Time for Day 3 of my Gen Con photo recap! It’s Saturday—and the crowds just get bigger.
I got a Vast T-shirt the first day when I stopped by the Leder Games booth, and decided to wear it on Saturday. As I was walking through the walkways that connect the various downtown hotels to the convention center, I ran into the Leder Games team, all wearing their matching red T-shirts, so I stopped for a photo op. Patrick Leder is the publisher and co-designer, Kyle Ferrin is the artist, and Clayton Capra is a friend of Patrick’s who volunteered at the booth and ran demos during the convention.
We got to the exhibit hall before the doors opened, so we found some space over to the side and played a game of Deep Sea Adventure. I don’t remember the exact score, but I do know we didn’t come away with that much treasure—I never do!
Valley of the Kings is a very cool (and very compact) deck-building game (my reviews of the original and the sequel here), and this year another set was released, Last Rites. Designer Tom Cleaver was at the convention this year, so I got to meet him and say thanks for creating such a great game.
John Booth wanted to check out Tyrants of the Underdark, a D&D board game published by Gale Force Nine, so we stopped by the booth and chatted with Peter Przekop about it. Gale Force Nine is also the publisher of Firefly: The Game and one of their other big releases this year was Star Trek: Ascendancy (thus the Star Trek shirt that Przekop is wearing).
Blue Orange Games is a favorite among the GeekDads and they had a lot of games on display for people to try out. (You can see Dr. Eureka, which I just reviewed recently, on the table at the left).
HABA, which is well known for its games for younger players, has been expanding its focus to include more complex games for older kids and adults. Two of their newer titles are Adventure Land and Karuba, pictured here. (Sorry for the blurry image.) Karuba is especially notable because it was nominated for the Spiel des Jahres this year (though ultimately the prize went to Codenames). I haven’t gotten a chance to try it myself yet, but it’s on my list!
GeekDad Will James wanted me to stop by the Harebrained Schemes booth to take a look at the BattleTech demo since he wasn’t at Gen Con. They had quite a crowd there, trying out a demo of the upcoming PC game. I’m not much of a PC gamer myself, so I can’t offer much commentary on this one, but clearly there are a lot of folks eagerly anticipating this one.
Here’s a closer look at the BattleTech screen.
At the Greenbrier Games booth, I got to see a prototype of A.E.G.I.S.: Combining Robot Strategy Game. Yep: it’s a battle game in which you control a team of robots that can form together into bigger robots. The artwork on this one looks great, and I’ve been sent a prototype for review for the upcoming Kickstarter campaign, so stay tuned!
I spent much of Saturday in the high 2000s section of the exhibit hall since I’d only made brief forays on previous days. This section included Entrepreneur’s Alley, home to first-time exhibitors (like Brain Games), and included many publishers that I hadn’t heard of or wasn’t too familiar with, and it was a lot of fun to see games that were new to me.
One of the booths was Morning Players, a French company that had recently Kickstarted H.O.P.E., a semi-cooperative sci-fi game about saving the world. It’s one that I had been intrigued by during the Kickstarter but never found the time to really dig into the gameplay, so I’d made a note to stop by and take a look. I got a brief rundown of how the game works—in particular, there’s an interesting movement mechanic because of the way the colors and shapes line up on the board. It’s also semi-cooperative because you’re each trying to gain the most honor, but if you don’t work together then the Regression will destroy the universe. It looks like a really fascinating game—it’s in production now, so it’s one I’ll watch for when it releases.
After seeing H.O.P.E., I was curious what else Morning Players had, so I wound up staying at the booth for quite a while to get a run-down on all of their games. Kumo, pictured above, is sort of a sumo-like game where your goal is to push the stone off the board into your opponent’s area. Your playing pieces are cubes with different actions on each face (but you don’t roll them like dice), and you can pick up, push, jump over, or lock other cubes.
The board itself rotates, too, so you have to take that into account while planning your moves, lest you shove the stone off your own edge. It looked like a really fascinating game, and I love the little details like the graphic underneath the rotating board, showing a motor system and the circular scratches on the stone from all the rotating. I believe Gerry Tolbert will be reviewing this one for us later on.
Mines of Olnak is an upcoming game about dwarves rebuilding their city in the mines. Unfortunately, it’s a little hard to tell what’s going on in the photo above because the printed table was a little too flashy, but there’s sort of a mancala-like aspect to the worker placement for each player. I believe this one will be coming to Kickstarter later this fall—stay tuned.
Another upcoming game from Morning Players is Museum—and although the title may not be very exciting, the game looks pretty great. You are collecting artifacts for your museum, and when you place them on your board, the arrangement matters. The red cross-shaped area you see on the player mats are your main galleries, so you get additional bonuses for having particular sets in those areas. You go out to seek new artifacts, put your own artifacts on loan, and so forth. Each artifact card also includes flavor text that presents some real information about it, so this will be a fun one for art history buffs.
