Dale Yu: Report from GenCon (somewhat tardy)

Well, this was supposed to posted from my phone while I was at GenCon, but due to some unknown phone failure/gremlin, my report never posted from the WordPress app.  To make things worse, the whole report disappeared – so I’m having to reconstruct this from memory – because as I was writing on the fly, I didn’t take many other written notes!  Ah – the first world problems of trying to use modern technology in real time…


As usual, I had a single day to devote to GenCon – fellow OG writer John Palagyi and I jumped in the car early and made it to the convention hall right around 10am – theoretically in time for the opening of the dealer hall.  For once, though, the organization of the GenCon volunteers was less than stellar. The line to pick up badges was all the way down the hall!  It took me 20 minutes to just get to the desk to show my ID and pick up a badge.  It appears that there was a little snafu on how to process the press badges, and this gummed up the line severely.  Of course, being GenCon, about every three minutes, someone stopped by and asked “What are you in line for?”.  Because, people love waiting in line at GenCon.


To wit, once we acquired our badges and headed it, we were forced to thread through lines everywhere in the hall as gamers patiently awaited their chance to throw money at companies to get the new releases.  Paizo, Fantasy Flight, AEG and IELLO all had long lines that snaked through the corridors of the dealer hall.  In some places, you could barely get through as two lines were right next to each other.  Some of the congestion eased later in the day when Paizo’s line ended up located outside the dealer hall.


yeah, this guy stood there all week and got paid just to show people where the end of the line was

yeah, this guy stood there all week and got paid just to show people where the end of the line was

First stop was the Bezier booth – one of the games that I’ve been working on, Subdivision, was making its debut at the show.  Designer Luke Hedgren (also an OG writer) was there showing off the game.  It‘s a tile-drafting, subdivision building game that was well received.  The Gencon allotment sold out during the show, so that’s a good thing!


sorry - early watch pictures were blurry. they will get better (i think)

sorry – early watch pictures were blurry. they will get better (i think)

IELLO was very crowded with their new games.  King of New York seemed to be the big draw, though they had five or six new games at the show.  Also new to me were Shinobi Wat-aah! and the beautifully produced Night of the Grand Octopus.  Also got to meet with the folks from Le Scorpion Masque who had a new party game, Think Again! at the show. They also had Friday the 13th which is a remake of the old Knizia classic, Poison.


Lifesize King of New York

Lifesize King of New York

Party game from Scorpion Masque

Party game from Scorpion Masque

Love the art on this one!

Love the art on this one!

Guardian Chronicles was not at the show, but IELLO tells me that it should be ready by September for purchase.  They also have a new kung-fu themed game called Masters Revenge that looks to be a good one.  More info on that as it becomes available to me.  The last big game that IELLO was working on is an “augmented reality” game called Yo Ho where people use their smartphones as their dobber.  As you drive it around the board, your phone (via an app) gets specific information that only you can see and use in the game.  I am looking forward to getting a better look at the updated prototype of this in Essen.


A big surprise for me was Passport Game Studios.  I know that Rob has been trying to bring in some good European titles.  I was definitely stopping by to pick up a copy of Antoine Bauza’s new coop game, Samurai Spirit.  What surprised me were two new-to-me Italian titles that I’m looking forward to playing: Kingsport Festival (which looks to be a re-boot of Kingsburg) and Provincia Romana, a game that looks to be based around city building in ancient Rome.  Both of these Italian titles are from Stratelibri, and it seems like they now have a set up for US domestic distribution.


Mr. Bauza signing a box for my brother

Mr. Bauza signing a box for my brother

Stronghold Games had a new trick taker, Diamonds.  Also of note, they appears to have struck a deal with the super nice guys from Artipia Games, out of Greece.  A few of the Greek releases were for sale at the Stronghold booth, and they quickly sold out.  While I’ve usually gotten my hands on the Artipia games at Essen, this deal will hopefully help gamers here in the States get their own copies a bit easier.


We braved the line for a few minutes near Paizo, and we chated with Mike Selinker, one of the co-designers of Pathfinder.  I’m more excited about his new book, The Maze of Games, than Pathfinder, but I haven’t yet played the newest incarnation—I look forward to getting a chance to do that in the next month or so.

Tasty Minstrel was there with a prototype version of a new Feld Game, Aqua Sphere… It looks interesting indeed – I am looking forward to this one being completed.  There was also a quick playing 2p version of Eminent Domain

Aqua Sphere

Aqua Sphere


ED: Microcosm

ED: Microcosm

Queen was busy, with the new Donald X. game, Greed, selling well.  The big box of Fresco was moving quickly, when we arrived on Thursday, the stack was already quite depleted. They also had some print proofs of the new Essen releases, and I’m definitely looking to try these out in October…

Had a quick chance to stop in to say hi to Sophie at the Filosofia/Z-Man booth, or should I say the F2Z booth – apparently they are reorganizing their company under a single name.  They did bring in a few copies of Camel Up! (the recent Spiel des Jahres winner), and I think I saw the last one purchased as I was at the stand about 2pm on Thursday.

