The written word is back again to explain to you just what is not happening at GenCon this year. It may be happening in the virtual world, but if a vlogger falls in a forest, does anyone care? Here, we care, we care a whole little bit. Every year I try to scour the convention as my big deal of the year and try to cover as much game-related stuff that I can. Well, there’s nowhere to go this year but I’m trying to make up for it by checking in with some personal contacts supplemented with a bit of web surfing. Thankfully, we here at OpinionatedGamers don’t have a need to produce any video content of things we can’t see. It’s old-school text-only (well, and a few pictures) from here on out. Long live the written word! I’ve dug up plenty of newish-game goodness so I’ve broken my post into three parts in roughly alphabetical order by publisher. All errors in dates, times, or misspellings are the result of a conspiracy so secret, I’m not even aware that I’m a member. Don’t go blaming the publishers.
(Special note: If, for you, the play’s the thing then there are quite a few publisher-sponsored Tabletop Simulator versions of upcoming games that you can play for free right now!)
Today’s focus: Publishers D to M
Game of Thrones:Oathbreaker
A social deduction game based around the HBO series (at least all the pictures are right out of the series – no not those pictures, though.) Players take on one of 12 characters all with a secret agenda. My first guess is that all of them end with “and then kill everyone else.” (Spoilers) The King meanwhile is trying to figure out who is loyal and who wants his insides on the outside.
Clank! Adventuring Party
This Clank! Expansion works with the base game or the Aquisitions Inc! Game (once you finish the legacy aspect.) It primarily contains bits to let you go to 6 players and provide 6 different starting decks – including Whiskers, the cat, I think. The press sheet says “asymmetrical” – I think that means everyone’s starting cards are a different shape? I call oval. There’s also a new boss marker – Hexavultus, so beware…
Listed to appear at GenCon 2020, I found scant new information about the expansion to Medieval Age, one of the hot titles of last year. This expansion includes (at least) four new buildings: rivers, roads, gates, and bridges; along with a brand new disaster to foil your best laid plans. Four new game scenarios are also included.
Greater than Games
Spirit island: Jagged Earth
I am a recovering Spirit Island fan. It’s got all the mechanics I like, squished into one game. It also makes my brain hurt, so why do I keep coming back. The Jagged Earth expansion just arrived on my doorstep (thanks Kickstarter, I don’t need to save.) It has 10 new spirits, more of all the options (fear, blight, enemies, etc..) and badland tokens. Badlands are another way players can fight the invaders. I’ve mixed feelings about the idea that this expansion also allows you to go up to 6 players. Everyone pretty much takes their turn at the same time, so that’s not so bad. I’m more worried about the heat output from that many brains burning at the same time.
Sentinels of Freedom
A little shout out to the folks at Underbite Games. Their Sentinels of Freedom videogame is now out on the PC as well as all the current consoles. This is a turn-based tactical combat game in the Sentinels of the Multiverse setting. I’ve played a bit on the PC and like it, although it does have the occasional slow bits when you’re almost done with a mission and need to hunt down those last few guys. I do have to admit that the missions are big, but are put together in chunks so it’s not just a huge map to deal with. After you’re done with one bit, you go to the next area, but carry over any damage and effects you had before. You get to make your own character and also play as the named heroes from the card game. They level up in power as you go, giving that nice endorphin rush to get you to come back for more. The combat system has a really weird rock-scissors-paper thing that I still don’t grok, but the tooltips always show expected results for the various attacks so I don’t have to keep track. If you enjoy the game, there will be another campaign coming out this year.
Splurt! Is a (small) party game where you flip a card over and then yell something. Each card will show a condition and then the first person to say a word with that condition gets a point. Cards include: Name a song in E or Name an animal with 5 letters (technically a 6 letter animal also has 5 letters – I’d be horrible at this game.)
Hit List is another team game. It’s one of those games that has a card with a theme, followed by a bunch of examples of that category. The category is read and then the active team shouts out as many examples as they can, winning points for any example that is actually on the card. Examples include Ice Cream Brands, Vampires, or Cartoon Cats.
Abandon All Artichokes
A bit more game than the previous two, Abandon All Artichokes is a deckbuilder where you start with a deck of 10 Curses – I mean Artichokes. Players buy various veggie-themed cards with associated powers in an attempt to cull their deck of Artichokes. If you draw a hand of cards that does not contain any artichokes, you win! (And if I don’t have them on my plate at dinner, I also win! – I’ll make exceptions if there’s plenty of salt and butter)
Touted as “the delayed gratification trick-taking card game” by Knizia, this game has players not just planning TO take tricks but also WHEN to take tricks. The deck has 5 suits numbered 1-12 (I don’t have that many suits.) The dealer picks a trump suit and the game starts. Players attempt to collect a set number of tricks (depending on player count – it goes up to 5 players.) Once that number is reached, that player goes out and then scores marshmallows based on how many tricks the OTHER players have taken. Thus, the longer you wait to go out, the more points you will score. However, the player left alone after everyone else goes out scores no marshmallows at all (poor baby.) As the OpinionatedGamers is the unofficial site of all trick-taking games everywhere, I’m sure someone here will get this reviewed soon.
