Why does it feel like Gen Con 2016 is the Super Bowl of gaming?!? So many exciting events, so many new game releases, I am not sure how we are going to fit everything in.
Last week, I covered the top five anticipated game releases. Here are a few more that are really stirring up the acquisition disorder.
ISLEBOUND (Red Raven Games — booth #2657) — Sure, Ryan Laukat and Red Raven Games are blowing up Kickstarter with their currently in development sequel to Above and Below called Near and Far.
But they will also have limited quantities of their previous release, Islebound. The artwork is as fun, familiar, and whimsical as the best of Laukat’s work. I haven’t tried the gameplay yet but it is in my list to demo.
THE DRAGON & FLAGON (Stronghold Games — booth #2323)) Next up is a tough choice. As one board game podcaster said last week, This may be the strongest lineup Stronghold Games has ever produced at Gen Con. But which one to choose? I think I am most excited about Dragon and Flagon, a new real time programming game from The Engelsteins. I LOVE the chaotic fun if Robo Rally and Colt Express, so this deserves a pass by and a look see. I am also very interested in Terraforming Mars, so we may be spending a lot of time at Stephen Buonocore’s booth.
DARK DEALINGS (Nevermore Games) — I love filler games. I love card games. That’s why Dark Dealings from Nevermore Games is on my list to check out. Drive Thru Review had a great review and synopsis of the game. It looks quick but thinly, and not something you catch onto on the very first play. That hopefully means there’s some depth to it, too, even if it plays in 30 minutes or so. Gonna check this one out.
PLUMS (Crash of Games) — Yes, I know. I love filler games and I love card games and you know that, too. But look at the artwork on this game! I heard a good review from the blue pegs with Blue Peg, Pink Peg podcast (and you should check them out if you have not already). They made it sound as Plums is the perfect family game. CoG’s website says it is sold out, but I am hoping they have copies at Gen Con or at least a demo.
VIA NEBULA (Space Cowboys — booth #1619) — I have never played a Martin Wallace game! There, I said it. The guys at The Secret Cabal (my favorite podcast from York, Pennsylvania) are always raving about Mr. Wallace’s latest creations, yet no one in my game group has any. What to do? Head down to booth 1619, of course. I plan on at the very least demoing the game, and it is definitely on my radar of games to pick up.
DASTARDLY DIRIGIBLES (Fireside Games — booth #743) Our last look see for today is a Fireside release. My kids grew up on lots of plays of Castle Panic, but I have honestly never played any of their other games. I believe the company is based down south so it would be nice to meet up and do an interview. But back to the game — as you can see, we like new and unusual themes here, and this one is very unique. Plus it has some Take That, at least from the previews I have seen.
So that wraps up this week’s list. Tweet me if you have something you would recommend that the Krewe of Board Game Gumbo try out at Gen Con 2016. Until then, Laissez les Bon temps rouler!
What is the largest board game convention in the entire western hemisphere (and arguably in the world?) GEN CON of course!
The Krewe Capitain at Board Game Gumbo has some tips for you…your guide to the best games debuting at Gen Con 2016. We could also call this list “The Top Five Games I Don’t Want You to Purchase” because I don’t want the publishers to run out before I get there on Friday!
1. SeaFall — Yes, the wait is finally over! From Rob Daviau, the designer of Pandemic Legacy and Risk Legacy (among tons of other games) comes the highly anticipated legacy game that is all about exploring an uncharted ocean, and battling for the lands and treasure you find with up to three other players. Poo-yie! I doubt that there will be any left on Friday afternoon when I get there, and you can always pre-order them from the Plaid Hat Games website, but boy does this one look good.
I have played a few campaign games (most notably the D&D series) but have yet to try a legacy style game. I tired out on Risk way back in my youth, and couldn’t find anybody psyched enough to try Pandemic Legacy. But this SeaFall looks like it hits all of the markers for both my family and my game group. Five cayenne peppers on the Gumbo hotness scale.
2. Oceanos — One of my favorite designers is Antoine Bauza, the designer of 7 Wonders, Takenoko, Tokaido, Hanabi, and many, many more. Antoine brings a new take on card drafting with what looks like gorgeous components and fun game play. Gotta try this one out.
I love the games I have purchased from Iello, heck Steam Park is one of my all time favorites. I am assuming that the game company will also do right by a designer of Bauza’s stature. Four cayenne peppers on the Gumbo hotness scale.
3. The Networks — Gil Hova is an interesting designer, and I just love the theme of this one. Forget your tired Trading-Zombies-in-the-Mediterranean-Space-Fantasy themes — Let’s run a television network! This game looks like a cross between the movie UHF and a typical Euro, but the artwork and the theme draw me in like a moth to the campfire. Plus, Gil Hova seems like an earnest, nice guy, hard working designer on all the board game media he appears, so I am rooting for him on this one.
