Tag Archive: “Gen Con”

GEN CON, August 4-7 at the Indiana Convention Center

by David C. Obenour & Adam Talicska

Gen Con never really feels over until we’ve published the second part from our gaming round up and so with this post we say adieu to Gen Con 2016! The games, the food, the friends – a beloved annual tradition for gamers the world round. But enough getting misty eyed! Gen Con 2017 is on the books already and you’ve still got more games to read about.

 

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Grimslingers (Greenbrier Games)

Dave: Having spent much of the last 3 years reading through Stephen King’s Gunslinger series, Grimslingers is one of the games I went into Gen Con most excited for. Taking place in a familiar world adjacent to our Wild West, but twisted by raw and powerful magic, the inspiration is apparent and purposeful. While Roland’s boots are certainly big ones to fill, game designer, Stephen S Gibson has done a great job with this deck-building meets RPG game. Perhaps most impressive is that for the very reasonable price of $30 players are treated to two distinct styles of play for Grimslingers with a multi-session co-operative campaign or a shorter single session versus game… No, on second thought most impressive has to be the art. The cards are all beautifully illustrated with great uses of foil to make certain magical elements pop.

 

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Rattlebones (Rio Grande Games)

Dave: People who complain about “too much luck” in games will not enjoy Rattlebones. But who needs those grumpy old rules-lawyers anyway? Welcoming you into a creepy and colorful carnival is ringmaster Rattlebones who invites you to play his many different games of chance. Circling around the board, players pop out and add new die faces to the three game dice they choose from each turn. Some die results win you prizes, others can win you in-game advantages. It’s a balance of which mechanic you want to rely on all while knowing there’s only so much you can do without the right rolls. It’s a lot of fun if you’re more concerned with having a good time then winning.

Adam: As a completely new style of game than I had played before, Rattlebones really piqued my interest. I heavily enjoyed the ability to pop off the die faces and replace them with new ones that granted different abilities when rolled. However, there wasn’t much depth of strategy to the game. I found that I focused solely on building my primary and secondary dice and completely ignored the third once I got those abilities I needed. It then became a race to get those more desired die faces.

 

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Scythe (Stonemaier Games)

Dave: It would be an omission not to include Scythe because it certainly was one of the games tucked underneath arms all weekend long. Reimagining 1920s Europa after the First World War players take on the role of a fallen leader, looking to restore their faction to its former glory in this 4X game (explore, expand, exploit, exterminate). While there’s no denying its beautiful artwork and well-designed pieces, the level of popularity was surprising for a game so long and complex in a market ruled by Euro-style.

 

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Dragoon (Lay Waste Games)

Dave: There seems to be a growing trend over the last few years of coming at well-known gaming themes from the opposing side. For Dragoon’s part, players play not as valiant knights but as prideful and treasure-hoarding dragons, terrorizing and extorting the oncoming throngs of humans looking to colonize their island. Without getting a chance to play a full game, Dragoon still could be one of my favorite games from Gen Con. The only thing holding it back is a rather hefty $75 pricetag. Is the metal they used for the dragon playing pieces cool? No doubt. Are they expensive to produce? No doubt, again. Could Lay Waste Games have sold out of copies by no later then midday Saturday if they’d have used more affordable plastic pieces instead? …maybe?

Adam: Possibly, but come on Dave. It’s metallic dragons made from actual metal!

Dave: Okay, okay. That is cool.

 

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GKR: Heavy Hitters (Weta Workshop / Evolver Studios / Cryptozoic)

Dave: Seeing the awesome marketing materials on display at Origins it was great to get a chance to look at GKR: Heavy Hitters in all of its plastic and cardboard glory at Gen Con. Unfortunately this was another one of those hot games where it was nearly impossible to get a playtest without investing a couple of hours in waiting around or getting up and rushing the doors far earlier then I was willing to do. From what I could tell, GKR is a lean and mean miniatures meets board-type game, taking less then an hour to play. Created by a conceptual design company with history in movie and film, Weta Workshops has designed their entire own world through awesome and comic book-y art and… I mean guys, the game is called Giant Killer Robots: Heavy Hitters, what more do I really need to say here to get you excited?

 

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Alan’s Adventureland (Rio Grande Games)

Dave: The best introduction for a game came as we were patiently waiting for a playtester to walk us through this bright and colorful amusement park building game. Coming over to our table we were greeted with, “Hi, I’m Alan and this is my Adventureland.” It was pretty funny how dryly game designer Alan Ernstein said it, but he was then very helpful in explaining his game. The theme for Alan’s Adventureland really serves as more of a vehicle for this intricate and puzzle-ish game. This could be disappointing if you were hoping for strategic park building (he did mention he was currently working another game more like this), but it was still a fun game of thoughtful victory point collecting through a wide variety of different plays.

Adam: I have always hoped for a fun adventure park-building game that would replicate the park building experience. While this game doesn’t really capture the feeling of designing your own amusement park you do get a really colorful game where you place ride tiles on a grid to represent your park. I felt that the scoring system was pretty interesting even if it did take some time to puzzle out. Do you upgrade your rides for that extra thrill factor, or do you spread out with a wide variety of rides and attractions?

 

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Unfair (Good Games Publishing)

Dave: Where Alan’s Adventureland didn’t really provide the payoff of a more thematic park-building experience, Unfair does! On each turn players build attractions and food vendors, add on upgrades and thematic elements, and hire personnel to man their parks. This is all done through stacking cards that provide further benefits and income to go buy and hire more cards. Turns progress with an at first helpful but later obtrusive local government for you to navigate your own and complicate your opponent’s projects. Unfair is currently on Kickstarter and I’d definitely suggest you consider backing it!

 

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Saloon Tycoon (Van Ryder Games)

Dave: Saloon Tycoon five times lapped their Kickstarter earlier this year and looking over the finished game at Gen Con it’s not really hard to imagine why. In this game players take turns in building up their wild wild west saloons from the ground, or in this case the board, up. Using the same sort of layer stacking used for Rampage, players upgrade their saloons with additional rooms and business. The game also makes use of character cards, hidden agendas and of course, “goooooold!” (shouted in an old timey prospector voice).

 

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Save the Cupcake! (Asmadi Games)

Adam: There was a lot of fun buzz about this game at the show, but there is only so much time to demo games and I missed it! Your thought’s Dave?

Dave: I thought I heard wrong when the people at Asmadi compared Save the Cupcake! to the famous Price is Right game Plinko. Nope! Plinko is exactly what they said and what you get from this fun little 2-player card game. Arranging a pyramid of cards, the defending player hides their cupcake in the bottom row. The attacking player then runs his chips through the array of cards, displaying differing routes when landed on. I wasn’t sure it could be done, but dag gum it! Asmadi sure did it. Save the Cupcake! is an inventive and fun fifteen minutes.

 

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Ticket to Ride: Rails and Sails (Days of Wonder)

Dave: Ticket to Ride is one of the greatest modern day board games. The easy to explain rules, the quick turns, the balance of strategy and luck – everything’s there. With its well-deserved success there have been a number of expansions, keeping the game fun (and highly profitable). For this stand-alone release, players build train and shipping routes across the globe and around the Great Lakes on a double-sided board. While the addition of ships and ports are fun twists, they probably don’t offer enough difference for the casual player. But if you’re not the casual player, you’ve probably already bought and thoroughly enjoyed Rails and Sails.

Adam: I have to echo Dave’s thoughts on this game. Chances are, if you consider yourself a boardgamer you have played some variation of Ticket to Ride. Each new game variant changes up the mix oh so slightly, but the excellent core gameplay remains the same; collect cards, claim routes, and complete tickets. I have to say though, having grown up in Michigan I am a sucker for the Great Lakes map.

 

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Junk Art (Pretzel Games)

Dave: This is a game I saw at both Origins and Gen Con but unfortunately didn’t get a chance to try. I’m glad Adam did though as every time I’d pass by it sure seemed like people were having a blast!

Adam: The demo table for this game was busy all show long and it wasn’t hard to see why. Junk Art is a fun stacking game with multiple variations of play, all of which revolves around placing different shaped blocks and pieces onto a base. Each piece comes in four different colors and has a corresponding card. Some of the gameplay versions include a speed stacking one, another where you create the most precarious sculpture that you opponents then have to add to without knocking it over, and one where you try to place the blocks with the highest point value in your construction. At first it appears that the blocks are just random “junk,” but they all connect in surprising, ingenious ways. My only gripe with the game was that the demo board was made up of pieces much larger than the home version of the game. I kinda wish I could have bought a version with the demo sized pieces!

