For gamers around the world, Gen Con is Christmas in July. Well except for the part that you have to leave your homes and fly from all over the world to pay for and get your presents from numerous different people… it’s the same kinda thing. Apart from Essen, this is where the most games are released for retail to the public and as long as you’re able to make a bee line for the publishers booth to get the limited copies of the new hotness; you’ll be walking off with arms laden with chits and bits. From a couch of safety, over 13500 km away, we’ll tell you which cardboard enclosed treasures we’d kill (ed: we do not condone violence in the cardboard kingdom) for were we standing before the entrance doors come August 4th.
The Leading Pack:
Unless you’ve been marooned at sea without the bottom of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (ed: it’s really just WiFi), you’ve seen the messages in the bottles washing ashore telling us all about Rob Daviau’s latest fun vessel; SeaFall. For around 2 years since first announced, the wave of popularity has swelled and will crash over fans of the Legacy system at Gen Con at the Plaid Hat Games Booth. If you’ve haven’t been following the designer notes, Seafall is a competitive legacy style game where each players controls a province seeking glory through exploration on the high seas. Over the course of numerous games, players will need to develop their homelands with buildings and liaisons with local guilds, raid and pillage other players provinces, explore distant lands to search for adventure to achieve glory before the end of the world is discovered! Limited copies will be available at Gen Con before pre-orders are shipped out so get there early to avoid the re-sell skulduggery!
Codenames: Pictures will be exactly what it says on the box; the game that picked up almost every award in the last 12 months and is a hit pretty much every time it hits the table, but with pictures instead of words. As we discussed in our Codenames Review, there is something so magical that happens every time you play Codenames with new people, new cards or just one of the hundreds and thousands of combinations. With Codenames: Pictures we expect the game to gain even more market appeal to those gamers familiar with Dixit and other imagery focused deduction games, and with some great art already confirmed it’s a no brainer for those without the original or those who want to mix and match. Definitely a sell out.
In case you’ve forgotten about the Pandemic game system, or you’re new to the hobby and haven’t played the Matt Leacock classic, then Z-Man Games will have you covered with the release of Pandemic: Reign of Cthulhu. Players will take the roll of investigators traveling through the four areas of New England to close portals and prevent the Ancient ones from awakening. The mechanics are Pandemic with a couple of twists to movement and event cards, but with good looking minis and a theme with a touch of evil instead of disease, I’m sure we’ll have almost all of the copies selling out and a slew of new gamers getting into the hobby with this re-theming of a classic.
The Steady Pack:
Gale Force Nine has consistently produced games that have not received the hype that many critics claim they deserve, and Star Trek: Ascendency may well be the game that beams them into the limelight that they so deserve. Trekkies will be setting phasers to kill on their way to pick this up as this may be the themed 4x game they have been looking for. Players will control either the Federation, Romulan or Klingon empire as they try to trade, explore the universe and establish outposts while developing their civilisation to defeat all or ascend to supremacy. This will be an epic style game, with experienced players looking at around 1 hour per player for game length, but some of the combat and technology mechanics seen in the rulebook make this a game we’d love to play as a whole day experience.
Cry Havoc from Portal Games has already been given a moniker of Nexus-Kemet by a reviewer that I trust, which puts my wallet in a little bit of an uncomfortable and strained position in opposition to my bank managers advice. In this area control dudes-on-a-map game, players will each take control of one of the asymmetrical forces all vying for control of the planet’s regions and the associated crystals. With a battle system that occurs on a separate board, reported to be well balanced with card driven combat, players who enjoy decisive combat with the influence of luck will revel in their strategic plays. Portal seems to be hitting it out of the park this year, and I’m sure that Cry Havoc will be another success story with dynamic deck building, base building and combat that is tightly wound to player agency.
While many of us have already slashed our wallets to pay for the previous From Software board game kickstarter tie in of Dark Souls, BloodBorne is a little box of death that you can take home to your loved ones from the convention. Eric Lang is currently chief suspect of being part of the board game Illuminati, with his mysterious project titles on twitter, but can honestly do very little wrong when designing anything with chits and models. In BloodBorne, players will be competing to collect the most Blood through defeating the terrifying creatures in the Chalice Dungeons below Yharnam. You’ll need to rely on your compatriots to do damage to these large beasts, while protecting your own blood and aiming for those killing blows. Bank your blood or go for the throat? Either way someone dies.
For those looking for the new party game of the year, Cool Mini or Not has got two great titles in Ta-da! and Unusual Suspects. Ta-Da has Wizard players furiously rolling dice at the table, needing to lock the correct spell components into a sequence and be the first to complete the spell and cast it. The twist, every player has a unique “feat” associated with how they need to roll the components, such as revealing a secret to the group every time they lock a die, or not being able to lift their head off the table for the round. The Unusual Suspects has a single person see a face from a lineup of cards on the table, who then needs to draw cards and use the descriptor to try get the group to whittle down the faces so that the correct suspect can be identified. Cards will say things like “Did this person go to University?” and the clue giving player will need to say yes or no. In the case of No, other players will then look at the faces of everyone at the table and eliminate all faces they believe went to University. Based on stereotypes, this game is needs to be played with a group you’re familiar with and who don’t take the theme too seriously.
On the Outside Lane:
Hit-Z-Road from veteran designer Martin Wallace and Space Cowboys has definitely caught our attention at Cardboard Quest. With great pulpy 50’s art style and a game that has you collecting resources to keep yourself alive on a road trip to evade the zombie hordes, we cant wait to see how well the theme will integrate with Euro mechanics. You’ll use resources to bid for the best route, however the same resources being bet are the ones you need to keep you and your group safe from having your brains served on the zombie buffet. Numerous varying difficulty cards and the creation of random adventure decks for each play make this one that could be a definite sleeper hit or a game that is the leftovers at the school cafeteria.
Grey Fox Games have been very popular in the Cardboard Quest meetings, with Operation FAUST and Champions of Midgard still seeing regular play. Although we’re not revered for our fondness of co-operative games (Stuart especially) London Dread seems to be a game that has a lot of promise as players need to battle through a Penny Dreadful-esque Victorian London in a story line that contains plenty of gritty peril and a hint of the supernatural. You’ll play through real time planning elements of 14 minutes to plan how you will deal with the threats of the city and then flip over cards to discover the peril that players will face together with rolling dice against various attributes. You’ll play through two chapters to build up enough courage to take on the final challenge, which decides whether your team ends up in in the watery grave of the Thames or triumphant over evil. This game has some great buzz from those who have seen in, however we’ll have to wait and see the final verdict when it hits its release at Gen Con.
So what are you waiting for? Place your pre-orders, beg your overseas family or even buy that last minute ticket to get to Gen Con to pick up something special. Or like us, wait for it all to finally hit your local stores, support those guys and enjoy some of the best releases. What did we miss? What are you DYING to pick up at Gen Con or shortly after? Let us know.