Matt Carlson: GenCon 2018 (G to P)

Post two of three of my main GenCon boardgame coverage.  Today’s post includes mention of at least twelve different expansions and fourteen uses of the word “epic” (yes, including that one and the ones in photos) Share and enjoy…

Gale Force Nine

More expansions for Star Trek Ascendancy will appear in the fall.  Vulcans have a very different play style.  They start the game at level 5 ascendency (typically the technological/industrial level needed to win) but have alternate victory conditions.  They pick two goals out of a deck of agendas. One is revealed publicly and the other is hidden information. The Vulcan player just needs to satisfy either condition to win the game.  The Anorians are a suspicious people with an arms race mentality.  They try to rapidly build up their weapons and shields and then turn to pursue military and espionage strategies.  When passing through, they can place agents on other systems and then use those to gain advantages (such as a bonus to invade, etc…)  Look for it later this year.

The newest Dungeons and Dragons boardgame around is Gale Force Nine’s Vault of Dragons.  It’s a 90 minute, 2-4 player game in the new Dragonheist campaign setting (in Waterdeep.)  Players take on the role of one of four villainous factions in the city, hiring followers and sending them out into the city.  There are 24 possible city locations (on 12 double sided cards – some mechanics cause them to flip) and five double-sided dungeon cards that can be explored.  It is a combat oriented worker placement game. Players either use their followers (workers) to gain gold or send them to the city. At the end of the round, players in solo control of a tile is able to use that tile’s ability.  Players have the option of fighting at a location, or leaving it contested (such that no one gains the ability.) Followers stay on the board from round to round unless killed in combat. Players can gain Rumor tokens that “do fun things” when used.  However, they have a shelf-life and are discarded if they aren’t used within two rounds. The game should be out in September.

Finally, fans of the Firefly Adventure Game will be glad to hear there are two new expansions.  Respectable Folk contains Book and Inara (I think) while Wanted Fugitive contains River and Simon.  Both expansions have three new scenarios to play.


Gamelyn Games

The tiny epic company of Gamelyn Games continues to put out Tiny Epic games.  September will see an expansion for the 2nd edition of Tiny Epic Defenders (which will also be available again.)  For those unaware, the second edition of the game added in new art, fun little game bits, and more interesting characters and foes.  Tiny Epic Defenders: The Dark War brings in more of everything (characters, villains, regions, etc…) and introduces a campaign mode where several games can be linked and characters can gain skills between games.  Another added mechanic is the presence of caravans spread around the board which must be rescued and brought back safely.

Tiny Epic Mechs will arrive on Kickstarter September 13th.  It is a PvP game where players program their Mechs using four of their eight command cards and then resolve them in order.  Games can be played for area control, but additional modes like King of the Hill. After six rounds, players add up their final score based off of their purchases (upgrades), damage dealt, and other VPs scored during the game.

Golden Bell Studios

I initially became aware of Golden Bell Studios when a friend showed me their Dungeon Dice game, which I could briefly describe as a Munchkin-esque game (using dice) but playing against other players is pricey so the “gang up on the leader” problem much reduced.  In any case, Golden Bell Studios were at GenCon showing off their upcoming Epic Tower Defense.  It’s a bit meatier than their Dungeon Dice game and plays 1-4 players (6 with expansions) in a competitive mode.  Players draft bad guy dice and send them after other other players. Meanwhile players also draft spells and creature dice, roll them, and place them on their castle for defense.  Attacking dice are then rolled and resolved based on their location next to the castle. The game should be available before Christmas.


Golden Egg Games

Dice & Dragons is a 1-5 player co-op that uses custom six sided dice to represent different possible skills.  Each player has a character, one of five typical fantasy classes, with its own skills and preferences for particular symbols on the dice.  A player rolls three times, trying to match up patterns on the dice with possible skills on their play mat. Any dragon faces rolled result in damage to that player.  At the end of the turn, one of the dice can be passed to another character for them to use that face on their turn. Once players have rolled, the dragon attacks (rolling three times as well) but damages all players at once.  Characters have many of the same moves (do 1 damage, do 2 damage, etc…) only using different faces, although each has a signature move (cleric – healing others, fighter – helping ongoing defence, etc…) Once players kill the dragon (two dragons if playing with 4 or 5 players) the game ends.  The game can optionally be played as a campaign, with characters leveling up as they progress through eight different chapters. Games should last about 10 minutes per character participating.

