There was a Cajun invasion at Gen Con, and somehow the convention (which turns 50 next year) survived! Traveling by pirogue, by air boat, and even by modern day conveniences like planes, cars and hypertubes, nine members of the Krewe de Gumbo stormed into Gen Con 2016 for their first ever experience (well for some of us — Bradly and Bryan were experts) and it was everything as advertised. It was huge, it was overwhelming, it had amazing games (and more than a few duds), but above all, it was the Super Bowl of gaming.
You have probably heard that there are a lot of game companies showing off new games at Gen Con, or that there are a lot of games being played, or that there’s just a lot of people there. Well, Gen Con is everything you heard, and much, much more.
Here is a recap of the games we saw, and the games we played on Friday.
On Friday morning (which for early birds, was the second day of the official Con), we poked around the dealer hall while waiting for the Dice Tower Live show. We had just enough time to see that many of the hottest games around were already sold out: SeaFall, Cry Havoc, and The Networks to name a few. Yeah, that was a downer. But, it was a good sign for the industry. Many game companies like Stronghold Games went to the added expense of flying in games from China for the con, creating a big expense. When the owners were rewarded with sell outs of games like The Dragon & Flagon (a game that was definitely on my radar — but never had time to demo, unfortunately), you gotta think guys like Mr. Buonocore were happy to be rewarded for going the extra step.
To quickly cheer us up, Phillip and I challenged a box of rocks to a trivia game. That’s right a box of rocks. And we won, just barely. (At the point we played, the humans were only about 4 games ahead of the rocks). Simply put, Box of Rocks challenges the players to answer trivia questions that only have the answer 0, 1, or 2. Then the rocks are random ally shaken in a box, to reveal either a 0,1, or 2 guess. Who can get three answers right before the other player? Well, for us it was the humans, but there were a lot of dumb humans around (or lucky rocks).
But I did manage to meet Chris from Calliope Games, who did a great video with Eric Summerer of The Dice Tower fame back at Origins where they had a “Gravitas Voice” showdown. (Check it out at the Dice Tower videos for sure.). He was kind enough to do his Gravitas Voice for us while we checked out the expansion to Tsuro of the Seas. (That’s a “sequel” game that really improved on the simple game play of the original, adding more strategy and deeper game play.) I liked what I saw out of the expansion (can you say Tidal Waves and cannons?) Definitely on my radar…
I also finally got to demo a game of Spike. It gets mixed reviews on the Internet, and admittedly I am not a big fan of the graphic design on the board or the cards or the layout, but man I love the pick up and deliver aspects of this game. I want to get a full play of it, but I could see myself rating this one very highly at least for game play. And an added bonus — we had a great teacher. Good job R&R Games for recruiting good volunteers.
The Dice Tower Live show was fabulous, and was plenty long enough, capping at about two hours. There were some game announcements that were the scoop at the con. I think the one that put the envie into the room was Eric Lang’s announcement that he was releasing a “spiritual successor” to Diplomacy, which he called Rising Sun. I got a chance to see the art work later in the con, and wow — I was impressed by the talent. I love Japanese themed games, so I am intrigued but this one is definitely on a wait and see list.
Check my Twitter feed @boardgamegumbo for more info on the news announced at event, but by now most of the board game media have surely covered the meat of it. However, a surprise announcement from Rob Daviau had the hall twittering (and even the normally most-unimpressed Krewe members talked about it all weekend) — he and a friend have started a new game company called Restoration Games. Their aim? Final older games that are beloved by gamers, freshen them up with better game mechanics and release them into the wild. Think Dark Tower with better components and a cool storyline, or PayDay with mean take that mechanics and upgraded components.
The Krewe will be watching for their first release. I was impressed by the marketing strategy — they invited all gamers to come by the booth and let the team know what game they wanted updated, which of course created tremendous traffic and buzz in the halls.
Next up, back to the dealer hall where I saw Islebound from Red Raven games being demoed. I could kick myself for not….well kick starting that game. I got to visit with Brenna and Craig, key components of the development of the newest release, Near and Far (which I have already backed.) Nothing earth shattering to report..yet…but the Kickstarter is smashing all of its early stretch level goals.
My viewing was cut short, because I had to get over to the playing area to catch Tyrants of the Underdark. This 2016 release from Gale Force 9 carries the WOTC name and theming and blessing, so you are thinking “four cayenne peppers”, right? Well, I have to separate my ratings here. From the first turn on, this game is a lot of fun. Love the card mechanics, love the mutilple ways you can win, and love the interaction between the players. But VOODOO — the board and card art and graphic design just puts a damper on your enthusiasm. I can’t sugar coat it, I hate the layouts and color schemes. Maybe it is something we will get used to, but I don’t think so. This game (already) needs a second edition with better graphics and card art.
I think Doc is saying, “Is that really the best card art they could get?”
From the swamps to Slidell, everybody is in the Krewe de Gumbo. And yes, I did come out last and showed it off.
Gale Force 9 had some excellent teachers. This guy knew the game backwards and forwards.
But we were lucky enough to have two or three great teachers from Gale Force Nine to help us, including one very nice young lady who should be a honorary member of the Krewe de Gumbo — she grew up on the North Shore of Lake Ponchartrain before working for GF9. What a welcome break, to reminisce about Louisiana right in the middle of the con.
We ended the night with some rousing games of Celestia (shout out to Krewe member Dustin for being way ahead of the curve on that game!), Elysium (Krewe member Phillip’s first win–and he owns the game), and Usual Suspects back at our hotel near the Paizo play area. I did not play the latter, but it looked like people were enjoying it. As for the other two, Celestia should be in EVERY gamer’s house. It is easy to set up and has great eye appeal. The game play is VERY ENGAGING, and with the right crowd, the money being won takes a back seat to the joy of bluffing and pushing your luck.I think our group brought back at least four copies!
Love those bits and artwork. Hear that Gale Force 9?
So to wrap up day one (reminder: for me, that was Friday):
Spicy new games to me — Tsuro of the Seas (just need to trade out the original) with expansion, and Celestia.
On the radar — Spike and Tyrants of the Underdark
Great gag gift that actually has some fun (but limited) gamer appeal — Box of Rocks
Until next time, Laissez les Bon temps Rouler!