The Games of Gen Con, 2014

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)
STAR WARS: IMPERIAL ASSAULT (Fantasy Flight, unreleased)
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.
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]
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)
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)
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.
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)
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)
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!”
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)