Gobbit is a fast-paced card-slapping game that reminds me a little bit of Snorta (though without the animal noises). In regular Gobbit, there are snakes that eat chameleons, which in turn eat flies—but only if the colors match. The Angry Birds Gobbit has three of the birds (Red, Chuck, and Bomb) and the pigs, and changes up the gameplay a little, but it’s still about reacting quickly and slapping the right piles so that you can take all the cards. I got copies of these so I’ll be reviewing them soon.
Okay, one more title from Morning Players before I leave the booth! Kill the Unicorns is another upcoming title, and it’s a bizarre game about, well, killing the unicorns. The idea is that you have to chase them into lakes or shove them into mountains, but depending on which it is, you either have to shove them directly or indirectly. Plus, of course, there are cards that come into play to mess with each other, like swapping a lake with a mountain.
I think Kill the Unicorns will also be on Kickstarter later on, but I’ll let you know when I find out. I don’t know if those pointy unicorn horns are going to pass safety standards in the US, but I hope so, because they look awesome.
Here’s one of my favorite games from this year: Clank!, from Dire Wolf Digital and Renegade Game Studios. I’d written it down as something to try (because it includes deck-building) and I was not disappointed. By Saturday, they’d already sold out of all the copies they had for Gen Con, but designer Paul Dennen was still running demos at the Dire Wolf booth. You and your opponents are in search of treasure, which can be found in the castle above ground or in the caverns below ground—and, of course, there are more valuable treasures underground, but it’s also more dangerous. The game uses a “clank!” mechanic where certain things you do make noise, represented by your cubes placed onto the Clank banner on the board. Every so often, the dragon wakes up and attacks—all of those cubes go into a bag, and some are drawn out at random. If one of your cubes is pulled, you just took a wound.
Clank! should get a wider release later this fall, and I’m hoping to write a full review at that time.
Laboratory has made a couple of games that I’ve covered at GeekDad—Shift was a single-card “CCG” in which two players duke it out with a single card each. Province is a two-player Euro-style game that fits in your pocket. 100 Swords is a small deck-building game that comes in a tuckbox. And Shadow of the Elder Gods is their take on “Ameritrash” games, a cooperative Lovecraftian game. I’ve communicated with Clayton Grey a lot over email but hadn’t actually met him in person, so I stopped by to say hello. I hadn’t gotten Shadow of the Elder Gods and it’s basically at the end of its supply, so I decided to go ahead and buy a copy. (I think that stack in the photo is all that’s left of the print run other than what’s already in distribution.)
As you may know, Apocrypha is high on my list of games I’m anticipating, so I was happy to play it again (with Gerry and Sara Tolbert)—it was yet another incarnation from the one I played at GameStorm earlier this year, since Lone Shark Games has been finalizing and tweaking the card formatting and gameplay. The scenario we played (led by Liz Spain) was a sort of “running of the bulls” storyline, and we managed to win, though it was difficult. Still really excited for this one!
In the photo above, you can also see Chad Brown at the table next to us leading a demo of Thornwatch, another game that Lone Shark has been playtesting, based on the Penny Arcade comic series. And behind him at the taller table is Mike Selinker, who is autographing a huge stack of flyers for Unspeakable Words.
Unspeakable Words is an older title by Mike Selinker and James Ernest—Playroom Entertainment ran a Kickstarter campaign for a new deluxe edition in early 2015. It funded but there were some setbacks in production. However, it’s finally almost done—and Selinker had a big stack of certificates to autograph. (They’d already been signed by James Ernest.) I backed the project, and I’m looking forward to those Cthulhu meeples. And also: Mike’s just a really nice guy—totally approachable, so if you see him at a convention and you’re a fan, you should say hello and tell him so!
When I walked past the Junk Spirit Games booth, the artwork in the booth caught my eye because it looked really familiar. It turned out the artwork is by Justin Hillgrove, who just recently ran a Kickstarter campaign for Imps and Monsters, a book collecting a decade of his illustrations. He also illustrated JunKing, a card game designed by David Gerrard (and also itself funded through Kickstarter in May 2015). I hadn’t heard of it before, so I stopped to chat with Gerrard (and sort of regretted not backing the Imps and Monsters Kickstarter campaign). JunKing is a card game about having the best hoard of junk. You and the other players dig through the junk pile, adding things to your hoard and looking for the crown, which is buried somewhere in the pile. The illustrations and references are a lot of fun, and although it seems at first to be a luck-of-the-draw game, you quickly learn that there are a lot of ways to manipulate the deck. I bought a copy for my kids and have gotten to play it a few times.
GeekDad Gerry Tolbert wanted me to meet Justin Robert Young and John Teasdale, who had a prototype of their game, tentatively titled Trashmasters. It’s also about digging around in a junk heap, but there’s no crown. Instead, you make piles of trash, which then give different abilities (and award points)—until somebody knocks your pile over. It was fun, but still in the early stages, so I don’t know how soon we’ll be seeing this one yet.
