Gen Con 2016 Anticipation List

Wow… Gen Con is almost here! One of my favorite things each year is the anticipation of Gen Con and checking out the new games that will debut at Gen Con. There are two great lists that I used to build this article. They are:

On one hand I really like the preview list because it has a ton of games on it. On the other hand it is a disappointing list because like 150% of the list seems to be games that are only available for demos ahead of later release or a later Kickstarter. That’s why I prefer the second list because it has only the new games that people can actually buy at Gen Con. I can get excited about those games knowing I actually have a chance to take a copy home with me.

 

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Exciting New Games I Could Purchase

These are listed in order of their appearance on the list. The order I am listing them has nothing to do with my interest in the games.

Ticket to Ride: Rails & Sails – I love the idea of having both trains and ships on the board. I came up with this idea for the Days of Wonder contest in 2013 and told Alan R. Moon about it at BGG Con 2013. I’m pretty sure that’s where he got the idea:-) So of course I’m interested in this one.

Five Tribes: The Thieves of Naqala – I love Five Tribes and this is a no-brainer for me to purchase despite the lustful appearance of the prostitute thief on the cover.

Quartz – I love the artwork and the simple gameplay. I think my kids would like this one.

SeaFall – Our group will be purchasing this if we can snag a copy. We’ve loved Pandemic: Legacy and being able to play a storyline game in a sailing setting will be right up our alley.

Cry Havoc – This game is great. Grant Rodiek has worked his tail off on this one from way back in the day when I designed a “Battle for York” logo for him.

Terraforming Mars – This just looks awesome.

Covert – I played the prototype and loved it. I think this game will be a hit!

Order of the Gilded Compass – A rework of Alea Iacta Est with some improvements means I’m definitely interested in this. Plus, the theme is enjoyable for me.

Oceanos – This looks like one my kids and I could enjoy together. The theme and artwork look great. Plus, Bauza!

Vikings on Board – The components look awesome. The gameplay looks enjoyable. And this just seems like it will be fun to play.

Guilds of London – I’m hoping I can snag one of the 200 copies they’ll have at the convention. I’m dying to play this one.

HONORABLE MENTION

Tides of Madness – This seems a little too similar to Tides of Time to make my “purchase list” but I enjoyed Tides of Time a lot so I’m placing this on the Honorable Mention list.

Scythe – This is only here because someone in our group backed it and received it already. If your group doesn’t own it, go buy it!

Merchants and Marauders: Broadsides – Merchants and Marauders is one of my favorite games in which to immerse myself. The theme is really thick and enjoyable. The components are fantastic. M&M is a truly enjoyable game. If Broadsides has a similar feel then this might be purchased despite the $45 price tag for a 2 player game.

New Bedford – This is on Honorable Mention because I backed it and have already received it. Go demo and buy this one. It’s a very fun game!

Ta-Da! – Frantic Dice Rolling? Wizards creating Spells? Stephen Avery? I’ll definitely check this one out.

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What games have piqued your interest? What are you looking forward to the most during Gen Con?

The List Update

Continuing to cross games off The List, this time we were able to cross off a whole bunch. My last update to The List was in March so I’m trying to get caught up and I’m finally getting around to writing about them. Let’s start with Orleans. But first I’d like to give a big shout out to all the Russian followers I’ve received lately. Thanks so much for following my blog.

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Orléans

pic2578828Orléans is my current favorite game despite never having won. In Orléans players use a unique mechanic of action selection. Each player has a set of four starting workers. By sending groups of workers to locations on your player board you can gain new workers. These new workers can allow you to visit new locations on your player board that provide new actions.

I love the dynamic of trying to get certain workers while constantly wanting all the other workers. It is one of those games where you can feel good about what you are doing in the game and then you realize the other players are doing awesome things too and then you get jealous and wish you were doing the things they were doing but then you would realize that you just can’t do it all. I love it. This is a game that I can’t wait to play again!

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Flash Point: Fire Rescue

pic1129370This one shouldn’t technically be off the list because it hasn’t met the requirement of being played together by at least 2 of the 4 Listers. However, I’m crossing it off because the other Listers were present when the game was played.

In Flash Point players work cooperatively to extinguish fires, rescue victims, and make sure the building doesn’t get completely annihilated by a strong and growing fire.

On your turn you get a certain number of actions, usually 4. You can use those actions to extinguish fires, heal people, move around in the building, and more. If you can save enough victims then you win the game. I think we barely won.

I thought the game was fine. I don’t really care that much for games like this where players cooperate. It was fun to barely win but this just wasn’t all that fun.

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Rococo

pic1795272Who wants to make some dresses? That’s what you get to do in Rococo. Well, among other things like decorating the hallways.

Players utilize employees to take actions and earn bonuses throughout the game. You can also hire more employees which might provide better bonuses as the game goes along. The main idea of the game is that you are working toward creating dresses that can be rented out for the evening. These dresses can then be placed throughout the building as you work to earn big points at the end of the game.

