Terminal City Tabletop Convention Retrospective – 2023

It’s Wednesday and part of me is still coming down from the high of a weekend full of boardgames!

For the first time since March 2019, the annual (until COVID, damn it) Terminal City Tabletop Convention was held in my hometown of Vancouver this last weekend.

There were new organizers this time around and the venue has moved to downtown Vancouver, which is really convenient for me!

I still drove, because I brought a ton of games and didn’t want to carry them too far, but it was still nice to just be 5-10 minutes away.

And wow, were there a lot of games to play!

Unlike many conventions, Terminal City is only a Saturday and Sunday affair, so it wasn’t quite as much gaming as OrcaCon, but there was definitely a lot of good stuff there.

First, let’s talk about the convention itself.

It was held at the Roundhouse Community Centre in a part of downtown Vancouver known as Yaletown.

Previously it was held at the Croatian Cultural Centre a bit outside of downtown but still in Vancouver.

I don’t know anything about the behind the scenes workings of the whole thing, but it seems the new organizers came in only a couple of months before things really got started, so there were a lot of last minute details to take care of.

You could tell because one of the issues was a distinct lack of “free to play” table space. It was at a premium! You couldn’t “reserve” a space and occupy it because there was so little room. If you weren’t playing a game, you would have to give it up.

We kind of got around that a little bit because we had six of us. On Saturday, we decided a game we were going to play and one person who didn’t need to go get lunch taught the game to the new players while those of us who knew how to play it went off to get our food.

It worked out pretty well overall.

There were issues from the venue beyond their control (probably things like fire codes and the like) and maybe could have been dealt with (or maybe even a different venue altogether) if they had had more time.

Given all of those constraints, they did a wonderful job and it was an amazing weekend.

So kudos to them!

However, that’s not why you’re here, right?

You want to hear about the games?

Of course you do.

I played ten games over the two days and I don’t think there was a bad one in the bunch.

Only two of them were “new to me” though one was a second play of a new to me March game, so that will also be appearing in this month’s post.

I was the first one in our group who made it in to the hall (another small issue was the extremely congested lineups to get in on Saturday, which I guess encourages early-check in because you could pick your badge up on Friday if you could make it down there, and is also probably an issue with the venue and beyond the organizers’ control) so I grabbed a table.

Three of us were there waiting for the rest of the folks so we brought out one of my “new” games that I had just played the previous Sunday for the first time (and a fourth joined us just after I finished the teach, so I quickly retaught it!)

I loved it enough that I wanted to play it again.

What was it?

Of course it was a Garphill Game.

It was their newest, in fact, Wayfarers of the South Tigris (designed by SJ MacDonald and Shem Phillips, published by Garphill Games and Renegade Games Studios).

I’m not going to go into great details about the games this weekend, especially the new ones because they will have their own post in early April, but here’s a little about Wayfarers.

It’s a dice placement game where players are in Baghdad and going out to explore the seas and the surrounding lands and the sky above.

Your player board is the caravan that will show you what symbols that you will have when you use a certain value of a die to do an action.

This is near the beginning of the game where I’ve only placed one other land card to the left and one townsfolk below it, but essentially there will be cards spreading from the left to the right.

As you explore, you will be adding to your journal, which will give you more stuff and is also the game end timer.

(Silly me forgot to take a picture of my entire tableau).

You’ll see more in my March “new to me” post, but let me just say that after two plays, this game is so fun.

It can be a table hog and it can be long, though we did manage to get in under 3 hours with a 4-player game (our first 3-player game on the previous Sunday took 3 hours). I’d like to play it enough to see what we can do about the play time.

It was a great start to the weekend.

By this time, we had more people so it was time to find some bigger games.

And you can’t get much bigger than Ecos: First Continent (designed by John D. Clair and published by Alderac Entertainment Group)

This was the game where some of us went to lunch while the others learned it.

Ecos is a game I’ve had for a while now (and I even have the expansion), but this wasn’t my copy. Another friend brought it.

I do really like it but previous plays of the “long” game (to 80 points) have kind of dragged and caused some “is this going to be over soon?” feelings, so we decided to just play to 60 points (the short game as per the rules).

This is a game where you are building the world and populating it with animals, based on cards that you are able to play in front of you and then fill up with energy.

The “Harbinger” pulls elements out of a bag and calls them out. Players place energy cubes on the same symbols on one of their cards and when the card is complete, they do what it says. Some cards are one-use cards because they are so powerful while others can be used multiple times.

