The first day of Gen Con 2017 is a wrap, and what a day it was. This year’s sold out event marks the 50th anniversary of the convention, and if the first day is any indication, this is going to be the best Gen Con yet.
As with my past coverage, I’m posting tonight (1) what’s hot, (2) what I played, and (3) general thoughts on the convention. Today was my only full day at Gen Con — I’ll be there in the morning, but only for a couple of hours — so tonight is also (sadly) my wrap-up post. But I have a couple of game days scheduled Sunday/Monday to play all of the games I bought, so I’ll be doing more snap reviews then.
I always find it fun to follow the Geekbuzz list, which is in operation, but the voting tends to be a small sample size for the first couple of days. Currently, the top 10 are: Summit: The Board Game, Summit: Yeti (an expansion for Summit), Photosynthesis, Codenames Duet, Century: Spice Road, Cities of Splendor, Visitor in Blackwood Grove, Kingdomino, Ex Libris, and Flip Ships.
If you’ve ever been to a convention with me, you know I take notice of what people around me are buying, and I ask just about everybody I meet what games they’re enjoying. So I always put together my own sort of hotness list, and I’m currently disagreeing slightly with the Geekbuzz list. I am one person, relying entirely on anecdotal evidence and my observations. I admit that I have a gaming taste that veers towards Eurogames, and I’m better informed about them, so perhaps I notice them more.
But here’s what I think are the hottest games, plus a few notes on each title:
- Bunny Kingdom. The hottest new title from Iello, designed by Richard Garfield. It sold out this morning, although there is an allotment for each day. I’ve also heard quite a few people talking about it.
- Century: Spice Road. I think this is so wildly popular at Gen Con because (a) it has consistently popular for several months, and (b) Plan B released the “Golem Edition” here, with new artwork that people seem to love. I’m not sure if there are copies in stock: I actually don’t recall seeing the Plan B booth today.
- Cities of Splendor. This is probably the game I’ve seen people carrying around the second most, behind only Photosynthesis. As I mentioned earlier today, at one point, the Asmodee shop had a 30+ minute wait, with most people (myself included) being in line to buy this series of four expansions. (Tip for Attendees: If you demo this game, they surprise you a promo tile that fits into one of the expansions. So even if you buy the game, you might also want to demo it.)
- Clank! In! Space! Renegade announced Clank! In! Space! a mere day or two before the convention, but people still knew about it, rushing towards their booth to grab this new version of last year’s hit. It sold out in a few minutes, though Renegade will have more for sale tomorrow.
- Codenames Duet. CGE seems to have plenty of stock, and I think people anticipated that, heading towards the exhibit hall rather than CGE’s room. (They have a large reserved room: they’re not in the exhibit hall.) I didn’t see many copies of this noticeable green box floating around this morning, but by mid-afternoon, it was everywhere, and it is currently towards the top of the Geekbuzz list.
- Crossfire. This Plaid Hat games title is sold out for the show. I’m not sure when it sold out, but it was early in the day: it wasn’t available for sale when I demoed it early afternoon. I shouldn’t be surprised that it is so hot: (1) the game only takes 5-10 minutes to demo, (2) social deduction is always popular at Gen Con, (3) it is by the same designer as Century: Spice Road, and (4) Plaid Hat is publishing it.
- Downforce. Restoration Games had an exceptionally good day, and though they haven’t sold out their titles, rumor is they’re running through their stock much faster than expected. Their other really popular title — Indulgence — is also selling exceptionally well and generating a lot of buzz.
- Ex Libris. Renegade Games revealed this shortly before the convention, and it sold out within minutes (seconds?) after the convention opened this morning, faster than even Clank! In! Space!. They’ll have a few more copies tomorrow, but I think it’ll be one that people are walking quickly (not running!) to grab, in part because retail release isn’t expected as quickly as with some other hot titles.
