Board Game Gumbo: Gen Con Day One - 2018
The summer con season closed with a bang this weekend, after the “best four days” of gaming took place at GEN CON 2018. I spent the week volunteering on an all star demo team at Grey Fox Games with an amazing cast of characters. Shout out to Alex, Josh, Jeremy, Shane, and the rest of the crew for a great week!
I arrived Wednesday and met up with the gang from Punchboard Media at the unveiling of the new Gencon exclusive Sun King beer. This was my first time attending the event, and I was amazed at how many people were there. It was a huge street party, and a lot of fun. I just wish that the beer was as exciting as the event was. I got to visit with the crew from Draft Mechanic as well as Cassadi from Board Game Blitz and a host of other people.
I left the street party to head to the Grey Fox Games demo night. Alex Goldsmith and his crew provided the demo team with refresher courses on all of the games that would be sold at the booth. An essential part of a good demo team is not only knowing the game but also getting to know each other as team members. Grey Fox Games did a great job of building team spirit and camaraderie right off the bat. Plus, getting questions answered by the development team is priceless.
Thursday morning was the opening of the Con, and I started out on one of my favorite work placement games, Champions of Midgard. Grey Fox went all out for the demo. We had a Game Topper table from Burky, who stopped by to check on his babies, and even signed a good luck card for my son who is away at boot camp. Burky and I shared stories of his epic series with Jack last summer in the Dukes of Dice Baseball Highlights 2045 tournament at Dice Tower Con.
I still love the wow factor of playing a great game like Champions when it is blinged out to the max. We played on the new neoprene mat which covers not only the base game but also the expansions. We also had every piece upgraded, from the blame tokens and money to the cool Viking meeples. Players were impressed!
When my demos finished, I had a chance to explore the convention. I stopped by the Fantasy Flight area to check out the tournament set up for Star Wars Destiny and Star Wars Legion. If you play those games, you owe it to yourself to jump into one of those tournaments, because FFG with the mats and landscapes.
Next up, I checked out the vendor hall. One of the first things I saw was a copy of Derik Dukey‘s game, Ancient Artifacts, in the wild. This is my wife’s favorite roll and write game, and I watched on Twitter as Derik and others developed the game from just an idea to final product. Congrats Derik, you made it to Gen Con!
My first demo was Escape Plan, the new design from Vital Lacerta out on Kickstarter right nowfrom Eagle-Gryphon Games.
This may be Vital’s most thematic game yet. It is essentially a post – heist game, where the bank robbers have stashed loot around the city, and need to plan their escape.
Just as in all other Vital games, there is a lot going on, so I will need a full play to flesh out more of the game. But seeing the board in person really juiced up my desire to back this game on Kickstarter.
I was able to get a quick look at a few turns of Vault of the Dragons, from Gale Force Nine. It is a re-imaging of the Sons of Anarchy board game with a D&D theme. It was interesting, and the players I watched were duking it out all over the board, but I would need a full play to decide. I know Dustin has the original version and is a big fan, but this theme appeals to me more.
Next on my list was Comanauts from Plaid Hat Games. I ran into my buddies from the North Shore who were in the middle of their demo. Jason, Derek and Nick had just finished a demo of Gizmos from CMON, and were hitting the demo tables hard!
Comanauts is clearly influenced by the Stuffed Fables game but with a more mature theme. This would be one to look out for if my wife liked story driven games.
Next up, one of the top games on my list to see was Villainous from Wonder Forge. My family are big Disneyphiles, and so I was excited to see if Disney could license their IP for a good game — not the mass market junk we see in the toy aisles. I only watched one round, but what I saw looks pretty fun. The mechanics are pretty simple, I like the asynchronous goals, there was a little bit of player interaction from what I could tell, and each of the players had thematic elements related to the villains they were playing. This one is available at Target already, and sounds like a good gift for my family.
Bryan Barnes and I both love Clank! I knew that there was an expansion for the space version (Clank! In! Space!), and so I stopped by Dire Wolf to check it out. I am impressed how the company continues to add interesting new mechanisms to this deck building game, and it is slowly turning into one of my favorites. I prefer the base game to the space game, but I understand why people might like this space theme better.
I ran into Fabio from CSE Games, and we had a quick meeting about their new releases for 2018 and beyond. He introduced me to Seth from Mayday Games, who has a new game at GEN CON called Bad Doctor. It was on my list to check out, and I watched a brief demo which was enough for me to want to play and review it. I should be able to play and talk about it soon
Jack and I used to love the flight path system from X-Wing, and I was curious to see how the original designers would implement the system with Battlestar Galactica as the theme. I watched the demo, but in all honesty my son and I burned out on X Wing along time ago and there wasn’t anything really new in the Battlestar Galactica demo that I saw that would spice up the game enough to get back in. Sure the models are cool, and I absolutely love the IP, but this is probably a pass for me unless I could find someone interested to play it.
It is been a long time since I have been involved in any CCG. But I was intrigued by the announcement of Warhammer: Age of Sigmar, the TCG. I stopped by the booth, saw the founders edition, and got a quick rundown from a very knowledgeable demo guy. What I saw was very interesting, but Marty and Tony from Rolling Dice and Taking Names podcast did a good overview, much deeper than I can give here. Suffice it to say that Warhammer TCG is a card game that just might suck me back in.
There was one last bit of shopping to do. I picked up Rise of Fenris from Stonemaier Games for Bradly. Look for us to get some more Scythe plays with the expansion and a review soon.
While in the area, I stopped by Top Shelf Gamer and splurged on the upgraded components for my number two game of all time, Concordia. Can’t wait to play the game with the new components!
That night, we met back up with the North Shore crew plus my buddy Carlos and his friend Dom from Iowa, so that we could try out the brand new Portal Games release, Detective: A Modern Crime Board Game. There is been a lot of hype for this game, and frankly I was not sure if it could meet that hype. Was I wrong! This was the hands-down hit of the con for me.
We played a Gen Con exclusive scenario, which should have taken less than two hours, but instead we debated, discussed, argued, pondered, theorized, and wildly made assumptions for three hours! Detective is thinky, and puzzly, and there is a stress component in completing the mission within the time given.
In fact, it is the heat generated by the time pressure that makes the game special. Without spoiling the mechanism, players do not have time to uncover every clue or turn over every rock. Time is precious! Most deduction games are about lining up all the puzzle pieces, and the answer becomes obvious. Not here. Since you likely will not have enough time to “check all the boxes”, you will need to make as educated a guess as you can.
What does this mean? That means, you will likely argue amongst yourselves as to the killer and his/her motivation. Heck, you might even think (like we did) that Ignacy’s crime chief got the wrong perpetrator! If you like deduction games, and you have a group that likes to “talk”, you owe it to yourself to pick up this game. I cannot wait to see what Portal has in store for this franchise.
By this time, it was pretty late in the day, but we pressed on. This is Gen Con! We broke out Capital Lux first, and we had one of the closest, most competitive games I have played.
Next up, Carlos taught us a game that had just been delivered to me on Kickstarter, Mint Delivery. We started playing the base game, but after two rounds, it was not exciting enough. Carlos suggested we add the player powers and construction hazards, we all agreed, and we re-started the game. This time, I had a blast! When you add the variable player powers, it makes for interesting — dare I say delicious — decisions for each player. Plus, add in the random set up of road construction hazards, and that tweaked up the decisions even more.
Well that wraps up my coverage of day one at GEN CON 2018. You can find our second installment here, where we may have a visit from a friendly Shoggoth and play golf on another planet. Stay tuned…
Until next time, Laissez les bon temps rouler!