The Big Damn Recap of Gen Con 2013

By now, several sites are already going over games that has been deemed the hot games of the convention, along with those that may not be so enticing. I feel that our latest podcast covers our take on that part of Gen Con 2013 fairly well, but not every game can be mentioned in a short time span. Some may be left out for one reason or another. Many, in fact.

giant king of tokyoWhat I present, then, is a robust, comprehensive look at most (but certainly not all) of the information we managed to acquire at Gen Con. This spans all tabletop gaming, as well as a few other areas that were worth mentioning.

Now, it’s practically impossible to catch everything at the con, so I apologize if I left anything or anyone out. This was all of the information I gathered personally in The Best Four Days of Gaming. So, without further ado, I give to you, our Big Damn Recap of Gen Con 2013.

 

Active Kickstarters

First off, I want to mention the few ongoing Kickstarters that I was aware of that were going on at the time of the convention and may still be going on that you can look at on your own. They’re time sensitive, hence why they’re at the forefront:

 

In the City: Expansions by Sherwood. An expansion effort for their base game.

King’s Forge by Clever Mojo via Game Salute. A light but still-strategic dice allocation game and recipient of our Seal of the Republic.

Magnum Opus by Clever Mojo via Game Salute. A unique alchemy-based deckbuilder and recipient of our Seal of the Republic.

Neptune, by Grey Gnome. It’s a light trick-taking card game set in space.

 

Board & Card Games

 

Academy Games

The makers of the Birth of America series of games had the most recent release, 1775 on sale, as well as demoing the third set in that line, Freedom: The Underground Railroad. Unlike the first two, Freedom is a card-drive co-op game where players are abolitionists trying to help ferry slaves to the North. See? History can be fun!

 

Albino Dragon

The creators of Dragon Whisperer, the trick-taking, dragon-centric Kickstarter game had some copies to show off. The artwork really came out great on that one.

 

Alderac Entertainment Group (AEG)

One of the larger presences here, AEG touts both its CCG line and its burgeoning array of board games. The makers of ThunderstoneSmash Up, and the wildly successful microgame Love Letter were showing off their latest wares. The one seemingly getting the most traffic was their deckbuilder Trains. In it, players are trying to build the most high-speed bullet train lines in Japan. We didn’t have a chance to try it out, but we regularly heard from others that it felt very similar to Dominion. Except with trains.

On their CCG side came their annual Legends of the Five Rings World Championships. For those unfamiliar with AEG’s card game stakes, the clans and factions that win the higher tier events have a direct impact on how the stories of future sets go. In the case of L5R, this years winners were the Crab clan and the Unaligned (lesser) clans. I can’t tell you what that means for the game itself, however, but I can say that it was really fascinating to watch a CCG tournament with so many engaged people and having it have nothing to do with Magic or Yu-Gi-Oh.

 

APE Games

We were hoping to check out the finished copies of their Kickstarter Island Siege, but alas, the copies didn’t make it in time. Instead, people could dig into their array of Order of the Stick books / board game, as well as a host of randomly themed rubber duckies. Apparently they go with APE’s “duck! duck!” games, but people were buying them just because. To be fair, some of them, like the wizard and the ones dressed like superheroes, were kind of cute.

 

Arcane Wonders

Unfortunately, I didn’t get to stop at the booth of the folks who make Mage Wars, but there always seemed to be people inspecting it. I did manage to hear though that they were taking preorders for their upcoming expansion, Necromancer vs Druid, which should be due out in October.

 

Ares Games

The minds behind War of the Ring had several things to show off at their booth. They seemed most excited about their debut of an aerial wargame called Wings of Glory. Arguably, that wasn’t what drew me there though. Granted, I was glad to see people playing War of the Ring. (It’s ever so hard to get it to most tables even though it looks and plays great.) More importantly, though, they were rotating demos of their successful Kickstarter (and equally hefty) alien-hunting co-op game, Galaxy Defenders.

For something a bit lighter, I was just as intrigued to see that they had copies of the re-release of the classic game Inkognito. It’s been updated with new art and some slight rules changes, along with the ability to add a 5th player. In it, players, are agents looking to fulfill their mission with their partner – one of the other players. Except, at the start of the game, you don’t know which other player is your partner. It’s a shame it wasn’t being focused on by anyone as much as their bigger games.

 

Asmadi Games

Did you bring your banana? Then you probably lost the moment you walked into Asmadi’s area. The We Didn’t Playtest This troupe had their newest lighthearted anime naming game Channel A available.

