As we move through the alphabet (no, not Alphabet the megacorporation) of publishers, today will be quite a mix of light and heavy, light and dark themes, read it with the light on or off, or if you’re tired of run-on sentences, just skip it entirely and wait for tomorrow. Just know that you’re skipping over a game of psychotic killers and another about rainbow ponies… no, they’re not both in the same game. On with the games!!!
King of Tokyo was a great finisher for my family and friends as the exhibit hall wore down. I was surprised my friend had not yet played it. As was expected, it went over great with he and our teen/preteen boys. While there I learned of the King of Tokyo Monster Box. This is a 2-6 player version of the game that includes most of the previous expansions and promos in one box. There’s the base game, the monster power-up cards, Panda figurine, the monsters from the Halloween set, a new baby Gigazaur standee, and a cardboard dice tray. Unfortunately for collectors out there, but good for everyone else, there are a few cards exclusive to this release. There weren’t any copies at the show but they should already be in stores.
You’ve probably seen Klask, but if not, it’s a fun little dexterity game run by magnets. Players run their magnetic “player” on top of a board by use of held magnets under the board. Use your player to kick the ball into their base. The game comes in a 2p rectangle and a 4p circle. The Klask booth was full of games, but also full of players.
Kosmos had many of their “evergreen” titles on display. The newest Exit games included Lord of the Rings and Return to the Abandoned Cabin. The second title is an homage to the original Exit: The Abandoned Cabin, it’s a completely different set of puzzles but with plenty of Easter eggs for those who remember the original. It should be out in September. Coming this winter will be an Exit Advent Calendar. Each day of the holiday season will provide a mini-puzzle as you pop open a new door to reveal a little room. Of course, once all 24 doors are open there is another meta-puzzle to figure out.
Catch the Moon is a dexterity game where 1-6 players attempt to place ladders on a central cloud structure. A player first rolls a die, and that decides just how the next ladder has to be placed. Whether you have to place one touching one (or two) other ladders, on top of all the other ladders, etc… Players are given a drop token if they fail, and the game goes until seven are assigned. The plate with the least number of drop tokens wins the game. Ties require a build-off to decide the winner. There’s a way to keep an overall score, which allows for solo or cooperative play.
3D Ubongo is the standard race-to-match-the-card play but instead of using 2D polynominoes, players use 3D pieces to create a structure 2 levels deep. Each card (there are 3 difficulties I believe) shows a shape to match. A die is rolled and that determines which pieces must be used to create the shape.
Late last year, the Martin Wallace design, Anno 1800, based off the Ubisoft computer game was released. It had a definite table presence on the floor.
Lucky Duck Games
Flamecraft has 1-5 players serving as Flamekeepers trying to decorate a town with the fanciest and coolest looking dragons in order to accumulate the highest reputation and win the game. The game board consists of a central scoring track surrounding a tableau of objective cards which will either be completed during the game or ending the game while meeting certain conditions. The outside of the board is surrounded by cards representing shops in the town. On their turn, a player either gathers or enchants. TO gather, a player plays a card matching one of the shops surrounding the board, collecting the goods indicated there. They may then “fire” their dragon at the shop, gaining the special ability of that shop. When enchanting, players again play a card matching a shop, but now use their own goods to purchase a card instead. Enchanting will also upgrade that particular shop to make it more powerful going forward. After enchanting, the player gets to fire up ALL the dragons at that shop.
The largest space in the Mattel booth held a pair of copies of Bounce-Off Pop-Out. Players try to bounce balls into a grid to create a shape under a time limit. Flip over a pattern card, then try to bounce the balls into the grid to create the pattern. Alternatively, give one color of ball to each player and they can play cooperatively to try and create a common 2-color pattern. The Pop-Out part of the game kicks in that the grid has an internal timer which will launch all the balls into the air when time runs out. The length of the timer can be adjusted to change up the difficulty.
