We knew there were a lot of changes that were being made this year for Gen Con, such as the expanding into Lucas Oil Stadium for True Dungeon. This particular event was locked down with high security so even though I was a press member, I had to go through a few people before they would let me in for photos. The reason behind this is due to information about the storyline and characters possibly getting out which could impact the event. It's essentially a large-scale larp with puzzles that have to be solved in order to get out. The remarkable amount of work and detail that goes into this event really speaks to how popular the event is. Regardless of everything I saw, this photo is the only one I'm allowed to post.
As far as some of the games we played this year, I had to pick and choose which ones I would add to the blog because we played a lot! We first take a look at Trickerion: Legends of Illusion. This is a 2 - 4 player competitive Euro-style strategy game set in a supernatural 19th century urban culture known as Magoria. You and your fellow illusionists are trying to gain the most notoriety by competing against your rivals hosted by a legendary magician known as Dahlgaard. This magician is seeking a successor worthy to attain a secret relic that he's held onto for a lifetime known as the Trickerion Stone, which is fabled to grant supernatural power to it's owner. Through worker-placement in a simultaneous action-point system, illusionists and their team of helpers obtain components to increase complex magic tricks, and expand their team to setup performances. Tricks are stored and prepared in the magicians workshop and the fame points and coins are what help you to progress further through the game. The game provides 48 various tricks to be learned through the mechanical, spiritual, optical, and escape categories, with nearly 100 character abilities. The setting of the game is pretty cool and reminds me of the film, The Illusionist.
I like the dark, 19th-century market setting and city landscape of Magoria. The back story is pretty cool, and it does offer great theme. However, I'm not so enthralled to pick it up immediately. At first glance, the iconography really runs close together in this game more than most busy worker placement game boards. The color scheme also tends to make everything blend in more which makes it a little more difficult for first time players. After a couple of times of playing it all the way through, I think it would set in relatively easy for most gamers. I definitely like it, it's a really good game but you have to have a game plan set and executed relatively quickly in this game because the 5 rounds will go a lot quicker than you think and then the game is already over. With as strange as this will sound, I like the setting more than the theme in this game. I love magic, but I don't really care about becoming a famous magician. If you like this type of theme, I would certainly suggest it for your collection!
Another game that made it's debut at Gen Con was Cry Havoc. This was exciting because the game is not scheduled for release until September so the only people who could purchase this were attendees that had pre-ordered the game. This 2 - 4 player card-driven, asymmetric, area-control game integrates a science fiction setting with unique mechanics. Each player controls one of four factions with varying abilities and units. The game includes 54 custom miniatures, over 100 unique player cards with spectacular artwork! The game plays in up to 5 rounds depending on how well everyone is playing the game it can go from 90 to 120 minutes. At the beginning of every turn the players will resolve an event and draw 4 cards to replenish their hands, taking one action at a time, the three primary steps per turn are Move, Recruit and Build. During the move phase the players will discard any number of cards from their hands which can allow for multiple actions per turn. Depending on what you play from your hand, you can advance through the objective tiles much faster giving you the upper hand on the board. You could move 1 player 5 spaces, or 5 players one space, or another player 2 spaces and another 3 spaces so there are options in how you want to position and maneuver your men. Recruiting helps you get more men to fight the war, and you can gain more depending on how many cards you choose to discard. You add the units from your reserve to your HQ. You can finally discard cards to gain build points to create structures.
There is a sort of deck-building mechanic that allows you to draw multiple cards, put them into your hand and put the remaining one on the bottom of the deck. This can help you with managing resources and building tactics later in the game. The tunneling system is pretty cool in this game, but I asked others about their overall impressions of the game and they all said it felt rather clunky which I can see that. I feel some of the maneuver tactics free up some of those issues once you play the game more. I had to play this game a couple of times at the convention before I began to get a better feel for it. I know the pre-order price on this game is 75.00 with free shipping, but I just wouldn't want to sink that much into it off the bat. However, if I were to give immense praise to this game, I feel I could do that on the theme alone. I absolutely love this theme, it carries awesome artwork, great mechanisms during gameplay, and a large array of options for how to execute your actions per turn. The units almost remind me of a cross between Crysis and Halo. Such great integration for a new game that I could possibly see making it into my collection at some point.
A game that made it's debut at Origins was the fantasy themed game known as Mystic Vale. Claire and I did not get a chance to play Mystic Vale while we were at Origins, but when we saw a lot more tables at Gen Con open with this game, we knew what had to be done. In this story, centuries ago, a dying wicked king pleaded for help from the Druids of Gaia. When the king died, he uttered a curse that desolated the Valley Of Life. This valley is sacred to the Druids and it is your job to help restore the valley to it's verdant beauty. Mystic Vale introduces a new mechanic known as Card Crafting which is modifying your hand as you build it. It has an element of deck-building, but you are performing it in sections by purchasing different cards using mana during the harvesting phase and adding a new element to your cards as long as the appropriate slots align. You slide the cards down inside of a clear sleeve which is able to fit two more clear sleeves with pictures on three different levels. This is what allows you to add more elements to your cards, but only as long as they do not overlap with existing elements.
