Gen Con 2019, Days 3 and 4: What’s Hot, and What I Played (Chris Wray)

That’s a wrap on Gen Con 2019! This is my conclusion post, with (1) a brief discussion of what was hot at the convention, (2) snap reviews, and (3) my winners and losers list of Gen Con 2019. The above photo is my haul from the convention.


As always, I discuss the Geekbuzz list, which is semi-final. I don’t know when they cut off voting.  Here are the top 20 per the Geekbuzz list:

  • Ishtar
  • Detective Club
  • Letter Jam
  • Planet
  • Bunny Kingdom: In the Sky
  • Watergate
  • Kingdomino Duel
  • Machi Koro Legacy
  • Era: Medieval Age
  • Bosk
  • Little Town
  • Side Quest
  • Cartographers
  • Black Angel
  • Jaws
  • Pappy Winchester
  • Adventure Games: The Dungeon
  • City of Big Shoulders

Publishers often benefit from being close to the BGG booth, plus a few of them try to stuff the ballot box, and I think some of that happened here. There are some games on this list that I didn’t see many copies of, and a couple of them where I’m confused by their presence.


I published detailed thoughts over the past couple of days about what was hot at the convention.  I mostly stand by the games I listed, but I’m removing Abomination, which doesn’t seem to have kept up its buzz. I’m also adding Little Town, because that seems to have picked up traction in the last couple of days, and I’ve seen some discussion of it on social media. Same goes for Medium.

Here’s my final list:

  • Black Angel
  • Cartographers
  • Era: Medieval Age
  • Ishtar
  • Kingdomino Duel
  • Letter Jam
  • Little Town
  • Machi Koro Legacy
  • Medium
  • Mystery House
  • Pipeline
  • Silver
  • Watergate


I did mini-reviews of Medium and Kingdomino Duel on Thursday. On Friday, I did a bit more detailed overviews of Letter Jam and Mystery House. I did a full review of Silver on Thursday.

Here is a short paragraph of thoughts of each other Gen Con 2019 game I’ve played:

Era: Medieval Age – I’m glad I bought this roll-and-build game from Matt Leacock and eggertspiele. Era feels like a fantastic engine builder, with a well-written rulebook, easy-to-understand mechanics, and a stellar, eye-popping production value. I look forward to trying different combinations of buildings and strategies. The mini expansion is also cool. Initial OG Rating: I love it!

Hats – I brought back a copy for a friend, and I’m kicking myself for not buying one for my collection. This is a devilishly clever card game. On your turn, you substitute a card into the central display, earning the card you remove. The cards in the central display show which cards will score. You start with 9 cards, and you’ll play 8 of them, with the remaining card being an additional scoring opportunity for yourself. It was simple, it was clever, and it was tense. Plus, the cards are beautiful. Initial OG Rating: I love it!

Las Vegas Royale – This is the old alea Las Vegas game, but dressed up. Certain locations now have variable powers, with you working in a few of them for each of the game’s rounds. Some offer the ability to earn additional cash, some lock up your dice, et cetera. The idea was nice, but if this stays in my collection, it will only because I can play the original Las Vegas game with it: the Royale piece is quite disappointing, as it destroys the elegance of the original design. Initial OG Rating: Neutral. (But “I like it.” for the original Las Vegas.)

Little Towns – This worker placement meets engine building game from Iello was considerably more fun than I anticipated. On your turn, you either build a building or put a worker on the board, earning resources for what is adjacent and activating adjacent buildings. The mechanic is just that simple, but the buildings vary from game to game, and the map is double sided. The “no luck” crowd will appreciate this design. Initial OG Rating: I like it.

Obscurio – This is basically Mysterium with a traitor mechanic. The game is very well produced, and the mechanics are fun, but it plays a bit slower than Mysterium, and discovering the traitor doesn’t seem to have much of a reward. My group liked it, but overall, I think this is one of the weaker games I purchased. Initial OG Rating: I like it.

Pappy Winchester – This is an old-west themed auction game. It has a bit of a Hollywood Blockbuster (a.k.a. Traumfabrik) feeling, with winning an auction meaning you have to pay everybody else around the table. It fizzles a bit at the end, but otherwise I found this to be a pretty cool auction game with an excellent production value. Based on my one play, this deserved a bit more buzz than it got at the convention. Initial OG Rating: I like it.