 

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Vikings on Board (Blue Orange Games)

Dave: Vikings on Board was definitely one of the most eye-catching games at Gen Con, a fact that wasn’t lost on Blue Orange who produced a large-scale demo to further elicit the “wow” factor. After being drawn in by cardboard Viking longboats crashing on the beaches, hearing a run down of the game felt somewhat reminiscent to daily Gen Con sell-out and Spiele das Jahres nominee, Imhotep (which we reviewed earlier this year). One main way where Vikings seems to differ is with the betting mechanic that allows players who may not have been as fortunate to pick the sailing conditions a chance to still profit off of their fellow Nordic marauders. It’s hard to say more without having played a full game, but I’m definitely on board… for Vikings on Board. (yukyukyuk)

GEN CON, August 4-7 at the Indiana Convention Center

by David C. Obenour & Adam Talicska

Midwestern modesty makes it hard to acknowledge, but there’s no denying that Gen Con is one of the largest gaming events in the world. And while nerd culture going mainstream has derailed other conventions into watered-down celebrations of all things pop culture, Gen Con has remained dedicated. That’s not to say there aren’t things to do that aren’t gaming related (including a full section of the guide book somewhat humorously titled SPouse Activities or “SPA”) but if gaming’s what you’ll want, well then gaming’s what you’ll get! And since you’ve asked so nicely for gaming here is our first batch of highlights from 2016.

 

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Sagrada (Floodgate Games)

Dave: Sagrada is a great example of masterfully matching a game’s components with its theme. In this puzzle-styled game, players fill the panes of a stained glass grid with different beautifully colored translucent dice. The grid patterns are limited by varying levels of difficulty that determine where dice can be placed and how many resources the player has available at the game’s start. Dice can’t border other dice of the same color or same number and certain patterns score bonus points at the end of the game. It’s a little like a Sudoku, but arguably way more fun. The Kickstarter comes in September.

 

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Mechana Rising (Dimension Games)

Dave: If you look back through all of the gaming conventions we’ve covered, you can tell I’m not much of a collectible card game guy. It seems most walk-throughs start off with, “You know Magic, right?” and then they go into how they’ve supposedly perfected one of the best selling games of the last two decades (which I’m not that big of a fan of either). All of which makes it pretty surprising that I really enjoyed Mechana Rising! A starter set providing four factions gives you a number of different ways to play this sci-fi battle. Only the human and mutant decks were available to try at Gen Con, but the interesting mechanics of humans starting out heavily equipped while the mutant slowly added their mutations worked well in the game and thematically. Also of note is the heavily stylized work of illustrator Dashiell Kirk who did an amazing job with the oversized playing cards.

Adam: I will second Dave’s comments about the art.  It was really refreshing to see such a different style of artwork in a game.  Too many times games fall into the same high fantasy, hard sci-fi, or european resource-management art styles.

 

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Let Them Eat Cake (Osprey Games)

Dave: Having been introduced to Osprey Games just this year with the great fantasy miniature ruleset of Frostgrave and then releasing Kris and my favorite game of Origins with Escape From the Aliens in Outerspace, this English publisher seems to be able to do no wrong in my book. Unfortunately I didn’t get to play Let Them Eat Cake, but Adam did so I’ll let him take this one.

Adam: Let Them Eat Cake is a really fun multiplayer game in which each player is a member of the Revolutionary Committee.  Gameplay consists of electing your fellow players to positions of authority, forming alliances to gather power, all the while deciding on how best to betray said alliances and send your opponents pawns to the guillotine in order to amass the greatest amount of cake!  Through a simple system of colored cards to represent votes it allows what appears to be a fun, silly game about the Revolution to become surprisingly political.  As Dave said, Osprey continues to be a game developer produces high quality games that deserve greater recognition.

 

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Karuba (HABA)

Dave: A nominee for this year’s Spiele des Jahres, Karuba is a smart and accessible tile-placement game from all ages designer HABA. In it, players lay path tiles on the grid of a jungle island to lead their explorers from their beached ships to the hidden temples. Tiles are drawn by a caller and each player arranges the same tile on their individual map or uses it to move their explorer along the trail. The concept is similar to what Days of Wonder went for with Relic Runners but streamlined. This is the sort of easy to explain and highly replayable game that should sell as well at Target as your FLGS.

 

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The Great Dinosaur Rush (APE Games)

Dave: A fun and unique concept sure can go a long way in making a board game. And what’s more fun then getting to play as the truly ruthless paleontologists of the Great Dinosaur Rush of the mid to late 1800’s? Playing as the too ridiculous to be made up historical figures of the era, players collect different dinosaur bones (leg, head, rib, exotic and more) to assemble in whatever fashion gets them the most notoriety. Steal bones from each other, sabotage work sites and influence public opinion, learning sure can be fun when you don’t realize you’re doing it!

Adam: I loved the aspect of making up your own ridiculous assemblage of dino bones into the most shocking configurations.  Behold!  The Seven-Necked Frumposaur!

 

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Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle (USAopoly)

Dave: Hogwarts Battle was another undeniably hot game at Gen Con, selling out within the first hour of each day. It’s hard to tell whether this response is the doing to a wildly popular series made even more popular with a recent book release or if the game itself is to credit. As playtests were hard to come by and most copies seemed to be sold before anyone would have had a chance to get one anyway, it seems to be the former but that doesn’t discount the latter. A 2-4 player cooperative deck-building game, players take on the role of Harry, Hermoine, Ron and Neville as they defend Hogwarts against you-know-who. Licensed products are sometimes a red flag, but USAopoly has been on a roll these last few years so it will be interesting to find out more.

Adam: I am a little concerned about the replay value of the game due to the idea that every game takes place during a specific year of Harry’s education at Hogwarts. Before each game you open up a specific pack of cards corresponding to that year and add them to your collection.  Unfortunately we were unable to get a look at the cards, but I am hoping that a simple mechanic of marking the cards with the years that they come from would allow players to sort them out and play any specific year.

 

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Eschaton (Archon Games)

Dave: Archon, formerly Travesty Games, makes some beautifully evil looking games. We first encountered them at last year’s Gen Con with Deathfear and though I’d surprise past me by saying it, they’ve topped themselves with Eschaton. In this deck-building meet dudes on a map game, players take on the role of a cult leader fighting for the dark one’s admiration in the dying days of civilization. Zealots march across the map, slaughter each other and then rise up with renewed fervor. An ever-building deck of cultists, monsters and spells dictate turns like a game of Dominion where you get to orchestrate the destruction implied from the flavor text. Selling out of the limited number of handmade copies made available ahead of the Kickstarter’s completion, Eschaton was my game of the convention. You should go back this right now.

 

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Meow (Asmadi Games)

Dave: Asmadi may have perfected the light-hearted in between games game with We Didn’t Playtest This at All. It’s fast-paced, silly, but also surprisingly engaging. These quick type of games seem to be their market and Meow plays to that. For this particular card game, you draw from a deck of cards that are mostly illustrations of cats that say Meow, but some that aren’t cats that say Not Meow. Either way, after you draw a card, you say “Meow” and play continues. That is unless someone accuses you of having a Not Meow card. At that point you show all of your cards – if any are Not Meows, you’re out, but if none are Not Meows, they’re out. That’s all there is to it! It’s definitely fun for a little bit and that’s all it’s really meant to be.

 

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You Gotta be Kitten Me! (Stone Blade Entertainment)

Dave: Continuing the theme of light-hearted and fast-paced card games about cats – enter, Stone Blade Entertainment’s You Gotta Be Kitten Me! I’m not as familiar with their back-catalogue of games but this definitely occupies shelf-space next to Meow. Slightly more complicated, each card has an illustration of some cute animal(s) wearing or not wearing different colored hats, glasses and/or bow ties. On your turn you say an ever-increasing number of accessories or a color. Example “five bowties”, then “seven red”, and “eight hats.” Whenever a player doesn’t believe the number, they exclaim, “You gotta be kitten me!” and cards are revealed to show whether they were right or not. Hands are then redealt with whoever was wrong drawing one less card. Whoever last has cards in their hand wins. Not a bad little game, but emphasis is on little game.

