Matt Carlson: GenCon 2019 (A to I)

GenCon has descended on Indianapolis and left again, leaving behind an empty space that so recently was filled with gamer crowds gawking at the newest game or passing cosplay costume.  Another record year saw 70,000 attendees going through 538 exhibitor areas and attending 19,600 different events (and if you missed my friend’s magic show, shame on you.)  As before, I also descended upon the state capitol to consume as many rules explanations I could handle before exploding.  I tried something new this year, keeping my schedule relatively free of appointments so that I could roam freely (and even get in a game or two.)  This meant I covered fewer of the big name titles, but hopefully found a few things that are new to you. I’ve also done away with the “kids & party game” category as they seem to get more and more mixed.  All the boardgames are one big lump! As always, any errors on dates, publishers, titles, (and spelling) are mine alone. Don’t go blaming the poor publishers or their overworked booth helpers.

Academy Games

Academy Games was back with their eye-catching, giant version of Agents of Mayhem in the demo hall.  The regular game is now available, along with several optional expansions. Agents of Mayhem is a two-team tactical combat between sets of 3 heroes and 3 villains (or squads) played out in a fully 3-D, destructible (you remove levels of buildings) game area.  The basic combat rules are fairly simple (easy to grasp for newer players) but a series of bonuses and penalties (height, flanking, etc…) provide the tactical depth of the game. Players (or teams of two) alternate turns activating their characters’ abilities with resources in order to move, attack, or use special powers.  Each option requires resources which are removed from the character (or squad) card. The hero(s) that do not act that round regain some of their resources instead. Thus, there is a bit of resource management as one cannot simply activate the same character over and over again. As one might expect, there are a wealth of different options in the game.  There are many different scenarios to play, such as capture the flag or area control The game also has a campaign option where later scenarios change depending on the result of previous ones. A random-campaign generator also exists if players want to try out other campaign options. The base game has 3 different heroes and 4 options for villains, but then they can be customized with additional equipment, etc..  The expansions add in 9 more heroes and one more villain, but the villain is a boss with several choices of associated minions.  

Meanwhile, One Small Step is a game about the space race.  It is a worker placement game of two sides, but each side has two different groups.  The USSR and the US are in a race to make it to the moon. Players use workers (either engineers or administrators) to choose actions on the board, however each space has a different effect depending on the type of worker used.  Cards are drafted from a tableau which open up additional locations for workers. Resources are used to research new expeditions or to perform manned missions. One Small Step just finished its Kickstarter, but late pledges are still available.

In a somewhat surprising move, the next new game from Academy games will be a dexterity game.  Appearing in a Kickstarter this fall, Battle Royale: Flick to the Death is a combat game where players flick cards around on the board to maneuver and then use a variety of “weapons” to attack such as rolling discs or other objects.  It is intended to be a lightweight game, lasting 10 to 20 minutes per game.

Fans of the popular strategy computer game, Stellaris, will be pleased to hear that there will be a boardgame coming out attempting to recreate much of the feel of the digital game.  Players will be able to design their own races (if they want), design their own ships, etc.. etc.. The development of a physical game isn’t too much of a stretch as the digital game already incorporates some similar mechanics (like drawing cards to choose researched tech, etc…) In an interesting twist, each game is considered an “era” within the Stellaris universe and players can play through a single era (about 2 hours) or several (with the option of saving the game state for later.)  With almost no upper limit on eras (practically as many as 10?) Players can change civilizations between eras, with old civilizations not used in the current game kept around as fallen empires. One player could even preserve their civilization with another tries out a new one. The game balances this out by requiring more advanced civilizations achieve more strenuous victory conditions. The game supports 1 to 4 players so it can be played solo, and even allow other players to hop in and out of the game!  For example, play a civilization solo for a couple eras, then have friends jump in for an era or two and then leave again. All in all, it sounds quite ambitious (of course, it is also ripe for expansions, as the digital game has a vast quantity of them) but we shall see how it turns out. Expect a Kickstarter for the game in early 2020.

