Day two at Gen Con has always been, at least for me, considerably more relaxed than the first day. I headed for the CMON booth early and grabbed Gizmos (for a buddy) and Railroad Ink, then did a final scan of the halls, meeting with old friends and checking for any games I missed. Then I headed back home to Missouri. My final Gen Con haul is pictured above.
As with my past coverage, I’m posting tonight (1) what’s hot, (2) what I played, and (3) a quick summary of news and general thoughts on the convention.
Major Industry Merger Announced
Two of the industry’s most notable publishing houses, Indie Boards & Cards and Stronghold Games, announced that they’ll be merging. From a press release today:
“Indie Boards & Cards and Stronghold Games are proud to announce the pending merger of these two great publishers, and the formation of a new force in the hobby game industry: Indie Game Studios. Action Phase Games, previously acquired by Indie Boards and Cards in 2016, will also be folded into the new entity and the three distinct brands will be maintained moving forward. Following the merger, the new Indie Game Studios becomes one of the largest hobby board game companies in the world.”
I wasn’t sure what to make of this at first. I’m generally skeptical of industry mergers: recent ones have not been good for the hobby, with a noticeable decline in innovation showing among merged publishing houses (at least to me). But these two companies have been quite successful in vastly different sorts of games, and combining the forces (and brilliant minds) of both has the potential to create a tremendous competitor in the marketplace. I wish the newly combined company the best of luck, and I eagerly await the fruits of their new cooperation!
While the merger was probably today’s biggest news, there were several other significant items.
- Pandasaurus announced Machi Koro Legacy for spring 2019, designed by Rob Daviau and J.R. Honeycutt.
- A new game from Alan R. Moon and Bobby West, titled Aftershock, will be part of Stronghold Games’ popular The Great Designer series.
- By way of update to my post from yesterday, Libellud said on Twitter today that Shadows Amsterdam should be arriving tomorrow (Saturday).
The BGG Geekbuzz List
- Kingdomino: Age of Giants
- Blue Lagoon
- Summit: The Board Game*
- Gorus Maximus*
- The Mind
- Exit: The Game – Dead Man on the Orient Express
- Exit: The Game – The Sunken Treasure
- Battlestar Galactica: Starship Battles
- Terraforming Mars Prelude
- Choose Your Own Adventure: House of Danger
- Ice Cool 2
- Forbidden Sky
- Before There Were Stars
Publishers often benefit from being close to the BGG booth, plus a few of them try to stuff the ballot box. For example, both of the games with an asterisk (*) above are by the same publisher, who is close to the BGG booth. That publisher seems to be benefiting from such proximity, and it is worth noting that Summit was on the list last year.
The best solution to the ballot box problem is for everybody reading to stop by the BGG booth, ask for a card with your unique code (which lets you vote), then chime in!
My Hotness List
I published detailed thoughts yesterday on what is hot at the convention. I stand by the 20 games I listed, which were: Arboretum, Blue Lagoon, Century: Eastern Wonders, Coimbra, Detective, Forbidden Sky, Gizmos, Gunkimono, Lost Cities: Rivals, The Mind, Newton, Patchwork Express, Railroad Ink, Reef, The Rise of Queensdale, Root, Scarabya, Ticket to Ride: New York, Ultimate Werewolf Legacy, and Yellow & Yangtze. I had I’ll add to that Everdell and Choose Your Own Adventure: House of Danger, which both seem popular, although I don’t know much about them. I wrote a short description of why I thought each game was generating a lot of buzz as part of yesterday’s post.
Among expansions, Downforce: Danger Circuit, the Ghost Fightin’ Treasure Hunters Creepy Cellar expansion, Kingdomino: Age of Giants, and Terraforming Mars: Prelude all still seem to be doing exceptionally well. GFTH’s expansion sold out yesterday, leading to Mattel bringing more in.
- Designed by Matt Leacock
- Published by Gamewright
As I said yesterday, I think Forbidden Sky might be the hottest game of the convention. Gamewright has several hundred copies on hand, but their daily allotment sells out quickly each morning. I’ve seen several people carrying the game, and it appears to be getting significant table time in the BGG Hot Games Room.
The game is Matt Leacock’s follow-up to Forbidden Island and Forbidden Desert, and it is an entry-level cooperative game in which players work together to wire a real electrical circuit and escape from a power platform in the sky.
On a player’s turn, he or she gets up to four actions, which will generally consist of moving about the grid, scouting (taking new tiles), exploring (putting new tiles on the grid), and/or wiring (connecting the circuits shown on the tiles). Depending on the difficulty level, players need to wire a certain number of lightning rods, small capacitors, and large capacitors to the launch pad in a continuous (and functional) circuit. These pieces come out depending on the tiles, so a good portion of the game involves strategizing where to place tiles and components.
At the end of a player’s four actions, he or she draws a storm card. These are generally bad. Sometimes, lightening strikes, and any player on a lightening rod — or even connected to one — takes a hit to their health. Additionally, this high up, the winds are dangerous, and a player’s rope can fray if the wind blows them off the platform.
Along the way, players can earn gear that will help them in their mission.
Players win if they build the circuit, all get to the rocket, and launch it before any of the loss conditions happen. Players lose if one of them runs out of health or rope, or if the rocket launches prematurely, or the team reaches the end of the storm meter.
It’s simple, it’s tense, there’s the right amount of strategy for a family game, and the production value is brilliant. I never though building an electric circuit could be this much fun. The game is challenging — we lost handily the first time — but I can see victory is possible, and I’m eager to try to blast off again in Forbidden Sky in the coming days. I expect this will be a big hit in the coming months.
Initial OG Rating: I like it.
- Designed by Adam Porter
- Published by Brain Games
Pikoko is one of the stand out trick-taking games of the year for me. In a few familiar ways, it follows the standard rules of bidding/betting trick taking games: (1) there’s a trump suit in each round, (2) players must follow suit if they can, and (3) you bid on the number of tricks you’ll take. But there are also several plot twists: (a) you can’t see your cards, (b) your card is played by your neighbor to your right, (c) you bet on how many tricks everybody around the table will take, and (d) some of the cards are multi-suited. To facilitate you not being able to see your cards, they face out away from you, held by cool peacock-themed card holders. The production value is great, with attractive artwork and quality components.
As regular readers know, I’m a trick taking enthusiast, and I thought this was an exceptionally clever twist on the genre. The game plays differently than I expected — I thought there’d be a bit more of a deduction aspect, and there isn’t much of one — but it was still fun. If you like trick-taking games, I think you’ll enjoy Pikoko.
Initial OG Rating: I like it.
One more Gen Con post coming…
While I’ve left Indianapolis, I’m spending the rest of the weekend playing the several dozen games me and my local game group brought back. I’ll do a final post Sunday night, discussing the final Geekbuzz list, noting any last-minute news, and doing a final set of snap reviews.