Friday morning rolled around, and it was time to hit the exhibit hall again! Here’s my look at Day 2 of Gen Con 2018: dice, beasts, meeples, and some stunning … plastic inserts?
(In case you missed it, here’s Day 1!)
Before the exhibit hall opened, I caught Rory O’Connor and Michael Fox in the gaming halls, where Hub Games had a table set up for the weekend to run demos of their games. Rory is known for Rory’s Story Cubes, a GeekDad favorite, and Michael formerly ran The Little Metal Dog Show, a podcast about tabletop games. They’ve got an upcoming game called Holding On: The Troubled Life of Billy Kerr that wrestles with some heavy themes that you may not expect in a tabletop game: it’s about a man who’s in the hospital after a heart attack, struggling with regrets and facing death, and you piece together his memories as you try to keep him alive. I haven’t played it yet, but I’m quite intrigued.
On a lighter note, Hub Games also has a game called Blank that reminds me a little of Fluxx but with a fill-in-the-blank element to it. There are various colored cards, and rules cards that will interact with them—but when you win the game, you get to fill out a new rule card, which is stated in the form of an “if…then” statement.
What’s new this year is a booster pack designed by Matt Leacock and his daughter Colleen—they decided to create Blankdemic, a Pandemic-themed set of cards that introduces diseases and mutations and even legacy-style features to the game.
As Rory and Michael put it, it turns out that Matt Leacock has quite the silly streak, though he attributes it to his daughter. It looks like some goofy fun, and I’m hoping to try out Blank soon. (Michael gave me a copy, but I managed to leave it behind, so now I have to wait a bit longer for it.)
Another game from Hub is Untold: Adventures Await, a storytelling game powered by Rory’s Story Cubes. The story is framed as an episode of a TV show that unfolds over five scenes. Each scene has slots to place the story cubes, and you also use some paper episode guides and character sheets to help flesh out the story. It’s a more directed way of using the story cubes, and one that I think my own kids might appreciate because they tended to balk at the unlimited freedom when using the cubes by themselves.
I just like this photo. In the background is Tim Eisner, co-designer of March of the Ants and Grimm Forest, getting ready to talk about his upcoming game, Tidal Blades. And in the foreground is Bebo of Be Bold Games, who’s setting up her camera and lights to interview Tim (and James Hudson of Druid City Games, who will be publishing Tidal Blades). You can check out the finished video here. I’m looking forward to getting a closer look at Tidal Blades myself before the Kickstarter launch in late September.
Jellybean Games had copies of The Lady and the Tiger for sale (until the end of the weekend, because they sold out!), and the artwork in the game, illustrated by Tania Walker, is so beautiful. The Lady and the Tiger is actually five games in one, designed to be played with this set of 18 cards and a few other components. The oversized cards have no text on them, letting the artwork shine, and a few have gold foil embellishments that give it that extra polish. Watch for a review of this from Sara Blackburn!
Also at Jellybean Games was Show & Tile, a game about making pictures with tangram tiles, from Isaac Shalev and Matt Loomis. Each player gets a set of double-sided tiles so you have access to two colors. You draw cards with different words on them, including more difficult words that are starred, and choose what to make. Some cards have specific categories, giving the other players a slight hint but with more challenging words. Everyone makes their own picture simultaneously, and then also tries to guess everyone else’s pictures—you score points both on your ability to guess and create.
Sharing a booth with Hit ‘Em With a Shoe (creators of the Bee Lives game) was Weird Giraffe Games. Carla Kopp (who doesn’t always look mildly stunned) had a prototype of Fire in the Library, which is currently in production, as well as finished copies of Stellar Leap. I was pleased to see that the black meeples from the prototype are now white, making them easier to see against the mostly black backgrounds. Weird Giraffe Games will be launching its next game on Kickstarter in October: Dreams of Tomorrow. More on that one when it launches!