Essentially you are pressing your luck as you draw cards but you cannot spoil more than three cards otherwise your field is ruined and you then have to discard your hand and draw again on your next turn. The end goal of the game is to gain the most mana and purchase the highest valued cards or cleanse the land earning you the most victory points. This game is very light, but the card crafting system is so cool and really adds a new innovative approach to hand-management. I can play this game over and over again. I love how quickly it flows. As other players are performing their actions, you can actually prepare your field or path of cards ahead of time before your turn even begins, which is just awesome! It really helps the flow of things. There's more to this game when you really get into using your abilities, but I can tell you if you like card drafting mechanics and having the ability to actually modify and build your cards, you should try this one out. After we demoed it, we waltzed right up to AEG's checkout line and picked up a copy of Mystic Vale!
It's absolutely awesome to have such a fun component like marbles finally integrated into modern tabletop games! The theme is fun, you get to play with marbles and I would recommend this one to almost anyone!
Another game that debuted at Gen Con was the 2 - 5 player set collection game known as Menu Masters being published by Calliope Games. It's a fine dining frenzy! In Menu Masters, you are a world-class chef, brimming with ideas for the greatest menus ever crafted, but the only way to become the Menu Master is to beat the other chefs to Market Street for the freshest, most delicious ingredients! You may choose to open a store to earn some money...or just grab your shopping basket and be the first in line at the market. It's the only way to get the best selection! But beware of the other chefs as they drive up demand and increase prices! Earn your stars in this deliciously fun race to gourmet supremacy, proving you are the greatest of menu masters! The quality of this game is really quite nice actually! The artwork was very fun and really added to the enjoyment and theme of the game! We were informed that this version was one of the final prototypes which was shocking! The components as they are, are already well made, let alone making any more adjustments. Apparently the player mats are going to be made into a thicker tile and the player pieces are supposed to be made into chef hats, and all for $30.00 which is amazing! If all of this is accurate, we'll definitely be getting a copy of this game for ourselves when it releases in September. We thoroughly enjoyed it and would highly recommend it to any family as well.
A game that is a few years old, but still very popular and enjoyable is Takenoko published by Bombyx, Matagot and Asmodee. After many years of disputes between China and Japan, the diplomatic relations of the two countries are finally seeking resolution. The Chinese emperor gifts his Japanese counterpart with a sacred animal, the giant panda bear, a symbol of peace. The Japanese Emperor has entrusted his court members (the players) with the task of caring for the animal by setting up his bamboo garden. The players will cultivate the land plots, irrigate them and grow one of the three species of bamboo (Green, Yellow, and Pink) with the help of the imperial gardener. The player who most efficiently manages his land plots, growing the most bamboo, while feeding the delicate appetite of the panda, will win the game. The game is very lightweight, and has great components, with a creative integration of cultural history. The panda is adorable and is one of the games primary focal points which really adds to the enjoyment of the game. Takenoko could be taught in 10 minutes and played in 30, it's not a difficult game, but it does integrate enough mechanisms that would be fun and beneficial for the whole family.
Wow! What a year for board gaming, the great ones just kept on coming, and we only scraped the surface in this years post! There were so many other debuting games that we wanted to play and review, but we didn't have time to play everything on our list. It was really smart for the event to expand into Lucas Oil with the convention continually growing. It's good to see a contingency plan to keep things flowing smoothly as the coming years will only continue to vastly expand the number of attendees. Indianapolis is very lucky to have such a large event bringing in the vast culture and money that Indy needs. I think this year's convention in some ways went exceedingly well compared to last year! What can I say, Gen Con is the largest tabletop convention in the US, and that's really saying something awesome about the event being held in Indianapolis! It's absolutely remarkable! However, a convention of this magnitude is bound to have some imperfections here and there, and that is exactly what we want to address in our next segment. It's great that it's growing, but with that comes other problems as well. We hope you will read through the next segment and give your honest feedback in the comments section because there are issues that people should voice their concerns about.
Overall Meeple Ratings:
Trickerion: Legends of Illusion: 7.5/10
Cry Havoc: 8/10
Mystic Vale: 7.5/10
Pandemic: Reign of Cthulhu: 8/10
Potion Explosion: 7.5/10
The Networks: 7/10
Menu Masters: 7/10
Have any thoughts or questions? Leave a comment below.