Greater Than Games

A was able to watch demo of the upcoming superhero dueling game, Prime War, in the Greater Than Games gaming area.  As shown in the prototype above, it is a grid based multiple hero combat.  It can be played in teams or in a co-op mode, although I was only shown the team game.  In this mode, teams scored 2 points for taking out an opponent (who would then respawn) and 1 point for each additional defeat of that same opponent.  First to 4 points wins (thus take out both opponents once, or one of them three times) although there can be alternate objectives. Turns consist of all players revealing an order card, which are resolved in the order of their speed (some cards resolve before others, and matching speeds are simultaneous.)  Once used, an order card is set aside and will become available again in a few turns. Gameplay is managed through a “Panel” track of 12 sections (rounds), with heroes gaining “focus tokens” on specific panels (different times for different heroes.) If there isn’t a victor before three panels (36 sections) the game ends.  Players knocked out, respawn in their starting spot, and even gain a slight upgrade to their power. As one would expect, there are terrain rules, different types of powers (instant, continuous, etc…) Look for Prime War to come out some time in 2019.

Homebrewers is the next game in their beer-brewing line of games.  This one is a dice rolling (and trading) resource management game where players are attempting to build up weird combos of beer (licorice, mint, and fruit anyone?)  Players must balance brewing up lots of beer and the millstone of keeping your equipment sanitized (brew too much and you infect your works so you can’t brew anything.)  The hope is to release the game in time for Oktoberfest.

Sentinels of the Multiverse: OblivAeon is still coming along.  One might forgive its long development as it is the final expansion to the game and the production quality of the “collector’s edition” is quite impressive.  It’s currently going out to backers and should be released in stores around October. The kingpin in the game is Oblivaeon him/her/itself. It starts the game at 10,000 HP (yoi!) but is controlled by an entire booklet rather than a single card (and there are goals that can be accomplished to drastically reduce Oblivaeon’s health, 180 or so, which is still a LOT.)  Meanwhile the player characters will be fighting in two different environments (which can be damaged and will end the game in a loss if destroyed), each with an additional mini-boss as a scion (and Obliveaon is always around.) Due to the extreme danger of the game, players can pick up and play a new character whenever their previous one is knocked out of the game.  Truly an epic battle.

Finally, I was happy to hear there’s another Spirit Island expansion coming down the pike. It will contain boards to allow playing with 5 or 6 players, have new characters, and lots of “new stuff” (still secret) in general.



HABA continues to build their line of middleweight games.  Iquazu (2-4p, 25-45min) has players draw four cards or play out cards (all the same color) to place gems of their own color onto the board.  The number of cards played dictates the column in which the gems can be placed. When a column is filled with gems it is scored based on majority (with the lowest gem as tiebreaker.)  Players are also awarded bonus tiles that grant victory points, bonus cards, extra turns, or wild gem placement (goes anywhere.) When a column is scored, the window on the board is slid down to reveal new, open columns.  To keep things moving, a water droplet is used to fill a space in the leftmost column on the board.

Conex has players placing cards onto the table such that their corners overlap to match the color of the card underneath (but cannot touch any other card.)  When placed, a card will score the points labeled on the corner. Some cards have a die symbol on them and when placed, a player may roll a dice to gain a bonus (like extra cards, double point token, remove a card, etc…)  However the bonuses can only be used on the next turn and they are unique in the game so another player could also roll that bonus and take them away before they can be used. The game ends when the deck runs out.

In Karuba: The Card Game, players each use their private deck of cards to create a maze such that adventurers of a specific color can walk a path to their preferred color temple.  Players draw three of their 16 cards and pick two of those to play. Each card has a gold value and whoever has the lowest gold total showing, is only allowed to play one of their cards.  Once a 4×4 grid of tiles is created, they are scored. Players gain 3 points for getting adventurers to the temple, 2 bonus points if they cross a gold on the way, and 1 more bonus point if they cross a crystal.  Adventurers can cut through each others’ paths, but can’t cross through another adventurer’s starting location.

King of the Dice has a dice rolling set collection mechanic.  Players roll dice to purchase cards (their “price” consisting of dice face combos is shown at the bottom) which score points and often grant a special ability.  Collecting additional cards of the same type are stacked and provide an additional point bonus. Some cards give negative points so they can be “gifted” to other players when acquired.  Most cards are straight points, but others have set collection mechanics scored at the end of the game.


