Brain Games Summer camp 2016

While Ilja and Alina are doing amazing videos, I have been trying to find a reason to start writing again (all my previous reviews have been in Russian). I guess, since the Brain Games Summer Boardgame camp took part 19-21 of August, this is a perfect reason.

—Before the camp

So, the camp was announced, unless I am mistaken, already in March and this gave some time to talk to a few friends abroad and invite them for a visit. The location was again chosen to be Jõulumäe ski centre near Pärnu. So, after registering and paying for accommodation, we were ready to go. Ilja and Alina got a room with friend Clive from the UK, while we understood, that we will get someone random as the third. But the preparations started a bit earlier, as on Thursday morning I was still without my new car, meaning none of the Würfel team had a ride. The tension grew, but luckily I got it back late evening.
After buying some card sleeves (unexpectedly Viticulture had different card size) I met Ilja around 9 pm, took their luggage and went home to sleeve. On Friday, we managed to leave early and avoid all the traffic jams on the way. The ride to Pärnu is 120 km, and half way there was a detour with a “Pärnu 200m –>” sign. Ilja asked if really Pärnu is so near. We arrived just in time to check in and look at the halls.

The games I brought were: Microfilms, Eldritch Horror, Splendor, Power Grid, Skull, Stack the Chairs and Viticulture. As usual, my aim was to play as many new for me games as possible or to play those, which it is almost impossible to find in Tallinn. Alternatively, I wanted to introduce games to (new) people. This year I did not take a single picture, so pictures by Brain Games are used. The camp had a lot of foreigners and it was a record number of 130 people.

—Friday

The first thing me, Nastja, Ilja, Alina and Clive did was to split up: I hope to play games Ilja and Alina have with them back in Tallinn.

nametags

Nametags. Image by Brain Games

I had invited a friend from Poland to join the camp also. So, the first game was Cash and Guns. This is a really strange choice to start with, as this is a party game. I knew the rules, quickly removed the expansion and we started. Honestly, this is not favourite game, but it was quite quick with me grabbing a lot of money 😀 I think I liked it more, then the first time last summer Guess, the main reason for that was that I did not die on the second turn.
Cash and Guns was followed by Lords of Waterdeep. The choice was made based on the fact that I consider the game “a classic” and the guys I played with enjoy worker placement and are still exploring the boardgame world. I guess they really enjoyed converting the coloured cubes into points, while playing Intrigue cards. The game was not new to me, so not much impression.

waterdeep

Me explaining Lords of Waterdeep Image by Brain Games

A girl we played with saw Zany Penguins with fun art, nice box and short rules. This game was new: it is a set collection and hand management. It also said on the game “bluff” and now I even see “take that” on BGG. The game is about penguins trying to escape the North Pole and establish colonies in different climates. Everyone collects coloured sets in front of them and in the end of the game who has the most scores the cards of that colour in their hand. I assume this might be a thinky game, but I just did not have any fun playing it. Handing off cards, looking at other players’ sets – it just felt dull. Perhaps, there is something more to it, but first impression was just a bit boring.
Since Penguins were OK, we needed something more active. Colt Express was chosen – a game about train robbing and running away from the sheriff. I guess, it was funnier, when commenting on how the green player was trying to shoot in the air and white was punching the air.

 

At some point on Friday I saw Taluva. Since I had payed a lot of interest to the game, Nastja was eager to join. Two more players joined, I explained the quick tile-placement rules and we were ready. The game was OK this time, compared to how it felt last year, but I still enjoyed it. Nastja did not find it interesting. I still guess it would be a great addition to my collection at some point: it has nice wooden huts and temples, literally builds a 3D landscape and allows you to destroy a bit of your opponent.

We just had to finish the day by playing a “horrible game for horrible people” – Cards Against Humanity. I guess the other three players were too polite to play the most inappropriate cards, but there were some nice combos.

mom

People exploring Mansion of Madness 2ed. Image by Brain Games

One more thing happened on Friday – the organisers set up demo games for Saturday with people who could teach others. This included Dominion, Eclipse, Jamaica and a few others. This has never been done before, but  I think this is a great idea.

—Saturday

Saturday was rather quick, since the first game we chose was Eclipse. I guess, this was one of the two highlights of the camp for me. My friend Kirill and his wife Alexandra joined us, although they were sceptical about the possible length of the game. But, after me explaining the rules and all agreeing on a house-rule, that you can’t go beyond sector III, we started. At first people were cautious, but the fun started. There were not many combats, I had to betray Nastja to at lest show how the combat works. I really hoped someone will take the Traitor card from me, but no one wanted to 😀 We finished the game after lunch with Kirill crushing us on points. Everyone enjoyed the game. Nastja said we need this one on our game shelf. Kirill thought the game looked ugly, except for the galaxy hexes. Although I find it functional, I agree it does look like from the 80’s and not in the positive way.

Next up was my second highlight of the camp – Mission: Red Planet (second edition). This one was just fun. I do not really like this card-action-selection mechanics. I do not know why – was it because of the decrease of choices it gives after each round or because it costs you a turn to get the cards back. Nevertheless, the game was great – I might think about getting this one, but might be too light.  We played a 5 player game, meaning the board was heavily crowded. What also made the game fun, were the people. One of the players kept making jokes and after some time we had a “Phobos-express”, as somewhy a lot of astronauts wanted to get there.

Next game was a game of Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game. I promised one of the organisers that I will take a squad and can to a quick skirmish. Played a crazy mobile TIE Phantom Echo, whos movement is really hard to predict, and I came to the conclusion – amazing ship, but won’t live through a tournament. The game mat and ships draw people near to admire the minis. Luckily it was dinner time, so we had a quiet game.

