Matt Carlson: Gen Con 2012– An explosion of photos

Lucky enough to have Gen Con appear almost in my backyard (if I had a backyard I could traverse in an hour), I make it a point to cruise the Gen Con dealer hall every year to see all the new games well as all the new-ish games that are just now reaching the US.  (New to me since I’m not a jet-setting boardgamer by any stretch of the imagination.)  To share my good fortune with others, here’s my annual photo blog of the convention as seen through my i (my iPod) on Friday and Saturday.  In an effort to be all things to all people, I’ve even included a little iOS and an RPG section at the very end…

First, some minor disclaimers:  While I have a large volume a photos, this also means I didn’t spend much time with any one particular game.  I typically stayed for a rules overview until I understood the gist of the game, and then moved on.  Hopefully, this will give you enough information to further pursue those games that pique your interest.  With such limited knowledge, I’m in no position to offer a definitive opinion of a game’s quality.  I will recognize some as appealing to my tastes, but the true test of a game will need to come with actual repeated plays.   I make no claims to have covered the entire convention, and will simply report on those things that I sought out or caught my eye as I passed through an area.  You get what you get, for good or ill.  Finally, my little pocket camera bit the dust this past year and hasn’t been replaced since I’ve been relying on my iPod for spontaneous photo situations.  This is typically not a problem, but in occasional low-light situations the photo quality is not perfect.  Rather than toss sub-par photos I left them in, if for no other reason than to provide me an excuse to write about that particular game…  (You can even click on them to blow them up to high resolution graininess!) Enjoy!

Mayday Games

My entry Friday morning brought me right past the Mayday Games booth.  I have recently bought 4 of their Crokinole boards for my classroom so stopped to look things over.

IMG_1043.Lemonaide Stand

Some glare-filled lemonade cards.  It looks like a fun little filler.  The cards represent both cash (nickels and quarters) and abilities.  You can play them one way to increase inventory and a second way to advertise, etc…  The game covers a week of days with a general weather prediction only a single day in advance.  Put a spare $1 into your savings and you can earn a special attack card to keep the game from becoming a solitaire affair.  I think this might be a must-play game for kids who are trying to learn how to count up change.

IMG_1044.Weykick

If Crokinole isn’t enough to break your bank, you can go with the new Weykick board.  The soccer players have strong magnets on their bottom and are controlled by similar magnet-containing handles underneath the board.  Move your players around to knock the ball into the opponent’s goal.  A board at midfield prevents players from crossing the line, but too much momentum can cause them to fall…  Not cheap (in the sub-$200 range), but you can pay extra to get little hockey players with sticks and a flat puck for additional silliness.  I just may need to get one for my classroom…  we need to study magnets too, right?

IMG_1045.Get Bit

I had the pleasure to play a game of Get Bit with the designer and two gradeschool kids who caught on quickly to the game.  Play a card (1-5) and then highest non-tied card goes to the front of the chain, with ties staying in the back.  The player in the back gets chomped by one limb, moved to the front, and gets to pick up their cards.  The other players must leave their cards on the table (at least until they’re down to one, when they can pick them all back up again…)  With cute little robots, small numbers and no text, I’m expecting this one to be a pretty good hit at our house of youngsters.

IMG_1046.toc toc woodsman

A sort of funky, souped-up Jenga, in Toc Toc Woodsman players smack a log tower trying to knock down the brown outside quarters (+1 point) without knocking down the inner white cores (-5 points).  Play until the log is entirely down and everyone adds up their scores.  I was surprised at how well the entire log allowed for finesse – when I was careful at least…

iello / Coffee Haus Games

IMG_1047.Vanuatu

I got to try out Vanuatu briefly last year before I sent it on to my friend (who is living there…) for a Christmas present.  It was great to see it now in the US and with cards in English no less!

IMG_1048.King of Tokyo

My first view of King of Tokyo (2-6 players) was a positive one.  Players roll dice to attack each other or areas on the board to win points.  Eliminate everyone else or score 20 VP to win.  A son was putting the smack down on his dad while the demo lady was calmly trying to not win the game by too much.  You can see the expansion Panda in the background (which would allow a 7th player).  New to the game via the expansion are evolution cards which are gained as a bonus whenever 3 hearts are rolled.

Out of the Box Publishing

I was promised a copy of the new Word on the Street expansion (which adds new words and a second timer) so I stopped by the Out of the Box booth to pick it up.  While there I was conned into a short game of Snake Oil.

IMG_1050.Snake Oil

Like Apples to Apples, one player takes a subject card and other players must somehow relate to that card with cards in their hand.  However, in this game players combine TWO cards in their hand and then attempt to sell the judge on their idea.  My idea for “crowd soap”, supplemented generously by my overbearing charisma won the day when I was selling to Santa Claus.  I can see this as a very fun game for people who don’t think Apples to Apples has enough discussion or always wanted to justify their submission.  However, since everyone’s entry is known, there is still room for favoritism and the best Con Artist will probably win.  However, that is probably the point and it should still be quite entertaining.

Haywire Group

IMG_1052.Ha! Ha! Mustache

I’m far more amused than my eyes reveal…

I was stopped in my tracks by this little display of card decks covered with little moustaches.  Ha! Ha! Moustache is a simple little trivia game.  Hold up the card to display it on your face, and then start reading the clues on the back.  As the clues get easier the points get smaller, until hopefully someone guesses the correct owner of that facial style.  The decks were only about $5 and came in three types: living people, dead people, and evil people…  something for everyone I guess…

Wattsalpolag Games

IMG_1053.Fistful of Penguins

I hope this blurry photo of the game will be enough to appease designer (and fellow Opinionated Gamer) who was showing A Fistful of Penguins at the convention.  It’s a fun little dice game with really cute clear plastic penguin bits.  A basic game is fine for families, but the “advanced” version makes it into a useful filler for gamers like yourself (since you’re even bothering to read this mega-Gen Con-post…)

5th Street Games

IMG_1054.Castle Dash

I stopped to see the new version of Farmageddon, but stayed to see how to play Castle Dash.  It looks like a very lightweight worker placement game that could play fairly quickly.  (Quick, how many worker placement games can you name that are good “fillers”?)  Players place workers to defend their own walls from attack or attack their opponents (note the three parts of the player wall – one for each opponent).  Breach the defense and you can either gain 1 treasure (you need 3 to win) or free one of your imprisoned workers (players start with one worker from of each opponent imprisoned in their castle.)  Workers can also be placed on special action cards with grant special abilities for that round.  Action cards are removed each round and new ones appear, two per player in the game.

