Gen Con 2015 has finally come to a close. And as what’s become our annual tradition here at Board Game Quest, we are taking one last look back at the convention to give you our full thoughts on the “Best Four Days in Gaming.”
Because of the ever increasing size of our BGQ team here, we’ve finally had to split our recap into multiple articles (it was just getting way too long). So today we will be focusing specifically on the games at Gen Con, while tomorrow we will dive into our experience with publishers and the convention overall. So with that in mind, let’s dive into the Gen Con games!
Favorite Game I Bought:
Tony: Flick ‘em Up (Pretzel Games). This was a REALLY hard decision to make, in part because I feel like there was really no it game this year. Last year, Gen Con was swimming with awesome releases (Imperial Settlers, Five Tribes, Abyss, Legendary: Alien Encounters), while this year definitely felt a bit lackluster in comparison. That being said, I love dexterity games something fierce, so with Flick ‘em Up having some amazing components and game play that ranges nicely from simple/casual to more complex, it’s definitely high on my love list.
Alex: Rhino Hero (HABA). So simple, yet so satisfying. Hats off to HABA for producing a great game that I cannot wait to play with both my gamer and non-gamer friends and family. We had a crowd in the lobby of our hotel watching and rooting us on as we were playing, with everyone coming up to us and asking where we picked it up. Rhino Hero is energizing and infectious! Hat tip to Shauna at the HABA booth, who was the friendliest person I met in the dealer hall during the convention.
Steph: Rhino Hero. Six of our friends ended up buying this infectiously fun game. From the adorable artwork of animals living in apartments (pigs brushing their teeth, bears watering window box flowers, elephants watching TV) to the dexterity challenge of placing a superhero rhino on top of stacked cards, this game is an instant winner. It’s fast, silly, and incredibly entertaining. Everyone wanted to play it.
Andrew: Discoveries (Asmodee). My initial big purchase was Blood Rage, and after a couple plays I really do enjoy it. But I picked up Discoveries Saturday morning and was just blown away. I was able to pick up the rules easily after listening to it explained in the exhibit hall. We played a 4-player game in under an hour. There are a lot of interesting decisions to make and various ways to go after points. There is an added bonus of getting an extra turn if you can complete two journey cards simultaneously which adds a lot of risk/reward balancing to the game. You never feel like you have enough dice to do everything you want. I’m looking forward to playing this one again.
Brian W: I will echo the Alex and Steph – Rhino Hero. I returned home and played it Sunday night with the family and my son cried when it was time to stop and go to bed. He stopped crying when I promised we’d play again Monday. So, sounds like a favorite for my household as well.
Walt: My favorite game I bought has to be Champions of Midgard (Grey Fox Games), hands down. First a shout out to my man Brian Winters for muscling his way to the front of the line at the Gray Fox booth – well, 25th in line, which was good enough to score the last copy on Saturday morning. But back to the game itself. I actually only heard about this game about a week or so before Gen Con. As so many people have said, this game really DOES play like a better, more-themed version of Lords of Waterdeep. The smoothness of the worker placement, dice-based battles, and multiple ways to score all add up to a tremendous game that will spend a lot of time on my table (and the tables of everyone else I know)!
Brian B: Tides of Time (Portal) – I heard this was good. I bought it after playing it once. I was not disappointed. I cannot believe how many agonizing choices an 18 card game can cause. I highly recommend this to anyone looking for a great two player game. I was not surprised it sold out at Gen Con.
Sarah B: Valley of the Kings: Afterlife (AEG) – This was an insta-buy for me seeing that I absolutely loved Valley of the Kings. It is the same great game as last year, with new cards that can be integrated into the original Valley of the Kings. I love deck builders, and what makes this one special is trying to balance between collecting cards and when to start entombing them. It plays quickly and does not hurt my brain. Another plus was meeting the designer, Tom Cleaver, at AEG’s booth and having him sign my copy!
What Game I Wish I Could Have Bought:
Tony: Discoveries (Asmodee). I am a big Lewis and Clark fan, so I was really looking forward to grabbing this “dice game” version. Unfortunately, they only brought a handful of copies each day to sell and I never made it to Asmodee in time to grab one.
Alex: Spyfall (Cryptozoic, Hobbyworld). I am not about the mad rush at the opening of the dealer hall these days, so the chance of me being able to get my hands on the new hotness is pretty much none. I heard from one of the salesmen at (Cryptozoic) that they only had 36 copies of Spyfall to sell per day, which was surprising considering the overwhelming success it had selling at Origins. Definitely disappointed but I am sure I will pick up a copy at some point.
Andrew: Champions of Midgard (Grey Fox Games). I really love worker placement games and games with a good amount of dice rolling. Champions of Midgard seems to put both of these mechanics to good use. Unfortunately, their allotment of 25 copies a day didn’t go very far and I wasn’t able to snag a copy.
Brian W: Blood Rage (CMoN). I backed this one on Kickstarter and just have to wait like a kid for Christmas. I watched a demo and a group playing in the hotel lobby and was very jealous. It looks awesome from a mechanics and even more amazing from a mini standpoint. Sigh.