Raids is a 2-4p, 40 minute game of pirates sailing around the board and collecting things.  Players stop in different locations and upgrade their ships. Players earn points by killing monsters, collecting sets of runes, and earning bonus points for being the first to reach a condition or having the most of something at the end of a round.  Players can upgrade their ships to hold more axes (for fighting), sails (allow more crew), goods (which can be sold for victory points, but only if the player also buys a harbor.) It looks to be a nice light-to-middleweight game with good bits and a strong (if pirate) theme based around ship improvement.



The first thing noticed about The Lady and the Tiger is the evocative artwork displaying (obviously) images of ladies and/or tigers in blue or red.  It is nice how all the images display unique ladies/tigers but maintain a common style. This is a “game system” not a game, so the box of 18 cards and 25 gems comes with five different games: deduction, bidding, puzzle, maze, and bluffing.  I’m wary of games containing “game systems” as they are usually not as well polished as a single release game, but I’m willing to make an exception for the lovely art and see what this has to offer.


Jordan Draper Games

Tokyo Washi Game is my choice for most unique game at the convention.  It is simply a roll of tape ($5 a roll) and players take two strips from the roll and set them side by side to create a double-wide maze.  Players then draw a cat on each side of the board and two fish on each side. Players then take turns drawing a path (one box at a time) from their cat on one side to the fish on the other (you can grab anyone’s fish) and then returning.  Cats can “jump” over their own lines but may not cross the opponents. Walls block movement but some buildings count as a single space and can be exited at any side. There are also a few special moves that can be used a limited number of times in one game.  The game should be available on the company website, “soonish.”

The Tokyo Jidohanbaiki is actually a set of gaming pieces for use in creating games.  There are tiny colored bottles and crates in six colors and six shapes (in the case of the bottles.)  A deck of 36 cards also show the six colors and six shapes. To round things out, there are yen tokens for money/points and even a  Shogun/Wallenstein type tower (vending machine) for use with the bottles. The included rulebook has 18 games (more online) spanning the gambit – solo, dexterity, etc…  and the bits can also be used to expand the Tokyo Metro game from the same publisher.


Kingdom Death

If you have time and money to burn, perhaps you would be interested in the heavily Kickstarted, Kingdom Death, from the company of the same name.  It is a miniatures based survival horror game. Games have a settlement phase (where the party is built up), a hunting phase (looking for the bad guy), and then a showdown (with the bad guy, duh!)  Of course, there is a strong campaign mode, where you even modify your character’s miniature over time. Oh, did I say the base game sells at an epic price of $400, and expansions are $50-$60, unless you’re thinking of a “boss” expansion which will run you a cool $125.  You’ll also have to wait, as the kickstarter fulfillment is supposedly queued up for years.


Kosmos had a new expansion for Imhotep, Imhotep: A New Dynasty on display (it will come out this fall.)  It consists of five new site boards (each double sided) to replace any or all of the original five site boards in the game.  For example: the Temple has players adding stones to move along a chariot race. The Obelisk has players unload stones to gain Tetris-like pieces they then use to build a 3 column tower as high as they can.  The market allows the purchase of cards, but players are given two “market coins” at the start of the game which allow them to also buy adjacent cards on the same turn.

Lost Cities: Rivals is a card-based remake of the two player card game (out in August).  Players draw cards from one of four piles of cards and on their turn will either add to the display of cards or put the entire tableau up for auction.  The winning player may discard one of the cards and then can play any number of them into their area. As before, cards are placed in order from lowest to highest and there are doubling cards present that increase one’s score if played before starting into numbers.  Rather than scoring directly off the cards, points are scored based on the number of footprints on the card, 1 footprint on the cards 2-5 (which have two copies per color) and two footprints for cards 6-10 (which are unique in each color.) There is no penalty for starting a column, but there is a bonus for columns of four or more.  Players begin the game and spend their coins in the auctions, with only the winner paying for the cards. When the set of cards run out they are reshuffled and any spent coins are redistributed (only the spent ones, so one can hoard coins from previous rounds.)

Finally, Mercado (out in August) has players drawing three coins from their bag (initially containing 5 of each color plus 5 black duds and players can later obtain white which are wild) and using them to purchase cards.  Coins are placed on that player’s side of a tile in the tableau. Players gain cards giving hidden victory points, be granted a seal (less you pull extra coins), given white coins, etc… Players can be building up their claim on a tile over time, and if they are scooped on a tile they still get a seal as consolation.  Coins spent in this way go back to the bag (although thankfully the black ones are never placed back.)


