GenCon is less than a month away and, in addition to being the biggest Legend of the Five Rings event of the year (OK, OK, one of the two biggest – but until we do a fundraiser to pay for me to fly to Europe, GenCon is the one I get to go to), it is also the biggest release date for every sort of board and card games (OK, not really, but see prior comment regarding cost of travel to Europe). So I thought I’d put together a list of games that look to have a GenCon release and that caught my eye.
As a preface, let me note that there are almost a hundred different games, expansions, and such coming out at (being released, being demoed for the first time, or coming out immediately before) GenCon (and that doesn’t even count RPG products, which are not included in this post). These are also games that have not been released yet, so it’s not like I’ve played them. So please do not take my failure to mention your favorite upcoming game as some sort of indictment of it. If you want a super-comprehensive list, there’s a GenCon 2012 Preview Geeklist available.
– Tempest: AEG‘s renaissance Italy-flavored world isn’t launching it’s three games until Essen this year (curse you Europe for being so far away!), but I think they’ll be available in preview form at GenCon. The three games are Courtier (a card-based influence game), Dominare (area control), and Mercante (economic with auctions). Strange Assembly should be doing an interview with Todd Rowland (the former L5R brand manager who cruelly abandoned us to go manage almost every other game at AEG; you can check out the pre-release interview I did with him about Nightfall to see how this interview might go).
– Smash Up: Of course, what Todd will really want to talk about will be Smash Up, because that will be on sale at GenCon. Smash Up is a card game of battling memes, where you can “smash up” two different concepts (for example, zombies, wizards, or dinosaurs with laserbeams) into one deck, and then battle with another crazy amalgamation to see all of whose base belongs to whom. Perhaps Todd will explain to me what “shufflebuilding” means (my guess: meaningless word that they thought sounded cool)?
– Mage Wars: Mage Wars, from Arcane Wonders, was present at GenCon 2011 in preview form, but has spent time being tuned and polished since then (but I think is still just going to be a preview/demo at GenCon). In Mage Wars each player takes the role of mages of different schools battling in an arena. Like Fantasy Flight’s Living Card Game series, Mage Wars lets players customize a deck. Well, not really a deck, since you have a literal card binder to put your cards in, and you get to pick which two cards you want each turn instead of drawing them at random. Cards are placed onto an arena board, and then moved around. The initial release will include 322 spell cards and 4 different mages, plus the option to buy a supplementary card pack with more copies of basic spells.
– Princes of the Dragon Throne: This 2012 release from Clever Mojo Games is an area control/resource management game driving by deckbuilding. There’s some fluff about planning a rebellion against your father, the weakened Dragon King . . . but really, deckbuilding to do stuff! Thunderstone is still great, and I really like Core Worlds, so I’m all in favor of more exploration of the concept. What’s that? You aren’t geeky like me and interested just because of mechanic innovation? You like cards? It’s got cards. You like hexes, it’s got hexes (but big ones; sorry hardcore wargame enthusiasts). You want little wooden bits to put on said hexes? It’s got that too. I think there might even be worker placement. What more could you ask for? No, wait, all of that is still just about mechanic stuff. Well, bah humbug.
– The Doctor Who Card Game: Oh, I’m sure Cubicle 7 has all sorts of actual game information on this one, but for me it’s the opposite of Princes of the Dragon Throne – it’s a Doctor Who card game, so I shall try it out. In the game you take on the role of one of the “Defenders” (the most recent Doctor and companions – Amy Pond, Rory, and River Song) trying to protect part of the universe, and also send nasties at the parts of the universe that the other players are trying to protect.
– Android: Netrunner: Fantasy Flight Games has remade the old Richard Garfield Netrunner CCG into an LCG set in FFG’s Android universe, and it will be on sale at GenCon (including a World Champs all of two days after release). Netrunner obviously didn’t last as a CCG, but it was highly regarded for its balanced asymmetrical play. I haven’t jumped in on any of FFG’s Living Card Games (they aren’t as cash-intensive as a CCG, but they still require constant infusions to keep up), and when I saw that Netrunner was coming back as one, I immediately thought I’d be willing to dive in. Then I heard that you might have to buy three copies of the base game to actually get everything. I’ll be stopping by FFG’s booth at GenCon to see how it plays out.
– Rune Age: Oath and Anvil: We reviewed and liked FFG’s Rune Age deckbuilding game, but felt it could use some more options. Look, more options! Oath and Anvil includes two new playable factions, new options for the original four factoins, new neutral cards, and new scenarios.
– Seasons: This card and dice game from Libellud is being distributed in the U.S. by Asmodee, so if you want to buy it at GenCon it will be their booth. Players are sorcerers competing in the tournament of the 12 Seasons (and here I was thinking there were only four seasons) – although since you’re collecting
victory points crystals,I’m not sure how much that all matters. The game seems to require a good deal of longer-term planning and adaptation, as you start off drafting the nine cards you get to use during the game, and then have to deal changing dice pools over the various seasons (and the vagaries of the actual dice rolls as well).
– Dominion: Dark Ages: The seventh and newest expansion for Rio Grande’s cash cow Dominion franchise should be hitting around GenCon. I really like Dominion, but I have to admit that it’s getting pretty saturated with expansions (and my wife and I own every one of them) – and the more innovative things they do with individual cards, the more of a pain they tend to be to integrate (I have to carry around these mats just in case we play with the one card that uses this mechanic? yuck). I think this is one of the reasons why Prosperity was such a popular expansion – it had new things that you could just use in every game if you wanted. Dark Ages seems like it has some of that, including new cards to replace the starting Estates in your deck and new Curse-like cards (Ruins) to stick other players with. There’s also a lot of mechanics related to trashing and upgrading cards.
– Space Cadets: This new release from Stronghold Games will be dropping at Essen, but will be available for preview/demo at GenCon. Space Cadets is a cooperative game where each player takes on the role of a starship officer (weapons, helm, sensors, etc.) and try to successfully complete a mission (there are variable difficulty levels for each mission). The game includes a sandtimer (usually set for 30 seconds) to make sure that you can’t get bogged down in too much argument or one-player-control.
– Seven Sisters: This hand management and worker placement game from Wishing Tree Games will be available for sale at GenCon. First good sign – the seven sisters are named Wrath, Greed, Gluttony, Lust, Sloth, Pride, and Envy. Now, I don’t know why the king would name his daughters after the seven deadly sins, but still nifty – and as the players vie for influence with the seven sisters, each sister rewards the players thematically (for example, Greed provides gold; please do not ask what Lust provides). As one might expect from a game with worker placement as a prominent mechanic, a winner is determined by victory points, in this case primarily by influencing the sisters.
Well, that seems like enough for now. Hopefully I’ll check back in later with RPG releases of interest.