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.
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.
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.
What games have piqued your interest? What are you looking forward to the most during Gen Con?
Well I am recovered from Gen Con week. Gen Con is always amazing. It’s huge and full of all sorts of different experiences but I think our group had a great Gen Con. One of our focuses this year was sitting down for more demos in the exhibit hall. The tables always seem to fill up, especially Friday and Saturday, so on Thursday we tried to do a bunch of demos. I think we did pretty well with our goal.
What follows is my day by day recap of Gen Con 2015 with pictures…
We arrived in Indy around noon, grabbed a quick lunch at Yats, and then headed right to the exhibit hall where we hunted down demos. Here are the pictures worth sharing from Thursday.
The next morning we wanted to get to the exhibit hall first thing to try and snag a copy of Mysterium. We failed miserably. They only had 100 per day but we were close enough to the front that we thought we had a chance. Here are Friday’s pictures:
Saturday was our last day so we tried to make the most of it. Here are Saturday’s pictures:
My purchase of the con was Francis Drake. I’ve been wanting it for two years but never pulled the trigger due to the $80 price. But I found it for $45 at a booth and snagged it up! I’ve also looking forward to both the Imperial Settlers expansion and the Five Tribes expansion. Those are two of my recent favorite games. I got Nations, Akrotiri, Tokaido, and Escape in the Math Trade. So I didn’t really buy that much this year. Maybe next year! Thanks for checking out my recap.
No, the title doesn’t refer to your shock that there’s actually a new blog post on Boards & Barley. Instead it refers to a new abstract game design of mine.
When I was a child I found a small print of M.C. Escher’s Waterfall Lithograph in my dad’s at-home office. At first I thought it was kind of neat but after a few minutes I realized how truly awesome the artwork was. There is an impossibility in the physical concepts of a waterfall flowing uphill. But yet this artwork makes it actually appear possible.
M.C. Escher has long been an inspiration of mine. I love trying to wrap my mind around the 2D artwork that portrays 3D impossibilities.
So I decided to make an abstract tile placement game around that concept. It is based on an impossibility that occurs in the waterfall lithograph. That impossibility is known as the Penrose Triangle. While I’m not using it exactly, I am using the fundamental idea of the Penrose triangle. I’ll show you below.
But first, because I have an illness where I must create a logo for any game design I am working on, here is the prototype logo:
The game is currently still in the concept phase. I have been trying to work out some “Euro-y” type scoring conditions but I’ll have to playtest it before I decide if they should be public goals or private goals, or a combination of both.
Here is an example scoring condition:
If players build a nodelink matching these colors then they will earn the points shown on the card. The first player to build such a nodelink would earn the 4 points while the second player would earn 4 points.
I currently have a bunch of different scoring conditions based on the nodes that will be built during the game. I’m looking forward to playtesting it and figuring out some of the balance about these cards.
The basic gameplay is simple. It’s sort of a mix between Carcassonne and Qwirkle. Players will play 1 tile anywhere that it fits onto the board. Nodes will be built up this way. Once a node is completed, it’s color is determined by whichever color is of a majority at the node.
There will also be one-time use bonuses that allow players to play more than one tile at a time. These should allow for players to make awesome moves in the game and have rewarding moments. My hope is that it also allows for some “take-that” type action where you can mess with something that other players are working on.
That’s the current status of Impossible. I will be bringing the prototype to Gen Con and I’m hoping to get it in front of some people. Thanks for reading and let me know if you have any questions.
Gen Con 2014 is over and it was awesome! Why? Because I got to hang out with great friends of mine and because I got to hold, unwrap, punch, and play a production copy of Scoville! Special thanks are due to Jeremy, Adam, Ben, Mark and Mike for making Gen Con 2014 a memorable one.
If you are new to this blog, Scoville is my first published game design. It is published by Tasty Minstrel Games and should be available later this year, so put it on your Christmas lists! You can go pre-order it from your favorite local game store or the online game outlets.
So with Gen Con in the books, and with recently quitting on Brooklyn Bridge I feel refreshed and ready to move on to some exciting new designs. I have one that I’m keeping a secret, one that will occasionally mention, and The Grand Illusion, which I am openly designing and blogging about on this site.
