The first day of Gen Con 2018 is a wrap, and what a day it was. This year’s event marks the 51st anniversary of the convention, and though that distinction doesn’t have the shine of last year’s golden 50th, Gen Con this year feels considerably newsworthy, and I played several great games today.
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. After that, I head back to Missouri, where a couple of dedicated game days await. But I’ll be playing and blogging about Gen Con games all weekend.
The Convention Experience
It doesn’t seem as crowded as last year! I could easily move around the exhibition hall, which often wasn’t the case for the 50th anniversary. I don’t know if attendance is down, if there’s additional space, or even if maybe they just arranged the booths better. Its probably a combination of all those things!
One of the biggest surprises so far is that there doesn’t seem to be one game dominating conversation. Last night, KeyForge was all the rage among gaming twitter, and that continued today, but because it isn’t on sale, it has taken a backseat to many of the games for sale at Gen Con.
Some companies had trouble getting their games here — and I recount one such instance below — and there have been a few glitches with will call tickets. But overall, things seem to be running smoothly.
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. Publishers attempt to manipulate it before there are a significant number of votes, which is why many of the top games currently listed belong to just one publisher, and strangely they are lot of the same games that made the early list last year by that publisher.
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. This year I also spent several hours in the BGG hot games room, observing what was popular.
So I always put together my own sort of hotness list, and I’m currently disagreeing 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. I also admit that since I’m studying what people are carrying, small box games are at somewhat of a disadvantage.
But here’s what I think are the hottest games, judging from a combination of sales, buzz, and playtime in the BGG hot game room). I’ve added a few notes on each title:
- Arboretum. Arboretum was reportedly among the most popular games at the Renegade booth, which I thought was odd given that it’s a reprint of an old Z-Man title. But the new artwork is gorgeous, and they reportedly sold hundreds of copies.
- Blue Lagoon. Blue Lagoon is a Reiner Knizia title from Blue Orange games. Though it was rumored to be in short supply, that didn’t seem to be the case: they had an enormous stack of copies this morning. But it was selling well, and it was one of the games I most noticed people carrying throughout the day, often accompanied by a copy of Scarabya.
- Century: Eastern Wonders. Spice Road was popular last year (and is still pretty popular this year), but when I was at the Plan B / Next Move booth, they said this was selling quite well. Copies seemed to be everywhere.
- Coimbra. Coimbra sold out late this afternoon, despite the publisher having a decent supply. Given that it is on the heavier side, I was a bit surprised, but eggertspiele has been on a hot streak with their games in recent years.
- Detective. Portal Games had a remarkable amount of pre-convention buzz about Detective, their crime themed board game featuring 5 different cases. I haven’t had the chance to visit Portal’s booth yet, but this is one of the few titles I agree with the Geekbuzz list on: this is getting a lot of attention.
- Forbidden Sky. Forbidden Sky is probably the hottest game of the convention in my estimation. It sold out of its 200-copy allotment early this morning, and Gamewright will have 100 copies each day for the rest of the convention. It was mentioned by a few people I talked to as the hottest game, and it seemed to be in near-continuous play in the BGG hot games room.
- Gizmos. In the BGG hot game room, Gizmos was one of the most in-demand games, and at a couple of points when we tried to play it, we couldn’t snag a copy. We eventually did play it, and I fell in love with the game. It’s in short supply — CMON has only a few hundred copies, split across all four days — but I think this is my favorite new-to-me title of the convention.
- Gunkimono. Jeff Allers’ remake of Heartland was another big seller at the Renegade booth, and it was challenging to get a demo of it.
- Lost Cities: Rivals. When I went to the Kosmos booth, they said it had sold really well, and they didn’t seem to have that many copies left.
- The Mind. I saw this Spiel des Jahres-nominee getting a lot of playtime in the BGG hot games room, plus it is one of the higher-ranked titles on the Geekbuzz list. The Mind is on a multi-month hot streak, and that seems to have continued here in Indianapolis.
- Newton. Newton has gotten a lot of attention, but that seems to be because of its scarcity: CMON only has a few dozen copies each morning to sell.
- Patchwork Express. There was a giant stack of these at the Asmodee store this morning, and I didn’t even know it’d be at the convention. But I saw copies repeatedly throughout the day, and when I did a demo of it, it was really drawing in the crowd.
