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GAMA Expo 2023: Pics from the Trade Show of Sagrada Artisans, BOOoop., and More

by W. Eric Martin

GAMA Expo 2023 took place in Reno, Nevada on April 24-28 — far later than its normal early-to-mid-March slot — and the show felt surprisingly normal. Sure, I’ve now seen many people post positive Covid results on the GAMA Facebook group, but that’s also surprisingly normal at this point. (Maybe even unsurprisingly normal? Just normal normal?)

In any case, the trade show was packed, and people were excited to talk about new games, especially since the games were finally really NEW, that is, not holdovers from 2020 and 2021 that never got full media coverage or exposure in the distribution-retail system. “We’re charging ahead with new games for eager players! Look at our stuff!”

Starting in 2024, GAMA Expo will be held in Louisville, Kentucky, so we’ll miss this welcoming scene when we arrive at the airport:

I won’t actually miss this…

My opening day at GAMA Expo 2023 included attendance at a media show, which was essentially a precursor to the exhibit hall that would be open Tuesday to Thursday, followed by game night, followed by collapsing dead tired into bed since I was three time zones out of my schedule.

Ahead of those events, I ran into designer Scott Brady and publisher Curt Covert of Smirk & Dagger Games, who were showing off BOOoop., a Halloween-themed version of boop. that features ghost cats.

In the original game, you need to line up three kittens to level up one of them to a cat, then get three cats in a row to win, but the animals are all jumping on a bed and bouncing one another to different positions — or onto the floor. The ghost cats in BOOoop. add another complicating factor, with them moving on the mattress seams in (I think) a somewhat automated way and scaring animals away as they move.

Brady and BOOoop.

Trash Talk is a party game that Deep Water Games plans to debut at Gen Con 2023 in August. I don’t have all the details of the design, but I have enough that I created a database listing with this description:

In Trash Talk, you and your fellow raccoons are trying to communicate with one another through the medium that you know best: trash.

In the first round of play, three word cards are revealed, and each player (or team) secretly assigns the same three objects to these three words. These objects come from an assortment of odd items included in the box. Does the plastic plant best match the word “double”, “dream”, or “sharp”?

Deep Water’s Jacob Way and bonus “What’s Eric Playing?” appearance

Once both sides have locked in their choices, reveal the objects. If you match all three objects, put those cards aside, add a fourth object, lay out new cards, and play another round; if not, try again with three new cards. If you fail again, you lose the game. If you successfully make your way up to matching ten objects with ten cards, you win!

The objects depicted above might or might not be in the published version of the game. Deep Water’s Jacob Way told me that he’s trying to hit a certain price point with the game, while also finding the ideal mix of objects that allow for creative expression.

Given my love for The Mind and other games in which you’re trying to synch with fellow players, I’m a sucker for this design — and I also appreciate how clearly the gameplay “reads” even if you’re just walking past the table. You can watch others play and immediately understand what they’re trying to do…and kibbitz that they made the wrong choices, even though your choices are never wrong, just not a match.

• In the media room, Floodgate Games was showing (I believe) a near final production copy of Sagrada Artisans from Adrian Adamescu and Daryl Andrews, a game that it hopes to debut at Gen Con 2023 in August.

Sagrada Artisans is a legacy version of Sagrada, with players representing families that try to improve their skills as the generations pass and they are challenged with new stained-glass projects.

Each player has their own project book, and as you draft dice during the game, you color sections of the stained-glass project with pencils. You can acquire new tools over the course of play, and the game includes dozens of “unlockable” items that come into play at different times. If I recall correctly, envelope L is given to the first player to lose two games. Yes, you give them the L. I’m sure they’ll appreciate the thought, but probably not as much as they’ll appreciate what’s inside…

The game comes packaged with a separate book of 96 window patterns that you can play before, during, or after the campaign, and a second book of patterns will be available for purchase separately.

Greater Than Games was showing off what I believe was a mass production copy (MPC) of Spirit Island: Nature Incarnate from R. Eric Reuss. An MPC is essentially a produced copy of the game, and the publisher reviews this item to see whether anything needs correcting before the entire print run is produced.

I’m using lots of qualifiers (e.g., I believe) in this post as I lost my notepad on which I had recorded everything from Monday to Tuesday, so I’m operating from memory and research. This is the first time I’ve ever lost my notes from a convention, and I attended my first work convention in 2004! I guess my streak had to end at some point, but man, what a bummer. Thankfully, I still have pictures.

• Speaking of which, here’s a photo for the card game Purrfect Match from Twan Van Lierop, Agnes Loonstra, and Greater Than Games — and that’s all I can say about this title.

• Flat River Group, which owns GTG and other studios, is mirroring Lucky Duck Games in its practice of finding crowdfunded titles and distributing them on the North American market (as explained here).

One title making the leap is Floating Floors from Takashi Sawada and Australian publisher Guf Studios. In this 2-4 player game, you need to move your ninja across a multi-level floorboard to collect bansen seals, but the ground can be unstable depending on how players built it up.

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