All right, as promised, more stuff!
Sentient -- This is a neat dice/bidding game where you place your pawns to claim cards representing bots you slot into your factory. You have to place them between sets of dice you roll at the beginning of the turn, and each card scores points based on certain interactions with these dice. Some score based on the sum of the two dice, some score if both are even, some score based on the lowest die plus or minus a certain number. The trick is that each card has a +, -, or = sign at each top corner that affects the die it touches. So while one card may set you up perfectly, the next one might ruin that combo by changing your die faces. You have certain pawns that can be used to cover up the symbols and preserve your die rolls, but you sacrifice using them in another aspect of the game -- each pawn you place to claim a card is also used to claim influence over the investors behind each bot you claim. Each investor is worth points equal to the number of bots of its particular field (such as Industry, Information, Military, etc). So there's all kinds of manipulation going on, and it really makes you think. The only drawback? It's retailing for nearly $50, which seems kind of steep for what's in the box (although custom dice always nudge to cost of a game upward). But likely it'll be in the $30 range at most of the online game retailers.
Arena: For the Gods -- This is a riff on King of Tokyo/New York, where you roll dice looking to match symbols, both to trigger standard abilities and abilities on gear cards your heroes possess. The neat thing is that you bid on this gear before the battle using your life points. Bid too much and you going into the arena with very little wiggle room when the fighting starts. Bid too little and you risk losing out on the best gear. You can vary the game board for game length and difficulty, and there are several variants such as 1-vs-many and team play. We screwed the rules up the first time we played this and were sort of meh on it, but a second play with a better grasp of the rules vastly improved things.
Sagrada -- Another dice game, this time selecting dice from a common pool to match a pattern on your player board. The trick is that you can't have the same colors or numbers touching, and since everyone is picking from the same group of dice, you're likely going to get screwed at some point. There are some special abilities you can use to help rearrange or alter your dice, but doing so costs you points from the end of the game. This was one of the more popular games at the con, and despite some initial reluctance due to the heavy reliance on color -- a lot of games hate colorblind people -- I enjoyed it.
Yamatai -- Speaking of colorblindness, mine really dampened this one for me. This game operates on a similar mechanic to Ticket to Ride, having you chain together chains of various colored boats to match cards that allow you to build houses on the islands you're sailing around. You can also obtain powerful allies that give you special abilities. But I was so frustrated trying to differentiate between the green, red and brown boat images on the cards, constantly having to ask people to tell me what the colors were, that I'm afraid I just wasn't able to give the game a fair shake. It LOOKS good, and people seem to really like it, but the color issue was too big a hurdle for me.
The Networks -- Here you're all network executives trying to build a successful prime time lineup. You can purchase shows and stars, and select ads to make money. Shows dwindle in their popularity over time and eventually move into reruns, so knowing when to ditch a once popular show is key to doing well. Plus all shows, stars and ads have certain criteria to meet in order to earn their maximum points; a show may need to be in a certain time slot, for instance, or a star may need to be in a certain genre. What really sells this game is its sense of humor, as it has a lot of fun with parody versions of TV shows such as Tiny Pop Hypothesis, The Limping Treated and Released, Person of Disinterest, etc. This was our first game of the con, and so sort of faded into the background over the weekend, but it's a damn solid game.
Now we start getting into the disappointments...
Magic Maze -- This is a great game ... if you enjoy being yelled at for not being psychic. You work together to move four pawns (representing fantasy types) thought a mall (yeah, the theme isn't exactly what you'd call tight) to stores matching their icons so they can rob them. Then you have to guide them out of the mall to escape. Each player has a card that details a direction they can move a pawn and, in some cases, an action they can take. Oh, and you do all this WITHOUT SPEAKING. You can plan before the game starts, but there's a timer, and if that runs out, you all lose. There are spots on the board that can stop the timer so you can regroup, but for the most part, the only way to communicate to someone they should do ... well, something, is to hammer the table with an oversized pawn and glare at them for not reading your mind. I honestly do not need this kind of aggravation.
Immortals -- We so wanted to like this. The design is similar to that of Shogun, a game we all greatly enjoy. The problem is that it's so similar to Shogun, we all wondered why we weren't just playing that. And what it adds -- a two-sided board representing the light and dark planes of a generic fantasy world where what happens to the light side can affect the dark side and vice versa -- didn't seem all that innovative to us. Plus this game uses Queen Games' traditional dice tower, which, in a non-combat heavy game like Shogun, is a perfectly fine randomizer. But here, where there's a lot of combat, it can be frustrating to drop an overwhelming number of your cubes into the tower only to lose a battle because half of them got stuck. And the really crazy part? Queen Games was there selling this for $80, while the big box edition of Shogun containing all the expansions was going for $60. Save the $20 and go for the original.
The Daedalus Sentence -- But this was hands down the worst game we played. The idea was intriguing -- you're all prisoners on a space station trying to escape through its concentric rings, breaking codes to open gates and dodging enemies along the way. But the game is hampered by a truly atrocious rulebook that often contradicts itself, when it's not being maddeningly vague about important rules. And even if the rules had been clear, you're just going through motions here, taking obvious routes and actions. There was no tension, no sense of danger. Just moving pieces, playing cards, and wondering how this ended up in the Hot Game section. And then we found out this retails for $110! I'd feel robbed if I'd paid $50 or $60 for it. We gave it about ninety minutes and just walked away, and sadly shook our heads whenever we saw anybody else playing it over the weekend.