RulesCon 2019 – the Cardiff board game convention

The last weekend in April saw us at the all-weekend gaming event RulesCon. Over Saturday 29th and Sunday 30th, our local board game store Rules of Play took over the Angel Hotel in Cardiff for two 12-hour days of board gaming.

What is RulesCon?

Over the last couple of years, Rules of Play has arranged a local gaming event to coincide with International Tabletop Day (ITTD). Unfortunately, this year Geek & Sundry moved the date for ITTD to 1st June and instead of starting the Spring/Summer board game con season, ITTD now conflicts with the UK Games Expo 2019. Personally, I think the move was unnecessary and felt like a shift away from a community-driven concept, but I won’t digress into that here.

Fortunately, Rules of Play decided to keep the April event (although that might have been due to already having the venue booked!), and thusly RulesCon was born!

RulesCon 2019 highlights

We grabbed weekend tickets months ago when RulesCon 2019 was first announced, excited for 2 whole days of unlimited access to the Rules of Play board game library. This is one of the big pulls for us to these kind of events – it gives you an opportunity to try loads of new games without the investment, so you can buy ones you definitely know you like!

One thing we didn’t expect was that we’d be spending a lot of Day 1 playing games with new people! We befriended another couple who were sharing our table. One thing led to another and we spent the rest of the day with them, playing games and grabbing a bite to eat in Cardiff. Meeting and playing with others is something we always want to do, but sometimes it can be a bit hard to introduce yourself to new people, especially if they are mid-game or you struggle with social interactions (like me). But Emily and Sam were awesome, and getting to play some games with them made our RulesCon experience all the better.

Board game highlights

The favourite

Out of all the games we played over the weekend, we have to give the crown to the first one we played! Above and Below (Red Raven Games) is a well balanced mix of theme, story, art and strategy. The best part of Above and Below is when you choose to explore the ‘below’ and the other player gets to dramatically read an excerpt from the ‘story book’. Each excerpt was different, and choosing which outcome you wanted to bid for had mostly positively, and sometimes hilarious, responses. The game felt like the journey it was trying to represent. A big thumbs up from us!

The biggest surprise!

If you already follow us on Instagram, you might be able to guess this one!

Matt sat behind the cards and box belonging to the game The Mind

I picked up The Mind (Nürnberger-Spielkarten-Verlag) because I’ve seen people post about it a lot on the socials. If I’m honest, it looks like quite a basic, non-event of a game, so we’ve never been tempted to pick it up. But we were wrong to judge it solely on appearance!

Essentially, players try and play numbered cards from your hand into a shared pile, in the correct ascending order, without communicating which cards you have in your hand. It’s a simple premise, but weirdly addictive and a right laugh. We played as a 2 but I bet it would be even more hilarious with more players.

An excellent filler game, and one I think we will pick up at some point.

The biggest let down

I’m a big fan of card games, particularly quick games that you can play on the go. Fox in the Forest (Foxtrot Games & Renegade Games Studios) looked like it might be worth adding to the collection. And I’ve wanted to try it for a while because the cover art is SO PRETTY, although I’d never seen the game itself. Unfortunately, it was a massive let down. Although the pretty artwork carried through, when you break it down, this game just felt like a slightly fancier game of Whist (a popular game played with a normal deck of cards). It felt…anticlimactic.

Beautifully illustrated cards from the game Fox in the Forest, laid on top of one another with the 'fox' card front and centre.
The art is SO pretty, though!

Fox in the Forest has quite a good rating on Board Game Geek, but we just ain’t seeing why. Maybe if we played a few more times we’d get the appeal, but I don’t think we’ll ever be motivated to pick it up a second time…

Honourable mentions…

Other games we played, and liked, were:

  • Broom Service (Ravensberger) was almost tied for the best game of the weekend. I was almost put off by the overly saturated art style, but the way you play cards to perform actions is quite entertaining. Definitely one to play again.
  • Santorini (Roxley Games) is popular game, but one I didn’t think I’d like due to its more abstract/strategy-based nature. I thought it would feel like a game of chess (or hive) – more Matt’s thing than mine. However, we both enjoyed Santorini and played several games. It works really well for 2 players, and if you’re looking for a good 2-player game we would strongly recommend this one.
Close up image of the figurines used in the game Santorini
  • Fireball Island: The Curse of Vul-kar (Restoration Games) has such a fun, nostalgic feel, even though this was our first time playing! Using lava marbles to try and knock over other players pawns was far too much fun.
A not-so-great quality picture of the game Fireball Island
  • Colt Express (Ludonaute) has a great set-up with the 3D train. And we like the spin of putting your actions into a shared deck, sometimes secretly, and not quite knowing what will happen! This is definitely a game that should be played with groups of 4+, otherwise I can’t see there would being enough unpredictable player interaction, which is what makes it so entertaining.
The 3D train from the game Colt Express, with a cheeky green bandit player piece peeking out from the front of the train.

…and dishonourable mentions!

Aside from the woefully disappointing Fox in the Forest, there were two other games we thought missed the mark:

  • Escape: The Curse of the Temple (Queen Games). This was the second time we played this real-time dice game in a community setting and it just doesn’t work. Mainly because it requires the (CD) sound track to play the game properly. Give this a miss unless you’re playing somewhere you can hear the soundtrack (there are some versions available on YouTube, at least)
  • Artifacts, inc. (Red Raven Games)… we don’t really know where this one sits with us. You’re competing to build the best archaeology company, collecting and selling artifacts. It seemed a bit difficult to get into, although the gameplay did pick up as we carried on and started generating more resources (artefacts). Our lack of engagement with this game may just have been board game fatigue, as we played in late in to the second day of gaming. I’d be interested to hear other people’s opinions on how they get on with this one.
Box for the Artifacts, inc. game, with the game's cards laid on the table in the background

We’re lucky to have this sort of local event, and are grateful to Rules of Play for putting it on every year. And I hope they continue hosting RulesCon in the years to come.

I’m intrigued to find out about other events around the UK. Do you have a local ‘con’ in your area? Or a community event? Maybe I can convince Matt to go on a Tabletop Tour!

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