Fun cameo: over on the right side of the photo is Catherine Stippell, the designer of Nyctophobia, a game that is played by feel instead of sight. She was at the booth with her family and I’m sure she has no idea who I am, so I didn’t want to interrupt them, but there’s my brush with fame right there, with photograph evidence.
I managed to sneak into the Leder Games booth long enough to snap this photo of Root, though sales were still going strong on Friday, and chatted with Patrick Leder briefly.
I also saw (but didn’t get a good photograph of) Keith Matejka from Thunderworks Games. His upcoming game, Lockup: A Roll Player Game will be launching on Kickstarter on September 18, and is a stand-alone worker placement game. It’s set in the Roll Player fantasy universe but is not an expansion and uses different mechanics.
I hadn’t heard of Helvetiq before, but saw them in the BoardGameGeek preview list and was intrigued. They’ve got a nice catalog of games, including several pocket-sized games. I played a quick demo of Bandido, a cooperative game about catching a crook who’s trying to tunnel out of jail. (We won!) Other pocket games include Forest, in which you’re trying to play cards to get the seventh of any particular feature, and Hippo, which reminds me a little of Can’t Stop but allows players to bump each other out of the various columns.
Also at Helvetiq’s booth, I tried Team Up!, a game about stacking packages onto a little wooden pallet. You’re trying to use the space as efficiently as possible, but you draw cards that tell you which package comes next. It’s a fun puzzle game, and I love the tiny pallet—now I need a tiny forklift to go with it.
I played a demo of Cryptozoic’s Pantone game. The game includes lots of color chips, and clue cards. Each card lists a person or character, real or fictional, along with four hints. Your job is to use the color chips to illustrate the figure on your card, and see who can guess it—the fewer hints you have to give, the more points it’s worth, and the hints start off very broad and gradually narrow down. Nobody managed to guess my illustration, though, even after the hints: Television, Mystery, Scared, Snack.
Advanced rules will change the ways you use the color cards—you may not be allowed to let cards touch each other, or have a limited number of cards, etc.
One thing you’ll notice is that the cards do not have the Pantone numbers on them, and that’s because they’re still not officially Pantone chips, because Pantone isn’t controlling the printing process and wouldn’t allow that. But word is that Cryptozoic would like to keep working on that, and is hoping to get access to other Pantone tints for future expansions, including metallics and so on.
Another new game from Cryptozoic is Wallet, a game about stealing money and IDs from the mafia boss’s wallet. You’re all at a party, the cops showed up, and the boss escaped—but not before dropping his wallet. Players take turns rifling through the wallet, looking for an ID that will pass muster with the cops, but also grabbing a bit of cash while they’re at it. It looks like a lot of fun, and comes with a zippered wallet with a few different pockets. The funny thing to me is that the wallet itself doesn’t look like the sort of thing you’d expect a mafia boss to carry—more something that a fourth-grader would keep their lunch money in. But I’m hoping I’ll get a chance to play this one later.
Not pictured: there’s a new version of Spyfall out this year: DC Spyfall. Can you catch which player is the Joker in disguise?
At the Greenbrier Games booth, I got another look at Champions of Hara, which has had a really long road from initial Kickstarter (to second Kickstarter) to production. It’s in production now, and I know they’re really excited to finally deliver these to backers, so I’ll be checking this out soon!
A little before Gen Con, I posted my review of BarBEARian Battlegrounds, a cute dice-placement game about warring factions of adorable bears. Greenbrier Games had big stacks of them for sale and were running demos all weekend, and by the end of the weekend those stacks had diminished significantly. It was fun to see this game doing well at the con!
Walter Barber (designer of Champions of Hara and BarBEARian Battlegrounds) showed me a prototype of an upcoming game, Fire for Light, which will be an app-supported board game. It’s an exploration/adventure game, and the board will have locations that have numbers on them—these numbers will pull up additional story or game elements in the app. There weren’t a lot of details yet, but the hope is to hit Kickstarter next February, after Champions of Hara fulfillment has been completed.
