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Tag: spiel des jahres

Gen Con 50 Recap Day 1

Thursday opened the Con with its typical crush of attendees all vying for position at the main entrances.

While I didn’t really notice a difference in attendance on Wednesday, I surely felt it Thursday. Gen Con personnel did a good job of keeping things safe and moving so even with the larger crowds, the transition into the exhibition hall was smooth and quick.

Inside, I had a goal of grabbing the new dexterity game Flip Ships (art by my favorite game artist Kwanchai Moriya).  Unfortunately, Renegade Studios also announced a new game in the Clank! line so their booth was packed. With the aid of a friendly attendee couple, we found a way through the disorganized chaos of that booth and paid for our haul and got out of there.

I had about 30 minutes before my first event so I made my way to the Hawk Wargames booth to chat about the new Dropzone 2.0 rules.  I was not disappointed as the demoers were pretty knowledgeable, being avid fans of the original game. I have a summary of the 2.0 rules here. Please note that these rules were what I heard/understood and are subject to change.

Soon after, I was off to my first event of the Con: an X-wing variant “The Heroes of the Alturi Cluster.”  This variant automates the Imperial ships and turns the overarching flow of the game into a full co-op with all players (up to 6) piloting one ship.

I chose a B-wing to pilot and we were off to stop a group of Imperial interceptors from attacking a Rebel transport.  The system worked out very well and I plan on printing out the campaign for our group.

The system allows for pilots to gain experience and buy upgrades and skill so it also contains some light advancement rules.  Very fun and I can’t wait to get a group together to play through it.

The event ended a little earlier so I snagged a quick lunch and jumped back into the dealer hall to scout out some games that were on my demo list.  I went to the Ares Games booth to see about Hunt for the Ring but they didn’t have anything except some minis in a case (lame).

Next, it was over to Flying Frog Productions to see about their new 10th Anniversary Edition of Last Night on Earth.

The new bits look good but are a little cheap.  The new heroes sound fun and if they offered an upgrade pack for the fans that helped get them to 10 years, I’d be in but forcing me to rebuy all the content I already have gets a big “no thanks.”   From talking with the guys at the booth, they sound like they want to do the same thing for A Touch of Evil.  If that is the case and they won’t also release an upgrade pack, I can just scratch that publisher off the list of ones to ever check out again.

I popped over to the Catalyst booth with little hope for info on some of The Duke expansions that have sat around on pre-order for almost a year now.  Catalyst, as expected, was too busy dealing with their big Gen Con release, Dragonfire, to have info on those expansions but lo! What was this??

In their display case, a new Duke core set was shown (with some uninspiring art).  I went in search for more answers and it sounds like they are hoping to have this through in a year (don’t hold your breathe with this publisher).  After that, they want to work on a Feudal Japanese themed version.  That really isn’t news as they’ve been dangling that carrot in from of The Duke fans for years now.  In any case, it was surprising to see a new edition in the works with some new and out of print bits included.

So you may ask, ‘why does Catalyst get a free pass with a version re-issue and Flying Frog doesn’t?’ and it is simple economics.   I have a lot of Last Night on Earth and having another copy of all those components will be pretty useless.  Another copy of The Duke, however, can be used in a travel version I’m making and includes the OOP Arthurian Legends expansion that is impossible to find for anything but insane price points.  Also the price for this new Duke set will likely be on par with the original unlike the 10th anniversary Last Night on Earth set which is retailing for $100.

At this point, it was time to head over to my next event, A Song of Ice and Fire Miniatures Game.

This is CMON Limited’s new tabletop miniatures game that just finished wrapping up on Kickstarter. I’m really not sure what to think of what CMON was doing with this product.  They ended the Kickstarter campaign right before Gen Con, missing an opportunity to show the game off to a lot of people and gain more backers and base support.  I did back the campaign but wanted to try it out before I committed to any more in their eventual pledge manager.  Luckily, I was able to get into a demo and get some hands on experience.

I’d read the work-in-progress rules posted to the campaign so I was pretty familiar with the basics but it’s always better to see the game in action.  Unfortunately, CMON overreached on this whole product and didn’t have enough production copies on hand to run the full event that was listed in the program.  Instead of a full game, they only had enough models to play two units vs two units.  Some demo is better than no demo and they compensated us for the change in event layout with the remainder of the San Diego Comic Con exclusive promo.

That is a nice little bonus. It was unfortunate that I wouldn’t get to try out a full game but planning for this event has to happen months in advance and if any little issue comes up, it can cause things like this to happen.