Walt: Codenames (CGE). When I first heard about this game I wasn’t sure if it would be that interesting to me. Then I played it. Such a great take on the “give a one-word clue” style of party game, with a few cool twists. This one is a must buy for me when it is released to retail.
Brian B: Blood Rage (CMoN). I didn’t Kickstart this. I am dum.
Sarah B: Nothing. I made my husband buy me everything I wanted.
Favorite Unreleased Game:
Tony: Scythe (Stonemaier Games). I had to venture out of the exhibit hall to find it, but after talking with Jamey from Stonemaier Games about his upcoming game (and seeing the great looking prototype), I’m about as eager as one can get for a game to be released. The artwork is nothing short of stellar and Jamey’s track record with solid mechanics in his games gives me high hopes that this will be his best work yet.
Alex: Dice City (AEG). I was not able to sit for a demo for this, but it appeared to be right in my wheelhouse. Dice rolling, city building and resource management? I am definitely going to be checking Dice City out when it is released.
Steph: Pandemic Legacy (Z-Man Games). I know it wasn’t featured at Gen Con, but based on the amount of enjoyment I get from Risk: Legacy, I know I am going to love this one. The novelty of ripping up cards, marking up the board, and impacting each game from previous game play is so appealing. And maybe, just maybe, I can win a round or two.
Andrew: Above and Below (Red Raven Games). Red Raven Games seems to be putting out fantastic products these days and I’m excited to be able to play Above and Below. It feels like choose your own adventure book, the board game.
Brian W: Above and Below (Red Raven Games). Watched a demo and I think Andrew is right on the money about the feel. It looks like loads of fun and I wish I backed it on Kickstarter.
Walt: Arrgh, so hard to narrow it down to one. Runners up would be the mentioned by others; Dice City and Above and Below, as well as Bezier Games’ Favor of the Pharoah, but I’m going to go with an upcoming game that has gotten almost no buzz – at least not yet. It’s Treasure Mountain by Cosmic Wombat games. I checked this one out on a tip from my buddy Neil, and I got a chance to sit down and play a few rounds with the game designer himself, Daniel George. It’s a dwarven-themed worker placement and tile placement combo that just hit all the right notes for me. Dan’s prototype copy was almost fully developed, and I loved his twist on worker placement where each player’s workers are numbered, and you can use one of your higher-numbered workers to bump a lower-numbered worker off an action space to reclaim that action space. This one won’t appear on Kickstarter until next spring apparently, but I’ll be there when it does.
Sarah B: Roll for the Galaxy: Ambition (Rio Grande Games) I know this was not for sale at Gen Con, but it was being demoed. And it SHOULD have been for sale as I would have bought it. Like ignoring “DO NOT RUN” bought it. Because dice.
Most Surprising Game:
Tony: Rhino Hero (HABA). I heard rumblings about this game on twitter for months prior to the convention so I made it a point to check it out. Holy cow was this game a lot of fun, especially for being so easy/small. Who knew stacking cards could make for such an enjoyable time! By the end of the convention, most of our group had ended up buying a copy of this gem.
Alex: Two Rooms and a Boom (Tuesday Knight Games). After almost 2 years of waiting for their Kickstarter campaign to be fulfilled, I was fully prepared to be let down by 2R1B. Not so! I played in a 30-person event run by the guys at Tuesday Knight Games and had a blast. The social deduction aspects of the game and the different roles really gave a great experience in a short time span (we played 3 games in an hour). I now need to find 29 people at home to play this with!
Steph: 20th Century Limited (Rio Grande Games). I am not going to lie, when we sat down in the Rio Grande room, it looked so boring. Figured I was taking one for the team. The board is an unexciting map of the U.S. with a triangular grid overlay. The city labels were incredibly small and hard to read. I was not impressed. But sometimes, I am glad to be wrong. This train game steps up the strategy used in Ticket to Ride while still being accessible. At this point in my gaming evolution, I feel I have moved beyond TTR, but 20th Century Limited has easily replaced the void.
Andrew: The Grizzled (CMoN). I had this one in my top ten list going in, but was still surprised how much I liked it. A cooperative game with a trench warfare in World War I theme. But no combat or miniatures. It’s a game about the difficulties of war on these men and their support for each other. There is nothing quite like it on the market. The mechanic is basically a push-your-luck card game, but with a couple unique aspects of supporting each other between rounds to mitigate the impact of the cards. It’s an interesting theme, a great game, and has amazing artwork.
Brian W: Flick ‘em Up (Pretzel Games). I love dexterity games and this one is a blast. I was surprised in two ways by this game. First production values are amazing. From a wooden game box (with outer cardboard protector) to the excellent quality of the printed rule, scenario booklets and overall fantastic attention to details (there are directions on how to store the game and tabs to use as to not wear the cardboard pieces) make the overall quality outstanding. The second is the scalability of the rules. The first scenario and associated rules are simple and straight-forward. The later scenarios and rules can become more complex and involved depending your group if you want to try them out. We did have an issue one night with some type-A personalities and rules interpretation but then again that’s 85% of the Gen Con crowd. Bazinga! So, if you’re looking for a great dexterity game with big upside on quality and rules made for almost any gaming audience – get this game.
