Welcome back to my Day 2 Gen Con recap! (In case you missed it, Day 1 is here.)
Waiting to enter
Friday morning we didn’t have to get up quite as early—the exhibit hall didn’t open until 10 and we didn’t have to get in line for press badges like we did on Thursday, so I just came into the hall with the rest of the crowd. There’s a section that is taped off for cosplay photos, and there were always plenty of people rotating in and out of the photo area to pose for pictures. I did notice an uptick in what appeared to be professional cosplay photographers this year, setting up shots outdoors with more equipment than just a camera.
I didn’t get as many cosplay photos this year, but I had to get a shot of this Cthuhlhu-esque gentleman to show my daughter.
At the Blue Orange booth, they were running demos of a giant Kingdomino. You could win a copy in a drawing … but I didn’t win. I wonder if they’ll make more to sell later?
Giant Flick ‘Em Up: Dead of Winter
Pretzel Games released their Dead of Winter–themed Flick ‘Em Up, and had a giant version on display. But they were also selling the new Giant Edition of Flick ‘Em Up, which comes in a gorgeous leather suitcase and pieces that are nearly twice as big as the standard size. Careful flicking those large pieces, though! Maybe they need to call it Kick ‘Em Up.
I stopped by to see Brain Games, home of Ice Cool, and saw some of their new kids’ games. Woo-Hoo! is a pretty simple roll-and-move for very young kids: go up the steps, slide down the trunk, and collect a toy. Get a complete set of toys to win. The gameplay didn’t really grab me but the elephant slide is cute.
King Frog has you jumping around lily pads, but you have to be careful where you land, or you lose your movement cards. It looks like a game where you’ll have to try figuring out what your opponents are doing so that you won’t run out of options. Expect a review of this one from me later.
Reef Route is a game of getting your little fish past the predators. You roll dice to determine which color fish you can move (including your opponents’ fish!), but the fish can’t swim backwards. Different size predators are available to make the game easier or harder. I’ll be working on a review of this one as well.
I also picked up a couple of promo card packs for Ice Cool: some 0.5-point cards that have two ice skates on them so you can get an extra flick, costume party cards that show the various penguins in costume, and a Dice Tower promo that has various Dice Tower reviewers dressed as penguins.
Kill the Unicorns
I had an appointment at the Morning booth—last year I’d seen several of their games that were in development, including one called Kill the Unicorns. It’s finally coming to Kickstarter later this year, after a lot of changes. It still has the same theme—a princess is tired of the unicorn infestation and has set out to reduce the population—but the gameplay is now a bidding/bluffing card game. Various unicorn cards are turned face up, and players take turns bidding hunting cards on them, as well as playing traps that can change up the results. Collect various sets of unicorns to score points. I should be getting a prototype of this one to review for the Kickstarter, so stay tuned.
And if you like wacky plush animals, you’ll want to watch for the crazy pigicorn plushie with this campaign, too.
Morning also had an upcoming tile-laying game called Ikan, in which one player creates a dungeon, and then the other players have a little time to study it before they’ll have to traverse it without being able to see it. It sounds really intriguing, and I’m looking forward to seeing how it turns out.
Some of the other games I saw at the Morning booth last year are still in development; they wanted to focus primarily on Kill the Unicorns for this year’s show and try to get their name in front of a broader audience.
Shadows of Brimstone
Flying Frog Productions had a busy booth this year, running demos of various games. This model in particular caught my eye: an XXXXXXL burrower (not for sale). Designer Jason Hill told me they had an event set up where they’d actually use it in a game, though it’s probably a bit large for your own Shadows of Brimstone set.
One of the big hits for Iello Games this year was Bunny Kingdom by Richard Garfield. It’s a drafting and area control game—you get cards, and build out your fiefdoms to stake a claim in the kingdom. The game comes with lots of tiny plastic bunnies and little castles that fit together. It will retail for $50 and is expected in stores in September, so of course the early copies they had at Gen Con sold out.
