Notes From GenCon 2012

Wizards of the Coast's Drow lead the way

GenCon was a huge success this year, for our community and for the event as a whole. We all had a blast at the Slap and Tickle, which was well attended again this year. It was fantastic to meet our fellow GWJr, many for the first time, and spend some time playing games together. More than anything it got us all very excited for Penguin Con coming in October.

To get back to the conference as a whole though, they had a stupendous 45th anniversary. In four days they sold more than 41,000 badges, with a total turnstile attendance of 134,775! That’s up 12% from the year before, and up 30% since 2010. It’s more than just the newer, bigger Indianapolis Convention Center that’s bringing people to the conference. I genuinely consider this to be a golden age for the hobby games industry.

The biggest change we all felt this year was the boom in Kickstarter games. It seemed that every booth had a QR code to scan, or a marketing slick to take away that lead you ultimately to their current project. What that meant was less focus on the big names, the anchor stores of the vendor floor, and more traffic to the little guys and the up-and-comers. Everywhere you turned there were great games to play or learn about. Erik "wordsmythe" Hanson, Allen "pyroman" Cook, and I did our best to track them down. In alphabetical order here are the games, new and old, which stood out to us this year.

Agents of SMERSH:
Charlie: I didn’t expect to see this game at GenCon, but the game resellers Cool Stuff Inc. brought the designer in and let him camp out at their booth. I crashed a play-through of his only copy, created for his Kickstarter media, and was very impressed. Every turn is a miniature Bond movie, and even though I was getting my butt kicked, I had a fantastic time playing. The game all revolves around an encyclopedic book of fiction, and your decisions as you enter each encounter make the difference in telling the tale.

Atlantis Rising:
Charlie: Z-Man games has another cooperative game to add to their library, this time a bit more firmly in the worker-placement genre than their hit Pandemic was. Players come together to harvest the resources of Atlantis, all towards the goal of creating a series of devices which, when combined, will keep the island from sinking into the sea. Individual sections along each of the various arms of the island fall into the drink as the game goes on, swamping your workers and ruining the resources they were trying to bring back.
Allen: Seconded. The constant battle against the rising tide and ultimate failure makes this much more interesting than standard worker placement. You’re placing workers, but the island is constantly sinking and you have to balance that with placing workers on the navy to fight back invaders. If you don’t fight back the invasion, you lose more land and have fewer options. Really refreshing take on the worker-placement genre.

Banditos:
It was hard to tell where the triple-A booths began and the indie booths ended at this year’s GenCon, and that’s a good thing. When the production values of the mom and pop shops is competing with the big names, it keeps everyone on their toes and raises the quality of games for the entire industry. I didn’t get a chance to run a demo, but the concept for this one is fantastic. It’s 1982 and the Mexican economy has collapsed. Go for a joy ride through the 80’s and rob Mexico blind. If your “heat” gets too high, you could run afoul of the Mexican police, but play your cards right and you’ll get rich and ride off into the sunset in your rusting El Camino.

Bears! (From Fireside Games, who do Castle Panic! as well):
Erik: All dice-rolling, and a fast moving game. Central dice come up as tents or bears. Roll your own and pull from the center to match shotguns to bears, running or sleeping to tents (re-roll your own dice if you like, it only costs you precious, precious time). When there is only one type of die left in the middle, play stops. If there are only tents left, then sleeper-tent matches are worth extra points. If there are only bears left, then the bears maul the tents and you lose points for trying to sleep through it. Fun, fast-paced game that carries the intensity of a game like Pit, but with a simpler strategy and ruleset, and only indirect interaction.

Clay-O-Rama:
Charlie: Allen and I wandered past this game a few times during our tour of the floor. A Play-Dough-based miniatures game, you say? A game where you sculpt your creature, then work with the game master to develop some rules to represent its powers? Kids, flanked by their parents, moving little monsters around a 10’x10’ battlefield? Might have to buy a few tickets and give this a go next year just for the experience.

Core Worlds:
Allen : 7 Wonders, in spaaaaaaace! Seriously though, deck builder with interesting combat but still that euro-style group single-player dynamic. You start at the edge of the galaxy, conquering worlds with your armies. The worlds provide energy which you can use to purchase new units and armies. Once armies are used, they get placed back into your hand. Once you reach the core of the galaxy, you have to face down some heroes and epic planetary challenges, but the outcome can make or break your game. I had a great time when we played.

The Duke:
Charlie: Yet another Kickstarted game, this from the makers of Leviathans (a game that I swooned over last year and which was finally for sale on the floor this year), The Duke is an unassuming game with wooden tiles played over a traditional chess or checkers board. It’s subtle, very strong, and deserves more attention than I’m able to give it here. Download the rules here and get out your strongest patchJulian oils simmering for this one when it comes out.

Flames of War:
Charlie: I’ve burnished the brass buckles of many a Space Marine gorget in my day, but I’ve never once tried to paint a Flames of War miniature. Perhaps that’s because I have too much respect for WWII vets to put the wrong markings on a Sherman, or paint a bandolier poorly. Regardless, the miniatures on display at this year’s Flames of War tournament were phenomenal. And I turned over a rock and found a Vietnam set that I’d never known about. Pewter Hueys … I was speechless.
Erik: I think we’ve mentioned this in the past, maybe just on the podcast. These minis tempt me.

