Like a clueless young pup, Thursday morning I wandered into the exhibit hall to my first press meeting of the entire show. It was at the Ravensburger booth. Anyone remotely familiar with Gen Con 2023 is now aware of how much the demand for Disney Lorcana dominated the news cycle as well as the physical presence of the convention. As I wandered closer to the Ravensburger booth it was immediately clear that things were not going to go well. In hindsight, I was actually able to get within touching distance of the booth and surprisingly managed to flag down a booth person to wade into the crowd to find my contact. Unfortunately, I had missed that the PR person had let me know a few hours earlier that our meeting had to be postponed. All was not lost, as I was able to sit and chat with the nice folks at KTBG (Kids Table Board Gaming) about their game, Dice Veggies (see my report here.) Once I established I should be somewhere else I moved on. Disappointed not by missing out on Disney Lorcana, but all the other games that Ravensburger were bringing to the show. By the end of the convention I was able to scrounge up a quick runthrough of several if not photos to go with them. Villainous: Introduction to Evil is a sort of revamp of the original Villainous game, meant for newcomers to the game while Star Wars Villainous: Sum & Villainy is a small expansion to the Star Wars Villainous line. The Lord of the Rings Adventure Book Game is a co-op game with some dice resolution. Sure, I can talk a little about Disney Lorcana, and right after the convention it was released that a new Horrified: Greek Monsters will be coming out soon.
Villainous: Introduction to Evil
On the 5th anniversary of the original Villainous game (and Disney’s 100th), Introduction to Evil goes back to the original iconic characters and revamps the game to make it a better game for new gamers both new to Villainous and even new to boardgaming. Four of the original 6 characters return, with slight reworks fueled by fan feedback over the years. Some, like Maleficent, just have minor changes while others, like Ursula have been reworked. While other changes tended to streamline villain powers, Ursula’s original powers were almost too simple and too strong so she now has some more interesting things to do during the game. One feature of becoming newbie-friendly is the presence of QR codes everywhere. The game rules have a code that take you to a 5 minute video of how to play. Each villain has its own guide to their powers and it includes a QR code to a 2-ish minute video outlining how to play that villain and some things to watch out for during the game. The game came out August 1st so should be in your local store(s).
Star Wars Villainous: Scum & Villainy
Boba Fett, Cad Bane, and Seventh Sister enter the Star Wars side of the Villainous universe in this expansion (that can also serve as a stand-alone game.) Keeping with the Villainous revamp, the new villains also have QR codes that lead to how-to-play videos. Cad Bane, true to his nature, wants to have the final word so his allies will target particular heroes and set them up so Cad can deal the final blow himself. Seventh Sister has a deck full of characters from the Rebels series. Her goal is to remove the presence of the Force from the game, which includes trying to get rid of 3 force users in her deck. Meanwhile, Boba Fett is perhaps the most unique of the three. Rather than any allies, he has relationships to various bounty-hunters and tries to attach his bounty cards to other “contacts” (like Jabba the Hut) and gains rewards when they are taken out. The bounty hunters can be played either for or against Boba (to claim the bounty on them) depending on what is useful at the time. One fun Easter Egg: If you line up all of Boba Fett’s bounty hunter cards correctly, you can recreate the bounty hunter scene from The Empire Strikes Back.
The Lord of the Rings Adventure Book Game
The newest game in the short-playing Adventure Book Game has a Lord of the Rings theme. The Lord of the Rings Adventure Book Game (to drive home the title) has 1-4 players attempting to get the fellowship through 8 different iconic moments found in the film trilogy. Each chapter is played on a different page of a book, helping to speed the setup of the game – important if each chapter is only 20 or so minutes long.
The challenge of the game lies on the fellowship (players) playing cards to overcome challenges presented by the current game board. However, in a Pandemic-like fashion, all the cards needed have to be played by a single person. For example, in Chapter 3: The Mines of Moria players must first defeat any goblins present, then go on to defeat a cave troll. Plot cards drawn during that scenario may increase the goblins present, making things that much harder. While players are trying to defeat the monsters, along one side of the game board is a track of Gandalf fighting the Balrog. If the Balrog on one end, manages to meet up Gandalf in the middle (because the players spent too much time putzing around) then the game is lost.
On the other side of the board, present for every board page, there is a corruption track. There are several One Ring cards (hmmm) in the deck and each can grant a powerful wildcard effect or special ability. However, they progress the party along the corruption track. This track is NOT reset each chapter. When players start to reach the far end Eye of Sauron cards start to be added (permanently) to the game deck. To add to the temptation, One Ring cards add to the corruption track even if they’re discarded so players unwilling to risk more corruption will slowly accumulate One Ring cards, clogging up their hand. Success in one chapter will lead to permanent “good” cards added to the deck to be used later in future chapters.
Originally a Target exclusive, the game should now be available everywhere.
Horrified: Greek Monsters
The latest in the Horrified line of cooperative games, Horrified: Greek Monsters has players recruited by the gods to take on classic Greek myths like the Medusa, Cerberus, Chimera, or Minotaur. Each monster has their own special abilities and weaknesses that can lead to their defeat.
Just like in the original game, players move around a map collecting cards to defeat the monsters. Here, players must first find the monster hideout by visiting a location and discarding three cards of the same color. Once the lair is discovered, players can move towards defeating the monsters in earnest.
The game can be preordered at Target & Amazon on September 5th and should go on sale on October 1st.
Lastly, we come to Disney Lorcana. Lorcana is a trading card game which means players buy randomized packages of cards and select out specific cards to form a deck. This deck is then used to play other players who have created their own custom deck. Obviously, TCGs (as they are often called) are great at triggering that dopamine hit when a player opens up a new package of cards and finds a particularly cool card. When combined with the Disney label (and their wealth of IP to use to make art) the pull of the game is understandably strong. So strong, in fact, that Gen Con as an event struggled to deal with the press of the crowds wanting to buy what they could. After the first day, lines started forming at 6pm at night to get in at 10am the next morning. All this buzz is fine and good, but how does the game play?
Like most games of this sort, players draw a hand of cards and then take turns playing cards as a one-off or, more commonly, putting a card onto the table for future use. Cards can only be played by spending renewable resources which in this game is simply placing a card (one per turn) face down on the play field. Stronger cards will require more face-down cards present to be played.
Most of the cards played to the field will represent some Disney character and will have three main statistics. An offense (attack), a health, and a lore generation. Players can attack each others cards, with the cards dealing damage to each other based on their attack. Cards losing more health than listed on their card are removed from play. In a slightly different spin on the TCG game, players can also use these cards to acquire lore. Most TCGs have players trying to hurt each other directly and reduce the opponent’s life pool to zero. Here, players are not “part” of the game – they have no health and are not attacked. Instead, the first player to collect 20 Lore points wins the game.
There are six colors (“ink”) in the game, each with a sort of thematic tie-in. Maybe good at attacking or good at getting lore, maybe good at messing with players’ hands, etc… Decks can only be constructed of at most two colors.
The game launched at Gen Con and has seen limited release at specialty game stores. It is supposed to launch at big box stores on September 1st.