Each year gamers gather together to GenCon to see what the latest board games coming out are. Some old favorites were prominently featured, while a few other smaller game publishers made their way into prominence. If I could sum up this year’s GenCon, I would say that it was the year of the deck building games. While other games are available, several new takes on the genre were introduced to gamers at GenCon. Here are a few of the highlights from this year:
Tasty Minstrel Games
While it seems like the indie video and computer game industry is starting to boom, it seems that way with the board game industry as well. Tasty Minstrel is one of the first indie publishers out there, but they definitely are making a name for themselves.
Eminent Domain has been called a cross between Dominion and Race for the Galaxy. This deck building game set in space has each player starting with role cards. Each turn one player lays down a role card. Other players can lay down that role card and perform the same action, giving the game more player interaction than other similar deck building games.
Their newest game is Jab, a real-time card game with a boxing theme. Each player has two decks of punch cards, one for the left hand and the other for the right. The players have three target zones, the head, left side, and right side. The punch cards are laid down on the opponent’s zones to land punches, or they can be placed on your own zones to block punches. Because of the real-time nature, you really need to stay on your toes to make sure you aren’t knocked down.
Redakai is one of the latest trading card games out on the market. Aimed at pre-teen boys, it is paired with a new series on Cartoon Network. Using their Blast3D technology, lenticular cards are laid over character cards to represent attacks. It’s a cool effect and it shows the effects of the attacks.
Stomple is a new game where colored marbles are laid out on a board. The object is to move around the board and push your opponents’ marbles through the board before your marbles are pushed through. You can move through a path of the same-colored marbles next to you. You can also jump to another location owned by one of your own marbles, so you need to weigh your position against losing a marble on the board.
Stratego 50th Anniversary brings the classic game back in an entire new package. The box looks like a classic book to be displayed on a bookshelf. Inside is a new board with a classic look. The read and blue armies have the old numbering system where the lower the number, the higher the rank. A new cannon piece is also included to add a new wrinkle to the gameplay. A booklet showing the history of the game is also included.
Wizards of the Coast
Wizards of the Coast has a laser-beam focus this year. Everything Dungeons and Dragons related is going to delve deep into the land of Neverwinter. At GenCon they had QR codes set up around the convention to tell attendees of the locations of special events. They also had an exclusive adventure on August 6 called Gates of Neverdeath to help introduce people to the setting and characters of Neverwinter. Game stores hosting D&D Encounters will have a new season entitled Lost Crown of Neverwinter, and later this year D& Lair Assault will give players an opportunity to build their characters.
For those who want to learn a lot more of the Neverwinter setting, the Neverwinter Campaign Setting is coming. This book is written for both Dungeon Masters and players as well, so you won’t have to purchase two separate books to get the full effect.
Those who remember Drizzt Do’Urden will be able to explore the character in new ways. The Legend of Drizzt: Neverwinter Tales comic book is a five-part series that will be available from IDW and co-written with R.A. Salvatore and Geno Salvatore. Neverwinter, The Neverwinter Saga Book II by R.A. Salvatore goes to bookstore shelves on October 4. The first book in the series, Gauntlgrym, was released July 5. Finally, The Legend of Drizzt board game, based on the same system as Castle Ravenloft and Wrath of Ashardalon, will be coming out October 18.
Finally there is the Heroes of Neverwinter Facebook game. While some may balk at the notion of the words “Facebook” and “game” put together in the same sentence, Heroes of Neverwinter looks like a nice diversion for those who want to adventure with a party in a short period of time. You can hire people for your party, or you can “borrow” characters your friends have created. The plan to launch with four dfferent races and four different classes.
Bandai is known for their trading card game based on the Naruto Shippuden anime. They have recently branched into the deck building territory with the Resident Evil game. The Resident Evil game plays similarly to Thunderstone, but you build up a character given to you at the beginning of the game that can affect your strategy for which cards you acquire throughout the game. While you see the monsters you can battle in Thunderstone, Resident Evil features a mansion area that you can explore. However, you don’t see what you are going to encounter when you go into the mansion, so there is more risk involved going into the mansion. The game can be played in three different modes. The Story mode has you exploring the mansion to kill the most infected. In the Vs mode you objective is to kill the other characters. The Mercenaries mode has you playing as a team to gain the most decoration points by killing the infected, similar to the Story mode. They are already on their second set, Alliance, which was released April 22nd, and the next set, Outbreak, should be coming out around the end of September.
Bandai has also gotten the rights to the Star Trek universe for a new deck building game. In the Star Trek Deck Building Game you’ll play as a ship’s captain with a crew aboard as your resources. The gameplay is a mix of Thunderstone and Ascension where you have a mission deck that gives you mission points, and the cards that you can acquire change. Instead of having specific cards available each turn, nine cards are available in the Starbase Search Area, as well as three basic cards. You win in the Exploration mode by having the most mission points. The Borg Invasion is a cooperative mode that introduces Borg cards into the game to mess with you. The Klingon Civil War is a two-on-two team battle where your ships fight against the ships of the other team. Races include those from the Federation, the Klingon, the Romulans, and the Ferengi. While this set is based off of The Next Generation TV series, I was told that they have the rights to use the Next Generation movies, as well as the original TV series and movies. There’s a possibility we might see some Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and Enterprise in the future, but we’ll have to see what they come up with after the first expansion. Games should take between 60 to 90 minutes, depending on which mode played and the number of players. Look for it sometime this October.