Blue Orange Games

IMG_1055.Spot it!

I’m a huge fan of the Catch the Match game from Playroom Entertainment, and so I stopped at the Blue Orange Games booth to see what Spot it! (a similar game) was about.  With a bit more diversity and color than Catch the Match, Spot it! looks to be a good variation on the idea.  Every pair of circular cards will have one single item that matches (although it may be slightly larger or smaller.)  Several types of games can be played, including the one I played where each player has a face-up deck of the cards.  Players attempt to find their match with the top card on the discard pile.  When a match is found, the matching card is discarded and becomes the new source to scan for a match.  Play continues until someone runs out of cards for the win.

USAopoly

Known for their expertise at producing copies of Risk and Monopoly for just about any hobby or geek subject under the sun (I’ve now got a copy of World of Warcraft Monopoly), USAopoly caught my eye with a very pretty version of Risk with a Halo theme.

IMG_1056.Risk Halo Legendary Edition

The blur accentuates just how fast this game plays…

This blurry photo of Risk: Halo Legendary Edition is present to show the game is NOT the Risk Halo game of a few years back.  It is an entirely new version of Risk (if I can say that with a straight face) which does have a couple interesting things.  It does have victory-condition missions cards, like most modern versions.  Faction cards can be used in the normal way to get more units but can also be spent for special powers.  What I liked the most was the modular boards.  Two double-sided boards are present to make a Risk game that can be customized for anywhere from 2 to 4 players.  Special rules can even be used to combine the two boards via teleporters.  The rules provide for up to four different styles of game as well (teams, all for themselves, etc..)

IMG_1057.Telestrations

It’s been out awhile but I stopped to see this game of Pictionary crossed with Telephone play out.  Using the custom booklets players alternate drawing and guessing the drawing and then drawing the guess, etc… until complete chaos ensues and no one has any idea how to identify the last smudge on the final page.  While you can fake the equipment needed for telephone or Pictionary, I think the nifty tabbed little books are pretty much a requirement to be able to pull off this game at home.

Cubicle 7 Entertainment

IMG_1058.Dr. Who Card Game

To complete my Nerd cred, I needed to be interested in the new Dr. Who card game appropriately titled – Dr. Who: the Card Game.  Players do not take on any particular role in this 3-4 player game that takes about 15 minutes per player.  Instead, players place location cards (worth victory points) and then defend their played locations with defender cards and attack opponent locations with their enemy cards.  Support cards can be played to upgrade abilities of cards already on the field.  Time points are present as a resource gained by playing locations and can be spent to draw more cards.  Perhaps the craziest/most intriguing part of the game, is that players end their turn by passing their last 3 cards to the next player, so some cards keep circling around the table.  Players can “bank” cards, however, so very important cards can be kept for a rainy day/year/century.  The game ends when someone has 5 successful location attacks or defenses.  If the main deck nears exhaustion, a special end of game card will appear and hasten everything to a conclusion.

Talicor

I’ve never heard of Talicor before, but it turns out I used to play one of its games (the Un-Game) with my family 25+ years ago.  They now have a fair number of games that are more than just an activity.

IMG_1059.Fifth Gear

Fifth Gear caught my eye with the pretty pieces of interlocking plastic.  It is basically a Connect 4 sort of game, where 2-4 players try to put together five of their colored gears (one of which must touch the special white gear) for the win.  Players roll two 12 sided dice and can place two gears (one on each number) or one gear on the combined total.  As there are 24 available spaces (numbered 1-24), it’s clear the higher numbers tend to be more “safe” in the long term.  All the numbers are removable to keep the game different every time.  With two twelve sided dice, and plenty of moveable plastic pieces, it might serve as a decent game for younger kids.  For whom even finding the available numbers on the board is a game in itself.

Foxmind

Here I show my US-centric situation.  I know it has been out in the Euro-scene for some time, but this is the first time I’ve seen String Railways in person.

IMG_1060.String Railway

Place a card on the table, then lay down your string representing your track.  There is an outer string border, a string river, and a circular string mountain area.  Lost 1 point for each string you cross (that isn’t on a station).  Gain points by terminating or passing through some stations.  Of course, each station has a maximum capacity so can sometimes be used to “block” opponents.  This is NOT the “String Railways 2” or whatever that’s already out and about internationally, but it still looks pretty interesting to me.

IMG_1061.Fauna

I have to admit I was going into Fauna with very low expectations.  I’m not all that big a fan of trivia games.  However, with two young boys coming up the ranks, I could see the attraction of this game that might teach them a bit about the animal kingdom.  Players guess with their cubes animals’ size, weight, location in the world, and sometimes their tail length.  Guess right and earn points, guess close and earn fewer points, guess completely wrong and lose your guessing cube (you have several.)  As this is a family/kids game, you do get one of your cubes back each round so there’s room for some error.  I could see Fauna going over well among my nieces and nephews who are right around the middle school age.

Mayfair

As is usual, Mayfair had a sizeable booth area and it was packed most of the time with players demoing the various games (and earning their ribbons.)

