Gen Con 2014 has now come and gone, and boy, was it exhausting and amazing, as most conventions usually are. I saw and got to demo so many new and upcoming games; it was the best! Here’s a round-up of some of those games.
First up, I bought Pandemic: Contagion from Z-Man Games without even demoing it. In a four day span, we played about six times — it’s just that quick and fun. In the original Pandemic game, players work together to try to cure the four different diseases. Contagion flips the game and puts the players in the role of the diseases themselves. You use cards to infect cities and compete against your friends to be the baddest, most viral disease. Each city has a number value that you “break” when there are that many disease cubes placed there. The person with the most cubes scores the highest number, and so on down to third place.
I super enjoy this game. It’s a two to five player game, and takes about 30 minutes. It’s very simple to pick up the rules. There’s more strategy to the game than just breaking the cities, but I won’t go into that in this article. The game costs $30, and it’s definitely worth it. The production value is high, and the little petri dishes the disease cubes come in really add to the feel of the game.
Pagoda is a fantastic 2-player game by AEG. You physically construct pagodas to win the game. Each player has five cards that are revealed on the table and two cards that are secret. You use the cards to build columns and floors of the pagodas, and you get points for doing so. What adds complexity to the game is the special powers. Every time you build a different color floor, it gives you a different power, which you can use twice before it’s gone. But if you build another floor of the same color, the power is recharged.
It plays quickly, and for a relatively simple game, there’s a decent amount of strategy that continues to make the game interesting. Since we bought it, we already played it at least three times in four days. It’s about $30 and plays in 30 minutes. If you often find yourself only able to play a game with one other person, this is a great game to buy.
King of New York by Iello was a hot commodity at Gen Con. The game was supposed to premiere there, but there were only 50 copies available, due to logistics problems. One of the new friends I made at the con was one of the few who managed to get his hands on the game. It very much functions just like its predecessor King of Tokyo, except that there are building/troop tokens added. King of New York is much deadlier than than the first game. When you attack the buildings (depending on what you roll), they flip over into troops, who then attack you, really giving you a hit on your health. And then if you’re the monster in Manhattan, all of the other monsters hit you, which can be super deadly.
One thing I really loved about the game was the art. The monsters are ridiculous! I love the sheriff character, which is a dinosaur with a cowboy hat on. This isn’t the kind of game for me though, personally. Most of the game is chance via dice rolls. I prefer games that have a little more strategy and less chance. It accommodates two to six players and lasts about 40 minutes.
Golem Arcana by Harebrained Schemes premiered at Gen Con, though if you were part of the Kickstarter, you already have the game. It’s a tabletop miniatures game that’s integrated with an app on a tablet or a smartphone. There’s a stylus, and all you have to do is touch it to the character card or the character’s base, and if you’re moving, touch the stylus to the map tile you want to move to. The app picks that up, shows it to you, and then you press confirm. To attack, simply touch the attack you want to do on the card, then touch the base of the monster you want to attack. The app then takes care of the math in so far as if you hit and how much damage you do.
It’s super easy to pick up quickly, and I actually saw a lot of children quickly and easily playing the game without needing their parents to explain what to do. I interviewed the creator of the company, and he said he’s very committed to the story of the game. They’re planning to release different scenarios multiple times a month, which is awesome. I’ll have way more information on this game in an upcoming article. For $80 you get the stylus, six painted figures and their character cards, six double-sided terrain tiles, two dice, a lore book, and a rule book. They sold out before I got to the booth, but I will be buying this game in the near future.
Shadowrun Crossfire by Catalyst Game Labs also premiered at Gen Con. It’s a co-op deck-building card game set in the Shadowrun universe. One interesting twist is that as you fight battles, you earn points to be able to adjust your characters. Each character sheet has many spaces on it to put actual stickers that change how the character plays. For instance, one of the easier stickers to get makes your character have more starting money at the beginning of each game.
I haven’t gotten a chance to play the game, but I’m very excited to play! It seems like the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game, which I love, but a little harder. I’m also excited about the theme that blends magic and technology. It’s $60 for the game, which plays two to four, though it’s supposedly best with four. You’ll be able to get it at your friendly local game store on August 27.
