My buddies and I try to meet up every year for our mini-convention affectionally dubbed Friendship Con. I couldn’t make it in 2019, and, for obvious reasons, a 2020 convention didn’t happen. Earlier this month though, we did manage to make plans and meet in Atlanta, where one attendee lives, and game together for nearly five days. And dear readers, after being cooped up in our homes and not playing in person for a very, very long time, the time in Atlanta was glorious.
I flew into Atlanta and arrived early Wednesday evening, and after a quick dinner stop at Hattie B’s for hot chicken — I love all things spicy — we kicked off our convention by hanging out and playing Glory to Rome. This game was the first of many Glory to Rome games during our time here, and it was great to get re-familiar with this game as well as trying it out at different player counts and petitions (either Republica Romana or Imperium Romanum).
The sweetest part for me was that my friends surprised me with bachelorette party festivities that included matching pink and gold meeple T-shirts, cupcakes and balloons. I was so touched and super surprised! (Insert crying emoji here)
We then began Thursday morning with a game of Glory to Rome. If I remember correctly, I won this game, taking advantage of my Temple building, which expanded my hand size to 9 cards, vital to being able to follow others’ actions and/or spending cards to be able to do so.
I then taught Fort, which started a little clunky because I had misread the rule on cards in your Lookout, but after that snag, the game went swimmingly, and we even played Fort again a few days later. I was excited to play it as a 4P, after only playing it as a 2P last year. Time between turns at 4P didn’t seem long, as the game keeps you actively engaged by following the leader’s action.
My one friend loves to bake, so he made a bunch of yummy baked goods all weekend. These loaves were great with just butter or in a sandwich. We ate a lot of baked goods in Atlanta.
Next, we played Rajas of the Ganges. This game is a great blend of dice rolling and worker placement. You have to manage your dice supply, which I failed to do, so you can take a majority of the actions, and I spent a couple turns collecting more dice to use on future turns. It also has a neat end-game trigger where you’re racing to have your opposite resources cross each other on the tracks around the board.
The last game we played on Thursday was Xia: Legends of a Drift System. One guy taught us an intro scenario, with the game ending at 6 points. I knew nothing about Xia before this game, but I’m always down to try epic space games, and Xia certainly fits into that criteria.
I particularly enjoyed that players can upgrade and modify their ships however they want (provided it fits onto your ships with polyomino ship part tiles), providing a unique gaming experience for all players. Heck, even blind-jumping into a black hole didn’t end up being too bad. FYI, it was not me; I’m so risk-averse to that type of exploration.
On Friday morning, I made a Filipino breakfast with chicken longganisa (sausage), garlic fried rice, dried fish and egg — also known as a longsilog. And the breakfast was complete with banana sauce to tie everything together. Sarap! (That’s yummy in Tagalog.)
After a quick morning game of Glory to Rome, I taught a game of Abandon All Artichokes. This is a quick card game that introduces the game mechanism of deck building. The artwork is just adorable, and the goal of the game is, by building out your deck each round, to eventually draw a hand of cards without any artichokes in them on your turn.
The next game was one highlight of my weekend: Battlestar Galactica! It’s my absolute favorite game! I got a chance to play as Helo, my favorite character and was human for most of the game, until the one cylon revealed himself and gave his second cylon loyalty card to me because I was currently the admiral. We then scrambled to make the humans lose, and we succeeded in doing so. Fun times! #SoSayWeAll
Next, we played Wavelength — a game I had only played on Twitter with the game account, and it was a lot of fun trying to figure out clues that would lead players to guess the range correctly. My favorite example was Bad Actor Vs Good Actor, and I was the clue giver. I had blindly spun the range, and it landed in the middle. You then cover it up and make others move the needle to the area on the spectrum where the range was. My clue was: Nic Cage.
There was a great deal of discussion between whether he was a good actor or a bad one, and people ultimately decided he was somewhere in the middle. They then moved the needle to the middle, and we scored 4 points! Such a fun party game.
I then jumped into a 6-player game of Acquire. This game is a classic, but at 6P, it’s quite bonkers. It’s very hard to plan your next move as any company can be created or fold before it gets back to your turn, so you just have to roll with it and hope that you get those majority payouts when someone merges with the casino chain you have stocks for.
After dinner, I played a game of Dune: Imperium, a game I had been excited to check out. It’s a deck builder/worker placement, set in the world of Dune, and it actually features actors in the upcoming movie. Oscar Isaac, anyone? Yes, please!
