I too was at DB&C at Games Laboratory in Melbourne this past weekend and got to play a bunch of games…
Batman Love Letter - When I first hear about this I laughed, certain it was just a cheap marketing gimmick. I could not have been more wrong. While this is 90% the same as vanilla Love Letter, the small tweaks actually lift it above the vanilla game. Vanilla feels like high-born snobby types trying to sneak past the guards and other lower-status people, but BLL turns it on its head: the guard is replaced with Batman, so the hero is at the bottom, punching up. Inverts the entire theme and works brilliantly. I don’t think I’ll be playing vanilla again.
Hobbit Love Letter - Exactly what I thought Batman would have been: fairly shallow marketing tie-in. There are some new rules that change things around, but they only succeed in complicating the vanilla game, not in improving it. Can’t recommend it.
Ascending Empires - A full-featured galaxy-spanning 4X that plays in 30-60 minutes and involves dexterity-based tasks? It’s nuts in the best possible way. Your spacecraft are wooden discs, which you flick across the table to explore other worlds. Settle, mine, research, conquer, and battle in a fast-playing, easy-to-learn, and fun ruleset. Absolutely gutted that it’s out of print.
Origin - Best components ever. Starting from Africa, chart the course of the evolution of the human species, growing taller and stronger, discovering the wheel, fire, and more. Very quick-playing, easy to teach and learn, but remarkably strategic.
Crokinole - One of my old favourites, sort of lawn bowls on your table. Flick wooden discs into the centre of a smooth wooden board, jockeying for the best-scoring spots while bumping your opponents’ pieces into the gutter. Still on my Christmas wish-list, but boards are hard to come by.
Kanban - We didn’t get to finish this as the venue was closing up for the night, but wow, what a heavy but fascinating game. Take on all of the core tasks in a car manufacturing business: design, upgrade, test, and manufacture, all while staying on top of the latest training methods and also staying one step ahead of your business rivals. About as heavy a euro as I would want to play, but I enjoyed the hour or so we got into it.