10.0
Score

Pros

  • Huge game library
  • Lots of events
  • Free stuff galore
  • Awesome people
  • Water-coolers this year

Cons

  • Not enough hours in a day
Atmosphere
10/10
Amenities
9/10
Fun Factor
10/10

This post has been edited since the MeepleNation podcast released on 15 March 2018.

On the first weekend in March I attended three of the four days of SaltCon 2018. I loved (almost) every minute of the three-day board gaming convention. It was incredible. I attended with my wife and a friend from work. Over the three days we were there, we played 16 board games, 3 RPG sessions, and one Live Game. We also wandered around the vendor hall, browsed the game swap, grabbed lunches and dinners, and took some time to get shuteye. Even so, we spent from around 10 am to 1am at the Davis Conference Center each day. By the end I was exhausted but I still wanted to play more games.

My Overall Experience at SaltCon 2018

SaltCon has been my most anticipated weekend of the year for a couple of years running. Last year my wife and I both took Thursday and Friday off of work to attend, and we did the same this year. I am lucky enough to have family near the Davis Conference Center and they kindly allowed us to crash in their basement at night. As a result, we were able to attend the convention from the time it opened each morning until around 1am. We could have stayed later, but I tend to get cranky without enough sleep.
Tara and I playing Moonquake Escape
Moonquake Escape at 1 AM

For SaltCon 2018, we planned ahead a bit. We brought a lunch box so that we could save some money by eating out less than we have in earlier years. Of course, we still splurged on dinners and we bought more games than we probably should have. Even so, we managed to come away with a long vacation weekend that cost far less than it could have.

We arrived early Thursday morning to pick up our pre-ordered passes. There was an unusually long line this time around. My friend and I had to bail out of the line to get to our scheduled Artemis time. My wife kindly stayed in line and picked up all three passes. (Have I mentioned how incredible she is lately? Well, she is.) Artemis was fun.

As soon as we finished Artemis we dropped off all of our games we were selling or trading in the Game Swap and Math Trade areas. We also picked up the games we traded for during the Math Trade. Then we dived into gaming. We played games through the day, until 6 when we stopped in the RPG area for our session of Star Trek: Adventures. It was awesome.Sentient Box Art

We went to bed early Friday morning and slept through until around 8. We got ready and went right on back to the convention. Although the friend with whom we attended the convention had a harder time on Friday, we still managed to play a bunch of awesome games.

Saturday morning we spent in the vendor hall. We completed the blackout, saw cool stuff (most of which we couldn’t justify spending so much money on). We finished the crossword and word searches and turned them in. After all, why not have as many chances to win something as possible? We played even more games throughout the day and attended the awards ceremony Saturday Evening, where my wife won the bundle of games for the blackout. It was really, really cool.

All in all, it was an exceptional weekend, full of gaming fun.

Highlights from SaltCon 2018

There are a few stand-out moments from SaltCon 2018. One I’ll mention in more detail later was our play of Star Trek: Adventures. It was exceptional. Obviously, it’s great when your group wins a prize, and my wife won a bundle of awesome games. It was also fun to talk to the guys from Meeple Nation Podcast, though we didn’t make the final cut of the first SaltCon episode. We did, however, make it into the second part! My wife describes to the folks of Meeple Nation an idea we’ve had for a live version of RoboRally (more on that later). It’s a fun idea, and it’s great to be featured on my first ever podcast! In my opinion, however, there is one experience that outshines them all, even being featured on Meeple Nation.

Pandemic: The Cure - DiceI bought a copy of Zombicide and Zombicide: Prison Outbreak from one person, and then Zombicide: Rue Morgue from someone else. If you know anything about these games, you know that to make the game manageable at all, you want to combine components from the games so that they’re all in one place. The person from whom we bought Rue Morgue had done this. And being in a rush, I didn’t check that I had all the components.

This is where it gets awesome. The person who sold us Rue Morgue realized we didn’t have all the pieces and spent time separating them, found a game that I was selling in the game swap and called me to let me know. When I cam to collect the pieces I was missing, he told me that once I went through the list of components, if I was missing anything, he would make sure to get it to me.

It is that kind of thoughtfulness and honesty that I really think defines my favorite parts about attending SaltCon. It would have been far easier for this guy to just say: “Well, he didn’t pay attention, more parts for me.” Instead, he went out of his way to ensure that I got everything I thought I had gotten the first time.

What Games Did I Play at SaltCon 2018?

We played a lot of games, though not as many as any of us wanted. This year it seemed that we spent more time doing activities tangentially related to gaming than we have in earlier years. Even so, we had a lot of fun. We played board games, RPGs, and a live game.

Board Games

  • Bang: The Dice Game | BGG | 5LN Review
  • Betrayal at Baldur’s Gate |BGG | 5LN Review
  • Celestia | BGG | 5LN Review
  • Conan | BGG | 5LN Review
  • Fuse| BGG | 5LN Review
  • Cry Havoc| BGG | 5LN Review
  • Pitch Car| BGG | 5LN Review
  • Red November| BGG | 5LN Review
  • Moonquake Escape| BGG | 5LN Review
  • Sentient| BGG | 5LN Review
  • Roll for the Galaxy| BGG | 5LN Review
  • V-Commandos| BGG | 5LN Review
  • Vast| BGG | 5LN Review
  • Santorini| BGG | 5LN Review
  • Dice Forge| BGG | 5LN Review
  • Pandemic: The Cure| BGG | 5LN Review
  • Snowball Fight| BGG | 5LN Review

RPGs

  • Star Trek Adventures| RPGG | 5LN Review
  • Paranoia| RPGG | 5LN Review
  • Star Wars: Force & Destiny| RPGG | 5LN Review

Live Game

My Thoughts on Board Games

Playing board games at SaltCon is part of the reason it exists. After all, it is a board game convention.

