This past weekend, May 11th – May 14th, I attended CMON Expo 2017 in Atlanta. I attended as a member of the media and I have a lot of cool stuff to share. I had a great time. I had only been to local conventions before so seeing a full demo staff and convention exclusive sneak peeks was great. I know you want to hear about the games but indulge me just a little while I talk about the convention itself and some highlights.
The hotel was amazing. Although the room rate was discounted it didn’t come cheap but for the price, the venue was exceptional. Arriving on Thursday I got to participate in the early gaming and see the set up before it was complete. It was a nice way to play some games with others without the constant “buzz” of people. It was a much more laid back and welcoming first night. It was also fun to see something in person. When the “Dice Tower entourage” entered it was, I’ll say, obvious. I don’t mean this in a bad way at all. But everyone turned to see them. It was as close to rock stars entering the stage as was going to happen. It quickly died off and everyone went back to gaming of course but to see that reaction was actually a bit surreal. To be frank, those guys are just guys like me. We post videos and do reviews. I know they do much more and higher quality but at the end of the day they are just people who play and love games but by doing what they do well, they have become more than that. And that was just fun to see.
I will say this though, I spoke to a lot of other media and everyone was nicer than the last. Next time I hope to be a bigger fish and be invited to the actual media room so I could see some of the demos behind the scenes. (when I attempted to get my badge they didn’t have my name on the list at all but we got it squared away). But I did realize while there that I was the only person posting a daily vlog (which I will link to at the end) during the convention. Just me. Now the Dice Tower was filming of course but as far as real time info on YouTube it was just me. That was pretty cool.
Ok ok. Enough about me, what about the GAMES!
I am going to disappoint many of you as I didn’t play as many as I had hoped to. Again, it was mostly due to it being hard to get into demos and next year I hope to get on the press schedule to do demos. This year I didn’t even know how to get on that or anything. But I made do. I got to play Lorenzo il Magnifico, Council of Four, Path of Light and Shadow (an Indie Boards and Cards Game) Sherlook, Godfather, Wander: The Cult of Barnacle Bay (a Panda Cult game), Gekido, Ethnos, and Rising Sun. So I’ll tell you about each of them with Rising Sun last. Why last? So you have to at least scroll some more before you see what you really came for here.
Lorenzo il Magnifico
Lorenzo il Magnifico is a worker placement game with dice determining the power of those workers. You will be competing to have the most magnificent board and doing so by taking cards from the towers on the board. Everything requires you to pay attention to the value of the dice and also to pay up if someone else (or you) has placed a worker in a certain tower. If you are not first, you must pay up. The higher the die number the better the action you take but everything has a trade off. You also need to keep the church happy or you will have some very detrimental stuff happen to you during the game. It all comes together pretty well but with a short demo of the first couple rounds I am still undecided. An engine building game like this doesn’t benefit from seeing just the front end. I’ll give it a full play before I make any initial judgement.
Council of Four
Council of Four was one of my favorite games when it came out originally. I am so happy it is getting released here for more to play and more to see it. My only concern was a very simply produced game with great mechanisms has now been, in my opinion, over produced with fantastic minis abound. I hope the price point stays low but I fear the quality in the box will raise the price too high for some. I loved the old version and I’ll take this one if it gets me playing Council of Four more often but just initially I kind of liked the old production better.
Path of Light and Shadow
Path of Light and Shadow, not a CMON product but Indie Boards and Cards currently on Kickstarter, was demoed to me by one of the designers. I got a full game played and I have to say I was very impressed. The company behind Aeon’s End has made another twist on deck building and I like it. It takes some of the pieces that Mystic Vale has with upgrading cards to better ones but also has an area control aspect to it. I can’t lie and say it was easy to get my head around initially but it was a lot of fun. I played horribly and want to play again. To me, if I lose and lose badly, but still want to play again the game must be good. You should check it out on Kickstarter if you are at all interested in a gorgeous card game with a fantastic board game with area control built right in.
Sherlook is a real time visual search game. You look at two large size cards and faster than everyone else try to count the differences between the two. That is pretty much it. Of course there is a little more to it but overall it is a spot it style game with Sherlock all but pasted on the cover. The name was also hard to remember and pronounce. It would be a neat activity for a family but for a heavy gamer it isn’t much to think about.
The Godfather: Corleone’s Empire
I got to have a demo of this and I can say without question this is a mean game. Of course it should be as the material isn’t unicorns and rainbows but I also know that style of game isn’t really my favorite. The game has the theme of Godfather all over it but some of the choices in design seemed to be a little too much for me. The metal suitcases you are meant to keep your loot in was a bit much for me and really didn’t add to my enjoyment that much. No issues other than they just seemed extra and unneeded. The demo also only got us through the first half of the game and in an area control game like this it really needs to play to completion to get a full picture. I’ll probably skip it at retail, not due to quality, just my taste in games is different.