Back to the demo at hand.  It was good to see and feel how the units work and interact but we hit another snag in trying to learn this game as the person running the demo (a volunteer for CMON) had zero experience with any tabletop game and it seemed like a passing understanding of the game he was demoing.  I would like to say that we just got unlucky but I had other friends demo this at the CMON booth later and they had the same experience.  It also didn’t help that, as a “feature,” CMON hired a live violinist to play Game of Thrones themes with amps pointed directly at the play tables. Not the best idea for your demoers to shout the rules at you over live music.  The musician was good but it was just another misstep in a series of missteps for this products first debut at the biggest gaming Con in North America.  I asked for them to turn it down or turn the speakers to point somewhere else but was told they couldn’t.

In the actual demo, after wading through a lot of missing rules, misunderstandings and incompetent instruction, we played a “game” with me running the Starks and my friend taking the Lannisters.  Whatever game we ended up playing was interesting but I have zero confidence that I actually played the game listed on the box.  I was able to surround Jaime Lannister’s unit and beat the hell out of him but I can’t claim that it was due to any strategic prowess on my part. Rather, it was due more to the fact that the demoer would let my friend know what he could have done instead, usually using a rule never explained or mentioned.

The miniatures are great and there seems to be an interesting game on that table if I cobble the basic experience I had playing with the physical models and combine it with the beta rulebook posted but I can’t say if I’m really going to go in on this game as there is too much unknown at this point.  I was glad to see some of the unit stats got revised between the start of the KS campaign and the demo as it looked a little unbalanced with the few units they showed so far. Things didn’t go as swingy as I thought but again, who knows what game I was actually playing.  I tried to get clarification from the person running the demo group but all I got was that some of the rules were modified to fit the extremely small game we played as a demo. Ah well.  At least the minis look cool. Maybe I’ll pick it up and pillage it for Kings of War.

While at the display case, I also checked out their next Kickstarter, Hate. I have no info on this game but the resin miniatures were fantastic looking.

Moving on from the debacle that was Song of Ice and Fire, I had a few more minutes to check out the hall before it closed and remembered that I saw some little teaser about some interesting 15mm miniature game coming out called Time of Legends: Joan of Arc. The company was new so it got shunted into the very corner of the exhibition hall so I trekked over and saw a pretty amazing scene.

My jaw dropped when I saw that display case.  I didn’t have time to really check it out but I immediately cancelled my first event on Friday to make sure that as soon as the dealer hall opened, I would bee-line to this booth and drop in for a demo to see if it played as cool as it looked.

With the dealer hall closing, we headed out to dinner and then hit the They Might Be Giants concert.

I’d always wanted to see this group live and they were ok but I think it had just been too long since I listened to them and that style of music just isn’t as interesting anymore.

We left the concert before the encore and headed to the BGG Hot Game room.  The game room didn’t seem as well stocked as last year or maybe the offerings were just weaker but we got in a good intro game to Flamme Rouge.

Flamme Rouge is a racing game with a customized track.  You move by playing cards from your two rider decks.  Each player has the same decks but you’ll be adding low “exhaustion” cards to your deck if you stay out in the lead.

By mid-game, I’d broken away from the pack and we all left our friend Colton (black riders) in the dust.  I figured my lead rider would burn out and my second rider to coast in using the blue riders as his wind shield. But apparently Colton had other plans and was just biding his time.  We got all bunched up on a hill and then Colton started subtly making his move.

and then used his sprinter to blast ahead right at the very end, narrowly winning the race.  The game was shocking and quite fun.  I’d definitely play it again but still feel like CFR delivers the better racing game.

We finished out the evening and day 1 with Kingdomino, the Spiel des Jahres winner.  I’m not sure what happened but I totally misheard the rules and played totally wrong, losing horribly.  This was surprising because the game is really simple.  I guess I was more tired than I thought or had a little too much bourbon during Flamme Rouge…

Gen Con 2016, Part 3

click here to see part 1 of this series.

click here to see part 2 of this series.

My first event on Gen Con 2016’s Friday was a fun little Liar’s Dice Tournament. It was fun but I forgot how quick your luck can swing in those games and Reese and I failed the first round.  Back to the dealer hall we went but then I had to ditch early to go find a run-through of Portal‘s new game Cry Havoc.

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I really wanted to like this game but it just felt too similar to other “dudes on a map” games. The combat was interesting and unique but it wasn’t enough to make me think I ever needed to own this over something like Blood Rage.

We decided to try a different type of event this year so all three of us signed up for the Catacombs Walking Tour.  It was interesting but ultimately, the “catacomb” was basically a basement in the bottom of an old city market.

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seriously

I ditched my next event (a Crokinole tournament) and Reese and I headed back to the Yard House.  Great food and awesome beer selection.  Dragon’s Milk from New Holland has been my poison of choice lately but I have to be careful as it will kick me on my ass.

After dinner, I ran over to catch the Shut Up and Sit Down Live Podcast event.

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It was standing room only and I was in the very back corner but in typical SU&SD fashion, they ran a great and entertaining show. They brought in their resident “miniatures” expert who has been reviewing minis games on their site and we learned a bit more about him and some of the games he was reviewing at the Con.  The cast was a lot of fun and had some interesting audience participation but as they opened it up for questions, I had to take off to meet up with Colton and Reese for the BGG hot games library.