Adam: A different take on the bluffing game Liars Dice,You Gotta Be Kitten Me! is pretty easy to pick up and play, but not very deep in the strategy department.  The cutesy black and white pictures of puppies and kittens bedecked in bowler hats or glasses can definitely bring the “d’awwwwwww,” factor though.

 

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Ice Cool (Brain Games)

Dave: This may win Gen Con for most outside of the box board game. An award that’s made a little confusing as Ice Cool comes in a box that’s filled with other boxes that make up the playing board. Does that make this more of an inside of the box game? Nevermind, let’s just talk about it already! You’re a rascally penguin that’s trying to skip out of class (Ice Cool, High School – get it?) and scarf down some fish. To do this you’ll flick your penguin from room to room, all of while avoiding the hall monitor. It’s similar to the poison rules for croquet but on a tabletop! Lots of people were talking about this game and they were right to be.

Adam: So many times at the con I observed people playing this game and invariably a stranger would stop and ask questions about it.  It has such a unique look with it’s multiple box rooms it really catches your attention.

 

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Sea Fall (Plaid Hat Games)

Dave: Sea Fall wins the gamer rage award as copies of the highly-sought after Legacy game were snatched up by VIGs on Wednesday before the exhibitor hall even opened to joe schmoe attendees. I even heard a few slighted vendors grumbling about how they denied sales in favor of those lucky VIGs. Marketing strategy and the fairness of this will probably be hotly debated on forums, but as for the game itself all I can say is that Sea Fall does look awesome. Designed by Rob Daviau of the popular Risk and Pandemic adaptations, this is his first wholly self-designed game for the multiple play sessions Legacy format. I didn’t get in a playtest as those lists filled up each morning in a matter of minutes, but I did lean over shoulders and tables and drooled heavily. (sorry)

Adam: I too like many missed out on a playtest of this game.  Having encountered strong word of mouth about it, I was disappointed that there was not nearly enough copies to meet even a fraction of the fervent demand.  I was really intrigued by the system of discovering and developing of islands and how choices in each game can influence how following games are played.  Hopefully Plaid Hat is hard at work churning out more copies to get in the hands of these rabid fans.

 

We’ll be back next week with part two of our Gen Con review, featuring Scythe, Grimslingers, Rattlebones, Dragoon, Unfair, GKR: Heavy Hitters, Adventureland, Saloon Tycoon, Vikings on Board, Trash Art, Save the Cupcake!, and Ticket to Ride: Rails and Sails.

GEN CON, July 30-August 2 at the Indiana Convention Center

by David C. Obenour & Kris Poland

Gen Con is now but a memory, but it’s a memory you can continue to relive vicariously through part two of our totally awesome recap! So many games. So may gamers. So much social anxiety. So little time. Please enjoy this continuation of our summary of some of the highs, lows, and creamy middles of this year’s biggest event in tabletop gaming. We’ll catch you again next year!

 

CONAN: RISE OF MONSTERS (PULPOSAURUS ENTERTAINMENT, unreleased)

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Kris: C.R.O.M. (Get it? Get it?) is about halfway funded on Kickstarter at the time of this writing. It’s a pre-painted miniatures game played at the skirmish level. There are starter boxes for the two factions, Conan’s Circle of Iron and the evil Legion of Set. The minis look very nice and have incredibly detailed paint jobs, especially compared to most other pre-painted miniatures. Of special note are the monsters in each set. The oliphant and giant snake will definitely be centerpieces for each army. Pulposaurus even licensed artwork from the Conan comics for the game’s cards and more, making everything about this game a feast for the eyes. The rules are easy to learn, and games should be fast-paced with plenty of carnage. C.R.O.M. has a lot of potential as a skirmish miniatures game. Fingers crossed it gets fully funded!

David: Bad news – Kickstarter funding of Conan: Rise of Monsters was cancelled three days ago. Good news – Reaper Miniatures have entered into a partnership with Pulposaurus and will be delivering us the game by later this year! That’s better than just good news as partnering with a company as well-established as Reaper bodes well for the game’s continued support and availability.

 

THE CAPTAIN IS DEAD (The Game Crafter, 2014)

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Kris: The Game Crafter embodies a really cool concept that allows anyone to turn their great idea for a card or board game into reality. They do custom, on demand printing that can turn anyone with an idea into someone with a physical product to share. The Captain is Dead is their superstar. It’s a cooperative game for up to seven players that puts gamers in a spaceship just as everything goes haywire. Players have to work together with their fellow crew members to repair the ship’s jump core and escape the hostile alien threat by completing actions in the ship’s different stations. It kind of reminds me of Red November in space and should make for a lot of fun with a sizable group of gamers.

David: Red November and Space Cadets were the two games that came to my mind when we were getting the short run-through from the folks at The Game Crafter’s booth. A hostile alien ship has driven you into an asteroid field and now it’s your job to, as a team, get the jump core back on line so you can get the heck out of there. Also, the captain is dead. Well done art with high-quality pieces – definitely worth a closer look! Good on The Game Crafter for seeing this game’s potential.

 

BLOOD RAGE (CoolMiniOrNot, unreleased)

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Kris: Upon entering the exhibitor hall first thing in the morning on Thursday, it seemed as if everyone there immediately bought a copy of Blood Rage. I saw it over and over again and again in the arms and oversized bags of everyone around me. Viking battles, Norse gods, and the pursuit of a glorious death seem to be key elements of Blood Rage. I’ll hand it to CoolMiniOrNot when it comes to visual appeal. The miniatures are very well designed, and the game board is colorful and attractive. We couldn’t get through the throngs of people lined up to play it, so we’ll do our best to procure a demo copy soon. As Dr. Rick Dagless M.D. once sang, “One day we’ll all meet in Valhalla.”

David: Yup, it sure seemed to be all the Blood Rage of Gen Con this year. Thank you, thank you very much. Seriously though, even without playing this one I know everything I need to know. As Kris said, “Viking battles, Norse gods, and the pursuit of a glorious death.” It’s called Blood Rage for Thor’s sake. Welcome Ragnarök with open arms, brothers.

 

MYSTERIUM (Asmodee, 2015)

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Kris: I know very little about Mysterium, other than it was once named Tajemnicze Domostwo. Good move on the name change! It’s co-op, and involves a friendly ghost in a haunted mansion. Sounds like fun to me!

David: Asmodee definitely wins for best booth at Gen Con. The only drawback was that for all of the ambiance their secluded booth created for those lucky enough to demo Mysterium, it also limited the number of tables they had and the amount of people that were actually able to play through the game. Even without a playtest or quick overview though, Mysterium seems like it’d be a whole lot of fun. A cooperative game for two to seven players, one player takes the role of a ghost dealing out vision cards from behind their GM-like screen to the attending mediums (other players) in an effort to solve their murder and achieve peace. It sounds like a spookier, more involved version of Clue. Not getting to play this one was probably my biggest regret of the convention.

 

CTHULHU WARS (Petersen Games, 2014)

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Kris: The only thing worse than an unimaginable horror from another dimension devouring our reality would be multiple unimaginable horrors from another dimension slugging it out to determine which one will have the privilege of devouring our reality. Enter Cthulhu Wars. It’s a strategy game that pits four Old Ones against each other (up to eight with expansions). The core set contains dozens of slimy, tentacled beasts from your worst nightmares. They’re all nicely modeled and will likely look even better once players take a paintbrush to them. If you’re into Lovecraftian horrors and battling with brightly colored miniatures, this one has your name on it.

David: Though this game is a couple of years old it still seemed to be one of the highlights of Gen Con. With a ginormous box containing 64 high-quality Lovecraftian (right up there with zombies, pirates and Dr. Who in nerd appreciation) miniatures it’s no surprise why either. Also not a surprise surprise, it comes with a completely reasonable for what you get but still hefty price tag. That didn’t seem to stop people. Along with Blood Rage, lots of copies were seen in bags and under arms (two, not one), and playtesting this game required getting on a list as long as that of a Michelin 3-star restaurant.

 

NEFARIOUS: THE MAD SCIENTIST GAME (USAopoly, 2015)

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Kris: Who hasn’t dreamed of casting off the constraints of modern day society and retreating to one’s secret lair to construct a doomsday device? All of us, right? If you haven’t already walked away from your screen to phone the authorities, this just might be the kind of game you’ll love! Perform research, spy on rival scientists, and protect your own creations to conquer the world. Victory is never guaranteed, as unique Twist cards randomly assigned to players at the beginning of the game make sure that no two games play out in the same manner.

