Another year, another Gen Con in the books. The 2018 edition of the Best Four Days In Gaming found the Board Game Quest crew reunited for to play new games, enjoy old games, meet with friends old and new, and forget the world as we immersed ourselves in a non-stop whirlwind of demos, plays, and pitches. Our general feelings on the convention as a whole are still in line with previous years, so we want to focus mostly on the games our writers had a chance to experience, but we will leave with you some words of advice for planning your own Gen Con visit in the future. Without further ado…
Gen Con 2018 Recap
Favorite Game I Bought
Brian W (and Tony): Detective: A Modern Crime Board Game. I was able to play a beta copy months ago and liked this game. I finally got my retail copy and fell in love with it. The story-telling nature is so cool and the way that internet investigations (fictional and some that may be historical) tie into the game is innovative and slick. Plus, I received a Gen Con promo case with purchase – who doesn’t love great promos!
Jeff: My Little Scythe. I really would like to play Scythe with my kids (10 and 12), but I thought the learning curve might be too steep. We played My Little Scythe the night that I returned from Gen Con and the family really enjoyed it. My daughter worked the mechanics beautifully and won.
AnnaMaria: Arboretum. I’d been on the fence about getting a used first edition so when Renegade announced the reprint I was super excited. The new artwork is gorgeous and for a short game, it’s really strategic and twistedly cut-throat.
Alex: Terraforming Mars Prelude. It’s more options for one of my all-time favorite games. No way this is not at the top of my list. While I do not necessarily mind the slow early game action of standard Terraforming Mars, the new prelude cards give your engine a bit of a kickstart and offer more gameplay options in the early rounds. Excited to have this one finally released.
Andrew (and Steph): Piepmatz. I limited my Gen Con purchases quite a bit this year, and the two big euro games I bought, Brass and Yellow & Yangtze, I haven’t got a chance to play yet. But Piepmatz was on my radar in part because of the unique theme and my love for small card games. Don’t be fooled by the small box size though, there is much to think about in Piepmatz as you are working to collect pairs but also winning a majority of birds of each species. All species have values from 1-6 and although the higher numbers are worth more at the end, they are more difficult to get into your scoring pile, adding interesting decisions to this quick playing game.
Jon: Century Spice Road/Eastern Wonders. I wasn’t able to combine these at the convention, but they definitely hit the mark for me. I skipped the whole Spice Road/Golem debacle last year waiting for the true winner and ended up keeping Spice Road in my online shopping carts year-round. This year, the decision presented itself to me with the addition of Eastern Wonders which really rounded out the experience. So far, very pleased with the combination.
Brian B: Gizmos. I played one demo game and I immediately knew this game was for me. A fast engine builder with quick turns for 2-4 players? Perfect. I was lucky enough that it restocked while I was in line on Thursday. I cannot wait to play this with my family!
New Release I Wish I Could Have Bought
Brian W: Gizmos. I saw it played and demoed and it looked like a fun engine builder. My group brought three copies and all raved about it. Unfortunately, I was not able to purchase a copy because CMON sold out by Sunday morning. I guess I have to wait until the end of August to get my copy.
Alex (and Jon): Coimbra. I heard amazing things about how this game played, and every time I walked past a demo or people playing, it grabbed my attention. I know Jon thought highly of this one when he was able to play it in the BGG Hot Games room, and we (sometimes) find our tastes in games aligned. Unfortunately, they were sold out for the entire convention as of Friday when I stopped by their booth, so no chance to even pick it up. Oh well – I can always wait for Hanukkah.
Andrew: Archmage. Published by Starling Games, it only made it to Gen Con in very limited numbers, about 100 copies. Players move around a modular map, triggering the ability of the location where they end their movement. These actions allow them to regain knowledge in the six schools of magic and then, armed with the knowledge, play spells from their hand to their spellbook. The production looks beautiful and I’m excited to be able to own it.
AnnaMaria: Welcome To… I got to play this a couple of times with my local game group and it’s probably my favorite roll and write. Unfortunately, I struggled to try to find the Deep Water Games booth in the short time I had at the con so I didn’t get to bring a copy home.
Steph: Gunkimono. The only reason I didn’t buy this is because I was so Gen Con-overloaded that I forgot about playing it. We played Andrew’s copy one night and I really enjoyed the competitive edge it put on a dominoes-like game. It also threw in some area control and nice artwork.
Most Anticipated Unreleased Game Shown at Gen Con
Tony: Arkham Horror 3rd Edition. I enjoyed the previous version of Arkham Horror, but eventually stopped playing it due to its somewhat clunky rules and the much more streamlined Eldritch Horror. However FFG announced that they are giving this game some TLC and a new edition, so I’m looking forward to jumping back into the town of Arkham for some madness and investigation.