Dead of Winter from Plaidhat Games didn’t technically premiere at Gen Con, but it was the first time it was available for purchase outside of pre-orders. Even if you did pre-order the game, which my husband and I did, you would’ve only gotten it about a week before Gen Con. Dead of Winter is a zombie survival game that’s mostly co-op with the potential to have a betrayer in the players’ midst. There’s a super objective that the players must complete, but to actually win the game, each player has to complete their secret objective. That means that either no one could win the game, one person could win, or multiple people could win. What I love about the game is that the mechanics are actually pretty easy, but the game itself is really hard. The zombies keep coming, and fighting or even moving around in winter is really dangerous. Each player controls multiple characters, and at least one of them is probably going to die. Another thing I love is their mechanic of crossroads cards. The player that just went draws one at the beginning of the next person’s turn. Then if the conditions are met on the card, the current player has to make a choice. The situations are usually very dark, and often heartbreaking.
Though the setting is violent and dark, there are bits of humor thrown in that I really appreciate. Sparky the stunt dog, who can wield a GUN, is probably my favorite character. I chatted with the owner of the company, Colby Dauch, about this game and their upcoming project, so look for that article, which is coming soon. We talked about their games and how they think about women throughout their design process. The game accommodates two to five players, takes 60-90 minutes, and retails for $60. I heartily recommend this game. I’ve played multiple times already, and each time is different.
Fantasy Flight’s The Witcher Adventure Game was demoed at Gen Con, but it actually won’t be released until sometime next year. Each player controls a character who has their own special abilities and their own quest. As you move around the board, you’re searching for clues or information to try to complete your main quest, and your side quests if you chose. As you investigate the cities, you draw cards, some that help and some that put you in a combat situation. Combat consists of one dice roll, which really helps make sure that no player ever takes more than about five minutes on their turn. Also, there are risks in some things, and if you do things that require you to draw “dark fate” cards, those could even involve all of the characters.
I’ll go into more detail about the game and the mechanics themselves in another article. The main things I really liked was how quickly each player’s turn went, meaning that even with four players you were never sitting there twiddling your thumbs. I also thought the theme and story was very strong. It’s for two to four players and takes about two hours. I think it’ll be $60 when it is released.
XCom The Board Game, again by Fantasy Flight, was also previewed at Gen Con. It’s a co-op game set in the XCom world, and it’s integrated with a tablet or smartphone app, or you can use an in-browser app. My husband actually got to demo the game, and he said it was incredibly fun. Each player controls a different role. Each turn, the game is timed by the app, and unless you make your decision and allocate the necessary resources in the allotted time, you get nothing done – which means the invading aliens will probably start killing everyone.
My husband’s demo group actually completely lost the game in round two, on easy mode. For a co-op game, I think that’s pretty awesome. I love hard co-op games, because if they’re too easy, I get bored. He also says because the turns are timed, it prevents one person from playing all the roles or telling people exactly what to do, which can also make co-op games tiresome. It plays one to four and takes anywhere from an hour to two hours, depending on how quickly you lose. The game will also be released sometime this year, and I believe should be around $60.
I also got to demo, and ultimately bought, Sheriff of Nottingham by Arcane Wonders, which was actually a pre-release. The game won’t be coming out until October 10. It’s essentially a bluffing game. The players are trying to bring in goods to the city, but there’s a catch. You can only declare one type of good. So if you really wanted to bring in three cheese and one bread, you could, but you’d have to lie about it. Each turn one of the players is the sheriff. Once the players have put their goods in their bags, they have to declare them to the sheriff. The sheriff can then choose to inspect the players’ goods, or not. If the sheriff inspects and the player was lying, the player pays the sheriff the tax, which is listed at the bottom of the cards. But if the player was telling the truth, the sheriff has to pay the tax.
The fun part of the game comes in when players start to bribe the sheriff, to either not look in their bag, or to look into someone else’s bag. It creates a really fun dynamic, and there’s a lot of trying to figure out if someone is lying. The game takes three to five players, plays in about 30 minutes to an hour, and is $35. It comes with cards, money tokens, and nice felt bags that snap closed, so you can hide all your goods.
I have a ton more interviews and articles about Gen Con coming up, everything from interviews with game designers to interviews with some amazing women in the gaming industry. So definitely stay tuned!