Tag Archive: “Tabletop”

One of the biggest gripes hobby board gamers have about games like Monopoly is the so-called “roll and move” mechanic. I roll a die or two and move that number of spaces. Around and around the board we go in perpetuity, leaving the length of each movement entirely up to chance.

The games I’ve listed here are some of the best scenario-based board games. Rather than rolling-and-moving, players work to complete some objective, which will differ from game to game. While this is not, by any mean, an all-inclusive list, the games here will give you somewhere to start on your journey for a more fulfilling tabletop experience.

1. Descent: Journeys in the Dark—This wonderful semi-cooperative dungeon crawl pits up to four hero players up against one bad guy player known as “The Overlord.” While the heroes are hoping to complete their objective, the Overlord is setting traps and setting out monsters in attempt to thwart them. Gameplay is made up of several quests (one session each) that make up an entire campaign. The success or failure of the heroes determine subsequent quests. The recent creation of a Descent app means you no longer require the Overlord player to play cooperatively, and you can also play solo.

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2. Dungeons & Dragons: Temple of Elemental Evil—This game, in my opinion, is the best of the bunch when it comes to the D&D “big box” dungeon crawler games. Fully cooperative, ToEE is played over the course of 12 scenarios, some of which take place in a spooky dungeon, while others go down in the town. Your scenario might call for you to obtain some relic and survive long enough to get it out of the dungeon. This was one of my favorite games from 2015.

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3. Last Night on Earth—I don’t see this game getting a whole lot of love, and that’s a shame, because it can be a lot of fun. In Last Night On Earth, there are two teams of players—one plays as a horge of undead zombies, and the other are the heroes trying save the day. The scenarios in this game are a blast. There’s one where the heroes have to gas up a truck and find its keys in order to flee the town. Meanwhile, the zombie players are trying to eat the heroes’ brains. The standalone expansion, Timber Peak, adds a bunch more scenarios and makes the game even more fun by adding elements such as fire, which can burn of control. One of the best things about this game is it can play up to six, so if you have a big group, this one’s for you.

4. Dead of Winter—You’ve probably already heard of this semi-cooperative anxiety attack in a box. In Dead of Winter, players take the role of survivors of a zombie cataclysm. The team of players will have a group objective for each scenario. It might be something like, “collect 10 gallons of water for your camp.” But then, each player has their own individual hidden objective. Hidden objectives might be helpful for the camp, or they might be completely at odds with the group objective. A player might have a hidden objective of “poison the camp’s water supply,” which would screw all the other players. Dead of Winter is a serious nail-biter. The release of Dead of Winter: The Long Night earlier this year means there are even more scenarios to play with.

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5. Pandemic Legacy—This game is an absolute treasure to play with family. If you like the original Pandemic, Pandemic Legacy will only enhance your love of the franchise. The game is played over 12 to 24 sessions, each adding a new element to the gameplay. So, while the first session is basically just regular Pandemic, the next session you’ll add something, then something else, until the game becomes quite heavy. It’s almost like a game that includes 11 expansions right in the box it comes in. While not scenario-based in the same way as the games mentioned above, each session does have its own goal. The way that it plays out, I could really see this game being a movie or book, which makes me wonder if there is Pandemic Legacy fan fiction. If there isn’t, there should be!

 

YASHIMA: LEGEND OF THE KAMI MASTERS (Greenbrier Games)

Yashima promises to bring epic magical martial arts battles similar to what’s found in recent Naruto games to the tabletop. Its backstory is pretty standard fare. Humanity screwed up the planet and loosed kami (spirit guardians of nature) upon the land. Eventually a balance was achieved as a chosen few humans learned to communicate with kami and embrace their power. Hubris reared its ugly head, and now kami masters battle one another in an effort to become a great, unifying leader. It’s as good a reason as any to justify some old fashioned brawling, but players are unlikely to be enthralled by the narrative.

Players choose one of four kami masters and one of four kami, pair them up, and prepare their spellbooks for battle. The base game offers sixteen combinations, but each master seems to pair best with their default kami. Akiko, for example, is a fire mage. Think of the Planeswalker Chandra Nalaar from Magic: The Gathering. It should come as no surprise that she pairs best with the Phoenix kami. Players then lay down hexagonal terrain and fight to the death.

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Movement is based upon a core speed stat, but nearly all other game mechanics are handled with battle cards and tome cards. Tome cards comprise a player’s tome (or spellbook) and can provide significant advantages in battle. However, more powerful spells are often deep within tomes, and it takes time to turn through one’s pages. Battle cards exist for both kami masters and kami themselves. A master’s cards and her kami’s cards are shuffled together to make a battle deck.

