I took a few hours off work today to swing by Gen Con 2023. Last year at Gen Con felt like a reduced event, but this year, the convention came roaring back, to what felt like pre-2020 levels. The waiting area outside of the exhibit halls filled faster — and felt more crowded — than I ever remember from before the pandemic.
So what’s popular? Lorcana. Lorcana, Lorcana, Lorcana. The line waiting for this collectible card game is the single biggest line I’ve ever seen at Gen Con (and I believe W. Eric Martin said something similar on Twitter). All day long people kept expressing amazement at the craze. Even sitting here at the airport tonight I had a stranger ask if I’d been to Gen Con (he noticed me reading a game rulebook) and start talking to me about how excited he was for Lorcana. I’ve never played a CCG, so it doesn’t interest me, but this seems like it is going to be huge for a lot of that genre’s fans.
Among board games? That is less clear; I can only say what I’ve heard and noticed. The expansion for Lost Ruins of Arnak seemed especially popular, and reportedly sold out very quickly, but that is probably a function of the limited supply. Thunder Road sold hundreds of copies. There was a massive pile of World Wonders (the photos are on Twitter) that seemed to be depleting quickly (although I didn’t buy it because the BGG ratings seem a bit… manipulated). I heard buzz about the new Terra Mystica game, Age of Innovation, and there were still copies when I was at the booth later in the morning. 3 Ring Circus looked looked close to selling out when I was at the booth this afternoon (and they seemed to have a decent supply). I went for Great Western Trail: New Zealand first, and a lot of people in line were there for it, but more were there for some Star Wars promo (that I still don’t know anything about). Dixit Disney seemed to be selling well (and had a massive playtest area). I saw a very large number of people carrying Tribes of the Wind, which surprised me, because that’s been out for a while. Bonsai appears to have sold out its daily allotment, but that is likely a limited supply issue. There were a lot of copies of Aurum (a trick-taking game I reviewed earlier in the week) earlier in the day, but the shelf was pretty barren when I was there later. Forbidden Jungle seemed like it’d be popular, but I forgot to stop by the booth.
I’m sure I’m missing a few games, but that’s what I noticed.
One of the buzzier games was Ticket to Ride Legacy: Legends of the West, but it is releasing at Essen. There was, however, a sizeable demo area set up. I spent a few minutes in that demo area, and I passed it several times in the day, and the number of people stopping to look at it was exceptionally high. The buzz is deserved: I play-tested the game (a fact I can now reveal), and I think it is the single best game I’ve ever played. Seriously… #1.
Also buzzy was Colossal Cat in the Box — a giant version of the hit trick taking game, which comes with two new expansions — which will be crowdfunded by Bezier Games on Kickstarter in a few weeks. I heard a lot of conversation around it. I snapped a photo of Ted Alspach with the start player marker.
A few games either didn’t make it to the show or will just be around later in the week. Sea Salt & Paper might be there as soon as tomorrow. Sail did not make it, and I haven’t heard if it will. I’m not sure what is up with Point City: I was told to check back later in the weekend, so I wasn’t sure if it sold out of its allotment or just hadn’t made it yet.
One game made it that I thought was going to be demo only: Spellbook by Space Cowboys and Phil Walker-Harding was available for purchase, and it too had a big (and filled) demo area.
So what’d I buy? Just five games, because so much of what I wanted was sold out or didn’t make it. Those five games are: 3 Ring Circus, Dixit Disney, Forest Shuffle, Great Western Trail: New Zealand, and Spellbook. I had already ordered Aurum, Clever4Ever, Fiction, Inside Job, Miller Zoo, My Island, Sail, Scram, and Seas of Strife to my house, or I may have tried to buy those.
What’d I play? I was only in the exhibitor hall for a few hours; then I went back to the hotel to work until my flight, and now I’m sitting at the airport. But I did get a play in of Disney Dixit, and as both a Disney fan and a Dixit fan, it is my new favorite version of the game. The cards are beautiful. The voting is now done via a dial, which is a great idea. And check out these meeples!
I wasn’t here long — I got in last night, and basically left early in the afternoon — but I had some great times. I got to meet the trick taking designer Bob Kamp and play of his prototypes with Taylor Reiner, which was a delight. Even talking to them was a highlight of the event for me. Seeing some giants of the board game hobby — W. Eric Martin, Dale Yu, Alan Moon, Ted Alspach, etc. — is always fun, and I got the chance to talk to each of them. Playing Dixit Disney with strangers was a ton of fun: Dixit with new folks is always a delight. Overall, I’m glad I made the day trip!