IMG_1064.Star Trek Catan

Star Trek Catan was a big hit at the show, at least at the demo tables.  The several tables present were always full of activity around the elegant (not included in the base game) spiffy Catan-enabled tables.

IMG_1066.Catan folding Table

If you don’t want to commit to a permanent Catan table, maybe this folding “travel” table is more up your alley, being sold for only $180!

IMG_1098.Urbania

New at the convention (I believe) was Urbania.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to sit through a rules explanation as I was late to an appointment…

Cryptozoic Entertainment

Cryptozoic had two games at their booth in which I was interested, both deckbuilding games.

IMG_1067.DC Comics Deckbuilding Game

The first was the DC Comic Deckbuilding game which should arrive late this fall.  A 2-5 player game, each player begins the game with a starting hero with a unique power (of 7 heroes available in the base set).  The game has a 5 card rotating buying pool, as well as a stack of supervillain cards.  Cards bought from the central pool include villains (attack cards), heroes, equipment, superpowers, and locations.   On a turn, players play any number of cards and resolve effects to eventually obtain some amount of Power – the only resource in the game.  If power is used to defeat (purchase) a supervillain, the next card in the stack proceeds to attack all the players – hopefully players will have some defense cards on hand.  The game ends when the supervillain deck runs out.  I’m interested in the game, and like that there is only one resource type in the game (no “combat” power, for instance) but will have to see how it stands up to repeated plays.

IMG_1070.3012

3012 was another deckbuilder present in limited quantities but should be out some time next month.  Players play as a hero who gain experience and level up throughout the game.  On a player’s turn, a facedown encounter card is selected and every other player can then choose to help or hinder the active player.  The encounter is resolved and the winning side shares experience gained.  If successful, only the active player gains victory points.  There are always 3 weapons and 3 ally cards available for purchase while two central decks contain a larger variety of cards.  Every turn, the top two cards are flipped up and their effects are applied to the active player.  Yes, that means the active player always gets the effect of two random cards they haven’t even bought yet.  If the active player doesn’t wish to purchase the top two cards, they each go up for auction around the table and a high bidder is allowed to set aside the card until their turn when they have the opportunity to purchase it.  Aside from victory points, there are two resources in the game.  Coins help purchase cards, while damage/fighting is used in the encounters.   Another intriguing facet of the game is the very small decks.  Players start with 4 card decks and play with 4 card hands.  I look forward to see how the small, tight decks might affect the overall game.

AEG

If you read Dale’s short report on the convention you’ll have seen the huge bags passed out by AEG if you bought something in their booth.  What the bags were advertised was the newest AEG game, Smash Up.

IMG_1073.Smash Up

Everyone intensely studying their choices during the initial draft… “You took my Dinosaurs!”…

Smash Up is an interesting little 2-4 player card-fighting game that does NOT have any deckbuilding or collectible effects.  However, it is rather different every game.  The game contains 8 different mini-decks consisting of geek-favorite cultures such as robots, dinosaurs, pirates, etc…  Players start the game by drafting two of these sets of cards and then shuffling them together to make a deck of two special types.  Players then play their cards onto locations on the center of the table to earn points.  Locations are “smashed” when the combat values of creatures  present exceed its defense.  When that occurs, points are gained by players according to their ranking (who has the most attack value present, etc…)  With each deck giving a player special powers, as well as bases granting additional complications it seems to be a lighter-weight game with plenty of room for a bit of silliness for those who will engage with the comedic theme.  If you disagree, my Alien-Dinosaurs will eat your Pirate-Wizards for breakfast.

Days of Wonder

IMG_1080.Memoir 44 Equipment Pack

More plastic than you can shake a plastic stick at, unless you got more plastic I guess…

I went to the Days of Wonder booth at Gen Con and all I got was this photo of a big pile of plastic.  It’s cool plastic anyway – the new Memoir ‘44 Expansion entitled “Equipment Pack”.  It seems to primarily contain a bunch of units that have appeared before as cardboard counters, etc…  Of course, it contains an additional set of scenarios, etc… and I see no reason why it won’t end up as a near-automatic purchase for anyone riding the Memoir ‘44 train of plastic collecting.  I DID dig up the juicy news that Days of Wonder is working on a new game they’re going to announce some time in the future.  That’s the kind of news digging you don’t get on those other sites!  (I could tell you what it is, but then I’d have to shoot you, and that would be sad because I’d have made it up anyway since I don’t know what it is either…)

Wishing Tree Games

Wishing Tree Games has made a small stir among the Opinionated Gamers with their card-based area control game called 7 Sisters.

IMG_1081.7 Sisters

I’d put all my worker tokens on Sloth, but I just don’t feel like it…

Players take turns placing cubes on the cards representing the 7 daughters of the king in order to try to earn the king’s favor (points).  In a round, players are dealt six cards with a large and small color coded symbol.  A player gets to place two workers on the daughter of the big symbol and can pay 1 fruit to place a worker on the daughter of the smaller color.  Yet another fruit allows a fourth worker placed on either color.  A card can alternatively be used to move workers around, or even remain unused to move workers from the reserves pile into the “available” pile (similar to El Grande, etc…)  After everyone has used 5 of their six cards, they are all discarded and the daughters are scored.  The majority winner at each daughter earns a favor token (worth 1 VP) but must remove all their workers present.  Each daughter is an aspect of the 7 deadly sins (gluttony, pride, wrath, etc…) and has an associated special ability that is also granted to the winner.  This is quite important as some powers on a daughter can affect the situation on a daughter tile to be scored later in the same scoring round.  (Sloth, for example, allows players to break ties.)  The focus of the game is to gain favor tokens, but players must gain gold and fruit to manage their servants and influence the sisters.  After four scoring rounds, a final scoring round is immediately scored (right after the 4th, where the top majorities were all removed) and players add up their victory points.  1 point is granted per favor token with 2 bonus points for every complete set of 7 different colors.  Players with the most gold, fruit, and available workers also score a bonus point.  The colors of the game are beautiful and and evocative.  I suspect there is at least a decent (if not even better) middle-weight game here.  With its approachable theme and pretty bits, I think I could use this game to bring in quite a few new gamers.