Yu-Gi-Oh! is still a force in the trading card game circuit. To help keep the game fresh, they are introducing a new XYZ monster. It is similar to the Synchro Summon monsters, but should be easier to play. They will be available in the Generation Force core boosters which come out August 16th and the Special Edition packs which come out September 20th. The Fate of the Underworld structure decks will feature the dark Underworld cards themed together on October 18th with two tin releases scheduled or August 30th and November 1st. Photo Shockwave is a new booster set to be available on November 15th. These boosters are a great value because these cards should be able to go into any kind of deck, supporting current themes as well as creating new themes. Finally, the Hidden Arsenal 5 set based on the deck tournaments will be available on December 6th. Those who want to go old school should check out the Legendary Collection 2 available on October 4th. The cards in this set are all based on the Yu-Gi-Oh! GX series.
The latest innovation from Konami is the Duel Terminal. These machines are available in 275 locations and allow kids to get special foil card that can then be read by these machines and be a part of the deck that you can play against the AI of the machine. It’s a pretty cool machine to play with if you can find them in your area.
The other game Konami was showing is called Super Heat. While they didn’t design it, Konami is handling the distribution of the game to reach a broader audience. Super Heat is a two-player game featuring pro skaters, and the objective of the game is to have the longest line of tricks by matching up cards in an ascending number of points. If you draw a card and can’t add it to a line of tricks, you bail. Be the one with the highest number of points in your longest line and you win the round. The cards feature different skaters and their signature tricks. All you need is one set to play with two players, but additional boosters can be purchased to expand the game.
Plaid Hat Games
Colby Dauch was already a big name in the gaming world, founding Heroscapers.com and eventually becoming a part of the Heroscape team at Wizards of the Coast. Then he founded Plaid Hat games and created Summoner Wars. It became an instant hit, and the Summoner Wars Master Set was available for the first time. This set included the game board and six all new factions for Summoner Wars. The box also includes enough room for additional factions inside. This is a great set for those who want to put all of their current Summoner Wars sets in one box, or for those who are new to the game and want plenty of variety.
I also met with the Brand Manager of Incinerator Studios who is currently working on the iPad version of Summoner Wars, George Rothrock. Only two factions were available, but it recreated those factions faithfully. You could tap on a card to move or attack and double tapping on the card brought it to the forefront of the playing field. They added a few nice touches already, like the cloud background behind the characters on the cards moving. How many factions will be available, and if the game will able to add other factions as expansions is something they aren’t sure of right now. They have either worked on or is working on other titles board game titles like Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer, Ascension: Return of the Fallen, Nightfall, and Food Fight, so expect a high level of polish when the game is released.
Finally Dungeon Run is the latest game from Colby set in the Summoner Wars universe. This game for one to four players takes place in a randomly generated dungeon. The group can work together to slay the monsters in the dungeon and the final boss at the end who guards the Summoning Stone. Watch your back though, since only one character can hold the Summoning Stone everyone else will try to steal or kill the the character holding it. Get ready for lots of teamwork and some potential backstabbing when Dungeon Run is released.
WizKids might be most well-known for their HeroClix games, but this year I was quite surprised at their offerings. What might be considered the most unique game of the show is Quarriors. Instead of a deck building game, Quarriors is a dice building game. Starting out with a starting set of dice, you pull five out of your pouch and roll them. You gain Quiddity, the game’s currency, to purchase dice that eventually be turned into Quiddity, creatures, and spells. Each die has different cards for different strengths of spells and creatures, so there is plenty of replay value. The play goes fast and the word of mouth has been largely positive.
Star Trek: Expeditions is a new cooperative game designed by Reiner Knizia for one to four players. Each player will take the role of Kirk, Spock, McCoy, or Uhura. When encountering a planet, the players must prevent Civil War, deal with a Klingon Battle Cruiser in orbit of this planet, and get the civilization to join the United Federation of Planets. Different sections of the planet have Event Cards with away missions to be completed. The game has different difficulty levels, so there should be a challenge for players. The crew members are all on Clix stands for stats, but they aren’t compatible with any of the HeroClix games. Having a decent game with a license as big as Star Trek usually seems difficult, but WizKids may have pulled it off.
Star Trek: Fleet Captains is a competitive game that features the different ships in the Star Trek universe on the Federation and Klingon sides. After starting by placing hex tiles face down to represent sectors of space, the ships go through these sectors and discover what is in there, gathering resources for your side. The ships will eventually battle each other, with the Clix stands indicating status of normal, Yellow Alert, and Red Alert. Smart tactics are sure to win the day.