This year Boardgamegeek hosted their first ever BGG hot games library at Gen Con.  I’ve been to BGG Con and their library is impressive during that Con so I was excited to see what this would be like.

It did not disappoint.  The first thing was a sign that said “Time slots sold out – no generics.” As we planned ahead, this was perfect news.  It meant they were policing the room effectively and we should be able to get a table and game.  We were greeted with just such a situation and we grabbed Imhotep for no other reason than it being a Spiel des Jahres nominee and I figured it’d be light to learn.

In typical BGG hospitableness, a guy came over and asked if we knew how to play or if we wanted him to teach us.  We were honored and playing in a quick 10 minutes.

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The guys next to us dropped Ice Cool, a penguin racing dexterity game and since we all finished up at about the same time, we shifted over and learned how to play that one as well.  It was cute and really popular at the show but it wasn’t really my kind of dexterity game.  Maybe for the kids eventually. It did sell out at the show though so it definitely found its audience.

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Ice Cool ran us to time so we went back to the hotel for some sleep.


Saturday was my busiest “scheduling” day as I was booked from 10am to midnight with no breaks.  This is only the way it looks on paper.  Events rarely stick to the scheduled stop times so Saturday ended up being pretty relaxed.

I started with an event I’ve been meaning to try that is hosted by the venerable NoVaG (Northern Virginia Gamers) group: Formula Waaugh!

my Ork racer, BlitzKrug, ready to kill it

my Ork racer, BlitzKrug, ready to kill it

Formula Waaugh! is a custom racing game using a lot of the rules of Warhammer 40k to create fun and mayhem.  The host was great and basically ran the race pretty open by telling us we could try to do anything we wanted and he’d adjudicate.  This is perfect for this kind of open, crazy, no-holds-barred bloodfest.

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Formula Waaugh! race layout

The race had a lot of craziness with some racers immediately turning around to joust with the players behind them and try to run the course backwards while others decided to cut the race size down and drive straight into the crowds.  During the rounds, other events would happen such as angry Orks in the crowd rushing out onto the field to try to join or take over some of the existing vehicles.  Airstrikes were called in, Gyrocopters came in, and a lot of carnage ruled the road.

this jump was the bane of many an Ork racer

this jump was the bane of many an Ork racer

After a lot of the other players had ground out or blew up, I made it through the initial jump and skated around some of the derelict vehicles only to catch a last land mine and blow my car out.

my watch is through, my car is done. so endeth the run of BlitzKrug

my watch is through, my car is done. so endeth the run of BlitzKrug

It was a lot of fun and the hijinks and wackiness of the event overshadowed the sometimes long turns and bad luck.  The layout was perfect and it was a highlight event of the Con.

Later that evening, I finally got to participate in an event I’ve been wanting to do for several years now: the annual Duke tournament. I’m usually bogged down in X-wing or Armada tournaments so I can’t do this abstract strategy game tournament but this year I made it a priority.  I was running behind but luckily they saved a seat for me when Reese assured them I was on my way.

The tournament was quick and smooth and went through the rounds pretty easily.  Things got a little hairy in round 2 when I started getting trapped in a corner by an opponent that was quickly outpacing me in levying new figures but he left just the tiniest bit of daylight in one turn and I escaped and regrouped.  I levied a Wizard and chased down his Duke and ended the game.  The final game was a fluke as I caught my opponent unaware and ended the game in about 4 or 5 total moves.  It was a lot of fun and all the competitors were good sports.

To celebrate, Reese and I ran over to the Ram.

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I never remember anything great about the Ram but this evening solidified the fact that it just really isn’t that interesting.  The food took forever, the service was stressed due to being so busy, the order came out wrong, the food was just blah, and they have only a few beers on tap.  As much as we didn’t want every meal to come from the Yard House, we might just need to do that from now on.

After the uninspiring meal, we had another set of tickets to the BGG hot games room.  Reese and I got their and had time to kill before Colton showed up so we busted into Klask.

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Klask is a dexterity game that is a little bit like airhockey with little magnet penalty pieces and the ability to “klask” into your scoring hole and lose points.  Reese and I had a lot of fun with this.  I don’t know if I’d own it but I’d play it again if the chance came up.  Colton was able to join us and I busted through the rules for Isle of Skye while Colton filled us in on his own Formula Waaugh! experience.

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Isle of Skye was fun and Reese even had a good scotch for us to drink while we played. The game is an interesting combination of Carcassonne mixed with variable score conditions and quasi-Castles of Mad King Ludwig auction elements.  Isle of Skye ended the evening and so we headed back to the hotel to pack up for the last day of the Con.

I’ll end my Gen Con 2016 series next time with my Sunday events and wrap up.

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