GenCon 2012 Preview

Dale Yu: What I’m Looking Forward to at GenCon 2012

In a few weeks, I’ll be making my annual pilgrimage to Indianapolis for a few hours at the biggest fair around, GenCon.  Unfortunately for me, due to work and family schedules, I’ll only be there for a single day (and only able to leave home after working the morning here at home).  That hasn’t stopped me from trying to make a list of games that I want to check out in my very limited time at GenCon.

Now, admittedly, this list is in no way comprehensive – there are really quite a number of new games coming out at the show, and frankly, there isn’t a great way to track it all.  Admittedly, there is a GenCon 2012 preview on BGG – authored by OG contributor Eric Martin – and it is easily the best resource I’ve ever had for GenCon, but there are so many small companies there that don’t even show up on the traditional tracking radar.  The trip through the dealer hall is usually filled with surprises of new companies, sneak peaks at games that were not quite ready for the show but still made it to be seen, and a few games that I had simply missed hearing news about. As I’ll only have about 7 hours total this year though, I’m going to have be quick to see all the things I want, and still save time to wander thru the hall to try to catch as many surprises as possible!

If you haven’t already noticed, there has been a serious uptick in writing this week as the Opinionated Gamers prepare for GenCon – keep your eyes posted for more – we should have something almost every day between now and GenCon!

The games in alphabetical order:

Aeroplanes: Aviation Ascendant (Mayfair) – A new Martin Wallace game produced by Mayfair. I hadn’t even heard about this one until this week when I started poking around on the Internets.  Looks to be a complex game (time > 2hr).  I just downloaded the rules today, and have to read them soon to get a better feel for the game.  Nevertheless, this one is on my list to check out for sure.

Africana (Z-man) – OK, so I’ve already seen this one, and I’ve played it 5 or 6 times.  But it’s a solid game, and it’s good to see it getting a US release.  I’m putting it on this list though because it’s a game that deserves good buzz. A very good pick-up-and-deliver game that uses the book mechanic from Valdora.

Atlantis Rising (Z-man) – In this co-operative game, players are trying to save the ancient civilization of Atlantis.  Lots of risk/reward scenarios here – players will have to decide to go for the high risk spaces where they can make lots of goods or play it safe near the center of the board and hope they have enough resources to survive.  Definitely worth a try.

 Battle Beyond Space (Z-man) – I’m starting to think that Z-man named their games early in the alphabet just so they’d go together in these previews!  I’ve played this one in prototype form with the designer, erstwhile OG contributor, Frank Branham.  It’s a quick playing 100-ship space battle game that somehow finishes in about 20 minutes.  The game is very tactical, so there’s not a lot to slow you down.  The kids will love the mass destruction and rapid fire nature of this one.

 Crude: The Oil Game (Stronghold) – this is a re-do of McMulti, one of the classic grail games of the past.  I still play my old copy of McMulti, but as usual, I’m interested to see Stronghold’s take on the game, especially to see what sort of components they’ve managed to produce.  Also, I’ll be interested to see if they have changed the rules any from the original.

 DiceAFARI (Stratus) – A nice little dice-rolling game where you try to take pictures of animals before the other players do.  My kids really do like the dice games, and I have started to like them even more than I used to…

 Doctor Who Card Game (Cubicle 7) – I talked to the Cubicle 7 guys briefly at Origins, and I was able to get a decent demo of the rules from them.  However, the prototype there was still early, having only color inkjet sticker paste-ups.  The game, though, was mostly done and according to the Cubicle 7 guys, only waiting for BBC approval of the license.  With any luck, it’ll be available at GenCon.  Oh, and it’s a Martin Wallace game.

 Dominaire (AEG) – I’ll admit that I’ve had both hits and misses from AEG’s recent forays into the boardgame genre, but the crop this year looks quite interesting, and I think there could be some really good games in the bunch.  Of these, Dominaire is the one which intrigues me the most so far.  It sounds like it’s a mix of card drafting and area control.  You are trying to draft different agents (each with their own special abilities) to use to control the city.  Rules are not yet available though, so it remains to be seen how wide-ranging and game-changing the agent actions will be.  I’m a big fan of varying actions, but I do not care for them when the powers are so strong that all you feel are the card actions and none of the base mechanics of the game.  We’ll have to see which camp this one falls into!  The other interesting thing here is that the three games seem to be related.  There are a series of three games all set in the “City-State of Tempest” – Dominaire, Courtier and Mercante.  Of course, knowing my luck, the rule books for Courtier and Mercante are available online ( and the game I want to learn the most about is not yet available…

 Dominion: Dark Ages (Rio Grande) – I love all things Dominion.  (Usual disclaimer – I am developer of the base set and earlier expansions).  I did not have an active role with Dark Ages, but I still love Dominion.  I can’t wait to see the new art on the cards.

