We’ll be following up over the next couple of weeks with several GenCon related podcast episodes (probably 5 in total – three overview episodes, one specifically about Legend of the Five Rings, and one about Doomtown Reloaded), plus some written content on specific games. But in the meantime, they say that a picture is worth a thousand words, and so I hereby present this 40,000 word essay on a few things that happened or were present at GenCon. Far from all of what even I personally got involved with, and not the most skillfully crafted “words,” but here they are:
Jay and I had Trade Day passes this year, and on our way to the Trade Day seminars, we took a detour through the main registration hall at about 9AM. Only a few hours later during our lunch break, this hall had a big line at Will Call. And, of course, the next day it would be a zoo. I believe that “the calm before the storm” is applicable. Trade Day is mostly seminars (Jay primarily on the educator track, and I in retailer-focused discussion), but we also got to see some games in the evening, including Doomtown, Magic 2015, and a short session of D&D 5E.
I was playing Legend of the Five Rings Siege: Heart of Darkness events from around 9AM until almost 4PM (that’s right, I skipped out on early access to the dealer hall to play Siege), which rather distracted me from picture-taking, so my first picture from Thursday is getting a demo of Mice and Mystics at the Plaid Hat booth. Mice and Mystics, which has been out long enough to receive two expansions, is a ‘dungeon’ crawl/adventure board game where the players take on the role of heroic mice trying to complete quests while fending off bugs, rats, and apex predators such as the dreaded cat.
But I did remember to take some shots upon going back to the AEG area. This one is looking out from the AEG section back into the rest of the tourney area, most of which you still can’t see from this vantage – on the other side of the wall behind the Hall C banner is the D&D area and tables of board games, and the Fantasy Flight and Magic tourney areas are off camera to the right.
I didn’t take any shots of my games with and against the Dark Naga, but here’s one of the third Thursday Siege game. At this point the Peasant District is burning due to my victory with the Dark Naga deck in the second time slot, but these five brave Rokugani will defeat L5R Lead Designer Bryan Reese in this third game to restore the district (by the end of the weekend, the Dark Naga would end up destroying the Peasant, Artisan, and Merchant districts, before being slain in his failed assault on the Imperial District).
Golem Arcana is a tabletop miniatures game designed from the ground for digital integration. The stylus can be tapped on figures and the board, and an app will then do all the necessary calculations to determine range, visibility, hit probabilities, damage tracking, etc.
I wasn’t in the dealer hall on Thursday morning, but I spent 8 hours there on Friday, and this is the initial surge of gamers into the hall that day.
One of the first places I hit up on Friday was the Fantasy Flight booth, which included demo tables of the recently announced X-Com board game. Ideally played with four players, each assigned discrete tasks, the free app for the game counts down a timer for each player to perform discrete actions such as assigning scientists to research new technology, deploying interceptors and satellites, or sending marines on combat missions. As you can see in the screen, this is still an incomplete version.
Of course, I couldn’t stop by the Fantasy Flight booth without taking at look at Star Wars Armada. Following on the success of the X-Wing miniatures game, which focuses on individual snub fighters, Armada scales up the conflict to focus and capital ships and entire starfighter squadrons. In this shot you can see models planned for the original core release, including a Nebulon B frigate, a Corellian Corvette, and X-Wing squadrons for the Rebels, plus a Victory-class Star Destroyer and TIE Fighter squadrons for the Imperials.
The different colors of dice come into play at different ranges – the closer the target, the more colors of dice you get to roll, with individual capital ships having particular combinations of dice available.
The capital ships look to have the great and detailed paint jobs that all of the X-Wing miniatures do, but the fighter squadrons will come unpainted.
And this is just a close-up on the VSD.
I was able to demo Foretold: Rise of a God at the Legion booth, and you can see two games of it going on here (the demos were two-player duels, although the game fully supports 2-4 players). In Foretold each player builds up his followers (deck) and temple (tiles), with players raiding each others’ temples in their efforts to ascend to immortality.
Chaosmos from Mirror Box Games had a successful Kickstarter and should see a full release by the end of the year. This card-driven game features a unique mechanic where the cards in the game form a closed economy, with players shifting cards between their hands and the envelope holding the cards available on each planet, trying to bluff and out think each other in order to be the one holding the Ovoid when the clock runs out.
Dark Gothic, which was released by Flying Frog earlier this year, is set in the same town as their A Touch of Evil board game. The setting has the feel of Buffy at the dawn of the 19th century, with players taking on the role of a hero (or, at least, someone putting his or her neck on the line to fight monsters) in the town of Shadowbrook, which has no end of creatures going bump in the night. Now I’m going to have to try out the original Touch of Evil at some point.
Outbreak: Deep Space takes survival horror into the void, where the players can encounter space zombies, or other things that are more interesting to me than zombies.
ENnie-winning and nominated Shadows of Esteren, another Kickstarter-fueled RPG, was out in force at GenCon. Shadows of Esteren is a very dark medieval low-fantasy setting with adventures focusing on investigation.
Till Dawn is a vampire-flavored push your luck game. As each of three rounds progresses, the vampires will accumulate blood, but will have to decide after each card whether to continue the hunt but risk destruction or return to their coffins with the life stolen so far that night.