Iello also had demos of Decrypto, a code-breaking 2-vs-2 game. One teammate has to pass along a 3-digit code with the help of certain keywords, but the other team is listening in and trying to figure out what your clues have in common. It looks like a lot of fun, and I loved the aesthetic, too: red lenses for the keywords, tiny floppy disk cards for the codes. This one is expected to arrive sometime in 2018, so keep your eyes out for this one!
Mountains of Madness
Not pictured, but also a new release from Iello Games, was Mountains of Madness, inspired loosely by the the Lovecraft story At the Mountains of Madness. You and a team are trying to climb a mountain, but each of you is struck by various madnesses that affect you at crucial decision-making times. You might be able to say only “yes” or “no,” or you might shout every time you hear the word “gun,” or you may be stuck with a finger mustache. But you’re not allowed to talk about the nature of your madness, and when the sand timer is up, everyone goes back to normal and pretends that nothing is wrong. The challenge is trying to accomplish the various objectives while everyone is a little bit mad.
Iello provided a copy of Mountains of Madness for our Game with GeekDad event, and Gerry Tolbert will be working on a review later.
Gerry Tolbert’s Interviews
GeekDad Gerry Tolbert had several interviews with various people throughout the weekend. I happened to pass by the Syrinscape booth while he was in the middle of recording one and got a photo. You can listen to that interview here, and stay tuned to our GeekDad podcast feed for the rest of the interviews as they are posted!
Master of Orion
This year there were actually two games based on the old 4X PC game Master of Orion, one from Cryptozoic and one from Catalyst Games. Cryptozoic’s version is a card-based game that has you building out various cards, which can then chain together and trigger bonuses based on what else you’ve built. Adam Sblendorio of Cryptozoic said that it’s not a huge 4X game like Eclipse (because, hey, if you want Eclipse, it already exists) but that it does capture a lot of the flavor of Master of Orion in a small package. We hope to have more on this one (and Catalyst’s game as well) soon!
Last Night on Earth 10 Year Anniversary Edition
Can you believe it? Last Night on Earth is 10 years old this year. I picked it up when I was first building up my games collection and played it quite a bit at the time. (You can read my review from 2010 here.) Even though I haven’t played it as much in recent years, it still has a special space in my collection. Well, the new anniversary edition released this year looks fantastic: a lot of 3D plastic tokens instead of the cardboard punchouts, like an actual truck, big translucent fires, red X spawn points, and other tokens. The bulk of the material is the same as the original, but it includes an updated rulebook and some additional new content, like new heroes (which may also be available separately), new cards, and new scenarios.
IDW has picked up the Atari license, and will be releasing a line of games inspired by classic video games. First up is Centipede, which was available at Gen Con this year. It’s a two-player (or 2-vs-2) game, with one player as the gnome and the other as the centipede.
Like the videogame, the gnome is trying to shoot down the centipede, and the centipede is trying to reach the gnome. As the centipede gets hit, its segments turn into mushrooms, and it also speeds up.
The first print run will be 2,600 copies (of course), and will come with this limited edition First Player patch—that’s the plan for the other games in the Atari line as well. Centipede retails for $40; expect a review from Dave Banks soon.
The next game will be Missile Command, which will actually be a diplomacy-style game, and then Asteroids later in 2018, which will involve dexterity of some sort.
The Legend of Korra: Pro-Bending Arena
Here’s another one from IDW that my family is really excited for: a pro-bending game based on The Legend of Korra! We’d only started watching the show earlier this year but my daughters are hooked on it, and (of course) they play at “bending” elements anyway. Well, soon we’ll have a game that pits the Fire Ferrets against the Wolfbats (as well as many of the other teams mentioned in the show). each of the benders will have its own deck of cards with actions and powers—tokens mark where you’ve shot various elements, and once a certain number has accumulated, you knock the bender back a space.
IDW also had a whole bunch of bender miniatures on display, and I love all the dynamic poses. The game is expected to be on Kickstarter in September, and a 2-player box set will be $50. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I’ll get a prototype to try out for a review!
