Gen Con 2015: Five Games That Impressed Me on Day One

As the first day of Gen Con 2015 comes to an end, I wanted to provide a quick review of five games that have impressed me: Artifacts, Inc.; Tides of Time; Mysterium; Terra; and Coup Rebellion G54. I haven’t tried all of the games at the convention, and these are merely first impressions. I’ll be following up in the next few weeks with full reviews.

#1: Artifacts, Inc. by Ryan Laukat and Red Raven Games (1 Play)

 

Note: I plan on doing a full review in the coming weeks.

Artifacts, Inc. wasn’t even on my radar this morning, but nonetheless, it has been the star of the show for me. And I’m not alone: as I write this entry, Artifacts is #6 on the BGG Geekbuzz list. The game sold out in just a few hours, and Ryan Laukat is having more copies flown in for Saturday. It’s safe to say they’ll sell out as well.

Ryan Laukat is a renaissance man of board gaming: not only does he design his games, he also illustrates and publishes them. And here’s the thing: he’s amazingly talented at all three.

Artifacts, Inc. might be his most impressive game yet. I’d classify the game as a medium-weight, worker-placement Euro with a dash of engine building and a hint of area control. Players attempt to create the most impressive archaeology company. On each turn, a player rolls four dice and then places them either in their tableau or in common spaces, building their engine — and earning victory points — along the way. I plan on writing a comprehensive overview in the next few weeks, but in the mean time, you can check out the details at the Kickstarter campaign that ended a few months back.

This is a clever foray into the crowded worker placement genre, and the game’s mechanics work exceptionally well together. The art is beautiful, the game is streamlined, and it took me only a few minutes to learn the rules. I’m greatly looking forward to future plays.

Initial OG Rating: “I love it!”

#2: Tides of Time by Kristian Čurla (3 Plays)

 

Note: I plan on doing a full review in the coming weeks.

Tides of Time seems to have been selling quite well, so I’m shocked that this isn’t on the BGG Geekbuzz list. It should be: there’s a brilliant card drafting and set collection game packed into just 18 cards.

I plan on providing a comprehensive overview in the coming weeks, but in the mean time Eric Martin has an overview on BGG I highly recommend.

I pre-ordered Tides of Time, but when I emailed a close friend this week, I expressed concerns about replayability: there are, after all, only eighteen cards. I’ll need a dozen more plays to make a final ruling, but my initial impression is that I was wrong. There’s a lot of game here, and Tides of Time offers an intriguing duel between two players with virtually no randomness. The game is held out as a civilization-building game, and the artwork gives it that feel, even if the theme is pasted on. I learned the game in less than two minutes, and I played it in about ten.

This has a bit of a 7 Wonders-type flavor, and it has the chance to become my go-to two-player filler.

Initial OG Rating: “I love it!”

#3: Mysterium… the English Version by Asmodee (1 Play)

I wrote a full review of Mysterium’s ancestor – Tajemnicze Domostwo – a couple of months ago. I got in a full play of Asmodee’s English edition today, and I fell in love with the redo. The game is sitting at #9 on the BGG GeekBuzz list, but it is the game I’ve hear most mentioned at the convention, so I call shenanigans. The game sold out before the convention even opened this morning, which annoyed quite a few people, but Asmodee will have a small additional supply on both Friday and Saturday. The game will have a wide release in early October.

The new artwork and components are beautiful. There was initially grumbling about the art of Asmodee re-do, but I think that concern was misplaced. Hopefully these pictures – which show both the new artwork as well as some new components – demonstrate why:


  

There are a few notable differences from Tajemnicze Domostwo. The order the cards are solved in has changed – it now goes who, where what – and there is an enormous change to the end of the game. Other changes are present as well, and there’s an excellent overview of the changes at BGG.

I love the components of the new edition, and the artwork is fantastic. TIme will tell whether I like the old rules or new rules better: the new rules seem more dramatic, but the new voting — and the new ending — seem slightly clunky to me. But I can always play the old rules with the new art and components, so I’ll be happy either way.

Initial OG Rating: “I love it!”

#4: Terra by Friedemann Friese and Bezier Games (1 Play) 

 

Way back in 2009 Friedemann Friese (best known for Power Grid) got an SdJ nomination for the game Fauna, ultimately losing to Dominion. The game was worthy of its SdJ nomination: it is simple and fun, even for those that don’t like trivia games. Fauna focuses on animals — where they live, and their size — and Terra is largely the same game, just focused on geography and landmarks. Players identify – or guess – where the feature is on a map, how big it is, etc. Bezier Games (owned and operated by Opinionated Gamer Ted Alspach) will be releasing this title at Essen, but they had a prototype to play today.

If you didn’t like Fauna, odds are you aren’t going to like Terra: it is largely the same game, even if there are a few minor rules changes. If you’re an animal lover, you’ll like Fauna better, but if like me you’re better at geography and landmarks, you’ll like Terra better.
The beauty of this game is that you don’t necessarily have to be all that great at trivia to have a shot at winning: rather, you just have to know who at the table IS good at trivia and know if they’re bluffing. Sure, the smarter player has a leg up: I rarely beat my zoology-obsessed brother at Fauna. But at least now I can switch the game to a subject where I’ve got the advantage. I will say that Terra seems much harder than Fauna, and I do expect it won’t appeal to as large of an audience.

Initial OG Rating: “I like it.”, approaching “I love it!”

#5: Coup: Rebellion G54 by Rikki Tahta and Indie Cards & Boards


Coup is a brilliant game: easy to learn, but frequently laugh-out-loud fun. It is my favorite bluffing game, so I was naturally intrigued to try out G54, but which basically Coup on steroids.

It didn’t disappoint. Each game you select just five of about a couple dozen cards. (The company told me 20 today, but BGG says 25.) The new roles a clever, and there’s a lot more variation – and replayability – in G54 than in Coup.

Is some of the simplicity lost? Of course, but not as much as I expected. I have to imagine that some combos won’t work as well as others, but I really loved the setup I played today.
If you love Coup, you’ll love G54. I wouldn’t trade away Coup just yet — I think it will be easier to teach new players — but if you’re a Coup expert, then this is definitely the next step.

Initial OG Rating: “I like it.”, approaching “I love it!”

Honorable Mention:
One Night Revolution (3 Plays) – I enjoyed my three plays, and I think I like it slightly better than One Night Ultimate Werewolf. It seems a bit more strategic and less chaotic, although at the expense of simplicity… this game took me three games to fully understand.

Conclusion & Overall Thoughts on Gen Con So Far

These five games impressed, and I hope to write more about them in the coming weeks. Looking back over my list, it seems that the fillers are stealing the show so far. I think that’s actually the case, and it is easy to see why: the Eurogame pickings have been slim, and I’ve never been one for the so-called Ameritrash (the hobby’s word, not mine).  Gen Con 2015 might be a filler filled convention, at least for me. Also worth mentioning: two of the games on my list are Kickstarter games. That’s notable since I’m typically very skeptical of Kickstarters.

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2 Responses to Gen Con 2015: Five Games That Impressed Me on Day One

  1. Pingback: Not much gaming this week | Board Game Meeple Lady

  2. Pingback: Review: Tides of Time by Kristian Čurla and Portal Games | The Opinionated Gamers

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