Serendipitously, GenCon and I moved to Indiana at the same time. Since then, I’ve managed to attend every year as my once-a-year delve into all things “current” boardgames. This year is no different. Thursday, after sending my middle child off on the bus to his first day of kindergarten, I rushed down to Indianapolis to join over 56,000 people participating in all sorts of gaming. Saturday I returned for some additional gaming as well as a host of gaming appointments. Since GenCon is my primary gaming convention, I find many things of interest that may be old-hat to the hard core Essen/Origins/etc… convention-goer. Pick and choose what you like, just Keep Calm and Read On.
One of the hot terms being bandied about a lot these days in this wonderful hobby of ours is Point Salad games. Unfortunately, it’s not obvious that there’s anything close to consensus about exactly what that label means. To try to shed some light on this, several of the OG writers recently held a roundtable discussion about this very subject. It was organized as a quasi-Socratic dialogue, with questions being asked and each writer free to respond however they liked. Here is the complete record of what was said.
The participants in this free-for-all included Larry Levy (who composed the questions), Jonathan Franklin, Fraser McHarg, Ben McJunkin, Mark Jackson, Greg Schloesser, Matt Carlson, and Jeff Allers. Continue reading
The mad dash continued through the weekend, with me running around in the morning trying to play as many new games (mostly ones that are not yet released since I bought most of the new releases already) as possible, working the booth in the afternoon, and then trying to play some of the purchased games at night. I thought I’d be more successful in playing games at night this year as I don’t have much commitment to demo games and more people I know are attending than in previous years. That turned out not to be the case. However, I did get to have a few nice meals and to catch up with friends. The idea of trying to post daily became difficult as my phone doesn’t get good signal at the convention center and I didn’t want to wake up my roommate at 3 am. So you get this long report instead. Continue reading
Design by Matthias Cramer / Louis Malz / Stefan Malz
Published by Eggertspiele / Pegasus Spiele
2 – 5 Players, 1 1/2 – 2 hours
Review by Greg J. Schloesser
Interested in designing stunning dresses and sharply-fitted suits for the upcoming gala ball? At the risk of sounding sexist, I’d venture to say that such a task is not appealing to most men, and perhaps most women. Unless one is in the fashion industry, this type of venture does not offer great appeal. Yet, for many centuries, the occupation of tailor–particularly for the royal courts–was a prestigious and demanding position.
Rokoko is set in the era of Louis XIV, when lavish court balls and festivals were all the rage. Players assume the role of tailors and seamstresses, attempting to design the most fabulous dresses and suits for their demanding clients. Soon, however, you must help decorate the ballroom and provide funds for the gala fireworks show that will end the evening. However, you cannot afford to ignore the nuts and bolts of your business, as dresses and suits must be sold in order to finance these elaborate projects.
Rokoko is driven by a card selection and execution mechanism. Each player receives an identical deck of five employee cards. Each turn, they will select three of these cards, leaving the remainder in the unused deck. The following turn, they must choose cards from that unused deck, only recycling previously used cards when the deck expires. New cards will likely be acquired during the course of the game. Unlike many deck-building games, these cards go directly into a player’s hand, so they can be used during the current round. Choosing which cards to use each round is at the heart of the game and can present some tough choices.
Since I have a long list of games to buy, opening day at Gen Con is always a mad dash of trying to procure all the limited quantity games. Luckily I had only 2 booths left that have potential issue of selling out Thursday morning so by about 9:15 a.m., I was done shopping and dragging the new purchases back to the hotel room. Here’s a picture of today’s loot. I think my suitcases are full now.
On the way to hand money to my favorite boardgame publishers, I stopped at the Fantasy Flight booth to check out a couple of demo-only games. The Witcher Adventure Game, from Polish designer Ignacy Trzewiczek, is set in the world of The Witcher. I am not familiar with the source novels or video games, but based on the demo game, this is one adventure game that I would definitely enjoy playing. Not being an expert of the genre, I often feel player options in many adventure games ate somewhat reactive. The quests in The Witcher provide more focused strategies, but the game also allows for interesting decisions on how players can earn points (sometimes by helping another player accomplishing his quest). The rules are simple as most of the complexities are on cards. I look forward to playing a full game later this year.
XCOM is another FFG game with lots of buzz. I am again ignorant of the source video game. The game uses an electronic device to provide real-time tasks to the players, who have each assume the role of the defense team against the invading aliens. The use of the device keeps the game pace tense, and the demo session was definitely a fun nail-biter. For those who worries that experienced players can become too good at this game, the randomness of the dice roll and card draw will ensure things are not going according to plan.
As many long-time Gen Con attendees know, Rio Grande Games has a demo room outside the exhibit hall where you can go to try current and upcoming releases. This year, Tasty Minstrel Games and Iello also have their demo rooms (#137 and 136 respectively). The nice thing about these rooms is that it is a quieter place to learn new games and play a full game. They are also open until late – 11 pm or midnight, foot those who are busy at the booth during the day. TMG hosted an event at their room Wednesday night to show off their new releases, including producti copies of Scoville and City Hall, and some prototypes.
The Exhibit Hall closed at 8 pm on Wednesday, as everyone worked to ready their booths for the crowd on Thursday. As I was leaving, I snapped a photo of the 3D Krosmaster Arena set on display at the Japanime booth.