Planet of the Apes
(Apologies for the blurry photo.) Richard Launius’ Planet of the Apes game has been designed to look like something from the 1980s, though the gameplay is certainly new. It’s a cooperative game that follows the plot of the original movie, and each player takes control of one aspect of Colonel George Taylor’s psyche as they try to survive. It’s coming in October.
Daemon Trilogy 1: Subrosa
Subrosa is the first in Nate Weisman’s Daemon Trilogy from IDW Games. This one involves card drafting and hidden actions enabled by a companion app. I don’t know much more than that about the gameplay, but it sounds intriguing. I’m also curious to see how this game will connect to the other two titles in the trilogy. It’s expected to release later this year.
Moaideas is a Taiwan-based publisher that was at Gen Con for the first time this year, sharing a booth with Tasty Minstrel Games, which is considering carrying a few of their new titles. They’ve had a few of their games make their way to the US already, and this year they were showing off two new titles, Mini Rails and Tulip Bubble. More about Mini Rails below, but Tulip Bubble (based on the Dutch tulipmania in the 1600s) sold out on the first day. You might say there was a Tulip Bubble bubble.
I was particularly excited to see Moaideas at Gen Con because they were a company I recognized from my last trip to Taiwan in 2012. Moaideas was one of the Taiwanese companies I saw making games that (1) weren’t just rethemed versions of existing games and (2) were aimed at an international market, with instructions and packaging in English instead of Chinese-only. It’s always cool to see games coming from different cultures, particularly because if they have a different history with board games, their designs will tend to have a distinctive flavor. I look forward to seeing more from Moaideas in the future.
GeekDad Chris Wickersham mentioned Mini Rails in our Gen Con wrap-up, and after getting back home I kind of regretted not picking one up myself. It occurred to me (too late) that it’s a title that may not be hitting local stores any time soon since it’s from Moaideas (though you can still order it online). Mini Rails is an economic game with some really interesting choices. Each round you’ll get two actions: buy stock, or lay a track. The “companies” (represented by colored discs) are randomly drawn each round. If you buy stock, you take a colored disc and put it on your board at the “0” mark. If you lay a track, you take one of the disks and put it on the main board next to an existing disc of the same color. The main board has white and red dots on it, indicating whether the stock for that company goes up or down when tracks are built there. On top of that, there’s another twist: at the end of the game, not every color is guaranteed to score anything at all. I’m putting it on my wish list, and may place an order after I get through some of my other Gen Con games.
Entropy: Worlds Collide
I had an appointment to meet up with Rule & Make; they were sharing a booth with Passport Games, which will be distributing their titles in the US. I met Allen Chang, who gave me a run-down of their current titles. The first was Entropy: Worlds Collide, a reworking of their game Entropy. I’d backed the original sort of on a whim based on the artwork and a quick overview of how the game worked, and really enjoyed it. It’s a simultaneous-selection game, where each player picks from a set of (mostly common) actions, but picking the same action as another player causes a clash and you don’t get the benefits of the action. Players are competing to reassemble the various shards of their homeworld, which have been shattered and mixed up in the Nexus.
Entropy: Worlds Collide was a short campaign but had a good turnout, and included a surprise stretch goal called Echoes of Time. Since the project hasn’t quite delivered to backers yet (it should be soon!), I won’t spoil it, but it involves a little more storyline and a gameplay scenario that fills in the “ending” of the story. I’m excited to try this one out when it arrives!
Another new Kickstarted release from Rule & Make was Skyward, a you-cut-I-choose sort of game about building cities in the sky. I backed the Kickstarter myself and had just received it shortly before Gen Con, so I forgot to get a photo of it at the booth. I’ve gotten to play it once so far, and I really like the tricky decisions that arise when you’re in charge of divvying up the piles.
Hand of Fate: Ordeals
Rule & Make’s most recent Kickstarter was for Hand of Fate: Ordeals, based on the videogame. I didn’t pay as much attention to this one at the time because I’m not familiar with the videogame myself, but the board game looks intriguing. It’s a deck-building adventure game with movement on a board, so you build up your character as you play, equipping various items. Death isn’t permanent, but causes you to lose equipment except for certain “soulbound” items. The ultimate goal is to take on the Jack, Queen, and King in combat. The estimated delivery date for the Kickstarter is November.
