Gen Con 2019, Day 2: What’s Hot, and What I Played (Chris Wray)

Day two at Gen Con has always been, at least for me, considerably more relaxed than the first day.  I didn’t arrive until after the exhibit hall opened. I looked around, did some more shopping, had a few meetings, then hung out at the BGG hot games room.  Today was my last full day at the event; I’ll go back tomorrow morning, then I’m driving back to Missouri for a couple of days dedicated to playing what I bought.

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. 

Random Musings: Gen Con 2019

PLAYMATS. Is it the year of the play mat? Several of the games I’ve bought at Gen Con this year had optional playmats. I’ve bought them for Silver, Fluttering Souls, and Cartographers. Several other games had them available. Miniature Market and Cool Stuff Inc. both had play mats available at bargain bin prices ($2 and $5, respectively). And now there was a booth (and possibly more than one booth) dedicated to selling play mats. Personally, I love the trend. I’d always happily pay a few dollars more for a high-quality play mat than a game board. Sure, they’re more difficult to store, but they sit nicely on the table, and they make cards really easy to pick up.

INDUSTRY CONSOLIDATION. In an unsurprising development, industry consolidation is now clear in the exhibitor hall at Gen Con. When I went into the Asmodee store today, I noticed that many of the conventions hottest titles were all sold there, and that company and its subsidiaries own a respectable portion of the floor space in the exhibitor hall.

ABOUT THOSE PUBLISHER ROOMS. The more years I attend Gen Con, the more I think the Rio Grande and CGE strategy of just buying large rooms is quite smart. The exhibitor hall is fun, with an exhilarating amount of energy, but it can be exhausting. When I’m looking for a break, I head up to the Rio Grande area or the CGE area. Plus, they get a chance to demo not only their new games, but their old games, which is a good strategy, as the vast majority of Gen Con attendees are not in the cult-of-the-new.

The BGG Geekbuzz List

As always, I discuss the Geekbuzz list, which is starting to look a bit more accurate today.  Here are the top 20 per the Geekbuzz list:

  • Ishtar
  • Machi Koro Legacy
  • Watergate
  • Cartographers
  • Letter Jam
  • Bosk
  • Jaws
  • Horrified
  • Little Town
  • The Artemis Project
  • Era: Medieval Age
  • Abomination: The Heir of Frankenstein
  • Bunny Kingdom: In the Sky
  • Bargain Quest
  • Black Angel
  • Imperial Setters: Roll &Write
  • Draftosaurus
  • Floor Plan
  • Medium

Publishers often benefit from being close to the BGG booth, plus a few of them try to stuff the ballot box. 

If you’d like to vote, go 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: 

  • Abomination: The Heir of Frankenstein
  • Black Angel
  • Cartographers
  • Era: Medieval Age
  • Ishtar
  • Kingdomino Duel
  • Machi Koro Legacy
  • Pipeline
  • Silver
  • Watergate

I do, however, have a couple of additions. They were successful enough that I made these two additions the snap reviews below!

Letter Jam from CGE has sold out its daily supply, and there was a wait to get to demo it in the CGE room. It is also towards the top of the GeekBuzz list now. CGE is quickly developing a reputation for awesome word games! (And if you go into their area, you can demo the game with the always-awesome Paul Grogan of Gaming Rules!)

Also, Mystery House flew under my radar, but after watching a demo today, I rushed off to the BGG hot games room to play it. It is also sold out — one of the few Asmodee titles to do so — and I expect it will be popular in a few months.

What I Bought

Now that I went over what games are hot, I thought it was worth sharing what I bought. Putting my money where my mouth is, here’s what I liked, or what I thought looked interesting enough to take home. In alphabetical order:

  • Cartographers (+ Playmat)
  • Fluttering Souls (+ Playmat)
  • Era: Medieval Age (+ Expansion)
  • Ishtar
  • Kingdomino Duel
  • Las Vegas Royale
  • Letter Jam
  • Machi Koro Legacy
  • Obscurio
  • Pappy Winchester
  • Silver (+ Playmat)
  • Ticket to Ride London

Additionally, in recent months, I had placed orders for Caravan (Rio Grande) and Tuki (Next Move), and if I hadn’t, I would have bought them at Gen Con. Same goes for Q.E., which I bought on Kickstarter.

Finally, my friend Brandon Kempf bought two games — Little Town, and Hats — and I likely would have bought those if he hadn’t, but we’re in the same group, so I know I’ll get to play them.


As I’ve done in the past, here are some snap reviews. I’ll have lots of these tomorrow, but it is getting late today!

Letter Jam by CGE. Players try to deduce the letters on their cards, which face outward Hanabi or Code 777 style.

Letter Jam (Designed by Ondra Skoupý, Published by CGE)

Letter Jam is a cooperative word-based deducation game that reminds me a bit of Code 777 meets Scrabble. Everybody gets a number of cards with letters on them, and they have to give their neighbor to the right a number of cards that form a word in English. The players shuffle and arrange these (without looking) and then try to deduce the letters they have; the cards face outward, so everybody can see your letters but you.

Players give clues around the table, numbering the letters in the word, so if the word clue was BALL, you might give the player with the “B” the “1” token, the player with the “A” a 2 token, and the player with the “L” the “3” and “4” tokens. They guess their cards, writing down what they think they are. The game has so many clues in it, and each player is trying to ultimately be able to rearrange their cards to form a word, likely the word their neighbor intended when they handed off those cards.

It is tense, it is fun, and it is the right amount of think-y. We played with 6 players, and I’m intrigued to see how it plays at different player counts.

Initial OG Rating: I love it!

My sister and brother-in-law playing Mystery House.

Mystery House (Designed by Antonio Tinto, Published by Cranio Creations)

This is an escape room-type game with a twist. There’s a box-like structure in which you put in different cards depending on the case. On those cards are clues that help you escape, and they can form little rooms in the house. There’s an interactive app that goes with the game, and that app has a timer, gives hints, and tracks what you’ve found.

This is one of the hottest games of the convention, having sold out. It was hard to get a demo of, and it has seen a lot of play time in the Hot Games Room. My sister demo-ed it and loved it, so we did a full play. (There are two scenarios in the box, and I’ve now done one of them.)

It was fun — I think it was better than a lot of other escape room in a box games — but ultimately frustrating. The system here is phenomenally cool, but despite having nearly-perfect vision, I sometimes found it difficult to see the clues. Further, a couple of the puzzles were obtuse, and we didn’t finish the puzzle because we couldn’t figure one out even in spite of the hints.

Initial OG Rating: Neutral.

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5 Responses to Gen Con 2019, Day 2: What’s Hot, and What I Played (Chris Wray)

  1. Pingback: Gen Con 2019, Day 2: What’s Hot, and What I Played (Chris Wray) – Herman Watts

  2. Paul Grogan says:

    That Paul Grogan guy sounds like an idiot ;)
    Seriously good to meet you after all this time. I’m a big fan!

  3. Matt says:

    Thanks for the update. Been looking around for a picture of the Cartographer’s playmat without success. Would you mind posting a pic of yours? Thanks :-)

  4. Pingback: Gen Con 2019 Days Three and Four: What’s Hot, and What I Played (Chris Wray) | The Opinionated Gamers

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