Geekway 2021: Day 1, Monday

It’s Geekway to the West! Postponed last year for obvious reasons, St. Louis’ board game convention is back. This year it’s Monday through Thursday at the St. Charles Convention Center.

Firstly, we had to check in at a table, showing an ID and vaccination card — vaccinations are mandatory to attend. Not “or a negative test”, not “I already had COVID”. Also means no young kids (there aren’t usually all that many very young kids, but some). It’ll be tough to gauge affect on attendance, I think, given the other changes (Fall instead of Spring, during the week instead of over a weekend, etc.).

Next was the actual check-in with the badge and swagbag. This year’s swag was pretty neat. Another challenge coin:

But this one has a special ability:

That’s right, it’s glow-in-the-dark!

And a bonus gift from 2020 (previously we got a snap-together dice tray or a USB power bank, for instance):

Yep, it’s an awesome set of anodized dice in a magnetic box. Love it.

The setup

Geekway has a couple different libraries to check out games (some folks also bring their own). There’s the regular library, which has just a ton of games, old and new. Then there’s play-and-win. These are a few copies of usually-pretty-new games you can check out, play, and earn a chance to win for each time you play (during the last convention, for instance, I won a copy of Root). If you play a game from play-and-win and don’t like it much, you can choose to not have a chance to win it (you can only win once from play-and-win). You can see a list of the play-and-win games or the library on the website.

So what did we play?

Registration opened at 6 Monday evening. We got checked in and everything, then went to the patron reception (free appetizers!) and still managed to squeeze in three games before the play-and-win closed at midnight. One of the things about a board game convention is that you’re learning new games, which of course takes more time than playing games you’re used to. But (at least for me) that’s also part of the fun.

Renature

The first game we grabbed was Renature. It’s a domino/area influence game that seems pretty replayable. There are a few different ways of scoring points, interesting tactics for player interaction and some limited opportunities for expanded options on your turn, including taking an entire extra turn after your current one.

Thought this worked pretty well at 2 players. I bet it would be pretty different with 3 or 4. Overall, I liked it.

Blossoms

This one was made for two players, though there is a variant for three in the rulebook.

Blossoms is a set-collection game with some push-your-luck involved. I didn’t think I’d like it because of the push-your-luck aspect, but it turned out to be pretty good.

As your first action, you draw a card and either put it in an empty pot or add it to a matching flower — that’s the first bit of luck. But, there are only six flower types and usually four different ones in the pots (or an empty pot, which can hold any new flower), so you’re not often drawing a card you can’t use. There’s also “bad luck” if a flower is already six cards high and you draw a 7th, but that didn’t happen often for us.

After you do that, then you have options for what to do, and pushing your luck never felt very pivotal, partly because you can only do the “cut” action to collect a set of flowers once in a turn and it ends your turn.

All in all I enjoyed this way more than I thought. We played twice, and one of the games was only a one-point difference. All that and I think my oldest kid could probably pick it up decently well too. Nice game.

Santa Monica

Loved the art on Santa Monica, but it was a bit complex. Very little player interaction — a common board of cards everyone has to pick from, so you can potentially take a card someone else needed, but that’s about it. A plethora of ways to score points, though they are all totaled at the end rather than throughout the game.

It functioned just fine at two (and given the limited player interaction I don’t think it would be significantly different with more players). I think replayability would be pretty huge with this one — you’re placing cards in different configurations and moving people around on top of them to get points in different ways, and there are different objectives, different starting cards, etc.

All in all, I enjoyed it, but there was just a whole lot going on. We were rushing a bit to finish it before the play-and-win closed, but it was still a little overwhelming with all the choices and implications each turn.


So that was Monday. Not sure I’ll be able to keep up with this — we played more than 20 games in 2019 — but I’ll see what I can do.

Read Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Wrapup