Gen Con 2017 is in the books and it was, as always, the “Best Four Days of Gaming”. The entire Board Game Quest team was down there to play games, meet people, and otherwise game our little hearts out. I’ll skip any more preamble and just get you right to the good stuff.
Thoughts on the 2017 Gen Con Experience:
Tony: Gen Con 2017 is mostly a blur for me. It came and went so quickly, I already find myself missing it. A few things stick out for me though. One, was the chance to somewhat unplug. I say somewhat, because I was still working for you guys and trying to post as much as possible on Twitter. But other than that, I didn’t keep up with emails, site work, or other things and just enjoyed immersing myself into our analog hobby. It was great to catch up with people I only see once a year, both gamers and publishers. I was curious how the sellout crowd would be and I must say, Gen Con handled it admirably. The convention flowed, was well-organized, and will call was the best it has ever been. I wish I could say the same for the service at many of the restaurants…
Jon: Gen Con was a blast this year. While it was the first year it has sold out, the increase in its footprint exceeded my expectations and more than accommodated the crowd from what I saw. Attendees also seemed more understanding of the cost of a sold out crowd and remained courteous throughout. The highlight for me is always the open gaming in the evening after a day of hitting the exhibit hall hard. Meeting up with the BGQ group and playing everyone’s library of new and old favorites is part of the draw year after year. I heard this a few places throughout the con and I have to echo the sentiment: The games may bring us to the table, but it’s what is around the table that keeps us there.
Andrew: Gen Con continues to be one of the best conventions of the year. There were hundreds of new releases and not-yet-released games on display. And as always, it’s a blast to see and talk with people who share a similar passion for gaming that I have. It didn’t feel much more full than normal as far as attendees, although it did seem like some publishers had a much smaller space than they probably needed.
Tahsin: My Thursday arrival at Gen Con was an eye opener. The size of the operation is massive and the convention was easily twice as big as I remember from 2006. Overall it was fascinating to see how many different venues were included for dealers and events. Standing in the middle of the Lucas Oil stadium and wandering over to a table featuring the original Dark Tower board game was something to remember.
What really hit home was that it’s a long time since I found friends who routinely were interested in attending Gen Con. In this regard, the Board Game Quest team welcomed me into the fold like a long lost brother. Honestly, looking around a game table and realizing everyone is a dedicated board game reviewer who takes the time to compose their thoughts is a moment to be proud. The personalities and the considered thoughts on gaming from multiple experienced viewpoints is an event second to none.
Heather: This year was a ton of fun! I didn’t feel like there were many things I needed to immediately see, but hanging out with the BGQ community was refreshing and fun. Most of us are spread out a bit, Gen Con is the time we all get together at once.
Alex: Thumbs up to the Gen Con staff for putting together a team that moved people through the will-call and customer service lines; I could not believe how fast they moved the queue. Thumbs down to publishers having more “display games” than “demo games;” it does not make me want to buy your game if I cannot take a turn or two. Thumbs up to the organization of the dealer hall; giving the big companies space to form lines freed up a lot of the real estate in the aisles. Thumbs down to booths that did not have information regarding sold-out games clearly displayed.
Tyler: My Gen Con experience in previous years has been inconsistent. One year I spent way too much time in the dealer hall and the next I filled it with too many events. This year I found the perfect balance for me. Spending a few hours in the crowd in the exhibit hall, a few events and then an evening of gaming allowed for me to have my best experience despite not staying at a hotel downtown. I also talked to more people from other media sources than in years past. It was interesting hearing about their slice of the media world and the current joys and struggles.
Brian W: This year was a surprise in some ways and not in others. I had expected the exhibit hall to be packed full of people given that all day badges had sold out, but was rather surprised that it didn’t seem too crowded from previous years. Early afternoons got nuts on Friday and Saturday, but overall it was not too bad most times. This was the first year I didn’t stay downtown and, not to my surprise, I do not want to repeat this. Too much driving and walking back and forth to the car. That was not fun and took away from important gaming time. What did surprise me was that more gaming company insiders seemed more chatty about what games are coming out and the direction of their companies. I had a great talk with Ravensburger and will look forward to great things from them domestically and internationally in the coming years.
