Gen Con 2019 — BJ’s Recap, Part Two

Gen Con 2019 — BJ’s Recap, Part Two

For the fourth year in a row, I flew up to Indianapolis, Indiana with 70,000 of my closest friends to revel 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, this time coming at you with a look at the final three days of the Con. (You can look at days one and two here.)


Have I already mentioned that Team Gladiator was victorious in the Annual Rolling Dice & Taking Names Strike Tournament?

Lest I forget…

I woke up Friday morning still glowing from the victory of the night before and ready to take more pictures with the Gladiatoracorn. My goal on Friday was to save my voice enough to enjoy not only demoing games all day, but also have some left for the big Secret Cabal meet up that night!

At the Grey Fox Games booth, the demos were hopping:

We even had a visit from Dan Patriss of the Geek All Stars and Robb & Christina from Blue Peg Pink Peg podcast! I took this photo of Gumbo Krewe member Carlos giving them a great demo, while all were deep in thought about the gameplay:

I had some time before my shift, so I tried to catch up on a few meetings. I finally met in person an online buddy of mine, Joel Lewis, the designer of Fluttering Souls. I had a copy of this way back when it was still a prototype, so it was awesome not only visiting with Joel (who was pretty tired by this time with all of the non-stop demos) but also playing an actual production copy! Joel is in a lot of the same Facebook groups that I follow and he is a frequent and positive poster in those groups. Fluttering Souls is a two player card game, with a lot of set collection elements tucked in. Players choose butterfly cards worth various points based on the open cards available in the stack of cards in front of you. If you like quick playing two player card games, with a lot of spatial puzzles baked in (think 7 Wonders: Duel as a reference), you will like the card play of Fluttering Souls. The game play is super quick (most people play best of five, I believe). And let’s face it, the card art alone is worth the price of admission!

I also met an up-and-coming designing couple from Utah — Larissa and Mike Bruner of Elixir Games. They are heading to Kickstarter with this awesome looking two-to-four player battle royale game based on bees called Queen Bee. I gotta admit, I love the cover art on the box: For a first time design krewe, there were a lot of interesting twists in Queen Bee. First, players are competitive until they are co-operative, a mechanic I can’t recall ever seeing before. Let’s say four players are battling it out, and one Queen succumbs to another player’s Queen. Those two players then team up to try and win the game together! Next, the card play is — and is meant to be — way overpowered. It promotes an attacking, quick playing style all about getting those bees to fly out of the hive and dominate the board.

I played twice, and I think I enjoyed the rollicking, table talk of the four player version, especially as I slowly harnessed the power of the Gladiatoracorn against Mike as the sole remaining Queen in my–err—our way. Three of us shared in a victory that felt surprisingly satisfying. I think there are some kinks to be worked out with the very overpowered card play, but the production of the game promises to be fantastic and Mike & Larissa are very open minded to suggestions about the game. If family weight battle royale type games are your thing, you should check out the Kickstarter here. Big thanks to Larissa & Mike for showing me the game and good luck to both of you.

Back at the booth, I demoed some more plays of Reavers and Bushido. Both look amazing on the demo tables. We sold a ton of both games all weekend (and sold out Reavers completely before the show even ended!)

After our demos, we headed up to our usual place at the JW for some open gaming. First up was Obscurio. Bradly covered it in depth in his report, so I’ll just say that I like it better than Mysterium but not as much as Deception: Murder In Hong Kong.

Best part of the game was hanging out with Jayson and D-Rock of the NorthShore Krewe. Oh, and a highlight was trying to figure out if my buddy Joseph from the great Northwest — who I don’t think is normally a fan of these type of games — was a traitor!

A game I was curious about was 5-2-1-1 from Plan B that my buddy Jambalaya has talked up. The game’s unusual name comes from the game play — players get five colors, play two, then one, then one. It’s all about collecting the right colors and the right numbers at the right time. It’s not my favorite—but it sure made for a perfect end of the night Con game, because of the breezy nature of the play. If you like card games of the Amigo small box style, this one is right in line with that weight and gameplay. I’ll need a few more plays back at home to see if it is something that would fit well as a Scout game night game (where Coup and Sushi Go *still* reign supreme).

Right about the end of the night, our friends from Weird Giraffe Games joined up. Carla and Nick Kopp we’re running around with Gumbo fave, Jeremy “Game Geek Ninja” Davis and that can only mean one thing! It’s time for a party game! Medium was my game of the con, and we had a blast playing it with them.

Nick and I cleaned up, even though we were never partners during the game. I think we share a brain…

After a great night of laughs, we called it a night.


Saturday was another day filled with some good meetings. I wrote about our interview with Chris Rowlands of Funko previously, so check that out when you get a chance.

But right after my meeting with Chris, I was off to the Elf Creek Games booth for a demo of Brian Suhre’s new game, Merchants of the Dark Road, still in prototype form. I met up with Mike Hinson and Brent Dickman, the owners of Elf Creek Games, who were nice enough to send me a copy of End of the Trail to review last year. Although the game play did not quite strike a chord with our group, the production was fantastic, and knowing Suhre’s pedigree from or favorite new to me game of 2018 (Coldwater Crown), I was anxious to give Merchants a spin.

Merchants is a rondolicious game about not-so-honest merchants scheming for greater prestige and tons of wealth by traveling down the less-traveled by roads of the kingdom. It is almost a medieval version of the Firefly theme, but without any “mis-behavin’”.

I love the twist it hands to the action rondel — as players move their pieces around the board in typically circle fashion, the action spaces are not only the places you land on, but also two or three that branch out from the main spaces. It gives you a lot to think about as you navigate the board, and Suhre also threw in lots of ways to upgrade your actions. If you like medium weight rondel type euro games, and are looking for one with an unusual theme, keep an eye out for Merchants of the Dark Road.

