Gen Con 2014 report – the weekend

The mad dash continued through the weekend, with me running around in the morning trying to play as many new games (mostly ones that are not yet released since I bought most of the new releases already) as possible, working the booth in the afternoon, and then trying to play some of the purchased games at night. I thought I’d be more successful in playing games at night this year as I don’t have much commitment to demo games and more people I know are attending than in previous years. That turned out not to be the case. However, I did get to have a few nice meals and to catch up with friends. The idea of trying to post daily became difficult as my phone doesn’t get good signal at the convention center and I didn’t want to wake up my roommate at 3 am. So you get this long report instead.

Back to games. I can finally say something about King of New York, a new game in the King of Tokyo family from Iello. This time, the monsters can be in any of the five boroughs (with everyone untie outer boroughs ganging up on the monster in Manhattan). In addition to attacking each other, monsters can also destroy buildings (attracting the attention of the military), and risk attack from the military. One other source of victory points is through celebrity. I got the Superstar card early in the game which lets me score celebrity points, and somehow managed to win without ever setting foot in Manhattan.

One other new games being demoed at the Iello booth is World of Yo-Ho from Volumique. It is a pirate-themed game using your smartphone as an augmented reality device. For example, if two players are in a battle, they would input their moves using the app, and then the app resolves the battle and presents the final results. It is very impressive. The game is scheduled to be released in 2015.

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I then met up with designer Philip duBarry and tried 3 of his new games. First up is a Princess Bride themed game where players add or reduce poison level of several giblets and at the same time bid to drink from a goblet. Every other round the first cards in the goblets are revealed so players know what to avoid. There are some special ability cards as well. At the end of the game, everyone drinks from a goblet and either lives or dies. I also tried Fidelitas, a hidden objective card game. Players add character cards to specific locations, carry out the card action and complete missions. Like any other hidden objective games, sometimes it can be frustrating to see the goal you’ve worked so hard slipped through your fingers through accidental decisions on the part of other players. Finally, we squuezed in Spirits of the Rice Paddy, a farm building game involving tile placement, worker placement, and water path management. This is my favorite  new game that I played this week (I have played many of the new games before so they ate technically not new to me). I borrowed the prototype to play more in the coming weeks and will write a more detailed review after a few more plays.

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I had a little time before booth duty so went up to the Rio Grande room again to try Pressure Cooker and Temporum. In Pressure Cooker, players grab ingredient tiles ‘Galaxy Trucker’ style and try to complete recipes ordered by customers. In Temporum, players travel back and forth in time to move their meeples to the newest time period. As players can change history, there is a lot of replayability in this light game.

After recovering from meat coma following dinner at a Brazilian steakhouse, I taught Harbor and Aqua Sphere at the TMG room before playing Colt Express again. I also borrowed Argent of Consortium, an interesting worker placement game set in a Wizard University. Players (who are candidates for the headmaster vacancy) draft a team of students first (different departments have different abilities). During the game, the students are dispatched to gain resources, treasures, supporters, learn spells and finding out how different members of the selection consortium are likely to vote. This is a game where you have to pay close attention to what other players are doing as they have information you don’t have. The game was targeted for Gen Con release but there ate some manufacturing issues so it was not for sale at the show.

On Saturday I finally got to play some new purchases. Two of Bruno Cathala’s games hit the table. Abyss, the hot seller at the Asmodee booth, is a set collection game set in a mythical underwater city. The artwork by Xavier Collette is beautiful. Most of your turns involve starting an auction of cards (you can also choose to take cards from one location, recruit/buy a lord card). Players pay pearls to the active player (kind of a closed economy) for the cards they want. All cards not purchased go to the corresponding location so eventually someone will take the pile at the location. I like the level of player interactions as each of your actions is likely to benefit others to some degree. Niya from Orange Blue is 2-player abstract strategy game, with beautiful tiles (although the pine tree looks mote like cactus to me). The goal is to be the first to have 4 tiles in a horizontal, vertical, diagonal, or 2*2 pattern. However, your placement is limited by the opponent’s most recent move (have to match one of the two symbols). It is a fun 10-minute game I will have in my bag from now on. I do buy two other Bruno’s games. I am planning to play Five Tribes on Wednesday with Joe Huber, and I did not have Cyclades base game with me so the expansion will have to wait.

We played Antoine Bausa’s Samurai Spirit (from Passport Games), a quick card based co-op game in which the samurais are trying to protect the village. It is reminiscent of Ghost Stories, another Bauza co-op game, but it has no location element and can play up to 7 players. It is difficult to win. We played 2 games at the normal difficulty level and did not even survive the 2nd round. I am sure this game will see a lot of play at game days.

Sunday was a short day at the exhibit hall but I started earlier at the booth so I barely had time to make a couple last-minute purchases, but I did pick up Alien Uprising, a new game from Mr. B Games. I missed the chance to try it at GoF so I am glad to have a released copy to play.

There are several games on my list that I missed. I wanted to see Spirit Island, but timing did not work out. Luckily Greater Than Games will be at PAX Prime in a couple of weeks so I have another chance.

After dinner, we played Jungle Rumble, one of the Taiwanese games I brought with me. It is a worker placement game where the workers are cute anime cats. The active player can choose an action space and send up to 6 workers, then all other players can follow with one worker. The cute kitties work one time and then eat and go to sleep, so for the next round, players have to decide how much food to spend to wake up the cats for more work. We played a 2-player game so the whole ‘following’phase is not as interesting (you almost always follow). I want to try it with more people.

Finally I closed out Gen Con 2014 with a game of The Castles of Mad King Ludwig. I have taught the game many times over the weekend but never got to play it (played before the con so also not new to me). Players purchase rooms from the market to expand their castle, earning points every turn. I have heard many people say that it is their favorite game at the show. It scales well with the number of players (2-4). Our 2-player game took about 45 minutes.

I did not start punching/packing games until Sunday night, and grabbed a shipping box just in case. I managed to get everything into the suitcase by 4 am Monday. Here’s hoping they all survive the trip home. As for game playing, there is a Sasquatch game day coming up next Saturday so I expect many of the new games to get played then. Stay tune for a first impression article early next week.

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