Brian B: This was my favorite Gen Con in years. I am purely a board game shopper and demoer at Gen Con. I do not do events or participate in any non board gaming activities. I was hesitant coming in because of how crowded it has been historically, compounded by being sold out for the first time. My concerns were unfounded. Sure, it was crowded, but Mayday and a chunk of open gaming moving to the field of Lucas Oil Stadium was a brilliant move. I actually found the exhibitor hall less crowded than last year. I hope that Lucas Oil is utilized in future Gen Cons.
Favorite Game I Bought:
Tony: The Quest for El Dorado – This was a really weird Gen Con for me. There was just no must have game for me. Most new releases were solid, but didn’t drive me to a booth in a frenzy. Of the many games I got, The Quest for El Dorado was probably one I had the most fun with. To be honest, I’m most excited about a game I got just before Gen Con (7th Continent).
Jon: Definitely a tough one, so I am cheating. The Climbers and 10th Anniversary Notre Dame.
Andrew: Having only had the chance to play some of them, I’ll echo Jon and cheat a bit. The Climbers and Mini Rails both were played multiple times during the convention and I really enjoyed them. I’m excited to play Tulip Bubble as well as it seems like it is right in my wheelhouse.
Tahsin: I have to be honest and say that no particular game really stood out. There’s some really good-looking stuff on the horizon, but nothing was immediately a must have. The one game I would say that was a big question mark, but I ended up purchasing as to not miss the chance, was King’s Will. The price seemed steep for what was being offered, but I felt it offered just enough challenge and twists to be interesting. ADC Blackfire Entertainment GmbH didn’t have a booth, but they were selling copies through Queen Games. The concept, weight, and actions available intrigued me, and I just had to buy.
Heather: The Quest for El Dorado was one of my favorites that made it’s way home. This is one of the few games I played more than once in the evening. I love the versatility and reliability built in the box. Another favorite is Happy Salmon. Even though Tony totally made fun of me for buying it, I’m glad I did as it gave us oodles of entertainment late into the night. I also bought a copy for a non-gamer friend back home and his family already loves it!
Alex: I enjoyed my multiple plays of Nmbr9 over the weekend, and it’s probably the best of the titles I’ve opened. I have a feeling, however, that First Martians will end up being my favorite game of this year’s crop of Gen Con pickups.
Tyler: Like Jon, I will cheat a little on this one. My favorite game I played at the convention was 10th Anniversary of Notre Dame. I have heard good things about the game but after playing it I needed it in my collection. I didn’t play it till I got home, but Dream Home is an amazing game for my kids. It was the first time my daughter was able to play a more advance game and, without any help, almost win the game <single tear>.
Brian W: Wasteland Express Delivery Service. So far my favorite game that I have not yet played. The reason being that it took a few hours to punch and organize but it will be PLAYED! This was my favorite because the production values are awesome and the bits and organization system provided is top-notch. I just hope it plays as well as it looks. Stay tuned.
Brian B: Dragonfire by Catalyst Game Labs. Take Shadowrun: Crossfire, improve some of it’s weaknesses, add a campaign mode (coming soon), more missions and use a license I LOVE… sign me up!!
New release I wish I could have bought:
Jon: I was kind of itching for In the Year of the Dragon: 10th Anniversary Edition, but persuaded myself out of it based on the weight of my bag. As a general rule, I steer very clear of new releases (I let the rest of the BGQ fam feed that hunger) and instead focus on the releases I was interested in last year or the grail game reprints from way back when. Typically, if I am still interested in a game when Gen Con comes around, I get a demo in (if possible) and pick up my slightly cooler hotness. I broke this rule last year with Seafall, and we all know what happened there.
Andrew (and Tahsin, Alex, Brian B): I would say Ex Libris. As Tony mentioned, there weren’t a ton of super-hot titles this year, but Ex Libris was about as close as it got. I’m looking forward to this one hitting retail so I can take a shot at it.
Tyler: I had heard about Photosynthesis before the convention but it didn’t spark my interest. After watching a few minutes of a demo at the Blue Orange booth, I was ready to give it a try. What I didn’t realize was what I thought would be a simple game was something much more. So much more thinking needs to go into each decision that you make, as the trees start to grow the limited space in the arboretum. I expected a relaxing filler game experience and instead found one of my favorite games of Gen Con.