Three of the board games we played were versions of games we own that have been converted into dice games. If you need to know one thing about me, it’s that dice tend to hate me. Despite that, I love games with dice. The reason being: chucking dice is fun! All of the dice versions of the original games were enjoyable. In some cases (Bang: The Dice Game) I liked the dice version better. With others (Pandemic: The Cure and Roll for the Galaxy) I think I like them about equally for different reasons.Santorini - Beauty Shot

Of the games we played, the standout successes weren’t the ones I expected. I expected to love Conan and Cry Havoc, but instead I simply enjoyed them. After playing Sentient, the game my wife calls “the pinkest game in the world”, I put the game away thinking about just how much I would love to get a copy. Santorini is another game that I was surprised by. It’s a simple game with some deep strategy, and despite being a competitive game for a small number of players I really enjoyed it.

I didn’t end up loving Red November, Vast, or Dice Forge. Red November was a strange game that wasn’t the quirky fun I was hoping it would be. Vast looked fun, and would probably have been better with more than 3 players. My biggest gripe with it was that the rules weren’t terribly clear. Finally, I had a string of truly terrible luck with Dice Forge. I’d like to try it again, but earning a total number of points that was equal to a single card that the other two players purchased really sucked.

My Thoughts on RPGs

Okay, for the last two or three years I’ve attended SaltCon, I spent some significant time in the RPG room. I love Role-Playing Games. I think they’re a blast. This time I only spend around 12 hours on RPGs. One of the things I love most about this type of game is how you get to know some of the people you play with, and how they can make or break the game for you.

My standout favorite moment from SaltCon 2018 was during the Star Trek: Adventures game we played. Our game master had a long history of playing and leading Star Trek RPGs, all the way back to the FASA version. He did a good job leading the group through the new system. He wasn’t what made the session so memorable. Instead it was one of the players, Robert, who played the pre-generated captain: Francisco Martinez.

With a flair for great role-playing and a string of unbelievable luck, Robert proceeded to charm his way past hostile Klingons, mind-controlled Vulcans, and inanimate objects. Somehow the combination of the most self-assured and cocky Antonio Banderas impressions along with the simple phrase: “I am Captain Francisco Martinez…” smoothed over all the rough patches in the game. It was likely one of those moments you had to be there to believe, but it was truly one of the most exceptional RPG sessions I have ever experienced…despite the fact that his knack for charming his way through situations seemed to make all the rest of us redundant.

Star Wars: Force & Destiny was a fun game, though the adventure felt a bit slapped together. I enjoy the system that Fantasy Flight Games has put together, and I especially enjoy how the entire line of Star Wars RPGs released by them follow the same patterns. It’s a very nice way of doing things, though it does feel like there is just too much content to wrap my head around.

Finally, we played Paranoia. I have to be honest, although I was the only member of a secret society who managed to complete their mission, I didn’t enjoy it. I’m certain that part of my dislike for the game was due to how little I know about the world where it’s supposed to take place. Understanding the setting would probably have helped me a lot. The game master was knowledgeable and great at evoking a mood, but his method of having us create characters left me with a someone who was ONLY good at bureaucracy. As fun as that was to try to apply to any situation, it made my character mostly useless for the entire session.

My Thoughts on Live Games

Artemis is a game I’ve seen at every SaltCon, and several other conventions. It’s always intrigued me. Artemis is a Star Trek bridge simulator. People fill stations on the bridge during exploration and combat missions. Every person has their own monitor, keyboard, and mouse while sharing a big “viewscreen” with the entire team. At every station the person sitting there has a vital role to play in how the mission is completed.

During my first ever experience with Artemis on Thursday morning, I filled the engineering role. My primary job was to allocate power and ensure that any damage we sustained was repaired. It was an interesting role. I struggled at first to understand how the power balancing system worked, and how to appropriately assign power to systems as they were needed. After fifteen minutes or so, I began to understand the principles. The problem after that was simply the clunky interface.

Overall, I think I would enjoy playing Artemis a lot if I had a regular group of people who understood the way the system worked. It would also help if the interfaces were cleaned up. It would help a lot.

What Games did we Win or Buy at SaltCon 2018?

We acquired a stack of games at SaltCon 2018. Not only did we get some games for purchasing a pass to SaltCon, I participate in the Math Trade, visited the Game Swap, and my wife won the prize for the vendor hall blackout. All in all, we came away with a lot of games.

Board Games

  • Night of the Grand Octopus | BGG | 5LN Review
  • Master Fox | BGG | 5LN Review
  • Lisboa | BGG | 5LN Review
  • Island Hopper | BGG | 5LN Review
  • Guilds of London | BGG | 5LN Review
  • Mistfall | BGG | 5LN Review
  • Mistfall: Heart of the Mists | BGG
  • Mistfall: Sand & Snow | BGG
  • Zombicide | BGG | 5LN Review
  • Zombicide: Toxic City Mall | BGG
  • Zombicide: Prison Outbreak | BGG
  • Zombicide: Rue Morgue | BGG
  • Zombicide: Angry Neighbors | BGG
  • Zombicide: Other Expansions & Bonus content

RPGs

  • Star Wars: Force & Destiny | RPGG | 5LN Review

Thoughts on Recently Acquired Games

In the time since SaltCon 2018, we’ve played several of these games, and they’ve been great. Just last night we played most of these games (all of the Zombicide titles I got were combined). I can highly recommend any of the games we have played.  The Iello games, Night of the Grand Octopus and Master Fox are great for families and even Monkey enjoyed them.

My Recommended Games from SaltCon 2018

Based on what I played, won, or bought at SaltCon this year, I would recommend adding the following games to your library, or at least trying them. They are super fun.