I peeked in at the Ares Games booth to check out the finished copy of Master of the Galaxy, which I reviewed when it was on Kickstarter. The bulk of the game looks fairly similar since most of the artwork was completed, but the plastic components were new to me, as well as the tracker for supremacy symbols.
Over at Roxley Games, I got a look at a factory sample of Dice Throne Season 2. I reviewed the first season of this dice-rolling brawl, and the second season is looking really sharp! The cards now have more artwork on them, and the plastic inserts are now designed by GameTrayz—not only do they hold everything in place, but they’re designed to look great when everything’s stored, too. The player boards now fold up, which allows for some fancy cut-outs, and the Kickstarter edition also used the marbleized dice. Season 2 comes in duel sets with two characters each, but you can also get the big box, designed to look like a tome, which will have shelves so the individual character sets can slide in and out independently. So fancy! The game is still in production, but is in final assembly at the factory.
I stopped by the Sensible Object booth and got a look at a couple of upcoming items for Beasts of Balance, the app-enabled balancing game with funky animals. There’s a package of More Beasts that includes an anglerfish, a flamingo, and a chameleon, each with some pretty challenging shapes. The anglerfish has a huge open mouth so you can put things into it, the flamingo has really long legs and is top-heavy, and the chameleon has a long flat tail (again, providing another surface to tempt you to balance things on but oh no everything comes crashing down what did you do…).
Ahem. There are also three new legendary beasts that are packaged separately: Hotbelly the dragon, Fancyprance the unicorn, and Moby Brick the whale. They have fun, challenging shapes, and also work in both regular and Battles mode, with special effects like breathing fire and pooping rainbows (of course).
Lastly, there’s Battles mode, a competitive way to play Beasts of Balance (which was strictly cooperative before). While you can play Battles mode just by updating your Beasts of Balance app, there’s also an expansion pack on its way for Battle Cards. These NFC-enabled cards can be scanned just like the beasts, helping you and disrupting your opponents.
Sensible Object also had a new game on display, When in Rome, a trivia game that’s hosted by Alexa, and uses conversations recorded with locals all over the world. Read more about it in Michael Kaufman’s review here.
Flying Frog Productions air-freighted a limited number of their new Shadows of Brimstone set, Forbidden Fortress, with some painted miniatures from the game on display. (Of course, mine will probably never look that good!) I did get an opportunity to hold the massive Dragon King, which looks like it may be a beast to assemble but is certainly impressive.
At the Arcane Wonders booth, attendees had the opportunity to play a giant version of Onitama. It’s an abstract strategy game where you have cards that show how you can move your pieces, but the trick is that each time you use a move, you’re making it available to your opponent to use against you. The latest expansion, Way of the Wind, was released this year, introducing a neutral wind piece and new move cards to add to the game.
Over at the Tasty Minstrel Games booth, I got a look at two of their new titles, Trade on the Tigris and Jungli-La. Unfortunately my photo of Trade on the Tigris didn’t turn out, but it’s a game that’s heavy on the negotiation. What I thought was pretty fascinating is that there are two tracks, one for government and one for religion, and as you play, your city’s balance between democracy and dictatorship and between Asher and Marduk will shift, which affects the abilities and actions that you have.
Jungli-La is a dice-based game by Hisashi Hiyashi, in which you use dice to move along a path of cards, gathering resources and spending them to recruit experts, who are worth points but—more importantly—may help you manipulate dice for future turns. It was published in Japan by OKAZU Brand and has been imported for the US by Tasty Minstrel. I’ve got a review copy of this one, so watch for a review down the road.
I also got to see an early copy of Ghosts of the Moor, game by Michael Kiesling and Wolfgang Kramer that will also come in a small box like Jungli-La. It’s a roll-and-move game, but with some twists—you pick up tiles as you leave spaces, but have to put down tiles if there’s nothing to take, and you can choose which of your pawns to move. This one will get an Essen release with Tasty Minstrel.