Animal Upon Animal Unicorns & Dinos
The excellent stacking game, Animal Upon Animal, is back and now you’re stacking either Unicorns or Dinos. Same game, new pieces, more or less. I know of one or two completionists that like to play with ALL the animals at the same time. I’m hoping they’ll finish the game with some enormously sprawling fractal structure on their kitchen table..
A real-time roll and write game. The five dice are rolled (showing colors) and players must find pentominoes (Tetris pieces) on their board that contain those five colors. The different shapes all score different amounts (the “L” is worth 1 whereas the “plus” is worth 4.) The goal is to find as many shapes as possible. When someone flips the timer over, all players have until the timer runs out to finish their search.
In a Flash! Firefighters
Players have a player board with an open center. Placing their firefighter on the edge, they use tiles from the middle to try and create a path down the line to the fire. The “hose” tiles attach on the edge or the middle, so not just any tile will work. It’s rated 5+, so there’s a bit of game here but don’t expect Carcassonne or something.
For younger gamers (4+), this is a co-op game where players roll dice to coax the various animals back into the barn from where they’ve gone astray. (I wish I could roll dice to call my kids back in for dinner.)
Holy Grail Games
I saw Rallyman: Dirt come across my web browsings awhile back so thought I’d include it. It is a Kickstarter game that will actually come out next Summer. It is based on the recently released Rallyman GT. GT is a roll and move racing game where you can push your luck to go further. Players roll gear dice (and possibly coast and/or break dice as well) to see how far they move. Each die has some faces that display a warning sign. Roll 3 warning signs and you spin out. Players can roll dice one by one to be careful, BUT if you roll all your dice at once you get a Focus token. These can be used to get a guaranteed success at a later time.
Rallyman Dirt has similar mechanics but focuses more on maneouvering around on the track than just outdriving one’s opponents. The expectation is that Rallyman Dirt will be a bit more strategic and a little bit less luck than the GT version. As mentioned, the KS just ended so it won’t be out until next summer.
Railroad Ink Challenge (Lush Green and Shining Yellow)
Railroad Ink is a rolle and write where the dice show roads and train tracks. Players use the faces of the dice and write them down on the grid on their scorecard. Points are earned for long tracks and joining edges together. The new Railroad Ink Challenge games add in a new mechanic, goals. Each game will have a few Goal cards available. The first player to satisfy the Goal card earns points, while subsequent goal-achievers will earn less. The Challenge version of the game also has a few new features like villages (bonus points next to a station) or factories (which let you duplicate a die.) The new Challenge edition comes in yellow and green flavors. Each color comes with two pairs of dice that serve as an “expansion” and one pair can be added to a standard game. After some web-searching, here’s what I think they might do. Shining Yellow has Canyons and Deserts. Canyons are drawn on the edges of boxes and score by the longest edge. However, if you can surround an area completely with canyons, the insides become a sinkhole. You get bonus points (for tourists coming to visit) but everything in the sinkhole is gone – standard route penalties are still applied. The Desert dice have you planting cacti and oases. However, some sides of the dice show an Arid symbol. This isn’t drawn but it kills off any cacti not connected to an oasis. Lush Green has Forests and Trails. Forests seem fairly easy, you’re trying to group them together to get the largest orthogonal group. Trails make connections along the corners, automatically connecting to stations, which earns points.
Note, for owners of the previous games (Blue & Red) the base dice and boards are game-specific. So you can’t play with the boards from Blue when using the dice from Yellow. However, all the expansions work fine, so you can use any of your expansions with either of the base games (blue/red or green/yellow.)
I have a fever, and the only prescription is more Unicorns… Unicorn Fever has players betting on unicorn races. Over four races, players sign contracts with nefarious fairy-based creatures to “give the race a little help.” Players can then play Magic cards to fix things, but can you afford it? If you’re doing poorly you can ask the Elf-mob for loans… but I don’t recommend it.
Similo: Animals and Similo: Wild Animals
Similo is a line of themed games based around a cooperative deduction mechanic. The clue giver is trying to get the other players to guess a secret character by playing other character cards from their hand as clues, stating whether the cards are similar to, or different from, the secret character. You can mess with people by mixing and matching other Similo decks. Is a Zebra more like Zeus or Apollo? (From the Myth deck…)
Vampire: The Masquerade – Vendetta
This is a game of bluffing, area control, and backstabbing. Players play cards to gain control of humans, feed on them, or make them (semi)permanent servants. At the start of each Age,, players draft new cards to add to their deck. Decks thus grow larger over time. In a festive move (in an otherwise dark setting) players also draw more cards in later rounds. The overall goal is to gain the most “influence” over the three ages.