Indie Boards and Cards

IMG_1082.Gauntlet of Fools

“See this spider card here? Bet you wish you weren’t juggling blindfolded…”

With a designer name like Donald X. Vaccarino, Gauntlet of Fools is going to attract some attention.  2-6 players bid on 3 random heroes equipped with a random weapon each.  Players then begin their dungeon run by flipping up the top card of the encounter deck.  Each player simultaneously use their heroes to defeat the revealed monster (or benefit or are penalized by the encounter – they aren’t all monsters).  The next card is flipped up and this continues until there is only one player’s hero left, the winner.  This doesn’t sound all that new or interesting until one experiences the bidding process.  It is a downwards auction.  The first bidder grabs a hero and places a disadvantage on it.  The next bidder can place a second disadvantage on that hero or place one on on another available hero.  This continues until all players have chosen a hero.   Even this is only moderately interesting, but the theme is what is going to have to make the game.  “I’ll give this hero –1 to his health” is not nearly as cool as saying “This hero will run the dungeon without breakfast!”  to which your opponent can respond, “but I’ll take that hero and he’ll run the dungeon without breakfast and with one hand behind his back!”  Other options include while juggling, while drunk, while blindfolded, hungover, or my favorite – while hopping on one leg.  I suspect this game will succeed in settings that embrace the bidding portion of the game as long as the dungeon running itself isn’t too long or cumbersome.

Ares Games

Before the convention I had barely heard anything about Ares Games, but as they are the current caretakers of the excellent War of the Ring, I was interested in what was in their booth.

IMG_1084.War of Ring Expansion

Expected in early November, the Lords of Middle-Earth expansion to War of the Ring attempts to provide a more variety to the start of the game.  The three caretakers of the elven rings can be used by the fellowship side to gain extra dice before Gandalf the White appears.  However, it is risky as a poor roll can grant the opposing side an additional eye symbol.  In the same way there are a couple new dice for the Sauron side that can come into play during the early parts of the game.  A complete set of fellowship cards can be used to give variety to the powers of the fellowship characters.  In general, they are a bit weaker when split from the fellowship, but they are easier to split away (some can even start the game in their own territory.)  For example, Boromir (I think) can split away from the party and prevent one damage in the process – rather than be outright eliminated as in the original game.  There are a few other additions such as easier ways for the Balrog to escape Moria and a few things surrounding Smeagol (making him easier to become leader but also a few benefits for Sauron at the same time.)  All in all, I think it will be a must-buy for fans of the game (as most expansions are) and it may lure a few people back who felt the original game was too predictable or at least similar when played “optimally”.

IMG_1085.Aztlan

No, it’s not called Aztlan…

Look, here’s a pretty picture of Aztlán.  See I even spelled it correctly… Aztlán Aztlán Aztlán…  it’s a new game.  I think.  Probably.  Maybe next time I’ll remember to come back and ask more questions.  It’s at least a pretty game, though, right?  (Oooh, it’s out in October – so that’s information at least!)

IMG_1086.MicroMonsters

As a fan of X-Bugs, I was pleased to see Micro Monsters being brought to the US.  If you read the Opinionated Gamers, you’ll have seen our resident Italian’s review.  I love that this tiddly-winks upgrade with a few special powers has 4 different sides in the same box.  I’m not sure I’m glad that it’s slimmed down in special powers from previous incarnations.  However,  with two very young gamers in the house, easier rules are often better.

Wizards of the Coast

IMG_1089.Dungeon!

Not shown on the show floor, but stashed away in a few secret locations, was Dungeon! (the exclamation point is important).  It is an update/homage to the almost 40 year old game of quick dungeon exploration for 1-8 players.  Up to eight characters (2 of each type) race around the board trying to collect treasure (and not die) and then exit.  Not a game full of deep strategy, but should provide a good evening of family fun.  At a price point of only $20, its cheaper than a family movie.  It should be out on October 16th (don’t you love these big companies?) and I may even be able to arrange a solid preview before then!

Rio Grande Games

Anyone attending Gen Con for a few years will have discovered the magic Rio Grande demo room.  Filled with helpful volunteers and Rio Grande games, there is even real food magically appearing (for free!) at various points during the day (I seemed to miss it each time this year.)  Lots of Dominion: Dark Ages were being played, but I sat and watched a game of First Sparks start up.  (Can you guess any of the famous hands at the table?  Hint- everyone was older than I am…)

IMG_1090.Stone Age

PowerGrid: The First Sparks

IMG_1091.Artic Scavengers

Roll to the South Pole, a new game at the show.  Look!  Puppies!

IMG_1092.Big Stone Age

I sat and waited almost 20 minutes for a good photo shot of the giant First Sparks board, and there still wasn’t anything much interesting going on… Just look at those cool grapes!  (The builder pointed out how the grapes look really lame just by themselves but they’re orders of magnitude cooler when you put them out there with the rest of the pieces.)  If you have 3 days to kill, you too can paint this many pieces!  (We’re not gonna talk about cutting out the boards…)

WalMart

IMG_1093.WalMart

No, they weren’t at Gen Con, but I stopped for some snacks and bread on the way home Friday night and look what greeted me in the housewares aisle!  Handy dandy dice footstools!  Anyone looking for a mega-game of Monopoly should check out their local store.  Thanks for staying with the Gen Con theme, great big huge mega-company people!