AEG

Alderac Entertainment Group (AEG to almost everyone) had its annual deluge of new games at GenCon.  I had already had a chance to check out the card game, Point Salad. It was another title in their tongue-in-cheek series of games about a mechanic.  (They had a deckbuilder about building decks, a worker placement about placing workers, etc…) Point Salad is a card collection game about trying to score points via a broad “point salad” variety of ways at the end of the game.  The blurb lists that there are over 100 different ways to score points. Players draft cards and use their front (to represent vegetables) or their backs (with ways to score at the end of the game.) Managing which veggies to keep and which scoring opportunities to use is the heart of this short playing (20-30 minutes) game for 2 to 6 players.  It comes out to the public market in early September.

Meanwhile, Ecos: First Continent is a fully formed euro will all the trimmings.  In this “continent building” game, players use a type of Bingo mechanic to trigger actions.  Various elements are drawn from a bag and players use their grey cubes to cover up corresponding symbols on their personal areas.  Fill up an area and you can yell “Eco!” and then take advantage of that particular ability. Players affect the central board of hexagons by placing land, water, mountains, forests, and a wide variety of animals, all in an attempt to shape up the land to correspond to one’s own victory point conditions.  One nice side-effect of the Bingo mechanic is that if a player doesn’t want to use an element they can put off using it, doing this several times will earn a player a new grey cube, which then lets them have the ability to cover up more locations on their cards at the same time (and increase the probability of finding matches.)

Ankama

Luna Imports brings Ankama’s Draftosaurus to the US.  A 2 to 5 player drafting game, players are attempting to fill their dino park with each zone having special requirements (such as all of one type, all different, pairs of animals, etc…)  A die is rolled and then everyone places an animal. The active player can choose freely, but the rest of the players must obey a restriction dictated by the dice (must go in an empty region, in a specific region, on one side of the board or the other, etc…)  Players go through two sets of drafts and the game ends with a final scoring. The player boards are two sided, providing a set of alternate packing rules for a slightly different feel.

Asmadi Games

Asmadi’s Aegean Sea made a brief appearance on Thursday morning but then promptly sold out.  (In true Terry Pratchett dwarven code of marketing, even the demo copies were sold.) Aegean Sea has players taking on the role of one of five different civilizations, each with a special starting deck and special powers.  The game has a slight wargame feel as players jockey to control specific locations. In typical Asmadi fashion, cards in the game are multi-use and take on different forms and functions depending on how and where they are used.  If you didn’t scoop up a copy of the game early Thursday, it should be appearing on Kickstarter soon.

Meanwhile, 1001 Odysseys will be available for preorder later this month and will be out in 2020.  This is a cooperative paragraph-style story-based game where one to four players explore a story using tokens, cards, and a game board.  Location cards actually fit onto the game board (matching the background art) and serve as possible places to visit, depending on where the players are during the game.  Players take on the role of navigator (manage the map), operations (keeping track of the players’ progress), Commander (managing the storybook), and Information (managing the encyclopedia-style almanac of game information.)  Its a game of discovering information and then having the group decide where to investigate next. The game will come with four different stories, each having 8 to 10 chapters that run about 30 minutes. The stories branch so not all 10 chapters will be seen in a specific playthrough.

One Deck Galaxy will appear on Kickstarter later this year (and story-wise will tie in with 1001 Odysseys.)  It builds on the One Deck Dungeon theme, but then branches off in a few new directions. Players now take on the role of an entire civilization whose goal is to unify under one glorious federation as they fight against (one of four) game adversaries.  This time around, gameplay is more progressive rather than all or nothing. Several cards in a tableau represent locations that can be accessed. Players complete small die-matching options that add progress (upside down cards from the deck) to that location.  When a location has the required number of cards, it grants players the associated bonus (either more dice or a new power.) Note that using powers take actions in this game which is a resource. Players begin with only one, but can gain more just like additional dice.  In order to reduce the “lame” factor of rolling low numbers, players have the option of spending dice to make ships (through pairs and triplets) or advanced science (through runs) that give something useful even to poor die rolling situations.

One final tidbit of note.  Those who follow the Penny Arcade comic strip and its associated brands may be interested to know Asmadi Games have an unspecified collaboration in the works.

