Our loyal readers and listeners may recall that, due to the Nefarious Plans of my Evil Brother, I am firmly entrenched in the #GenCan’t group this year (he is getting married; I will be in British Columbia during GenCon). But that doesn’t mean that GenCon isn’t one of the two biggest launching points for new games every year (Essen Spiel being the other). And it doesn’t mean you won’t be on hand to check out the new hotness (or the new dead on arrival, depending on what game you happen to be checking out). So, despite my inability to attend, below you’ll find my picks for brand new games to check out at GenCon this year (including games that came out just before GenCon). I have tried to identify games that will be on sale at GenCon (as opposed to games that will have a demo table but be released in Q4, or games that will be doing demos in order to generate buzz for Kickstarters launching at or immediately after GenCon), although I cannot guarantee success in these estimates.
Honorable Mention: The Return of Vs. (Upper Deck) – Because Mike is super-excited, and in honor of our upcoming Marvel comics focused episode, I will take the honorable mention slot to let you know that the Vs. CCG is returning using the LCG/ECG model (I am not selling the game and so I, unlike Upper Deck, do not need to worry about getting sued by Fantasy Flight for violating the Living Card Game trademark – which is why Vs. has been saddled with the both nondescript and inaccurate “2PCG” moniker). I did not play Vs. back in the day, so I can’t personally say much, but Mike did and he will be bum-rushing the Upper Deck booth to get copies of whatever they have for sale on Thursday morning. I believe that, with Cryptozoic now holding the DC card game license, Vs. will be restricted to Marvel (and whatever non-comic licenses, such as Aliens/Predator, that Upper Deck holds).
10: Rattle, Battle, Grab the Loot (Portal) – Each player in Rattle, Battle, Grab the Loot starts out with a lowly junker of a pirate ship, which will be represented by a die when tossed together every round with other players and with targets in the game box’s lid. The spoils of battle in hand, the ships will return to port for upgrades, new crew and, of course, victory points. Once the pirate bands have made their way through an adventure path, filthy lucre (and some VP cards) will determine victory.
9: Five-Year Mission (Mayfair) – In this fully cooperative game, the players take on the role of original series or Next Generation Star Trek bridge crew, rolling dice to complete a series of “alerts.” Each character has their own special ability. Injuries can lock dice, timers can force quick decisions, and effects on tougher alerts can impose restrictions like “no talking.”
8: Animal Upon Animal: Crest Climbers (HABA) – This is a new version of Haba’s animal-stacking dexterity game. Great for younger kids.
7: Dead Drop (Crash Games) – Not the first card-based deduction game that you’ll see on this list, Dead Drop is (in similar fashion to the much-adored Love Letter) played in repeated rounds with only a handful of cards (12, if I recall correctly). Each player has a few cards in hand, a few more are face up, and one is “The Drop.” On each player’s turn, they can take one action that will (hopefully) provide them with some sort of information (e.g., trade cards, ask a question), and then they have the option to try to grab the drop (by revealing a pair of cards from hand that add up to the number of the drop). Get it right and they win the hand. Get it wrong and they’re out.
6: Tesla v. Edison: War of Currents (Artana) – An economic/worker placement/route-building game set in the 1880s in the United States, Tesla v. Edison positions the players as rival inventors and industrialists trying to establish their own electrical system as the dominant one. Historical figures, each with their own strengths (or weaknesses) are marshaled to develop new technology, obtain financing, and popularize each company’s systems to the masses.
5: Spyfall (Cryptozoic) – This card game of bluffing and social deduction has been generating vast amounts of buzz during 2015, thanks in part to how its language independence meant that non-U.S. copies were still fully playable. In each round of Spyfall, one player is a spy. The group is trying to figure out which player is the spy and the spy is, of course, trying to remain undetected. Each round takes place at a location, and everyone but the spy knows what that location is. The players must take turns asking each other questions, trying to phrase their questions and answers so as to convey to the other players that they know the location, but without providing enough information to tip the spy off to the location.
4: Star Wars Armada Wave 2 (Fantasy Flight Games) – A stack of unique squadrons, but more importantly the might Imperial-class Star Destroyer. The iconic capital ship of the Star Wars universe finally shows up to the party. Also some Mon Calamari ships and an Imperial ship that only exists in FFG-land. This is slated for release later, but FFG pretty much always has early copies of things like this for sale in limited quantities at GenCon. Did I mention that there’s this awesome Imperial-class Star Destroyer in that picture?
3: Dark Gothic: Colonial Horror (Flying Frog) – Not the only stand-alone deck building game expansion you’ll see on this list, Colonial Horror is, well, a stand-alone expansion for the Dark Gothic deck building game. Dark Gothic was not a revolutionary game for the genre, but it did have a nice combination of features and a neat setting of a supernaturally-infused turn-of-the-century (19th century, that is) New England (you can read my review here). I am a big fan of deck building games, and this one is worth checking out. There should also be copies of a mini-expansion (Curse of the Werewolf) available.
2: Welcome to the Dungeon (IELLO) – As we discussed in Episode 175 of the podcast, The Game Formerly Known As Dungeon of Mandom is coming to America under the title Welcome to the Dungeon (which a few modifications). This micro-game pits the players as challengers to the dungeon, each round passing or increasing the difficulty of surviving the dungeon, until one player is left standing to face the perils alone. Make it through two dungeons alive and you win. Die twice and you’re out.
1: Valley of the Kings: Afterlife (AEG) – As you may recall, I thought Valley of the Kings, a small box deck builder, was one of the best games of 2014. Well, it’s back this year with the Afterlife stand-alone expansion. “More of what was great, and now possibly better” is a pretty good selling point for me.
You are, of course, encouraged to pick me up a copy of any of these while you’re enjoying yourself at GenCon and I’m stuck suffering through hors d’oeuvres on demand, charming wilderness activities, and the warm glow of family. Blech!