 

Asmodee Games

Back to back in a list, Asmadi and Asmodee can get confusing, but there was no mistaking Asmodee’s presence at Gen Con. The US distributor of games like 7 Wonders, Formula D, and Dixit had a booth that always seemed to have a steady stream of people in it, and their demo tables were usually packed when I passed through a few times. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to spend as much time with Asmodee as I wanted. (I particularly wanted to see the limited edition giant Takenoko sets). I did have a chance to inspect a few games, however.

Spyrium is a new industrial steampunk game set in an alternate England. A new commodity called…wait for it…Spyrium, is on the market. Players have to build their industry around it to generate the points needed to win. It should be out by September.

In the classic video game Rampage, you played a monster looking to do the most damage to a city that you can. In this new board game, also called Rampage, you play…a monster looking to do the most damage to a city that you can. Players have a handful of abilities as monsters, and they take a feverish romp through a meeple city, looking to do as much carnage and eat as many meeples as possible. Hmmm, tasty meeples. It’s fairly short, and the premise is simple, but it has a certain appeal to the monsters in all of us.

The other game I got to look into a bit more was Archipelago. It’s been out for a bit, but it was my first real experience at the game beyond some praise I’ve seen around the web. It’s a Semi-Co-Op where players embody explorers and settlers of an island archipelago. The game uses a host of mechanics, from resource management to careful negotiation with other players. Of course, this is the type of game where no alliance or accord is safe, and if a player can benefit by backing out of a deal, they may. Fair warning. Still, it has a ton of replayability, and it’s certainly one I want to get in some full games with. I have a feeling the super condensed versions don’t do it justice.

 

Atlas Games

I have some terrible news everyone. It appears that the kill-your-own-family game, Gloom, will be getting a fourth expansion, though the timetable hasn’t been announced. Isn’t that awful?

Additionally, they have released a 3rd edition of their storytelling game, Once Upon a Time. They’ve cleaned up a few of the cards and added all new artwork.

 

Baksha Games

The creators of the mad scientist Kickstarter, What’s He Building In There? had limited advance copies to sell, even though the bulk of the games were still hung up with a minor production issue that hopefully should be resolved very soon. This Cardboard Republic Seal of the Republic recipient should be out soon officially, and we’re looking forward to trying out the finished result.

 

Bezier Games

Bezier, long known for their Ultimate Werewolf social game, made their real mark on the gaming scene with the city-planning game, Suburbia. The good news is that this Mensa-Select winner is releasing an expansion, Suburbia Inc., which should be out in late October.

 

Break From Reality Games

BFR is one of those Kickstarter feel-good stories. Their premiere game, Disaster Looms!, did respectably well. That game had players resettling humanity on new worlds, since Earth was pretty much unsalvagable at that point. They followed that up with another Kickstarter, the simultaneous action game Collision Report, where players must work together against the game (and against time) to fix their broken space ship or they’re all doomed. (Think of it as a board game version of FTL).

Coincidentally, it came about in a mini-wave of simultaneous action games at the time, and interest in them has remained. Interest in Collision Report has eclipsed Disaster Looms, though each was present at Gen Con. I got a chance to scope both of them out, and walked away with an urge to fix a spaceship engine.

 

Calliope Games

The makers of Tsuro of the Seas are putting out a mini expansion called Veterans of the Seas. It provides players with some cannon defense against the sea monsters, but it also brings in a tidal wave mechanic that is just as deadly as any sea serpent.  Additionally, they were also showing off Roll For It!, a quick, light dice rolling game. There are a handful of cards you are trying to collect, each with depicted dice results, and you’re trying to match your dice with those in the picture. But so are your opponents. Collect enough of those cards, and you win.

 

Cards Against Humanity

Unsurprisingly, these gentlemen did well. Very well. They came with their stock of the base game (version 1.4) and all three expansions. First the expansion stock disappeared, then the base game, and then they did.

I did find out at least two useful tidbits from them, however. First, they continue to downplay their version updates (they see these as similar to software patches), so you can continue to not expect official changelogs. Second, they were fairly indifferent to the fan-made compatible expansion, Crabs Adjust Humidity, so you won’t have to feel guilty getting it.

 

Cheapass Games

Howdy Partner! The revamped and Kickstarted version of Deadwood Studios showed up at Gen Con in time. This quirky game about acting (badly) was a surprise hit with our group the first time around, and it seemed to do equally decent here. Its campy humor, simple concept, and ease with up to 8 players is a good choice for larger groups without having to resort to a party game. They do have a number of things they’re considering in the pipeline, but for a company that gives us oddly enjoyable games like Unexploded Cow (a hit at our TableTop Day event), and Fish Cook, we’ll just let them do…whatever it is they do up there in Seattle.