Bézier Games

Bézier was showing off their newest line of games that begin with Silver.   Once again there are werewolves afoot. This time in a sort of discarding-cards style of game.  Players take turns either drawing the top card of the deck or discard pile. Drawing from the deck lets a player use the special ability on the card by discarding it immediately. Otherwise players use their drawn card to replace one or more of their face-down cards.  Multiple cards can be replaced only if they have a matching value. However, players start with five cards and are only allowed to begin by looking at two of them. Card powers can let you view more of your cards as well as mess around with other players’ cards. When a player thinks they have the lowest value of cards, they call for the end of the game and everyone gets one more turn.  Silver is the first in a line of standalone games. Later games, such as the upcoming Silver Bullet, can be combined or played on their own.

Big G Creative

The folks who brought you the “Kenny G: Keepin it Saxxy” game now have a Trapper Keeper branded game.  While the Trapper Keeper style box does not affect play very much, the theme of the game is centered around the the old sights and sounds of school in the 80s.  It is a card-drafting game with thematic cards with positive and negative point values such as a report card card or a detention slip card. Some cards interact allowing players to attempt to put together card combos for greater effects.  At the end of the game, players use a scantron sheet to add up the scores. It comes in three “versions”, and I have the space-themed one that matches my original Trapper Keeper from 1981 or so…

Cephalofair Games

Nothing especially new in the Cephalofair booth, with the somewhat recently released Gloomhaven expansion, Forgotten Circles available for purchase.  This expansion contains a new character class and 20 new scenarios for play after finishing the base game. The scenarios are broken up into smaller chunks, with less revealed at the beginning.  The storyline opens up new areas as you play through the branching scenario. This allows the inclusion of more surprises and puzzle-y bits.

Czech Games Edition

CGE always rents out an entire room for gamers to give their games a go.  This year there were plenty of copies of their new party word game, Letter Jam, to go around.  It is a 2 to 6 player cooperative game where players are dealt out a set of cards that make a word (cards are selected by the other players or through the use of a card scanning app.)  Everyone then takes one letter from their set of cards and displays it for everyone else to see (but not themselves.) Looking at all the other player’s cards, players bid to see who can make the longest word.  That player spells out their word using number tokens in front of the other players, with players able to use a wildcard (but unnamed) letter. Players then guess their letter, putting it aside if they are correct.  At the end of the game all players try to rearrange the letters they have in order to spell out a word. They then reveal their cards to see if they were correct, with the group scoring points depending on how many words were successfully created.

Chip Theory Games

When I think of Chip Theory Games, I think of the word “overproduced” (well, that and “Minnesota”.)  Their Too Many Bones game is a complex cooperative adventure game full of piles of custom dice placed into custom cut-out neoprene mats to create very customized characters to play.  It is probably fairer to say they put a lot of effort into their components, which are all integral parts of the game, rather than just miniatures piled on for their bling factor.

Chip Theory Games has taken their standard high level components and attempted to create a MOBA style tower defence game, Cloudspire, that can be played competitively or cooperatively.  MOBA games are a genre of videogames (League of Legends or Hero of the Storm) which have gained popularity in the past few years (one could argue that League of Legends is perhaps currently the most popular e-sport.) What this means in boardgaming terms is that Cloudspire has players managing a particular side, a tower, minions, and a hero to be the last man standing in a vs battle (2 to 4 players.)  Each player sends out “minion” pieces that progress along automated paths in order to march over and damage other player’s towers. Meanwhile, the other players are trying to maneuver their hero into place to kill these minions as they come, providing more resources and leveling up the hero. Finally, the tower itself can be upgraded in many ways, and all of the above is slightly different for each of the factions that can be played.  In addition to the standard competitive play, there are 16 solo scenarios (along with a thematic story) and 8 two player cooperative scenarios. As with all Chip Theory titles, the game is only available through their website, shipping around mid-september. A 5th faction is in the works as an expansion and those who feel like their game doesn’t have enough bling can purchase an expansion pack that contains miniatures to represent the important bits and pieces for each faction.