Upper Deck

My big appointment for Saturday (other than some RPG stuff) was a visit to the Upper Deck booth to check out their new deckbuilder.  (Yes another one…)

IMG_1094.Marvel Deckbuilding

Lgendary: A Marvel Deckbuilding Game, (yes, that’s the game) is totally unique, built from scratch from the ground up.  Yes, there is a central pool of five cards one can purchase (like Ascension).  Yes, there’s a slowly increasing stack of bad guys slowly terrorizing the city that must be attacked (a bit like Thunderstone).  There is a common villian with some minion cards out there to hassle players and he must be defeated or everyone loses (a bit like Sentinels of the Multiverse).  Yes, everyone starts with a 10 card deck, a hand of 6 cards, and buys cards to increase their deck size (shuffling when they run out like nearly all other deckbuilding games.)  However, all sarcasm aside, what I found in “Legendary: A Marvel Deckbuilding Game” (said in a voiceover with lots of reverb) was pretty good.  Perhaps its greatest feature lies in its extreme variability.  To set up the game, players choose 5 hero decks (from 15) and combine them to make the deck of cards up for purchase.  A Mastermind is picked (from 5) and set up with a short deck of cards placed underneath.  Finally, a Scheme card (out of 5) is chosen, which dictates what endgame condition will force a loss on the players present.  With so many combinations that’s a lot of variability.

On a player’s turn, a new villain card is revealed and placed in the city line up, pushing others on out.  If a villain makes it out of the fifth spot it is considered escaped.  Our scheme told us that 7 escaped villains would mean we lost.  (Many villain cards have bad effects that happen when they escape, and all of them are worth victory points, so there’s still motivation to defeat them when playing with other schemes.)  In addition to normal villains, the villain deck also contains scheme twists (which cause a bad effect located on the scheme card – two more villain cards drawn in our case) and master strikes (which cause bad things listed on the mastermind card – usually something that doesn’t hurt the active player.)  Once the villain card is added a player can play any and all cards in their hand and then spend combat (fighting) points to defeat one or more villains and recruit points to buy cards from the hero line.  Wound cards appear occasionally and clog up one’s hand.  Some cards remove them, but one can also forgo their entire turn to permanently remove any in your hand.  A player with enough fighting ability can even attack the mastermind card, earning a 10 victory point card drawn from the mastermind deck.  This card also has an effect – typically harming the opponent players, may sometimes be personally beneficial, but can occasionally be bad for the active player as well.  10 points are a lot, so to win the game it typically requires at least one or two shots on the big guy.

I got to play an entire game and had a lot of fun with my explosive deck of Iron Man awesomeness.  However, while I could draw cards like no one’s business, I was a bit weak in the combat side of things so never defeated many villians and didn’t gain enough points from my non-villain point cards.  All in all, I liked it better than most of the other deckbuilder games to which I might compare.  The villians keep moving through the town so there is rarely any clogging that might occur in Thunderstone.  Since the main deck of cards to buy is made of 5 distinct decks of 14 cards each, the themes seem to come through in a stronger way than in Ascension.  At least in this first play through, I felt I had a bit more control over where my deck was heading than when I play with Ascension’s mega-deck of cards.  Keeping the villain and purchasable cards separate was also a good thing.  There are two resources present (fighting and recruit points), but enough was going on to make me feel like it wasn’t too complicated by dual resource modes.  As always, time will tell, but I’ll keep the game pretty high on my list to check out when it arrives some time in November.

IMG_1096.W.Eric Martin

Let it be known that while W. Eric Martin’s deck beat both the demo guy and my own by a couple of points, my Iron Man deck was full of the awesome sauce and there was clearly some shenanigans going on…  At least the three of us “won”.  Yeah, I’m gonna keep telling myself that.

IMG_1079.Super Hero Squad TCG

Upper Deck was also showing off the collectible card game based on the Marvel Superhero Squad.  I only  mention it here because I understand that the TV show is just as much a hit in the Martin household as it is in mine, so there may be parents who feel obligated to check it out for their children to ooh and aah over the art or something…

Calliope Games

IMG_1097.Tsuro of the Seas

I’m a big fan of the elegance (of art) and simplicity (of play) of the original Tsuro, so it was interesting to see a new take on the design.  Players are now ships sailing a treacherous sea filled with sea monsters which kill just as easily as the board edge in the old version of the game.  Sea monsters move when 6-8 is rolled on two dice (players roll on every turn), and then a single die is rolled to see which direction.  Each monster has the four directions assigned with a fifth number assigned to turning.  If a six is rolled, that means yet another sea monster appears (on a location determined by two more rolls).   This sounds like a lot more chaos, but I suspect it is only slightly more chaotic than the later part of a typical Tsuro game.  If all the dice rolling doesn’t slow down the game too much, this version may become my preferred version.

Fantasy Flight Games

Fantasy Flight was there in all its huge glory yet again, with piles of demo tables, lines for the new releases selling out each morning, and some surprise announcements (see the RPG section below.)

IMG_1072.Nexus Ops

Out for awhile, I’m a big fan of the original Nexus Ops.  FFG has a new version minus the day-glow pieces but everything else is pretty colorful.  I’m tempted to get the new version as it adds in a few new versions of play.  There is an alternate side to the unit table, which presents players with all new powers for each unit (mostly faster ones for a slightly quicker game).  The central hex can be a volcano or flipped over to be a vortex, and there are variant rules for teams and other setups.

IMG_1100.Descent Expansion

Descent was recently redone into a second edition that is supposed to streamline what had become a bit cumbersome rules set once all the various expansions had been added.  The new version already includes campaign play (for example, there’s a branching series of adventures that can be played through over the course of about 20 total hours.)  Those who can’t get enough of the new version can now check out an expansion, Lair of the Wyrm.  It contains the obligatory new stories, some new class cards, and just a handful (whatever that is) of new elements to keep things fresh and new.