David: That’s me. Dr. Buddy with a PHD in Friendship studies. While I hoped to kill the world with kindness, my fellow play testers seemed to have better luck with deathrays and wide-spread neurotoxins. Oh well, to quote Jake Chambers (for wildly different reasons), “there are other worlds than these” and I’ll be damned if I can’t put this degree in Friendship to use one of these times. At past conventions the major gaming companies such as USAopoly didn’t seem to quite get the level and style of gaming that Gen Con attendees thrive on. Nefarious however is perfect for both family game night and beer and pretzel night with your pals.

 

POCKET IMPERIUM (LudiCreations, 2015)

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Kris: 4X style gameplay with only a handful of cards and less than an hour of playtime? That sounds incredible! Almost impossible, really. Designer David Mortimer must be one smart cookie. I’ll leave the meat of this one to Dave, as he was actually able to play Pocket Imperium. I’ll admit that I’m jealous and more than a little intrigued.

David: Sorry to say, but I was a little under-whelmed by Pocket Imperium. Admittedly, a 5-minute demo isn’t the same as a full game experience but what I did play felt a little too simple for its own good. As Kris said, the 4X gameplay of “eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, and eXterminate” is what you’re promised and what you get. But not much else. Is Pocket Imperium like chess or checkers, where multiple plays would reveal more nuances? Totally possible. But in an exhibitor hall filled with the best of what’s out there it didn’t quite grab me.

 

SHINOBI CLANS (Posthuman Studios, 2013)

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David: This is just a game I sat down at because there was an open seat and I was waiting for someone else so why not demo a game? Boy am I glad I did too! Though Posthuman Studios might be better known for their Eclipse Phase RPG system, Shinobi Clans is a beautiful and tricky (in a good way) game. After drafting a hand of attacking, defending and wildcard ninja cards, the scene is set for – you guessed it – either attacking or defending any of the three dignitaries for that round. Ninjas, being ninjas, are placed in secret facedown, so you’re not sure if the other clans are assisting or clashing with your mission. With so many different card games out there it was fun to run into something so inventive while working so well within its theme.

Kris: When it comes to the whole pirates/zombies/ninja trifecta, I feel as if ninja get the short end of the nerd culture stick. You can’t turn around without seeing another zombie game, and thanks to Jack Sparrow there are still god damn pirates everywhere. Perhaps Shinobi Clans can change that. It’s a card game with couple of neat drafting mechanics, and the cards in question feature absolutely gorgeous artwork. There’s also an element of betting on who will survive and who will not after blades have clashed. I didn’t get to spend much time with Shinobi Clans, but I’m eager to dig deeper.

 

LUCHADOR! (Backspindle Games, 2013)

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Kris: Two great wrestling games in one convention? Have I died and gone to mark heaven? While both are inspired by wrestling, Luchador! couldn’t be more different from WWE Superstar Showdown when it comes to game mechanics. Luchador! skips the cards and goes straight to rolling dice. Players roll at the same time to see who gets the advantage and, possibly, the pin fall victory. The cool gimmick here is that dice are actually rolled inside a little cardboard wrestling ring. Any dice that fall out or are knocked outside of the ring by opponent’s dice are invalidated. It seems quite fast-paced with a good push-your-luck style of gameplay. I’m definitely interested in spending some time with this one.

David: The cardboard wrestling ring. I think even if this game proved to be a stinker (which it absolutely didn’t), that ring may have been enough to buy it anyway. We didn’t get to actually play this one, but we did get a great walk-through of it from a delightful English bloke who traded ridiculously obscure international wrestling references with Kris while I just stood back and nodded like I had some sort of idea about what they were saying.

 

BAD DETECTIVES (Forced Output, 2015)

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Kris: While I didn’t get the opportunity to play Bad Detectives, I love the idea of this game. Honestly, I’m kind of sick of so-called storytelling games that ask players to do all the heavy lifting. A lot of them feel half-baked in their attempts to creatively engage with their players. That doesn’t seem to be the case here. This isn’t just a matter of, “Tell the best story and everybody wins!” Instead, players play a detective who is horrible at their job. Everyone tries their best to muddle through a case, string evidence together, and connect victims to suspects and murder weapons. Only one detective gets credit for solving the case, so Bad Detectives seems to fit nicely into the odd competitive/cooperative genre. So stop bitching about season two of True Detective, and engage in some deducing of your own.

David: Hah! Oh poor True Detective, season two. Anyway, I was lucky enough to get the 10-15 minute spiel from designer, Zach Barton (in cop uniform) on how Bad Detective plays out and man, what a well-designed game! Taking inspiration from the well-known HQ tac-board, players string together evidence (or “evidence…?”) tiles between the victim and culprits, weapons and locations. You don’t have to be right, you just have to look right. Being right is one way of looking right, but discrediting your fellow detectives and their work is another. It’s not so much a story-telling game but a game that as it plays out tells a story – which means, sure you can just play it but you can also get into character and read out your tiles in a gruff “I’m getting too old for this shit” voice. Maybe a dozen donuts and a pot of coffee too. Damn, now I really want to play this game!

 

THE GRIZZLED (CoolMiniOrNot, unreleased)

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Kris: It’s a testament to the quality of The Grizzled that I still want to play more of it after having the worst play-testing experience of the entire con with this game. Despite our rude, obnoxious, task-master of a playtester, The Grizzled felt special. Perhaps it’s because both Dave and I have a passion for WWI history. Perhaps it’s the artistry and care and familial ties linking the game’s creators to the Great War. Perhaps it’s the fact that this game never asks players to fire a weapon or kill another human being. There’s something incredibly special here in a game about surviving the horrors of war through friendship and sacrifice. The Grizzled is not to be missed.

David: All due respect to volunteers, who are after all, volunteers, but Kris is not wrong. I really hope that our playtester wasn’t on the table too long for The Grizzled because she was doing it a huge disservice. After buying a copy (the last one – thanks to the random gamer who had it before me but took pity on my visible dejection) and playing through it a few times I can honestly say that this is the best example I’ve experienced of a game as art. Making that even more remarkable is how much The Grizzled is able to convey in such a short playing game with such simple rules. There are six kinds of threats, you’re dealt task cards that have different combinations of these threats, you’re never allowed to have more than three of the same threat showing or you as a team have failed that mission. In the half-hour playtime, you begin to feel a small bit of the anxiety, fear, hopelessness, but mostly camaraderie that made up the experiences of those who served in the Great War.

GEN CON, July 30-August 2 at the Indiana Convention Center

by David C. Obenour & Kris Poland

Oh shit, dog! It’s Gen Con time! Well, it was last week. It’s over now, but don’t fret. Your pals from Ghettoblaster were there and are back with impressions from the biggest gathering of gaming geeks in North America. After being packed into convention halls with over 61,000 other gamers, we’re both relieved to be back and excited about new developments in the tabletop gaming world. Please keep in mind that Gen Con is way too massive for just a few of us to cover everything that’s on offer. What follows is a list of things that caught our attention, explanations and demos that we were privy to, and some other stuff. Enjoy part one, and check back soon for part two!

 

FLEET ADMIRAL (Castle Games, 2012)

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Kris: I watched over Dave’s shoulder as he toyed around with this one. It looked pretty neat. That’s about all I can say with any certainty.

David: The thing about Gen Con – as I’m sure you picked up from the intro – is it’s insane how many people are there. Getting a demo can be hard and so can just getting a few minutes of an exhibitor’s attention. The guys at Castle Games came up with a pretty ingenious way around that for Fleet Admiral. As I looked down at their table with interest at the game before me I was greeted with, “roll a die!” and handed a dice to roll. Intrigued and admittedly, not one to really question orders, I did so and then played through a quick turn of this fun and inexpensive “push your luck” cooperative game. The whole thing was over and done in less than two minutes and while that’s a pretty small sampling, it was a really enjoyable one.

 

ONE NIGHT REVOLUTION (Indie Boards and Cards, 2015)

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Kris: Take The Resistance and condense it down into a single, paranoia-fueled round. That’s One Night Revolution. Rather than going out on multiple missions, the rebels get one shot at finding the informant(s) in their midst. Just like Mafia/Werewolf, this is a party game that gets more interesting and exciting the more players who take part. Not only are players assigned identities as Rebels or Informants, they also play roles that take different actions during the night. For example, the Investigator can look at a single player’s ID. Despite its name, there’s nothing really revolutionary here. However, this could be a good time if you have too many people over to play other games or are looking for a time-filler to play between longer, more involved affairs.