- Kingdomino. Yes, this is one of the hottest games of the convention, despite having been on the marketplace for nearly a year. I suspect it is so hot because Blue Orange is offering it for $10 if you buy Photosynthesis, plus they’re throwing in a promo. There are also other factors: (1) they’re holding raffles for a giant version of Kingdomino, (2) Queendomino is rumored to be making an appearance soon, and (3) Bruno Cathala was on hand to sign copies of the game.
- Photosynthesis. I think this might be the hottest title of the first day of the convention. Their daily allotment sold out, though they’re rumored to have a few more copies tomorrow. The game was everywhere: I saw it being carted around more than any other game, and people were talking about it in other lines. (One brilliant idea by Blue Orange: rather than giving out bags, the publisher actually attached a tape-like mechanism to the shrink wrap, making this a game you could tote around the convention hall. It really increased the game’s visibility.)
- Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Card Game. The third (third!) game by Renegade on this list. I picked up a copy for a friend, but I’m glad I did so early: this is sold out for the show. (The other Renegade titles will have more stock tomorrow, but this one will not.) I don’t know what’s in the box — this is another one I should have researched more — but it seems popular.
- Terraforming Mars Hellas & Elysium. I’ve seen quite a few people carting this around. Given the base game’s popularity, and the low cost of the expansion, this will probably be one of the best sellers.
- Ticket to Ride Germany. I saw quite a few people demoing it, plus there were even lines to demo it at one point. I’ve also seen a lot of attendees carrying it around. The new Ticket to Ride title is always hot, and Germany is no exception. Plus, Alan Moon himself is in the house promoting the game.
- Twilight Imperium (Fourth Edition). I’ve seen a number of large bags which presumably contain the game, but I haven’t seen the game itself. Nonetheless, it is hot as hot can be: people are talking about it… a lot.
- Wasteland Express Delivery Service. This is another title should have researched more. I knew it’d be popular: members of my various game groups were very excited for it. I’ve seen it being carried around by a whole lot of attendees. I’ve also heard a lot of people chat about it in line. But I don’t know much more than that!
- Whistle Stop. By mid afternoon, Bezier had sold their allotment — which was a decent number — for the entire convention. It was the hottest game on the Gen Con preview, and it seems that anticipation translated to sales on the convention floor.
I’ve also heard a few things about the new Civilization game, but not enough to mention it above.
I don’t know much about Summit, its expansion, or Visitor in Blackwood Grove. They’re all atop the Geekbuzz list, but bluntly, before the show, I just didn’t know much about them, and I didn’t really see copies being carried around today.
A Few Pictures
I love to go around photographing jumbo copies of games. Here’s one of Santorini. (There are actually two different boards here.)
The most intricate jumbo game, however, seems to be Wizards Wanted, by Mattel:
And, of course, there’s the giant copies of Kingdomino, which some lucky attendees will be taking home:
Speaking of Kingdomino, this year’s Spiel des Jahres-winning designer, Bruno Cathala, was on hand to sign copies of the game! And he dressed for the occasion.
Cities of Splendor
- Designer: Marc Andrew
- Publisher: Space Cowboys
Cities of Splendor adds four new modules to the base game. They’re meant to be played separately, and Space Cowboys/Asmodee team is running four separate demo tables, one for each module.
As described on BGG, the Cities module replaces the noble tiles with 3 different city tiles (randomly taken from a pool of 14). The city tiles are objectives (in prestige points and/or development cards) and you need to fulfill one of them in order to win. The Trading Posts module are special bonuses you earn by acquiring an array of development cards: more prestige points from the 1st noble tile you receive, an extra token when you choose the “Take 2 gem tokens of the same color” action, and so on. The Orient module adds three decks of cards (one for each level of development cards). They are added on the right side of the regular cards and you place two of them face-up on the table for each level. The new cards have special powers (like double bonus cards or joker cards which take the color of one of the developments you already own).
I played the Strongholds module, which gives each player three towers (strongholds). When you acquire a new card, you must put a stronghold on an face-up card on the table. You’re now the only player able to purchase/reserve it. You may also move one of your strongholds from one card to another one or remove another player’s stronghold. When your three strongholds are on the same card, you can buy it after your regular action, allowing you to make two acquisitions in the same turn or buying that card after taking your tokens.