IMG_1101.Rune Age expansion

When I evaluated Rune Age the first time around, I wasn’t a big fan of the game.  It was cool that there were four entirely different ways to play the game, but there wasn’t much variety for a deckbuilder and I felt the multiple currencies in the game kept it from really taking off.  Rune Age: Oath and Anvil sets out to fix the problem of variety.  There are now two new factions (although the game is still 2-4 players), and each faction gets two new types so every faction has six different unique cards.  I’m told fans of Rune Age really enjoy the new update, so if you are one (or were even on the fence before) you should probably check it out.

IMG_1102.NetRunner

Android Netrunner: The Card Game… the (other) collectible card game designed by Richard Garfield is back and redone in FFG’s “living card game” style (it means there are no random boosters but they will keep releasing quite a few non-random small expansions).  Play as the runner or the corporation in this game with quite a bit of bluffing (each player secretly assigns resources, etc… via face-down cards.)  I enjoyed the original, but don’t have time to build my own decks.  We’ll see if I get around to checking this one out more thoroughly.

IMG_1106

A photo of the prototype to Relic, a sort of homage to Talisman.  Yes, it is roll and move, but as players advance they gain more and more control over the movement…

IMG_1107

Merchants of Venus makes a return to the land of the living.  With the classic board on one side and a new version (that preserves the spirit and humor of the old) on the other, this game for 1-4 players should appear sometime in Q4 of this year.  Hey, you know you want to buy bionic perfume from a race of sentient toasters.

IMG_1108.Ugg Techt

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been waiting for Ugg-Techt to come to the US ever since I heard of it appearing in Germany years ago.  It’s a party game with giant inflatable clubs used to hit each other.  Enough said, right?  OK, well the leader tries to get the follower to use the colored blocks to build a specific shape shown on a card.  However, the leader can only use gestures and stupid sounding grunts that are displayed on the card.  Do something wrong, and you get hit with the club.  Do it right, you get hit twice.  Awesome.

IMG_1109.Fortress America

I had several of the GameMaster series games back in the 80s, but not Fortress America.  It has been out awhile but I hadn’t seen it up close so I snapped a photo.  Gotta love those little plastic bits from FFG…

Wizkids

IMG_1110.Quarmageddon

Lots and lots of cool dice for Quarriors.  I have to admit that’s a pretty quazy box full of lots of quolored dice.  Wizkids wins the award of the show for quorst use of incorrect phonics.  I still enjoy playing the game, though…  dice are quool.

APE Games

IMG_1112.Rolling Frieght

Yes, the people who brought you Duck Duck Go! and Duck Duck Safari now bring you a train game.  OK, there isn’t any stock involved, and there are dice, so it’s a pretty lightweight game.  You roll dice and spend them to buy contracts, or fill up lines of contracts you already own (if the die colors match the line).  Any die can be spent to move goods around the board, with points going to the owner of the track(s) used.  Upgrades can also be bought with dice (no surprise there!).  As the game progresses through three phases, more of the board contracts become available and the train tracks tend to spread into new areas.  The main board is two sided for varied play.  Expect future boards if the game catches on.  I personally like where the game is headed, and it will primarily come down to whether the game overstays its welcome or proceeds at a fairly quick pace.

Plaid Hat Games

IMG_1113.Mice and Mystics

A cute little cooperative adventure game, Mice and Mystics is a sort of dungeon crawl, but with mice.  The story based game begins (there are 11 scenarios) with the players all turned into mice in the castle by an evil witch and they must escape before they can begin to find ways to help the king.  Players forage for cheese, find weapons and other items along the way, and try to avoid the cat at all costs (unless they have some spare catnip around.)  One little cool feature is the presence of “achievements” like those found in video games.  In any given story, the first player to accomplish a special task (finding something cool, making  an amazing attack, etc…) is granted a special little boon to use during the rest of that story.  Sure, there’s only 11 scenarios in the game, but I think 11 plays of an enjoyable game isn’t going to be a serious disappointment.   (And there are some randomizing factors which would allow for more than a single time through…)

Greater Than Games…

When I first came across Sentinels of the Multiverse last summer I was very pumped as it had two great things going for it.  It was cooperative, and it had a superhero theme.  It is a very enjoyable game where a team of players get together to fight a big bag guy.  It has a lot of effects (some say baggage) from collectible card games like Magic:the Gathering where each player and bad guy has hit points, there are loads of combinations and stacking effects, etc… but anyone able to get past (or have someone help with) those details will find quite a fun little cooperative game at the table.  If nothing else, there is enough detail and variety at the table that it makes it a bit harder for any one person to be the overall quarterback for the whole group.

IMG_1114.Sentinels Enhanced Edition

New at the show is the Enhanced Edition, shown above with cool divider tabs, tokens to help keep track of effects from various cards, and little handy counters to help with tracking damage.  In addition, (taking a note from the expansions) all the old villains have been rewritten so that they scale with the number of players to give a more balanced difficulty level independent of the number of players.  Gamers with the original box can order an “upgrade kit” of just the new box, dividers, & tokens directly from their web site.  Greater Than Games was also releasing their newest expansion, Infernal Relics.  It contains 4 new villains, 2 new hero decks, and 2 new environments.  (Any specific game is played is a random (or selected) supervillian and a random environment.  When taken with the many different heroes that can be present, it is difficult to foresee any game going quite the same way twice…)  I succumbed to temptation and spent $10 on the cool “extra large” villain cards that were available for sale.  They contain the information of both sides of the regular side cards on a single side.

Playroom Entertainment

I stopped by the Playroom Entertainment booth several times at the show on my way to Asmodee.  Now that my boys are the right age, more and more of their titles are looking particularly good.

IMG_1088.Magician's Kitchen

Magician’s Kitchen looked very pretty with its cool little wands, little potion marbles, and hidden magnets all over the underside of the board.  Drive your pot with a marble on top to the correct corner without tipping over when you drive over a hidden magnet and you get to drop your potion/marble in that corner.  Ditch all four colors of your potions and ditch the central “potion” in the middle for a win.

