The normal BoardGameQuest experience at GenCon involves a large group of us meeting in Indy, playing a ton of games, and supplying you, our beloved readers, with a recap of everyone’s thoughts. This year, you just get mine.
Gen Con 2021’s plans were scaled back across the board. Attendance in 2019 exceeded 70,000 people—however, this year Gen Con said attendance was only 35,000. The vendor hall was physically smaller and missing some key exhibitors people are used to seeing. Fewer of the downtown hotels were in use for official convention events and nothing this year branched into Lucas Oil Stadium.
But there was still plenty of fun to be had. And getting back into a convention atmosphere is one of the things I’ve sorely missed. Got to hang out with a lot of friends, play a lot of new games, and meet with publishers about their newest (and upcoming) games. There were certainly fewer hot releases and rarely did any publisher have a huge line at 10am. But plenty of games still sold out and folks undoubtedly still found things to spend their hard-earned money on.
So let’s break down a few favorites from the show:
Favorite Games Available to Buy
Lizard Wizard – Forbidden Games
Lizard Wizard has you recruiting wizards (who happen to be lizards), giving them towers to practice their magic, and developing spells, and acquiring the reagents to cast those spells. Each type of card is available to buy outright except for the wizards themselves. Recruiting a wizard triggers an auction where all players have the chance to bid. You get money through selling reagents and the market value of each different type adjusts whenever they are gathered and sold.
It’s a neat game of balancing your money, making sure you don’t get too low and allow others to auction off wizards for cheap, and finding a way to acquire matching wizards, towers, and spells for victory points.
Kabuto Sumo – BoardGameTables
Dexterity games are always a favorite at conventions. And Kabuto Sumo was certainly a popular one at Gen Con this year. But rather than your normal stacking or flicking game, you’ll be pushing discs onto a platform trying to knock off your opponent. Its mechanism was inspired by coin pusher games from arcades of yesteryear (and the occasional bingo parlor of current-year). If nothing else Kabuto Sumo will show you that you don’t know nearly as much about physics and how round objects interact as you probably think you do.
Holly Jolly – 25th Century Games
I’m on record as to believing that Piepmatz is the best bird-themed game on the market today. A small box card game with a surprising level of math, combos, and strategy is one of my games used most often to open or close a gaming session for my group. Holly Jolly is designed by the same pair (Ben Pinchback and Matt Riddle) and has a similar feeling but taken down a small notch to be more family friendly. You’ll be adding tinsel and lights to the Christmas tree and collecting ornaments and presents to score points. It’s still deceptively clever and will have you doing some quick math in your head, but simple enough for 7-8 year olds to plan and your non-gaming grandmothers to enjoy before Christmas dinner.
The Hunger – Renegade Game Studios
I’m a big Richard Garfield fan. Magic: The Gathering is still undoubtedly the game I’ve played the most of and the most seriously. And while I’ve fallen a bit out of the competitive gaming circles his board games have also been a big hit. King of Tokyo is obviously a modern classic and Bunny Kingdom is one of the best drafting games no one talks about. The Hunger belongs in the same echelon as those games. It will undoubtedly be compared to Clank as you will be deckbuilding and collecting points and trying to get back to the castle before the sun comes up. But the card interactions are more varied and interesting. Thinning your deck is a key component of the game. And you don’t just decide when to turn around as you can change direction every turn if you want to. I can’t wait to play this one more.
Upcoming Games I’m Most Excited About
That Time You Killed Me – Pandasaurus Games
Two years ago we reviewed Shobu and it’s still one of my favorite abstract games ever. Well, That Time You Killed Me feels a bit like Shobu got a modern implementation. First off, there are three boards rather than two, representing the past, present, and future. Moves in the past must also be mirrored on the present and future boards. But if you move a piece in the future it doesn’t affect any of the previous boards. And that’s just the beginning. Four boxes of more content await for you to open and add to the game as you get more comfortable adding all kinds of new mechanisms and rules. I’ve seen some of the surprises and I won’t spoil anything but I will suggest that if you like tactical abstract games at all you order this one ASAP. Even if you don’t normally love abstracts I think you should keep your eye on this one. There was clearly a lot of time and effort spent on giving this game a theme and making it come through in the gameplay.
Clash of Cultures – Wizkids
A reprint of the 2012 civilization game, Wizkids’s upcoming Monumental Edition includes the expansion and the Aztec civilization in one box. The components look amazing. I’m a big fan of the Civilization video game franchise and this production looks like the closest representation of that in board game form. Tons of plastic miniatures including buildings that fit perfectly around your settlement and expand each of your cities. I don’t know a ton about the game yet but just getting a glimpse of it is enough to make me want to find out more about the gameplay and try to get this to the table when it’s released later this year.
Decorum – Floodgate Games
A game where you and your roommate must decorate your place without hating each other by the time you are done. There are lots of scenarios in the box to play where each player has their own requirements for how the house is decorated. Each turn you can place or remove an item from a room and the other player can only say if they hate it, love it, or think it’s just fine. But if they put any more antique curios in the upstairs it’s going to drive you insane! I’m a sucker for unique themes and out-of-the-box ideas and this one definitely qualifies.
Jurassic World: Legacy – Funko Games
Look, we don’t really know anything about this yet. It’s a game set in the Jurassic Park/Jurassic World universe. It’s being published by Funko Games who have made a ton of great licensed games already. The first legacy board game to use a licensed property and it’s one that so many folks love. Not coming until the middle of 2022 and all we have is a bit of a teaser, but it’s hard not to be excited about it.