Friday, August 22, 2014

Gen Con 2014

I've had a very busy week. Not as busy as I would have had if I made it to Gen Con 2014, but still annoyingly busy. So this is my first chance to really collect some of my thoughts on some of the releases and announcements of Gen Con.

Fantasy Flight Games, as is their want to do with all of their power and prestige, stole the show with their announcements, some of which came out before the convention's actual start.

X-Com The Board Game seems to be the first true melding of computer software (in app form) and board game (in cardboard form). Most games that offer apps up until this point have only used the apps to streamline a process that could be duplicated by traditional cardboard game mechanisms. I am interested to see how well that this incorporates and blends the two. While a lot of gamers are bemoaning the marriage, I am excited by it. I am more excited by it than I am the IP of the game because... well, I am one of the very, very few computer games that actually never played X-Com. I know, I know. I'm like the worst person ever.
Enthusiasm: Surprisingly High.

The Star Wars X-Wing Miniatures game is FFG's best selling game ever. It has made way more money for them releasing an Arkham Horror expansion for the Arkham Horror expansion's expansion could ever do. However, despite people's willingness to buy a coffee table sized Star Destroyer for the game, FFG realized how impractical shipping on it would be, so they instead created Star Wars Armada in order to get you to buy all of their minis all over again. But, since not everyone will want to buy into it, they've also announced the release of a third faction of ships for X-Wing--the Scum and Villainy faction. Never has a single line in a movie produced as many spin offs as that one. Anyhow, X-Wing is a great game, but they're scraping the bottom of the barrel for ship ideas now and the models are starting to look more like things you'd see in Galaxy Trucker.
Enthusiasm: None.

Star Wars Imperial Assault, however, has me very excited. I enjoy Descent 2.0 just fine. It's not the best game I've ever played, but I really do enjoy and, furthermore, respect it. However, I had no idea how much I wanted a Star Wars Descent game until I saw this. I mean, I'm not the biggest Star Wars geek out there, but this just seems so damn fun. But even if before the announcement, if someone said, would you like to see a Star Wars Descent game, I would have shrugged disinterestedly. But click on that link. Look at it. I'm serious. I know you are just still reading this. Go back and click that link. For real. Do it. It's fucking AWESOME. I want this. No. I need this.
Enthusiasm: Light-saber Sized Erection.

Plaid Hat games was also able to make a splash with their releases. I think that the pre-orders making it out to the gamers a little before the con probably diminished some of their glory a bit.

Dead of Winter is a great game. I got a copy of it before the Con and have played it 10 or 12 times already. It doesn't quite replace Battlestar Galactica in the levels of distrust, accusations or intrigue, but it builds an amazing narrative experience and it is an amazingly great game.
Enthusiasm: Full Review Here.

Mice and Mystics: Downwood Tales is another Gen Con release. Mice and Mystics is a great game and so much love and attention has been poured into it. The only problem that I have with it is that the scenarios run a little long for primary target age range of the game. I'm hoping this expansion fixes that, but, if anything, I think it will drag them out even more. Still, I want to support this game because you can see all of the work, craftsmanship, and love that went into this game and I want to support that.
Enthusiasm: Moderate.

Ignacy Trzewiczek is probably my favorite designer. I have yet to play a game of his that I did not only like, but loved. He had one game released and one demoed at the Con.

Imperial Settlers was released by Portal Games. It uses the same mechanisms of 51st State which I (and three other people in the US) loved. The game is a lot lighter than 51st State and shorter--with a hard cut off of five rounds. I liked it, but playing it actually made me crave the real meat of the system in 51st State. Still, it is more accessible and much, much more brightly colored and themed. It has a ridiculous name that is just kind of awkward sounding to me. Somehow I think that if you translated Imperial Settlers back into his native Polish, the title would come across much cooler. But as it stands, it just seems like a mish-mash of words, like calling a game about growing your civilization while trying to eliminate other players "Deathsquad Famers".
Enthusiasm: Full Review Coming Soon.

The Witcher isn't released through Portal games, but instead through FFG. The Witcher is a series of books that I know nothing about that were converted into video games that I know a little bit about. First, they have boobs in them. Because we live in America that is a huge deal. But second, they have the most fucking complicated crafting and inventory system of any game that I've played. I play the Witcher series as a guy with immense power, who never utilizes it and instead just uses the shit he's found on the ground already together. But Ignacy's games have wonderful narrative arcs in them, and this is a fantasy game with a narrative arc. So I'm all in even if I can't craft a damn potion in the board game either.
Enthusiasm: Very High.

I feel bad for Privateer Press. They released Level 7 [Invasion] at the Con having no clue that FFG was going to shove them out of the way with their announcement of X-Com. Still, I have a little hope for the game. The Level 7 universe is expanding and telling an ongoing story. I reviewed Level 7 [Escape] and Level 7 [Omega Protocol] and I've seen the game grow. I am interested, but I have to admit, X-Com casts a large shadow that they are under.
Enthusiasm: Not too much, really. I just included this to put in my review jokes.

Greater Than Games released a game and demoed another at Gen Con. However, as much as I loved Sentinels in the beginning, I've come to realize how poorly designed many of their games are as they become frustrating episodes of heavy bookkeeping. Seriously, I defy you to find any card game out there that require more chits and maintenance than a GTG game.