But enough about that. Let’s check out the Boards & Barley that I’ve enjoyed over the past two weeks.
BARLEY SPOTLIGHT: Spaten Optimator
Why such a standard brew for the spotlight? Because it was enjoyed at the Rathskellar in Indianapolis with my friends. This has become a tradition for us. On Friday night we went to the Rathskellar and enjoyed beer, cigars, and a fantastic live band. Plus, attending the Rathskellar is a great way to escape the geek world of Gen Con for a few hours. We had a great time and I enjoyed a delicious 32 ounce Optimator! The picture on the right shows the appetizers we ordered (Sausage platter, Brat balls, Jalapeno poppers, and Chicken Cordon Bleu rolls).
- Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandy
- Atwater Decadent Dark Chocolate Ale
- Capital Dark Voyage Black IPA
- Next Door Luminous IPA
- O’so English Mild
- Rock Bottom Honey Ale
- Flat 12 Hinchtown Hammerdown Golden Ale
- Sam Adams Boston Lager
- Thr3e Wisemen Rocky Ripple Pale Ale
BOARDS SPOTLIGHT: Scoville
How could it not be Scoville? I love the game even after over 100 plays. I love how a 2p play at Gen Con provided a situation that really tested me. The decisions are so interesting. The play changes from game to game with different players. As the fields grow from round to round there are more and more choices, so the game naturally ramps up. I love this game so much and I was so excited to crack open a new copy and get it to the table. Here are a few pictures to show how it looks. If you like how the peppers look, click on the picture and thumb it up on BoardGameGeek.com.
Here are the games I played prior to Gen Con:
- The Little Prince
- 20th Century
- Unpublished Prototype (It was really intriguing – Currently being evaluated by Moon Yeti Games)
And here are the games I played at or after Gen Con:
- Legends of the American Frontier (Set up and played one round)
- Island Fortress
- Scoville x2
- Camel Up
- Penny Press
- Love Letter
- Fast Track
- Word on the Street
- Neighborhoods (Prototype by Ben Rosset and Matthew O’Malley)
- Samurai Spirit x2
- Lost Legacy (Starship and Flying Garden)
There was nothing on the Gen Con Preview that I felt was a “must-buy” this year but there were a few that I was interested in. The one I was most interested in was Instabul, which I bought.Here is a picture of the modular board:
In Istanbul each player also has a small player board of their own. The goal in the game is collect rubies. To do so you will need to manage your resources and money as well as utilize your location placement of your merchant and their assistants. It was an excellent game and well worthy of the Kennerspiel des Jahres award.
Surprise Hit #1: Camel Up
Camel Up was awesome. We played with 7 players at the Z-Man booth and we loved it. It won the Spiel des Jahres and when you play it you can understand why. I picked up a copy because it was fun, interactive, and plays up to 8 players!
Surprise Hit #2: Samurai Spirit
I am not normally a fan of cooperative games but this one had so much awesomeness that I can’t wait to play it again. It was a struggle. We lost badly. In fact, the first time we attempted the game we died after the first (of 3) rounds. There are some very interesting choices and some really cool combinations that can be done in the game. It was a lot of fun.
And here is a picture of my Gen Con 2014 haul. Several of these games came from the math trade, some were freebies. Missing from the picture are the King of Tokyo promo cards and the Tokaido promo cards and Eriku character promo.
Overall it was a great Gen Con. I’ll be writing another post this week about one specific experience from the convention. It was great to meet so many awesome people, especially those I follow on Twitter that I had never met in real life. I’m already looking ahead to Gen Con 2015 (partially because it is unlikely I’ll attend GrandCon, BGG.con or Origins before then).
Yesterday I posted a gallery with 40 pictures from GenCon. Today I am giving a more prose-y account of my experiences at GenCon. But with having only 15 hours of sleep total during GenCon I may not remember all the details. So bear with me as I blab through this.
Scoville and my approach to GenCon 2013
When the calendar flipped from 2012 to 2013 I made a list of goals for the year. One of those goals proclaimed this year the “Year of Manliness,” which we won’t get into here. 🙂 Another goal was to design and playtest Scoville so that it was ready to pitch at GenCon. If you follow this blog at all then you likely know that I didn’t have to pitch Scoville last week at GenCon since it was already picked up by Tasty Minstrel Games. Yay!