Deepwater Games

Deepwater Games had a great pitch last year, renting out an entire room and declaring their “flip & write” game of housing development in the 50’s, Welcome To… plays well with 1 to 100 gamers.  With the success of the base game, they have since made several expansions including an upcoming Summer Expansion that should be shipping in the next few weeks.

Appearing on Kickstarter in September, Sovereign Skies is a 2 to 4 player game based around a large rondel representing the six different planets involved in the game.  Players take turns dropping their troops onto the rondel to use their effects. Each space grants a different special power (building ships, making aggressive or diplomatic actions, etc…)  

Finally, Deepwater will be releasing 7 Summits some time in 2020.  It’s a lightweight dice drafting game (and, yes, you guessed it – push your luck opportunities) based around the theme of mountain climbing.

Dude Games

Gravity Super Star (2-6 players, about 25 minutes) has players taking control of little figures falling through space full of changing gravity wells.  On a board filled with platforms or open space, players use their hand of cards to move around or rotate. Once used, cards are discarded and are reclaimed when they are all used up, a turn is spent just reclaiming cards.  A character’s gravity is always pulling down on its feet so rotating your pawn also rotates the direction of gravity. If a pawn isn’t supported by a platform, it begins to fall (wrapping around the board) until they land on a new platform.  The idea is to collect stars on the board for points (1 point each, 3 points for a colored pair) as you pass through their spaces. Once removed, most star spots reveal an energy symbol which grants a player energy when passed through, this energy can be used for bonus actions later in the game.  Landing on or passing through an opponent allows you to steal one of their stars and bumps them off the board until the beginning of their next turn, although they do get to pick up all their spent cards. As one might expect, smaller player numbers use fewer boards and will be a bit less chaotic.  A six player game uses all 6 boards and might be more fun for those who don’t mind a bit of take-that and/or chaos.

Also at the Dude booth was Bad Bones, a sort of competitive tower defense game.  Players have a central tower and bottom-row village that must be defended while skeleton tokens march ceaselessly forward.  Players can use traps to deflect or get rid of skeletons. Placed traps can be used twice before they’re destroyed, but an action can be spent to pick them up after their first use in order to reuse them again later.  Several options allow players to take some of their skeletons and launch them toward another player, causing even more skeletons to appear on their board. Play ends when a player is eliminated, and the winner is the player with the most points (calculated from unused traps and surviving structures.)

Eagle-Gryphon

I didn’t pick up many details, but Eagle-Gryphon was on hand with several very elaborate dudes-on-a-map games on display that were based on popular PC strategy games.  No less than two different Hearts of Iron games for 2019, as well as a Surviving Mars (a PC game) expansion to the On Mars boardgame.

Funko

Funko had a huge presence at this year’s convention complete with a maître d’ guarding a special demo game room.  Gamers had to get through a demo game just to be allowed to purchase the more exclusive game packs.

Funkoverse is a new game that takes advantage of the Funko collectable mini-figurine line of toys to supply characters and minis (slightly smaller than “official” Funko figures) to a tactical combat game.  Funko bought the design studio who did the Hogwarts deckbuilder, Horrified, this year’s Jaws, and last year’s Villainous. The designers then set out to make a game taking advantage of the licenses owned by Funko (and more non-miniature games are in the pipeline.) Funkoverse is typically played as a 3 vs 3 tactical skirmish between two sides.  Teams take turns moving individual units and triggering special abilities through the use of special energy tokens (they come in 4 flavors.) These tokens are then placed on a timer track (further back for more powerful abilities) that has them return for reuse on a later turn. Damaged characters are first knocked down, but if hit again they are knocked out and return at the start of the next round.  There are many different scenarios such as tag the flag, area control, king of the hill, and one where one character serves as the “leader” and both receives and delivers extra damage. Another part of the marketing is the way the game is sold. The game comes in sets taken from DC Comics, Harry Potter, Rick & Morty, and the Golden Girls (yes, the old ladies from the sit-com.) Some packs have four characters and others only two, but gamers can play a 3 vs 3 battle with any of them using stand-in tokens to represent minion figures with no special abilities.  