David: I’m a pretty horribly liar. I don’t mean that as some kind of, “Oh, I’m such an honest guy” #humblebrag, it’s just to let you know that I normally have a hard time keeping a straight face during games like The Resistance and Werewolf. I can, but I really need to psych myself out. A fun mechanic for One Night Revolution is that even though you get to see if you’re a Rebel or Informant at the start of the round, during the night your alignment card may have been switched by one of the other players’ abilities and you’re not allowed to check until the game’s over. Confusion, deceit, deduction, “Hey, my card was to the left of me when I closed my eyes!” – it all plays into it and it’s all a lot of fun!

 

COUP: REBELLION G54 (Indie Boards and Cards, 2014)

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Kris: Coup was always a good game, but with only a handful of characters its variety and extended appeal were quite limited. Rebellion G54 addresses that very issue expertly by increasing the number of characters from 5 to 25. There are still only 5 character types in a single game session, but they can be any combination of the 25 characters included. Where I would normally have had enough Coup after two or three 15 minute rounds, Rebellion offers enough variance to turn those multiple 15 minute rounds into an entire night of gaming. I guess it’s true that often the simplest solution is the best one.

David: Yeah, pretty much exactly what Kris said. While a lot of party games benefit from not having to explain overly complex rules, they also can get old way before someone finally says out loud, “So… do we still want to play this, guys?” Rebellion G54 gives you simple rules with added variety from a number of new characters and roles. Figured out how to win with the Farmer? Too bad! We’re not using the Farmer in the next round.

 

DEATHFEAR (Travesty Games, 2012)

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Kris: Deathfear traps players in a dungeon with a dismembered demon. The only way to escape is to collect powerful pieces of this demon’s body and murder everyone else in the dungeon. Movement is handled via rolling 2D6 and allows for a re-roll of one die if desired. It’s such a simple idea that really speeds up gameplay. Attacks are automatic when the active player lands on an opponent and result in stealing either demon parts or spirit items from one’s victim. There isn’t a ton of complexity here, but it certainly is an enjoyable romp. The good folks at Travesty definitely know good visual design, as exemplified in their hand-crafted wooden boxes for this game. The playmat is also screen printed on black fabric. These extra touches are what can make a relatively simple game such as Deathfear stand out from the crowd. Good show!

David: This game looks epically awesome. The demon parts adorning the top of its all black wooden box, the rolled-up cloth dungeon map, apparently it comes with a narrator DVD too that we didn’t get to experience at the con – the only thing that’s missing is a copy of Black Sabbath’s Master of Reality. Deathfear might be a little overly simple on repeated plays, but it’s nothing that a few thought out house rules couldn’t improve on (I’m thinking some sort of sanity cost as you attach more and more of these demon parts to your flesh).

 

WWE SUPERSTAR SHOWDOWN (Gale Force Nine, 2015)

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Kris: Dear god. The WWE have gone and made a tabletop game. They’ve also managed to somehow swerve us all. How? It’s actually incredibly fun to play! Gameplay is handled through an easy to understand rock/paper/scissors mechanic that keeps things simple but still allows for tactical planning. The included wrestlers are Daniel Bryan, Roman Reigns, John Cena, Big Show, Randy Orton, and (for some unknown reason) Big E. The miniatures are nicely detailed and their accompanying card decks to a decent job of covering each wrestler’s in-ring repertoire. Unfortunately, the free promo piece for those who purchased the game at the con was supposed to be Hulk Hogan. For obvious reasons, those promos never made it to Indianapolis. The good news is that expansions are already in the works. Play testers spoke in hushed tones about folding chairs in future releases. I’m most excited to play as legends like Savage or Flair or Mankind. I also want Cesaro and Owens and the entire NXT roster. There is huge potential for this to be a real cash cow for both WWE and GF9. Just give the people what they want: more wrestlers whom they love.

David: I’m always afraid when it comes to licensed products and doubly afraid of WWE screwing up something that could have been great (for the most recent example, see Kevin Owens’ current bewildering storyline and win/loss record). Those fears were immediately erased by the fun and simplicity of Superstar Showdown. Even Ghettoblaster’s lead designer (and my wife), who could barely care any less about wrestling, enjoyed it. The only drawback is for the 2 and 3 man tag games the players outside of the ring are left just watching. Still, there’s plenty of action within the squared circle to compel everyone. I’m holding my hopes for the Mick Foley’s Cactus Jack, Dude Love and Mankind expansion!

 

PORTAL: THE UNCOOPERATIVE CAKE ACQUISITION GAME (Cryptozoic, unreleased)

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Kris: This is a triumph. Seriously. I was very cynical when I first learned about the Portal board game. Slapping the name of one of the most beloved video game franchises in the last decade onto a board game seemed like a guaranteed way to separate nerds from their money and nothing else. I’ve never been so glad to be so wrong. Players take turns sending test subjects into Aperture Labs, moving portals, a turret, and a companion cube across test chambers, all in an effort to get the most cake (and incinerate opponents’ cakes). Rules change as players activate different abilities, so tactics must be altered on the fly. It’s fun, quick-paced, and retains the fantastic deadpan humor of the video games. Plus, it comes with a free copy of Portal 2 on Steam! Simply put, this one is a no brainer. Buy it when it comes out this holiday season.

David: Spot on! Again, fear of licensed products, but Cryptozoic’s got a pretty great track record so far with their games based off of the Locke & Key comic book, FX’s Archer and Cartoon Network’s Adventure Time (sorry, haven’t and don’t have any plans on playing their Castle or Big Bang Theory games). One thing Kris didn’t address that I wanted to talk to is how aesthetically pleasing this game is. From the turret piece to the pieces of cake pieces, this game was sharply designed.

 

MONARCH (Tiltfactor, unreleased)

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David: Honestly, I was really drawn in by the gorgeous art and while Kris was paying attention to the explanation I was staring at the cards. I’ll let him handle this one.

Kris: Who will reign? It’s a simple question with an often complex answer. Players in Monarch attempt to answer that question by gathering favor, assembling the best possible court, and ultimately impressing their matriarch. The main mechanic involves pulling together the most glorious individuals and treasures to ensure one’s future rule, all while figuring out the most advantageous ways to tax and/or harvest from lands. Its playtime is less than an hour and should provide a good time for three to four players. Monarch’s most impressive trait is its scratchboard art by Kate Adams. There’s a certain beautiful darkness to her fantasy artwork that adds a lot of atmosphere to the game. Monarch should be available in September.

 

AGE OF SIGMAR (Games Workshop, 2015)

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Kris: Oh boy. Where to begin? I only started playing Warhammer Fantasy a couple of years ago. I’ve grown to love it, and now they’ve pretty much killed it. GW’s presence at Gen Con was pathetic. They had a tiny booth displaying the models from the Age of Sigmar starter set and two terrified employees who seemed desperate to sell people on this… thing. Ghettoblaster’s experience here can be summed up in a simple interaction. Dave and I asked what AoS meant for Warhammer Fantasy. One GW rep confidently said, “Age of Sigmar is its own thing. It’s totally different.” The other GW rep then approached us and stated, “Age of Sigmar is Warhammer Fantasy.” I expressed my dissatisfaction with that statement, and we walked away.

David: I keep typing things out, sighing heavily, and then deleting them. There’s no way around it, Age of Sigmar is a huge disappointment. I’m not saying Warhammer up until now was without flaws, major ones even, and if internet truth holds any water, it didn’t sound like it was staying financial feasible for Games Workshop – though the End Times campaign sure did seem to get a bunch of people (me included) very excited. But to so suddenly and seemingly so decisively change everything about the way the game plays and how the game looks even (put a new Stormcast Eternal up next to a High Elf spearmen and try to tell me we’re still playing the same game) and then refuse to give a clear answer about what Age of Sigmar is and about what that means for Warhammer? Sigh, just… just fuck you Games Workshop.

 

Stay tuned for part two of The Games of Gen Con, featuring Blood Rage, Mysterium, Cthuluhu Wars, Nefarious, Pocket Imperium, Shinobi Clans, Luchador!, Bad Detectives, The Grizzled and The Captain is Dead!