 

Cool Mini Or Not

Arguably I don’t follow minis games much, and as much as many say to the contrary, I feel that most “miniatures board games” tend to focus more on minis than board game. So, I can’t tell you much in that sense about Zombicide Season 2 besides that it was present at Gen Con, and they had some good deals going for it. That said, their new game line, Rivet Wars had an eye-catching display. It’s more minis, but instead of zombies, Rivet Wars has a distinct dieselpunk flavor to it that may help attract a different audience.

 

Cryptozoic Entertainment

These folks had a number of games to show off this year, though the one that got them the most attention going into Gen Con was the news about them agreeing to publish the failed Kickstarter, The Doom That Came to Atlantic City. It was on full demo. Expect to see this in early 2014.

The other notable game on display was Gravwell, a card-drafting game with a unique movement mechanic. Players pilot ships attempting to escape a black hole, but movement can go in either direction as the ships are drawn in the direction of the largest mass. There’s a decent elegance to this game with some light strategy, and you can expect to see it by October. It’s also likely to be one of the more talked about games of the convention because of these factors.

Lastly, I did get confirmation that Epic Spell Wars is getting expansions! Uncle Andy would be so proud, though there is currently no timetable for release on them.

 

Days of Wonder

No new Ticket to Ride iteration here. Instead, these guys are releasing a new jungle exploration game called Relic Runners. We didn’t have a chance to play it unfortunately, but we assume it’ll do decently given who is spearheading it. That said, we’re more interested in seeing how it will stack up with upcoming independent Kickstarter release Relic Expedition by Foxtrot Games.

 

Fantasty Flight Games

What can be said about FFG that won’t be said a ton already? They’re a sponsor of Gen Con, everyone knows them, and they were one of the most popular vendors there – they had a managed line to get in to their store area almost the entire convention. Just about all of their products saw some purchasing love at some point, but the two games that got the most attention were the Star Wars miniatures game and their new board game, Eldritch Horror. The Star Wars game continues to sell incredibly well, and with the news announced at the convention of more massive ships on the way, its battle with fan’s wallets is soon to become an all-out war. They sure were cool-looking though.

On the board games side, are you looking for Arkham Horror lite? That’s what you get with Eldritch Horror, a new board game set in the same universe as the iconic Arkham Horror line of games. The game was being heavily demoed, but a release date is not definite yet. Don’t let the name fool you, however: Eldritch Horror is a standalone game. It’s a shorter, more simplified game in the style of AH, but instead of focusing on those poor Massachusetts towns, the vantage point of this game is worldwide. If you’re an Arkham fan already, it’s sad to say that this game may not have a lasting appeal to you since it truly feels like a truncated version of the game you already enjoy. If you need your cultist fix, you’ll likely just go straight for Arkham or Mansions of Madness.

On the other hand, if you’re someone who enjoys the Cthulhu-flavored world of Arkham Horror but doesn’t have the time or patience for those 3-5 hour games, Eldritch Horror may just be the game to scratch that itch.

Speaking of itch…that looks a little scaly. Maybe you should get that looked at…

 

Fireside Games

The creators of the popular co-op game Castle Panic were showing off their next defense game with Dead Panic. It’s like Castle Panic meets Cabin in the Woods. I’m pretty zombied-out of late, but it’s still a pity I didn’t get to try this one out personally. Every now and then you just have the urge to pull out your boomstick and mow down some undead; Dead Panic seems to offer that.

 

Floodgate Games

Floodgate is the company behind the Kickstarted game Legacy: Gears of Time. It’s a game about time travel, inventions, and strategy. In other words, a game for me. It had to have done decently enough, as they were unveiling the expansion for it at Gen Con – Legacy: Forbidden Machines.

 

Flying Frog Productions

Arguably, I walked by this booth several times, but I never had a chance to inspect the games more in depth. These are the folks who are known for Last Night on Earth, though I saw more than a few people walking away with copies of their 1930’s era adventure game, Fortune and Glory. Something about an expansion that came out I believe. It was on my list of places to visit, but I never quite made it back there. Alas.

 

Gale Force 9

They’re the ones doing Firefly, The Game, aka “let’s make some gorram money.” They had demos going of it all weekend. They even had some copies for Gen Con ready to go, but they sold out very quickly. Expect a full release in the next month or two. The game is pretty straightforward in its premise and mechanics, but it was visually appealing and seemed to be solid enough design-wise. It also was easily one of the most sought-after games there.

 

Game Salute

If you follow Kickstarter, eventually you will come across one of the many games Game Salute has launched, and many of them were available at their booth. The biggest two hits of the weekend there seemed to be Heroes of Metro City, a superhero deckbuilder (and our August Spotlight game) from 3Some Games, and Tom Vasel’s backstabber mafia-based Nothing Personal. Both of them sold out.