And here’s the game I was really excited to see at Rule & Make’s booth: T2029, based on the future war scenes in Terminator 2: Judgment Day. The game doesn’t follow the main plot of the film, but focuses on the specific plot point about sending a T-800 back in time to protect John Connor from the machines.
Your goal in this very hard cooperative game is to program the T-800 with its three new directives, and also make it through the machine’s physical defenses. It’s for 2 to 4 players, and takes about 90 minutes to play.
The game is designed by Ian O’Toole, who is well-known for his graphic design on games such as The Gallerist and Vinhos Deluxe, but this is his first game design. It’s interesting to note that although the theme is a big battle and you see dice on the board, it’s more Eurogame than Ameritrash. You don’t actually roll the dice–you’ll choose values for certain dice, but then you’re stuck with them as they progress through the various phases of the board. It looks fascinating and puzzle-y. T2029 will hit Kickstarter in September.
Professor Evil and the Citadel of Time
This cooperative game from Funforge (distributed by Passport Games in the US) is sort of a reverse heist. Professor Evil has stolen various artifacts from throughout time, and you are trying to steal it back. To do so, you’ll have to work together to disarm traps and avoid getting caught by Professor Evil himself. Passport had a small shipment of them to sell at Gen Con, but the official release date is September 22, with a retail price of $40.
Dave Banks had a great idea this year, getting people involved in a big game of Telestrations over the course of the weekend. While he was at a Rising Sun charity event, he asked me to carry his notepad around for a while, so I got a few more people to contribute. Here’s Brian Henk from Overworld Games adding his drawing to the chain.
The Grimm Forest
Druid City Games had a copy of The Grimm Forest for demo, so I stopped by to take a peek. I believe this is still pre-production, since some of the miniatures were white instead of grey, but I did get to see the new custom player mats that were unlocked as stretch goals during the campaign.
Later during the weekend, I did pass by the booth and saw that they had what looked to be giant versions of the houses, though it was pretty crowded at the time so I didn’t get a photo.
Speaking of fairy tale games, Fable’s End is a customizable card game in which players go head to head, battling with characters and creatures from fables and stories. They had copies of Volume 1 available to purchase at Gen Con, and will be hitting Kickstarter soon for Volume 2.
Another company I was happy to see at Gen Con for the first time was Oink Games, a Japan-based publisher that specializes in tiny box games. You’ve already seen me mention Deep Sea Adventure many times before, but they’ve got a whole host of games with different types of gameplay. They run $2o to $25 each, which might seem like a lot at first glance for a tiny box like that, but I guarantee that I’ve gotten my money’s worth from Deep Sea Adventure.
This year I bought a copy of Startups, one that I’ve had my eye on for a little while. I’ve played it since getting home, and it’s a blast–a game about investing in new companies and trying to get majority stakeholder so that you can profit.
Fast Food Fear
I stopped by to see Devir Games, and they had two new games to show me. The first was Fast Food Fear, a cooperative game about serving fast food to monsters. The various monsters show up as customers, and players will need to find matching foods quickly to keep the monsters happy. (You definitely don’t want to be around hangry monsters.)
The other title from Devir is Michael Strogoff, which is based on one of Jules Verne’s (not sci-fi) novels. There’s a plot to assassinate the czar’s brother, and the messengers are racing across Russia to deliver a warning message. You have to beat the assassin to the brother, but along the way you’ll have to decide when to push forward and when to stop and rest, while resolving various troubles. It will be released in October, and works for 1 to 5 players.
GeekDad Anthony Karcz had written about Campy Creatures when it was on Kickstarter, and the game (and other goodies) were on display at the Keymaster Games booth. You could pick up a copy of the game, or get sticker packs, posters, beer can glasses, and enamel pins. (I didn’t spot any of the “companion beers” at the booth, but I’m guessing there are probably regulations against selling beer in the Gen Con exhibit hall.)