While playing the game, I found it really difficult to get water, which thematically makes sense, but had an abundance of spice that I regularly sold to the market. The game has such good production quality, but in terms of recent deckbuilder worker-placement hybrid games, I enjoyed Lost Ruins of Arnak a wee bit more, a game we’ve been playing frequently online. But, I would definitely play Dune again if someone local had a copy.
I then learned Fantastic Factories. This is also a dice rolling/worker placement game where your workers are the dice. You’re constructing buildings and factories that produce goods and/or victory points. I really liked the artwork on this, and there’s something very satisfying about getting the right rolls for maximum output on your cards. When I returned to Phoenix after Atlanta, I saw that Game Nerdz had this game as its Deal of the Day for $22, and I currently now own a copy.
Friday’s epic game day ended with an equally epic dessert that my baking friend had made completely from scratch: a tarte tropézienne. The brioche took about a day to make, and the cream middle was just heavenly. It was the first time I had ever heard of this dessert, much less tried it.
Saturday began with brioche French toast for breakfast, part of the same brioche batch from the dessert the night before. It was excellent.
We then played a few games of Just One, one of my absolute favorite party games ever. It’s seriously so fun and easy for all types of gamers to play. I’ve introduced Just One to many different sets of friends, and hilarity always ensues.
Players write down one word to help the clue-guesser guess the clue, but if they write down the same word as another player, they don’t get to show the clue-guesser their word. Sometimes it gets really hard (in a good, funny way) when as the clue guesser you’re left with one or two random words that have no context to each other. Also, I think everyone really enjoys writing with dry-erase markers on the plastic nameplate.
Next up was Chronology. This is a chill filler where you’re placing event cards along a timeline in front of you. It’s good for trivia and history buffs alike, but it’s forgiving enough where you can kind of guess when these events in history took place if your timeline is very spaced out in terms of its dates. If all your cards are dated close together, well, good luck!
I then got a chance to play BSG again. Such a treat! Sadly, I ignored the cardinal rule of this game by Executive Ordering the person on my left, who I totally thought was human. He then did a Brig check to get himself out of the Brig, and then revealed he was a cylon. The person on his left was also a cylon, and us humans didn’t stand a chance after that, and they eventually wiped out our population to zero. Womp womp.
Next up was the Crew. So full disclosure: I played all 50 missions of The Crew on Board Game Arena earlier this year, and since it was all virtual, it added extra obstacles that you don’t normally run into when you’re playing the game in person. For example, remembering, sorta, what’s already been played during that mission, and asking simple yes/no questions that would take a minute in person but would take the course of one day online.
To be honest, I wasn’t a big fan of the Crew, but I played a few missions to see if I’d like it better. It’s still OK, but I appreciate how innovative it is in using trick-taking as a mechanism of game play, and not just the game play itself. And I can see how people familiar with trick-taking card games would enjoy this challenge.
We then busted out Metro X, a short flip-and-fill. You’re trying to fill in train stations on a Japanese transit map using cards that are flipped over one at a time. Completing train routes will net VPs, and empty spots will be negative points at the end of the game. I like how you can write on these plastic cards, instead of using paper sheets for each game.
After a few more games of Fort and Glory to Rome, which now everyone enjoys playing when there’s an hour in between games to end, we decided to play a 4-player game of Irish Gauge. At previous conventions, we usually play Chicago Express, and Irish Gauge has similar elements to the game, but as my one buddy put it, “It’s Chicago Express on crack.” Good times.
On Sunday, we again began our morning playing a game of Glory to Rome. And then we busted out one of my absolute favorite games: Lisboa. I taught a three-player game of this, and it was a success. I ended up winning my first game of this. Just because I play this a lot and teach it at conventions doesn’t necessarily mean I win games.
We then parted ways on Sunday night to fly back to Phoenix. I packed up my stuff and games, including the neat swag bag my friend got all of us. I checked in my bag because I was unsure if TSA would allow me to fly with mega-tweezers, and I did not want my fantastic gift to get confiscated. My giant-tweezer collection grows!
If you made it all the way down here, thanks for reading! Thanks million to my amazing friends who made Friendship Con 2021 in Atlanta memorable. I think Phoenix will be the location of next year’s convention. And in case you were wondering, we’re already talking about our plans for it.