It should also be mentioned that games for adults aren’t the only big sellers at Gen Con. Two of their other games that are more younger-audience friendly, Little Prince: Make Me a Planet, and Goblins Drool, Faeries Rule!, also appeared to be hits among attendees, even if they weren’t the ones that drew them in initially.

 

Gamer Nation Studios

Do you ever wish you could have control over the universe? I’d settle for the power over the laundry and dishes, but in their latest game, Eons, players are “universal architects” (a.k.a. gods), controlling the entropy of the universe. It’s your task create new stars and planets, expend the resources of those systems to create new ones, and so on, in a race for victory points. Eons is a game that spans from the Big Bang to the end of the universe. Luckily, we hear there’s a nice restaurant there.

I got to demo it; not only was the designer excited about showing it off (as they should be), but it looks to be a fun resource-management game.

 

Golden Egg Games

We were hoping to check out the demo of City Council, their follow-up worker placement game to their (unfortunately disappointing) last one, Fallen City of Karez. Sadly, I ran out of time. I would be very interested to hear from anyone who did try it out what they thought.

 

Greater Than Games

Attention stalwart champions! In addition to continuing their expanding line of the very successful co-op game Sentinels of the Multiverse, Greater Than rolled out Sentinel Tactics, a sequel of sorts. In this one, instead of a co-op approach, however, Sentinel Tactics uses a team-based style – which seems to be a mechanical trend a bit of late.

 

Grey Gnome Games

The creator behind the nostalgia-inspired dungeon game Zogar’s Gaze had copies available, though he was also showing off his newest game, the trick-taking space game, Neptune. I would have liked to see the hard copy of the tile game Tasnia, but it didn’t make it in time for the convention.

 

Greenbrier Games

While they had the full array of Zpocalypse: Aftermath products on display, it appears that there’s soon to be more to Greenbrier Games apparently than zombies. They’ll also have ninjas! Ninja Dice, a unique press your luck style dice game, was on display, and it will be gearing up for launch on Kickstarter in the weeks ahead.

 

IELLO

You may not recognize the name of this French company, but you’ve probably heard of King of Tokyo. Well, that’s them.

In addition to everyone trying to get their KoT promo cards (they were perpetually unavailable), I had a nice chat with the folks at their booth, and they walked me through a number of their games. Their latest game that’s attracting attention is Titanium Wars, a game about a space race to corner the market on a new energy source. My first thought when I heard that was, “Titanium as an energy source?” I found out it was regrettably confusing for them as well: it has something to do with a translation mistake. Mon dieu! Either way, it doesn’t make the game less fun. Players are trying to capture various planets for the valuable resource, and they have pitched space ship battles to do so. The victor claims the planet, and then the process starts all over.

They also had another game that’s just about to release, The Phantom Society. I was looking forward to this based on the concept: Victorian-esque ghost hunters in a haunted mansion?!? I was quite disappointed to discover, though, that Phantom Society is actually a family-style kids game. Players get to be either the ghosts or the hunters, and it’s aimed for that age range when children can start making strategic in-game decisions on where to place the ghosts or how to discover them in a logical manner. It looks to be a fun game for what it is, but it turns out I’m about 20 years to old to be its target audience. Ah well.

I also got to talk to them about Steam Park, a speedy dice-rolling action-taking game that is on IELLO’s upcoming games for release. Expect to hear more about this game in the near future.

 

Indie Boards & Cards

The guys behind The Resistance and Flash Point were there demoing copies of the Flash Point expansions at Gen Con, but they didn’t have available copies for purchase. I’m told it should be pretty close to release though. Check back in a month or so.

 

Japanime Games

Ahh yes, Japanime Games. I scouted out their booth because I’m a huge fan of Kanzume Goddess

I’m kidding by the way.

Really.

I had to make sure you knew.

My sense of humor doesn’t always translate well into written form.

No, these folks were here showing off their adaptation of the online game Krosmaster Arena into a miniatures board game form. It seems to resonate well with people. I’ve actually heard decent reports, and I saw it demoed at PAX East. Still, it didn’t look any more interesting to me personally at Gen Con than it did back then. However, if chibi anime-styled combat is your thing, feel free to check them out.

 

Level 99 Games

The makers of the BattleCon fighting card game were there in all their battle-ready glory. They were, coincidentally, also showing off the latest edition of their Pixel Tactics series, which feels like Final Fantasty Tactics battles in card form. That certainly caught my attention, and I’ll be looking forward to trying more of them out going forward.

Ahh Gen Con, how easily you displace gamers from their income…

 

Looney Labs

Fluxx: The Boardgame. Are you ready? It’s just as irreverent with quickly altering rules and ever-changing logic as the card game, with a few new twists thrown in for good measure. It’s an adaptation of just the base game for now, though I imagine it’ll be adaptable in time for others.


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