I happened to see 7th Continent at their booth, so I stopped to get a quick photo. But I didn’t want to look too closely, because I backed this Kickstarter project also and I didn’t want to get any spoilers. It should be arriving next week, so I’m excited to break it out. I’d played a brief demo back when Will James was working on his review, and decided to take a chance on it.
Restoration Games is taking old games and revamping them, updating the components and tweaking the gameplay. They’re hitting older gamers with the nostalgia factor, and grabbing new gamers with the polished look. Dave Banks has reviewed two of their initial releases, Downforce and Indulgence, and I’ll followup soon with a review of Stop Thief!, which was funded on Kickstarter.
But during Gen Con, they also had a big announcement about their next title: Fireball Island! Yes, they’re reviving that game that every kid wanted, with the 3D plastic volcano and the giant red marble that would roll down and knock down the pawns. This one’s sure to be a big hit, though we’ve got a bit of a wait yet. I learned this week that Noah Adelman, the genius behind GameTrayz, is the 3D engineer for Fireball Island, so the project is in good hands.
You ready for some more asymmetric craziness from Leder Games? If you’ve been following me since last year, you know that one of my favorite games is Vast: The Crystal Caverns, a totally asymmetric game. Not just asymmetric in the sense that everyone has their own special abilities (which is how that term is often used), but one in which each player has their own set of rules. Vast is getting a stand-alone expansion soon called The Mysterious Manor, but Leder Games is also developing Deep, an asymmetric 4X game.
What I had heard about Deep is that each player will play as one of the Xs: Explore, Expand, Exploit, and Exterminate. I didn’t get a chance to play a demo myself yet, but color me intrigued.
Matagot Games had a few interesting-looking games for demo at their booth. One that caught my attention was Princess Jing (releasing soon), which uses hidden pawns. Each of the large pawn structures can hold a small pawn on either side, and players take turns swapping two adjacent pawns. You’ll notice at the top right in the photo that there are two pawns that hold mirrors–these let you peek at your opponent’s pawn when positioned correctly. Looks like a fun cat-and-mouse deduction game, and it reminds me a little of a Kickstarter game I backed severaly ears ago called Mirror, Mirror.
Another title from Matagot was Meeple Circus, a game of balancing meeples in various configurations to score points (and applause, of course). It looks like the perfect game for all those players who like stacking up their meeples while waiting for a turn. Dave Banks will have a review of this one forthcoming.
Fowers Games & Uproarious Games
I stopped by to say hello to Tim Fowers of Fowers Games and Jeff Beck of Uproarious Games, who were sharing a booth. Tim had his previous games on display: Burgle Bros., Paperback, and Fugitive. Soon he’ll have Hardback to add to that list, and Now Boarding just hit Kickstarter last week.
Meanwhile, Jeff had finished copies of Word Domination, a spelling/area control game that’s a pretty great twist on word games. I backed it based on a demo at Gen Con last year, and my kids and I have been enjoying it this summer.
Tyler Sigman’s Crows
Junk Spirit Games had finished copies of By Order of the Queen, a cooperative RPG-ish board games that I’d reviewed. I’ll have a look at how it turned out soon, since my copy arrived just before Gen Con. Next month, they’ll be launching a Kickstarter for Tyler Sigman’s Crows, a revamped version of a 2010 game about attracting crows with shiny objects. I’ve got a prototype of this one and will be reviewing it for the Kickstarter.
Hnefatafl: Viking Chess
Aside from Santorini, Spin Master Games had a few titles on display, including a line of games that they acquired from Marbles: The Brain Store. This one caught my eye because of the snazzy box and the cool pieces. It’s a beautiful presentation of a traditional game: the Vikings in the center are trying to get their king (the tall piece) to one of the corners, while the Vikings on the edges are trying to pin down the king by surrounding it or trapping it against an edge.
Spin Master is also publishing 5-Minute Dungeon from Wiggle 3D games, which was Kickstarted last year. (You can read Gerry Tolbert’s review here.) I played a demo and had a blast–I love real-time games, and this one has a lot of fun card-flinging madness in it.