As a sort of wrap up, I wanted to discuss three big winners and three big losers from the convention. I think it is fun, and if it is popular, I might work the concept into future convention coverage:

Three Winners

  • BoardGameGeek – The hobby’s powerhouse website is really coming into its own at Gen Con. The Hot Games Room is a highlight of the convention each year for me, but people seemed especially eager to get in there this year, with a few time slots selling out. Plus, BGG created their preorder system, which worked marvelously and holds tremendous potential for future events. Scott Alden, W. Eric Martin, Chad Krizan, Lincoln Damerst, their media folks, and indeed the entire team deserve kudos for the excellent work they’re doing. Nobody is doing more to drive the hobby forward.
  • Blue Orange Games – I don’t know how they did it, but Blue Orange had 4 games on the BGG Geekbuzz list. And while I think that might be overstating the buzz they had at the convention, it is clear that Kingdomino Duel, Detective Club, and Planet were selling well. I liked Pappy Winchester, and I suspect auction fans will enjoy it in coming months.
  • Plan B Games / Next Move Games / eggertspiele – Era: Medieval Age was selling well. So was Tuki. And 5211. And some of their past games, everything from Azul to the Century series. The booth was hopping. This team gets the modern game market, and they’re making games that we gamers enjoy. They’ve been one of the most impressive publishers of recent years, and though they didn’t bring much new to the show (they released some of their bigger titles in early summer), it seems to me that I like or love every single game they’ve put out.
  • Runner Up: Play Mats – I really think this is the year where play mats are starting to be more of a norm. I bought them for several games, and I love the trend of publishers producing them.

Three Losers

  • Those Of Us That Ordered Badges at Will Call – I got to Indianapolis very late Wednesday night. I stopped by the convention center to get my badge, thinking there wouldn’t be a long line in the middle of the night, but there was. I ended up waiting quite a while to get it the next day. The Gen Con organizers can surely figure out the logistics better than they’re doing. But for me, I’ll be sure to have it shipped next year.
  • Innovation (at the hands of the big publishers) – A lot of the big players in the industry had lackluster shows, with few attractive tiles. Industry consolidation has been apparent for a couple of years now, and I think innovation is suffering as a result. After all, the big combined houses would rather introduce a new twist on an evergreen title that something daring and original. We gamers suffer from that trend.
  • Promos – I’ve been saying this for the past three years, but promos seem to be dying a slow death in the hobby. A few booths had them, but not many. I personally love promos and mini expansions, but I know others hate them. The latter camp seems to be winning.


So far, my 5 favorite Gen Con games are:

  • Cartographers
  • Era: Medieval Age
  • Hats
  • Letter Jam
  • Silver

Well, that’s a wrap for my 2019 Gen Con coverage! Other members of the OG team will be chiming in over the next few weeks.

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5 Responses to Gen Con 2019, Days 3 and 4: What’s Hot, and What I Played (Chris Wray)

  1. Pingback: Gen Con 2019, Days 3 and 4: What’s Hot, and What I Played (Chris Wray) – Herman Watts

  2. huzonfirst says:

    Great report as always, Chris. I have questions/comments on a few of the games:

    Era: Medieval Age – What’s the downtime like in this? The game of Matt’s this was derived from, Roll Through the Ages, was a very clever design that got a good deal of play at first, but it suffered from the same problem that so many pre-Roll & Write games had: excessive downtime. Era looks very interesting, but I’m worried what the downtime might be like.

    Obscurio – Mysterium with a traitor? Really? My personal Seventh Circle of Hell would be solely populated with this game. Trying to figure out those crazy images is bad enough without having another player deliberately trying to misdirect you. Yikes!

    Cartographers – So I played Railroad Ink for the first time this week and my poor spatial reasoning plagued me so much that I didn’t even bother to finish the game. I just wasn’t having fun and I saw no reason to delay things for the other players (who did enjoy it). One of my opponents, after seeing my struggles, told me to stay far away from Cartographers, as that would be even worse for me. Do you think she was right?

    • Brandon Kempf says:

      I don’t think that downtime is going to be a huge issue in Era, most everything can be done simultaneously. Buildings of course have to be done in turn order simply due to limited numbers and extortion has to be done in an order, but for the most part I don’t see downtime as a huge issue in Era. First game is going to play long as you figure things out but I think it’ll be just fine. I have different issues with it all together. it’s kind of a crowded mess with those pieces and it can be hard to see things at times.

      And yes, Cartographers kind of hit on that spatial struggle for me, but I think that Cartographers will be easier to tackle than Railroad Ink was. I finally got rid of both my copies of that spatial nightmare.

      • Chris Wray says:

        I’m with Brandon on the downtime issue. Most everything can be (and should be) done simultaneously.

        If you didn’t enjoy Railroad Ink I suspect Cartographers is out. It does require that move-the-card-around-to-see-the-possibilities way of thinking.

  3. W. Eric Martin says:

    Thanks for the kudos for BGG, Chris! Aside from everything written above, we had fabulous bedazzled jerseys at Gen Con 2019, which was another plus.

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