These cards can build the world or populate animals (along with possibly moving them or eating other animals, as the animal cards can get you a lot of points).

This game is a lot of fun, especially when somebody has an animal engine going with a card and you play an animal engine that completely messes it up. Maybe they like running antelopes but you have a lion engine that likes feeding on antelopes!

It’s also a very pretty game as the world you build will differ every time.

We got the short game done in just over 90 minutes, which I think is a good length. Especially at six players.

This is a great choice if you have a big table and a lot of people.

At this point, the other three people who hadn’t eaten yet went off to get food so we pulled out another old favourite that I haven’t played in ages.

Tiny Epic Galaxies (designed by Scott Almes and published by Gamelyn Games) is a dice game that plays in about an hour or so and is always a great time. One of the people who went to eat doesn’t like the game, so it was the perfect time for it!

This is a small box game where each player is building their own galaxy, acquiring planets to it and trying to improve their empire.

On your turn, you’re rolling dice and using them to get energy, send ships out to colonize planets, improve your infrastructure, and basically get points.

The row of planets take various number of dice to successfully colonize and it can sometimes be a race!

It’s a race to 21 points, and for a dice game (there is some dice mitigation as you get a free reroll and you can spend energy to reroll more often), it’s really a lot of fun. It can be tricky when you fall behind, but it’s not that long and who doesn’t like chucking dice?

Oh, hi Cal. Didn’t see you there.

A perfect filler game while others went to get food.

Now that we were back at six, our choices were a bit more limited.

So we trotted out Diamonds (designed by Mike Fitzgerald and published by Stronghold Games)!

This is a classic trick-taking game (we don’t have the newest edition, though).

It’s an old enough game that I’ve actually reviewed it!

This is a great game because you are collecting diamonds into your vault. Diamonds in front of your vault can be stolen from you and are worth only one point at the end of the game.

Diamonds in your vault are worth two points!

The explanation of how to play is in my review so I’m not going to go into it here, but this is another game I haven’t played in a while and I was happy to get it to the table again.

The last time I played it was in January 2020, so it was about time.

At six players, it took a little over an hour to play. You have a number of hands equal to the number of players (each player deals once) so the length is variable.

But it’s always enjoyable.

At this point, we had enough table space (some people had left who were next to us) so we broke into two 3-player groups.

One of my friends had requested I bring Cape May (designed by Eric Mosso and published by Thunderworks Games), and I was happy to oblige since it’s a game I also love.

So much so that I reviewed it!

This is the game where players are developers trying to build up and improve the New Jersey seaside resort of Cape May.

I explained how the game works in the review so I won’t go into it here, but suffice to say that you are moving around the board, building residential and commercial buildings, and trying to make the town as lovely as possible.

I really enjoy this game, as you can tell from my review, and it was nice to get it to the table again.

Sadly, even though I made both of my extremely hard endgame goals, I spent so much time making sure I did that I didn’t get enough points to even come close to the winner.

What made up for that, though, was having a couple of visitors stop by.

Christian (@takeyourchits on Twitter) and Daniel (@plumpythimble), both board game personalities (though Christian doesn’t do that anymore), stopped by to say hi.

I haven’t seen Christian in years!

He looks totally different from this shot (taken at Dragonflight in 2018). So don’t look at this photo and try to find him.

I’ve met Daniel briefly but just in passing, so it was nice to stop and chat with these two amazing guys for a few minutes.

I highly recommend following Daniel on Twitter for his hilarious videos.

However, none of us thought to have a picture taken.

That makes me sad.

We ended Saturday night with another 3-player filler card game, playing a 45-minute game of Oh My Goods! (designed by Alexander Pfister and published by Lookout Spiele – the exclamation mark is in the title).

This is a game that I’ve always had trouble understanding and doing well at. Each time I play it (granted, there are usually months if not years in between), I have to relearn it because it just doesn’t stick with me.

But this time, for some reason, it stuck. I did need a refresh, but I actually understood the way goods chain when you activate a factory building. I actually made use of the chaining!

Of course, maybe we were playing it wrong…

But I don’t think so!

This is another game where cards are both buildings as well as currency. You’re putting facedown cards on buildings that have produced things. The building shows you how much gold this currency is worth.

The chain image on the right side of the cards is what I always had trouble with, and it’s actually remarkably simple.

