I’ll be blogging each day about Gen Con 2016, much like I did last year. I get to Indiana tonight (Wednesday) and leave Sunday.
I’m looking forward to the group of games being released at Gen Con this year. Though Spiel (Essen) will probably have the advantage for me in terms of quality game releases, Gen Con 2016 looks like it’ll have some big hits. As I noted last year, the production schedule in recent years has changed so that many of the biggest and best games actually get released at Gen Con first and then getting a wider release at Essen.
I know several other Opinionated Gamers will also be at the convention. Matt covers the convention in amazing detail, and he’ll begin posting in a few days. I sort of meander around and play what catches my eye, writing up initial thoughts on the games I play each evening.
This post contains my first impressions on what looks interesting to me. Below are five cool Gen Con releases I played in advance of the convention, plus the ten games I’m most looking forward to trying at the convention. Links are below to the BGG entry.
If you haven’t checked it out, I highly recommend W. Eric Martin’s Gen Con Preview over at BGG. Eric, so many of us wouldn’t know what to do without your convention previews.
Five Fun Games I Played in Advance
I got to play a few releases early, and it would be unfair to the games to shortchange them in my convention coverage, so here are my top five I played in advance. They are listed below in alphabetical order.
Islebound (Red Raven)
Designer: Ryan Laukat
As stated in the game entry, “In Islebound, you take command of a ship and crew. You sail to island towns, collecting resources, hiring crew, and commissioning buildings for your capital city. Each building has a unique ability, and your combination of buildings can greatly enhance your strength as a trader, builder, or invader. You also recruit pirates and sea monsters to conquer towns, which, once conquered, allow you to complete the town action for free, and charge a fee to opponents if they want to use it. Alternatively, you can complete events that give influence, which can be used to befriend towns.”
I’ve only played once, but my first impression is that this is one of Laukat’s best games. It has a pick-up and deliver feel, but it is actually easy to get the hang of, and it has some clever and original mechanics. Plus, as usual, the artwork is gorgeous. I’m hoping to pick this one up at Gen Con since I missed the Kickstarter.
Mysterium: Hidden Signs (Libellud)
Designers: Oleksandr Nevskiy & Oleg Sidorenko
I wrote a full review of Mysterium: Hidden Signs a few weeks ago. If you’re a fan of Mysterium, I’d recommend Hidden Signs. It freshens up gameplay, allowing for new combinations that adding to replayability, even if it doesn’t add any new mechanics. If you don’t like Mysterium, nothing here will change your mind. But if you do like the game, this expansion is a solid buy. Hidden Signs offers more of the beautiful illustrations that have drawn so many of us potential psychics into Warwick Manor.
Tides of Madness (Portal Games)
Designer: Kristian Čurla
I wrote a full review of Tides of Madness a couple of weeks ago. Tides of Madness is the sequel to Tides of Time, and like its predecessor, Tides of Madness is a brilliant card drafting and set collection game packed into just eighteen cards. I’ve loved my plays so far, and the additional strategy that comes from managing the Madness Tokens leads me to liking Tides of Madness even more than Tides of Time. Most people I’ve played with have agreed.
Via Nebula (Space Cowboys)
Designer: Martin Wallace
Dale published a full review yesterday. This game shows Wallace’s brilliant mind. I think this middle-weight pickup-and-deliver game is likely to be a hit this year. The fun comes from the fact that you’re exploring the valley and exploiting resources cooperatively, and you can take advantage of your opponent’s moves by anticipating what they’re going to do. While this isn’t a railroad game, it kind of feels like a lighter version of one. Toss in the beautiful artwork and the clever scoring, and I think this is one of Wallace’s better recent games. Oh, and if Box Insert of the Year was a thing, this would be a sure bet.
Vikings on Board (Blue Orange)
Designers: Charles Chevallier, Catherine Dumas, Pascal Pelemans
As noted in the game entry, “Vikings on Board is a family-strategy/worker-placement game in which your objective is to set sail with your clan of Vikings on board the ships best supplied for a successful voyage, while simultaneously placing bets on which clan you think will control each ship as they set sail.”
The game offers an interesting combination of majorities (you can only grab goods if you’re winning the ship), betting, and worker placement. My favorite part of the game was the worker placement element’s impact on turn order: picking better actions meant going later in the next round.
Overall, I thought it was a tense, interesting game. It can be a bit think-y, and the gameplay can actually be quite confrontational, but I like that in my games. Blue Orange had copies flown in to Gen Con, so I’m hoping to snag one early on Thursday.
My Top Ten Most Anticipated Games
I haven’t played these, so I’m not going to comment heavily on gameplay, other than to say what looks interesting about them. These are listed in alphabetical order. The link is to the BGG entry. Where possible, I also mentioned if the game is for pre-order. I’m keeping this brief since I’m hoping to write more about these games in the coming days.
