BGG CON is a wondrous place where brand new hotness meets a library full of games you’ve never heard of (or perhaps own but still never got around to learning. This year I was able to play a mix of games right from Essen, classic Euros I’ve somehow never played, and silly very old games that are still tremendously fun. So, here’s the list of my 10 favorite games I played during my week in Dallas.
Top 10 Board Games from BGG Con
10. Tonga Bonga
Published in 1998, Tonga Bonga isn’t a game that you hear much about today, despite the fact it was an SdJ recommended game way back when I was drinking juice boxes (almost). Players race to be the wealthier pirate, navigating their ship around the islands of Tonga Bonga Bay. Each round you’ll set wages for your boat, incentivizing your opponents to place their high value dice workers there to propel your boat forward. It’s exceedingly simple and pretty silly but had a great time with it.
3-4 Players • Ages 10+ • 45 minutes • OOP
9. Boast or Nothing
I love trick taking games, especially those that mix up the formula just enough to stand out (this is foreshadowing). Here is number 9 though, Boast or Nothing, from a Korean designer that tasks players with getting either 0 tricks or a set number based on player count. Otherwise, you’ll score nothing. The deck is comprised of three suits and there isn’t necessarily a specific trump suit. Instead, the suits are all ranked and if a particular color wins a trick it immediately falls to the bottom to be the least valued suit.
8. Tigris and Euphrates
Knizia is a man of many games, some of which I love and others…well, I don’t. I’ve owned Yellow and Yangtze for more than a year and still haven’t got it to the table. So when Tigris and Euphrates came up I was excited to play it. Part area control, part race to victory points, and part war game, Tigris and Euphrates was a great experience. It stands out even 20 years later as a game that just hasn’t been duplicated or replaced.
Sometimes you just need a break to race some kangaroos, right? Billabong is the perfect game for such an occasion. Kangaroos jump over each other around the watering hole as you try to get all your kanga-team to make a full circle around. There’s no limit to the jumps a single kangaroo can make on a turn, so it leads to some really satisfying moments where you leap from the back to across the billabong in no time!
2-4 Players • Ages 10+ • 30 minutes • OOP
6. Masters of Renaissance: Lorzeno il Magnifico The Card Game
Alright, just ignore that subtitle. No idea why this would be called a card game of any kind. There are marbles and player boards and so much going on! I’ve never played the original version of Lorenzo il Magnifico, but here you’ll move marbles to collect resources, turn those resources into cards that provide an engine to make and store even more resources. It very quick: we were able to teach and play a 3-player game in about 35 minutes before the BGG library copy was due back. But there is still a lot of tense decisions, grabbing cards before other players can earn them, and rewarding engine-building where you turn a couple of goods into an entire pile!
Electropolis sounds a bit like Power Grid. Instead of auctioning, you’ll draft fuel and power plants and place these tiles on a personal city board to provide as much energy as possible. Each round you’ll choose to draft earlier and take fewer tiles or get potentially more tiles but later in the round. All while doing your best to limit pollution or, alternatively, build enough public buildings that the citizens won’t revolt against you for pumping all the emissions into the air.
Another classic Euro that has been languishing on my shelf, Troyes didn’t disappoint when I finally got around to playing it at BGG Con. Each round you’ll draft dice and use them (and those of other players if you are willing to pay for it) to perform actions to gather money and prestige. Each player will get a scoring card at the beginning of the game that informs them of one of the things that will provide end game points. It will score for everyone though, so part of the fun is deducing what cards you think other people have.
3. 1987 Channel Tunnel
Since BGG CON last year, I’ve been enamored with the 19XX series from Looping Games. This year they’ve expanded the line with 1987: Channel Tunnel, a 2-player game where both players are trying to connect the tunnel between Britain and France. The British player is more prone to flooding but has better technology at their disposal. The action selection system is based around action discs. To take an action you must put all your discs of a single color on that space. That space can be used again if a taller group of discs is used and the ones currently there come back to your supply, allowing you to use them again. It’s a unique experience with asymmetric sides and I can’t wait to play again.
2. The Magnificent
The Magnificent mechanisms read a bit like a greatest hits of euro games: polyomino tile-laying, dice drafting, card drafting, and multi-use cards. I mean, it would be hard to go wrong. And the circus theme is beautifully illustrated and provides a great backdrop for all these mechanisms to come together. Each game can play out quite different as the available posters and scoring cards give different goals for each session. One of the few games I played multiple times at the convention. While it isn’t available in the US yet, I can’t wait for Aporta to bring this one over.
1. The Crew: The Quest for Planet 9 (aka Die Crew)
Trick taking makes another appearance. But cooperative!?! Mission-based? With a story? If this sounds impossible—I was right there with you. But at a late-night trick-taking event I was converted. Each round you’ll be given a goal. Normally that goal will be to have a certain card won in a trick by a specific member of the team. As you move through the story the missions become increasingly difficult. You’ll have multiple cards that need to be captured by the right person—sometimes in a specific order. For other missions maybe you’ll have to choose someone to not win a trick at all or win a trick with a 1-value card. I immediately ordered a copy of the German edition while I was still in the middle of playing through the first 10 or so missions. If you like trick-taking you need to give this a shot. It takes a familiar formula and makes you think about everything differently.