I mentioned GameTrayz in our favorite things post, but here’s a closer look at some of Noah Adelman’s work. In this photo you can see several games that come with his trays included: My Little Scythe, Wasteland Express Delivery Service, Megaland, The Grimm Forest, and The Reckoners. The Terraforming Mars trays are an add-on, and I think the Dusk City Outlaws trays are as well, but I can’t remember for sure.
On the other side of the booth, I got to see a proof copy of Vindication (previously known as Epoch: The Awakening), which will also include custom GameTrayz in the box. there are small trays for each player that keep their components organized, a large tray that holds all of the impressive miniatures, and a components tray that makes set up quick and painless. I think these trays were still not 100% final, but they were looking pretty great already.
And I mentioned The Reckoners earlier—it’s a game based on Brandon Sanderson’s book series, where all the people who developed superpowers also turned out to be villains. You’ll play as the the Reckoners, non-powered people who are trying to take down the powered Epics. These trays are totally integrated into the game—they’re not just for storage and setup, but also serve as the game boards, and they feature some sliders that actually slide and stay put where you leave them.
It was also just announced that Tim Fowers’ Sabotage (currently on Kickstarter) will also include GameTrayz!
Brotherwise Games was running demos of its latest game Call to Adventure, a card game that includes a module set in Patrick Rothfuss’ In the Name of the Wind series. One of the fun aspects of the game is that instead of rolling dice, you cast runes—the little flat tiles you see in the center right of the photo. The Kickstarter just wrapped up, so watch for it later this year if you missed it.
Brotherwise also released Boss Monster 3: Rise of the Minibosses, the third in the videogame-inspired series. Like the Boss Monster 2, it can be played stand alone or combined with previous versions.
I visited Mindclash Games to check out Cerebria, which I reviewed last year during its Kickstarter campaign. It’s nearing the end of production and—fingers crossed—will be headed to backers soon. One of the stretch goals was a card game, set in the same internal world of emotions, but much simpler than the sprawling board game. I got a quick overview of the card game, which looks pretty cool and plays out the theme of warring emotions pretty well.
APE Games had a display of Petrichor, a game about being a raincloud. It caught my eye because of the odd theme and the lovely artwork, though I didn’t sit down to play a demo at the time. It looks intriguing, though, and one I’m hoping I can check out later.
At the Smirk & Dagger booth, I got to see a few new and upcoming titles. Somehow I missed getting a photo of Tower of Madness, the Cthulhu-meets-Kerplunk game, but I did get a quick demo, and it looks like a fun combination of chaotic marble-dropping silliness and some Lovecraftian investigative strategy. Expect a review from Dave Banks … assuming he doesn’t succumb to insanity first.
Meanwhile, the new Smirk & Laughter line includes Before There Were Stars, which lets players weave the tales of their people using constellation cards and some general outlines. The GeekDads got a chance to play this later in the weekend, and really enjoyed the vastly different stories that resulted. Stay tuned for a review of this one from me.
Another upcoming title in the Smirk & Laughter line is Koi, a game about being—you guessed it—a koi. Players use cards that show a series of movements to move, turn, and leap in their quest to eat dragonflies and the occasional frog. But you can also add rocks to the pool that obstruct your opponent’s path, flowers that cause everything to ripple away, or frogs that will eat up the dragonflies before you get to them. The artwork is lovely and the koi meeples are adorable. It’s expected to release in September or October.
I visited the folks at Resonym, the publishers of Visitor in Blackwood Grove, which I reviewed right at the start of Gen Con. It’s a great logic-based game that has an E.T. vibe, and I gave it our GeekDad Approved seal.
Monarch is their previous title, which I hadn’t played before, so I got a brief overview. The queen is aging and knows her time is coming soon, so she is deciding which of her daughters is most suited to become the next queen. You compete by building the best court. The artwork on this one has a scratchboard look to it that I really liked, and more importantly included a card called “Monkeys on Ostriches,” so what are you waiting for already?