 Dragon’s Bard (Albino Dragon) – this is a new card game designed by Richard Borg which is set in the universe of Weis and Hickman’s Dragon Bard book series.  I’ve read and enjoyed the books, and this alone is enough to make me want to see what the game is about.  No rules are available yet, and the game won’t be ready for sale at GenCon – only there for demo.  Given my limited time, I’ll try to  learn a bit more about the game, but unless I time it well, this may have to wait until next time

 Forge (Clever Mojo) – a “dice management” game – where you are building up your dice pool thru intermediate cards to get to the VP items.  Sounds a bit like Airships / Giganten der Lufte which is a game I adore.   Anyways, worth a look for sure – though this may only be there in prototype form.

 King of Tokyo: Power Up! (IELLO) –  Stephan from IELLO has said that this expansion takes an awesome game and makes it even awesomer.  The expansion adds Evolution cards to the game which give the monsters special abilities.  These cards are collected into a personal deck and can be drawn from that deck anytime you get 3 hearts.  I’ll have to try it to see how awesome it really is, but I’m definitely interested so far.

 Kings of Air and Steam (Tasty Minstrel)I had a chance to play an earlier prototype of this right when it was going up on Kickstarter, and I want to see what the finished version looks like.  Not sure if there were any changes made from the version that I played.

 Lady Alice (Hurrican) – a deduction game that Bruno Cathala has been talking about for months!  When I emailed Bruno about the game (he is the developer of the game), he replied: “

Lady Alice is the next Hurrican’s bordgame. It’s an investigation and deduction game, fast and simple. It will come in the same size of box as Mr Jack”. Deduction, quick, and mostly portable.

Definitely worth a look-see.

Legacy: Gears of Time (Floodgate Games) – this was a game that I first saw back when I was still browsing Kickstarter – and the time travel theme was an instant interest for me.  Since Khronos (Matagot), I’ve been waiting for the game that could better grasp the feel of time travel.

 Leviathans (Catalyst) – Catalyst is still trying to get a firm foothold in the boardgame hobby, but they have been releasing a few games each year.  The one I played last year was an abstract, Hex-a-Gon, which was pretty good, but in the end, an abstract. The new game this year that caught my eye was Leviathans.  It looks to be a miniature game (ships on a hex map) with lots of dice rolling.  While the hex map is a turn-off, I do love me dice games.  The big question for me will be – does this feel more like a miniatures/wargame or more like a Eurogame.  I’ll have to try to find time to take a demo and see how it plays.  Setup rules can be downloaded at

 Libertalia (Asmodee) – I’ve actually got an advance copy of the game – full review was posted yesterday – but this game would have made the list even without the preview copy.  Players secretly and simultaneously select pirate cards from an identical deck to try to collect treasure.  Lots of fun.

 Mage Wars (Arcane Wonders) – well, I’ve been waiting for this game for 2 or 3 years – or however long it’s been since they started paying for the sponsorship of Origins.  I seen a full demo of the game, though I’ve not yet had a chance to try it – and it’s a interesting combination of miniature game and CCG like card play.  Each player has a spellbook, which holds all the different cards that you have available to you in the game.  You fight the opposing mage and creatures wandering around the board with these spells.  The CCG like part is that each player gets to construct his own spellbook, so knowledge of the cards will certainly help you win the game.  The game, however, is customizable and NOT collectible – everything you need to play will be found in the box.  That being said, I think that there will be a number of expansions that will come out in the future to supplement the mages and spells included in the base set.  But, I’ve heard from multiple sources that the components in the base set will be more than enough to get a full experience from.

 Mayday card sleeves – I recently had the chance to try out the new production sleeves from Mayday, and I will say that I’ve been impressed with their quality and durability.  The initial run from Mayday seemed to have some quality issues, but I’ve had nothing but good experiences with the ones I was given to try out.  In the 1000 or so sleeves that I received, I only found 1 that didn’t open right (that seemed to be one of the big complaints from the first run).  I’ve put them on one of my Dominion sets, and they have held up great with all the shuffling.  It looks like there are 10 different sizes now, so there should be something to fit almost every type of card.  I’m definitely interested in sleeving up a few different games that my boys are playing more often – as much as they try to be good, it’s hard to keep sticky hands or spills from affecting the cards in those games.  They also come in two thicknesses – though I’ll admit that I prefer the thinner sleeve as I find them easier to shuffle and handle.  They might be a bit less durable due to being thinner, but the lower cost of the thinner ones should offset any price difference for replacements.