This was followed by a quiz. Participants could form groups of 5-6 players and answer 25 questions. But this time, these were not the normal “Who has designed the most games in BGG TOP 100?”. There were at first pictures of animals  from different games and we had to name the games. You also could get bonus points for answering extra questions like “when was the game published for the first time?”. There was also a hint, that all games are in BGG TOP100. This made us wonder, when we saw the mouse from Alles Käse! Well, this was a mistake from the one who made the quiz. Next part of the quiz was with sounds. There was a designer talking about his work and we had to guess who it was, There was a soundtrack from a boardgame and there was an animal making sounds to guess the game. The last questions were normal ones: Which language is the word Jenga from? Which 7 wonders are on 7 Wonders player sheets?

Sadly, we did not win this this year. Unless I am mistaken, we got 23,5 points from 25 with another team right on our tail. Was an amazing moment.

powergrid

Kirill and Alexandra are trying my PowerGrid copy. Image by Brain Games

I felt tired after the quiz and went to lay down for some quiet. I think I came back after an hour only to find out that I don’t know what to play. Ilja saved me by offering to try Suspend. It is a good dexterity game like Stack the Chairs or Jenga or Riff-Raff, but it has this bent pole, where one has to place the rods. Around midnight this is quite a challenge, as the angle of the main mast messes with perception.

Via Nebula was the last thing I played on Saturday. It is a… hmmm. Guess, resource collecting and building game where players have to transport goods to build buildings. It was nice and has good ideas, like: your worker discovers some resource and anyone can take it. Your worker is stuck there, until the resource is depleted. Unless I am mistaken, I got the last spot, simply by not using my resources on time. This game has one the coolest inserts I have ever seen. I have no idea how and why, but I went to bed at around 3 am.

—Sunday 

Sunday was a “day off”. After packing our things, we went for a quick game of Bear Valley, a small card game about hiking in the woods while avoiding big bad bears. And the game has really bad written rules. Some of the special powers are written in the middle, some are in the end of the book, some have pictures, some don’t. I don’t think anyone liked it. Not only because the rulebook was written badly, but also that there’s not much in the game. It has this cool exploring mechanism, when you open a card and place it near the path. But I guess that’s just about it. We played twice just to be sure.

Unusual Suspects was next up. I was told this is a great game – a blend of Codenames and Mysterium. It is a deduction game where one player is a witness, while everyone else are a team of detectives. So a detective draws a card from the deck and asks the witness the question on the card. The witness answers “yes” or “no”. The idea is to find the target with less guesses. I did not feel like I was playing a game: pick a card, choose a suspect or two, exclude them. The suspect-art is great though.

scythe

Ilja and Alina are learning Scythe

Last three games were Cthulhu GloomTimeline: Discoveries and Timeline: Historical Events. Nastja won fairly easily all of them. This Gloom was not as fun as the original one or maybe story-telling games are not my or Nastja’s taste. Numbers and calculations are way cooler 🙂 Nastja was positively surprised about the Timeline games. Nothing new for me though. Oh, we tried Timeline: Star Wars also. Now that one was hard. Except for moments like “Did Darth Vader kill Obi-Wan before the Death Star was destroyed or after?

When Ilja and Alina were packing, Alina had a great idea – to play Codenames: Games. We quickly set up a grid of 4 x 4 games, found an App and me and Ilja became spymasters. I guess this was another great moment in the camp until the app crashed.

I would like to thank everyone for joining and Brain Games team for organizing and hope to see everyone again in the winter.

Here are some more quick thoughts from other people.


Mihhail (first time visitor):

I got into board games less than a year ago, but my interest quickly escalated from uno to saboteur to ticket to ride and eventually more complex games like eldritch horror and dead of winter. Having heard that there is a special camp for board game enthusiasts got me very excited and so I went… First of all, the amount of people (130+) and the games they brought blew me away. So much in fact that I was completely lost during the first day and couldn’t find anyone to play new games with. Here I would like to point out one of the shortcomings of the event – even though games were in almost unlimited supply, it wasn’t easy to organise a play-through of a particular game since the game owners were usually occupied elsewhere and we would have to read the rules ourselves and just hope we interpret everything correctly. Big thanks to guys who took their time walking around the camp in between their own game sessions to see if everyone is having fun and playing the games correctly. I personally got assistance from Andres and Nastja several times, thank you guys! Eventually I find out that all games had their respective owner’s name and phone number on them, so it was possible to get in touch to clarify rules, so that problem got solved.

The food was average and overpriced in my opinion, but the accommodation was dirt cheap, so I can’t really complain about that. The thig that struck me the most was the awesome sense of community and trust during the event, everybody came to have a good time, to learn new games or share their own experience, I haven’t seen a single conflict or misunderstanding during the three days spent there.

Did I like it? Yes. Am I going back? Definitely! And would highly recommend to anyone interested in the exciting world of board games!

 

Dan:

it was great overall but the food was disgusting and the venue was questionable. I think everything related to the games was great. Everything else could have used improvement. But it was about the games anyway, so it’s cool.

 

Kirill:

So another gaming camp…
What can I say? 😊 All was good, emotions are not that overwhelming just because now I knew what to expect. And my expectations were completely met! This time I played less games (8 games this time vs 13 games last time) but I’ve managed to play couple of epic scale games like Eclipse and Scythe and almost each game I played was with a new group of people.
The choice of games was not that big this time even though still was two huge tables with piles of games, its just that last time these “piles” were a bit bigger.
All this being said, the experience at the camp is one of the best board gaming experiences you can get in Estonia. I can’t recommend it high enough, that’s how much I like it 😊
I am in for the winter one for sure! 😊

PS: Maybe Andres will make another article(or maybe video guide 😊 ) before winter BGC and we can put our suggestions there – me and other more or less experienced people can suggest on what to do to get a lot of fun and don’t be disappointed.

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