Gale Force 9

Gale Force 9 was showing off their newly licensed and refurbished version of the old game of Dune.  As before, it goes to 6 players (even numbers are best, for alliances) and can be played with any combination of the six factions.  Long known as one of the most interesting asymmetrical games (both player powers and victory conditions) it has been slightly polished up for modern tastes.  There are basic and advanced rules available, with the advanced rules taking into account the most unique of the player powers. Figure on 2-3 hours for the full, advanced game.  It’s still available for preorder, and is currently “on the boat” and will hopefully be in wider release in late September.

Gamelyn Games

Gamelyn’s newest in its Tiny Epic line is Tiny Epic Mechs.  This is an arena combat game where players use cards to program in four actions at a time.  Each card has a direction, as well as an action to perform (like gather energy, lay down traps, etc…)  Players begin the game as a lowly meeple able to hold up to two weapons as they move around. As they collect energy they can power up their meeples to enter their own tiny mech (giant robot.)  This allows the use of even more powerful weapons. Players leave mines (of secretly placed levels 1 to 4 damage) and turrets around the board to hinder their opponents, but these also help to collect energy.  When a player is defeated in combat, they are reduced to a lowly meeple again but are able to take advantage of all of their pieces still on the board. The game ends after six rounds of play with points awarded for doing damage, attacking, and being the person to deliver a knockout punch.

While NOT a Tiny Epic game, I couldn’t help but photograph their Heroes of Land, Air, and Sea.  I’m a particular fan of how they pulled off an air segment of the board.   

Golden Bell Games

After being introduced to their Dungeon Dice, I quickly became a fan of Golden Bell Games.  A somewhat unusual publisher as boardgames are only one part of their overall line of comics and toys.  The latest Dungeon Dice expansion (KS a long while ago) is still in designer limbo (but not out of the fight yet) but their most recent Kickstarter, Unbroken, was on display.  This is a single player dungeon crawl, resource management experience done completely with cards and tracking cubes. Players draw two dungeon cards and pick one to execute, spending time (and usually resources) in order to gain the benefit of the card.  Strength, the primary resource and your health pool, can also be restored by not using the card’s stated ability. After a set amount of time is spent, one encounters a level boss and must defeat it to progress on down to the next level. Each level grants players more time to complete it, but has a correspondingly harder monster to fight.  Get to the end of the fourth level and defeat the boss to win the game. The game is all about resource management. Should you spend food to get more strength, or perhaps get some wood in the hopes you can eventually upgrade your weapon? Meanwhile, you may want to keep some “trickery” on hand for later. Players start the game with one of four different classes that grant special abilities usable once per level, and each level has six possible bosses to fight, giving the game a decent overall variety.  All this being said, it is already sold out, but might be available in some stores.

Web of Spies, however is now out in a 2nd edition reprint.  This is a 2 to 4 player deckbuilding wargame with a sort of Risk-ish feel (lasting about 1-2 hours.)  The map is an interlocking set of locations and players move their pawns around the board to try to capture “assets” represented by colored cubes.  All cards in the game have a dual purpose, and can be used for their action, or discarded for movement points.

In time for another round of elections, Contender is a blend of historical political quotes and Apples to Apples.  A topic card is flipped up, and then players play one (or more) of the cards in their hand in order to respond to the topic.  All the “arguments” are read and the best one is selected by vote. Each of the argument cards have the prominent quote along with historical notes as to when and who uttered the given phrase.

Further down the pipeline, Golden Bell is putting together a series of cooperative mission-based games based on popular anime titles.  Expect to see some sort of adventure-deck type system set in the realms of Naruto, Avatar: The Last Airbender, and the 7 Deadly Sins. Good news indeed, if you recognize any of those titles.

Greater Than Games

A Spirit from the upcoming expansion to Spirit Island

Greater Than Games had the party game, Medium.  Played in teams of two, two players each play a card to the table.  Then try to both simultaneously speak the same word that has something in common with the two played cards.  Homebrewers (a beer-themed engine-building game with some dice trading) has shipped to Kickstarter backers and was also available at the show.  The other big news was Greater Than Games acquiring Cheapass Games, putting their games on a wider distribution and allowing its founder to focus in on creating more games and getting the wonderful abstract, Tak, out to a wider audience.

