Gen Con 2017: What’s Hot, and What I Played

The first day of Gen Con 2017 is a wrap, and what a day it was.  This year’s sold out event marks the 50th anniversary of the convention, and if the first day is any indication, this is going to be the best Gen Con yet.

As with my past coverage, I’m posting tonight (1) what’s hot, (2) what I played, and (3) general thoughts on the convention.  Today was my only full day at Gen Con — I’ll be there in the morning, but only for a couple of hours — so tonight is also (sadly) my wrap-up post.  But I have a couple of game days scheduled Sunday/Monday to play all of the games I bought, so I’ll be doing more snap reviews then.  Continue reading

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Gen Con Mid-Day Report (Chris Wray)

I’m only at Gen Con for one day this year, so I won’t be doing my normal daily updates.  But I did want to record a brief description of the convention and what I’ve seen so far.

This is clearly the biggest Gen Con yet.  The area outside the exhibitor hall was swamped by 8:30, and it didn’t open until 10:00 am.  The convention sold out months ago (I believe this is the first-ever sell out) and it is more crowded than ever in the hall.  Everybody seems to be having fun, though, and games are flying off the shelves.

What’s Hot

I don’t see the BGG hot list (maybe they’re not doing it?), but based on walking around, I’ve seen a lot of people carrying (or talking about):

  • Cities of Splendor
  • Clank! In! Space
  • Ex Libris
  • Photosynthesis
  • Twilight Imperium Fourth Edition
  • Whistle Stop

Continue reading

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Shadows in Kyoto Super Quick GenCon preview

Designer: Wei-Min Ling 
Artist: Maisherly
Publisher: Emperor S4
Players: 2
Time: 15-30 Minutes

Shadows in Kyoto is set in the world of Hanamikoji but is not an expansion but rather a separate game with same fantastic art by Maisherly. Hanamikoji is one of my all time favorite games so I was a little apprehensive to play this game to review as the bar was high. I’m happy to say that Shadows in Kyoto is a fine little game for 2 and stood up well to my expectations.

I’ll say it, this game immediately reminded me of Stratego. Fortunately the nuances of Shadows make it a far superior experience. The basis of the game is that one player represents the Government and the other the Oniwaban, a secret gang. Each player is trying to infiltrate the other’s team. A team consists of 6 agents, 2 of which have special marks indicating they have “real intelligence” and 4 which are decoys. In addition each agent has a value from 0 to 3. Players each have 2 decks. One deck has site cards which you play to move your agents and the other deck has tactics which allow special movement and actions. Players have a hand of 4 site cards and 2 tactics initially. There are 3 ways to win. Capture both the opponent’s agents with real intelligence, allow your opponent to capture 3 of your decoy agents or succeed in getting one of your agents with real intelligence to your opponent’s side of the board. There are also two variants or advanced rule set with special action cards and abilities to  add to the game.

My thoughts: Shadows makes a fine addition to the world of Hanamikoji. It’s a fast and tense tactical battle. The three different ending conditions really keep the game interesting. It allows you to change your strategy on the fly. I’d  recommend playing with the advanced rules.


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Chris Wray: My Gen Con Most Anticipated List

I’ll arrive in Indianapolis later today, and I’m excited for Gen Con 2017 to get started.  

This will be my third year at Gen Con, and thanks to Eric Martin’s amazing new BGG preview tool, I’m better prepared this year than ever.  As I say every year, there are hundreds of games coming out, and finding the games to bring home in the always-too-limited suitcase space can be challenging.  It feels like drinking from a fire hose.  I’ve been reading the BGG list, looking at rulebooks, and taking a second look at our chats on the OG mailing list.  

But here it is: my top 10 most anticipated.  I’ve excluded games that I’ve already played, including several that probably would have been in my top 10 list, but I’ve made a separate list of those games below. Continue reading

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Caverna Cave vs Cave (Game Review by Chris Wray)

  • Designer:  Uwe Rosenberg
  • Publisher:  Mayfair; Lookout
  • Artists:  Klemens Franz
  • Players:  1 – 2
  • Ages:  12 and Up
  • Time:  20 Minutes (Solo) or 40 Minutes (2-Player)
  • Times Played: > 5 (Both Solo and 2-Player)


Uwe Rosenberg loves making 2-player versions of his most popular titles, and historically he’s done an excellent job of distilling the core mechanics.  Agricola was followed up by Agricola All Creatures Big and Small, which won the 2-player International Gamers Award in 2012.  Le Havre was followed up by Le Havre: The Inland Port, which then won the 2-player International Gamers Award in 2013.  Naturally, a lot of us have been asking when we’d get a 2-player version of Caverna.