The only downside? The hype has been building since Origins, and I am afraid it is going to sell out! Stay away! Four cayenne peppers on the hotness scale.
4. Simurgh — You like worker placement? You like good art? You like dragons? Have I got a game for you! Okay, I know this is a 2015 release, but I don’t think it ever made it to American shores or USA consciousness until this year. So, I am sticking with this pick.
I really got interested when I saw Tony (the other guy from Rolling Dice and Taking Names podcast) posting pictures of the game play at Mega Moose Con. The RDTN boys seemed to talk it up a lot in their last cast, so let’s try it out.
Three cayenne peppers on the hotness scale.
5. Arcane Academy — you want to talk long waits, how about the loooong wait for this gem from the hit duo of Eric M. Lang and Kevin Wilson? That’s right, these two giants have teamed up for a game that has Tom Vasel drooling in anticipation. (That’s good enough for me!) Three cayenne peppers on the hotness scale.
LAGNIAPPE: can’t leave a blog post about Gen Con with out a little something extra! Go by the Blue Orange booth and check out the new promos and expansions for NY1901. That is the game designed by Chenier LaSalle that I voted for best family game of 2015. It has been sorely needing some goodies, and it looks like the folks at BO have some great stuff. All I ask: just PLEASE leave me a set of minis?!?!?
How about some runner ups? There’s plenty to choose from, but I plan to check out:
Rails and Sails for Ticket to Ride
Legendary Encounters: Firefly
Isle of Skye
Hope to see you at Gen Con! Until next time, Laissez Les Bon Temps Rouler!
Since I discovered hobby games, I have kept my eye on each new wave of young designers. I have enjoyed watching them push the limits of creativity. They are blurring the lines between mechanics and game styles, they are pushing the envelope on art direction and theming, and in general they are raising the standards by which all others games will be made.
Well, in all honesty, I’ve only played one game, but it is one that I own in my collection and I plan to keep for a long time: Above and Below. The sheer elegance of the storytelling-meets-worker-placement game, combined with the whimsical artwork and the intriguing premise has put all of Ryan’s recent and upcoming designs on my radar.
So what is new in Raven Raven’s world? How about a sequel of sorts to Above and Below, appropriately called Near and Far. The Kickstarter for it launched on Monday July 18, 2016 to very good success. It shattered the goal of $25,000 for funding (pretty meager goal in my opinion) in just a few minutes, and then hurdled three or four major stretch goals in the first twelve hours.
Why is Near and Far spicier than Above and Below? First, let’s remember that I am speculating, because I have not actually put crawfish claws on the actual product. But three main differences between the two games really sets this new game apart and makes it one in which I want to support:
A. Campaign setting.
Ryan has been quick to state that the new system is not a legacy system like Pandemic Legacy or SeaFall. No cards will be torn up, no game boards will be changed. But based on the pictures on the Kickstarter page and Ryan’s own descriptions, it appears that your character can develop and grow after each game. I am anxious to see how this system works out in practice.
B. Storybook changes.
One of the complaints I heard from some of the reviewers on the various podcasts is also addressed. There has been a complaint that the stories in Above and Below do not mesh well. In other words, what happens in one story does not seem to have any connection with any other story. In fact, sometimes the stories slightly contradict each other. More importantly, there is not usually any payoff in the story. What I mean by that is when someone completes the adventure, the reward is usually a trinket or two or maybe even something valuable but with no real resolution of the story itself.
Near and Far seems to fix that. Ryan’s descriptions on the Kickstarter page suggest that what you decide to do and what results from that decision could affect the ongoing gameplay and future stories. That is super intriguing to me. Again I want to see how it works in execution.
C. More content.
This is another big change. Not only do fans of Above and Below get additional content for their game with certain backer and reward levels, but there also appears to be oodles more adventures for Near and Far built right in. Changes to the way the maps are done include a separate book just for the maps (which acts as a game board). The game also contains “arcade “cards which can do away with the storybooks and give you even more variability.
This could be just hype. It could be all marketing. But I don’t think so — Ryan has gotten better and better with each offering and this newest release seems to up the ante.
So, if your Above and Beliw game sessions have gotten a little bland, spice it up in May of 2017 by backing the Kickstarter offering from Red Raven Games, Near and Far. I did!
By the way, if you are going to Gen Con, it looks like Red Raven Games will be there at booth 2657. I am hoping to make it and say hello to Ryan and company.
Until next time, Laissez les bons temps rouler!
(Note: all images taken from public images posted by Red Raven Games.)