I did not get to play as many of the new games as I had hoped. Unfortunately the one full game I played I can’t say anything yet until tomorrow. So here’s a picture of the train car that is my hotel room.
I also learned Imperial Settlers, one of Portal Games new releases. It is a card driven engine building game where each player starts with different abilities and has access to both their own race deck and a common deck. We did not end up playing it as we were told the first game is likely to be longer than the 1 hour specified on the box and everyone decided to go to bed to get an early start the next day.
Alright, off to the exhibit hall for the mad dash of game buying. We get to buy games starting at 9 am so I hope to be done by 9:15. More on today’s loot and what I see this morning in a few hours.
I am at Gen Con again as Bezier Game’s demo minion, so I get an exhibitor badge that lets me into the hall on setup day. A quick stroll through the exhibit hall this morning oriented me as to the booth locations for the vendors I want to visit. It looks like there’s 20-25% more exhibit space this year. The added space (beyond aisle 2200) does not have an entrance/exit door from the convention center, so you will have to access them from inside the exhibit hall.
I had planned to try some new games today, but everyone is busy setting up still so I probably won’t get to do that until later this evening. I was able to pick up a bunch of games. Hopefully I will get to play some of them tonight and tell you about them.
One of the new games I learned so far are Bomb Squad, a timed co-op deduction/action programming game from Tasty Minstrel Games. Think Hanabi meets Robo Rally with the timing element of Zombie 15. Each scenario takes 16 minutes and varies in difficulty level.
Another game on my list to try is Aqua Sphere from Stefan Feld, also published by Tasty Minstrel Games. This is another action selection game where your choice is to place a worker or execute the action of a previously placed worker. Being a Feld game, the worker placement options are limited by previously selected actions (cards and lab upgrades allow you to break those rules). There are 5-6 different scoring opportunities (and one penalty) each round, in addition to some end of game scoring. It supports variable setup so between that and the many different strategy options, there is plenty to explore. I have already backed this game via kickstarter but am glad I got to try it.
As I left the hall at 5 pm, most booths are still in various stage of being set up for tomorrow. One piece that is already put together is this impressive 3D version of Zombie 15.
I am off to a couple of event tonight and will then break into the new games. I will post a quick report early tomorrow morning before heading over to the hall.
Founders of the Empire
Designers: Alexy Kalinin and Petr Tyulenev
Illustrator: Andrey Shcherbakov
Time: 30-45 minutes
Ages: 12+ (although I think younger players with a spatial sense would be fine)
Reviewer: Jonathan Franklin
Played 6 times with a varying number of players (review copy provided by RightGames)
Hey, you got your tech tree in my tile laying game!
A portable games from the Russian game producers, Right Games, Founders of the Empire has a tech tree, tile laying, and a simple rule set. Read on to find out if I want to play it again.
The game comes in a smaller square box with a tone of tiles and some tokens – no board – which totally plays into my love of modular board games. It could easily fit in a ziploc bag for a camping trip.
The goal of the game is to score the most victory points when one of three end game conditions is met, no more victory tiles, no more city tiles, or all players agree no more victory points can be earned.
Designers: Marco Valtriani and Diego Cerreti
Illustrator: Guido Favaro
Publisher: Red Glove
Review by Andrea “Liga” Ligabue after 3 plays thanks to an early review copy by Red Glove
(I have not yet got access to the official English rules so it could be that some terms will got a different translation in the end).
GodZ is an interesting strategic game about some of the gods in the Super Fantasy’s pantheon. Despite the light and ironic theme the game is a challenging and solid Euro. The theme is not pasted on so you have Rocky the Squirrel, avatar of FIU, the god of tree and campers, that get a “build” resource in the forest thanks to his ability to work with tree or GLU, the god of the Sea and the “variety of fried fish”, that is able to kill enemy followers near to sea hexes thanks to the flood miracle.
In GodZ players use followers and avatar to raise the power and glory of their god in an expanding world. There are 3 ways to score points (glory): wars, control of territory at the end and glorify. There are also some few points got during the game thanks to other gods actions.
GodZ is a typical game where you have to plan well your strategy since you have always more opportunities than actions and the timing is crucial. There is no luck and randomness apart from the drawing of new tiles.
Designer: Fabio Attoli
Publisher: Pendragon Games Studio
Time: 45 minutes
Rules will be soon available on Pendragon Game Studio web-site
Once upon a time there was hexes: every game with the ambition to be something more than just Ladder & Snakes has to have hexes. Than started the “German Revolution” but games like Settlers, Kings & Things, Keythedral and Twilight Imperium show us how hexes – big hexes – can be used successfully not only in simulation/wargames. Now big-hexes are again “a la mode”, at least in the entourage of Italian designers, if you think excellent recent games like GodZ or Hyperborea.
No surprise if a new publishers and an almost novice designer decided to offer a real tribute to the hexes with Hexemonia release, an hex-based game settled during the era of the mighty Greek’s City State, somewhere between the 8th and 6th Centuries BC.
Hexemonia is a game of resources management and wars and in this article we will preview it with the help of the designer, Fabio Attioli, and the publisher, Andrea Vigiak … have a nice read!