I’ve played a lot of Splendor — probably over 100 games — so I was very excited for this expansion. As mentioned above, I’ve only played one of the four modules, but that one module alone was a cool improvement to the game, so I’m glad I bought this. The Strongholds are (a) a soft way to reserve cards that can be taken away, and (b) possibly an extra move if you get all three out. Of course, by placing your strongholds, you’re tipping your hand about what you might be purchasing, which has its downsides, as we saw in my one play.
It added a new strategic element, and I’m very eager to try the other three modules.
Initial OG Rating: I love it!
- Designer: Emerson Matsuuchi
- Publisher: Plaid Hat
Crossfire is a social deduction game set in the world of Specter Ops. The roles in the game vary by the player count, and I played with six players, so that’s what I’ll describe below.
Each player gets a card showing a secret role. One card shows the VIP. This player wins if he or she is alive at the end. There’s also an agent who is trying to protect the VIP: he or she wins if the VIP is still alive at the end of the game. There are two assassins trying to kill the VIP, and at the end of the game, they each get a shot. However, there is a sniper trying to kill the assassins, and he or she shoots first. Lastly, there’s an innocent bystander, who is just trying not to die.
Each player gets one of these cards, looks at it, and then passes it, then looking at the card they received. Then, based on the number of players, certain cards get grouped, shuffled, and handed back out. The card you see this time is your rule.
Players then have three minutes to discuss (there’s a sand time), and little cards they can orient to show their declared side.
When time is up, all players point, the shooting happens in the prescribed order, and the winners are declared.
I loved social deduction games, and this is a really good one. It reminded me a lot of One Night Ultimate Werewolf, but with a different theme, and with a bit more negotiation. The negotiation happens because there’s not really voting here: there are simply shots fired!
I don’t think it is as elegant as ONUW, and I missed the app, but this is a fine social deduction game in its own right, and I’m going to buy this when I can. It sold out today, making it the only game of Gen Con 2017 that got away from me.
If you like social deduction games, I bet you’ll like Crossfire.
Initial OG Rating: I like it.
- Designers: Matt Loomis, Isaac Shalev
- Publisher: IDW Games
Seikatsu is an abstract tile placement game, although I guess technically you aren’t using tiles. The rules are incredibly simple, the artwork is beautiful, and the gameplay is fast and well-streamlined.
On your turn, you take a tile (sorry, I’m not sure what else to call them!) and place it on one of the open spaces on the board. You earn a point for each bird of that type that is adjacent, including the bird you placed. Then you draw a new tile from the bag.
If you place a fish tile, it can count as any type of adjacent bird, but in the future, it won’t give an adjacency bonus.
After placement, draw another tile. The game will end when all tiles are placed.
In a 3-player game (which is how I played), at the end of the game, you earn points for the columns facing your side of the board. (You’ll notice the three different colors of the board.) For each tile of a color (regardless of the bird in it) in the majority color for that column, you get a bonus. 3 points for 2 tiles, 6 points for 3 tiles, 10 points for 4 tiles, 15 points for 5 tiles, or 21 points for 6 tiles. Fish count in the majority.
It is a very simple and elegant game — I just described nearly all of the rules above — and we played it in about 15 minutes. There are interesting decisions on any given turn — do you go for adjacency points, end-game points, or possibly block and opponent? I most went for end game points and ultimately tied a player going primarily for adjacency points, so at first blush there are different strategies.
The tile placement genre field is crowded, but this was a cool little game, and I’d happily play it in the future.
Initial OG Rating: I like it.
That’s it for Gen Con 2017 for me! The highlight actually came tonight, either hanging out at the Iello party or play-testing a game with Antoine Bauza. But I enjoyed every moment this year. There was a great crop of games, I got to see several of my favorite game aficionados, and the energy for Gen Con seemed to be at an all time high.