If you want more information straight from the designer, check out our interview with Brian here. Mike Hinson is a great guy, and here’s his appearance on our show back on episode #56.

On the way from the gaming hall back to the vendor hall, I finally ran into Jonny Pac Contin! Jonny Pac and I struck up an internet friendship after he was on the show. Jonny Pac looked amazingly happy with his games selling out at GEN CON and more games on the way! Kudos to Jonny Pac — fellow musician and gamer — for his hard work and success.

In my quest to meet my internet buddies in person one at at time, I headed over to the Board & Dice booth to catch up with Jeremy “Jambalaya Plays Game” Howard. The big man has been one of my favorite content creators since I accidentally found his blog years ago while randomly typing in “jambalaya” and “board games” as a Google search. (It’s true!). I reached out to him, and a friendship was struck. He is still one of our top requested guests on Gumbo Live! for his infectious enthusiasm and his breadth of games played. The gang at Board & Dice grabbed a photo of us with Justin D. Jacobsen from Restoration Games as well as Jambalaya — right before we ate some really European candy.

If it is Saturday at GEN CON — then it must be THE SECRET CABAL MEET UP. Yes, the Meet Up was back this year, and better than ever. We kind of skipped it two years ago, when the party was just too big, and the lines were too long. This year, the tickets were limited and it was back in the Alexander Hotel bar. I was lucky enough to grab enough tix for the entire Krewe to geaux — thanks to Jamey of the Secret Cabal for throwing one last ticket toward my Marine son who was not supposed to come to GEN CON until the last minute. Cabalist for life!

As usual, we drank some adult beverages, made new friends, and played some games! Jayson and D-Rock from the Northshore gamers brought Architectura, an interesting little card based city building game all about scoring points. It sort of reminded me of SellSwords a bit in the scoring and mechanics. Jayson went all in for the big play mat which made the game look even better. It is not something I would buy for our collection, but I enjoyed my play of it.

The Secret Cabal meet up always has an amazing pile of prizes. Here’s a shot of Jamey and Don in the middle of handing out games. And yep, my son Jack was one of the big winners! Thanks to Rodney Smith of Watch It Played, Jack took home a big box of Games Workshop goodness plus a free copy of Watergate from Capstone Games.

It would not be the Secret Cabal Meet Up without board game celebrities roaming around, meeting and greeting fans and old friends, and sharing adult beverages while talking about the Con. Here’s The Podfather himself, Stepehen Buonocore from Stronghold Games and Indie Game Studios, who has been a frequent (and beloved!) guest on Gumbo Live!

Marty from Rolling Dice and Taking Names podcast was supposedly at the party, but I think the Power of the Gladiatoracorn kept him outside. But never fear, Rodney Smith of Watch It Played and Geoff Engelstein — designer, podcaster, panelist, writer, you name it — were happy to celebrate the big Strike win for the Gladiators In An Arena side: Thanks to Jayson and Jack for helping me celebrate, too!

There were so many cool people at the party, and it was good to see old friends that we meet up with each year. But one of the coolest things that happens every year is that we meet new people! Tim Virning, one of the nicest guys on Twitter, and I were supposed to meet back at the hall but missed each other. Well, what do you know! Tim was at the meet up and gave us some inside scoop on some of the Thunderworks Games that came out at the Con.

Plus, one of the designers of Kapow! — a good looking superhero dice and card game from 2 Ton Porcupine Games designed by Doug Hettrick — was there, too. We ended up hanging out with Doug all night and enjoyed talking beer and games with him. He’s got me juiced up to try Kapow! some day.

But maybe the highlight of the night, besides Jack’s win at the prize pool, and just under Steve Spang’s comedy routine, was getting a hearty congratulations from Tony from Rolling Dice & Taking Names. You can see the joy on his face as we recounted the legendary win.

I am sure that not seeing Marty at the meet up and not getting a congratulations from him was just an oversight, right?

After the meetup, most of the Krewe de Gumbo had hit the wall. They started heading back to Hotel Gumbo for some rest, but not this guy! I got a call from Alex saying that there was a group of gamers wanting to play Alex’s copy of QE. I had it in my pack because we had planned to play it at the Secret Cabal meet up, so I jogged back over to the JW Marriott for some more 3rd Floor Ballroom gaming.

On the way to the ballroom, I ran into one of my favorite podcasters and guests on Gumbo Live! — Chris “Dice Hate Me” Kirkman from The State of Games podcast and from Geek All Stars! Chris had heard about the big Strike tourney win, so we took a quick photo. (Okay, it was probably more my idea…but Chris was happy to join in!)

On the way to the ballroom, I ran into one of my favorite podcasters and guests on Gumbo Live! — Chris “Dice Hate Me” Kirkman from The State of Games podcast and from Geek All Stars! Chris had heard about the big Strike tourney win, so we took a quick photo. (Okay, it was probably more my idea…but Chris was happy to join in!)

Chris was leaving, and so I headed over to meet up with Alex. He had a few friends already playing the game! I joined in on the second game and proceeded to flame out with over $500k in bids.

In my defense, I may have had a root beer or three at the Cabal meet up, so I was playing pretty loosey goosey especially in the early rounds. I met Nils Herzmann during the game, and he kept me cracking up with his commentary! QE may be a game, it may be an activity, it may even be a mad dream from a designer — but whatever it is, it sure is fun. It was a great way to end a long, fun-filled day.

Well, that wraps up another Secret Cabal Meet Up and some fun times on Friday and Saturday of Gen Con. I’ll be back soon with some final thoughts about the games I played.

Until next time, laissez les bon temps rouler!

BJ @boardgamegumbo

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