So I figured I could try and get another game ready to pitch for GenCon. But that didn’t happen. Games don’t just develop themselves. While I brought a copy of Trading Post and a copy of Conclave, neither were to the point where I felt comfortable putting them on the table with other people besides myself. I showed Conclave to a few people who seemed to like the concept. But the bottom line was that since Scoville was signed and I had nothing else to show I was basically free of stress at GenCon 2013.
So my approach was to cultivate, enhance, and develop professional relationships with designers and publishers. Basically I just wanted to meet as many people as possible. That’s a pretty nice approach to be able to take. I always have to keep in mind that while board games and board game design are my hobby, they are the real-life day to day jobs of a lot of the publishing companies. It’s easy for me to just go up to them and joke around and have fun, but I have to remember that these are professional relationships and I should try to treat it as such. So don’t act like a jerk and do stupid stuff since these are the people that you could be working with in the future.
I brought along the business cards that I had made for Protospiel-Milwaukee. I think I handed out about 30 of those over the course of the convention. I also was able to gather a few business cards from other people. I’ve gained a few new Twitter followers as well, which is always great. So overall I’m pretty happy with the business relationships that I formed.
Our 5 person cadre hit the road from Madison around 5am. That felt really early, but we powered through and it felt great to be hanging out on the way to GenCon.
Our drive had a few highlights, and thankfully no lowlights. Along the way we made two pit stops. The first was in the beautiful small town of Tonica, Illinois. Unforunately we had to drive like two or three miles off the freeway just to find the gas station. But at least when we found it, it lived up to the expectations of a small town gas station in Illinois.
At the second gas station we stopped at we were pleased to see 10 police cars with cops surrounding a car at a gas pump. We weren’t sure if we were safe, but we gawked for a while anyway. But let’s keep going with this recap.
On the road we played one scenario of Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective. I had not played a game like this before but I really enjoyed it. It’s basically a thinky game where people talk through the scenario and try to figure out the Who-Dun-It type thing. We ultimately got the answers right, but we used way more leads than Sherlock did.
Another thing we did during the ride was design a game together. We even pitched it to a publisher later in the con, but I don’t think we were able to really portray the potential of the game. These are all the details I can give, but I think this game has a lot of potential.
We rolled into Indy around lunch time and headed to a restaurant called Yats. Ben had spoken so highly of it last year that we figured we should start our GenCon with it this year. It was delicious.
Then we hit the hotel and then hopped in line for our GenCon passes in Will Call. The excitement was abundant! To the exhibit hall we went, ready to buy games and meet people!
The first person I met was Ken Grazier of Geek-Craft.com. He had made some Scoville buttons for me and so I traded a small amount of cash for them. They turned out great and I’m thankful to Ken for his button making prowess.
Then we headed to a few specific booths to try and snag some stuff. Thursday isn’t our main exhibit hall day, so we jumped from booth to booth.
An obvious stop for me was the Tasty Minstrel Games booth. I connected with the TMG guys and met the awesome Brian Frahm, who was demoing Dungeon Roll a ton over the convention. Brian is a great guy and it was a pleasure to meet him.
We also stopped at the Cool Stuff Inc. booth because they usually have great deals on board games. We then stopped at the Alderac booth to grab Trains. Then we jumped over to the Asmodee booth to snag Spyrium. And then we hit up the Queen Games booth where we got the new Kingdom Builder expansion and Via Appia. We also stopped at the Game Salute booth to grab Keyflower and The Little Prince and check out Nothing Personal. Overall we got a nice lot of games on our first day:
In the picture it should be noted that League of Six was obtained via trade.
Then we headed to our hotel room to unwind a bit and decided to head to the bar for a game. We played The Little Prince, which I’ll be reviewing on Friday. Then we headed to dinner where we got in a game of Love Letter.
Overall I was able to connect with a bunch of people on Thursday, which was awesome. Here are the games I played on Thursday:
- Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective (The Cryptic Curse scenario)
- The Little Prince
- Love Letter
- Super Awesome Thing (prototype)
As for the Barley side of things Thursday included a sample of the GenCon brew “Flagon Slayer,” a Rock Bottom Honey Ale, and the brown ale at the JW Marriott.
