My husband and I were going back and forth on attending Dice Tower West last weekend as it would be the first major convention we’d attend since the start of the pandemic. I had previously attended Consimworld in person last summer, but that was only about 200 gamers — Dice Tower West is probably nearly 10 times that amount. We decided to take a road trip to Las Vegas and had a fabulous time!
We drove from Phoenix and arrived in Las Vegas on Thursday evening, and after a lovely dinner at one of my favorite restaurants ever — Firefly Tapas Kitchen and Bar — we checked into the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino, where Dice Tower West is being held. Since my formerly-East Coaster husband, Chris, had never been to Las Vegas, I wanted to give him a tour of the town before we dove into board games.
We went to see O at the Bellagio, my favorite Cirque du Soleil show, and bought third-row seats. It was pretty epic sitting so close! I could feel the cold air when the water came down and the heat when the fires were ablazing. After the show, we meandered a small section of the Strip and ended up getting Secret Pizza at the Cosmopolitan.
On Friday morning, we checked into the convention and scoped out the place. The Rio convention area is ginormous! I had last attended Dice Tower West in 2019, and this was much, much bigger and spread out, which made me feel safe to game with friends.
There were two main gaming rooms (one was mask optional and the other was mask required, where we stayed through the whole con.) The exhibitor hall was located in the mask-required room.
The convention area had the Dice Tower West library, panel rooms, lounge rooms, food rooms and breakaway rooms for gaming in a smaller space. There was no shortage of finding space or moving over to a quieter area.
The first game I played was Dog Lover. Such an adorable game! It’s the sequel to Cat Lover, a game I reviewed on Episode 117 of The Five By, and it introduces new elements such as Tricks and Traits to change up the card drafting. Players are rescuing dogs to feed them and can score even more points if the doggos become trained, go on walks and collect their favorite things.
Next up, I played Honey Buzz, which I purchased after talking with GameFreekGeekGirl at the Elf Creek Games booth. The awesome components drew me in, but the puzzly aspect of the game is what sold me! Honey Buzz is a bee worker placement game, where you place your beeples on a central board to expand your beehive, produce nectar and make honey. Expanding your beehive requires you to collect honeycomb tiles, which you then place into your area, and how you configure them will produce resources to complete objectives. There’s also a “bear market” where you can sell nectar, which are these semi-squishy beads in various shapes and sizes to correspond with different honey types.
I then attended a Twitch streamer event and met these wonderful ladies!
I then had a chance to playtest a new game he’s working on! Players are using cards from their hands to take control of a suit and place their meeple on it. It’s a neat bluffing, majority control card game that doesn’t have an official theme on it but I’m excited to see where this goes as all of Ta-Te’s games have such cute artwork on it.
I then got a chance to play So Clover! Uhh, this game is bonkers! Players are dealt cards with words on its four sides, and you randomly place it onto your plastic clover. You then write one word so that other players can guess which two words from the cards belong on that side of the clover. When it’s your turn, you remove the cards from the clover and are dealt a fifth dummy card, which then you place into the center of the board with the clover so that other players can choose which cards to place on which clover side. I can see how this is a fun party game, but man, the addition of the fifth card after you write your clues seemed to derail all of our games!
I then played Floating Floors, a ninja dexterity game where you’re moving your piece across floating floorboards that you or your opponent have placed. Each turn, you roll three dice to determine which small shapes you’ll take and place them on the cards and add a floor on top of it. Ninjas then make their way across the matching squares in order to pick up bansen seals.
Dice Tower West had plenty of events throughout the con. We took a break and watched Paula Deming’s live show. She sang, did some improv and chatted with the audience, and showcased her videos. It was a nearly full house!
Amanda Panda then taught us Project L! This game is so neat! It’s a puzzly engine-builder game with polyominos where you collect objective tiles to place your puzzle pieces on it and as a prize, you receive another puzzle piece. The more puzzles you complete, the more pieces you’ll have to complete high-value tiles. The components and the square box are top-notch! It’s like a more brain-burnery NMBR9.
I finished Friday night with two quick games of Seasons. My buddy and I always fall back to this game because neither one of us owns it, and it’s a fast-paced game since we both know how to play. Plus, chonky dice!
I then played Squaring Circleville. Love this game! I first played this game as a prototype back in BGG Con 2019 (which seems like a lifetime ago!), and the Kickstarter finally delivered this game earlier this year. I love the historical background of this game, where Circleville, Ohio, which was built in a circle, razed down structures to square off its town into a modern grid. Plus, it’s got a cool rondel action mechanism.
We then played Twin Palms with Greg and Stephanie, a very cool trick-taking game with only two suits and retro beach artwork that’s currently on Kickstarter. This game was so enjoyable, with such a clever twist on trick-taking! The Kickstarter is ending very soon, so if this is up your alley, I highly recommend backing it!
Next up was a party game prototype that my buddy Treg has been working on: My Soundtrack. I haven’t seen Treg for many years since we first met at GMT Weekend, so I was happy to run into him and his wife here. In the style of Apples to Apples, this music party game is all about building your life soundtrack.
There are two stacks of cards: soundtrack cards and cards with song names and the artist on it. If it’s your turn, you draw two theme cards and pick one. The next two people to your left will each play a song card, and you have to pick which song is best. The winner of that duel has to compete one by one with everyone else at the table to pick the better matching song. The owner of the winning song gets a guitar pick! I like how in this game you aren’t competing with the entire table, but one by one, and even if you don’t know the songs, the game still makes hilarious gameplays based on the title alone. The person with three guitar picks wins the game, and there’s one final round where players get to choose who has the best soundtrack!
We also then all played Meeple Party, a cooperative puzzle-solving game, where players are moving meeples into and around a house party. Each player has photo conditions they need to complete, such as having two purple meeples and one yellow in the Dining Room, but also disaster cards, in which the meeples get all stressed if you don’t avoid it. It was quite challenging throwing a successful party to last until midnight!
After a lovely dinner off strip, I got a chance to finally play Merv, a game I purchased last summer but finally just pulled off my Shelf of Opportunity. I love the spatial puzzle of this game with the tile activations, and how in reality, you’re only taking 12 turns in the entire game, but each turn is so crunchy! Players are collecting resources to travel and trade along the Silk Road, as well as gain influence and power within the city walls. At the end of Year 2 and Year 3, there are Mongol hordes that will burn down your city, unless city walls are built or soldiers are placed at sites. Really enjoyed this one, and I can’t wait to play it again!
And that concluded two days of gaming and events! Since it was the first large-ish convention I’ve attended since the pandemic, I took a more laid-back approach to gaming instead of trying to squeeze every single minute with an activity. It was so fun to enjoy Vegas being the con, get some gaming in, and see old friends and make new ones.
I think next time Chris and I will want to stay for a longer time. And with back-to-back conventions, next up is Arizona Game Fair this weekend, I feel like the world is slowly starting to return to the Before Times. And that makes me so joyful.