For most people, GenCon is the “Best Four Days in Gaming” – and the con’s slogan can be seen everywhere proclaiming this… While it is certainly a great time, for me, GenCon might be the “Best One Day in Gaming” as I generally am only able to attend for a day or so. This year was no different, and I spent a wonderful 12 hours in Indianapolis trying to see as much as I could from the convention. Many thanks to the organizers of GenCon for putting on a wonderful show and making it a very easy convention to cover.
I took a bunch of pictures, but my camera phone kind of failed me, so I don’t have many pictures to post here. Luckily, Matt Carlson plans a photo piece on Tuesday, so I’m hoping he catches better images that I had. Apparently I had a huge smudge/fingerprint on my camera lens which rendered most images as useless. Oh well, that’s why I’m one of these text blogging guys and not a video blogger like BGG or Tom Vasel.
In any event, we rolled into Indy around 10:30am, and we managed to snag a spot in the Circle Center Mall parking garage. It took us a few minutes to walk in and find our badges, but we were probably in the dealer hall by 11am.
My initial impression was the same as last year – GenCon is the only convention I know of where people are willing to buy a $50/day badge and then stand in line for 2 hours for the privilege of spending money at a booth! The lines at Fantasy Flight and Paizo were enormous, and they lasted all day. At one point, FF had 6 of their own employees whose job was merely to maintain order in the line and make sure no one was cutting in line (as the line was so long it had to cross the “hallways” a number of times). Corresponding to those long lines, it seemed like the most desired games were the Pathfinder game (Paizo) and Star Wars Wave 3 (at FFG). There was also a brief flurry of activity at GaleForceNine for the Firefly game, but this is all reported as the rush had finished before I even arrived at GenCon. The limited quantity of games may have sold out even before the doors opened on Thursday morning!
Notes from the booths:
Queen Games – in full swing here – the biggest stacks (and quickest movers) were Lost Legends and Kingdom Builder: Crossroads expansion. I think Crossroads was sold out by the end of Thursday, and Lost Legends was not far behind. Unfortunately, I did not see the new Feld game there, but I will try to get an update from Nikki or Keith in the next few weeks. I did see a group trying to play Escape at the booth, but with the general noise level in the dealer hall at a constant “11”, this was not the right venue for it.
Magic Cards – For me, this is the one place where I am constantly amazed by how successful and pervasive M:tG remains. About 30 booths in the dealer hall selling/buying Magic cards, and all of them with a steady stream of people looking at cards. Mr. Garfield is a genius, and his game shows no sign of dying out.
Rio Grande – had a nice talk with Jay. As usual, he does not have a booth in the dealer hall, but instead offers a room where you can play his new releases as well as get a free drink/snack. There were 2 copies of Renaissance Man there as well as Boxcars. These were hand-carried from Europe by Jay. He said the rest of them are being shipped currently and should enter the market “around September”. The new reprint of El Caballero was also on display – and it is in a sensibly sized box to boot! Credit Mobilier has also finally made it into finished form, though I do kind of miss the old foamy pieces. Oh yeah, and a new Dominion expansion.
Days of Wonder – Relic Runners was on display, but the games aren’t quite done. Mark Kaufman says they should be done soon. This will get European release at Essen. Also, there is a new Ticket to Ride product in the works. More news on that when I get it from DoW or Alan.
AEG – they had the reprint of Trains available, and the graphics look nice. It will be so much easier to play the game without sleeves and pasteups! Cheaty Mages will hopefully make it by Essen, and that’s another game that deserves translation.
Stronghold – The big new release was Space Cadets: Dice Duel which I believe was all sold out before the end of the first day. I have not yet had a chance to play it, but I got a demo on the rules, and it looks like a very interesting adaptation of the game. I hope to try it soon.
ARES – this Italian firm continues to try to make their mark here in the US. Sails of Glory is a nicely produced naval combat game. The ships in this one do look nice… They also have a reprint of Inkognito which looks gorgeous. I’m not sure if there are any changes to the rules here, but I will try it soon and report back.