Kane Klenko had a new game out: Kaosmos, published by Gigamic. It’s a tile-drafting, tile-laying game with a timed element, and definitely has a bit of a puzzle feel to it that I enjoyed. The GeekDads got to play a game of this later in the weekend; expect a review from me soon.
Gigamic also showed me a few of their other popular titles: Squadro is an abstract strategy game for two people, in which you’re trying to get four of your five pieces all the way across the board and back, with each piece moving the number of spaces shown on its starting location. The trick is that fast pieces are slow on their return, and vice versa—and any piece that gets passed over by an opponent gets sent back to its start, so you do not want to get in the way.
Three other compact games from Gigamic are Kontour, Hellapagos, and Yogi. Kontour is like a miniature Pictionary-style game and includes clue cards along with a small pad and pencil. The trick is that your drawings can only have up to 15 straight strokes, and you have 30 seconds to complete your drawing.
Hellapagos is an island survival game that is cooperative … until it isn’t. When there’s not enough food, somebody gets voted off the island!
Yogi is more of a funny party game—each card has instructions for something you must do with your body or with the card—for instance, hiding your lower teeth, or balancing a card on the back of your hand. Players accumulate cards (and instructions) until somebody trips up.
Later in the day, I came across the Nauvoo Games booth so I could get a better look at The Reckoners. Here’s a look at a game in progress, with all the boards laid out. There are deluxe versions of the game that replace the wooden trackers with metal, and they’re very shiny.
And then, just like that, the exhibit hall was closing for the day. I went and grabbed dinner with a couple of the GeekDads (it took longer than anticipated just to get the check), and then made my way to Lucas Oil Stadium, where I was going to the Cardboard Quills panel at 8pm. The problem? The panel started at 7pm. It wasn’t the first (or last) time this weekend that I had incorrect times on my calendar, but it was probably the most embarrassing. Well, I’ll endeavor to make it to the next one on time!
But, since we were already out at Lucas Oil, we decided to check out the gaming areas on the football field. Last year we didn’t actually play any games because of a string of circumstances, but this year we were more prepared! We kicked off with a game or two of Dude from North Star Games—it was our first time playing, and although I was a little skeptical at first, I have to admit that I got into it, and really enjoyed it. But since it’s a simultaneous-turn game, I didn’t get any photos.
Dave Banks had brought Junk Orbit, a game he reviewed recently, and I thoroughly enjoyed it (not just because I demolished everyone else). I really liked the idea of propelling a spaceship by jettisoning cargo in the other direction, and I may need to pick up a copy for myself eventually.
Next up was Kaosmos: you draft 9 tiles each turn, and then everyone has a minute to assemble their own 3×3 grid, trying to score points for green, blue, and yellow regions, as well as create long paths of asteroids. One of the tricks is that your score at the end is based on the asteroids plus your lowest of the three colors, so you have to focus a little bit on everything. The real-time aspect put some of the other GeekDads off, but I love frantic games so I enjoyed it.
We played Flotsam Fight again, and then followed it up with the press-your-luck Deep Sea Adventure from Oink Games. This is still one of my favorite travel games—it’s the game that introduced me to Oink Games a few years ago, and I’ve been a fan of theirs ever since.
Gerry and Sara taught us to play No Thanks!, a game about trying to get the lowest score. When it’s your turn, you have to take the card on offer, or spend a token to say “no thanks.” But if you take the card, you also get all the tokens, which reduce your score. It’s a simple mechanic that leads to some tricky decisions.
We closed out the night telling some bedtime stories with Before There Were Stars. We had fables, sci-fi, existential drama, shameless theft of intellectual property, and mixed up Bible stories. There was a lot of laughter and it was a great way to finish off the night.
Ready for Day 3?