Gen Con 2023 – Hachette Boardgames

Hachette Boardgames brought several companies to the convention. Le Scorpion Masqué looked to have a hit on their hands with Sky Team. This dice-management 2 player co-op of landing a plane was in continual play at their booth with a long line to boot. Meanwhile, Randolph was showing off the family-friendly co-op Miller Zoo based on the actual Miller Zoo in Quebec.

Miller Zoo

Miller Zoo, southeast of Quebec City, is a zoo dedicated to animal rescue. Animals that arrive may be retiring from other zoos or rescued from less than ideal conditions. Players take on the role of zookeepers who must look after the animals, providing for their needs.

At its heart is a game of resource management. Players are given resource cards (played face-up for all to see) and then have to meet the needs of the various animals. Incoming animals need an enclosure built, animals already present need to be fed and cared for, etc…

Players can take their actions in any order. This could allow the group to discuss and plan for the turn. Or, in practice, it could allow the more impatient folks (old or young) can jump on in to solving problems right away. After all the resources have been spent, if there are any more problems around, cards are drawn from a deck until the problems are solved. Great job! Except that when the problem deck runs out, the game ends in a loss. Otherwise, if the players survive 10 turns, they win.

The game can be set up in multiple ways, and it contains 6 “envelopes” of additional material that can be added in over successive plays. The idea of the envelopes is to use them as a way to on-board new/young gamers to co-op games of this sort. In total, there are around 25 different challenges to accomplish within the game.

A fun, final note. The game is based very closely on the “real” Miller Zoo. This is true down to the names and types of the animals, even the names of the workers.

Sky Team

Whether it was some sort of promotion or just heavy interest, there was a significant line at the back of the hall for Sky Team. Unlike that “other” big line at the convention, this one was well managed – I had to ask them what it was about since the front of the line was well back from the alleyways of booths. I was glad I asked as Sky Team looks to be a very promising two player cooperative game. The idea is that each player is a pilot (or co-pilot) and together they are attempting to land a plane. The game was created and developed with the advice of actual pilots and attempts to present players with a fairly realistic set of options and problems to encounter.

Players manage the plane using dice. Each player secretly rolls four dice and then they alternate placing their dice on either side of a set of dials and readouts. The main board has nice insets to hold dice and the number on a die as well as its placement will affect the plane as it approaches the landing zone.

Players must adjust the plane speed, slowing it for landing, but staying fast enough to remain aloft. This is managed by the throttle while another set of dials attempt to preserve the plane’s tilt/roll. The tricky bit here is that both require a die from each player and its the combination of the two dice that will determine how the plane behaves. Meanwhile there are two sliding cards controlling the plane’s elevation and airplanes already landed on the runway. Elevation needs to decrease at the right time for landing while there are no planes in the way. There are even more things to worry about, like opening the plane’s flaps and lowering its gear at the correct moment. If all goes well, all the players have to do on the last step is to apply the breaks.

If all this sounds tricky, it is. Players can lose the game if they crash on landing or run into an airplane already on the tarmac. If the dice aren’t rolling your way, some can be spent on getting coffee. A cup of coffee can be used later to modify a die that just isn’t cooperating.

If that isn’t tricky enough for you, there are several modules that can be added in to increase difficulty. There are 10 new destinations, all of which adjust whether the runway is shorter, longer, or require the plan to adjust its tilt on the way in. Players can have to deal with a leaking fuel tank, wind blowing the plane around, icy runways, and even the presence of an intern on the board, in place of a die. As I mentioned, it certainly sold out at Gen Con but should be available in stores on October 20th.

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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