SONS OF ANARCHY: MEN OF MAYHEM (GaleForce Nine)

“Riding through this world… all alone.” But you don’t have to go it alone! Bring along two to three of your friends for the ride as you trade, steal and shoot out your way to club supremacy in GaleForce Nine’s sleeper hit of the year, Sons of Anarchy: Men of Mayhem.

I say sleeper hit because more often then not, licensed games rely on fandom as opposed to solid and inventive game design. This was my thought the first three times I passed by GaleForce Nine’s booth at GenCon, and was still my thought on the fourth, but it’s hard to pass an open play-test table at North America’s highest attended gaming convention. Lucky for me there was that extra seat, because Sons of Anarchy: Men of Mayhem just might be my game of the year.

Three to four players start off as club leaders for SamCro, The Mayans, Lin Syndicate, One Niners, or a special expansion-teasing club, Grim Bastards (extending play to five or six players – out next year). With a gang full of prospects and members, players send out their dudes to different sites in an effort to obtain guns, contraband and money. The hold up is, only one club can utilize a site every round, and in order to utilize a site, you have to first clear out all rival clubs. Guns aren’t just a commodity, after all.

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While some of these core “worker placement” type games can suffer with well-established strategies upon repeated play, Sons of Anarchy addresses this concern by starting the game off with a limited number of sites and then providing an over-sized site deck that makes for new options each game.

But that’s not the only mechanic at work in Sons of Anarchy: Men of Mayhem either. Those throw downs for site control will also increase the police’s heat on your club, and the more heat you have the less contraband you’re able to move on the black market. Also, as prospects and members get gunned down in throw downs, players are forced to spend turn actions on recruiting new prospects and then again to patch them in as members. Your club has to have members after all, especially if the heat gets to high and somebody needs to take the fall!

If all of that wasn’t enough to consider, the Anarchy Deck lives up to it’s name by every turn offering up new opportunities, obstacles, hassles and “last calls” that set positive or negative turn’s end scenarios.

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It’s all these various mechanics at work, along with their fluid interplay, that makes Sons of Anarchy: Men of Mayhem such an amazing game. Sure, it also does a great job of incorporating the characters and locations of the TV show but GaleForce Nine has created something that’s appeal will last far beyond Charlie Hunnam’s fourth Pacific Rim movie.

With other licensed games such as Spartacus and Firefly, maybe it’s time to give them a chance as well! (GaleForce Nine) by David C. Obenour

Steven Griffin, aka Griffin Cosplay is a new cosplayer based out of Dayton, Ohio. This blog follows his successes and failures as he immerses himself in the culture both behind the scenes and at the conventions. You can find him on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/GriffinCosplay and Twitter @GriffinCosplay.

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Recently I had the chance to sit down with Anja Keister at Gen Con to talk a little bit about D20 Burlesque as well as how she got started.

Ghettoblaster: Tell us a little bit about how you got started in Burlesque.

Anja Keister: I had studied art and performance art in college. I really liked performing, dressing up, and things like that. When I moved to New York City I just got really overwhelmed with all of it. Because there is a lot of theater, there is a lot of art and everybody is pretty much professionals. So at the time one of my bosses at the job that I was working said, “Hey there is going to be this burlesque festival in the town where I live do you want to come with me?” and I thought, “Sure this seems really fun.”  So I went and it was totally amazing. It was a bunch of performers who were making their own costumes, doing their own choreography, choosing their own music, and doing all of this stuff. There was comedy, sensuality, it was all just purely DIY ethics and I thought, “This is something that I can do.” So back in New York I started taking classes at the New York School of Burlesque. From there I realized that it was a very close knit community. The burlesque community is super duper supportive of each other so it was really easy to make friends, get connections, network, start doing shows and everything like that.

GB: How did D20 Burlesque get started?

AK: D20 Burlesque started because there was one other major nerdy show in New York City called Epic Win Burlesque at the time that I was getting started they were a closed troop. I had a lot of stuff that I wanted to do but I didn’t really have a place to perform. Their shows were mainly like pop culture nerdy, so they were doing Batman, Star Wars, and Star Trek. I was like “Well I really want to do Cthulhu, I really want to be a large 20 sided die. I really want to do Call of Cthulhu stuff.” There wasn’t really a place for that so I thought, “Well, you know what? New York is big and there is enough interest that I could start my own group and advertise at gaming stores, and friends that I role play with, and stuff like that and we can get it started,” and so that is how it initially happened. Since then Epic Win has gone into retirement so now we’re on of the main nerdy shows in New York City.

GB: How long did it take you to find people to come in and help?

AK: Not very long. At the time I was in a Dungeons and Dragons campaign with 4 or 5 other performers and so when I got started I was just like, “Hey guys I think I am going to do a burlesque show that is based on role playing games. Do you want to be in it?” and of course they were all like, “Of course! Can I play the Dwarven fighter that I play in this campaign?” and I was like, “Of course you can!” So it was really easy to start the shows. From there it was really neat. It was reaching out to a community that was nerdy but no the kind of nerdy that I was used to. Not like gamer nerdy. So it was really neat for me to be like, “We are going to do a show around computer games” and people would be like “Oh! I really want to do this, I really want to do this!” So it was neat to see people’s nerdy sides come out where they had previously kind of hidden it. This was almost 4 years ago so the geek chic wasn’t as big as it is now. So it was really cool to have people like, “Oh I really want to a Silent Hill Nurse act, or an Order of the Stick act” You know, really cool stuff like that. I made a lot of friends through that as well.

GB: How has the pop culture boom effected D20?

AK: I think that It has given us a little more credibility in the eyes of everybody. We had our own little niche market and it was great and we had these fans that were coming back month after month for all of the shows and we were starting to do conventions. But I think that with the boom of it and the general acceptance of it, it has just become easier to pitch it to people. To say like “Hey, do you want us to come to your convention?” or have people say “We are having a LARP and we would really like to have a burlesque show. Would you guys be interested in LARPing as a burlesque group at our LARP?” and being like, “Totally! That seems really cool!” Which I don’t think would have happened without the boom. We were actually able to put on the first Nerdlesque festival this past year so we had performers come from all over to New York. I don’t thing that would have been able to happen 4 years ago because venues were still kind of iffy on it but this time they were like, “Okay yeah that sounds pretty cool!”

GB: How well has it been received by conventions when you pitch it to them?

AK: I would say it’s about 90% positive. There are still some people with the conventions that would say, “Why would we have this adult entertainment there?” When we first got started I sent a press release submission to Ubercon which still existed at the time. I do not think it exists anymore and they were just like, “That sounds really cool but if you do a show that is 2 hours of gaming that people will not get to do and we really want to let people game,” And that is good dedication. That is a good convention that wants to let people game. But I think it is fairly positive but every now and again we get some of the online trolling. We get the fake geek girl kind of stuff, we get nerd checked and stuff like that. But I would say overall it has been positive.

GB: As far as Gen Con it’s self what is your take on it?

AK: Gen Con, when it comes to nerdy stuff, I love independent comic books, I love pop culture TV, I love SciFi, I love all of that stuff, but like gaming is my thing. Not even video gaming, I like to video game but like I love board games, I love table top, I love all of that stuff. So this was the con that I was the most excited about. People were like “ Cool PAX! That is really neat. And I am just like GEN CON YEAH!” That is what is nice about being in this thing too is that like Iris Explosion one of our other performers is really into video games, and Stella Chuu is really into Anime, so it is really nice that we get to go to these different conventions and we can all have something that we are passionate about. But Gen Con was the one that I was really excited about. The ability to go this convention which otherwise wouldn’t have been in my budget for just fun and personal use to fly all the way out here, we were able to do it. The first year we did a Kickstarter to help us get out here. It was amazing. It was really neat on that trip we brought a performer to her first convention ever. She doesn’t really consider herself super nerdy but she loved it. On the way out I did a Call of Cthulhu campaign. It was her first one. She bought dice. It opened up a whole new world to this girl. I don’t know. I just love Gen Con.

I want to thank Anja for taking the time to sit down and talk with me. It was a pleasure to get to hang out and talk with her for a while. Later that night we also sat in on the D20 Burlesque show at Gen Con and it was amazing. Below are some of the pictures that we took while there.

They also have upcoming shows on…

November 22, 8pm – The Parkside Lounge, NYC. Game Night Done Naughty! This show will be a tribute to board, card and table top gaming.

December 19, 7pm – The Parkside Lounge, NYC. Our 3rd Annual Fan Favorites Holiday Party! This show is where we have the fans vote and we have a special 3 hour show with the top rated acts of the past year, plus special nerdy games and holiday fun.