IMG_1115.Ligretto Dice

Ligretto Dice had pretty dice.  What more can I say?  Four colors of transparent dice make a catching display.  To play the game, all 24 dice are tossed in a bag and players randomly take out the correct fraction (12 for a 2p game, 8 for a 3p game, etc…)  Then players simultaneously roll all their dice and place them on the same game board.  However, dice have to be placed on the board in order, with a blue 1 appearing before anyone can place a blue 2, etc…  It plays very similar to the card game speed, but with dice – pretty ones at that.  Since it allows 4 players (one could probably push it to 6 I suppose) I could see it as a much more useful game (to me) than the classic card game of speed.

Asmadi Games

IMG_1117.Consequential the sequence

Asmadi Games were showing off their upcoming game, Consequential: The Sequence.  It seems to be a cooperative game where players venture to locations, get resources (cards) and then use them to defeat problems (cards) appearing on the central ring.  Fail to defeat a problem in a timely manner and it is bad (represented by a card).  Fill the circle with defeat cards and the game is lost.  It was late in the day my second day, so my mind was a bit foggy on the details.  However, I have written down that you can go watch the intro video online for details.  Feel free to go do that.  (Now even, really, I don’t mind….)

What I was most interested in was the new Innovation expansion, Figures in the Sand.  This expansion focuses on people in history and the cards are kept in a separate deck from the rest of the cards.  When a player gains a “sharing bonus” they now must draw from this new deck, which are colored cards played as before (with symbols, and can be splayed) but they tend to have karma effects which grant a constant, ongoing effect.  Sounds nifty, we’ll have to see how it goes.

Asmodee

Another “big name” company at the convention, Asmodee was showing off quite a number of new games coming down the pipeline that they will be distributing in the US.

IMG_1087.Seasons

You’ve probably heard of seasons, and Dale Yu did a brief preview of the game just days ago.  Players first draft a set of cards to use in the game, then sort them into piles of three that will be used throughout the game.  One must not only decide which cards to play during the game, but which phase to be using them.  The cards themselves have some combination effects and the game will typically go to the player best able to take advantage of the vagrancies of the dice being rolled each season and the best card combinations they can bring to bear.  Its getting a lot of good buzz as “the kind of game I like to play”, so watch for another review/re-review here at Opinionated Gamers once more of us have given it a more thorough play.

IMG_1118.Libertalia

Look at this blurry photo of Libertalia, a pirate themed card-power game.  Then go read the early review we published previously

IMG_1119.City of Horror prototype

A prototype version of City of Horror. It looks pretty.  Yeah, pretty much pretty.

IMG_1120.Lady Alice Proto

A prototype of Lady Alice, a group deduction game that sounds a bit like Clue.

Z-Man Games

Z-Man Games had two big areas where gamers could try out their big titles of the show, Atlantis Rising and Battle Beyond Space.

IMG_1122.Atlantis Rising

Atlantis Rising is a cooperative game on a five-sided island that slowly sinks into the sea.  Place workers on each arm of the island to gain special resources with spots closer to the end granting more benefit but providing more risk as they’re more likely to sink.  If you need more information, Dale Yu has a review for that.

IMG_1123.Battle beyond Space

In a surprise move, Dale Yu has NOT done a review or preview on Battle Beyond Space.  This is a fast playing game that involves piles of fleets of plastic ships.  Yes, you know I had you with piles of fleets.  Simple rules (hopefully) keep the game moving along fast enough to satisfy every space admiral’s dreams.

Eagle/Gryphon Games

I had an (extremely) brief stint at the Eagle Games booth, but still caught a few nice photos.

IMG_1124.Sackson Signature series

The Sackson Signature Series (volume 1) contains three of his better works all in handy sized containers.  They can be bought separately or in a nifty little sleeve box shown above.  Sleuth, in particular, was given a bit of an update in components with much larger deduction sheets and more explanations on the cards to hopefully reduce player error.  The set should be available in October-ish.

IMG_1125.Pirate Dice

Pirate Dice should be out in early November and uses a cool combination of dice and programmable actions (you place your dice on the handy program card shown above in brown) to try to win.

IMG_1127.Cheeky Monkey

If you don’t just go awwwwww at the new containers for Cheeky Monkey, you have no business making it this far through my photo journal…  Should be out in early October, and it wasn’t even going to be that expensive.  ($25? maybe)  That’s not bad for one of the most unique game boxes on your shelf.  Of course, you’ll probably be temped to put the whole “box” in a baggie if you’re CDO…

IMG_1129.Cowtown

A climbing sort of card game from Richard Borg.  It plays 3-8 players in about 20 to 30 minutes.  Sure, you can throw down a long straight of numbers to try to clear your hand faster, but the more cards you ditch at the same time, the bigger risk you have of having to pick some back up again.  Oh, and yes you have to say “Moo” when you’re down to one card left.

iOS Titles of Interest

You’ve now left the official boardgames behind, read on to see some iOS news and other (RPG) things that you may find interesting…  We’ll start with a few folks who were pushing toys that can be used (via little touchpads on the bottom) by setting them on the screen of an iPad.

Mattel

iOS.IMG_1051.Apptivity

Mattel was showing off toys in the Apptivity line.  There were two styles of toys here.  Some interacted with established games (like Angry Birds, Fruit Ninja, Cut the Rope) by unlocking new features when placed on the screen.  For example, when the King Pig is placed on the screen of the regular Angry Birds game, it changes the game slightly.  The glass and stone bits might switch, you might find yourself tossing pigs at bird eggs (instead of birds at pigs) or even playing a speed round with infinite, randomly selected birds.  (There are 4 modes in total.)  The other Apptivity toys are for use in special, free to download, apps.  For example, there are four different matchbox cars that can be used to play the Matchbox car app.  By playing the different games, players can unlock new “upgrades” and customizable options for their virtual car.  While all four cars play the same games, they will each unlock different car upgrades.