Once again looking out for the little guy, they made space in a corner of their booth for the folks from Homestar Runner to display their Trogdor!!! The Burninator Game. If you know what that is, you’re in the target audience. If you don’t, well it’s a cooperative game where you try to get Trogdor: The Burninator to burn and/or destroy everything on the board.

Grey Fox Games

Grey Fox Games (spelled correctly) was showing Gem Hens which is a timed dice-rolling game where players roll to distribute what actions they want to take in that round.  These movement rolls are then used maneuver a player’s hen around a board in order to pick up gems. Rolls of 1-3 grant movement of that exact number, 4’s and 5’s allow a player to add gems to the board, and 6’s are wild cards.  However, at the end of timed round, players roll all their 6’s. The highest value roll goes first that round. The rerolled 6’s are then added to their respective rerolled numbers. Any dice that rerolled to a 6 are set aside and can be used as a wildcard.  Once the rolling phase is over, players take turns using their dice to move their hens around the board. Hens can push other hens around, but use up an additional movement die. Additional dice are added to the sides of the board by placing them in a column or row and adding gems anywhere on that column or row.  However, each column/row only has two spots so it starts to limit where gems can be placed further into the round. Finally, players also get one special power card each round (chosen in reverse order of players) which grant special abilities to one’s hen in the round. Playable with 2 to 4 people, the game seems fairly short, ending after only two or three rounds.

HABA

The big game for HABA at the show was the recent Kinderspiel des Jahres Winner, Valley of the Vikings.  Here, players take turns placing colored barrels in the middle of the board and then flicking a large wooden ball in an attempt to knock them down.  Each player also has a token on the nearby point track that displays coins or their character color. When a player knocks down a colored barrel, they are allowed to move that player’s token along the track.  Whenever a token passes off the end of the track, everyone else on the track scores points (a few coins, or bonus coins if they’re landed on their own color.) While anyone can flick the ball around and move the pieces, the bit of strategy in the game revolves around which tokens to move and in which order (since they skip over any filled spaces.)  The English version should see a release this fall.

HABA was also showing off Mountains, a sort of Go-Fish memory game.  Players each have a hand of equipment cards. The active player flips up a card and then attempts to match the icons shown on the card.  If they do not have all the needed icons, players can essentially spend gems to do a “go-fish” type mechanism to see if other players might have the needed equipment.  No cards are exchanged and they are not consumed, so a bit of memory game slips in there as players want to remember who had which equipment. The flipped up cards are chosen from six different piles with higher level card stacks providing bigger rewards for more difficult matches.  In addition to supplying more gems (used for the Go-Fish portion) the higher level cards also provide passport “stamps” (which are literally stamped onto a scoresheet) which determine the winner at the end of the game.

Wobble King is another typical HABA style game that mixes a bit of dexterity with balancing fun.  A slightly wobbly king lion token is placed on a piece of sturdy cardboard which is, in turn, placed on top of 18 silver discs.  Players take turns fishing for disks under the board with a little wand. Discs removed are placed on top, so the board gets more and more unstable.  Make the king piece topple over while trying to get a disc and you get a rotten tomato. Get two tomatoes and you lose the game.

Hobby Japan

Tucked away in the smaller booths I found Hobby Japan’s The Queen of Hansa.  Two to four players take turns drafting cards from a table of four different rows.  Each row is a color and the order in which rows are emptied affects the value of items in that color.  The first row cleared reduced in value, while the last to clear jumps up three places. Some cards hold colored cubes which are acquired when the card is drafted.  These cubes score at the end of each drafting round. However, the cubes are lost unless a player has also drafted boat cards to keep them around. In addition to color (suit), the cards come in several versions – boats, castles, and people.  People have both a color and a letter. They score points at the game end.

Pairs are worth 6 points but three of a kind is a whopping 20. The number of different types of people also scores. Finally castle cards are awarded points based on majority.  From what I understood, Hobby Japan is still looking for a US publisher, so at present, the only way to get the game is through Amazon Japan.

