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No, this isn’t about me turning into the Hulk. This is my quick wrap up of this year’s trip to GAMA, the GAme Manufacturer’s Association. For 2018 and the near future, the board game trade show moved to Reno, Nevada, away from Las Vegas. For those of you that aren’t aware, GAMA is an industry trade show focusing on the board game industry. It’s a chance for publishers to interact with retailers, to show off their latest products and to let them know about future plans. There are seminars, demo nights, parties and an exhibit hall.

This is my third trip to GAMA and each year, it becomes more enlightening and more rewarding. The breadth of creativity and passion in the board game world is truly astounding. The switch to Reno seemed to be mostly for the better. We stayed at a pretty modern resort and it seemed to keep most of the publishers and retailers all in the same area.

Rather than bore you all with a play by play of who I had meetings with or throwing out a bunch of names that wouldn’t mean anything to you, I thought I’d give you some highlights of games that I think will be making a big splash soon. In fact, you can probably bet a little money that you’ll see reviews for some of these games soon.

Restoration Games: These folks are one of my favorite publishers out there right now. They’ve got expansion tracks for Downforce coming as well as Dinosaur Tea Party, an adorable light game with incredible art.

Smirk and Dagger (and Smirk and Laughter): It’s hard for me to convey how excited I am for Before There Were Stars, a creative myth making game using dice to create constellations. It’s one of my most anticipated of the year so far. They’ve also got the incredibly fun looking Tower of Madness, a Cthulhu style game that borrows from the old Kerplunk model of sticks in a tower with dropping marbles.

Renegade Games: I might be a bit biased on this entry. Renegade is branching further into role playing games and their latest, Overlight, is co-written by a friend of mine. But the art is incredible, the game play sounds amazing and Renegade always brings its A game.

Sadly, I didn’t get to play much at the show. It was a whirlwind couple of days and I had to leave early for a couple of vacation days to New Orleans. With another busy work week ahead, this is a short wrap up and sadly, I don’t have a deeper dive into how amazing GAMA can be. I’ll be back as soon as I can. In the meantime, here are a few pics from GAMA featuring some lovely peeps and some awesome ghost pirate ships from Deadman’s Doubloons by Passport. (Also, I can’t say “Ghost Pirate” without saying it like the ghost pirate character from the Venture Bros.)



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In this video, I’m trying out a new segment called First In First Out. I discuss a new game added to my collection and an older game being taken out to make room for the new. Today, I’m talking about Dice Throne and Betrayal at House on the Hill.

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We need to have a talk about Indigenous representation in board games.

For most of my life, I’ve been lumped in with the majority of straight, white, cis male America, for better or worse. As a child, I was blissfully unaware of even the most basic concepts of racial bias, bigotry, racism or the dirty reality of American colonialism. Traveling in the military began to open my eyes to the rest of the world though and living in New Orleans for a decade completely changed my perspective. I believe, for the better.

But it took a little longer for me to begin to direct my attention directly to the concept of representation in board games and longer still for me to understand the representational void within board game design. One of my stated goals with Sub-Level 03 is to bring gaming to a wider audience and with that in mind, I reached out to to the folks at N.D.N. Players and asked if they’d have a chat with me.

N.D.N. Players are a group of Native American scholars and gamers based in the Pacific Northwest who combine their thorough education, knowledge of Indigenous communities and love of games. Taken directly from their webisite, they have a variety of aims:

• Bringing their indigeneity and social equity skills with them into the gaming aspect of popular culture
• Increasing a scholarly Indigenous presence within popular culture
• Using their Indigenous and their academic knowledge within their gaming
• Modeling Indigenous philosophies and understandings within gaming

With so many other minority voices rising up and being heard in current American political discourse, I felt like this was a great time to talk about Native American and Indigenous representation in board games and board game designs. What follows is my chat with Jeanette, Jonathan and Tylor. It’s a bit long, but I feel it’s well worth the read. I’ve edited in a few places for brevity but never for content or tone.


Jeanette Bushnell, PhD           Jonathan S. Tomhave, PhD       Tylor Prather


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