Brian W: 40K Heroes of Black Reach. Take the Heroes System from Heroes and Shadows of Normandie and drop that into the 40K universe. The Ultra Marines vs Orcs-Waaagh! Unfortunately, the demo copy that Devil Pig sent to the IELLO Booth was incomplete and not playable for demos according to the exhibitors. So, looks like I need to wait longer to see if this game needs to be added to my collection or not.
Alex: Victorian Masterminds. We were lucky to be able to sit for a demo of this upcoming game from CMON, and thoroughly enjoyed it. This definitely would have been the game of the convention if it was released. Love the mechanic that a city does not activate and workers do not reveal their secret powers until there are three placed there – really makes you keep tabs on what your opponent is doing and gives more player interaction than your standard worker placement title. While I am normally not one for the steam punk theme, this one works. Cannot wait to get it in my collection.
Jeff: Space Unicorn: Battle over Cupcake Mountain. Don’t Judge! – My kids are huge Parry Gripp fans (and I don’t mind a little “Black Hamster” beat now and then). When I saw a booth with a huge Space Unicorn sign, I had to stop in. Unfortunately, it is being KS at an undisclosed future date.
Andrew: The Estates. The Simply Complex reproduction of Neue Heimat was available to demo at the Capstone Games booth and looks beautiful. The silk-screened wooden pieces really make the game stand out and come to life on the table. I played the original Neue Heimat in a homemade version earlier this year and really enjoyed this very tense, very mean auction game and can’t wait for this to be released widely.
Brian B: Orbis. It took me until Sunday to FINALLY get a demo of this game by Space Cowboys. You are a god and are developing your world by selecting tiles from a 3×3 grid. There are five different colored tiles that will make up your world, but they are built in a pyramid shape. What makes this so fun is that the color you build in higher levels must match one of the colors of the two tiles below it. The demo sold me on acquiring this game when it releases in October 2018.
Steph (and Tony, Anna Maria): 7 Wonders Armada. 7 Wonders is already in my all-time top ten. To be fair, not all 7 Wonders expansions are good; I’m looking at you, Babel. But Armada brings a great new mechanic into the game which essentially lets you build a second item in a turn (if you meet the requirements). Plus, you can now engage in land or naval attacks on not just your immediate neighbors, but others players not next to you. This will be a must-buy once it’s available.
Game that Surprised Me
Jeff P (and Brian W): 7 Wonders: Armada. Brian and I had no idea that there were any more expansions slated for 7 Wonders. It works similar to 7 Wonders: Cities in the method of adding cards to the game. But what really stands out is the new Armada board and mechanic for adding War, Commerce, VP, or Science. Hoping for a fall release.
Alex: Piepmatz. This was on my list to pick up because I figured Stephanie, as an avid birdwatcher, would dig the theme. I also figured that this was a light game of set collecting. At least I was right on the first account. What we found was that Piepmatz caused us plenty of stress and analysis paralysis on how to avoid the evil squirrels and crows who want to mess with your seeds and birds. Totally surprised at the depth of thinking required relative to our initial expectations.
Brian B: Rise of Tribes. I decided to not back this game when it was on Kickstarter. I could not tell if I would like it enough to warrant a purchase. Well, I should have. I demoed it and immediately purchased both the base game and deluxe upgrade. I enjoy civilization building games. This is a very light take on that genre, but I think that is why I enjoyed it so much. It plays fast, the dice mechanic is fun to manipulate and it appears to have decent replay value.
Andrew: Gunkimono. When I saw Gunkimono being demoed, I knew nothing about the gameplay but was drawn in by the artwork. Jon and I sat for a demo and the abstract strategy nature of the gameplay became quickly apparent. I generally like tile laying games anyway and Gunkimono is no different. I picked up a copy from the Renegade booth as soon as our demo game was over and played it four times throughout the weekend.
Steph: Onitama. This may not be a new game, but it’s a new game to me. Jon broke this out one night in between games. I told him that he was going to crush me because I’m not good at chess or games where you have to plan out your moves several turns in advance. I beat him in 5 turns. Maybe I’m not so bad at those games after all! Besides just winning, I liked the limited move sets and minimal player pieces.
Most Disappointing Game
Alex: Museum. On paper, it seems like this game would be something that would be highly relevant to my interests – set collecting, antiquities, organization. Unfortunately, it only took a few turns for us to realize that this game was not for us. We found the gameplay structure to be repetitive (in a bad way) and boring, with a graphic design that made the game very difficult to follow. Sadly, our (short) demo of Museum left us wanting.
AnnaMaria: Pikoko. It’s so cute and bright that it should be in my tops list. Unfortunately, the adorable peacock card stand is a nightmare in practice. Additional cards will fall out as you’re trying to draw one, completely ruining the blind mechanic of the game. For a well-coordinated person, it’s frustrating, for someone with grasping or movement challenges this would be impossible to play. So disappointing.
