Board Game Gumbo: Gen Con 2018 Preview
It is never easy! There are currently almost 600 games listed on the preview, and winnowing those down to a manageable list is almost impossible. I’ve put them into three categories: (a) the ones I want to demo; (b) the ones I want to buy myself; (c) and the expansions I want to check out, play, and/or buy.
I may not actually buy or even demo all of these games -- I do have other stuff to do at Gen Con! -- but at least I have the semblance of a battle plan this year.
Let’s get started:
GOTTA HAVE GAMES:
First up on the list is Coimbra (published by Eggertspiele, booth 2935, $70), designed by Flaminia Brasini and Virginio Gigli. Portugal is a hot property in board gaming, with Lisboa as my top euro strategy game in 2017 and Azul winning the Spiel des Jahres. Eggertspiele visits Portugal as another euro game, this time with card drafting and what looks to be an innovative use of dice drafting. I love the art style of the cover and the board.
Next up is Gizmos (published by CMON, booth 415, $35), designed by Phil Walker-Harding. CMON publishing a Walker-Harding nominee? Strangely enough, CMON has a ton of interesting games that don’t involve minis or Cthulu at Gen Con. Everyone has holes in their playing experience, and one of my many is Potion Explosion. In all honesty, it never really intrigued me. But Gizmos plays on the toy factor that Potion Explosion had and at the same time tickles my engine building fancy. Do you like Splendor or Century or Majesty or any of those other small scale engine builders? Gizmos looks like it is a spiced up version of that genre, and it looks like it will dazzle the game night crowd at your FLGS. Plus, the price is right on this one.
It has been a long time since I could say that a Reiner Knizia design is on my must purchase list from Gen Con. (Heck, I’ve probably never said those words.) But here comes High Society, a 1995 design (published by Osprey Games, booth 2557, $20) that is finally getting a good reprint. Knizia is the king of auction / bidding games, and many reviewers say this is one of his finest. Finally, it is getting the reprint it deserves, as Osprey Games is issuing a fine looking edition with beautiful art. I love that players really have to be careful not to overbid in this game, because if a player has the least amount of money at the end of the game, no matter how many point cards that player has, he or she cannot be considered the winner. Diabolical! I am really hoping to add this to my collection.
I am going to be a little indulgent on the next one. Even if I knew next to nothing about the actual game play of Villainous, (Wonderforge, Booth # 2113, $35) by the Prospero Hall design group, but just based on theme alone, I would have to bring this one home if is available. Two reasons: one, my family likes games, but loves Disney movies; two, the twist of playing one of the Disney villains in the game would be irresistible to my family gamers. Admittedly, it looks a little light, and I worry about how strong the take that mechanic is, but I like what I’ve seen in the game previews, and the pictures of the components are outstanding. I expect this to be a hot seller at Gen Con.
2018 has shaped up to be the year of the Roll ‘n Write, and one of the coolest looking takes on that genre is Welcome To… (Deep Water Games, Booth #272, $25). Designed by Benoit Turpin, and with an incredible player count of 1-100(!), players will play as architects trying to build the perfect community. It is a roll and write where there is no rolling, however -- there are no dice in the game. Instead, players will flip cards to make combinations of action sets to fill out their typical score sheet. Nolan Nasser and company have a keen eye for art and graphic design, and they’ve picked up a good title here in that regard.
Finally, we need a small box game to round out the purchases, and with Oink Games coming back to the States to display their wares, let’s look at my favorite release from them. TomaTomato (Oink Games, Booth 2559, $22), is designed by Taisei Kato. Oink Games usually have a couple of things in common: small boxes, interesting graphic design, and they play bigger than the size of the box. TomaTomato appears to fit the bill. It is a party game, where players will draw cards that have syllables on them (like Toma). The object is to continue to read out the nonsensical words that are made by putting the cards together. It does not sound like much, but the elevator pitches for Insider and A Fake Artist Goes To New York also belies the amount of game play that you find in those tiny little boxes.
I’ll throw in a little lagniappe: I spotted Edo’s review of Sword Crafters (Adam’s Apple Games, Booth 2663, $50 for extended edition, unsure MSRP for regular edition) a new “I split, you choose” 3D puzzle game designed by Chris Neuman II and Adam Rehberg. The theme is interesting: players are competing to make the best sword in the kingdom. The game looks like it plays quickly, has some interesting set collection elements, and just looks like a quick, fun game to play. It is not a must buy for me, but it is something I might want if I like the way it plays, and right now, I don’t have a good “split” mechanism game.
GAMES TO DEMO:
There are a bunch of games showing up for the first time at any convention this year that are not yet available to purchase, but GEN CON presents a great chance to test drive them for purchasing down the road.
First up for me is City of Gears (Grey Fox Games, booth # 2401). Full disclosure, I will be wearing a Grey Fox shirt all week as a part of their demo team, and I am a Kickstarter backer, but this will be my first chance to actually play the game! Worker placement games are my favorite, and when you add city building and dice to the mechanisms, it does not take much to get me to look. Plus, it has a cool steam punk theme, so for me, it is definitely a game I will enjoy demoing.
