After two years on hiatus, the biggest board game convention close enough to our houses for us to go to was back on! Unfortunately, the timing wasn’t ideal, as it was the same weekend as Anime North, and Bill would be on vacation that weekend! Still, I was pretty keen to get some time at the ProtoTO area to get some playtesting on games we are working on, as well as meeting up with people whom I hadn’t seen for quite some time. And of course, you always hope that there are publishers walking around who come by and see something you’re working on and take an interest in it. I planned to get some testing of Level 2 of Mathemagician’s Duel, try out the new game I built a prototype for at the end of June, show off Sinoda, and maybe play some Say What, Now? over the weekend. If you want to know what our experience was at the previous Breakout in 2019, you can read about it here.
Even with Bill on vacation, it turned out that I didn’t need to go on my own. Bill and I met John and Monica at our local game cafe, Dicey Business (where you might know is where most of the pictures on our Instagram are taken). They also are working on a game (under the company name Neoasis Games), so we have had some good conversations about how to proceed and how to go about getting more playtesting. We told them about Breakout and the ProtoTO section, so they decided to go on the Saturday. Not having gone to one before, and not knowing what to expect, they asked if we could meet up and go in together. This was a great idea, since it can be nerve-wracking going into a new situation and it helps to have someone you know with you, especially if they have already had the experience. Also, it meant I could get a ride to the convention, since my wife would be using the car to take our kids to Anime North.
We arrived, and it was just as I remembered! Registering was easy and we quickly got our badges (unlike Anime North, from what I hear) and went in, looking for ProtoTO. In the hallways, we walked past tables set up with dice, miniatures, and games, including a large table for Analog Game Studios, run by our friend Richard Mac.
And while we were standing there, we met Hayley from Funny Bones, a great game café in Etobicoke. They have some really good events; my wife and I regularly attend their paint nights, and they are planning a game designer event for August 12th and 13th!
We walked past several rooms full of tables for board games and role-playing games to be set up and played, and arrived at the ProtoTO section. Right beside this section was the booth for Tin Robot Games, whom we’ve met previously! Bill and I played their “Tanks But No Thanks!” at the previous Breakout, and the owner James has interviewed me for his podcast, Board Game Binge.
There were a couple of people already in the ProtoTO section playing games, but there were quite a few open spaces, since it was still early and the day had just started. John set up his game about building different types of energy plants, and I put down the arena I had made for my latest idea, in which you have a team of players, and you use a stick to flick a ball (represented by a d12) into the opposing goal. I’ve been referring to this as my “Flicky Sticky Game”, which reminds that I really need a better name. Even a better working title. Once I put it down, it immediately drew the attention of a couple of passersby, whom I invited to sit down and play it. I got some great feedback and made a few small changes to incorporate into subsequent games. As we were finishing, Grace Lee, whom I’d met at the first ProtoTO we went to, arrived and said hi. Since we were finished playing my game, I asked if either of the other two had a game to play, and one of them did, so he got his game out and he, Grace, and I played. It wasn’t until we’d nearly finished and I looked at the information sheet for the game that I realized the game’s creator was Tigh Tiefenbach, whom I’d met at the first Protospiel North, and played his game Dice Heist. I just didn’t recognize him with the mask!
Anyway, his game was Cube Henge, and it was a game about gathering resources to build monuments. You could also use the resources to create buildings to increase your resources, and these building also gave low values of victory points, but the monuments are where the big points are at. The strategy and thinking in this one came from the movement of your piece, which is a cube. To move, you turn the cube onto its side into an adjacent space. Then, you can collect the resource shown on the top face, if there are any squares with that resource adjacent to your cube. There were triangles on the edges of each face of the cube to tell you what was on the side if you rolled it over that way, and a reference cube that you could pick up and look at to plan out your move. The wheat resource could be traded in to give additional moves. As you moved, you’d leave a “worker” token behind. You couldn’t go into a space that had one of your own workers in it. This prevented backtracking or rolling around in a square, collecting the same resource over and over again. You could take a rest action, which let you reclaim all of your workers from the board and also take a “traveller” card, which had a one-time-use special movement on it.
I took this picture at the beginning as Tigh was explaining and before the game had started. I should have taken more during the game, but I was really focused on planning my victory! Tigh has more pictures on his Instagram (linked in the previous paragraph). I like the planning ahead and decision-making in this, and that your plan may be foiled by your opponent, requiring you to think of alternate ways to get what you need, or even making a new plan. No turn really felt wasted, even if I didn’t get to do what I wanted because someone else’s move prevented me. Every turn is progress and set up toward multiple possibilities. I purchased a good combination of buildings that allowed me to collect additional resources easily, and part of our discussion was that the combination might have made it too easy for me to win and if that’s something that might need to be changed or limited. But being puzzley and about collecting things works for me and I enjoyed Cube Henge quite a bit.