Back in the exhibit hall, I paused at the Matagot booth to get a photo of some of the giant versions of their games. In the foreground is River Dragons, which involves building bridges across the stones in the river. In the background is Ultimate Warriorz, a free-for-all fighting game. Matagot is also the publisher of Captain Sonar. I meant to come back later in the weekend after I got through the list of titles I’d written down ahead of time, but, unfortunately, the rest of the weekend just got filled up much more quickly than I’d expected, and I never made it back. I’ll have to check out some more of Matagot’s games later on.
Dude Games is a relatively new publisher in the US—it’s sort of a spin-off of Distribution Dude, a games distribution company in Canada. They wanted to bring more of their titles into the US, so they started a publishing arm. I had written down the title 10 Minutes to Kill, so I went to the booth to check it out. 10 Minutes to Kill is a short deduction and hidden identity game—each player is an assassin, and has three targets to eliminate, but you can only do your job under certain conditions: you can’t use a gun if there are witnesses around, and you want to be sure there are other potential suspects before you make your move. Meanwhile, you can also attempt to use the police to arrest the other assassins, or just take them out yourself. I’ll have a review of this one coming.
Sushi Dice (also from Dude Games) is a speed game, where you’re rolling dice to try to match the various combinations on your order card. You’re competing with another player head-to-head, but other players can also jump in and steal dice that have the “Yuck!” symbol showing. It looked frantic and funny—watch for a review of that as well.
And one more from Dude Games: Eko is a battle game for up to 4 players—that’s about all I know about it so far, but it looked really gorgeous and I was intrigued. I’ve got a review copy of this one waiting for me, too, so you’ll hear more about it soon.
I stopped by the Passport Games booth to get a closer look at Quartz since I had missed the demo the previous evening. I played a sample round. You’re pulling gems out of a bag, with the different gems worth differing amounts depending on how many you collect. But there’s also obsidian, which is bad. There are various action cards that let you play around with things, like grabbing extra gems from the bag, or giving your obsidian to other players. I believe Dave Banks will be reviewing this one later.
I had made a note to visit Brian Henk at Overworld Games (publishers of Good Cop Bad Cop, among others) and yet even though I’d been wandering in the 2000s section all day when I found his booth I could not remember having ever walked past it before. That’s kind of how the whole weekend felt. Overworld’s latest release was Exposed, a game about being pickpockets on a cruise ship that was Kickstarted earlier this year. Shipping began in July before Gen Con, and Overworld had copies for sale—that’s a pretty impressive turnaround time. I’ve got a copy of it myself and will be writing that one up later.
Henk has also been working with Stonemaier Games on Leaders of Euphoria, a spin on Good Cop Bad Cop set in the dystopian world of Euphoria. It’s not a simple retheme, but has some interesting twists to it—watch for that on Kickstarter later this year.
After that, I rushed back to the hotel room to drop things off and then grabbed a snack on the way to Lucas Oil Stadium for True Dungeon. This year, because of the size of the exhibit hall, True Dungeon had been moved to the basement of the stadium, so I walked down the long hallway and met up with the rest of the GeekDad crew. You can read more about our adventures in the dungeon, but—alas—we did not survive. We did manage to solve a couple of the puzzles and defeated the monsters, but when it came to the final puzzle, we were stumped and ran out of time—at which point we all perished.
Next time, True Dungeon, next time!
After True Dungeon, I ran back to the hotel to grab some games and then headed back into the convention center (after stopping to grab some dinner, finally). First up: a game of Captain Sonar. I’d seen others playing during our Gaming with GeekDad event on Thursday but didn’t get a chance to play it myself, so I was excited to give it a shot. I was the radio operator, who’s responsible for listening to the other team’s captain in an attempt to chart their course and pinpoint their location.
We played Captain Sonar twice—I really enjoyed it and would love to try it again sometime. (I don’t have pictures from during the gameplay, though, because it was real-time and I had to keep my attention on the captain!)
After that, I broke out my prototype copy of Sagrada and we gave it a try. It’s such a pretty-looking game, even in its prototype form, and I’m excited for when this Kickstarter launches in a couple of weeks. I like the way you draft dice to add to your stained glass window, and that you can use tools to manipulate the dice somewhat when you need to. The translucent colored dice really add to the stained-glass effect, too.
Next up was Dice Heist from AEG: the players are all thieves, trying to amass the most valuable collection of stolen art. You decide each turn whether to recruit a sidekick (get more dice) or attempt a heist (roll dice against a museum). It’s a pretty simple little game with some set collection for scoring.
John Booth set up a game of Tyrants of the Underdark and he and his friends seemed to be enjoying that one a lot.
Meanwhile, Rob Huddleston had gotten a copy of Saloon Tycoon from Van Ryder Games: you build your saloon using room tiles, and the saloons grow out and up as you add more floors. As you can tell from this photo, they were clearly having fun.
Finally, I ended my Saturday evening with a game of Vast. We had a four player game: it was a very close game, but the Goblins pulled off a surprise move near the end and managed to kill the Knight for the win. Having played a game of Vast while wearing my Vast shirt, I decided it was time to call it a night and packed it up.
Only one more day left of Gen Con! Here’s the photos from the last day.