Horrible Games

Imported by Luma Imports, The King’s Dilemma by Horrible games is a 3 to 5 player legacy game based around players vying for the king’s council.  It is a story-based game driven by a central deck of cards. Players choose how events unfold and have to weigh decisions whether to help themselves or keep the kingdom on track.  Every game ends with the death or abdication of the king, but the actions of each of the “houses” are remembered from game to game.

Identity Games

Designers of the Escape Room: The Game have brought over a new VR version under their own label.  Escape Room: The Game – Virtual Reality uses cardboard goggles and a phone app in addition to books, cards, and other components in order to simulate an escape room experience.  One person (at a time) uses the VR component while the others (it lists 3-5 players) make use of the many included components. It’s recommended to use the little “lockbox” from the original game, but a free app can be downloaded to take its place.  The box includes a tutorial game and then two different escape experiences – one on a submarine and the other has players caught behind enemy lines.

Iello

Iello kindly laid out all their newish games in a row for easy photos.  Ishtar (releasing at Essen) has players building up the garden of Babylon.  Several tiles are laid out (2 plus the number of players) showing watering holes and various gems.  The active player selects a tile (of various 3-space arrangements) and placed it onto the board, usually adding a meeple on top of the tile in a Carcassonne-type fashion.  Tiles placed over gem locations grant gem tokens to the player. Players can then use gems to activate special player powers (there are five sets of two powers.) Spending two gems gets the basic power, but spending two more earns the higher level power.  These range from earning more gems or scoring points in various ways. Gems spent this way return to the player, however players can also buy up “Tree” cards to earn larger chunks of points and allow them to place a tree token onto the board (presumably somewhere in their favor.)  Figure on plenty of different end-game scoring options depending on various arrangements of tiles, workers, and trees.

Little Town (out at GenCon) is on the lighter side of worker-placement resource management games.  Players place a meeple onto the game board and collect resources from the eight surrounding squares.  Most are empty, but wood, fish, and rock are collected from forests, ponds, and mountains respectively.  Players can spend their resources to add buildings onto the board which either give an immediate benefit or and ongoing one for anybody collecting nearby resources.  If you collect resources from another player’s building (the only way to get grain, I believe) you must pay them a coin. Meanwhile, players need to be sure to gather enough grain or fish to feed all their workers for each round.  Players have secret goals which can be completed for points, such as feeding one’s workers solely with fish for a round. At first blush, I believe this will be a game that plays quickly but still manages to provide a bit of meaty euro-game feel.

Iello has started a new brand, Loki, which is intended to be a kid-friendly line of games that teach some standard boardgame mechanics without too many layers of complexity.  In SOS Dino, 1-4 players cooperate to save four dinosaurs from a volcanic eruption. Players take turns drawing lava tiles which are played on the board to slowly block off areas and are also used to determine which way a dino can move.  Tiles are also used to limit which dino is NOT able to move that turn. The game is fairly free-form with any player allowed to move any dino. The goal is to move all the dinos off the board before any are destroyed by lava. There are also egg tokens on the board that can be passed over to collect if players want more of a challenge.

The next title I saw in the Loki brand was Farmini.  Two to four players play cards onto the table in order to form fenced in enclosures.  Players draw a card which will either provide fences, new animals to place, or a wolf figure which then eats any unenclosed animals of the shown type.  

The final Loki game was Troll & Dragon.  This is a pure push-your-luck die rolling game.  Roll white dice to earn diamonds without rolling Trolls.  Roll a key and a door to go into the Dragon room and you can then roll two red dice trying to roll gold without rolling dragons.  Roll two dragons and you lose everything for the round.

The newest expansion for Decrypto, Laser Drive adds in thematic clues.  Rather than choosing any old clues, players must also include at least one clue that fits with the Laser Drive theme (like “a city” or “something in a hospital”.)  Manage to get all three clues to fit the theme and you earn a laser token worth points at the end of the game.