Wander: The Cult of Barnacle Bay
This is a game being created by Panda Cult Games and is hopefully due for Kickstarter in the September. It is their first production and the guys were very nice to talk with. It has great miniatures, style, and potential. Art for this game is spot on as you play anthropomorphic animals in a fantasy setting. The ocean has begun to change the inhabitants and once normal Bear guards are now turning into Shark Bears. And they look and feel incredible already even with the game so far from being out. It plays as a scenario driven dungeon crawl with dice combat but only the player characters roll. You don’t have to roll for your opponents but instead just for yourself. I like that as I am not a fan of a roll off between teammates. There are event cards and items will hold over to the next scenario. Overall I was very happy to see such care put into a pre-production copy like this and I can see the potential and look forward to seeing this on Kickstarter.
Gekido Bot Battles
This game is a Yahtzee style fighting game with what I would call amazingly produced miniatures. They are big, well designed, and pre-painted. The game itself is somewhat complicated with cards, powers, and dice but overall it was quick to play. Having played it the elimination aspect made me a little scared for a long game of it for the player out first. The cards are so vastly important that the first rounds seem to be gathering cards for big plays late game and with the varying card powers some are more important to get than others. Unfortunately they are drawn at random. Lots of random of course as it is a dice game but the look on the table is great. I’m more of a fan of King of Tokyo as almost always you get something good out of a non-optimal role. In this game if you miss the roll you want, say 4 of a kind, you get punished. Fine game but not for me.
I loved this game. I really did. I played it 4 times in one day and I can’t wait to get it to the table again. I even did a video how to play which you can see here. How to Play Ethnos Ethnos is a card collection game with an area control goal. You want to place markers on the board to gain majority and to do so you must play from your hand sets of cards either same color or race. Each set will have a chosen leader that will also give a power when played. The best mechanic for me is that when you do this, the other cards in your hand not part of this set are discarded face up for all players to take from in future turns. You can just take cards until you hit the hand limit but when you do you allow your opponents to pick from your leftovers without having to hope for a random pull from the deck. This is fantastic. It was the game of the con for me(that is out before 2018, spoilers). Get this game. It is cheap and played great. My only concern is the box is boring and the board is horribly lame. But as a game, it is top of my list for the year without any question.
The moment you all, or at least a lot, have been waiting for. Rising Sun is near perfection. I hate area control games that are just mine is bigger than yours I win. This is not that game. It also isn’t Blood Rage. Any reviewer that begins a review of Rising Sun saying “if you like Blood Rage you will like Rising Sun” or dislike both, didn’t play both games. They have minis and a board. They have monsters. That’s about all the similarities you will see when it comes to game play. I am SO fine with that. I have to be honest I wasn’t as enamored with Blood Rage as a lot of people and the drafting mechanic actually made me like it less than a normal Risk style area control game. Rising Sun is immaculate. I won’t go into how beautiful it is but trust me everything on the table is awe inspiring.
The game play. That is the key. A war game where every decision I make up and to the fight can mean winning or losing is fantastic. And even during the fight a bluff, counter, or bad decision can mean winning or losing as well. The game is all about control of a mythical Japan. You have soldiers at your disposal and money to buy stuff with. But each season(of which 3 are actively played and the 4th is scoring) players are able to do so many things! You start by having a tea ceremony and deciding if you want to ally with one other player or not. You can strategize, be silent, or even just flat out buy friends with cash. Every decision can be bribed, promised, coordinated, and ultimately broken. You are playing diplomacy while wars are breaking out over the map. You get to pray to Gods and benefit from not using minis on the map instead. You will have and lose honor, the tie breaker in the game. You can commit to purchasing upgrade cards, monsters, end game scoring, or virtues which add to the depth of your decisions. You can even see on the board which areas will have a war and which may not each season.
Fighting is the main event here but it isn’t the most fun part. The prep phase for the fight is. You have a board with 4 areas you will wager your cash on. For each you compare at the end of this phase with all players in the fight and whoever wagered the most wins the ability to do that action, if they want. By doing this you can block others from doing these actions, perform important actions for your strategy, or even pay for favors. You are not allowed to give money during war but, the winner of the battle evenly distributes the money wagered to the losers. So you could even technically pay off your opponent in this manner.
I don’t have the time or the space here to talk more about the game but it is near perfection for me. It really and truly is. I know balancing may be messy or even some phases might be boring once it is released and I have played it a number of times, but from my play, and I got a full game in(not many reviewers were able to), it is awesome.
I don’t have a copy coming to me as I didn’t back it on Kickstarter as I assumed it would be Blood Rage 2 but I want this game now. I truly feel like this one game could sustain my gaming habit for quite some time. I know no higher praise than that and Rising Sun has it.
I played a fair number of games and the minority of them were CMON games actually. You read here about those and a few from designers that demoed to me. I’ll save you the trouble of hearing me talk about Vast or Terraforming Mars or others. But overall CMON Expo 2017 was a lot of fun. I think if you are local to the area or within a reasonable driving distance you owe it to yourself to come. The swag bag alone was worth the price of admission. The Swag Bag! Oh I didn’t even talk about this! Well, if you want to know more about what was in it check out my daily vlogs and pay close attention to day 3 where I show you the contents and how you might be able to win some of it yourself.
Eyes on the Ground for OP gamers