Lone Shark Games

In addition to their boardgame/RPG hybrids (Thornwatch and Apocrypha – the latter has two expansions coming this fall), Lone Shark is putting out The Ninth World, a full-on boardgame that can be played co-op or competitive.  Players pick a region, build a character (either a pregen or constructing your own), and then layout the cards.  There is a common, public tableau and players also have their own, although other players can “scout” them to encroach on them.  Players have a deck of five cards they start with each round. Each possible game action correlates to a type of card, and playing cards with more symbols of that type will make the action more powerful.  Scout lets you pick from more cards. Tinker is how one upgrades their tech or other items, like armor. Charm is a way of gaining bonus points. Combat is used to smash enemies for points (although some will hit back and wound you, covering up your character’s special ability.)  Finally, Focus is the method of upgrading your five cards. For example, two focus symbols are required to level up a level 1 card (containing one symbol) to a level 2 card (containing two.) A player’s starting hand begins with two level one cards and three generic, neutral cards so there is plenty of room for upgrades.  The game also has simultaneous bids for cards, with bids above the value of the card scoring extra points. Losing bids still score, but are awarded fewer points. One eye-catching feature is the box. Laid out it forms a map, but when folded up into a rectangular tower, the lid clasps shut using a magnetic lock. It isn’t a standard box size, but it’s still pretty cool.



Mattel was sporting several two player games at the convention. Spirits of the Wild has players choosing gems from a common pool to fill up their scoring board.  Players have five action cards, which are spent when chosen. They allow players to pick one or two gems from the middle, add gems to the middle pile, or give your opponent the fox token to prevent them from playing in one area.  A sixth card can be chosen that resets all the cards face up again. The game is a set collection game, with players filling holes in their board to score points. Each area has a different gem requirement (all the same, all different, pairs, etc…) and score different numbers of points.  There are clear spirit stones. They lock down a particular spot (so you can’t play any more stones in that location) but double the points for that location.

Trailmazer is an abstract game played with vertical washers in two colors.  Players compete to be the first one to create a line of washers connecting opposite sides of the board.  Washers are placed on the edge of the board and then rolled inward one slot, potentially pushing along any washers already on the board (placements that would push an opponent’s piece off the board are illegal.)  An interesting little game, and the physicality of the mechanic is pretty cool, but it will take me a few more games two wrap my head around how horizontal moves do not affect anything in the vertical columns.

Moaideas Game Design

Liberatores: The Conspiracy to Liberate Rome is a 3-5 player game involving 3 different factions.  Reminiscent of the game Bang!, players are given a secret role of Republicans, an Agent, or one of the competitors.  Each turn players get to do something with a senator. They either add a card to the republicans, add to Caesar (the only way to get money), or hire a card into their retinue (granting a special power.)  Players also have the option of hiring servants to spy on the republican side. The game is essentially a tug of war between Caesar and the Republicans. Each card moves the game track closer to one or the other.  Republicans are trying to make it through the entire deck (at which point Caesar dies) while the others try to mess that up. The poor Agent is trying to save Caesar, and can only do that if they manage to “swing” the game track to ping the top of either side of the game track at some point during the game.


Next Move Games

Next Move is Plan B’s family friendly label, with Azul as its flagship.  Azul: Stained Glass of Sintra takes the nifty tiles and ramps them up a notch with cool transparent tiles with etching for decoration.  The idea of the game is to be slightly more advanced (gamer-wise) than Azul but still approachable. Players place their tiles into columns, but must must place either in the column with the glazier in it or further to the right (which also moves the glazier right.)  The glazier can be reset, but it takes an action. The game should appear at Essen.
Reef (out in september) has seen its share of buzz.  Players draw a card and then play a card. Cards first declare which pieces (out of four colors) are to be placed on on one’s board, and the second half declares what patterns will score that round.  Pieces can be stacked, but cannot go more than four high.


North Star Games

Kinnerspiel des Jahres winner (big German award for middleweight games) Die Quacksalber von Quedlinburg was getting heavy play.  Player are “quacks” (fake doctors) selling potions to the town.  In a push your luck method, players draft ingredients into their cauldron to use in making potions that can award victory points or upgrade one’s potion making abilities.  As the game progresses, players get access to better ingredients (you can buy two new ingredients per round.) Players gain money and victory points when they decide to stop pulling ingredients from their bag.  If they bust, a player gains either choice, but not both. Players who are behind in scoring get a little “boost” at the start of each round as they have a few bonus ingredients starting in their cauldron.