Overall I thought the theme was interesting and different. But the game itself felt fiddly and had too many “exception” rules where there are one-time things that you have to remember during the game. It was fun but I’m not dying to play it again.

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Pandemic: Legacy

pic2452831Ladies and Gentlemen, Pandemic: Legacy is a legitimate experience to be enjoyed by gamers of all types! A group of four of us have played through the first three months. There are no spoilers here so feel free to keep on reading.

Players work cooperatively to cure and eradicate diseases throughout the world. It is a co-op game that works the same way as Flash Point. Overall I don’t think Pandemic: Legacy is my favorite due to that nature. However, inside this box is not just a game. There is an experience inside this box that you can thoroughly enjoy if you’ve got a good group that can play through the game together. For that reason, the experience, this game was really enjoyable and will continue to be as we play through the remaining months.

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Rampage (Terror in Meeple City)

pic2482302My friend has the “Rampage” version of the game, but it is now called Terror in Meeple City, which I think is a pretty bad name which loses all the nostalgia and mental connection to the old video game that was enjoyed by so many of us.

In Terror in Meeple City players control monsters who try to destroy buildings and eat people. Points are scored when buildings fall, when you hurt another monster, when you eat people, and more. Each player has a secret goal of their own for endgame scoring. But basically you want to eat as many people and destroy as many buildings as you can. One action even allows you to blow on the game to try and destroy stuff.

This game was quite a bit of fun among the chaos that became the board. I’d play it again and see if I could do some better destroying.

Game Design Process Update

Hi. I’ve had an incredibly busy year with many things not related to board games. But I just finished some reading I had to do and now I find myself with a snippet of free time. So today I thought I would provide an update on my game design process.

My Game Creation Process

Ye olde Game Design Graphic

But to do that I wanted to adjust my graphic a little. In the past I have used the one on the right to illustrate my steps in the game design process. I liked it for a while but I’ve felt called to make a new version. If you are interested in game design and you don’t really know how to go about things, please go read the Inspiration to Publication posts by Jay Cormier and Sen-Foong Lim (designers of many games including the excellent Belfort by Tasty Minstrel Games).

So today I present my new “Game Design Process” graphic.

My Game Design Process

GDP2016.png

I’m not sure that’s an improvement but I had fun making the graphic anyway. It conveys the information in a more pictorial way rather than those boring rectangular prisms.

Let’s cover, briefly, what each of those game design steps really means to me anyway:

CONCEPT

The concept phase is all about brainstorming and coming up with the overall ideas for your game. This could be Theme-First or Mechanic-First. Either way, this phase is where you are taking a lot of notes and figuring out all the things you want your game to be.

PROTOTYPE

Once you’ve figured out the bulk of your game concept then it’s time to build it! In this phase you will create your physical prototype. If you don’t know how to get started, check out my article, “Starter Prototyping Tools.”

PLAYTEST

With your physical prototype ready to go it’s time to get it to the table and see if it works, see whether it is any fun, and find the ways to make it better! Just lure some friends with pizza or something. I wrote about playtesting once (here) but I am going to revise that article in the future because I’m not certain I agree with it completely anymore.

FIX IT! a.k.a. Applying Feedback

This is one of the more difficult things to do in board game design. It is tough sometimes to ignore feedback from your friends. It can be equally tough to accept tough feedback from them. But the most important thing is to understand WHAT the feedback actually means. For more info check out, “Coarse vs. Fine: Editing Your Game.”

PITCH! / PUBLISH

I wanted to put a caveat in the graphic somehow to stress that this part of the process shouldn’t happen whimsically when you feel like it. Before pitching to a publisher, or before self publishing, I highly recommend blind-playtesting. This is when you send a copy of the game to people you do not know. Let them read the rules and figure out the game. They will provide some of the best feedback you can imagine. After numerous cycles of fixing, prototyping, and playtesting where the feedback you receive is mostly or all positive, then I would feel confident in pitching the game or self-publishing. When you are ready to pitch the game you’ll want to contact the publisher that’s right for you and your game. Then you can follow the method in my article, “How to (Speed) Pitch Your Game.”

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That’s an overview of my game design process. I know that there are people who do things differently. It would be weird if that weren’t the case. If there are things you think are essential to the process I’d love to hear about them. Just leave a comment below. Thanks for reading.

The List – Colonia, Discoveries, Francis Drake

More games have been crossed off The List and I have been delinquent in reporting our progress. Today’s update covers three games: Colonia, Discoveries, and Francis Drake.

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Colonia

pic560068_tWe did not complete a full game of Colonia because it was taking too long with 6 new players. However, I think I mostly enjoyed the game. It is essentially a big chain reaction. Once turn order is set for the round players will:

  1. Get resources
  2. Spend resources to get goods tiles
  3. Spend goods tiles to get location specific money
  4. Spend location specific money on location specific cards
  5. Location specific cards are worth points at the end.