Brian B (and Brian W, Jeff): Forbidden Sky. I played several games that were not on my “MUST PLAY” list because those I was with wanted to play them. I liked both 7 Wonders: Armada and Piepmatz. Then there was Forbidden Sky. I wish I could have had my time back after playing Forbidden Sky or that my character’s rope broke on turn 3. It was not an enjoyable experience for me and I usually like cooperative games.
Andrew: Newton. I went into Gen Con thinking Newton would be my heavy euro of choice. The first stop Thursday morning was to sit down for a demo and the CMON booth and, unfortunately, I’m just not sure Newton is for me. There are a lot of disparate elements that don’t seem to tie together well- mechanically or thematically. We only played 2 rounds (a total of 6 in a full game, I believe) so it’s possible that the game ramps up later. I will certainly give it another shot at some point, but I definitely didn’t feel the need to wait in line for it.
Jon: Is GenCon in general an option here? Did anyone hear of (or play) a new hotness on the level of what we’ve seen year over year since 2016? Me neither. I know it has been record growth and I wasn’t necessarily expecting to be overwhelmed based on years past, but frankly I wasn’t even normally whelmed. Two of my top three most exciting Gen Con debuts were 5 person expansions to Orleans and Sagrada. If everything is an option, I pick that.
Steph: Symphony No. 9. In 1995, this nerd here couldn’t wait to go see Immortal Beloved, the fictionalized account of Beethoven’s life. Thought this game was going to be right up her alley. Instead of invigorating me like the Ninth Symphony should, this euro-economics game put me to sleep. It was so boring and the theme never came through. I could not wait for it to end. I don’t know how Andrew likes it so much.
Advice for Future Gen Cons
Alex: You need to have a plan of attack for the dealer hall, because it is so big, crowded, loud, and there are tons of games you will want to check out. I make myself a phone-accessible list of games I am interested in, ranked and color-coded on level of interest (buy immediately, demo & buy, demo, maybe check out, buy if a good deal), with the publisher and the booth number. That way, I can easily pull it up for my must-haves, or check out what is near me when I find myself in a random spot in the convention hall. The time you put in prior to the convention for planning purposes will pay dividends once you are actually there.
Andrew: There is no wrong way to experience Gen Con. My local group takes drastically different approaches. Some of my friends have scheduled events morning, noon, and night. I rarely have any. Alex’s tips for the demo hall are spot-on, I make sure to look at the things that are for sale first so I don’t miss them before they sell out. Games that are demo only you won’t have to worry about rushing for. In the evening, the BGG Hot Games room and the opening gaming area in the JW Marriott hotel are great places to find fellow gamers to play the new hotness with.
Jeff: Pre-order if you can. I preordered (where possible) the games that I was looking to get at the con that way I didn’t have to rush into the hall to get them. Play demo games and don’t always bypass the little booths for only the big names – remember most of them started in a little 10×10 booth. Demoing a game in the dealer hall is to get a feel of the gameplay to determine if you would like to purchase it. It is not time to play an hour+ game. This will allow you to experience more demos and allow others to demo the game that you just played. I spent some time this con on the other side of a booth giving Startropolis demos. It is a difficult job to stand all day. Attendees, if you are invited to demo, it doesn’t hurt to stop and take a look. Listen to their elevator pitch, If you don’t think you will like the game, then you can politely excuse yourself.
Steph: As the Bard once said, know thyself. Are you an extrovert who loves action-action-action? Then use Alex’s color-coded spreadsheet to race around the exhibit hall. Are you more of a contemplative introvert? Make sure you give yourself some alone time to stroll up and down the aisles at your pace. Don’t try to do Gen Con someone else’s way. Do it your way. There’s four days – plenty of time to get a little bit of everything in. Oh, and one more thing: don’t try to win the demo. It’s a demo.
Brian W: I do like to do demos but I find that buying an event ticket for the Board Game Geek Hot room is well worth the $2 for 2 hours. You usually can get in 2 maybe 3 new games and try them out with your friends. You typically have to learn the game yourself. And be respectful to the BGG staff, they’re volunteers donating their time and politeness can pay off. It sounds like the BGG HG room is only getting bigger each year. This year publishers better understood its value and donated more copies of new games than previous.
Jon: Don’t stress about the “new hotness” because, in all honesty, it may not come. Have a plan to build memories elsewhere nonetheless and make that your priority. I was personally underwhelmed this year by the game offerings most publishers presented; however, I was overjoyed to play games with my Gen Con fam. It is rare that the majority of the BGQ cadre gets together, but when we do: game on. At its core, isn’t that what this hobby is all about? Getting together around the table to make memories with the people we love away from the table…
even if their definition of pizza is skewed towards lasagna. (Editor’s Note: Jon’s has no taste for real pizza).