Looking at this list, I’m struck by how much the gaming industry now resembles Hollywood: sequels, reprints, reskins, etc. are many of the hot new releases!
Designers: Ted Alspach, Friedemann Friese
Why It Looks Fun: I’m a big fan of Fauna and Terra. Dale reviewed America on the Fourth of July, and the game looks like a worthy successor to Friese’s earlier designs. I’m looking forward to giving America a play and seeing what’s on the cards!
Designer: Vlaada Chvátil
Why It Looks Fun: Codenames was one of my favorite games last year, and Codenames: Pictures looks like a cool twist on this 2016 Spiel des Jahres winner. Also, in case you missed it, Target now exclusively carries a third Codenames game available for adults only that came out this weekend. (I’ll admit that I bought a copy of Codenames: Deep Undercover.).
Preorder: Codenames: Pictures was available for preorder on the CGE website.
Designer: Kane Klenko
Why It Looks Fun: This looks like a cool dice placement game with a fun spy theme. As the game description states, “Each round, players roll their hand of dice and in turn allocate them to different actions, like moving their Agents, acquiring Agency Cards, completing and acquiring new Missions, and more.”
Designers: Grant Rodiek, Michał Oracz, Michał Walczak
Why It Looks Fun: I’m not into miniatures, so this didn’t initially catch my eye, but when I reviewed the rulebook, Cry Havok looked clever. I’ve heard this described as a Kemet replacement, and that seems like it could be a fair assessment, plus the battle mechanic looks original.
Preorder: Cry Havok was available for pre-order from Portal Games.
Designers: Antonio Ferrara, Sebastiano Fiorillo
Why It Looks Fun: This seems at first glance to be similar to Letters from Whitechapel, a game me and my family love, but when I read the rulebook, it looks like The Last Friday will have even more tension. Add in the fun horror theme, and I think this could be a great time.
Designer: Antoine Bauza
Why It Looks Fun: A card drafting game by Antoine Bauza? Plus an ocean theme with Iello’s art? Take my money!
Designer: Rob Daviau
Why It Looks Fun: A 4X-style legacy game from Rob Daviau? This one is going to be a hit… likely a really big hit. Unfortunately, Plaid Hat has indicated they only have a limited number of copies for the convention, so supplies will be tight. I predict this is the game most people run for this year. Eric Edens wrote up a preview of the game, featuring an interview with Rob Daviau.
Designer: Jacob Fryxelius
Why It Looks Fun: Given the theme, I didn’t expect this to be a crunchy Eurogame, but that’s what it looks like. The mechanics and asymmetric goals of this game look fascinating. I’ll be heading to the Stronghold booth ASAP in hopes of getting a copy!
Designer: Alan R. Moon
Why It Looks Fun: A new twist on Ticket to Ride? Of course I’m going to buy this, assuming it doesn’t sell out first. But as a former resident of the Great Lakes region, I’m actually looking forward to the Great Lakes map more than the map of the globe!
War of the Ring: Warriors of Middle-earth (Ares Games)
Designers: Roberto Di Meglio, Marco Maggi, Francesco Nepitello
Why It Looks Fun: I’m a big fan of War of the Ring, and this expansion looks like it adds some fresh gameplay elements.
Thoughts from Other Opinionated Gamers
Matt C. – This summer/fall seems to be Star Trek-O-Rama to me. I’ve already enjoyed both Star Trek Frontiers (aka. Mage Knight) and Star Trek Panic (aka. Castle Panic.) Both are successful “reskins”, in my opinion. I think Star Trek Panic is actually a better thematic fit than the original. I love being able to rotate the Enterprise in order to move the shields around. I hope to take a look at Star Trek Ascendancy, looks like it might be a minis-on-a-board type game, and I don’t mind a good one of those.
I’m also looking forward to seeing Seafall, hoping it will bring some more unique Legacy style mechanics. The Seafall people are also working on a game/RPG called Thornwatch, which originated in the brain of one of the Penny Arcade guys. The setting is very unique and I’m hoping the cardgame/RPG mix will also be fun to play. Cardventures (by Gamewright) is supposed to be a choose-your-own-adventure game with cards. I liked the old line of books, so am curious how the game works out.
GenCon is where I catch up on games, so I’ll want to see A.E.G.I.S.: Combining Robot Strategy Game, not sure if it’s out officially or not. As for expansions, there is a Thunderbirds expansion I want to check out, hopefully I can see what the mainstream (low budget) Flick em Up looks like and check out the new Ticket to Ride. While not really an expansion/sequel, I’ll also want to see the new version(s) of Agricola.