Now, I don’t actually remember the order that everything else happened, so the rest might not be chronologically accurate. Some of these things may have happened on Saturday, and some were on the Sunday. I know that John and Monica played the Flicky Sticky game *cringe* on Saturday, because they weren’t there Sunday and I have a picture:
There were some really fun, cinematic moments in that game with them each getting a player electrocuted by the ball on an unlikely number, and John moving a player out from in front of the goal to get the ball, only to have it flicked right back to in front of the now open goal. He raced back, flicked it too hard, and it ricocheted off the walls to end up in almost the same position it was before he flicked it. I can see potential in this one once we get the hex size, player numbers and movement tuned.
I was joined at the table by Sean Calligan of Flippant Games whom you might remember from previous events with Reckless Overdrive, the racing game. With him was Peter Hayward of Jellybean Games. At this point, we still had Grace, were joined by Emily, about whom I have no additional information or links, and Tigh moved on. We were also joined by another Peter, who was dubbed “British Peter” to differentiate him from Peter Hayward, who is Australian. I don’t remember British Peter arriving, so now I’m thinking that maybe I left the table for a bit, probably to the washroom, and then came back to find this group at the table. Wow, my memory is getting fuzzy. Anyway, British Peter is actually Peter Hollinghurst, a book and game illustrator.
Since there were six of us, we wanted to play a six-player game, so Sean got out his Fast Food Fight. It’s not about throwing food, but a card game about arguing over what to go and eat. I can’t remember if I had played it before at a previous event, but I’d definitely seen it played before. Again, I’m wondering if I should be concerned about my memory… Anyway, there are 5 “suits”: tacos, pizza, burgers, sushi, and pancakes. Each player assigns a scoring value to each suit, based on what they think will win (after looking at the cards in their hands). Then, each player, in turn, plays a card. The cards have a numerical value on them, and after each player has played a card, the suit with the highest total wins and everyone scores based on their individual scoring setup. Part of what makes this fun is the discussion. You can ask other players what they want to go for, and the scoring is open so you can see what value the others have placed on each suit. You can’t ask for or reveal the values of the cards in your hand, but you could say “Let’s go for burgers. I can lend strong support for burgers!” if you had a high value burger card, for example.
We played two games that Peter Hayward brought. One was about matching people into pairs. What made this unique and quite fun was that the group got to decide on those to be matched. That is, a category was drawn, such as “Disney Villain”, or “Someone Who Wears Sunglasses“, and we would decide who that would be, then wrote them on a card in dry-erase marker. In addition to these, each player’s name was written on a card, and then those were randomly distributed, face-down, among the players. Next, each player was given a card with a category to match the cards into pairs, such as “Most Similar Fashion Sense”, “Would Balance a Seesaw”, or “Best Couple to Have as Your Parents”. Each player arranges their cards (with symbols that match the ones on the ones with the marker names on them) into pairs based on the criterion given. Then, when everyone has done that, one player reveals their category and the other players must guess how they arranged their pairs. It made for some great discussion and some good laughs. I can see, with the inclusion of the players’ names, how this could be quite funny with a group that knows each other well.
Peter’s other game was “Slackjack”. It was about taking pirates on a treasure hunting mission. Each player drew two cards, chose one and discarded the other. The player playing the captain each round wanted to take pirates whose values added up to as close to 21 as possible without going over. One of the players might be Slackjack, though, and if he gets chosen, he gets all of the loot from the treasure hunt. The players not chosen form their own group, and if they are closer to 21 than the captain’s group, they get the loot instead. It’s a bluffing game, because you can lie about your role to get chosen to go on the trip to collect loot. I liked this one because although I’ve played many of them, social deduction isn’t my favourite type of game. This has that type of lying and bluffing as part of the game, but it isn’t the entirety. You don’t need to maintain your deception or have to keep track of who everyone is longer than one hand. It was fun, and we played it again Sunday with a small rules change. I would play it again, and definitely use it at a social gathering as a quick game to play with a group of people. Unfortunately, I totally forgot to take a picture. I told myself at the beginning of the day that I was going to remember to take lots of pictures, and then frequently forgot.
We did, after that, play a game of Say What, Now?, which we had fun with, getting some good phrases and making fun matches with situations, and I got some good feedback for changes, which I will try with next time we play it. And since no one seemed to want to leave the table, we ordered pizza for lunch!
