Gen Con 2023 – The OP

I have to appreciate how The OP has bucked the trend on titles and has handily shortened their name from the past, although traces of it still appear hidden in their demo area. In my booth visit to The OP, I was given a tour of four of their newest titles. The A.R.T. Project has players cooperatively trying to recover lost art. Express Route is another co-op but this one has a pickup and delivery theme. The Perfect Wave is a tableau builder about surfing and What the Cup!? is vaguely like Liar’s Dice but with a single 12 sided die per person (bear with me here…)

The A.R.T. Project

Releasing at Essen this year, The A.R.T. Project is a 1 to 6 player cooperative game. Players play mission cards to collect clues and then move around a map in order to reach a location to recover stolen art. To start, all players draw two mission cards, and then they discuss their options. Each player must play one of their mission cards, however mission cards consume resources. All resources are shared so it becomes a matter of managing who can afford to do what.

The breakdown of a card is as follows. The top is the cost of the card, which must be paid out of communal supplies. The next section has to do with bad stuff going down in a specific area of the game board. Finally, the third section lists resources the group gains from the card. The last section contains symbols representing clues to a specific piece of art. Players must collect three symbols in order to “locate” a specific piece of art so that it can be rescued.

Once all players have gone through a mission, players can move about the board but that also costs fuel, yet another precious resource. Once the requisite number of clues are collected, players must go to the revealed location and roll a dice to collect it. If more than one player is at that location, then the number of rolled dice increases. One resource is walkie talkie tokens, these can be spent to serve as a sort of bonus “NPC” person at that location to roll more dice. Spending gun tokens directly adds to the die roll.

All players have three health and lose if anyone falls to zero. However, in a nice twist of fate, a health token is a wild card for almost any resource in the game. This means you have have three of whatever you want, as long as you realize you will then be dead and lose the game. The game ramps up in pressure through the interaction of the “white hands” organization which slowly ramps up the difficulty of those art-capturing rolls.

The game comes with three double-side game boards, each associated with a particular location in the world: Sweden, USA, Polynesian, Rio, Japan, and the Nile. Maps all add in a different little adjustment to the game to give it a different flavor. Obvious things like movement is helped and hindered depending on which way you’re going on the Nile map, or the lack of specific routes on the Polynesian map. There are also a few fun little things like how players gain a gun token every time they move past Dallas on the USA map.

Express Route

Express Route is another cooperative game, this one plays 1 to 4 players and has a pickup and deliver theme (which I feel is fairly unique in the co-op game world.) It should be out in stores by the end of the month.

The goal of the game is to make 8 total deliveries to win. The first four are relatively easy, but later deliveries might need multiple packages at once. Meanwhile, packages are coming out onto the board, each one increasing overall demand. Get too high and the players lose. Thankfully, a successful delivery will lower the demand.

Players are not represented on the board, rather all the vehicles are shared. Players also have unique specialist powers that slightly bend the rules in their favor in some way. There is also a way to upgrade the team’s abilities. Unfortunately, this is done by “spending” completed deliveries. This could be good in the early game, but not something anyone wants to do in the late game since deliveries get quite tricky.

The game comes with over 20 different scenarios/setups. It isn’t a campaign so players just pick the one they want to play. It was pointed out to me that there is not an unreasonable number of things to track so it works quite well as a solo game.

The Perfect Wave

The Perfect Wave is a 2-4 player tableau builder of making sets of cards. The tableau is built left to right, and represents the wave you’re building. However, you will only score your wave if, while you’re building it, you also spend effort making your surfer move out along with the wave. Finally, one can play “tricks” above the card-wave for bonus points.

Wave cards are played face-down from left to right on a player board that provides increasing points for cards further along the board. Players get two actions on their turn. They maye draw a card from the middle (and play it for a free action), play a card (held from before), use a Wax token to paddle their surfer further out, or use a Wax token to take one of the cards that has already been discarded. Again, the goal is to make runs and sets of cards to fill out one’s wave.

There are two different card options from which to draw. The numbered cards are used in building up one’s wave tableau, while the other cards provide either a point boost in the form of a “trick” card played above the wave or an action like paddling your surfer further along on your board. Note, trick cards must always be played above or in front of your surfer, not behind. As seen in the photo, sometimes players will skip a spot on their tableau in order to get out deeper into the ocean. However, only a contiguous series of cards will score so the player on the lower left will not be able to use his lowest two slots.

The game ends when the “trick” deck runs out. If the number deck runs out first, it is simply reshuffled. In addition to scoring one’s wave, there are several public objectives that players can strive for to earn extra points. One example given is to only use even numbered wave cards or place a trick card above a set of 3’s.

The OP wants you to know that the game is very eco-friendly made with all the expected recycled materials, etc. For example, the box insert was created using leftover bits from sugar cane processing.

What the Cup!?

Lastly we have What the Cup!? Players have a single d12 hidden under their cup. The the goal is to have the best value, but “best” can change depending on the round. There is a high/low token that will decide whether the winner will be the highest or lowest value a the end of the round. Players take turns drawing cards from the deck. These cards allow players to spy on other dice, reroll one’s die, reveal someone’s die, or even just swap dice with someone. A player can perform that action OR they can simply flip the low/high marker to the other side. Players continue to take turns playing cards off the deck (or using them to flip high/low) until the deck runs out. When everything stops, the player with the highest (or lowest) die wins the round.

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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