- Railroad Ink. I glossed over this Roll ‘n Write in the days leading up to Gen Con, but it sold out quickly this morning. Among the board game media types, this was frequently mentioned as a favorite. There are two editions — a blue one, and a red one — and they have the same base game but different expansions in each box. (And as a side note: is this the year of the Roll ‘n Write?)
- Reef. Plan B / Next Move had an enormous quantity of Reef on hand, but it still might sell out before the show closes. Plan B / Next Move is having a good show: this, Century: Eastern Wonders, and Coimbra are all among the hottest games of the convention. (And the Spiel des Jahres-winning Azul is doing pretty well too!)
- The Rise of Queensdale. The Rise of Queensdale either sold out or came close. It is a great city-building legacy game (and I reviewed it a few months ago) that I suspect will be popular in coming months.
- Root. People kept mentioning Root to me (and Dale), so we stopped by the booth to check it out, and there was quite the crowd there just for that game. I also saw it get a lot of play time in the BGG hot games room. The game features heavily asymmetric gameplay, and I believe copies recently reached Kickstarter backers.
- Scarabya. As you’ve probably noticed, publisher Blue Orange has a decent number of popular games, all of which are doing in the Geekbuzz list. But Scarabya is their highest-ranked title on that list. I saw a lot of copies of Scarabya being carried around today, often hand-in-hand with Blue Lagoon.
- Ticket to Ride New York. Alan Moon’s latest creation seemed to be the most-sold product when I was at the Asmodee booth this morning, and I saw several copies being carried around by attendees.
- Ultimate Werewolf Legacy. I saw this Ted Alspach and Rob Daviau project in the hands of numerous attendees, often alongside a copy or two of the recharge pack, which includes the distinctive (and beautiful) diary. (I first played this a few months ago, so it wasn’t new to me at Gen Con 2018, but it is my highest-rated game of 2018, and I enthusiastically recommend it.)
- Yellow & Yangtze. This “sister game” to Tigris & Euphrates was unsurprisingly embraced by old Euro-style gamers at the convention. I saw quite a few copies floating around, and Grail Games appears to have done another great job with a Knizia title.
Among expansions, Downforce: Danger Circuit, the Ghost Fightin’ Treasure Hunters Creepy Cellar expansion, Kingdomino: Age of Giants, and Terraforming Mars: Prelude all seem to be doing exceptionally well.
- Designer: Phil Walker-Harding
- Publisher: CMON
As mentioned above, Gizmos is my favorite new-to-me game of the convention. Dale did a full review on Monday, so I’ll keep this short. Gizmos is an engine-building game in which players pick energies (marbles) to buy cards, which given them both victory points and combo-licious ways to earn further resources and cards.
It’s an easy game to learn, but finding the right combos can be challenging. I think this is going to be a bit hit: gamers love engine-building, and this is one of the best with the mechanic. If you like games that have it, I suspect you’ll love Gizmos. I think for most of my fellow players tonight, it was one of the highlights of this evening’s games.
Initial OG Rating: I love it!
- Designer: Mathieu Aubert
- Publisher: Libellud
Shadows Amsterdam is a team-based, real-time deduction game that feels like a mix between Mysterium and Codenames. There are certain spaces on the board at which players can collect evidence, and they need to get to three such spaces before delivering the results to their client.
To do so, players hand cards with pictures to their teammates, who them try to move them to corresponding pictures on the game board. This is decidedly like Mysterium: they’re handing you one picture hoping you’ll notice what picture they’re trying to get you to target. But there’s also a bit of a Codenames aspect, where you’re trying to figure out what spaces are yours, while avoiding the police spaces, which cause your team to lose if you land on them three times. This all happens in real time.
The game was a lot of fun, and it was decently short. If you like Mysterium, I suspect you’ll really like Shadows Amsterdam. I’m looking forward to buying a copy.
All of that said, this is one of the most bizarre Gen Con series of events I’ve encountered from a publisher. There are no copies here, though rumor is they’re just delayed and still may make it tomorrow or later. Nonetheless, the publisher tweeted this morning about the game being available at Gen Con. The designer tweeted the same. The company even continues to advertise the copies on BGG. It just seems like a correction is in order since they’re simply not selling them, instead hanging up a handwritten sign with a sad face (literally). [Nonetheless, the game is available for demo, and I recommend it. This should be popular in the coming months.
Initial OG Rating: I love it!
[Update 8/3: Libellud released a tweet today saying that 500 copies of Shadows Amsterdam would be available at Gen Con starting on Saturday.]