On Sunday, I did finally take the time to look into some of the other rooms and saw people playing games, but no one I recognized. But then, I didn’t recognize Tigh on Saturday. I did stop at Tin Robot again and got them to show me some of their other games. I had seen them advertising Hamsters vs. Hippos, but had never tried it, so I asked to play it. In this one, the players are hamsters in a zoo, collecting lotus flowers in the hippo enclosure. The tiles are set up and each player moves onto a tile and flips it over. It might have a bonus flower on the other side, it might cause you to drop a flower, it might give you the ability to peek under another tile, or it might just be a safe space to stay. If it’s a hippo, though, your hamster is eaten and you are out of the round. If you’re not eaten by a hippo on your first move of your turn, you have the option of making one more move. You can choose to leave anytime to keep your flowers. If you get eaten, you lose all the ones you gathered this round. I got eaten by a hippo all three rounds.
I also saw Dirty Dragsters on the table, which intrigued me, so I played that as well. The game is super simple. The game comes with two decks of cards, each consisting of a car, and speed cards with the picture of that car. There is a track made of six cards. The speed cards are either labeled 1, 2, or 3. Each player takes out a number of cards that add up to 10, and they are put into a common pile and shuffled. The top card is flipped over, and whosever card it is moves their car forward along the track a number of track cards equal to the number shown on the flipped card. Then take the next card on top and repeat until one car has passed the finish line. Then reset the cars back to the beginning and do the same with the unused cards speed from the first round, since the cards remaining also add up to 10. It’s so simple, but I found myself getting excited about each card flip, especially as we were getting close to the line. There are 4 different cars currently, and each set includes two. I bought both sets, because this looks like the type of game that I can teach my class and during free time, will keep them engaged for a while, either in 1-on-1 races, or in a 4-way race.
I didn’t play it, but I did look at Queen of Scots, which has some very nice artwork. It even comes which a score pad and a fancy pen! It’s a set-collecting card game similar to rummy, but with some history behind it. The rules even include a paragraph about all of the historical people featured on the cards.
On Sunday, we were joined by Tanya, with whom we played some of the aforementioned games again, plus a game by Karl, who had already left. That is, Karl showed up, played Slackjack with us, but then we played his game after he left. He’d left it for Peter to showcase to us. It was a fun card-drafting game in which you needed to collect the double-ended cards, but only using half of the card. There were several categories that you could score in, so you had to plan out what you were going to collect. You could collect fish, but they scored high if you had unique ones on your card and no doubles. Or you could collect bees and score if you had more bees than the people beside you. Or you could collect mammals and gain points for pairs or triples that you collected, or you could build a tree of peaches and parrots, and score the number of peaches times the number of parrots. It was pretty cool, and I didn’t play well. Probably because I was getting tired and didn’t remember what cards had gone by that I might see again, so didn’t plan. I just collected stuff, and didn’t get many fish, and got one animal which scored me nothing.
Oh, we DID play one of Karl’s games with him before he left! I had forgotten because I didn’t take pictures because I forget things now, apparently. Anyway, it was called Dig, Dwarves, Dig, and no one seemed to catch my Diggy Diggy Hole reference. Anyway, I really liked this one, as it was “push your luck” in two ways. First, you roll your dice to see which treasures you get. You must take at least one result each time, but can reroll the rest. You can stop any time. Some result are worth -1 point unless you roll their match. So, keep rolling and hope for the match, or stop so you don’t get stuck with a -1? But also, there’s a clever thing where one result means you dig deeper, so you replace that die with one of another colour, which has different results on it. More valuable treasures! But there is a deeper level still, and the dice for the deepest level have a face with danger on it! Roll the dragon too frequently and it wakes up and anyone still in the cart lose all of their treasure. So, when the dragon is rolled, do you leave right away, or stick around for another try at the treasure? I did get handed a full set of the deepest dice, and abandoned the mine. Then I rolled them “just to see”, and the roll came up all good, no danger, which would have put me in the lead by quite a lot! But I had taken the safe route… I enjoyed that mechanic of the “levelling” dice, the theme, and the way it played. We had some great discussion and would love to play this again, with whatever adjustments had been made following the feedback and conversation.
And that was it for Breakout Con 2022! Well, there was a very nice dinner afterwards with Peter, Sean (and partner, whose name I’ve forgotten, sorry! (and after they played Sinoda in the restaurant, too!)), Mark, Christopher, Kevin, Alicia, and ProtoTO organizer A.J. Brandon. And there was someone at the other end of the table that I don’t remember being introduced to.
I know that there are a lot of big cons going on this year, many in the US, but I don’t feel ready to go to those yet, but I am super looking forward to meeting everyone again at something near here until BSGames makes an appearance at one of the big US-based game cons.