Today we recount and bid farewell to another successful TableTop Day, where we gathered together for the specific purpose of playing more games.
International TableTop Day grew out of the TableTop web series on the Geek & Sundry YouTube channel. In celebration of the series’ one-year anniversary, producers Wil Wheaton, Felicia Day, and Boyan Radakovich created a day to get players together to celebrate and engage in tabletop gaming. This year was the third annual TableTop Day, and Saturday, April 11th, saw a plethora of opportunities for the Chicago gamer. All of the city’s big game stores (Chicagoland Games, Cat & Mouse, Wanderer’s Refuge) offered events and demos at each of their locations, and Geek Bar Beta had a full day of food, drinks and gaming.
For our group, the plethora of options was a blessing. Four of the Addison Recorder’s writers (joined by a husband and wee baby) all ventured out to play this past Saturday — and each person had a different availability. Because TableTop Day has become so big, and because we had so many options, we were able to accommodate more schedules than we could in years past.
Our group started out the day in Chicago’s Lincoln Square neighborhood. Schedules necessitated the time and area, which is why we met at Fork for brunch and further planning. Once we were properly nourished and caffeinated, we headed over to Wanderer’s Refuge for our first games of the day.
We wanted to start with something simple yet fun, a game that we could pick up and play throughout the day whenever games ended at different times, and there were a handful of people waiting around for the next “big” game to start. These kind of games are ideal for events like TableTop Day, playable in less than a half hour and easy to jump in at any time. Love Letter, Pairs, Get Bit, Sushi Go are all perfect examples of these quick games that you can play in between longer games (or while you’re in the middle of eating or holding a baby).
The game we started with was Trickster: Fantasy, a trick-taking game from Daniel Solis that’s still in prototype phase. Similar to classic card games, Trickster involves playing cards from your hand and taking tricks. Tricks give you points — which are bad — but if you collect the most cards in a suit, that suit counts as zero points (you “shoot the moon” in that suit). Adding depth to the game are the “faces” on each card. There are seven heroes in seven suits, and each of the seven heroes has an ability that triggers when it is played. These abilities help you try to manage the tricks you’ve collected while also messing with your opponents’ collections. When someone’s hand runs out, it’s time to count.
Trickster: Fantasy was the perfect start to get the brain going without investing a ton of time in one game. More people were coming into the store, so we moved onto games that were a little more involved, but still on the shorter/lighter side. Some of us got in on a game of Splendor, while others taught new players how to get away with heist in a game of Heat.
Splendor is one of my favorite games, an ever-shifting puzzle that you are trying to solve before the other players beat you to it. I discussed this game from Marc André in a previous post, and I’ve probably played it more than any other board game so far this year (even if I rarely win). Heat is a quick game of risk/reward from Dave Chalker, where you plan a trio of heists. I included Heat in my recap of Kickstarter board games, and it’s a great game that teases your brain in a different way from Splendor. Instead of solving a puzzle, you’re trying to anticipate your opponents’ moves while managing your pilfered cash (good!) and the heat you’ve gathered by pilfering (bad!).
With our brains fully prepared for some longer strategy games, we went to the store shelves to find our next round…
Deep Into Strategy!
I settled on a recent game from Ignacy Trzewiczek, excited to have a chance for a four-player game of Imperial Settlers. We’d spent the night before TableTop Day tackling Trzewiczek’s intense co-operative game, Robinson Crusoe, so it was a nice change of pace to play against each other instead of against the game itself. Imperial Settlers is an economic game where players take the roles of historical(-ish) civilizations. Each civilization has five rounds to draw cards, build structures, make deals, and raze buildings in an attempt to generate the most victory points.
As I settled imperially, my erstwhile partner in comics criticism and life, Steph, taught another round of Trickster: Fantasy before her and Karen broke open a copy of Martin Wallace’s The Witches: A Discworld Game. The Recorder’s resident Pratchett fans are a huge fan of this game, not only because of the theme, but because it’s a fun time. Witches is a co-operative game in the vein of Arkham Horror, but with simpler rules and much more manageable play time. (It also seemed rather appropriate to break out a Discworld game.)
…and Time for a Break
By this point, we were into our fourth hour of gaming, and it was time to re-nourish our bodies and succumb to our non-gaming schedules. We stopped by Geek Bar Beta, which was jumping — there were so many geeks engaging in tabletop games that there was no room at the inn for our group of five (plus the wee baby). Even as we were determining our next actions, we saw players streaming in, finding open seats, starting new games, and the Geek Bar staff handling it all with aplomb even while in the deepest of weeds.
We hit up a nearby establishment where we played a few more rounds of Trickster: Fantasy while learning that not every American pub understands that “fish & chips” uses the British definition of “chips.” Seriously. That was surprising.
Our group went their separate ways after the fish & chips debacle, but TableTop Day continued. The Geek & Sundry channel did a livestream on Twitch, including their traditional game of Takenoko. (I don’t know if three years is enough to make it a tradition, but I always seem to catch their livestreams when they’re playing Takenoko.) And when my attention turned toward the final day of the NHL season, I had Alhambra, Sentinels of the Multiverse, and Lords of Waterdeep going on my digital devices.
Thus did another International TableTop Day wind down, even as one of the AI players in Lords of Waterdeep grabbed that 40-point quest before I could. With untold victory points earned and lost throughout the day, I hit the bed tired and happy… though I could’ve gone for a round of 7 Wonders with the Babel expansion. Just saying.