One of the first games that I considered to be a “grail game” was Robo Rally, a programming game designed by Richard Garfield, the designer of a little card game called Magic:The Gathering, and many, many other titles. Way back in 1994, my buddies and I had been introduced to Magic. Soon, we wanted to know what other games Richard had designed. At a now long defunct game shop in Metairie, Louisiana, I stumbled upon The Great Dalmuti by Richard. I bought the game, and proceeded to play it a-gazillion times with family, friends and my scout troop. I continued to search for Garfield games, and that eventually led to a description of a cute little robot racing game that Richard designed. When I found out years later that Tom Vasel raved about it, I just had to have it.
For a long while, Robo Rally appeared to be out of print, until Avalon Hill / WOTC brought it back into circulation. A couple of years ago, I finally plunked down the money to buy it and even got my daughter to paint up the miniatures!
Robo Rally was as fun as I had always thought it would be. I love racing games in general, especially with a little chaos. (I can’t tell you how many hours I spent playing a classic NES game called Micro Machines with my wife and family). And Richard’s design had it all — it had great mechanics, player interaction, random events from the card draws and of course lots of chaos caused by the programming.
But if there was one flaw — not fatal in my opinion, just a flaw — then it was the length of time to play the game. Playing even the smallest, least complicated track, could still sometime take as much as two hours especially with new gamers.
What if you are like me, and you have trouble getting Robo Rally to the table because of either gamer burnout or the perceived length of the game? What if your game group thinks that robot racing is getting a little bland?
Well then, spice up your gaming nights with a little Colt Express!
Colt Express is the 2015 winner of the Spiel de Jahres, the most prestigious honor in all of hobby board gaming. It is a 2014 release by Ludonaute and Asmodee, and designed by Christophe Raimbault.
Colt Express is set in the wild west, and has a beautiful 3D design. The game is for 2-6 players, and plays in only 30-40 minutes. Players choose an outlaw, with each one carrying special powers like the ability to shoot through a roof or knock other bandits back, and then take turns programming their outlaws to stalk a train, avoid the US Marshall, and steal the loot.
The game takes place over a set number of rounds, each consisting of players taking turns placing one or more cards representing shooting, looting, or moving actions. A savvy player will try to watch the other players’ cards as they are played, to get a sense of the flow of the action and the right time to pick up some loot. However, this is complicated by tunnels that might force a player to play a card face down, or even the special powers of certain characters.
Once the programming is complete, the cards are turned over and the looting, shooting and moving commences. Players can punch each other to cause loot to drop, or expend some of their bullet cards to shoot at one another. (In fact, there are bonuses if you empty out your bullets more than other players.) As can be expected, a player’s well thought out plan may be ‘bumped’ off course by a powerful shot from someone else, or worse, the Marshal coming into the outlaw’s space. This causes the outlaw to drop a bag of loot and head for the roof of the train.
The action is ramped up even further by the use of extra sized loot guarded or dropped by the Marshal, and the fact that each round is unique and has a different end sequence. In one sequence, all players on top of the roof may be thrown forward due to the “braking” of the train, for instance.
Once the rounds are over, the money bags and jewels are counted and a winner is declared. This game is so very easy to teach, and has just enough chaotic randomness that even new players can challenge an experienced player for the top outlaw.
Everything about the game is top notch. The wooden meeples are thick, the playing cards have great artwork that really carry the theme, and of course, the best part about the game is the fact that the “board” is really a stand up cardboard train. Even the most hardened board gamers will light up with smiles as they move their outlaw meeples up and down and back and forth around the train, punching and shooting each other in the process. Shooting is another great mechanic here, because the players each have a small deck of actions to use that can get clogged up with dummy “bullet” cards every time they got shot by a player or by the marshal. Of course, instead of taking an action, a player always has the option of grabbing three more cards to try and mitigate the effects of the bullets.
I heard a great interview with Christophe Raimbault on the Who What Why? Game Design Podcast, where he talked about the fun he had in creating the game. He said Robo Rally was one of his influences, but he wanted a tighter, more streamlined programming game that still retained all of the chaotic fun. I think he was successful in that regard.
Christophe has lots of ideas for expansions — so it would not surprise me to see a little lagniappe in our future (maybe even as soon as the Essen game fair this fall!)
Why is this game spicier than Robo Rally? The mechanics are well thought out, the action is fast, the downtime is almost minimal, and the game is easy to teach and has just enough randomness and chaos that two games are never the same. This game has been a big hit with the gaming group and the family gamers alike, plays in less than an hour, and will get your whole group laughing at the crazy events and missed opportunities. Just one play is all it takes to see why it won the Spiele de Jahres!
So, the next time your game group thinks Robo Rally is a little bland, play something a little spicier, like Colt Express. I give it four out of five cayenne peppers.