Walt: I vote for Flick ‘em Up as well. I can take or leave most dexterity games, but playing this one had me laughing out loud and really getting into my role as sheriff of the white team. This game is nothing more than crazy fun. And of course, the production values are through the roof!
Brian B: Council of Verona (Crash Games) – I was really impressed with the demo we received on Thursday at 10:05. I did not buy it immediately because Gen Con “must see everything” was in my head and so I thought I’ll come back later. And I didn’t. Then I remembered seeing only a few copies, so I assumed they sold out. Checking online, I could not find it for sale. Sadness ensued. Sarah made us go back to the convention hall on Sunday to check, just in case. And now I own a GREAT 2-5 player deduction game that I did not think I was going to buy before Gen Con.
Sarah B: The Princess Bride: A Battle of Wits (Game Salute) – I love Princess Bride. I do not like bad game licenses. I did the demo just to see and was pleasantly surprised. I ending up buying a really fun, quick bluffing filler for 2-10 players.
Most Disappointing Game:
Tony: Terra (Bezier Games). When I first saw the cover for Terra and that it was designed by Friedemann Friese (Friday, Power Grid), I was pretty excited. When I finally made my way over to the Bezier Games booth, my excitement waned after watching some of the game play. Terra looked to be a Wits & Wagers re-skin with geography instead of numbers. Perhaps actually playing the final release will change my mind, but I left with a solid meh impression.
Alex: Star Trek 5-Year Mission (Mayfair). All I want is a good Star Trek game. Is that too much to ask? I was really excited to see this title, and this was the first stop for me in the dealer hall. When I shoulder-surfed some people playing and saw the components and the gameplay, I was severely disappointed. A clearly tacked-on theme, underwhelming graphic design, and what looked to be boring game play led me to take a pass on this. Come on, board game companies! Get it together and get a good Trek game made!
Steph: Mottanai (Asmadi Games). I absolutely love Innovation. I’m okay with Impulse. I love Red7. I bought Meow immediately. Usually, Asmadi Games are a win. I love their complexity and design. (Okay, Meow is not complex.) But this game stumped four hard-core gamers. The rules were unclear and contradicted text on the cards. For the life of us, we could not figure out the game. The next day, Alex and Tony went to both the Asmadi booth and play room, and were denied any help. The booth workers did not know the game rules. What?! And the staff in the Asmadi room told us that we had to enter a ticketed event to learn to play. All we needed was a few minutes of someone walking us through the basic mechanics. Isn’t this what every other game company does at Gen Con? Sorry Asmadi, your unhelpful and downright rude attitude has cost you my business.
Andrew: WWE Superstar Showdown (Gale Force 9). I haven’t been a wrestling fan since the days of the Ultimate Warrior and Hulk Hogan. But, Gale Force Nine has produced great games with great licenses and was hoping to see this trend continue. The buzz around WWE Superstar Showdown initially was positive so I made sure to stop by for a demo of the game. Unfortunately the mechanic is basically rock, paper, scissors. I picked a random card from my hand and hoped it was good against the random card picked by my opponent. The full game promised multiplayer matches and more interesting scenarios, but the demo didn’t impress me enough to bother.
Brian W: Jenga Giant (Hasbro). Bigger is not better in this case, ladies. You take away the portability of this classic game by making the pieces about four times the size as well as the weight. It’s a fun idea to build the tower up to four feet, but your tabletop and floor might not appreciate it. The demo tables themselves were pretty battered by Saturday. One of the demo guys from Ad Magic, Inc. was telling me you could start on the floor to save your tabletop and that has zero appeal to me. I will stick with the classic size, which is the right one in my book.
Walt: I wouldn’t call it a complete disappointment, but I was a left feeling a little meh after playing my first game of New York 1901 (Blue Orange Games). For all of the positive buzz surrounding this game, not to mention the unbelievably low chance of anyone actually getting a copy, it seemed to fall a little flat. Of course, my first game was played after midnight, after a long night of after-con gaming, and there was much stopping to re-read the rules, so maybe I shouldn’t be too quick to judge this game under those conditions. Not that I understand the rules a lot better, I am still hopeful that future plays will raise my opinion of it.
Brian B: Flip City (TMG) – It is a cute game, do not get my wrong. But it takes WAAAYYYYYY too long for what it is. This would be the only game that I bought that, if I could go in a time machine and reverse my buy/no buy decision, I would.
Sarah B: Renaissance Man (Rio Grande Games) – My husband is a liar. He told me this was supposed to be fun. It wasn’t. To scratch your card pyramid building itch, PLEASE buy Viceroy instead. It is a great game!!
That about wraps things up for Part 1 of our Gen Con recap. Stop by tomorrow as we dive into our thoughts on the publishers and the Gen Con experience. Update: You can read Part 2 Here. Did you have a favorite game from Gen Con? Let us know in the comments below.