 Milestones (Stronghold) – A new game from Stefan Dorra and Ralf zur Linde – A networking game where each player has their own rondel of actions to use.  It looks like this is a game where timing will be of the utmost importance – to take advantage of the board situation.  This is the first true Eurogame I can think of that has been done/co-produced by Stronghold, and it’s nice to see them branch out from their usual pattern of reprinting classic designs.

 Princes of the Dragon Throne (Clever Mojo) – this is being billed as a area control game that uses deckbuilding as a mechanic rather than a central theme.  Having spent a lot of the past 5 years working on Dominion, I’m always interested in seeing how the whole deckbuilding idea works in other games.  And, the artwork for this one looks pretty darn good.  It’s unclear whether or not this will be available at GenCon or just there for demoing.

 Relic (FFG) – a new game from John Goodenough and Fantasy Flight – this one appears to be a reboot/reinterpretation of Talisman.  The official description from FFG is: “on each turn, a player rolls a single six-sided die before moving his playing piece that number of spaces clockwise or counter-clockwise around the region (outer, middle, or inner) of the board it currently occupies. That player then draws a card or cards to see what he’s encountered, pitting his heroic persona against foul enemies, dangerous locations, and fantastic strangers. And all the while, these intrepid heroes rise in power, as they work their way toward the ultimate goal at the center of the board.”  So, it’s still roll and move like Talisman, but I spent many an hour as a teenager playing that game and having fun.  While I think I’ve moved past roll and move, I’ll still want to see what the game is like at the FFG booth.

 Rolling Freight (APE Games) – this one was available in very limited quantities at Origins, but it looks like it will be widely available at GenCon.  This one was designed by Kevin Nunn, who also has Zong Shi as a new release, and I had a chance to play a prototype version a year ago.  Eventhough Kevin and I were both at Gulf Games last month, we never managed to get a game of Rolling Freight in – nor Tichu for that matter.  I’d like to take a peek at the final product and give it a whirl.  What I can remember is that it’s a train game (yay!) with dice rolling (yay!) – combining two of my favorite things in gaming.  A few people have described the game as Ticket to Ride meets Age of Steam in 60-90 minutes.  What’s not to love in that one-sentence description of the game?!

 Seasons (Libellud/Asmodee) – I got a chance to watch a game of this at the Gathering, but still haven’t managed to play it.  From what I remember, players draft cards in the first round – and these cards are split up into 3 stacks,  In the second round, some dice are rolled and players take turns choosing these dice – which tells them which actions they can play.  The neat thing is that the drafted cards from the first round come into play in stacks.  So not only do you have to draft the right cards, you have to figure out how to apportion them correctly to get them in play when you need them.  I have received an advance copy and have played it 3 times so far.  I’m going to try to get a few more plays under my belt and write up a review prior to GenCon!

Sentinels of the Multiverse (Greater Than Games) – I just got a copy of the first edition at Origins, and we’ve definitely had a good time playing it thus far.  The new release should be out at GenCon with higher quality cards and some better chits for counting damage and other things like that.  While my current copy doesn’t need to be replaced, it’ll be interesting to see how the new version looks.

 Star Wars: X-Wing (Fantasy Flight) – I demoed this last year at GenCon, and it was an easily approachable 2 player miniature combat game.  The rules are simple – using a Wings of War like action selector – each player dials up their action, they are revealed simultaneously and combat happens.  The big draw here (and for my kids) is that it has the Star Wars license and that’s a sure draw to getting it on the table.  To boot, games were quick – in the 15-30 minute range, and that will help us take turns without getting bored!

 Starship Merchants (Toy Vault) – I had a chance to see this at Origins, and I have been eagerly awaiting the full game.  Desigened by Tom Lehmann and fellow OG writer Joe Huber, it started as a simplified 18XX card game.  I love the feel of the 18xx games but not the slow plodding pace.  I’m hoping that this will be able to scratch the itch.

 Suburbia (Bezier Games) – Suburbia sadly won’t make it to GenCon this year, but I will include it on my list because people might come to my preview looking for some news.  (And big disclaimer as this is blatant self-promotion as I’m the developer of the game…)  We had planned to show off the game at GenCon, but Bezier will not have a booth and my limited time in Indy will preclude me from being able to be in one place to demo it in the open gaming areas.  So, at least for now, we won’t be able to show it.  I’ll still have my prototype copy in my bag if you want to see it, but you’ll just have to catch me in the dealer hall.

