7 Lists About Gen Con 2016

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So, the GeekDads are back from Gen Con, but—let’s be honest—our minds are still there, retracing our steps through the exhibit hall, replaying great moments in the games we played, and regretting the things we missed. So expect to see a lot of continued coverage over the next few weeks as we break out the games we brought home. I’ll have my photo recap (eventually), but for now I wanted to share a list of lists about Gen Con 2016.

Gen Con haul
My Gen Con haul, before and after un-nesting things. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

Games I brought back from Gen Con

  1. Sunrise City: Nights – Game Salute
  2. King’s Forge: Apprentices – Game Salute
  3. King’s Forge: Queen’s Jubilee – Game Salute
  4. PolyHero Dice – Game Salute
  5. Valiant Universe Deck-Building Game – Catalyst Games
  6. Machi Koro: Bright Lights, Big City – IDW
  7. Ice Cool – Brain Games
  8. Monstrous – Good Games
  9. Unfair – Good Games
  10. Sushi Go Party – Gamewright
  11. Captain Carcass – Mayday Games
  12. Dungeon Busters – Mayday Games
  13. Eight Epics – AEG
  14. Dice Heist – AEG
  15. Sagrada (prototype) – Floodgate Games
  16. Epic Resort: Villain’s Vacation – Floodgate Games
  17. Gobbit – Morning Players
  18. Angry Birds Gobbit – Morning Players
  19. 3 Wishes – Passport Games
  20. Exposed – Overworld Games
  21. Thief’s Market – Tasty Minstrel Games
  22. Strife: Shadows & Steam – V3G
  23. Specters of Nevermore – Smirk & Dagger
  24. Boss Monster: Crash Landing – Brotherwise Games
  25. Exceed – Level 99
  26. Windfall (prototype) – V3G
  27. Tag Team (prototype) – Button Shy
  28. JunKing – Junk Spirit Games
  29. Shadow of the Elder Gods – Laboratory

This is the Gen Con list that most people are interested in: what did you get at Gen Con? Now, I have to confess that the majority of these are review copies that I picked up from publishers, a combination of games that are new to me and finished games from Kickstarter projects I reviewed. So stay tuned: you’ll be seeing more about most of these games as soon as I’ve had a chance to play through them and write them up! A couple of the games that I was really interested in sold out very quickly, so I’ll have to wait until later for those, but I will say that I was quite pleased to snag a copy of Ice Cool before those vanished. I also have a smattering of promo cards, a H.E.A.D. Hunters pillow, and the Girls on Games book by Elisa Teague.

Games I took with me to Gen Con

  1. Vast: The Crystal Caverns – Leder Games
  2. Valeria: Card Kingdoms – Daily Magic Games
  3. Web of Spies (with Secret Missions expansion) – Cole Medeiros
  4. Deep Sea Adventure – Oink Games
  5. Baseball Highlights 2045 – Eagle-Gryphon Games
  6. Dale of Merchants – Snowdale Design
  7. Ultra Tiny Epic Kingdoms – Gamelyn Games
  8. Guildhall Fantasy: Fellowship – AEG

This list is significant because, of all of the games in my collection, these are the ones that got space in my luggage on the way to Gen Con. The eight games above made the cut. Unlike some of the other folks who drove and could bring as much as they could fit in their vehicles, I had to conserve space for bringing things back home, so my pick was mostly games that I could break down and fit into smaller packages: for instance, I dumped the box for Web of Spies and just packed the cards and bits in my Quiver case, and packed the board separately. Vast was the largest, heaviest game I took with me. (I did also have some Kickstarter prototypes not listed above, but mostly to give away as prizes to people who found me in the exhibit hall and not necessarily to play.) Of these, I got to play the first five on the list, several of them multiple times. The last three, sadly, I didn’t get to play during the weekend.

Gen Con Valeria
Teaching Valeria: Card Kingdoms in our hotel lobby. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

Games I played at Gen Con

  1. Battlestations
  2. Vast: The Crystal Caverns
  3. Valeria: Card Kingdoms
  4. Deep Sea Adventure
  5. Captain Carcass
  6. Space Cadets: Dice Duel
  7. Sushi Go Party!
  8. Baseball Highlights 2045
  9. Web of Spies
  10. Gobbit
  11. Angry Birds Gobbit
  12. Clank!
  13. Sagrada
  14. Dice Heist
  15. Captain Sonar

This list just includes the full games I played during the convention. I don’t tend to play a lot of demos (particularly of longer games) in the exhibit hall because there are always so many booths and so little time (cf. my last list, below), so I try to get a quick pitch of a game and then mark it down for later. Instead, I do most of my gaming outside of exhibit hall hours: I really enjoyed the Game With GeekDad events we ran this year, but I also stayed in the open gaming halls late into the night all the other evenings as well.