Uno Ultimate takes on a Marvel theme and serves up a slightly more strategic version of the family classic. Each player (up to 4) starts with their own, unique card deck based on one of several Marvel characters (Captain America, Thor, Iron Mah, and Black Panther.) Each deck has its own special wild cards that change up the gameplay. The game can end immediately if one player “goes out” with no cards remaining in their hand. However, players are also eliminated if they run out of cards in their draw deck – last one standing. This provides two directions for play – aggressively playing one’s own cards or forcing others to draw up their own. Further complications come from a shared Danger Deck which triggers a special event whenever a card is played that also shows a danger symbol. Starting with the four core decks, the plan is to introduce new character decks in groups of three (I think in separate packs) about twice a year.
I’m unfamiliar with the comic Sarah’s Scribbles, but it seems to be a nice little tongue-in-cheek thing. In Future Me Problems, up to 4 players are attempting to procrastinate, avoiding that “large important task” for as long as possible while also avoiding any other chores that might require effort. Players draw schedule cards into their hand (hand limit of 5) and then try to create an action queue out of their schedule cards, ending with a nap – symbolized by a pillow. They then run through the queue of schedule cards, messing with other players – hopefully giving them activity cards worth negative points. Typical schedule cards have players gaining schedule cards, messing with the schedule and activity card draw piles, and giving or taking activity cards. There’s even a swap player card which changes who is executing the cards midstream. In the example in the photo, one player would draw two schedule cards, then pick another person to continue, that person would pick another person to continue, that person would then have to draw an activity card. The game was already crowdfunded, but I do not think it is quite yet in general release.
Finally, we have the return of Pictionary Air, that game where players use a light pen and an app on their phones to draw pictures in augmented reality while teammates guess what is being drawn. The game is back now with a Star Wars theme: Star Wars Pictionary Air.
Mayday had two games onhand that were essentially a remix of some previous successful titles. Bamboo Bash has players tapping on the sides of a column of bamboo discs. Each disc has four removable leaves on the sides such that bumping the disc to the side will allow a leaf to fall out. Players take turns tapping discs, trying to free a leaf while seeking to avoid knocking the tower over or dislodging the panda figure on the top. (It’s a game very similar to Toc Toc Woodman.)
The other game was Catapult Castle. Like the old game, Coconuts, players use a launcher to flick objects (cannonballs here) into opponents’ containers. If a rock lands inside a tower, the launching player gets to steal it and place it on their own tower, building thiers higher. When a tower piece is stolen, it reveals a card which will give the losing player a special ability like launching twice or throwing a rock by hand. Play continues until someone loses all their tower pieces or the game runs out of cannonballs.
Micro Games of America (MGA)
Haunt Your House is an augmented reality game for 2-4 players where players move about a haunted house to collect weapons to then defeat monsters that are hidden there. At the start of a game, each player uses a phone/device to watch 3D monsters crawl onto the playing board. Players must quickly memorize which monsters are in which location before they disappear. Players may then start moving around the house, flipping over tiles, hoping to collect the 3 requisite weapons needed to defeat a monster. The idea is to get the items (you can only store 4 at a time) and go to the location of that monster (hopefully you remember where it was) to capture it. At the end of each turn an event die is rolled and it can kick off one of six different little microgames, like having players use their phone to look around the room and catch escaped monsters. Look for the game to appear on Kickstarter in the near future.
In Spectre: The Boardgame, two to four James Bond fans can join the bad guys and try to out-do each other as Spectre henchmen trying to support the organization as best they can while also trying out-do each other to rise up in importance. Players vie to finish the game furthest on the Spectre trap, representing their higher position in the organization. Each round a mission card is drawn. Players spend the round furthering their own plans, but can also contribute to the mission. If the mission succeeds, the largest contributor moves up the Spectre track and can also advance a Secret Plan (more on that later.) If the mission fails, bad things happen. However, sometimes those bad things aren’t so bad for you. You just want to look at your fellow Spectre-ite and say, “do something about it if you want, I’m not going to care…” Meanwhile, a round consists of players placing their two main workers on 7 different locations on the board, each providing a specific benefit. A player may place their worker on their own player board to unlock special powers later in the game – including new worker placement locations. Every player board is unique and there are five different ones in the game. When placing on a board location, one also gets to place agent cubes. At the end of the round, players gain special abilities in locations where they have a majority of agent cubes. Next, players enter a blind bid to complete the mission for the round. Everyone loses the resources they bid, but the largest contributor can finish a Secret Plan if they have the matching resources. At the end of the round, two dice are rolled and the Bond unit (a black poker chip) moves to that numbered location, wiping out any agent cubes there. Alternatively, the die roll might end up on the “gun barrel” side which forces a player to reveal one of their secret plans – making it now worth less points and possibly their special abilities more expensive. (Hmm, maybe if you’re playing as Spectre, the game is actually for James Bond haters?)