Finally, off to the Asmodee press event – which was a whirlwind tour through about 10 new games in 2 hours…  Additionally, it did give me a chance to try the official beer of GenCon 2014, The Froth of Khan, which was a tasty coffee based beer.




Builders 2 Antiquities (Bombyx) – engine building card acquiring game where you use your three actions each turn to get building blocks or build antiquities using those resources. The resources are provided on worker cards, and the key seems to be getting the most efficient source of builders that match your needs.




Elysium (Space Cowboys) – probably not out until 2015.  A cool card drafting mechanic here.  Each round, you have four color options available to you.  On your turn, you are able to draft a card from the market – each card can have between one and three colors it is associated with.  Once you draft a card though, you then flip over one of its colors from your display.  This then limits which cards you are able to draft in future turns that round.  Each game will be different because the overall card supply is determined from four or five decks drawn out of a supply of at least eight decks.


card tableau from elysium

card tableau from elysium

Colt Express (Ludonaute) – a fun little romp where players act as thieves trying to steal from a train.  Using a programmed set of actions (placing action cards into a stack), players try to move around the train to get loot.  Meant for 2-6 players, should play in under 30 mins.  Definitely much lighter than the previous Ludonaute release, Lewis and Clark.


the wonderful 3D train from Colt Express

the wonderful 3D train from Colt Express

Room 25, ver 2 (Matagot) – a new release of Room 25, an escape the maze game.  The original version didn’t get a lot of press because it suffered some delays and came out “off schedule”.  The game is made somewhat more versatile by having three different modes of play.

2014-08-14 16.40.59

Sun Tzu (Matagot)  – a remake/retheme of Dynasties, a really good game from Al Newman that was previously released in the US by Jolly Roger Games.  I still have my copy of the original version, but the new artwork is great and hopefully this version will get a more widespread release/distribution with the Asmodee engine behind it

2014-08-14 17.04.29

Zombie vs Cheerleaders (Matagot) – a tower defense style 2p game.  I’ll admit that I pretty much turned off for the rest of this game demo as I have no interest in this sort of thing, either on my phone or in person.  The graphics are good and I think the theme alone will attract gamers to this one.


ZvC cards

ZvC cards

Nations the Dice Game (Lautapelit) – I really liked this streamlined dice game.  You roll 5 dice, use the icons on the dice to collect stuff from the board. You might be able to pick up more specialized dice that give you more icons.  4 rounds in the game.  Should take about 20 minutes to play.  From what I saw, this has the potential to be a big winner for me.


I love me dice games. I love me civ games. Bazinga!

I love me dice games. I love me civ games. Bazinga!

Ryu (Moonster) Resource management game where you work to collect the right combinations of cubes in order to build your own mechanical dragon.  We were a bit rushed in our demo of this as we started with only 5 minutes to go in the allotted time schedule for the event.  I’ll have to look at this one again in Essen…

2014-08-14 17.45.00

I wish I had better notes on the games, but they have vanished into the ether.  Fellow OG writer, W. Eric Martin, has posted his own recaps of them on BGG…

At this event, Asmodee was focusing on the upcoming stuff.  I had already received a few demos of their current games at the booth, and I am looking forward to a chance to play some of the new releases in the coming weeks including: Lords of Xidit, Abyss, Hyperborea and the new version of Cash and Guns!

Sorry is this seems a bit disjointed (and a little late), but I am a victim of modern technology.  I blame the cloud…  Lucky for you, no one wants to hack into my iCloud account and post up stolen game porn pictures…


Until your next appointment,

The Gaming Doctor













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The Opinionated Gamers Top 1000 Project

We are nothing if not opinionated.  One of the benefits of playing lots of games is that you form opinions about them that seem harsh or lukewarm by the light of day.  The Top 1000 is an attempt to give some context to where we are coming from.


After you have played lots of games, more and more fit within a standard deviation of the bell curve.  But the important part of that is the sample size is large.  In a side discussion, we wondered how large the sample size was that we were bringing to the table.


Some idiot suggested we take the top 1000 games from BGG and note which ones we had played.  This was an insane idea.  Who in their right mind would spend their spare evening(s) annotating a huge spreadsheet?  Us.  Yes, we can argue about whether we took the highest 1000 by average, Bayesian average, or Dale’s favorite 1000 games, but in the end, we must have filled out/not filled out over 25000 checkboxes.

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Freedom: The Underground Railroad

Design by Brian Mayer
Published by Academy Games
1 – 4 Players, 2 hours
Review by Greg J. Schloesser

Freedom - cover

There are some subjects that many game designers feel are taboo, as they are likely to prove far too sensitive for a sizeable segment of the population.  The holocaust as a game theme would undoubtedly be offensive to nearly all folks of the Jewish faith, as well as many others.  Games featuring the Nazi party as a central element would likely be upsetting to many folks, and from my understanding, would be banned in Germany.  The terrorist attacks that brought down the Twin Towers would likely prove offensive to many Americans if used as a theme.  Even though  these topics are historical, using them as a subject for games would be a risky venture and likely incur the wrath of a large segment of the population.