Galactic Strike Force is a co-op space game. It seems interesting enough, but I've only brushed over it. The rulebook is deceptively thin. There is a lot of bookkeeping in this game that has made it difficult for me to jump back to it to find the enthusiasm to really work out the gameplay in it. I received a copy of it and I will hopefully get it to the table some time...
Enthusiasm: As much as I can muster for an accounting and bookkeeping job with a space theme.

Sentinels Tactics was just demoed at the con. I don't know. I like the Sentinels Universe. It is fun and campy and neat--on cards pretending to be panels from comic books. However, I cannot see a tactical game being that fun. The fact that the Kickstarter campaign had you spending so much extra for minis just soured me to this game as well as to GTG as a whole. I want to like their stuff as I think there is some innovation there, but they really need to revamp their systems and create a game that isn't full of bookkeeping.
Enthusiasm: None.

Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Skull and Shackles Base Set was released. It's a new campaign start and adventure path for the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game series. But I imagine, just like every since adventure path add-on from the base game, that there is absolutely nothing new or different contained in the box and play is automatic with the only actual critical decisions being made AFTER the game is completed.
Enthusiasm: None. In fact, I'm annoyed now.

Sheriff of Nottingham is a game that I want to have. The game is about looking someone in the eye and lying to them. That is it. That is the central conceit of the entire game. And that is absolutely brilliant! I love deception games and this is the exact game that I've been training my daughter to play since she was four.
Enthusiasm: None. Ha! Got you! I lied!

Bezier Games released a game and demoed another.

Subdivision seems to be a modified Suburbia, which I love, and I had a lot of enthusiasm for it. Ted Alspach is a great designer and it seemed like he was just fishing from his idea pool where he got Suburbia. However, my enthusiasm waned a bit when I realized that it was not designed by Alspach, but instead first time designer Lucas Hedgren. This doesn't mean that the game will be bad at all, but it means I am now more reserved than I once was.
Enthusiasm: Um... more reserved than I once was.

Castles of Mad King Ludwig was only demoed and should get a release around Essen. This was designed by Ted Alspach and I have been frothing at the mouth for this one since I first saw it demoed. King Ludwig II of Bavaria is a rather interesting historical person and the idea of creating expensive, lavish, and bizarre castles to appease him thrills me. Plus, we're building castles. I can easily sell my D&D group to play this with me.
Enthusiasm: High.

Newcomer company Action Phase Games released Heroes Wanted at Gen Con and succeeded in gathering a bit of buzz about the game. The game is silly and somewhat ridiculous. I think the silliness will turn off some gamers, but I am no longer a Very Serious Gamer and now just like to have fun. The game scenarios seem a little awkward from a thematic pace (a street covered in wall-to-wall henchmen), but I can forgive a loss of theme for strong mechanisms even if it isn't my preference.
Enthusiasm: Full Review Coming Soon.

King of New York seemed to be getting a lot more press and attention than it deserved. I don't know. King of Tokyo was a great starter game for us to play with my daughter, but there is so little real meat to it that we don't really go back to it now that she is older. King of New York seems more like a retread of the same. I'll have to play it to see if it really improves on the original game.
Enthusiasm: Low.

Academy Games is amazing with their games, but also their attention to real history in them. Fief France 1429 was supposed to be released at the Con, but it was delayed and only demoed. Still, I am very excited for it and eagerly await sinking my teeth into a game that offers real and interesting political intrigue.
Enthusiasm: High.

Z-Man Games released Tragedy Looper with only a handful of copies at Gen Con. I think that this will have very niche appeal, but I happen to be firmly embedded within that niche. It is a time travel game. However, the limited release have copies of the game now selling on BGG for $200, so despite my enthusiasm, I think I'll have to wait this one out.
Enthusiasm: Very High.

Z-Man also released Pandemic: Contagion where you play as the disease in a quick, filler-length game. First of all, this has the same problem that Subdivision had--despite being associated to a great game, this game is not made by the original game's designer. Matt Leacock did not make this. I would have been more excited if I kept up with the other Pandemic titles, but the re-release with the new graphics made me drop out of following the expansions from the main game.
Enthusiasm: Low.

Smash Up: The Big Geeky Box was one of AEG's releases and it infuriated me. Instead of releasing expansions properly with a box big enough to keep the base cards in, they instead release a big box that you can buy with a single faction in it. This is just annoying and offensive practices for a game that is fun, but really not that amazing to begin with.
Enthusiasm: Annoyed.

X-Files is an IP that could be interesting, however, after seeing the gameplay demo of the game, all of my hesitant enthusiasm came crashing to the ground. There just doesn't seem to be any thematic play of what you are doing in the game and the core mechanic of the game is essentially drawing chits from a bag and hoping you got good ones.
Enthusiasm: Lost.

Ca$h and Guns 2nd Edition has me sitting on the fence. The first game is not a good game, but it creates fun and funny social situations. From a reading of the new rules and set collection(!) in the new game, it seems like it might be kind of crap. However, I do like that it now plays up to eight out of the box. I think the strength of the game comes from the silliness of pointing a foam gun at your friend's head, so I'm thinking that even with the rules changes, this will still work out fine.
Enthusiasm: Luke Warm.

And, finally, there were a bunch of Euro-style games that didn't really do anything for me when I first saw them announced or released. Five Tribes got a lot of fanfare and I would try it, but I don't have any enthusiasm to track it down. Panamax is one of those games where everything seems to be summed up by a box with a guy standing in the foreground with a dull background behind him.

There were a TON of other releases and news, but these are the ones that came to the forefront of my notice and mind.

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