Battle at Kemble’s Cascade, from Z-Man Games, is designed to mimic the feel of old arcade space shooters. The board “scrolls” up, your ship’s movement has nothing to do with its positioning (which determines which way you shoot), and if you blow up you just respawn (with the other players a few glory points richer). You start out blasting weak enemies, get some upgrades, and end up fighting a boss that takes up an entire row (or two) of the board, raining death across wide swathes of space. Or you may, from time to time, blast the other players directly.
It sometimes surprises me that we still have listeners and readers, much less actual “fans.” Which is a bit silly, given that I can see how many people click on articles or download podcast episodes. Still, I must admit that I get a kick when someone recognizes the show (I’d say that they recognize me, but since we don’t do video, and I try to avoid talking to myself too much in public, it’s really just the show’s name and symbol on my t-shirt that they’re recognizing). One of those at GenCon was artist Alayna Lemmer, who does a variety of gaming-related work, including for Legend of the Five Rings (she did the “going first” sides of all of the Ivory Edition Strongholds, and that art immediately to her right is for the powerhouse Jade Pearl Inn). And she was even nice enough to sign some cards for me.
Cardhalla, an annual GenCon charity event.
In Damage Report, published by Break From Reality Games, the players work together to repair their ship enough to escape through hyperspace or destroy the alien ship attacking them. Those orange sand timers are used to determine how often the players can take actions (depending on the status of the life support system), with the time pressure precluding the common downfall of cooperative games where one player can simply tell everyone else what to do (or the game turns into overly lengthy strategy discussions about every minor point). This game as depicted here is still in the rules explanation mode, as you can see some things missing from the board.
This one is clearly not a photo that I took, but since I played D&D fifth edition twice at GenCon, I figured it deserved at least a glimpse in this photo-essay, even if I failed to do something simple like taking a picture of the D&D zone in the board game hall.
Although Armada and X-Com were announced before GenCon, FFG saved Star Wars Imperial Assault for their In-Flight Report on Friday at GenCon. This squad-level miniatures game can be played Descent style (one evil overlord against the heroes) or as a skirmish game. So, GenCon 2017 for the announcement of a strategic level SW miniatures game where the core box includes an AT-AT vs. two Snowspeeders?
More Imperial Assault.
Nothing unexpected for the Star Wars Roleplaying Game line, with FFG dropping the Force and Destiny beta book, plus additional releases for Age of Rebellion and Edge of the Empire.
Consequential, from Asmadi, is another fully cooperative game with time-limited gameplay elements (either that’s all the rage these days, or I’m just really looking for cooperative games where I can’t/don’t have to just tell other people what to do). The version at GenCon was a pre-production one, with a Kickstarter planned for later this year. During Phase 1 of a particular game, the players will try to stabilize the regions on the right by gathering the cards associated with each location and then ‘promoting’ them to the circular layout on the left. During Phase 2, the players must then manipulate the arrangement of the cards on the circle to close rifts in the timeline. A digital element is integrated with an app that provides story scenes during Phase 1, and then a timer during Phase 2.
Saturday I spent most of the day playing in a Legend of the Five Rings tournament, and again that means a dearth of pictures during the day. On Saturday night, however, the L5R Experience did provide several photo ops, including this shot of the stacks of swag boxes threatening to collapse one of the tables in the CCG hall.
I never did pick up the official L5R RPG dice, so I was rather interested in this table piled high with them. I would later miss the announcement that they were giving them away to attendees, but Mike was kind enough to interrupt the explanation of Marvel Legendary I was providing to another Con-goer, and he was rewarded by the apparently amusing sight of me excitedly scrambling to get in line.
Some folks at the L5R night.
A large portion of the L5R story team, RPG team, and design team. From left to right, Shawn Carman, Robert “Spooky” Denton, Robert Hobart, Fred Wan, and Bryan Reese.
The honor event for the L5R tournament scene was a costume contest. Dave Winner here would go on to take home the prize.
If you were ever listening to the podcast and wondering what Jay looks like, look no further.
And with this group shot of the costume entrants in front of the Dark Naga, we close out Saturday. By the time we left the L5R extravaganza it was late enough that Steak ‘n’ Shake was our only downtown option, but they were way too busy, and so we just headed back to our hotel, making this my only GenCon where I did not eat at Steak ‘n’ Shake.
Mike and I played a full game of Lords of Xidit on Sunday. On the bright side, one of us will definitely be getting the game at some point. On the downside, Asmodee was already sold out, so that hasn’t happened yet. In addition to the awesome art styling it shares with Seasons, Lords of Xidit features programmed movement/actions and an elimination scoring system where you just need to avoid being last in each of the successive scoring categories.
And we come to the end with Jupiter Rescue, from Twilight Creations, which I was able to finagle a discussion of despite the fact that it was after 3PM on Sunday (when pretty much everyone starts to check out). In Jupiter Rescue the players control a team of robots trying to rescue colonists (the pale figures) from alien creeps (the dark red figures). Each robot has a special ability, as well as being able to spend actions to move itself or the colonists, or to kill creeps. Whenever an escape pod is filled up with seven colonists they escape to safety, and then the robots get to place the pod at a new location and start trying to fill it up again before the colony is lost entirely.