Cryptozoic is the company that has been handling the World of Warcraft Trading Card Game since Upper Deck lost the license in 2010. Since then they have been reimagining the brand. Their most recent creation has been the War of the Elements Epic Collection. Each of these boxes has guaranteed loot, card dividers for card storage in the box, playmat with new art from the War of the Elements set, six booster packs, and five hero cards. It’s a great value for those who are currently playing the game, or for those who want to explore the WoW TCG. They also have released Deathwing Trading Card sleeves. While these aren’t essential, they certainly look cool.
Food Fight is a new product created entirely in house at Cryptozoic. Food Fight takes the card game of War and expands on it. Up to six players can battle over breakfast, lunch, and dinner for control of the meal. Once everyone has declared their meal battlefield, they see who has the best troops, but those troops can be upgraded with action cards from your hand. Each meal is worth points, and the one with the most points in the end wins. The 70’s art-style works well with the game, injecting some humor into the game.
Something that gamers feel is full of humor is the Penny Arcade comic strip. Cryptozoic has created a new Deck Building Game based on the adventures of Gabe and Tycho, and they have included all of the humor into the game as well. The artwork will be familiar to anyone familiar with the strip, and where else can you be Touching Wieners with someone else?
Alderac Entertainment Group (AEG) has a long history with gaming, with one of the longest running Collectible Card Games with Legend of the Five Rings. Their latest game is Ninja: Legend of the Scorpion which is based in the Legend of the Five Rings universe. In this game, a ninja of the Scorpion Clan has entered into the Lion Clan castle. The guards of the Lion Clan castle are aware that something is amiss, but they need to use their smarts to defeat the Scorpion Clan ninja. Little do they know that a traitor is among their company aiding the hidden ninja.
Thunderstone was compared to Dominion when it came out because of the deck building nature of the game. However, AEG has updated the game with expansions to create a unique experience. They had plenty of copies to play on their tables, as well as copies of Dragonspire and Thornwood Siege. The upcoming expansion Heart of Doom adds a boss battle to the end of the dungeon. It’s incredible that AEG has been able to add new concepts to the game without drastically changing the game.
Nightfall is another deck building game, but it has more player interaction due to the combo system that lets other players play off of the cards other players have laid down. The first game was so successful that Martial Law came shortly afterwards. The upcoming expansion Blood Country is coming in a couple of months, and has more of a rural theme.
Fantasy Flight Games
Fantasy Flight is one of the main sponsors of the show, and they seem to consume more and more floor space every year. They couldn’t wait to show off their acquisition of the Star Wars brand. They were running demos of both X-Wing, and Star Wars: The Card Game. Star Wars: The Card Game may be cooperative, but it’s not The Lord of the Rings LCG with a new theme. You still need to complete objectives to defeat the Dark Side, but the mechanics are different. X-Wing is a minatures game, but it looks like Fantasy Flight has done their best so that you can play without using tape measures or yard sticks with measuring tools to mark movement and attacks. The game is still in its infancy and some of the pieces were broken early during GenCon, but it should be a game that has high interest due to its theme.
While the Gears of War trilogy will be finishing later this year, the first board game of the series is starting to hit store shelves now. The Gears of War board game features your favorite COGs fighting against the Locust horde. This is a cooperative board game with everyone playing as a COG with the Locust horde following an AI pattern. You have to allocate your ammo wisely, or you might find yourself unable to fight long range and have to go into short range combat. While it seems similar to the Castle Ravenloft/Wrath of Ashardalon forumla, it has enough changes to make it different enough to make it stand out.
Gamers have longed for an update to the Dune board game, and now it looks like they will get it. However, the theme is different, because Fantasy Flight has updated the game to fit into their Twilight Imperium universe. Rex: Final Days of an Empire is set two milennia before the original Twilight Imperium game. While some might be disappointed in the theme change, others should welcome the fact that this classic is available again.
Fantasy Flight had many other games available, including Blood Bowl: Team Manager, Elder Sign, Deadwood, Rune Age, and Hey, That’s My Fish,. Their games always include high quality components and usually have gameplay to match. They are a bunch of gamers, and they relish their work to try to bring entertainment to all different gamers.
Gary Games recently released Ascension: Return of the Fallen with their follow-up to Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer. While those were the only games featured at their booth, that doesn’t mean that’s all they have been working on. They were integral parts of the creation of both of the aforementioned Redakai: Conquer the Kairu and Super Heat. While Gary Games is a young company, they are certainly on the rise and a developer to look for.
Z-Man, Eagle Games, Asmodee, Days of Wonder, and Rio Grande were all in attendance as well. Several smaller developers were also trying to sell their games. One that stood out was Mage Wars, another tactical combat game, but each faction has a book of spells with all their cards available to them from the beginning of the game. They had a long list of people who wanted to get a demo play in and I saw people sign up on Thursday for a chance to play on Friday. Of course 5-Hour Energy was handing out samples to keep gamers going throughout the day and into the night.
GenCon is a great place for you to take a look at board games that aren’t out yet and maybe even get a run through to find out how the game plays. If you role play, it’s a great place to meet up and get some experience and meet others. A convergence of board and video gamers isn’t uncommon, and GenCon is one place that shows that just because it’s not hooked up to a monitor, it doesn’t mean that it can’t be fun.