Last year I was able to see Steelslayers, the expansion to Nauvoo’s Reckoners game, based on books by Brandon Sanderson. This year they were showing off a prototype of another large (1-7 players!) game, Raising Robots. Players start the game with 8 power cards. They assign two power cards to one of 5 different phases and cards are then revealed. Everyone may then, simultaneously for the most part, progress through their turn, activating their chosen phase, but possibly others. Power cards may display cubes on them. If so, they add that many cubes to that phase slot and all players may perform that action based on the number of cubes. The five phases are: upgrade – spend resources and upgrade your robot card, assemble – build a new robot, design – basically draw cards or gain resources, fabricate – run a “row” of robots, gaining the benefit of all robots of that power level (based on those cubes) or lower, or recycle – used to trade and/or exchange stuff. There are four basic resources as well as an AI resource (which is wild) and batteries, which can be used as a one-time power-up boost. The game ends after 8 rounds, so that players will have used all their cards twice. Players may also start with a “young inventor” card that gives a minor, unique bonus during the game, but can be upgraded to provide an even stronger power.
Also called peace-chess or dancing-chess by its creator, Paco Sako is a chess variant where pieces do not capture one another, they join together instead. Thus, a rook capturing a pawn becomes a bicolor rook-pawn, now movable by either side. Conjoined pieces can not normally be separated, but you can attack them to “knock” your own piece off into its own move. Thus, if you have a set of conjoined knights and a set of conjoined bishops, white might attack the knights with a rook, knocking off the white knight who can then take a move (like a knight) to “capture” the bishops, allowing the white bishop to move off (like a bishop) and make its own attack. In this way, once the game develops, chain reactions can really develop. It is even possible to set up a situation where one piece (like a queen) could make multiple moves by capturing pieces and being captured back again. Play continues until someone captures the enemy king. Along with the game, the designer has created many different puzzle setups where one is challenged to find the correct move in order to win the game.
In November, we will see the release of the newest title in the Undaunted line of card & tile based wargames. Undaunted: Stalingrad will focus on a campaign through the battle of Stalingrad. Two players will play through missions in a branching campaign where the next battle is determined by the outcome of the previous one. A typical series would last 12 to 15 missions, but because of the branching narrative there are around 35 to 40 different possible scenarios in the box. This branching style of play is new with Stalingrad. Standard gameplay focuses on playing cards to move and activate units on a tile-based gameboard. Typically, a scout unit will open up an area (to remove the fog of war token) and can then be followed up by a rifleman (the only unit that can capture.) Once that is accomplished, one can move other units into that area of the board. The gameboard itself is part of the ongoing narrative. Each tile corresponds to a specific overall map (see the red area on the card displaying the section involved in the current scenario) so if change happens in this game (a building is bombed out, for example) it will stay bombed out for the rest of the campaign. Units are not just represented on the board, they are also linked to cards in a player’s hand. Adding units to the board is as easy as buying a new unit card. Activating those units requires playing the card from one’s hand and attacks are resolved with dice. Note, units lost on the board mean a player loses those cards from their hand. It used to be that if there were no more of that card in one’s deck the unit was eliminated. Now, that unit is simply pushed back but stays on the board. This can start to gum up one’s plans if things get too crowded. The branching narrative of the game also applies to the cards, units can die and also be upgraded by swapping out cards with improved ones.
The other game demoed in the booth was Village Rails. A 2-4 player game of tableau building, players attempt to build up a track network on their personal 3×4 grid. Players place track cards to form a complete track going from the left or top on over to the bottom or right. After placing track, a player has the option of buying an engine from a shared market. Engines are placed on the outside of the grid (left or top.) When a track is competed, the engine (if any) corresponding to that route is scored. Then, players activate any icons on the completed track. Finally, a player will play a terminus card (you have 3 and draw a new one when used) which provides money, again depending on the line, which can be used to buy more engines. As players get better and better engines they have more powerful effects which triggers a bit of a snowball effect in money and points as the game goes along. Once players have all 12 tracks full, the game ends and the player with the most points wins.