So there is a huge A-B-C-D-E type chain reaction in the game that forces players to manage their available worker pool. You don’t want to run out of available workers or you won’t be able to do the things you need.

I thought the most clever mechanic is the time-delay with workers spent in Round 1 not being available again until the appropriate time in Round 2.

Overall I think I’d like to play again with fewer players. The game has potential but I don’t think it’s a great game.

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Discoveries

pic2571301_tMy friend J and I had been working on a Lewis and Clark game design some years back before the game Lewis & Clark came out. When it was released we were both pretty excited to see what the designer came up with. One of the things that was absent from his game that we had planned on including in ours were all the Discoveries made along the trip. So I was pretty excited when I learned about this game, which is all about the discoveries.

In Discoveries players will manage a fleet of dice that will be used to take actions. Actions allow you to obtain Indians (which gives you special abilities or other action spaces), go exploring and complete exploration routes, change your dice, and more. The goal of the game is to gain as much knowledge as possible.

I thought the game was pretty good. It was a little fiddly with having to change dice as often as I did. I think it would work better with three or more players rather than just two. I’ll play it again so long as it would be with more than two players.

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Francis Drake

pic1616979_tI wanted to own Francis Drake since we demoed it at Gen Con 2013. I thought it was a really excellent game then but I couldn’t drop $80 for it. I found it last Gen Con at a nicely discounted price so I snagged a copy. We finally got it to the table during a game night and I still think it is excellent.

The game is divided into three Voyages. For each voyage there are two parts. The first part is a great worker placement goods procurement phase where players place their workers along the street as they approach the harbor. Only one player can claim any given spot. And you can never go “backwards” along the street, meaning once you have placed a worker somewhere you can only place subsequent workers closer to the harbor. I think this is a really fun way to obtain resources for the voyage.

The second part of a voyage is setting sail and completing missions in the four regions on the map portion of the board. These missions include attacking forts and towns, obtaining trade goods, and attacking Spanish Galleons. The tricky part about it is that players missions discs are numbered and they happen in numerical order. So someone may get to do an action before you because they have a smaller number on their disc.

Overall I really think Francis Drake is a fun game. There is a lot to think about in terms of the decisions you make throughout. And there are plenty of ways to score. I’m looking forward to playing again.

The List – Cube Quest, Progress, 7 Wonders Duel

Continuing the crossing-off of games from The List today’s article provides blurbs from A-Game with approval from J for Cube Quest, Progress: Evolution of Technology, and 7 Wonders Duel.

Cube Quest

pic1548855_tCube Quest was quick, silly, and pretty fun. The way it uses dice as the elements in a dexterity game is really cool, with the face determining what happens to your die when it lands in an opponent’s territory. There are different dice that do different things, but on the whole, I didn’t find those abilities all that useful. It felt like a strategic element in a game that just didn’t have time for a lot of strategy. It was over much quicker than I anticipated, which meant that setup took about as long as playing the game. So while it could be a good 2 player filler, it ends up feeling like a lot of setup with only a little gameplay. Component quality was below average, with hollow-stickered dice and a 3-piece mat that didn’t quite lay flat. 6/10

Progress: Evolution of Technology

pic2042966_tProgress: Evolution of Technology was a great distillation of tech-tree mechanics from a lot of civ games. Technologies fall into 3 categories: Engineering, Science, and Culture. As you build technologies, you get resources and abilities that make future technologies easier to develop. Later Technologies build on earlier ones, with 7-wonders style combos allowing you to play a card for free if you built its predecessor already. The game uses an interesting time mechanic that allows you to develop a technology for no cost, but you need to wait several turns for it to come into play. On the negative side, I thought that the upkeep felt a little fiddly at times. There was a lot to remember each turn, with development timers to maintain, action points to track, rewards from newly played cards to adjust, etc. It was easy to forget something. I didn’t pay too much attention to my opponent, so it was essentially multi-player solitaire. And in the end, the winner was determined by the fact that I ended the game on my turn, robbing J of another turn, even though I had gone first in the game. Having one extra turn at the end of the game is a big deal. I think it could have benefited from being slightly shorter, and I don’t think I would want to play with more than 3 players. 6.5/10

7 Wonders Duel

pic2576399_t7 Wonders Duel was fantastic. It’s exactly what I want a 2 player version of 7 wonders to be. The game preserves the feel of the original, but tweaks it in a way that makes it work tremendously well with 2 players. I think I like it even better than 7 Wonders in some ways. Where 7 Wonders suffers from a lot of turns where there’s only one obvious choice, I never really felt that way with Duel. Each turn had multiple possible plays that would help me, hinder my opponent, or both. I thought A LOT more about blocking and counteracting my opponent than I ever have in 7 Wonders. So in that way, it feels more interactive than the original game, but with the same interesting choices and combinations. I would change nothing. 10/10

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