Steven Griffin, aka Griffin Cosplay is a new cosplayer based out of Dayton, Ohio. This blog follows his successes and failures as he immerses himself in the culture both behind the scenes and at the conventions. You can find him on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/GriffinCosplay and Twitter @GriffinCosplay.

Over the past few years Gen Con has remained my favorite convention. I have been attending long before I started in cosplay. So how do I feel about it now that I have been in costume? I would say very well… as a matter of fact I think I even enjoyed it more this year! That is really saying something as I have always really enjoyed Gen Con.

Thursday we arrived to Indy, checked into the hotel and made our way to the con. The first day there I didn’t go in costume. It was my day to walk around the hall and test out some games. If you have not been to Gen Con this is the real appeal to the con. All of the big board game developers are there unveiling and running demos of their latest and greatest games. However, there are so many people that you may have to wait for quite some time to get a demo in of some of the bigger games.

This year I was able to try out a few but there were two stand outs for me. One was Space Junk by Lamp Light Games. This is a very simple and easy to play game. No real complex mechanics and it is pretty quick. I do encourage you to look it up for more information as my wife and I had a lot of fun with this one. The second game is Eons by Gamer Nation Studios. This one is a bit more complex but all around a ton of fun to play. In the game you use elements like Carbon, Oxygen, and Hydrogen to create stars and once you have the stars you can use them for fusion and create other elements to create even more stars, planets and other celestial bodies. I think the concept is cool and they really delivered on the execution as well. [Read more about Eons, Space Junk and more of this year’s games in our round up.]

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The rest of the weekend I spent in costume. First was on Friday I attended the convention as John Constantine. This was a really simple costume to put together and it is one of my favorites because not only was it simple but he is one of my favorite Anti-Heroes. The costume was well received but it I was mistaken a lot for Castiel from the TV show Supernatural. This is a very easy mistake to make as the costume is pretty much Identical which tells me that in the near future I should probably go out as Castiel. This was also a costume that was easy to walk around the con hall with as it is not very cumbersome. The best part of this costume is that when someone recognized it their face really lit up. This one was a lot of fun and I’ll definitely be wearing it again soon.

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Saturday was Magneto. This one always gets a great reaction from people. However my absolute favorite thing about this costume is when you walk around and you can see kids faces really light up and they get excited. At one point I even did battle with a mini Wolverine. He won this round but there will be a round two! Even walking back to our hotel on the streets of Indy people really loved it. I was stopped a lot by the good people of Indy to take pictures and just to say that they loved the costume. At one point a van full of kids parked on the side of the road erupted with yells of “IT’S MAGNETO!!” And they were so excited that I couldn’t help but smile even though I did my best to give them my scowling Magneto face.

Saturday I also got the chance to do a quick shoot with my good bud Wes, also known as The Portrait Dude. He is always so much fun to shoot with. He knows exactly what he wants and he does it fast! He is fun and funny and always has the biggest smile on his face. The man loves what he does and it shows in his work. This also prompted a quick shoot with Kaminsky Kandids another photographer who also took some really awesome shots! Here is one that he took that was also edited by Big Dave Co. on Facebook.

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Saturdays at Gen Con are crazy. The hall is packed and there are tons of amazing costumes roaming the halls. I was so overwhelmed that I didn’t get a chance to snap many pictures but It was an amazing time and I got to see some really talented cosplayers. As well as have lots of pictures taken either alone or with others.

Sunday was meant to be Red Hood but my wife and I were so exhausted from the other three days that we just decided to take a quick trip through the hall and see if there was anything that we wanted to pick up before packing up and going home. We were able to score some good deals but left shortly after.

In closing I have to say that Gen Con is one convention that you really should try to attend at least once. Whether you are a cosplayer or not there is something for everyone at this convention. The exhibit hall closes but there are things going on 24 hours a day up until the very end on Sunday. I will have some more coverage of Gen Con coming up soon as I also have an Interview with Anja Keister from D20 Burlesque as well as coverage of the actual burlesque show it’s self! So stay tuned for that!

GEN CON, August 14-17 at the Indiana Convention Center

by David C. Obenour & Adam Talicska

While I always look forward to Gen Con with excitement (games! games! games!) there’s also the anxiety (crowds! crowds! crowds!). Thankfully, even while reaching record high attendances, this year’s Gen Con expanded their exhibitor hall (arguably the heart and soul of the event) and there wasn’t the panic attack inducing moments of claustrophobia.

Arguably, even if there were those moments though it would have been worth it. Gen Con brings together the largest selection of all that’s out there when it comes to gaming. Games about diners, the expanding and eventually collapsing universe, biker gangs, the ol’ west, elder gods, a cartoon slacker raccoon and blue jay, Gen Con has it all and here were some of our favorites.

 

STAR WARS: ARMADA (Fantasy Flight, unreleased)

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STAR WARS: IMPERIAL ASSAULT (Fantasy Flight, unreleased)

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Probably two of the most highly anticipated games shown at Gen Con with lines snaking through the surrounding aisles, Fantasy Flight continues it’s great run with the Star Wars franchise for Armada and Imperial Assault. After the awesome fun that is their X-Wing table-top game, many of our minds immediately went to, “but wouldn’t it be cool to do this with Star Destroyers?” Fantasy Flight apparently thought that too and with Armada the answer seems to be, “yup, it would be very, very cool to do this with Star Destroyers.” The other new game goes to the complete opposite end of the scale spectrum (well, not all the way down to splitting midi-chlorians) and Imperial Assault offers a dungeon crawl-esque Star Wars adventure good for scenarios or longer campaigns.

 

SPACE JUNK (Lamp Light Games, 2014)

space junk

Gen Con is the analog gaming community’s equivalent to what Record Store Day is for the music industry. That makes it all the more unfortunate to see someone who wasn’t able to pull everything together in time for what’s arguably gaming’s four biggest days of each year. Lamp Light Games have a great, and soon to be available game, called Space Junk. In the not too distant future, mankind has doomed itself with all of the junk that we’ve thrown out into space. Using a modern solution for a modern problem, Space Junk casts players as stars in a junk-collecting reality show. Some junk’s good for attacking and some junk’s good for speeding around, but all junk is worth points in this fun and easy to pick up game.

 

DOOMTOWN (AEG, 2014)

doomtown

When I heard that AEG was planning on bringing back the card game Doomtown after fourteen years, I had to slap myself to ensure I wasn’t dreaming. Based on the “Weird West” setting of the role playing game Deadlands, Doomtown was a storyline driven game of gunfighters, indians, and the wild west with a heavy dose of horror thrown in. Would a re-release of the game live up to my lofty expectations? Happily, I can say AEG stuck with a “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it” approach. Gameplay remains the same from the original with some minor rules clarifications. Instead of being collectible, the game follows the popular constructible card game approach with every card included in the base set. They even reference the original storyline with a few returning characters. However, this game still remains at best a 2-player game. If you liked the original game of Doomtown make sure you pick this up. [Adam Talicska]

 

SONS OF ANARCHY: MEN OF MAYHEM (GaleForce Nine, 2014)

sons

Generally it seems like the better the licensed product the worse the game turns out. Why spend all of that effort into creating a good game when you’ve already got lots of fans and collectors in line? Thankfully, GaleForce Nine’s Sons of Anarchy: Men of Mayhem turned out to be the standout surprise of Gen Con. Taking control of one of four rival gangs, players send out members and prospects to buy and sell guns and contraband, all in the name of money and power. Hopefully your old ladies won’t pressure you out of the game early.

 

LEVEL 7: INVASION (Privateer Press, 2014)

invasion

Whew! While I didn’t get to play test this one (they were only displaying it and answering questions in the exhibitor hall), the third installment of the Level 7 series seems like quite the intricate doozy of a gaming experience. While the other Level 7 games function in more of a RPG-meets-board-game style, Invasion takes a global perspective with players taking on the semi-cooperative roles of Earth’s international leaders. Caught in the crossfire of two battling alien races, humanity’s only hope is to align with one and hope for the best. Getting more than a little lost during the explanation, I had some doubts on Invasion’s overall playability – but it’s a fun concept, original take on the cooperative play style and ultimately, hard to say without having played.

