GEN CON Online 2020 – Publisher Updates, Part Two

Hey, board gamers, BJ from Board Game Gumbo here. For the first time since 2015, there was no trip to Indy this year for GEN CON for the Gumbo Krewe. But board gamers are not going to be denied their chance to play board games and talk about board games, too.

Thanks to the folks at Gen Con, I was able to participate in a bit of the Gen Con Online experience. Plus, Eric Buscemi from The Cardboard Hoard & Punchboard Media set up a great Media Mixer for us at the end of Gen Con, (with big help from Chris Whitpan and Ken Grazier).

Here is PART TWO of our quick run down on some of the publishers we visited and what they have coming out for 2020 and beyond! Click here for PART ONE (Gravitation Games, Motor City Gameworks, Board Game Brothas).


Our first stop in part two of the Media Mixer was a chat with Jamie Scharbarth from The OP who took us through a number of new games coming The OP, formerly known as USAopoly.

First up was Telestrations: Upside Drawn. Kane Klenko brings a unique twist to an old favorite. This time, players play as teams and compete to guess words drawn by a player. But, the twist is one person holds the pen while another person moves the paper! The OP recommends teams of three or four players, the “conductor” who knows the secret word and holds the pen, the “drawer” who moves the the board around, and one or two guessers.

In typical Klenko style, the teams are all playing at the same time. It is a team game — all of the conductors will have the same word, like “bicycle” — the conductors will shout out to the “drawers” to move the board around while the conductor holds the pen. Only through the shouting out of commands like “up” and “down” (to move the pen on or off the paper) can the team move the pen and board together, so it is not an etch-a-sketch type of experience. The game will have four reusable dry erase player boards — conductor, drawer & guesser for each three to four person teams

Next up was Hues & Cues, designed by Scott Brady. The OP bills it toward gamers of a wide variety of abilities. Each person takes a turn as the clue giver, and gives a one word clue about a color on the board (which has 480 different hues on it.) The clue giver is trying to steer the players to place their markers as close to that color as possible. The clue giver can then give a second clue to try and hone the guesses in closer. The giver gets points for how many cones end up in the scoring square, and the guessers get points for either getting into the scoring square or touching them, and at the end of the game, the person with the most points wins. Jamie said it was a big hit at the Toy Fair, and it sounds like a completely different take on the “clue / guesser” model.

And then, we talked about the IP games. Scooby Doo: Escape from the Haunted Mansion, is a new design from Jay Cormier, Sen-Foong Lim, and Kami Mandell. Think an escape room brought to table top, but what makes it unique, is that you can play and pass it on to a friend as nothing is destroyed (like the Unlock series). Unlock that series, Scooby Doo is considered a “high narrative” game, with lots of reading (which you will want to do in your best TV show character voices!) The entire game is based in the new “Coded Chronicles” system, which gives each character a book to read out the narrative parts of the story. The OP promises you will be immersed into the Scooby Doo series as you play. Think Adventure Series but with better puzzles. There will be a The Shining version from the Coded Chronicles system this year, probably a little bit harder on the play scale for experienced gamers.

Finally, we got some quick overviews of three more IP games that are coming out or already in stores. Friday The 13th board game is designed by Sean Fletcher (Die Hard: The Nakatomi Heist) and is an anxiety driven escape game. Players are competing not only to escape the infamous Jason, but to score the most points while doing it. Don’t go in the shed, take the keys and drive away! It should be in stores this fall.

Harry Potter fans have two choices. Harry Potter House Cup is a worker placement competition where you play as a house and control the students. Each house has three students (like Harry, Ron & Hermione from House Gryffindor). You want to level up and improve your players, in a unique thematic fashion from the movies. As you play through the rounds, you will open up more spaces on the board, and send your students to various courses. House Cup comes with double layered boards, which are all the rage in board gaming, and the game is available right now.

Finally, the very popular Harry Potter Hogwarts Battle deck building game is getting its second expansion called Charms & Potions. Fans can finally play with five players, and there is additional character content and a new game board. The focus is on adding potions and charms that are going to benefit you during the game. Of course you can also pick up hexes, and you will need potions and charms to get rid of them to help your team. The early release sold out, but it should be available later this year.


Conor McGoey from Inside Up was available to show us City Builder: Ancient World, an easy to teach tile laying game designed by Andrei Filip that has a couple of unique twists. In our demo, Conor was able to teach us the game in only a few minutes, and the whole experience from start to finish was about an hour.

The game is definitely a lot more puzzly than it appears. Not only do you play tiles to score points, a familiar concept to euro gamers, but the way you score points is very unique. There is a tug-of-war system where you share the potential points with another player. Each of you is racing to score the combos that give you the scoring pegs, knowing that the further you get on the scoring peg toward your opponent, the less opportunities they will have to score points. The game can be played either cooperatively or competitively.

We played the competitive version, and I watched the tail end of the previous demo, and I was pleasantly surprised that there were multiple ways of scoring points that all had a viable path to victory. I definitely want to play this again.


I had a short visit with Keith Matejka about Roll Player Adventures, which just successfully kickstarted in a big way for Thunderworks Games. Depending on how well it is received at delivery, we may see some more content. There was an expansion in the project already, Nefra’s Judgment, which added more backstory and more side quests, and a whole key word system. Everything is in the blue sky phase right now, but keep an eye out if you are fan of the Roll Player system.


Last but not least, we had a great visit with Odin Phong from Inkwell Games despite some technical difficulties. Inkwell Games has released Dice and Ink, a collection of randowriters by eleven different designers. The book comes with ten games ranging in complexity and theme. All but one of them can be played solo if you prefer. The forward was written by Suzanne Sheldon of Dice Tower (and roll and write) fame, and you will certainly recognize some of the designers like Nat Levan and Sarah Reed. Rules are included for all the games right in the book.

You can use the pages in the book, or photocopy out of your book. And purchasing the book gives you access to the digital files for easy printing from your computer. All but one just use standard D6. There is even a co-operative roll and write, which I’ve never seen before!


We tried out two of the designs. Islands of Atlantis, designed by Alex Shen, comes with solo rules too. Players play as deities raising the sunken islands of fabled Atlantis from the ocean floor. Players roll five dice, three of one color (power dice, to determine the size of the part of the island you are raising) and two blue (that determine your land type). Relics give you bonus points for each different types of relics you raise.

As a free action, not even on your turn, you can “raise the island” by marking off all the squares around it. We’ll count up the unique relics that were surrounded, and the land types that were raise, to check off those on the player sheet. If you can somehow get all six land types on that raised island, it becomes a “perfect island” for bonus points. Player interaction — because the active player will take one of the red dice out of the pool only for them to use, but be careful, need to make sure you have room for your dice!

Scrap Yard Rollbot, designed by Sarah & Will Reid, has a really intriguing theme. Players are super geniuses who forgot to do an invention for the school science fair. Easy peasy, head to the scrap yard and grab some parts and make a robot! But, “Rick” (your ultimate nemesis and an AI in the game) is also there, stealing the parts you need! Plays best as a solo, and plays quickly.

That’s our final look at Gen Con releases thanks to the PBM Media Mixer! Until next time, laissez les bon temps rouler!

— BJ @boardgamegumbo

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