turned around to see that three teenagers had sat down at my table.
Books have covers for a reason, and I judged. “Oh, great,” I probably thought, “kids.” FAZA is a tough game. They clearly weren’t up for this.
I needed a personal reset.
Teacher mode. Extra patient. Extra gentle. Guide on the side. Winning isn’t everything. Calmness. Zen. Ommmmmm.
I provided an overview, outlined rules generally, and suggested we just begin.
I guided this three-player team through their first couple rounds, and then I sat back. I let them play and only answered questions after the first two rounds. I thought of jumping in a few times to suggest what I judged was clearly a “wrong play.”
Full disclosure: I am certain that at some point I figured that the sooner they lost, the sooner I could join my friends and play “Western Legends.”
Then, the unthinkable happened.
They took chances. They took risks. They worked together. They decided quickly. They never backtracked. No complaining. No whining. When the game fought back, they pressed on.
Noah was quick to try to take an action. Nina would shut him down: “Noah. Stop. Just wait.” They were clearly friends. You can’t do that to a stranger.
Nina would wonder aloud, and her brother Gavin would talk through options. Gavin was obviously the leader of the crew. He even looked a little like a rock star. Gavin would look at me for approval of his moves, but I just shrugged each time, as if to say, “Try it.”
Eventually, Gavin stopped looking toward me for approval.
They were bold. They were fearless. My confidence in them grew.
Nina, Gavin, and Noah were down to the last mothership. They had made it this far, and they looked to have it in control. All that could stop them were those damn FAZA cards, drawn after an attack on a mothership.
Nina attacked the last mothership, the Fazaformer, and drew a FAZA card: “Maintenance Robot” — instead of taking damage, the mothership heals one point.
With a rebel still on the board, she attacked again, and drew another FAZA card: “Retreat” — the mothership took damage but then ran away.
The team attacked again, after chasing the ship down, flying in rebels, and defeating the drones present. They drew another FAZA card: “Activate Right.” The mothership runs away again.
By now, the team knew that those FAZA cards could teleport a mothership, heal the mothership, damage the player instead of the mothership. They attacked one more time…
…and drew a FAZA card: “Abduction” — “The player that just attacked a mothership is abducted. Place your pawn along with three drones on the Fazaformed tile with the lowest number.”
No damage to the player.
No healing ability for the FAZA mothership.
I judged these books by their covers. It turns out that these young people wrote an entirely different story than the one I thought I would read.
I am not their parent, their teacher or their coach. They don’t go to the school where I teach, and I had never met them before. Still, I am proud of Gavin, Nina, and Noah. They were good players, and they were good people.
Well played, team.