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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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?
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!
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).
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.
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.
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!
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)