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Dice Tower West Recap

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I hadn’t been to a gaming convention in years. Too many years. So when a friend started planning a trip late last year for Dice Tower West, I was very interested in joining him. While Gen Con and GAMA are all about releases, Dice Tower West is about playing the games. How was it? Read on to see what I thought.

Notable Games Played

Ready Set BetReady Set Bet – I’ve only been to horse races once and I’ve gambled in Vegas a few times over the years. Ready Set Bet looks to be a craps-like table of multipliers. I heard it was a ruckus experience, so I was interested in trying it. My biggest mistake was going to the half of the table with the old cardboard components while the other half had the blinged out High Roller Edition. This is a game where both the person running the race (or the app, which I haven’t tried) and the people around the table can make or break the experience. In my one play, there was plenty of laughing and friendly jeering as improbable things happened. This would be an easy yes to play again.

Dying Light

Dying Light – Ho-hum another zombie game, right? Well yes. And no. I really liked the interesting dice mechanic where you spend dice to take actions but the more you spend, the more exposed you are to bad things happening during the zombie phase. Additionally, you can fatigue dice for extra actions or defense, at the cost of having them for the next two turns. I also loved the dimensionality of the board as you parkour around the board. This is a game about making a plan, being able to pivot based on your dice rolls, and then Tigger your way around the board while shooting zombies as needed. My heart was pounding when I’d do something well or squirmed out of a crazy jam. I would love to play again.

Blood on the ClocktowerOutside of Spencer’s review I didn’t really know what I was walking into other than a social deduction game. In the end, I felt like it’s a game that could be thematic but is mostly just a meta-game puzzle trying to decipher clues from people who are probably lying to you. My experience, as a new player, in a room that was a mix of people who knew the game exceptionally well and people who had no idea what was going on, was frustrating. It’s a game of exceptions and reinforced that I like having rules to reference. Our storyteller, Joe, was good in how he moderated the game, kept it moving, and assisted the players. This was an experience and I’m glad I did it and still think that a con is as good of a place to try this as anywhere else. But try to find a game meant for new players, especially if you’re not experienced with social deduction games. But, for me, I’m one and done with this game.

Rampage

Rampage/Terror in Meeple City – I almost felt bad for one of the tables near us playing something serious that looked like it took a lot of brain power while we were loudly destroying cardboard buildings made of cards and meeples and flicking game pieces off our table like a couple of toddlers. While there is some strategy, don’t mistake this for a deep-thinking game, it’s stupid fun and is great with kids and adults that act like kids.

Convention Observations

The exhibitor hall was smaller than I expected with only a few large publishers, several indie developers, and several companies making various bits to deluxify your gaming experience. There were also plenty of tables set up for demos and gaming tournaments. And then there were tons of tables for opening gaming. There were a few times when my friends and I had to walk around the various areas to find an available table but most of the time they were easy to find.

Library

The Hot games room had a bunch of tables with games already set up that were constantly in use. Some of the games there were Foundations of Rome, Last Light, Thunder Road Vendetta, Life in the Amozonia, Castles of Burgandy (AR Deluxe version), Dante’s Inferno (demo).

The Dice Tower game library was truly impressive. I probably could’ve just spent a day window shopping the racks of games. Most had QR codes on them that you could get scanned along with your convention badge to check out to play. A few other vintage games had to be kept in the library, which also had some tables. You could get on wait lists for popular games while still finding something to play. There’s literally something for everyone there.

My friends commented that the dining option in the convention area was better than last year and the Rio had also upped the situation with a new and improved food court.

Expo Experience

If you want to play new-to-you games, I can’t imagine anything better than having access to the Dice Tower library. I played 13 different games over the weekend (along with some repeats) and there were dozens more that I wanted to try.

Throughout the convention halls there were signs for Players Wanted and Teachers Wanted and multiple times people stopped by the table my friends and I were at and asked if we needed help. Overall the convention had a very open and friendly atmosphere.

The convention is very family friendly but Vegas kind of isn’t. Between salacious billboards and walking through smoky casinos with scantily clad waitresses, it could be a challenging environment to explain to some children why they can’t play those arcade machines or why the men on the billboards didn’t have shirts to wear with their bowties. There was no alcohol allowed in the convention area (which I bet really took the fun out of the Heroes of Barcadia demo) and, while I enjoy having a beer or two when playing games, think this was a great choice and helps keep things family-friendly.

Food

At the same time, I didn’t have to leave Rio between arriving Thursday afternoon and leaving Sunday morning and besides Starbucks for coffee, never ate at the same place twice. Some of the food options that I had were all-you-can eat Korean BBQ (~$50/person plus drinks and tip), a burrito at a quick serve place (~$15), Smashburger (~$15 plus fries), Corned beef hash (sort-of – $25), scarfed down a sandwich in my friend’s hotel room (whatever groceries cost) because the lines at the food court were too long. At the food court there was also a burger place, ramen, sushi, and a Philly cheesesteak place.

The Vegas being Vegas quibble aside, I had a blast at Dice Tower West and want to go back next year. When some friends and I were talking to Tom Vasel about the cruise compared to the cons he said the cruise was great for families, especially significant others who may not be gamers while the Level up retreat is the best if you just want to game. I might look into the cruise as a family vacation, which is also probably less expensive than Gen Con.

If you’re going to Dice Tower West next year, you should…

Bring a refillable water bottle as the desert is, expectedly dry, even in this relatively cool time in March (mid-60’s during the day). There were water dispensers in several rooms so it was easy to stay hydrated. Also, because the Rio is so spread out, bring comfortable walking shoes. I averaged 10,000 steps per day as I walked from my room to the convention area, to the food court, and back to the convention area.

Dice Tower West

Sign up for some events, especially things that work at larger player counts. But don’t overbook yourself. My lone regret is not going to one of the panels featuring the Dice Tower crew because I was trying to cram in other things in. And make sure you give yourself enough time to get from place to place. We were rushing between finishing a game and a scheduled event and had to race walk back to our rooms to quickly eat something because we didn’t give ourselves enough time to eat otherwise (and the convention hall food option had closed 10 minutes earlier).

If you only have the weekend badge you may not be able to get into the convention area until after 8 pm on Thursday night (while my friends said last year they were allowed in early) so if you’re arriving before that on Thursday maybe pack a game or two to play with your friends in your hotel room or around property.

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