Caverna Cave vs Cave is Rosenberg’s latest creation.  It has hit store shelves in recent weeks, and it is getting a big debut at Gen Con.  A few of us here at OG have had the chance to play it, so we wanted to review Rosenberg’s latest 2-player title, which also can be played solo.

In short, if you like Rosenberg’s games, I bet you’ll like this.  

Continue reading

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Terraforming Mars Hellas & Elysium (Expansion Review by Chris Wray)

  • Designers:  Jacob Fryxelius
  • Publisher:  Stronghold Games
  • Artists:  Isaac Fryxelius
  • Players:  1 – 5
  • Ages:  12 and Up
  • Time:  90 – 120 Minutes
  • Times Played: > 6 (On Review Copy from the Publisher)


Terraforming Mars has been one of the hottest games of the past year, and we loved it when we reviewed it last fall.  

The game currently sits at #7 in the BoardGameGeek ratings.  It earned a Kennerspiel des Jahres nomination this spring, plus it is poised to do well in voting for several other awards this year.  

So it is no surprise that the game’s first expansion — Hellas & Elysium — is one of the most anticipated releases of Gen Con 2017.  I’ve already played the expansion six times, and I love it.  If you like Terraforming Mars, I bet you’ll enjoy its first expansion. Continue reading

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Dale Yu: Review of Dice Forge


Dice Forge

  • Designer: Régis Bonnessée
  • Publisher: Libellud / Asmodee
  • Players: 2-4
  • Ages: 10+
  • Time: 45 minutes
  • Times played: 4, with review copy provided by Asmodee North America

Régis Bonnessée is a French designer with three previous games which have caught my eye (Seasons, Lords of Xidit and Himalaya).  When I heard that he was behind this new game, I was definitely interested.  Throw in a game mechanic which has always intrigued me (dice/deck crafting), and this was a must try for me this summer.

In Dice Forge, players take on the role of aspiring demigods.  The players are pitted against each other in a tournament being set up for the Gods enjoyment.  The best player will get a chance to become a demigod as a reward.  Or at least that’s how the story goes.  I’ll admit I didn’t pay much more attention to it because as soon as I saw the customizable dice, I just started to play with them! Continue reading

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Dale Yu: Review of Unearth



  • Designers: Jason Harner, Matthew Ransom
  • Publisher: Brotherwise Games
  • Players: 2-4
  • Ages: 8+
  • Time: 30-40 minutes
  • Times played: 5, with review copy provided by Brotherwise Games

In Unearth, players are in some sort of dystopian future – everyone is in a small tribe that is formed from the remnants of a great civilization.  However, everything has gone wrong, and you are trying to reclaim the former glory of that previous civilization by discovering Ruins and collecting Stones.

Each player has 5 dice which represent their Delvers – 3 d6, 1d4 and 1d8.  There are three decks of cards used in the game – a large tarot sized deck of Ruins cards, a mini deck of Delver cards and a regular sized deck of Wonders cards.  Each player takes the dice of his color as well as 2 random Delver cards and one Ruins card. 5 Ruins are discarded unseen from the deck and then a random End of Age card is put on the bottom of the deck. Continue reading

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Dale Yu: Preview of A Dog’s Life

A Dog’s Life

  • Designer: Christophe Boelinger
  • Publisher: Beton Games
  • Players: 2-6
  • Ages: 6+
  • Time: 40-60 minutes
  • Times played: 4, with preview copy provided by Beton Games,

A Dog’s Life is a family board game from a designer probably best known for his more complex “gamer’s games” such as Archipelago, 4 Gods, and Dungeon Twister.   I have certainly come to respect his complex designs over the years.  This family game is apparently a reprint of one of his first titles – from way back in 2001 – now coming to Kickstarter this year.  I remember playing that version many many moons ago, but not enough to remember any details.  The game is meant to provide a simulation of what life is like as a dog… roaming around the city, finding bones and peeing on things.

Continue reading

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Dale Yu: Review of Photosynthesis


  • Designer: Hjalmar Hach
  • Publisher: Blue Orange
  • Players: 2-4
  • Ages: 8+
  • Time: 45-60 minutes
  • Times played: 4, with review copy provided by Blue Orange USA

Photosynthesis is a beautiful game which caught my eye from all of the press releases starting all the way back with Eric Martin’s preview from Nuremberg.  But, as I’ve learned many times in the past – games cannot be judged just because they are pretty. I was happy to get a preview copy to see if the gameplay matches up to the beautiful pictures. Continue reading

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