WizKids

iOS.IMG_1077.TabApp

Wizkids were showing off the TabApp line of games.  For $15 you can buy a pack of 4 figurines that can be placed on an iPad to experience different story lines in a game.  The games are similar (although each character has somewhat unique powers) where players tap the screen in different ways to eliminate oncoming enemies (this isn’t a strategy game) but it seems to hold the possibility of a somewhat decent arcade style game.  Oh, and of course, the figures all contain a valid Heroclix wheel so can be used in that collectible miniatures strategy game as well…

iOS

In other iOS news, I spoke with PlayDek and Goko about some of their projects.  With not too much new to announce, I had a good chat about iOS design and feature decisions with PlayDek.  They’re still working on all the titles they’ve announced as well as the requisite ones under an NDA.  They’re making forays into the wargaming world with Tank on Tank and also expect to have some other wargame-ish titles appearing in the pipeline soon.  (Hint – it isn’t modern.)  As those develop they’ll continue to evaluate how to proceed in the wargame/wargame-esque arena.

Goko just released the HTML 5 version of Dominion and that should be making the rounds to iOS once Approves it, and they plan on quickly expanding their library of available games in a free-to-play manner (but have in-app purchases for expansions, etc…)  Perhaps their most ambitious project is a non-iOS title that is trying to be a MMO sort of Catan game called Catan World.  Players build up on a home island and then can explore the sea to find other islands.  Over time, a player gains experience points and can upgrade their character via an extended tech tree.  This is also how players are able to unlock new discovery cards, etc… (although they might also be unlocked via in-app purchases…)

Role Playing Stuff

I spent a bit of time looking at some RPG things at the convention, as they take up quite a bit of the non-dealer hall space as well as a good chunk of the dealer hall itself.  Some things caught my attention.

RPG.IMG_1062.Paizo Beastiary Box

Whether you play Paizo’s Pathfinder or some other fantasy RPG, you will probably be able to find a use for the very cool set of cardboard stand up pieces found in the Paizo Bestiary Box.  Hundreds of tokens with dozens of stands of all sizes make for a great selection of tokens that can add a bit of life to an RPG table.

RPG.IMG_1063.Lone Wolf Books

I happened into the Mongoose Publishing booth when I saw a poster advertising Historia Rodentia, a sort of small mammal RPG in the spirit of Redwall or Mouse Guard.  While talking with the Mongoose folks, I saw the above books.  I remember reading these sort of choose-your-own-adventure type books crossed with an RPG flavor way back when I was younger.  They’re now reprinted in very sturdy looking hardcovers for anyone wishing to revisit the fiction and games of their youth.  Oh, and the Historia Rodentia RPG has spawned a fast-playing minis game suitable for non-minis people, one that I had hoped to return to to check out a demo but just ran out of time.

RPG.IMG_1076.Star Wars RPG

Ever the ones to try to keep a surprise in their back pocket, Fantasy Flight managed to announce a brand new Star Wars roleplaying game AND put it up for sale in beta form in the same day.  I’m sure that the presence of Lord Vader and some stormtroopers and the absence of anyone from the rebel alliance has no reflection on FFG whatsoever…

RPG.IMG_1078.Lolth

No Gen Con is complete without the requisite photo op with whatever giant figure out of nightmares appears in the Wizards of the Coast booth.  This year it was Loth the spider queen herself as part of their Rise of the Underdark theme currently swirling through book releases, adventure supplements, and their community play experience called Encounters.  If you’re interested in checking out the current state of Dungeons and Dragons, find a local store putting on the “Encounters” sessions and you can get a very beginner-friendly taste of the game in just an hour’s play.

Special props to the folks at Wizards for arranging a way for me to check out the playtest of the next version of D&D for a bit.  I harbor no ill will (well, a little bit) towards my DM who ended the session by having me swallowed whole by a purple worm…  such is my fate.

We’ve reached the end of my report. Time for me to be off to bed so I can start recovering and find some time to really play some of the games I’ve mentioned above.

Final disclaimer:  While I left the convention with a few review copies of games from the convention, there is a decent chance I will be receiving a few more from some of the publishers above.  Hopefully that hasn’t clouded any of my commentary or greatly affect your opinions of the above article.  Otherwise, I guess it’s just a bit too late to tell you now since you’ve gone and already read through the whole thing…  my apologies.

About Matt J Carlson

Dad, Gamer, Science Teacher, Youth Pastor... oh and I have green hair. To see me "in action" check out Dr. Carlson's Science Theater up on Youtube...
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6 Responses to Matt Carlson: Gen Con 2012– An explosion of photos

  1. Fraser says:

    Wow that was a huge report!

    Definitely give Fauna a go, it has been the standard out family game for our gamer family. Good fun and interesting too.

  2. Scott Bogen says:

    Great job on this overview report. You must have had a very busy week! I was in the big hall for many hours and managed to miss several of these fine games.

  3. Your Iron Man deck was so full of awesome that you forgot to do anything to score points. Maybe next time, Matt! (And yes, the Super Hero Squad cards were a nice hit at home with the young’un, although even more of a success was the eyepatch being handed out by The Haywire Group. When your son wants to be a pirate – or even a pirate superhero – you gotta have an eyepatch!)

    • Matt J Carlson says:

      Aw man! I missed the Eyepatch swag. I even stopped by the Haywire Group… I suspect they may have been out or something by the time I came by.

  4. Alan How says:

    Great report Matt. I clicked over to the Geek several times to update my want list, though couldn’t find Marvel Legendary yet. Maybe it”s too early.

    Does anyone do a “Fairplay/BGG” popularity guide at GenCon?

    • Matt J Carlson says:

      Short answer… No. But I can tell you that the subject came up with some bgg folks and it was generally thought to be a good idea. Maybe it (a “Fairplay” type list) will happen next year…

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