The Games of Gen Con, 2018: Part Two

GEN CON, August 2-5 at the Indiana Convention Center
Take another walk through the Exhibitor Hall with us for our second round of highlights from Gen Con 2018 (you can check out part one here)! No matter how many times you wind your way through the maze of brightly colored booths, you can never see it all. Here are some more of the games that caught our eye at North America’s largest gaming convention.
Hand of Fate: Ordeals (Rule & Make)
Set between the original Hand of Fate video game and its recently released sequel, Ordeals is a dungeon diving game inspired by the card game from the video games. If you aren’t familiar, that may be too meta to follow. In the video game, players encounter a Dealer who’s cards when played deliver real world fates and actions. Working closely with Hand of Fate’s developers to bring this card game to the table, Rule & Make have created a beautiful deck-building game – thanks in no small part to a Kickstarter that was funded more than 13 times over it’s original goal of $22,000.

Before There Were Stars… (Smirk & Laughter)
The second of our two favorite games at Gen Con from sister publishers Smirk & Dagger and Smirk & Laughter, Before There Were Stars… is a beautiful game of myth creation. On their turns, players roll a fistful of star-pipped dice that form the night sky. From these star formations, players select from face up constellation cards to collect the story elements for their myth. The story progresses in minute long tales of creation, the dawn of civilization, the rise of a champion and finally, the end of days. Brilliant and beautifully done, Before There Were Stars… is a creative victory.

Decrypto (iello)
Crack the code while protecting your own with iello’s Decrypto! Making great use of retro cereal box decoder technology, players slip 4 code word cards into their numbered red-screened holder. Revealing their secret words for that game, during rounds an alternating coder player draws a card with numbers randomized between 1 and 4. Using clues clever enough to both help their teammates but not give it away to the other team, it’s a mad dash to figure out the common thread in clues and be able to crack the code!

Pantone: The Game (Cryptozoic)
The universal standard in determining exact shades, New Jersey’s Pantone is the authority of color. In their namesake game, the strength of color is expressed through a palette full of swatch cards used in an abstract game of charades. Drawing from a deck of characters real and fictional, players compete in three progressively harder rounds. In round one, players can use as many swatch cards as they like to convey their character. In round two, players can use unlimited cards again although only one per color. In round three, players have only three different swatch cards at their disposal. Through only the language of color, Pantone is surprising in both how challenging it can be and conversely when used correctly, how clearly color can convey a theme.

Remnants (Fireside)
For as unappealing as living in a post-apocalyptic world would be, playing games set in one is a whole other story! In Remnants, players manage their tribe’s camp and sparse resources through six turns with five phases of scavenging, building, fighting, healing and clean-up. Odd turns are for building, but don’t get too caught up in that because even turns are for increasingly brutal raiding parties. Mixing elements of push your luck, scarcity, randomizing dice and real-time action, you’ll be spraying on the silver paint and yelling, “witness me!” by turn two.

Welcome to Your Perfect Home (Blue Cocker Games)
It’s the 1950’s and everyone couldn’t be more excited about moving to the pristine and hunky-dory suburbs! Glazing past our nation’s troubling racial and socio-economic implications that come with this theme, Welcome to… is a fun roll-and-write game of residential development matching actions with arranging addresses to create the most enviable of developments. It’s as much a game against yourself as you weigh options as it becomes against others with that turn’s limited new cards. Also with simultaneous actions, Welcome to… supports up to 10 players, making it a great party game option amidst a cluttered field of social deduction/hidden identity and crass humor games.

Weave (Monocle Society)
Bringing to mind Hub’s Untold: Adventures Await, Weave is a role playing game that forgoes pen and paper in favor of a brightly illustrated deck of tarot-like cards, a phone app and your imagination. While many RPGs hint at incredible worlds, planning enough sessions to really explore them and learning a new gaming system can be significant hurdles for most groups. Weave offers a readily accessible system where scanning cards progresses the story and allows players to not have to focus on various modifiers and GMs to not have lengthy planning sessions. The app will also be constantly updated, offering new settings and adventures for years to come.

The Artemis Project (Grand Gamers Guild)
Deep beneath miles and miles of ice on Jupiter’s moon of Europa is an ocean that covers the entire planetoid’s surface. The Artemis Project sets players as explorers and colonists, setting up base near a fissure and traversing through the crust to establish new outposts on the underside. However after reaching the ocean there’s also the concern of what other life might be found deep within those depths. With a game board divided into surface and sea, The Artemis Project is a worker placement and engine building game that pits you against the elements and each other. Coming to Kickstarter this September, this is definitely one to follow!

Deep Sea Adventure (Oink Games)
Crafting sharply designed games that fit into oversized deck of cards-sized boxes, Japan’s Oink Games had a number of eye-catching releases on display. Deep sea diving, luchador wrestling, modern art and more, a similar aesthetic of minimal, vector-based art (with the one outlier of Dungeon of Mandom VIII) gives a series feel to the games though each has their own mechanic. Deep Sea Adventure is the most popular of releases to date and makes clever use of minimal components for a push-your-luck game of wreck diving that balances oxygen and increasing rewards deeper down.

Nexus Infernum (Archon)
Masters of the dark arts, Archon Games is back with the Kickstarter for their latest apocalypse heralding game, Nexus Infernum. Portals into unspeakable voids have torn open and as twisted wizards, it is your goal to command undead legions within these portals to amass arcane power. If this sounds like the inside cover to an awesome Sword and Sorcery novel or the liner notes to a doom metal concept double album, you should have heard them tell it. Welcome destruction and get in on this one!

Tokyo Jidohanbaiki (
The second game we saw from independent designer, Jordan Draper, Tokyo Jidohanbaiki is a box filled with multiple different games about Japanese vending machines. Utilizing Pop Art-style colorful and intricately-designed small components, the cleverness of a game about vending machines itself containing a variety of choices is pretty incredible. As gaming gains more popularity the rise of games as art is an exciting new trend and it’s great to see a small designer exploring the extents of what that can look like.

Spirits of the Wild (Mattel)
A good two-player game is hard to come by. The element of additional players further enriches most games while also toning down the competitive nature of a head-to-head game. Spirit of the Wild works well for two-players by creating a game that is equally played against yourself as it is your opponent. A star bag is filled with colorful gems that players take turns choosing to either draw blindly from, refill the open draw pool from, or lock down their opponent’s constellations, which is how gems are scored. Action cards outline all of the possible actions and are exhausted when used, until the refresh action is taken. Assess this turn and the next, but ignore what your opponent is up to at your own risk!

Arboretum (Renegade Games)
Arboretum is a beautifully illustrated puzzle game of thoughtfully curating tree spaces. Quick to explain, the theme is more of an abstract overlay for a mix of set collection and tile placement. On their turn players draw and place one of ten different colors and species of trees with the goal of creating the longest orthogonal path between two of the same. The catch is, you’re only allowed to score the points for that path if you have the highest value of that species still in your hand at the end of the game.
And those are the games from Gen Con 2018! Be sure to check back for weekly gaming reviews, interviews and features along with some great music you should check out too!