Included on this list is a game about slavery in the United States.  This subject understandably touches a raw nerve in anyone of African ancestry in the U.S.  The institution was so brutal and deadly that even more than 150 years after its abolition, it is still an extremely sensitive subject, even when examined in a scholarly manner.  Making it the subject of a board game is close to anathema.  Yes, it has been a small aspect of a few games in the past, but it is usually handled in a very abstract manner.  To my knowledge, it has never been the central subject of a game…until now.

Freedom: The Underground Railroad by designer Brian Mayer and published by Academy Games breaks new ground in focusing on slavery in the United States, particularly during the 1800s.  Fortunately, players are not required to assume the role of slave traders or plantation owners.  Rather, they represent benevolent forces attempting to guide the slaves to freedom via the shadowy “underground railroad” network.  The cooperative game is largely card driven and expertly interweaves historical persons, places and events into a challenging and, dare I say, fun game.

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Essen Preview-Onitama

Onitama will be seeing a general release this year at Essen. This my first impression of this great little game.

First off, I am a fan of abstracts, particularly abstracts that can be played in under 15 minutes. Onitama is definitely an abstract, but like Let’s Catch the Lion, I think it’s short enough and simple enough to have a broader appeal. It is pure, other than a random set up it’s a perfect information game.

The game is won by either capturing your opponent’s Onmyo (think king) or by moving your Onmyo to your opponent’s home square. Each player has 4 pawns to assist in this.

The game has variable setup. Basically movement of your pieces are determined by 5 cards that are randomly chosen (out of 15) at the beginning of the game. Each card is named after an animal with an associated movement. Some cards have specific movement to the piece, Onmyo vs pawn. Each player is dealt two face up in front of them and the fifth is set to the side also face up. On a turn a player executes one of their two cards and then takes the set aside card into his hand. The played card is then set aside to be taken during the next player’s turn. Since the 5 cards are randomly determined at the beginning of each game, each games plays quite differently, so no favorite or set opening move. Really adds some nice variety.

Eugene-Springfield-20140825-00216 (2) Eugene-Springfield-20140825-00217 (2)

The game is a little brain burning as you try and figure out the best moves. Since your possible moves are limited it doesn’t take too long per turn.

I like the variable set up. The game is easy to learn and can be played fairly quickly. The limits set by the cards can be extremely challenging. In one of our games lateral and diagonal movement was extremely limited so the game took a bit longer but it was fun trying to solve the problem.

The production quality is nice, the cards are of good stock and the board and wooden pieces mesh well. If you are a fan of games like shogi or chess but want something shorter this could fit your needs or if you are like me and like a good puzzle, Onitama makes a great filler. I am anxiously looking forward to playing it again as soon as possible.

I love it: Lorna

I like it:


Not for me:

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Liga: SecuenzooS review. The best memory ever

SecuenzooSDesigner: Roberto Pisonero Trapote
Publisher: Blauberry
Time: 30-60 minutes
Players: 2-5
Age: 8+

Review based on several sessions thanks to a review copy by the publisher

Modern boardgaming is built on some pillars made of classical mechanics/games. One of this pillar is, for sure, Memory. A lot of games ask for “memory skills” but few of them really use memory-like rules as core engine. Until now my best were Chicken Cha Cha Cha, Bonbons and Sherlock (Ilopeli 2011). SecuezooS beat all in a big way with 3 different 2-5 games and solo rules in the same nice little box.

There are 25 animals cards, 5 different animals in 5 different colors, 10 restrictions cards (one for each animal and one for each color) and finally 60 trails cards (30 color trails and 30 shape trails).

The 5×5 grid of face-down animal cards is built in a way that each player already know, in the beginning, 4 different cards. The same grid stay the same in the different rounds of the same game allowing players to become confident with it.

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Matt Carlson: GenCon 2014 Mega Rundown – Eclectic

Gexhibit iconenCon is split into three roughly comparable parts.  We’ve already talked about the boardgaming side of things, but there are also a host of gamers there to compete and play in trading card games.  Possibly the largest segment in attendance are the role-playing game hobbyists.  Way back in the past, I’ve done my time with trading card games, but the lure of role playing games is still there.   Here’s a summary of “what I did in my off-hours” of covering the convention.

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Matt Carlson: GenCon 2014 Mega Rundown – Day Two

exhibit iconBright and early Saturday morning I headed down for day two.  Armed with my inferior back-up camera, I had a series of appointments to attend.  Sadly, this reduced the overall games examined, but had the advantage of a deeper discussion about each one.  As a bonus, I even set aside time in the early morning for a bit of gaming with friends – more on that tomorrow.

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Matt Carlson: GenCon 2014 Mega Rundown – Day One

exhibit iconSerendipitously, 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.

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Soup’s On! Point Salad Games: A Roundtable Discussion

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

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Gen Con 2014 report – the weekend

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

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