Flip Ships by Kane Klenko is like a dexterity-based Space Invaders, and it was one of Renegade Games’ big hits this year. Alien spaceships line up, ready to fly down and attack the Earth–ships have different movements and do varying amounts of damage. There are also shield ships that can protect adjacent ships, and more.
Meanwhile you and your teammates flip the ship discs from the edge of the table, trying to land on the alien ship cards to shoot them down. As the game progresses, you’ll gain more powerful ship abilities–but can you save the world before it’s too late? Watch for a full review of this one down the road.
Another totally sold-out game from Renegade Games was Ex Libris, a game about collecting and shelving books. No, really! It’s like this game was designed for me, because I play that EVERY DAY. The game looks fantastic and I’ll have to wait until October to buy a copy for myself.
Cardboard Quills panel
Some of us, as you know, still use this old, outdated medium called the written word for game reviews instead of YouTube videos. Erin Ryan and Ryan LaFlamme of Cardboard Republic invited a few such reviewers to take part in a panel called “Cardboard Quills,” where we talked about our reasons for writing reviews and some of the benefits and challenges that come from focusing on the written word. The panel included Erin and Ryan of Cardboard Republic, Milena Guberinic of Mina’s Fresh Cardboard, Jonathan Wolf of islaythedragon, Tony Mastrangeli of BoardGameQuest, and yours truly.
You can watch a video of the panel here. (Note: the external mic cuts out partway through, so then it’s just using the camera mic and the audio isn’t great.)
I tried to get some supper before the panel but ran out of time, so I got it to go and scarfed it down afterward. Then a few of the GeekDads made the walk over to Lucas Oil Stadium to check out the Gen Con display and the gaming areas there.
Lucas Oil Stadium
Dave Banks already wrote more about the Gen Con display in Lucas Oil Stadium, but it was definitely something to see: a sea of gamers sitting and playing tabletop games in a football stadium. You can see the replica of the Horticultural Hall entrance at the center of the photo above. There were also lots of tables for open gaming, a ticketed area with a huge board game library, Mayfair’s games demo area, and I think perhaps some scheduled events as well.
Unfortunately, we didn’t bring games with us (thinking there’d be plenty there) but we also didn’t have enough generic tickets to get into the game library… and we didn’t feel like hiking all the way back to get games and then come back to the stadium, though everyone agreed it was a cool space to play games. We headed back to the convention center and found a spot to try out some of our new acquisitions.
Custom Heroes is another game by John D. Clair using the Card Crafting System with transparent cards. It’s a ladder-style trick-taking game, along the lines of The Great Dalmuti: one player starts the round with some number of cards of the same value, like a pair of 3s. Other players must follow by playing sets of the same or higher values—a pair of 5s—or pass. The winner of the trick gets to start the next trick, and the goal is to run out of cards first.
The trick in Custom Heroes is that you can add modifications to the sleeved cards, changing the value of the card or giving it special abilities. The cards have little illustrations so that as you modify the value of a card, you also change the picture, giving the character a flaming sword, or a sock puppet.
The Climbers is a reprint of an older game that’s a combination of dexterity and area control. Players are competing to climb as high as possible, and each turn you get to move a block and then move your pawn. The blocks have different colors on them, corresponding to the player pawns, so there are restrictions on where you can and can’t move. I had gotten a chance to play an early copy that a friend brought over, but they had a limited number of them for sale at Gen Con this year, and sold out. Dave managed to buy a copy before they ran out, though.
I taught a few more friends to play Photosynthesis and sat down to play it myself, too. I managed to grab the center spot pretty early on, but didn’t plan out the rest of my trees very well, and that center tree stayed in shadow for most of the game.
I also played a couple rounds of Magic Maze, though that’s always a tricky one to photograph if you’re playing because it’s frantic and real-time. We just played the basic rules and then threw in the four exits and rotating movement cards.
We ended the night with one more game of Kingdomino—I taught the game since there were four players. Then it was time to pack it up and head back to the hotel … I think I arrived back at about 3 in the morning, and collapsed into bed.
That’s the end of Part 2. I’ll include Saturday and Sunday in Part 3!