Word Domination at Gen Con
Designer Jeff Beck shows us a quick demo of his upcoming game, Word Domination. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

Games I demoed at Gen Con

  1. Upcoming titles from Calliope Games
  2. Word Domination – Uproarious Games
  3. Adrenaline – CGE
  4. Sea of Clouds – Iello Games
  5. Covert – Renegade Games
  6. Eight Epics – AEG
  7. Apocrypha – Lone Shark Games

In addition to the full games, I did try a couple of demos where I didn’t play a full game, but just enough to get a taste of it. We saw several upcoming titles from Calliope Games, though I can’t say too much more about those yet. Word Domination is a fun game that mixes spelling with area control (and evil geniuses taking over the world). Adrenaline is an upcoming game inspired by first-person shooters: kill, die, respawn, repeat. Sea of Clouds is a fun little card-drafting game with a pirate theme. Covert is a spy-based game with dice placement that I mentioned in our Gen Con favorites post. Eight Epics is a new cooperative dice game by Seiji Kanai, and from what I saw it was pretty hard. And, finally, Apocrypha is an adventure card game designed by Mike Selinker and the Lone Shark Games team that I’ve been anticipating for a long time. We played with prototype cards, but I’m really looking forward to when it’s all done!

Seiji Kanai
Seiji Kanai and me at Gen Con 2016. Photo: Todd Rowland

Game designers I met for the first time this Gen Con

  1. Seiji Kanai: Love Letter, Sail to India, Eight Epics
  2. Tom Cleaver: Valley of the Kings
  3. John D. Clair: Mystic Vale
  4. Conor McGoey: Summit
  5. Kane Klenko: FUSE, Dead Men Tell No Tales, Covert
  6. Stephen Gibson: Grimslingers
  7. Kim Brebach: Monstrous
  8. Jeff Beck: Word Domination
  9. Paul Dennen: Clank!
  10. David Gerrard: JunKing
  11. David Somerville, Patrick Leder: Vast: The Crystal Caverns
  12. Clayton Grey: 100 Swords, Shadow of the Elder Gods
  13. Justin Robert Young, John Teasdale: The Contender

Some of our GeekDad first-timers were really surprised to play a demo of a game, only to discover that the person running the game was also the designer. But that’s really one of the best parts of Gen Con: getting to meet game designers face to face. What I’ve found is that, in many cases, game designers are almost as excited to meet people who love their games as the players are to meet them, and that’s particularly true of Kickstarter creators, who are often just blown away by the support they’ve gotten from backers. (Special shout-out to Conor McGoey, who gave me the most enthusiastic hug I got at Gen Con this year, still high on his recent Kickstarter campaign success.) The list above may not be totally comprehensive (and if I missed you—call me out and I’ll add you with my apologies!), but it’s what I can piece together from my scribbled notes and sleep-deprived memory.

I got to speak briefly with Seiji Kanai, who remarked that he had not been prepared for the remarkable popularity of Love Letter in the US. He had played a lot of RPGs (both Japanese and American) himself, and really wanted to make an RPG, but it was just too big. Then he fell in love with Magic: The Gathering, but didn’t think he could create a CCG by himself, either. Finally, inspired by another Japanese designer who made a ¥500 game, he set himself a 16-card design challenge, and made gaming history.

Books I read during Gen Con

  1. None.

Yeah, I took my Kobo ereader with me, thinking that maybe I’d do some reading on the flight there (I knew I’d be sleeping on the way back), and maybe do some reading if I had to stand in lines, but pretty much the only reading I did was reading rulebooks. Although on the flight to Gen Con I did finally listen to Hamilton, so now I can finally start communicating with my oldest daughter again.

Things I missed at Gen Con (a partial partial partial list)

  1. Looney Labs (but spotted Kristin Looney from afar outside the convention center)
  2. Kids Table Board Gaming (stopped by booth when they weren’t there)
  3. Weird Giraffe Games (other than shouting “hello” as they passed)
  4. Double Exposure Playtest Hall
  5. Aron West – Elzra Games
  6. Keith Matejka – Roll Player
  7. Stonemaier Games (off-site in a hotel ballroom)
  8. Paizo (stopped by booth, but didn’t get to talk to anyone)
  9. Stronghold Games (though I did run into Stephen Buonocore briefly)
  10. Concerts (like, any of them)

And, finally, there’s the list of things I missed—certainly this is an incomplete list, because there are things I don’t even know I missed. Even though I spent so much time walking around on the exhibit hall floor, I still didn’t get to all the booths. I calculated later: with 572 exhibitors and 31 total hours the exhibit hall was open (including the extra early bird hour on Thursday), if I spent every minute in the exhibit hall while it was open, I would get roughly 3.5 minutes per exhibitor. So… I guess I shouldn’t feel too bad about missing some, but I hate the fact that I didn’t get to say hi to the Looneys. And, once again, I didn’t even set foot in the Double Exposure Playtest Hall, which has the same hours as the exhibit hall, even though that’s where a lot of the next wave of Kickstarter games were being demoed. This year I also missed a lot of folks that I’ve seen in past years playing late-night games, because there was a big group of GeekDads and we ended up setting up in a different area of the gaming hall most nights. But until I crack the secrets of time travel or cloning, this list is going to get longer and longer every year.

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