Cards do a lot in this game. Perhaps they do too much. They account for offensive spells, defensive reactions, karma pool, life total, and more. This can be somewhat overwhelming for new or inexperienced players. Yashima is also heavy on keywords. To USE a card is different than to LOSE a card. DISCARDing is different from EXERTing. IMPRINT is not the same as EQUIP. And so on. Additionally, there’s the ADAPT mechanic. It varies depending on which master is being played and can drastically alter a kami’s usefulness. These are minor quibbles but can really add up over a game. However, there are other tactical aspects to concern players. Terrain on the gameboard can help or hinder players. They may end up with too many or not enough combat and/or move actions. It should be simple stuff that ends up needlessly complex, primarily due to the lackluster instruction manual.

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Every attempt to play Yashima within my gaming group has ended in the exact same way. We begin excited about the potential of awesome battles between martial artists punctuated by incredible manifestations of kamis’ powers. Then we get frustrated by confusing keywords and contradictory instructions. Then we get bored and stop playing. Others’ results may very, particularly if players are fascinated by Asian mythology. Grab Yashima: Legend of the Kami Masters if the theme truly appeals to you but most others should probably pass on this one. (Greenbrier Games) by Kris Poland

By David C. Obenour

For a long time miniatures gaming has been relegated to a niche community within a niche community. Numerous expensive models were required, complicated rules took up multiple books, battles could last for entire afternoons and the hobbying aspect of assembly and painting was fun for some but arduous for others. It wasn’t true for all miniatures games, but it did seem true for enough to scare off lots of potentially interested gamers.

But in 2012 Fantasy Flight released the wildly popular X-Wing game – introducing many new (and impressing many old) gamers with a small dogfight game set to understandable rules, scalable playing times and cool looking pre-painted and assembled miniatures (if you’re following along, that checks all of the previous paragraph’s concerns). They weren’t the first, but with a wildly popular licensed product they quickly become one of the most successful.

So with more people playing or at least open to miniatures gaming we’re taking a look at two tall ship games available, starting with Ares Games’ Sails of Glory.

 

SAILS OF GLORY (Ares Games)

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Other than Napoleon, the name most recognized from the Napoleonic Wars is Admiral Horatio Nelson. Releasing its initial line of miniatures from the ships of that era, Sails of Glory is a ship-to-ship tactical war game pitting admiral against admiral (or a number of captains against captains) for naval dominance.

The rules offer three levels of play for Sails of Glory: basic, standard and advanced. This is a great way to ease into the game and ultimately find your preferred balance of strategy versus simplicity as each level builds on what is established from before.

As recommended, for our first game we played the basic rules “Enemy at Sight!” scenario, a fairly straight-ahead battle using all four ships from the starter kit. The set up might initially frighten the casual gamer as the ship mat and log looks more complicated than it is for the basic rules and there are over 500 tokens that come in the starter kit, but again – most of which aren’t utilized for the basic rules. After the first couple of turns spent figuring out how the rules actually played out, Sails of Glory flowed easily. Movement is handled through a simple method of checking your ship’s attitude to the wind, picking from a deck of ship specific movement cards, and then putting the card in front of your ship. Combat range and damage is established with a color-coordinated measuring stick, measured from your stem stern or broadside firing arc – cross-referenced with your ship log to check for firepower (also one place where damage is taken, lessening your firepower with each sustained hit). For all of the game we weren’t experiencing within the basic rules, it was surprising about how much it still had to offer – to hold your fire in hopes of better positioning, the frigate’s mobility, ships-of-the-line’s firepower, being taken aback and trying to maneuver to a more favorable mast facing while avoiding your opponents firing arcs. It came down to a nail biting, one-on-one slugfest, decided with some fortunate (for me, anyway) damage tokens.

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This is all just the tip of Sails of Glory’s (hope my ship doesn’t hit it) iceberg too. Standard rules offer different options for ammunition (ball, chain, grapeshot), additional raking shot damage, the time to react rule (planning maneuvers ahead within the restriction of a ship’s veer rating) and collision rules. Advanced rules offer crew action options, different sail settings and special damage tokens (fire, leaks and broken rudders and masts). There are also additional optional rules for boarding enemy ships and rules that deal with entangled masting, exploding ammunition, changing wind strength and direction, and much more.

It’s a definitely a lot, but the beauty is that you don’t need to use all of the rules to play a game. Instead of unloading all possible variables and situations on players from game one, you’re able to build and customize your experience.

Finally, the rules also provide a number of ready-to-play scenarios as well as guidelines for helping to design your own. As you buy additional ships, a point guide is available online to help balance your fleets.

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Throughout this review I kept wanting to just fanboy out about Sails of Glory. The ships are beautifully done and reasonably priced. The rules are fun to play at all levels of complexity and offer a game that lasts for anywhere between just under an hour to a weekend afternoon. They also seem keen on supporting it with continued space at their convention booths (having a single naval battle with over 79 “captains” at 2015’s Gen Con) and new ship releases, including a few US Revolutionary War ships making good on their promises to expand into new eras. The historical aspect will undoubtedly limit Sails of Glory’s appeal, but really shouldn’t for a game this well designed. (Ares Games) by David C. Obenour

Part Two will be coming soon, featuring Zvezda Games’ Armada Invincible. 

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!