Notes from GenCon

Final numbers are in via press release from this year's GenCon in Indianapolis. True, their website remains a blight upon the gaming industry, but that’s okay because the tactile nature of board, miniature, and roleplaying games means that all the fun was meant to be had on site.

Interesting numbers this year. The Indiana Convention Center’s massive expansion meant more vendors than ever, and more attendees than ever. GenCon turnstile attendance was 119,707 with 36,703 unique attendees. That’s a 20% spike from last year! We thought that the floor seemed bigger but perhaps a little claustrophobic and maybe that’s why. Also, we lamented the lack of floor space dedicated to game demos on the vendor floor. Our speculations may have proved right, in that there was a 26% spike in the purchase of event tickets to 250,000. However, whether or not free demos were offloaded to for-pay tables is speculative at best.

Next year is GenCon’s 45th anniversary and we’re curious what kind of special events will mark it. The dates fall a little later in the calendar, so if regular obligations in early August have kept you away perhaps we’ll see you fellow GWJrs there from August 16-19 in 2012.

Here’s a run-down of some games we didn’t have a chance to mention on the podcast, and important details that we glossed over after we were done tipping a few.

Ninja
Erik: Everyone wanted to play this hidden-movement game set in AEG’s Legend of the Five Rings. I don’t think any of us actually got through to trying it, but I did get a rundown. A ninja and a turncoat samurai are sneaking through a palace to assassinate the shogun. They use hidden movement and have a number of tricks (distracting guards, etc.). The other player or players (sides can each take one or two players) control the palace guards. Unlike the similar seeming Nuns on the Run, there are a lot more guards, and you can kill them.

Dungeon Run
Erik: Have you played a tile-generated dungeon game and thought, “This is fun, but I wish there were more of a ‘screw your neighbor’ element”? Sure, you all delve in to find the treasure, but then comes the trick of getting away with it. One epic play-through at the con had, I believe, three adventurers die while carrying the treasure, and the fourth picked it up and strolled home. Although this game was a darling of the show floor, Plaid Hat unfortunately suffered issues with their printer, and was only able to get a handful of copies to the con.

The Walking Dead from Z-Man Games
We failed to mention on the podcast that this game licenses the comic books, not the television show. We’ve attached some great pics to this article that show it in its full glory. While it was for sale during the con, it sold out in 30 minutes the first day. Clearly, this will be a big seller for Z-Man.

Yggdrasil from Z-Man Games
Charlie: Didn’t get a chance to play this one, but hovered over the board while a foursome played it out. The art on the game board is fantastic, clearly envisioned by someone deeply invested in the Norse mythology. If you like Too Human, you will love this game. Cooperative action in the heavens.

Summoner Wars iOS
Erik: Summoner Wars is already a good expandable card game, and Plaid Hat has teamed up with the folks who ported Ascension to iOS to build an app that supports hotseat and asynchronous play. The build was still in the early stages, but looks solid so far and the Incinerator team has great chops to bring a new classic to a digital audience. The asynchronous, online play should make it easy to get a lot more play time in. We’ll be sure to check this title out again as they get ready to release this fall, when we can get answers to your questions about how the inevitable expansion packs will work.

Wyrd Miniatures Terraclips System
Charlie: I was so up on this product for GenCon 2010, but when I made it to their booth they were refusing to sell the newly delivered shipment. That’s because of quality control issues. The cardboard warped, the bags were obscured by paper dust, and piles of the material were literally thrown away rather than be sold to gamers. This year the price jumped, from a single set and accessories going up about $20 or $30 to almost $70. The scenery looked great, and would be a good addition to any GM’s arsenal, but at the price they're charging, I’d rather head over to Fat Dragon Games and build my own.

Dark Age Games
Charlie: All the pewter minis for Dark Ages are cast and packaged in the US, giving them a remarkably high quality finish. The lore of this realm is a unique combination of an evangelical Christian apocalypse and Borderlands, pitting the remnants of a colony from Earth tainted and turned by the demonic forces of their new home world. The Georgian twang of the employees added to the southern feel, and their dioramas were by far my favorites of the show, featuring blinking LEDs and real flowing water in a neo-Junktown attack setting.

Good Help
Erik: There are usually a handful of games at GenCon that shoot for a comedic angle. Unfortunately, it seems the developers often spend all their time on making the narrative and aesthetics humorous, and leave mechanics as an afterthought. I didn’t get much time to investigate the gameplay of Good Help, so I can’t guarantee that it’s better than Redneck Life (which is more a straight re-skin on classic American mechanics), but the mechanics are at least a bit fresher. You’re a newly minted (and completely mad) PhD, returning to your quiet hometown in Eastern Europe. You hire servants to collect body parts and build a monstrosity, which then rampages through town, fighting off the mob. Plays 3-5.

Comments

And check out last week's podcast thread, which has been updated with plenty of extra pictures!

Awesome, this was exactly what I was hoping for. Ninja looks really cool.

Sorry I haven't listened to the podcast yet, but another show highlight buried in the Mayfair Game booth was the new Martin Wallace Discworld: Anhk-Morpork board game. It was a mock-up that they brought to GC for demo purposes, but I heard many people offering to buy it.

Martin Wallace is better known for his deep games like Brass, Age of Steam/Steam and Automobile, but with Discworld he took a license and created an area control game that plays very well and uses the license in a fantastic fashion.

The game has excellent pacing, has an action mechanic that creates difficult decisions, and contains individual victory conditions ala the classic Illuminati but hidden from the other players. This creates a tense and exciting game that I cannot wait to bring to the table myself.

Certainly the star of the show for me.

(Although, I did play three games of Quarriors last night, so obviously I got a kick out of that one, too.)

wordsmythe wrote:

Dungeon Run
Have you played a tile-generated dungeon game and thought, “This is fun, but I wish there were more of a ‘screw your neighbor’ element”?

They always make me think, "I'd rather be playing DnD." Which is one great thing Dungeon Run has going for it. It's fun and different enough that I like it on its own and not as something to play instead of a pen and paper dungeon crawl.

Re Anhk-Morpork, glad you enjoyed it, OL, that's interesting. I've heard very mixed things about the Wallace Discworld game (one person I know went so far as to say "I had to burn the clothes I played it in."). I was definitely curious about it at the last convention where I saw it, but never got the chance to try. I did enjoy A Few Acres of Snow, a new Wallace wargame that takes on the deck building genre.

This was my first year attending Gen Con. As it was damn near the most fun I've ever had in my whole life, it won't be the last.