Osprey’s Imperium line (Imperium: Classics & Imperium: Legends), is a card-based game using strongly asymmetric sides, each of which can be used as a solo opponent by flipping their civilization card over. Coming up next year is Imperium: Horizons with fourteen more civilizations and the addition of a trade mechanic used by many of the new civs.
I was able to have a nice little pre-Gen Con preview of Pandasaurus titles a few days before the convention. We discussed three of their imminent releases. Leading off is the party game Nacho Pile. It’s a 2-6 player party game of push your luck mechanics. Players pull chips of different values from a (potato chip) bag until they choose to stop, leaving their new chips on the table. Pulling a duplicate number on a turn dumps all chips from that turn back into the bag. Subsequent players can then steal these chips if they pull any chips of the same value. If a player keeps their chips for a full round, they are set aside as safe. There are also special chips that perform actions like stealing chips, “protecting” chips, or simply destroying other players’ chips. When the game is done, a final chip is pulled from the bag. The player with the most of that value chip wins the game. It should be out September 7th.
Also out in September, Wildstyle is a real-time game where players are attempting to bring color to a futuristic city through tagging buildings and other locations. The game is played over 3 rounds where players are trying to draw cards (from various piles) to form a set of 3, which allows them to place a circular Bingo like token on the central hexagonal map. Players have a max hand size of 3 and the standard rule to only draw one card at a time. A round ends when all but one player run out of tag tokens or the draw piles are all exhausted. At the end of 3 rounds, points from the central area are added up. Board locations score differently, depending on their icon. For example, one icon might score 9 points for placing 5 hexes in a row. There are also 3 objective tiles chosen from 6 at the start of the game that score additional ways.
Skate Summer (2-5p out in September-ish) has players trying to recreate the feel of 90s Tony Hawk skateboarding video games. Players play trick cards to their tableau in order to pull off combos. Every try a balance die is rolled which adjusts a player’s position on their balance track. If you go over the edge of your track, you fail the combo and get a consolation prize. If you’re still balanced you can continue to play another trick card. When all players fail or stop they score based on a score multiplier times the number of that kind of trick played. There is also a shared skate-park board where players can move their avatar around by discarding tricks of matching adjacent hexes. Players essentially skate around the board trying to collect tokens and tag locations (which can upgrade one’s abilities – like a larger hand size or a wider balance track.) Visiting all 6 upgrade locations scores an additional 10 points. The game ends when a player reaches a target score, players can choose to play a shorter or longer game based on the threshold they choose. Points are scored during the game as well as a final scoring based on who has the majority of three different goal tokens from the board.
After the last-minute announcement, I dropped by the Pandasaurus booth to check out The Fox Experiment. This is a 2-5 player game coming out on October 26th. Codesigned by Hargrave (the Wingspan designer) it keeps the animal/nature vibe found in most of her games. Here, players are trying to breed foxes according to their personal goal cards. To start the round, players pick a boy and girl fox from the tableau as well as choose turn order (which also triggers a special ability for that round.) Next, a central pool of dice are then rolled. Players simultaneously use the dice to create new pups (marked on a new dry-erase card) and collect tokens and/or points. Finally, players may upgrade various parts of their lab board (allowing them larger hand sizes, get more pups from a single mommy & daddy, draw more studies goal cards, etc…) At the end of the round, the player with the highest “friendliness” attribute fox gets additional points while other players get a small bonus for the next round. All pups born are considered to have grown up and are placed back into the communal boy and girl fox tableau, able to be chosen as a parent the next round. In this way, the foxes in the tableau become “better” as the game goes on. Players can therefore slowly develop lines of foxes that meet their goals. However, players can never claim both a mommy and a daddy fox they previously bred – no inbreeding allowed. The endgame scoring gives players points for upgrades on their lab improvements, points for completed study cards, “super pups” who have achieved a 5 or better of a given trait. The game will go up onto Kickstarter on September 6th.
For more Gen Con 2022 content, check out the following reports as they are published: