Gen Con 2019 — BJ’s Recap, Part One

For the fourth year in a row, I flew up to Indianapolis, Indiana with 70,000 of my closest friends to partake in the Best Four Days of Gaming. Gen Con 2019 was a blast! Here’s a quick recap of the sights, sounds and games of Gen Con.

WEDNESDAY

I flew in the night before, so I had plenty of time for gaming and booth set up on Wednesday. First up, I met up with my buddy, Alex Goldsmith of the Dukes of Dice, to play a game of Fleet: The Dice Game with one of my favorite people in all of board gaming, The Brandt. Brandt Sanderson hosts Portal Gaming Podcast, on the Dice Tower, and he and I organize the voting for the Dice Tower Awards each year. He’s been singing the praises of the dice game, and I love rando-writers, so we took the boat out for a spin.

I named my ship the “Capt Dinger” — for Captains of the Gulf, of course. Matt Riddle & Ben Pinchback have made the absolute perfect roll ‘n write if you are a board game fan. It is meaty! It is thinky! It is has two sheets! It needs a description with exclamation points! This was easily one of the two or three best games I played all con. Do yourself a favor and try it.

I was here at Gen Con to demo all week for Grey Fox Gaming, so next up, Alex and I finished setting up the booth that the GFG team had put together the day before. After a few hours, it was time for some lunch, so we met up with Jake & Danielle of the Draft Mechanic podcast for my first ever visit to The Yardhouse. The beer and food are as good as advertised! If you geaux there, make sure and order the Vampire Tacos — they are killer.

Back at the hall, I ran into Jeremy “Game Geek Ninja” Davis and the rest of the Weird Giraffes Game krewe for more gaming. Nick and Carla brought a prototype (not sure how much I can say here) of a card based game of one of their more popular offerings. I’ll tell you what — I think I liked the card version better than the original. Hit Carla up on Twitter for more info.

Ninja introduced me to Kevin Russ, the designer of a game that i’ve been watching on social media called Calico. Kevin happened to have a nearly-production ready prototype, so we played it. If you like tile laying games like I do, you will enjoy Calico. The art is cool (except it has cats in it), the design is thinky yet not very stressful, and there’s enough ways to score bonus points that I think it has some good replayability. This is a good game for my wife and I to play on our date nights.

I taught the group Point Salad, which was funny, because most of the group already knew the designers. If you have not played Point Salad yet, I think this filler game from AEG may be one of their best card games yet, and deserves a place on every filler game shelf just like No Thanks! and For Sale and Bohnanza. It has that easy to teach, breezy style of play that I think could be an evergreen title.

I also had the pleasure of running into Eric Yurko — a nearly yearly tradition at Gen Con!  Eric is the photographer behind “What’s Eric Playing” and a fellow Punchboard Media member. Check out his reviews if you haven’t already!

Alex scheduled a demo session with the Grey Fox Games demo volunteer team, so next up for us was meeting up with the group to teach the games. I’ve played and/or taught all of the games in our line, so I helped teach Reavers, City of Gears and Bushido to the new demo team. We also learned Run, Fight or Die Reloaded, the new iteration of the game originally designed by Richard Launius.

The highlight was inviting the Krewe de Gumbo for a late night first spin of Reavers of Midgard on the brand new retail edition of the game. Bradly won pretty convincingly, but Carlos had a good time trying out a “collect all the terror tokens” strategy that I would personally not use again.

THURSDAY:

The opening of any con is special, but this Thursday opening at Gen Con was really exciting. I’ve never been a part of a “hot” game opening at a con before, and it was awesome to see people lining up around the block to purchase a copy of Reavers of Midgard. We sold our first day allotment of Reavers within an hour or so!

I switched between demoing Reavers of Midgard and Bushido during the day. Reavers is a brand new euro-style sequel to Champions of Midgard. Reavers is in the same universe, but has different art and a different designer, and feels like a step up from Champions. Yes, it is a euro game, but it retains the thematic elements of an Ameritrash game. It is very much a thematic euro game in every sense. I demoed the game for four days, and rarely did we hear people talk about pushing dice or cubes — they were gathering leaders, filling up their boat with stuff, upgrading their boats, and smashing monsters. When I get my Kickstarter copy, this may replace Bushido as my favorite Grey Fox Games.

Speaking of Bushido, if you have not played the game yet, it is a quick two player dice chucking, card playing back and forth martial arts battle filled with the ebb and flow of combat. Players engage each other in a small deck battle of technique cards, simulating attacks and counter attacks both on the same turn. Nick the other player down to zero life for the win, or stack together so much potential damage as to deliver a lethal blow all in one fell swoop.

Every time I demoed the game, people were excited about the quick gameplay and the fact that I could get players playing the game in under a minute. Throw in the beautiful art and the expansion, and you have one of my favorite all time Grey Fox games. Word on the street is that the designer has more content! Let’s get Bushido rolling so we can see it.

Ever since 2017, I’ve been one of the first ticket buyers to the Rolling Dice & Taking Names Strike tourney. This year was no exception. We grabbed the center table of The Olde Spaghetti Factory with old Gen Con friends Ed, Alex, Jake, Danielle, and Shane along with some new people that we met, and had a blast.

courtesy of Jake Bock of Draft Mechanic Podcast

Surprise, surprise, I not only won a Gladiator Acorn for winning the first round at our table, but I survived all the way to the finals! The last matches were so exciting, going up against Mike Young from Plan B, Christiana Rouse from Blue Peg, Pink Peg, Chaz Marler from Pair o’ Dice Paradise and many others in the board gaming world. Plus, Rodney Smith and Rob Oren were filming the whole thing while Tony and Marty sweated out the results.

Still shot from Rob Oren’s Tabletop World on BGG

In one of the greatest moments in my entire history of playing board games, my “leave a lot of options” strategy paid off (after some tips from Robb Rouse) and I won the tourney! It is Gladiators In An Arena for one more year! Big thanks to Ignacy from Portal for giving me a signed copy of Empires of the North, Connor from Inside Up Games for the copy of Gorus Maximus, and Steph Straw from Funko for the DC FunkoVerse game. And of course, big thanks to all the sponsors and to Tony & Marty for hosting an awesome meet up. I love their podcast, I love their enthusiasm for the hobby, and I definitely love seeing friends at the meet up each year.

Courtesy of Alex Goldsmith of the Dukes of Dice Podcast and Grey Fox Games

 

Alex and I had both purchased a copy of Medium, the new party game from Greater Than Games and Storm Chaser Games, and while I was playing, my friends decided not to support my efforts and instead played Medium. Hey, I can’t blame them! Medium is an amazing game and another one in my top three plays at Gen Con.

After the meet up, we went back to the Gumbo hotel for some more gaming. We played Medium, as well as Watergate, Era: Medieval Age, Empires of the North, and DC FunkoVerse.

Medium is so easy to explain — players take turns being partners, and playing cards out of their hand which have dissimilar words. Once played, the partners have a few seconds to shout out a word that they think is the “medium” between the two words on the table. Get it right and get five points. Get it wrong, and the players then have to think of the “medium” between the two words they shouted out without using the words on the table. If they get it wrong, they get one more chance with the two final words they shouted out. The points get lower the more chances players use, so there is a game element to this otherwise activity style event. This is the early contender for my Party Game of the Year.

Watergate is the new two player card-based historical game from Capstone Games designed by famed designer, Mathias Cramer (of Rococo, Lancaster, and Glen More fame). Imagine a Twilight Struggle styled tug-of-war card game but distilled down to thirty minutes, that still retains tension and thematic game play. Another one of the top three games I played at Gen Con, Watergate might be the best game I played all convention long. The game is beat perfect, where even the losing player can point to so many decision points that contributed to the loss but left the player thinking “if only.” I highly recommend Watergate, and would not be surprised if it gets a nod for the Kennerspiel nomination.

I actually did not get to play Era or Empires or DC, so I’ll have to wait on the Krewe’s posting for wrap ups of those games. That’s the first two days of Gen Con. More thrills and chills will be posted soon, with looks at Obscurio, Fluttering Souls, and QE.

Until next time, laissez les bon temps rouler!

— BJ @boardgamegumbo

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