We went to PAX East last weekend to visit some friends in Boston. Good times all around!
PAX was huge this year! I was a bit bummed that they moved it out of the Hynes Convention Center (and thus moved away from the most nostalgic part of the city), but it sounds like the change was totally necessary to fit the huge amount of people that went this year. I'm told there were 69,500 people there. That's crazy.
Animal Upon Animal (below left) is super quick and seems to appeal to just about anyone. All you do is stack animals. Occasionally a die will tell you to stack two at once, or something, but that's really the whole game. Of all the games we played, this is the one that drew the most people to our table. It's also the next game I'd like to add to our board game closet.
Ascension (above right) is a bit like Dominion (which is the only other "deck builder" game I've played) but adds a little more uncertainty by only showing seven cards you can buy at a time. There are cards you can buy, and monsters you can fight, so it's a balance between keeping your "runes" and "fight" in good supply while still wracking up the victory points. Since you're only seeing seven cards of the deck at a time, your opponents can have a lot of impact on your turn. If the player before you buys or fights the card you wanted, there's no telling when you'll see another one like it added to the board.
Merchants & Marauders (bottom) is a massive game. I'd give it a solid evening if you're going to try to play. With four people new to the game, it took us a good hour to get through the rules, and another to do just a couple rounds of turns. All in all, a full game took about 6 hours. The box claims it should only take three, so maybe we're just slow. Either way, it's a lot of fun once you get into the swing of it. You can be a pirate, you can be a merchant, you can avoid everyone or kill your friends. Fun!
It was a great weekend all around, filled with boardgames and bumming around with a bunch of people I've missed so much since leaving Boston.