Most Wanted has players using poker hands to accomplish various nefarious wild west jobs in order to move up in notoriety.   On a player’s turn, they pick what action they want to take. Attempting a job starts a 2, 3, of 4 card poker competition with the winner moving up in the rankings.  Choosing a duel allows players to directly attack another player to move up (and move them down.) The church lets players cycle through their cards, and collecting moneybags allows players to have a bit of insurance in case they are the target of a duel.  The goal is to rise to the top of the Most Wanted chart to win the game.,

Warsaw: City of Ruins is a tile drafting game where players score points (and gain bonuses) based off adjacency rules in their own 3×4 (or 4×3) city.  Each tile has a cost (in the corner) to play, and then they score bonuses when it is played into their city. Yellow buildings provide money when placed next to red, green scores victory points when next to red.  Purple buildings give straight victory points, and red tiles primarily trigger the other colors. Some special, public tiles have additional ways to score victory points. Tiles can be placed on top of previous tiles, by paying the difference in the cost.  Any one tile may have several different colors on it (later tiles cost more and have more diversity) and all are considered when placing it. At the end of each round there are also a milestone (double sided for variety) building awarded. The game is called Warsaw: City of Ruins so it takes into account the great wars.  At the end of the third round, players must lose one building due to World War I. At the end of the fourth round, WW II destroys two buildings. Look for the game to be released on August 15th.

Pandasaurus Games

Pandasaurus had several little card games at the show that remained quite popular.  The Mind (available in August) involves cooperative play without words, Illusion has players trying to compare a color’s coverage on a card, and Qwinto is a roll and write where players choose numbers from one or two dice and fill in three rows with numbers low to high.  There are some bonus scoring rules, of course but nothing too esoteric.

The popular Dinosaur Island line has two new items.  The Totally Liquid Expansion comes out in November with water themed dinos (and solo mode cards for them.)  Duelasaur Island also releases November-ish and is designed specifically to be a two player version of the game.  It could also be considered an expansion since the dice can be used in the main game.

Finally, there was Nyctophobia – the fear of the dark, where one players serves as the hunter and all the other players are blindfolded (blackout glasses are provided – Hitchhiker’s Guide anyone?) and must elude the hunter by feeling their way around the 3D board with their fingers.


Plaid Hat Games

Plaid Hat was showing off several good games including Comanauts (out this winter), sort of a grown-up Stuffed Fables where players are venturing into the subconscious of one of the worlds smartest men, lying in a coma.  Neon Gods also comes out in winter and has players controlling opposing gangs for control of the board.  Gen 7 is a sequel of sorts to Dead of Winter, but with a sci-fi theme which may be more palatable for some.  The players are seventh generation colonists on a ship who must settle onto a new world.

The one game for which I was able to gather more information was Starship Samurai.  Players are attempting to gain the most honor by swaying alliances to their cause.  At setup, each player has the same starting tokens and then players choose two starting mechs (out of 8) which serve as a sort of super-worker with additional special powers.  They’re pretty cool grey plastic figures that tower over the other pieces. Players use order tokens to draw cards, move units onto the field, gain wealth, or move allegiance tokens.  Tokens move up and down player tracks (and can be moved off the bottom and onto a different player’s track) and determine a player’s final honor at the end of the game. Players are trying to move their units onto the board in order to claim locations.  The game ends when the locations run out. Any given turn has an order phase, where players take turns spending their order tokens, then a battle phase, and then a resolution phase. Players have four order tokens numbered 1 to 4. The number shown on the token actually indicates the number of times you get to do the chosen action.  Cards drawn with tokens provide a benefit in battle or can modify (improve) the activation of an order.


About Matt J Carlson

Dad, Gamer, Science Teacher, Youth Pastor... oh and I have green hair. To see me "in action" check out Dr. Carlson's Science Theater up on Youtube...
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3 Responses to Matt Carlson: GenCon 2018 (G to P)

  1. Ernie S Lai says:

    fyi, the names of the jordan draper games are switched, washi is the tape and Jidohanbaiki is the vending machine

  2. @mangozoid says:

    I did leave a comment on this but it may have been rejected ‘cos of a link I included.

    Regardless, this is a fabulous series, and I’m very much looking forward to the next instalment, so thank you, and keep up the great work!

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