Zvezda – I was surprised to see that they have the Cars license and are making a racing game. This should be ready in the next few months, and I’m keen to see how it works. There are also expansions for Samurai Battles that will soon be available.
Cheapass Games – James Ernest is still at it, and his original white paper envelope games are some of my earliest memories of boardgames. However, I do have to question the relevance of the company name when the games are now $15 and $25… Unexploded Cow seemed to be the game getting the most attention this year.
Asmodee – lots of new things from Asmodee – most exciting for me is: Spyrium, the first major game from William Attia since Caylus. I loved this one when I played it (over and over) at the Gathering, and I’ll have a preview/review of it soon. Bruno Cathala was there with his new Le Fantome de l’Opera which is a 2p deductive game that is between Mr. Jack and the pocket version. People familiar with the Mr. Jack family of games will be able to quickly pick it up, but it looks like there is enough different to set this apart from its predecessors. Asmodee is also distributing the SdJ nominated Augustus, though it’s English title is “Rise of Augustus”. Not sure why there is a name chance, but I’m sure there’s a good reason for it. Also on display was the long-awaited production version of Rampage, an awesomely good dexterity game by Antoine Bauza which I have been waiting for since 2011…
IELLO – lots of new stuff from another French company. I did get a chance to play The Phantom Society, and it looks to be a very solid deduction game. I will need a few more plays before I’m able to write up a review. They also have started a new series of storybook games (the box looks like a story book) with the first one based on the 3 Little Pigs. Who couldn’t love a game with a spinner that you have to move with your huffs and puffs? Oh, and news of a new King of Tokyo expansion. 2 new monsters. More evolution cards with a new twist!
Mayfair – though their presence seemed smaller at Origins, they were in full swing at GenCon. The usual Catan craziness, including at attempt at the world record for largest boardgame with a massively multiplayer Catan game. The new boardgames for me included Global Mogul, the Downfall of Pompeii and Five Points.
Tasty Minstel – caught up with Mr. Mindes for a bit, and I’m looking forward to trying out Dungeon Roll, a new dice game from TMG. They were throwing in the first expansion pack of cards with the game at the convention. What a nice guy!
Game Salute – this is the company that is trying to consolidate some of the Kickstarter game projects. Lots and lots of new stuff here. I briefly talked with Tom Vasel who has a new game out, Nothing Personal (done with Steve Avery). Other new games to me include a speed word game called Kerflip, a board game adaptation of the old-school text adventure Colossal Cave, and Heroes of Metro City, a deck building game about building the most awesome super hero that you can.
Passport – this is a relatively new player on the scene, and they are trying to carve out a niche with importing some of the better games from Europe. The big seller at their stand looked to be Tokaido and Kalua. The new release which had not yet made it to the booth was Castaways (Naufragos) which is a worker placement game that I’ve been interested in for awhile now.
Z-Man – I couldn’t get a word in with Zev because he was too busy collecting money from people. Bruges was again the big hit, and the stocks of the game were sold out within the first hour of the doors being open. I’ll try to get in contact with Zev by email to hear about their Essen plans, but you can’t get in the way of business at the show!
Bezier Games – the new iOS version of Suburbia was on display. It’s not quite finished yet, but you could get a pretty good idea of how awesome it’s going to be from the demo. Oh, there was some werewolf stuff there too, but it’s not as cool as Suburbia. Which also sold out on Thursday. I did see a few of the vendors (Cool Stuff Inc, etc) which had copies as well, but also in limited quantities. (NB: I might be slightly biased towards Suburbia)
BGG – For the first time, Boardgamegeek had a booth at GenCon, and they were trying to run GeekBuzz for this show as well as doing their usual live streaming and roving interviews. I managed to videobomb Beth for a little bit (and sneak in a well deserved smooch on camera).
OK. There’s a bit more from GenCon, and I’ll try to get that written later in the week. Additionally, Matt Carlson will be writing up his trip as well (hopefully with better pictures than I’ve got). And… time to hit the books for me. I’ll be starting up a new Essen series next week with the other writers and will try to get to as much of the preview stuff as I can this year!
Until your next appointment,
The Gaming Doctor