Each time a building produces, you can put as many cards that match the chained symbol from your hand into the building, getting you more money!

Oh My Goods! is a fairly light filler card game but with some definite decisions to make. It’s kind of a push your luck game too, which I always enjoy.

It was getting late on Saturday so I called it a night.

Especially with Daylight Savings Time going into effect Saturday night, I wanted to actually get some sleep. We’re losing an hour!

Sunday dawned bright and early and it was a shorter day (I left at 4:00 pm) but we still managed to get some cool gaming in.

This was the day where I played two “new to me” games that I will be talking about in early April.

But first, there was the old classic that I haven’t played in at least seven years, Transamerica (designed by Franz-Benno Delonge and published by Winsome Games)

This is one of those easy route-building games where you are trying to connect cities in the US, very similar to Caesar’s Empire (though that game is a bit more complicated than this one).

Each round, you’re trying to connect five cities (the cards in your hand) with routes, though once you connect with somebody else’s route, you can build off of theirs as well.

When somebody connects all five cities, everybody else loses points based on how far they are from completing.

Starting at 12 points, as soon as somebody is below zero, the game ends.

So it’s definitely quick!

Then we played a game that I saw demoed at SHUX 2022 but never got the chance to sit down and try it.

Starship Captains (designed by Peter B. Hoffgaard and published by Czech Games Edition) is a game that takes a lot of Star Trek tropes and has some fun with them.

Each player is a captain of a ship with a small crew, though more cadets are added each round.

Of course, each crewmember has a specialization, bringing in the red, yellow and blue colours.

Your ongoing mission is to explore the board, going to planets where there are missions to do. Because you need the glory of doing missions!

Or maybe you can defeat space pirates while you’re at it.

Meanwhile, you’re collecting tech for your ship, repairing damage, and basically just doing things that starship captains always do.

This is a game I’ve wanted to play since I saw it at SHUX, and it didn’t disappoint.

Since it’s new to me, I’ll give you more detail in that post, but suffice to say that it was a lot of fun for a first time!

After that, we had a full complement of six people again, so it was time to break out Bad Company (designed by Kenneth Minde, Eilif Svensson, and Kristian Amundsen Østby, published by Aporta Games).

I’ve only played it twice now, but this game is definitely a fun one, giving me that Space Base vibe but just adding a little bit extra.

You’re all criminals, forming (and improving) your gang to make you better criminals, all while you are on the run from the cops.

Though in this case, having the cops get ahead of you just costs you a few points.

It’s not like you go to jail or anything.

I really like the board mechanism in this one, though I sometimes don’t drive enough to actually get ahead of the cops. You don’t get the bonuses your car crosses if the cops beat you to them!

And of the course the improving your gang thing is a lot of fun, especially how they get taller and taller (and change genders sometimes!)

A fun game, plays six players easily, and only takes 60-90 minutes.

Can’t go wrong with that!

The final game of the weekend was another new to me game, Bot Factory, a Vital Lacerda light game (co-designed with João Quintela Martins and published by Eagle-Gryphon Games) that brings Kanban to the masses in a game where you are building robots!

The game has some of the Kanban elements but streamlines things a bit.

There’s still the production line, the parts line and the contract line, and of course Sandra is still around.

But you’re not really punished by her (or rewarded if you’re playing the “Nice Sandra” game of Kanban). She just gets in the way some.

I’ll go into more detail in my New to Me post, but this is basically a robot production line where you are trying to get build them based on the robot blueprints you acquire, and then sell them to fulfill contracts (and hopefully increase the value of the bots!).

This one doesn’t burn your brain like most of Lacerda’s games. It is definitely a lighter version to kind of tease you and maybe entrance people to come join the dark side and really make your head hurt by playing his heavier games.

This is like a taste, a sample, and you may get sucked in.

I think playing Kanban (which I haven’t played except a couple abortive attempts on Boiteajeux) might be easier after playing this, because it introduced a lot of the concepts that make Kanban what it is.

I hope to give that a try someday!

As for this one, I really enjoyed it too. I’d play it again, easily.

After that one, it was time to leave for the day.

A fun weekend was had by all and many thanks to the new organizers of Terminal City Tabletop Convention.

Hopefully with more time and some experience under their belts, next year’s will be even better than this one.

Now my next convention isn’t until October (if SHUX happens) or November. Unless I decide to go to Dragonflight, which I’m not sure yet. That’s in August.

Have you played any of these games?

Let me know in the comments!

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