Brian W: Super Rhino Hero. Ty was able to get a copy but they sold out on Thursday before I made it to Haba. Our first play was fairly epic and I was hooked and will be getting this one post Gen Con. This card stacking game takes the Rhino hero theme to a whole new level (see what I did there) and adds new elements like different wall heights, hanging monkeys and heroes battling to staying on floors. Overall, huge and welcomed leap from the original Rhino Hero.
Most anticipated unreleased game at Gen Con
Tony: Charterstone – I got a chance to talk with Stonemaier Games about their upcoming lineup and, let me tell you, I’m pretty excited to get my hands on Charterstone. The bits I saw look beautiful, and Jamey has a track record for making really great Eurogames that appeal to me and my main gaming partner. Everything I’ve heard about this one has me excited to get this to the table as soon as possible. I’m also going to cheat a little and add the upcoming Terminator 2 Board Game. Looks really good!
Andrew: There were a LOT of games to play at Gen Con that are coming soon to Kickstarter. It is always a bit of a let down to play a great game and know it could be a year or more to take another crack at it. For me, City of Big Shoulders is that game this year. It is a mash-up of 18XX mechanisms with worker placement. I was able to play about half a game and am excited to see this one make its way to Kickstarter next year.
Tahsin: There are several games on the horizon of interest to me. If I’m forced to pick one just so our loyal readers won’t be worn out, Fantasy Flight Games is revitalizing civ-building with Civilization: A New Dawn and that’s an auto-buy for me. With my interest in more than just this, my review queue at year-end will be massive.
Alex: Pandemic Legacy Season 2. I avoided this booth like the plague because I want to be completely surprised when I open the box and get into the game. I cannot wait.
Brian W: The Thing: Infection at Outpost 13. I watched the game being demoed a few times. It’s mixes a bunch of different gaming elements: a dungeon crawl where you’re racing around the map purging the infected areas of the station, an exploration where you’re looking for vital tools and equipment to prepare for your frigid escape, and an investigation to figure out if any other characters have been infected. Overall it looked awesome, I pre-ordered my copy Monday post-Gencon.
Brian B: Edge of Darkness from AEG. Mystic Vale but more in-depth and with worker placement. Yes!
Game that Surprised Me:
Tony: Happy Salmon – Let’s be honest, you mention Happy Salmon to most gamers and you are going to get a ಠ_ಠ look. But we played this goofy little game more than once, and each time there was excitement, fun and laughter. The game is ridiculous, bordering on stupid, but it’s hard to play it and not enjoy yourself. Sometimes we take ourselves too seriously, and this game lets us step back and just have a bit of goofy fun.
Jon: I was not expecting to be as impressed as I was with Notre Dame: 10th Anniversary Edition. I love my worker placement Euros, but was really happy when the rerelease (with the expansion) still held up. It is a testament to the game.
Andrew: Artana Games released Einstein: His Amazing Life and Incomparable Science as part of a line of casual games. It is a quick-playing tile laying game where each player is Albert Einstein during a particular period of his life. Players lay their tiles, which represent different ideas, to the communal “big idea” trying to complete patterns on their inspiration cards. Each card includes interesting information about Einstein and his contributions.
Tahsin: Watching (as in “not playing with”) the Board Game Quest crew play Happy Salmon has only solidified my non-interest in that game. And guys, while you’re at it, get off my lawn. The real surprise for me came with Wizards Wanted from Mattel. Who knew that Mattel could make a game with Euro mechanisms? I’m extremely interested to see how well a full game goes.
Heather: The Climbers. When Jon was setting this up to play, I was a little skeptical. I wasn’t impressed with the components, actually somewhat disappointed, however I was surprised how much I liked the game despite coming in dead last place!
Alex: Whistle Stop. I was unsure what to expect in terms of depth and complexity of the game, and it delivered an enjoyable experience in a game that is easy to teach and learn, while still complex enough to scratch your train-game itch.
Tyler: I’m not the biggest fan of post apocalyptic universes and this caused Wasteland Express Delivery Service to fall off my radar. However, after seeing the game demoed I realized that this game looked like a ton of fun. I didn’t get a chance to play it, but can’t wait to give it a try to see if it holds up to my expectations as a well designed pick-up and deliver game.