Ninja Academy is a dexterity driven party game lasting around 20 minutes  Three to five players take turns drawing an event card. This will either result in a duel between two players (determined by player count and player order), or an all-play situation.  The game comes with a pile of meeples, bricks, and cards. A typical duel may be requiring players to “roll” their meeples as quickly as possible in order to satisfy the conditions on a card.  An all-play card may have all the meeples jumbled in a box and then revealed, with the first player to announce how many meeples are “standing” winning the point.

Incarnate Games

Sing for Your Supper is a singing party game where one player tries to sing out a correct tune such that only one other player can guess the answer.  The active player draws two cards and chooses one to play. The card will show a euphemistic paragraph of a song (“I desire to grasp your digits”) and the active player will then sing a short phrase from the song.  Players take turns guessing the tune. Correct answers win the active player 3 cards, from which they pick 2 and give 1 to the correct guesser. Players are trying to collect cards of different ingredients in order to form up a four course meal for the win.

Changing gears at the booth, Ascended Kings is an entirely different style of game.  Supported by a graphic novel set in the same storyline, Ascended Kings t is a free for all combat game without player elimination (you come back as a “revenant”.)  Players try to slay each other to take over their bloodstones, trying to collect them all to win. One interesting feature is the border of the playing field. It is made up of blue fire strips which slowly move in on the players, making the combat area smaller and smaller.  Players also have slightly unique powers which grant them the ability to use specific actions at a discount.

Inside Up

Gorus Maximus is a trick-taking game.  As usual, players need to follow suit, with the trick winner scoring the points cards in the hand.  Some cards have positive point values, a few have a negative value. However, trump can be changed via an Uno like mechanism by copying the number (but not suit) of the previous card.  The game is playable with up to 8 players, individual or in whatever teams you want. The lowest card of a suit is worth nothing unless it is also trump which makes it worth 5 points (a tidy sum.) 

And that’s the news that’s fit to print, for today anyway. Tomorrow we’ll see the rest of the alphabet, with additional days dedicated to RPGS, Digital games, or whatever my camera drug (dragged?) up.

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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8 Responses to Matt Carlson: GenCon 2019 (A to I)

  1. > “Asmadi’s Aegean Sea made a brief appearance on Thursday morning but then promptly sold out. (In true Terry Pratchett dwarven code of marketing, even the demo copies were sold.) ”

    I think ONLY demo copies were sold. They are still working on the game and sold some demo copies just for “playtesting”. https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/2248668/scalpers-print-and-plays-and-games-future

    • Matt J Carlson says:

      Sounds reasonable. All I was told was that they were completely sold out, including the copies they were using for demos. The time frame suggests there will be more work to be done.

  2. Pingback: Matt Carlson: GenCon 2019 (A to I) – Herman Watts

  3. Stuart Hemmings says:

    I love this summary!!!! Keep up the great work

  4. JB says:

    You should really Google Golden Bell…

    • Garry says:

      Or check out comments/geek list on BGG.

      • Matt J Carlson says:

        I understand there has been some upset folks about the company. I have only had good interactions with the folks there. For example, they once sent me a game to review and I emailed them back saying it was trash and I couldn’t publish anything positive about it. He was fine with that, and in our back and forth he was even interested in some of my off-hand ideas for possible improvement. (I was just giving examples of where the game had weak points…It hasn’t gone any further yet.)

        The only issue I’ve been involved with is the extended time that the latest Dungeon Dice Kickstarter is taking. My understanding is that that is due to issues on the designer end and it’s still progressing. It is not by any means the only kickstarter I’m waiting on that has had similar problems…

        I also suspect there may be some bad press running around. For example, when I was at the booth a lady came in concerned about some shipping issue (she thought they were shipping library rate illegally or some such) and the actual situation is that they were shipping things “Media Mail” which they also pre-approved with the post office.

        And as a wide movie character once said something to the effect of, “And that’s all I have to say about that.”

        • Jb says:

          The media mail issue has been discussed very extensively and they did not get that approved by the postal service. They threw in some random piece of sheet music to abuse the true purpose of media mail. I think if you really look into their practices you’ll find some really shady and outrageous practices.

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