Friday is our main Exhibit hall day. On the way to the exhibit hall we noticed a game called Kings of Artifice that none of us had heard of. This was being demoed in Hall C (I think) by the publishing company called Wyrd Games. It had an interesting mechanic of summoning people onto the land and using them to the best advantage. You could be conservative and focus on building your little part of a kingdom, or you could be aggressive and try to wipe out your opponents. It seemed like an interesting game but wasn’t something our group ended up buying. While we were demoing I received a message from the honorable Matt Worden. It was an invitation to speak in a panel discussion on Protospiel. My awesome friends had no reservations about me going to partake in the panel.
So I went over to the Crowne Plaza and joined some esteemed designers for the panel discussion. That was the awesome part. The downside was that there were only six attenders. We had as many people on the panel as there were people attending the panel. Apparently they had 45 attenders last year. I think that since it was in the Crowne Plaza, people weren’t willing to leave the convention center to come over and attend. But I was honored that Matt would invite me to come speak on the panel. Thanks Matt!
The other downside was that I was really looking forward to walking through the exhibit hall. I figured my guys were already halfway through it. But when I came back and found them in Hall D playing a game I was greatly pleased that they had not yet gone into the hall. They chose to play a game and wait for me instead. That was awesome!
So we started walking aisle by aisle through the hall. It’s such an experience to do that. If you’ve never been to GenCon it’s hard to understand the massiveness of the exhibit hall. We bought a few more games before three of the five of us headed out for a talk on Evil Villains by author Brandon Sanderson. One of the fun things about the exhibit hall is sitting down and trying games. One of my favorite games to play was Weykick. It’s basically a magnetic take on air hockey, but it’s very enjoyable. I got owned by Jeremy. We also tried Crokinole, which is a game we’d like to build for ourselves. It’s a fun flicking game on a big round wooden board.
We finished in the hall in time to grab some food at Chick-Fil-A in the mall before a demo. We successfully avoided the two hour lines at the food trucks this year! Lunch in hand, we joined up with our guys at a demo for Dice Hate Me Games‘ upcoming game Brew Crafters by designer Ben Rosset. I’d go into a review of the game but I might save that for a session report on BGG. The bottom line is that this is a great game, and not simply because it is a perfect fit for Boards & Barley! It worked really well, the decisions in the game all seemed important and made sense, the theme was awesome, and, most importantly, it was a lot of fun! I’m looking forward to seeing this one on Kickstarter! Ben is a very nice guy and it was a pleasure to meet him. Check out his other game, Mars Needs Mechanics, available from Nevermore Games.
After that we went to the Rathskellar for an awesome time in the beer garden. There were German beers on tap, pretzels to consume, and a plate of sausage that tasted delicious. On top of there there was a really good band that had a great sound. Hanging in the beer garden was one of the highlights of GenCon 2013.
Late that night we headed back to Hall D with a latte. I had the pleasure of teaching Scoville to several new players. It seemed well received and I was happy to give away some of the buttons. It was also cool to have two simultaneous games running. At the same time we were able to chat with Michael Mindes, owner of Tasty Minstrel Games. I also had the privilege to meet Rob Lundy, artist/graphic designer for Dungeon Roll. He’s a home brewer, too!
After all was said and done I rolled/slumped into bed around 3:30am. I’ve been told that’s typical of GenConners.
Friday games I played were these (Not very many):
- Kings of Artifice
- Dread Curse
- Brew Crafters (prototype signed with Dice Hate Me Games)
And Friday’s Barley choices included two (large) Spaten Optimators.
Saturday is our last day of GenCon since we normally depart early Sunday morning. We started things off with a demo of Rialto by Stefan Feld. I had already picked it up from the Tasty Minstrel booth because of the great price ($30). It was nice to have someone teach us the game though. It was an enjoyable play and the game seems like a nice lightish Feld game. I was happy to have picked it up.
We then wandered the hall a little more to make sure we didn’t miss anything and to pick up a few other things. I snagged Targi for $20 which seemed like a good find. Then we had lunch and made our way to the GenCon Library room.