Brian W: Photosynthesis. I didn’t give this game a second look but a friend bought a copy and we played. I expected a mindless filler game but was surprised immediately by how thinky it was. I will say that even though it has some strategy weight to it, the rules were straight-forward and you can get this one to the table quickly. Sadly, the game sold out Thursday afternoon and I will be ordering a copy for myself this week.
Brian B: Flamme Rouge by Stronghold Games. I like racing games but I just do not get them to the table (poor Thunder Alley…) and I have zero interest in bicycle racing. I just wanted to try the game. The oversized demo version looked cool. I left the demo wanting to buy it and play it again. It’s simple gameplay combined with trying to guess what your opponents are going to do makes a great game that can be intense in the final turn.
Most disappointing game:
Tony: Clank! In! Space! – So Clank! lands here not because the game is bad, but from how it was released. Renegade Games teased this one for at least a week (if not more) about a secret new game being announced the Wednesday before Gen Con. Speculation was rampant, could it be a hot licensed game? Are they bringing back an old, beloved title? Nope, It was a retheme of Clank!. While I love Clank!, this announcement was quite the letdown after a week’s worth of hype. Many greeted this news with a resounding ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Jon: Oktoberfest was fun enough, but really boiled down to a layered “once-around” auction. There was the opportunity here for an interesting nod to a Nefertiti-style auction game or even a straightforward economic/worker placement blah fest. Instead of the road more or less travelled, we ended up with an auction game that I wanted to be so much more.
Andrew: For me it would be Viral. Similar to Tony, I don’t have an opinion on the game itself, mostly because I couldn’t convince anyone to give me a decent demo of the game. In the first attempt, the person describing the game just seemed to be completely disinterested and didn’t really know how it worked. We didn’t get a chance to actually play any turns, just got a really high level description of the game. The next day I saw a table wrapping up an actual demo but as I was about to take a seat I was informed it would be changing the demo to some upcoming title. So maybe it’s good, but I probably won’t ever know.
Tahsin: I’m going to echo Tony here. It isn’t that Clank! In! Space! is a bad game (far from it). It feels like Renegade really wanted to restart with a version that adds some options for expandability. To me, the sci-fi dungeon crawl is not as intriguing. All the ideas presented could have just as easily been brought to the existing game with a big standalone-yet-compatible expansion. Add to this that Renegade is fast climbing the gamer charts for quality and gameplay and it results in missed expectations for me.
The other disappointment that I’ll only touch on briefly was Magic Maze. I finally got a chance to demo this and two minutes in, I was ready to be done. The gameplay works, but the nature of the play isn’t one of heroes desperate to escape a dungeon. It’s more quick-cognitive-dexterity in nature hoping everyone is keeping up on the task at hand. That just isn’t interesting to me.
Heather: I could be alone here, but Photosynthesis looked super awesome when other people were playing, but when it was my turn to give it a whirl, it felt like I was just watching trees grow. Photosynthesis isn’t a bad game by any means, just not what I was expecting and isn’t a game I’ll be reaching for very often.
Alex: Scott Pilgrim Card Game should have been something that is relevant to my interests, but the game fell flat for me for a few reasons. One, the art is fantastic, but the graphic design as it relates to card resource cost vs. card resource production; it is almost impossible *not* to get them confused. Additionally, since every player is ostensibly taking two full turns per turn, there is a ton of downtime. I’d be curious to play this with two players to see how it scales.
Brian W: Flipships. I enjoyed this co-op, dexterity game for the most part but my main issue is that the spaceships you flip (or flick) are cardboard. I felt that these needed to be plastic like cheaper poker chips. It was rather frustrating to get any accuracy with the cardboard ships that come with the game but maybe that’s by design. I just think a more solid material will hold up better for future plays.
Brian B: Delve by Indie Boards & Cards. I really wanted to like the game. I just… didn’t. I felt that the tile placement, specifically trying to line up the rooms and corridors to either open up or close off rooms, was not as interesting as I hoped it would be. I also did not like fighting others and preferred drawing encounters and resolving. Unfortunately, the more players you have the less likely that will occur.
That wraps up our Gen Con 2017 coverage. If you’d like to check out more photos from the convention, you can view our Gen Con Photo Gallery Recap here. What were your favorite games at the convention, you can let us know in the comments below.