 

PRESSURE COOKER (Rio Grande Games, 2014)

pressure

Real time games seem to be all of the rage these days with great examples like Escape: The Curse of The Temple and Space Cadets. While not quite as hectic as either of those mentioned, Pressure Cooker pits you as a short order cook – tossing salads, flipping burgers and boiling lasagna noodles. Table orders come in and then the players frantically search through the ingredients to find what they need. The first person to complete three orders yells, “Order up!” and then timer starts for everyone else to complete their outstanding bills.

 

THE BATTLE AT KEMBLE’S CASCADE (Z-Man Games, 2014)

kembles

Ah, childhood nostalgia. You hook me in most every time. The Battle at Kemble’s Cascade adapts a scrolling space battle arcade game into a scrolling space battle board game. The rotating rail system that serves as the board (think in terms of how the Egyptians used to move large stones for the pyramids) is a cool mechanic and works really well for the game. Players can also expect to lose lives throughout the game, but don’t worry – no additional quarters are necessary.

 

H.P. LOVECRAFT’S KINGSPORT FESTIVAL (Passport Game Studio, unreleased)

kingsport

Designed by Kingsburg’s Andrea Chiarvesio there’s a lot to like about H. P. Lovecraft’s Kingsport Festival if you’d been a fan of Andre’s previous work. While they weren’t play testing the game in the hall, the great folks at Passport Games offered a very thorough break down and it seems many of Kingsburg’s mechanics remain in place. Thematically however, instead of rolling dice to influence members of the king’s court to help build up your province this time you’re a cultist calling upon the elder gods for the destruction of all. Fun!

 

EONS (Gamer Nation, 2014)

eons

Alright all you fellow Cosmos, nerds – take notice. In this deck building card game, players take the role of universal architects – crafting stars, planets and other galactic phenomenons. The science behind Eons seems to check with the knowledge from my long-past semester of Astronomy 101 too. Stars are built using combinations of Hydrogen, Carbon, Oxygen and Iron and then perform fusion to produce other resources until the eventually burn out. Pretty heady stuff, but the rules are easy to follow and the game plays smoothly.

 

REGULAR SHOW FLUXX (Looney Labs, 2014)

I didn’t get to play test this one, but it’s Fluxx so you know what you’re getting. Draw a card and play a card until the new cards played tell you to do differently. The latest version of Fluxx takes its theme from Cartoon Network’s ‘buddies dodging work to go on adventures’ cartoon, Regular Show. There’s not really much else to say other than, “Yeayuh!”

 

ALSO OF INTEREST WERE…

Roll for the Galaxy (Rio Grande Games, unreleased)

Five Tribes (Days of Wonder, 2014)

Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Skull & Shackles (Paizo, 2014)

King of New York (iello, 2014)

Space Cadets: Dice Duel – Die Fighter (Stronghold Games, 2014)

It’s that time of year again. Gamers the world over are nearly bursting at the seams in anticipation of “The Best Four Days in Gaming”™ at Gen Con 2014. Well, I’m not going. My decision to skip this year isn’t out of protest or anything of that ilk. It’s just a busy time of year, and I have other things to do. So I figured I’d post my super late thoughts on the 2014 Origins Game Fair, an event I actually attended.

I like Origins. A lot of gamers seem to think of it as an appetizer to Gen Con’s main dish.  Others describe it as a lesser convention. I don’t know if either perception is necessarily accurate. Columbus’ Origins has it’s own identity and a pacing that is very different from its neighbor in Indianapolis. My experience this year was a more relaxing one than any time I’ve spent at Gen Con. Granted, I wasn’t there on Saturday and heard that lines on that day only were nearly unbearable. Anyway, here are a few games I played and stuff I thought seemed cool.

I saw this bootleg Archer shirt. It was probably funnier when ISIS wasn't real and super scary. Organized murderers are the real monsters.
I saw this bootleg Archer shirt. It was probably funnier when ISIS wasn’t real and super scary. Organized murderers are the real monsters.

This year’s theme was monsters, so it was cool seeing Ninth Level get some attention for the full-color release of their beer and pretzels RPG Kobolds Ate My Baby! They also featured a quick and easy card game starring the same hungry kobolds from their RPG. A brief demo was enough to recommend a purchase. It was also nice hearing the occasional bellowing of, “All hail King Torg!” Things like that warm a gamer’s heart.

I spent some time with our Editor-in-Chief and Lead Designer at the Cool Mini or Not booth. They make some really fun games. Their price point seems a little higher than average, but that’s easily explained by all the neat plastic miniatures included. No cardboard standees here. Kaosball offers a unique update in the vein of Blood Bowl or Bill Lambeer’s Combat Basketball. It’s a two-to-four player board game in which your team can try to score the most points or simply murder the opposition. The core set comes with four full teams, all of which have beautifully designed (although unpainted) miniatures. Tons of additional teams are also available for purchase. Rivet Wars was their other game we demoed. It has elements of RTS games with two players building up armies that will ultimately march to their doom. If you’re the type of gamer who doesn’t mind a substantial initial investment for hours of fun in the longterm, you can’t really go wrong with Cool Mini or Not.

A four-player game of Kaosball in progress
A four-player game of Kaosball in progress

As I’ve been building my WFB Skaven army, of course I had to pick up some bits. I managed to score some different sized bases that I plan to use in creating some unit-filling scenery, a few Dwarf victims, a Plague Priest, an older Warlord model, and a reasonably-priced Forge World Warlord on Brood Horror. The army is coming together nicely. Check back for studio updates and hopefully some battle reports.

I picked up what looked to be a trading card on the top of a trashcan. It turns out it was some clever advertising from illustrator Kelsey Cretcher. Her work has a very clean, almost storybook feel to it. Check her out if you want some drawings or design work.

Dead of Winter from Plaid Hat Games is a pretty cool twist on what could be a tired zombie trope. Two-to-five players try to get their group of survivors through a deadly post-apocalyptic scenario. Basic concerns like food, fuel, and ammo come into play. Most interesting, however, is that each player has her own secret objective. Victory conditions can be met for the team, but individual players can still lose if they fail to meet their secret objectives. Add to this the fact that one or more of the players may win by betraying the others, and things get very interesting. Votes to exile members of the community show that even in the midst of a zombie apocalypse politics still plays a vital role. There’s potential here for a huge amount of replayability.

Sticking with this year’s monstrous theme, RARRR!! by APE Games could be a great educational tool. It involves elements of betting, pressing one’s luck, and a whole lot of basic math. The demo was enjoyable, and the art style is a perfect fit for a light-hearted monster game.

My RARRR!! monster tearing shit up
My RARRR!! monster tearing shit up

White Wizard GamesStar Realms just might be my favorite game of Origins 2014. It’s a two-player deckbuilding game in which each side attempts to build up their fleet while decreasing her opponent’s influence. Think Dominion or Ascension… only in space. Ships and bases belong to one of four factions. Some allow players to get rid of their basic cards, some allow for draws or forced discards, some build up for massive attacks, and others help replenish a player’s influence. The core set is fantastic, inexpensive, and has me very excited about future expansions. If this sounds even the least bit intriguing for you, be sure to grab a copy of Star Realms.

That’s that, I suppose. All in all, I had a pretty great time. I guess not everyone around me shared my perspective. I heard the comments, “I’d rather be at the Geneva Convention,” or “I wish this was Gen Con,” more than once at this year’s Origins. For all those gamers left longing a couple of months ago, it’s just about time for those wishes to come true. Enjoy the hustle and bustle, everyone! If you’re lucky or rich enough to play in the Cones of Dunshire charity event, then bully for you. Thank Adam Scott (or Ben Wyatt if he’s in character), and tell him that he’s a goddamn genius. 

Gen Con 2013
Gen Con 2013

Festival: Gen Con, August 15 – 18

Location: Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis, IN

Tickets: https://www.gencon.com/users/sign_in (must create an account in order to purchase)

Headliners: N/A

Why we’re excited to go: Gen Con lives up to it’s tagline as the best four days in gaming. Last year (read our review at http://ghettoblastermagazine.com/2012/gen-con-friday-saturday-august-17-18-at-the-indiana-convention-center-surrounding-area-in-indianapolis-in/) over 41,000 people came to Indianapolis to dork out on RPGs, board games, nerdy burlesque, steampunk bands, a movie being shot there live, specially brewed and themed craft beer and so much more. This year promises more of the same with more on top. Right now you’re either thinking “this sounds like the greatest thing ever” or you’re wrong. (David Obenour)