 Timeline: Discoveries (Asmodee/Hazgaard) – I’ve reviewed Timeline: Inventions in the past, and it was a fun game, but it did not have enough cards to give good replay value.  With the addition of a few more card sets, the game could be lots of fun and have enough new cards to make it back to the table on a semi-regular basis.

Phew – that’s a pretty long list!  And it doesn’t take into account that there will probably be at least a dozen games that I end up interested in that I just didn’t know abot before the show!

Until your next appointment,

The Gaming Doctor

About Dale Yu

Dale Yu is the Editor of the Opinionated Gamers. He can occasionally be found working as a volunteer administrator for BoardGameGeek, and he previously wrote for BoardGame News.
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5 Responses to GenCon 2012 Preview

  1. huzonfirst says:

    I’ve been tracking Eric’s excellent GenCon preview on the Geek, but unlike Dale, I’ve found only a tiny number of games that interest me. Even though there will be a few pure Euros at the fair, most of the new games tend toward the American ideal in both theme and mechanics and I guess I remain very solidly in the Euro camp. I realize this is counter to the current trend in gaming, but thankfully there are so many new games released each year that there’s still plenty of stuff that will attract me.

    Of the games that Dale lists, the only ones that I find even a little tempting are: Aeroplanes, Milestones, Rolling Freight, and Starship Merchants. And I even with that short list, I have some concerns. Aeroplanes includes what appears to be some really high luck factors; I’m willing to check it out because there’s always potential with a Wallace design and because some gamers I trust have rated it highly. Milestones gets a thumbs up, as the mechanics look quite interesting, a step up in complexity from what Dorra and zur Linde have been producing lately. My interest in Rolling Freight would be primarily dependent on its duration being closer to the listed 90 minutes than to the 2.5-3 hours I experienced when I played the prototype a while back. (I quite enjoyed the game, but I already own similarly themed games that take that long–the real attraction would be a meaty rail game that only takes 1.5-2 hours.) Starship Merchants might have some luck of the draw issues, but I plan on picking it up in my next game order.

    That’s pretty much it. Dale does a good sales job on Forge, but I have enough trouble getting Airships to the table as is. If someone else in my group picks up Kings of Air and Steam, I’ll give it a shot, but it’s not a priority. Finally, I’ve played the prototype for Suburbia and while the mechanics are solid, there was just too much going on for my poor little head to track. Again, if someone else grabs it, I’ll check it out; maybe with more experience, I’ll do a better job of grasping the strategy.

    My overall conclusion? I won’t be tracking GenCon releases closely at all. Come Essen, though, I’ll be a lot more excited!

  2. Matt Morgan says:

    Stephen Buonocore showed me some of the plastic-molded components for Crude when I saw him at DexCon last month. I can assure you that you won’t be disappointed.

  3. Hanno Girke says:

    Carl Crook will be carrying around a copy of Snowdonia. My favorite game for this fall that’s not designed by Uwe R. or developed by Dale Y.

  4. Alan How says:

    Aeroplanes: After several games I’m very happy with the game. The apparent luck factors of dice rolling is misleading. I felt the same way as Larry. But you offset these by planning ahead and can pay the difference between your roll and what you need with cash. You can also get re-rolls through buying benefits in the game. The biggest random element is the passengers and how they come out and where they fly from. But you can overcome this too by ensuring your airports are built (or built over other players) at the right locations. The cards showing the aeroplanes are beautiful .and you control what aeroplane you want by selecting from those available. Further down the track (= better aeroplanes) are more expensive and you have this delightful decision over when you buy the plane of your choice.

    The game is easier to play than Automobile, or at least less brain burning and has plenty of strategies to follow in order to get your win. It’s currently top of my replay pile of games.

    Milestones I found did not live up to my expectations and while it worked well after several games I found it too repetitive. Just not my cup of tea. You’re ok on timing Larry – it’s 60 to 90 minutes for a 3/4 player game.

    I kickstarted Rolling Freight and was pleased with the the result. The components are good but not excellent and the game play is clever, but maybe a trifle long. But I am am a sucker for dice and these work well together with the ideas behind them.

    Crude: I interviewed Stephen Buonocore for the next issue of Counter and he was very excited about how the Stronghold version will be received on the basis of the new moulds and changes that he has introduced..

  5. RogerR says:

    Seven Sisters – Great new Euro type game from Wishing Tree Games!
    I saw it reviewed a few places and it looks simply fantastic.

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