Schotten Totten 2
Schotten Totten 2 is a sequel to Schotten Totten (bet you didn’t see that one coming.) Here, one player is the defender and the other player is the attacker, trying to breach their walls. Players place their cards onto one of seven locations around the board, trying to make good poker-style hands to claim the spot, strongest hand wins – with a few exceptions. What makes things different is that the defender also has three boiling oil tokens that can be used to clear out the attacker’s cards. The deck has five suits, numbered 0-11, as well as ten tactical cards. Look for it in September.
Detective Charlie is a co-op deduction game aimed at the younger set (game says 7+.) Players roll dice to move Charlie around to interview witnesses to try to rule out suspects. Each suspect will give more clues to help with the elimination, but the game has a time mechanic which can run out before you unmask the culprit. (Note, not to be confused with “Detective BY Charlie”, which is an AI that helps you do web searches, word to the wise…)
Fort is a card game all about kids building forts in their backyard. On their turn, a player will play a card from their hand and do one or both of its private and public actions (public & private) . You can improve the effect of some cards by playing additional cards of the correct suit. Once the action(s) are complete, the other players can than “Follow the Leader” and also discard a card of the same suit to take advantage of the played card’s public action. Next, the active player must recruit a friend card, and then all remaining cards in hand are discarded and a new hand is drawn. Many of the cards will either affect your Friends (cards you collect, two of which are “best” friends which can’t be stolen) and/or your Yard (your player board.) The Yard is where you store resources (pizza and toys), keep track of the level of your Fort, and some reminders of when you earn various bonuses. One can earn Perks in the game which grant more powerful abilities and players can secretly take a Made-up Rule card which gives that player scoring bonuses at the end of the game. The game ends when someone reaches 25 points, reaches Fort level 5, or the Park draw deck is empty. Tally scores and highest score wins. The game is out in August 2020 and you can already play for free on Tabletop Simulator.
Root: The Clockwork Expansion
The Clockwork Expansion to the popular and highly asymmetric strategy game, Root, provides players a way to play the game with automated players. There are rules for four different automated factions which can be used in solo, competitive or cooperative games.
Root: Underworld expansion
The Underworld expansion adds two new factions to the game as well as a new double-sided board providing two new maps for the game. The Underground Duchy is a sort of crusade/war themed faction while the Corvid Conspiracy undermines other factions using cunning and trickery to hold hostage the other factions and spread terror. The Mountain Map has blocked routes that must be cleared and a special mountain pass that can be held to gain an advantage. The Lake Map has players traveling quickly around the board via the ferry and provides ways to gain friends and allies for your faction.
Mattel has two Star Wars themed toy/games for the holiday 2020 season. The first is a Magic 8-Ball in the shape of Darth Vader’s head. Shake the poor guy’s head, turn him over, and read a pithy saying to predict your future. Of course, It won’t just be “yes” or “no”. He’ll let you know his thoughts like “You know it to be true” or “Your thoughts betray you.” Meanwhile, the somewhat disconcerting looking R2-D2 version of the classic KerPlunk will have players pulling wrenches out of the poor droids body to try to keep the poor droids insides from falling out. Painful droid whimpering noises not included. The rumor that once they all fall out R2-D2 will project a secret mission hologram is completely fake news.
Pictionary Air: Kids vs Grown-Ups!
The popular Pictionary Air! electronic drawing guessing game is back with head to head battle mode where there’s an extra pen so two people can be duel-drawing at the same time. The game will come with two decks, one specifically for kids to give them a small leg up so they can gang up on their parents.
Jewel Heist is a dexterity-based social deduction game. The robbers try to steal gems from the security case by lifting the plastic cover, removing the gems, and then replacing the cover. Meanwhile, the security guards have their eyes closed. After 10 seconds, everyone opens their eyes and then the accusations fly. Will the detectives arrest each other, or will they send the robbers to the slammer? (Why they don’t check everyone’s pockets first, I don’t know… I guess looking in other people’s pockets is not as much of a game and far more likely to actually get thrown in jail. Ask permission first, kids!)
UNO: The Office and UNO: Rick and Morty
It wouldn’t be Mattel if there wasn’t UNO showing up with a new facelift. UNO based on The Office and Rick and Morty are already in stores and selling well. Both games show off key moments from the shows and each have an (I assume optional) themed special rule. If you’re a fan of either IP (or, lord help you, an UNO collector completionist) be sure to pick them up soon as they’re in stores and selling quickly.
You made it all the way through another report article! Congratulations on your journey towards enlightenment. Tomorrow, we finish our tour with publishers N to Z, although I don’t know how that’s going to make you any lighter.
What about Hub Games?
My apologies to them. Finding a publisher like that is the sort of thing I would hope to come across while cruising the convention. I sent feelers out to all the PR reps for which I had contact information, and dug up some things for a few more for companies with which I used to have contact. I should have been clearer that I, by no means, was expecting to be comprehensive – just the best I could do…