In the Library we had scheduled a demo of Francis Drake by Eagle/Gryphon Games. I was a little hesitant about trying this out because it seemed primed to be a 3 hour dry and boring Euro. Boy was I wrong. This game was really fun. There is a nice resource procurement track that worked really well. After goods are obtained you then ship off for a trip to central America where you can pick up trade goods, battle against villages and forts, and attempt to battle another ship. This game was very solid and was really enjoyable. I was very surprised by how fun it was and how not-dry or boring it was.
After dinner at Rock Bottom we made our way to Hall D again where we got in a game of Flick Wars coming soon by Andrew Tullsen and Print & Play Productions. I personally enjoy flicking games like Bisikle, Crokinole, and others. This was also a fun flicking game. I believe Andrew will be putting it on Kickstarter in the near future.
We also got to play Lagoon by David Chott, which should be coming to Kickstarter by his company, 3 Hares Games. While the fantasy theme wasn’t really my thing, the gameplay was very interesting and enjoyable. There are some really interesting combos you can do in the game, which make the decisions really awesome. There is a nice balance of trying to aim for combos to set something up for a future turn versus simply trying to score a tile on the present turn. I think this game was well done and I wish David the best with it.
After that I was fortunate to have a few more players for Scoville. And I was able to sit down for the game as well. It went well and I heard something that really humbled me. One of the players said after the play that it’s in his top ten games. That was amazing.
The night ended with a play of Alex Kevern‘s Gold West prototype. And I had the privilege of playing it with him, Ben Pinchback (Co-Designer of the award winning game Fleet, currently with an expansion on Kickstarter), and the honorable TC Petty III (Designer of the awesome game VivaJava). It was great to meet them and game with them. They are all outstanding people.
Gold West is a great game. There is a really cool take on the Mancala mechanic that you really need to think about to maximize what you can do on your turns. In the game you are helping to develop a western town. You obtain metals and building materials that you have to figure out how best to use. Each turn you can place a building onto the territory and claim the goods from that piece of land. Once you have the goods, you need to place them into one of the Mancala spots on your player board. This is the tricky part of the game. On any given turn you can only use the resources that are placed into the last spot after taking a Mancala action. So you have to plan accordingly. This is a sweet use of the Mancala mechanic and made the decisions in the game very interesting. The other part of the game that I really enjoyed was how to use the resources once they are available. You can ship off the metals, use them to develop the boom town, or fulfill investments for big points. Each of these mechanics works really well together and I was happy to be able to play the game. It was fun and strategic while also being accessible and easy to teach. And it only took about 55 minutes for four players to finish the game. That’s awesome!
The games I played on Saturday were these:
- The Downfall of Pompeii
- Francis Drake
- Love Letter
- Flick Wars (prototype)
- Lagoon (prototype)
- Gold West (prototype)
The barley I consumed were a pair of Rock Bottom brews: Red Ale and Kolsch.
Saturday was over and Sunday meant waking up early and hitting the road. So here are my final thoughts from GenCon 2013:
Top Games Played During GenCon:
My favorite unpublished games were Brew Crafters and Gold West. Those games are both games I would have bought at the convention if they were available. I’ll definitely be watching the development of both of them.
My favorite published games (or soon to be released) were The Little Prince, Spyrium, and Francis Drake. These three games were my most enjoyable plays of the convention.
I also reconnected with or introduced myself to about 50 people. That was great since I had only previously known people through online connections. For aspiring designers who want to get in the game I highly recommend getting on Twitter and starting to develop relationships with the awesome people in the industry. I’ll see you all next year! (Hopefully sooner)
I was really hoping to pick up Bruges at GenCon. But Z-Man games only brought a few copies and it was sold out after a half hour. That was well before we arrived on Thursday. That was really disappointing.
The other disappointments had to do with prototype games that I didn’t have a chance to play. I really wanted to try Gyre by Eric Leath (and I’ll likely PNP it), VivaJava Dice by TC Petty III (but it was 3am by the time TC had a chance to show me), Belle of the Ball by Daniel Solis (I think Dice Hate Me had a copy available), and Pay Dirt by Tory Kniemann (designer of Alien Frontiers). Those are all games I had hoped to play but didn’t get the chance.
Next year I think I’ll try and schedule more appointments with people so I can try out their games rather than simply trying to connect randomly.
Overall, though, for these to be the big disappointments means that my 2013 GenCon experience was pretty awesome!