Next up to demo will be the newest game from Formal Ferret, High Rise (booth 2770, demo only). Gil Hova makes great games (Wordsy, The Networks), and people are saying this is his best yet. I’ve been watching its development on social media, so I am looking forward to trying it. It is a city building game, which is right up my alley, but with a twist that players can collect bonuses in game by securing favors from the “rich and powerful” but can lose big points if they collect too many in the end game. I am not sure what stage the design is in, but I am hearing that it will be ready for Kickstarter by early next year.
I’ve liked all of the games I have played from Matthew Dunston, so Scorpius Freighter (AEG, Booth 701, 803) caught my eye right away. There is not a lot of information on the game, but it appears to be a science fiction based point-to-point game with a cool Firefly type pirate-rebels versus the oppressive system theme. I like the fact that it fits close to the one hour wonder status with a play time of 45-75 minutes, so it is worth a look.
Lisboa was probably my favorite medium weight Euro game from 2017, and although I have not played any other Vital Lacerda designs, I am fascinated by what he puts out. (Vinhos is next on my hit list, hopefully to be played next month). So when I saw that Eagle Gryphon Games is putting out his latest board game, Escape Plan (Eagle-Gryphon, Booth 163, demo only), I knew I had to add it to my visit list. And I love the theme! Heist movies are some of the most fun you can have at the theater, and the theme of this game is a group of bank thieves trying to hide out in the city and waiting for the right time to make a getaway. It is out on Kickstarter right now, so here’s a good chance to see it up close.
And finally, my son has really gotten into homebrewing. He is a casually game player, but when we stopped at Top Tier Gaming in Hattiesburg on a recent kayak trip, he saw Homebrewers (English first edition) (2019) (Dice Hate Me Games, Booth 1343, demo only) at the store and almost picked it up! (It is probably a little too heavy for his tastes). I told him that Dice Hate Me Games was coming out with a homebrewing lighter game, and he really got excited. I plan to stop by the Dice Hate Me booth and check this one out, but if I recall correctly, Chris Kirkman will be running demos at the Greater Than Games demo room.
I’ve got five expansions that I am really pumped about demoing and/or purchasing:
First, I want to feast my eyes on the new Imhotep expansion (Kosmos, Booth 2648, demo only). Phil Walker-Harding had a smash hit with the Krewe de Gumbo with Imhotep (which we played in the BGG hot games room in 2016, and bought two copies immediately). New places, new market cards, and additional tiles and mechanisms all are getting me pumped to play.
I don’t even own Meeple Circus (yet!) but I am super excited about the new expansion. Meeple Circus: Wild Aerial Show (Matagot, Booth 2201, $15) adds a significant number of new elements all for a low price. Meeple Circus was a big hit at our local con, Southern Board Game Fest, back in April for good reasons. It is simple to teach, has very light dexterity elements combined with euro strategy, looks amazing on the table, and is just good fun. But, it needs more circus performers and Matagot is delivering with some fun animals and aerial acts. There’s a good chance I will be coming home with the base game and the expansion, but for sure, if I can add the expansion to the Con library, I will.
Imperial Settlers is still in my top ten games of all time. I will play it anytime, anywhere. I generally cool off a bit with it between cons because my son and I have played all the factions numerous times. But then, along comes a new expansion, The Amazons (Portal Games, Booth 1850, demo only). Hands down, this is some of my favorite art in any card game, and I love the multi-use cards and fun light civ mechanics. I am looking forward to seeing what Ignacy and company have in store with this new faction.
Downforce: Danger Circuit (Restoration Games, Booth 151, $20) is the very highly anticipated expansion to the best racing game from 2017. Have you played out the two tracks from the base game? Want more player interaction? Check these boards out then at Gen Con because Restoration has added a double sided board with two tracks, both with dangerous connections and elements built right in. Plus, Rob Daviau, Justin Jacobsen, and JR Honeycutt have added even more powers to the game for you to bid on! This should be on every gamer’s list as a must buy, and supposedly, the tracks fit in the base game box.
The Gumbo loves the base game, so Adrenaline: Team Play DLC (CGE Games, Room 236, demo only), is one of the top expansions I want to try. Team Play DLC is the long awaited expansion to one of the best video-game-like board games out there . If there was one complaint that I had about Adrenaline is that you will see just about all of the game components in any single game, and especially if you play back to back. Games like this are screaming for additional content, and CGE looks like it is delivering.
So that’s our Gen Con preview. With almost 600 games in the latest iteration of the BGG preview, narrowing this list down to 15 or so was not easy. I could easily have made a list of 50 games to check out. Heck, I did not even get to mention demoing Fireball Island, or purchasing Scythe: Rise of Fenris, or Terraforming Mars: Prelude, or…..you get the picture.
Come on by the Grey Fox Games booth (#2401) and say hey if you get a chance. Or, if you see me walking around the con, let’s try to get a game in. I’ll be hanging around the Envoy game play area (in the big game hall right square in the middle) almost every night playing games, so feel free to stop by!
Until next time (or until Gen Con), laissez les bon temps rouler!