Gen Con: Buy, Demo, and Expand!

by Jonathan Franklin

I’m off to my first Gen Con!  I’ll be doing demos at the Wattsalpoag booth, so stop by and say Hi.  Getting to attend this grail event means I actually paid attention to what is coming out there and what will be demoed there for release later.

Here are my top seven games in each of three categories, games for sale, games to demo, and expansions.

Seven Games I’m Considering Buying

These games are expected to be available for purchase at Gen Con.  I have not played any of them yet.  Listed in alphabetical order.

1. Battle Beyond Space (Z-Man) – I don’t like long and involved combat games.  I have friends who don’t like dice games.  Hey, a sub-60 minute fleet combat game without dice.  Sounds good.  I’ll definitely want to try it to see how much targeted aggression there is, but it could meet the beer and pretzels super-filler standard.  Plus, if your fleet is wiped out, you’ll be pushing cubes in the next game before you know it.  I have not read rules or reviews, as the rules are not out and the game has not been released.

2. Fleet (Gryphon)- The theme does not call to me, but discussion of the potential for clever card play does.  I like the tough decisions about whether to expand your fleet, improve a boat, or go fishing.  Wanting to do more than you can is common, but the rules of this game make those decisions seem less abstract and boring.  Fleet has added bling available in the form of fisheeples, but they don’t come with the game..  I have read the rules and it looks good in that it has lots of interlocking parts and choices that will affect your future choices and those of others.

3. Lady Alice (Hurrican/Asmodee) – A deduction game from Hurrican, source of the Mr. Jack family?  Sign me up.  I have no information on it.  No # of players, no length of game, no recent images, nothing.  But still, if it is for sale, I’ll be sure to at least consider it very seriously.

4. Legacy: Gears of Time (Floodgate Games) – Games about time travel are hard to create and to play because of the ripple effects that are central to the theme.  Legacy: Gears of Time addresses this by having only one timeline where you resolve current events based on what was invented earlier on the timeline.  The core mechanism is that the players create a timeline of inventions where each invention will cease to exist if it does not have the necessary precursor inventions and does not have at least one cube on it.  The cubes represent influence, so that invention is not forgotten in the mists of time.  If you have a great later invention, such as the Internet, but no one placed a cube on the invention ‘fire’, you might not get to score the Internet.  If fire is a precursor to a precursor to a precursor to the Internet and there is no fire, there is no Internet.  Really cool with the caveat that it could be brain-burny and/or bring analysis paralysis to the surface. I have read the rules, but it is hard to imagine how some parts might play out.

5. Morels (Two Lanterns Games) – Wow.  The buzz on this one coming out of Origins was deafening.  Collecting and cooking mushrooms is the theme.  If you are looking for a two player game in the vein of Jaipur or Lost Cities, this should be up your alley.  I love the fact that this is a small company that produced a great looking game with clear rules and good play.  Unless, you have mycophobia, or only play multiplayer games, check it out.  There are even hand-carved sticks for an additional fee to add your set. The sticks are the currency in the game and the base game includes cardboard tokens depicting the sticks, so they are definitely non-essential, but they were hand carved in Oregon by the designer, so a pretty huge cool factor there. I have read reviews of Morels, but not the rules.

6. Seasons (Libellud/Asmodee) – My son loves Magic: the Gathering.  I don’t have time for deck building games that require lots of knowledge of the cards and combos.  Seasons sounds like a game we both could love.  Resource management + cool combos + drafting is the way to my heart, not to mention it plays more than 2 as well.  Since you get to choose only 9 cards, it is not like building a 60 card deck.  The amazing art and defined length mean it is more likely to see play than more convoluted games of its ilk.  Did I mention the art?  Amazing! I have read the rules.

7. Starship Merchants (Toy Vault) – I like the idea of traveling around space, upgrading your ship, collecting goods, selling them, etc.  Pick up-and-deliver without those pesky rails sounds good to me.  I am not that great a fan of stock/market games, so if it is mostly about min-maxing the buying and selling of nothingium, I might pass.  On the other hand, knowing the previous designs of Tom Lehmann and Joe Huber, I am expecting to like or love it.  I have read the rules.

Seven Games I Really Want to Demo

1. Aztlan (Ares) – This game by Leo Colovini is going to either be elegant and stimulating or dry as dust.  Of course, those two are not mutually exclusive, so no flame war in the comments section.  A new game by him is almost always worth checking out.

2. Dragon’s Bard (Albino Dragon) – I’d be dubious about this storytelling game were it not designed by someone like Richard Borg.  He is known for meshing theme and mechanisms, so it might work.  Storytelling games are a tough niche.  There is a huge realm between Fiasco and Once Upon A Time.  Some games try hard and fall flat while others are played out quickly due to the need for fresh content.  I’m definitely looking forward to learning more about Dragon’s Bard.

3. Mars Need Mechanics (Nevermore Games) – This has my Curiousity piqued because it has inventions, a steampunk theme, and strongly thematic art.  Based on the little bit of info out there, it looks like early inventions will help fund later larger ones, so there appears to be an engine-building aspect to the game. There is very little information out about this game, but I like the theme and 45 play time.  Caveat lector – I own and would voluntarily play Wolsung again.

4. Mice & Mystics (Plaid Hat) – We like Mouse Guard in our house and have tried the RPG.  This game looks like it will mesh well with that world while adding a bit more structure.  The art looks great and the company has created a few interesting games.  High on the try/check out list.

5. Sheepland (Cranio) – Cranio has diversely themed games coming out for Essen, including Steam Park (set in a steampunk amusement part), 1969 (space race), and Sheepland (sheep – duh).  Each player is a shepherd and manages flocks and fences, taking terrain into account.  I have no idea if it will be like Gipsy King or more of a nasty sheep rustling semi-abstract, but I look forward to finding out.

6. Tokaido (Funforge) – This game has beautiful art and was designed by the prolific Antoine Bauza.  While I am not a fan of all of his games, they all have a sense of style that helps create a strong experience.  He also seems to have found publishers who go over the top on bits and art (looking at you, Repos), so his games tend to look great.  This one is no different.  At the same time, it is billed as “a strategic game while being extraordinarily peaceful and easy to learn.”  I get strategic and easy to learn – both of which are inherent in many abstract games.  Peaceful is not something I associate with many board games that are strategic.  One blunder and you hand victory to another player.  One miscalculation and you are out of an auction.  I look forward to seeing how he balances peacefulness with meaningful interaction between players.

7. Western Town (Whyme) – I gather the Wild West is a popular theme in Europe as well as the US, so this could do well on both sides of the Atlantic.  Underneath the hood, this sounds like a city builder like City Tycoon, Suburbia, etc.  However, this game also includes bluffing, rule bending (you are the sheriff after all), and attacks from outsiders.  German game, meet French game.

Seven Expansions Being Released or Demoed

By this point you know if you want expansions for any of the following.  No need for my comments, I assume.

1. 7 Wonders: Cities (Repos/Asmodee)

2. Alien Frontiers: Factions (Clever Mojo)

3. Ascension: Immortal Heroes (Gary Games)

4. Core Worlds: Galactic Orders (Stronghold)

5. Dominion: Dark Ages (Rio Grande)

6. Innovation: Figures in the Sand (Asmadi)

7. King of Tokyo: Power Up! (Iello)

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