Games Workshop:Charlie: You know these people. They’re the ones with all the exorbitantly priced miniatures. But, gods, they’re beautiful. It’s hard to believe, but it was their very first time at GenCon. They brought the entire Black Library, and a bunch of great new 40k models to show off, including a close air support fighter and some disturbingly large Imperial Guard mechanized artillery pieces. They added some international flavor to the floor this year, and we’re looking forward to seeing them again in 2013. For the Emperor!

Memoir ’44 Equipment Pack:
Charlie: Did a little more research on this one after the con. Days of Wonder bills it as “the largest set of figures ever released for Memoir ’44” and I take them at their word. 4 minor WWII nations (French infantry, Finnish ski troops, Italian artillery, and Polish cavalry), 4 artillery types, 3 new tanks, snipers, and Landing Craft Tanks (LCTs) to bring them all ashore. Add to that a bevy of new scenarios, and this is a great expansion for an already good wargame.

Mice and Mystics:
Charlie: The Redwall books meets Mouseguard roleplaying meets Castle Ravenloft. We talked a bit about it on the podcast, but suffice to say that this game has our attention. With an easy to learn system that builds in complexity and dynamic, beautifully illustrated tiles, this “cooperative storytelling” game could be a big hit. It’s available for pre-order right now at a steep discount.

Netrunner:
Richard Garfield released this game in 1996, before his hit game Magic turned the tables on the hobby gaming world. Many people in the know consider this game to be his best, and perhaps one of the best collectible card games ever designed. This re-release has been shoehorned into Fantasy Flight’s Android universe, but it isn’t any worse for the wear. The game pits a “Runner” against the “Corporation” in a game of cat and mouse in a vaguely futuristic landscape of firewalls, code bases, and jacked-in cyber punks. Myself, an avowed CCG-hater, fell in love during my first demo on the floor. Too bad these sold out in the first few hours of the con or I’d have left with a copy for myself.

Outbreak: Undead (Hunters Books):
Erik: We talked about this on the podcast and are reaching out to the publishers to check it out. An online portal to your real world zombie preparedness planning. Stay tuned, zombie lovers. And please put your pants back on.

Roll To The South Pole (Rio Grande):
Erik: We covered this “Can’t stop exploring” game on the podcast. This game is definitely on my short list, despite its box art.

Shake And Take (Out Of The Box, who does the Pirates vs. Pirates / Ninja vs. Ninja series):
Erik: I’ve seen this game on the floor for quite a while, but I finally stopped and checked it out. Everyone gets what looks like a laminated placemat covered with little aliens in five shapes. The starting player takes a long dry-erase marker with a bulbous alien head on the back and rolls a custom d6 (five sides match five alien shapes, plus one wild-card side). The next player starts shaking another custom d6, trying to get the one alien head to come up, at which point the second player will grab the alien head of the marker and rip it from the current player’s hand to start their own turn. Before that alien head comes up on the die, the first player tries to circle as many aliens as possible that match the shape on their die (and can re-roll). Play is fast, and there’s no room for multitasking, even with a table full of players. Goal is to circle every alien on your mat.

Spartacus: A Game of Blood and Treachery
Charlie: I’m very sad to have missed playing this game at the con, but we talked about it at length during the podcast. It sounds fantastic, but I don’t think the fact that the TV series has ended bodes well for it. Gladiatorial combat on a hexagonal grid is the focus here, while raising your own prestige in ancient Rome is the ultimate goal. The sand demands blood! And I demand a copy of this game. Just maybe next year when it’s on clearance. What can I say … I’m cheap and an opportunist.

Takenoko (Asmodee, who does Mr. Jack and Dixit):
It looks like a Catan board, only you’re trying to bring irrigation to appropriate tiles so that you can grow bamboo for your cute little panda figures. Pandas are picky eaters, so you need to grow the appropriate size and color of bamboo for your pandas. I didn’t get much time at it, but it seems to have a sort of “surprise, I just met my goals” sort of ending. I especially appreciated the art, which was in a cuter, pastel direction, rather than the more bombastic style of a lot of other games.

Terraclips:
Charlie: This is the third year that World Works Games has brought this 1” gridded 3D building system to GenCon, but the first that it’s been presented well, in my opinion. Two years ago they had a shipment come back defective and were unwilling to sell it, last year their shipment came in such small quantities that they were unable to display it dramatically. But this year they hit a sweet spot and their diorama was very effective. The price point is a bit high, since each set is $50, and enough clips to be creative cost you extra, but drop $200 bones on this and get three stories more game space than with comparable Dwarven Forge kit.

Timber Peak:
Charlie: Scotch and Zombies aficionados take note. Flying Frog is going back to the well and pushing a direct expansion for Last Night on Earth. This time heroes, and zombies, level up between games. The system is compatible with all of their other LNoE-type games, so your carnies and Martians can get in on the fun to.

X-Wing Miniatures Game:
Charlie: This game didn’t sell quite as fast as Netrunner, but it was a close call. $40 gets you two TIEs and one X-Wing, all beautifully presented on clear plastic risers. That seems a bit high for three ships, and add to that the fact that each additional ship will be $15 and Fantasy Flight may have a problem in the long run with penetration. However, they did seem to sell well on the floor. There are a lot of options for expansion, such as Y-Wings and Vader’s TIE, as well as promises of SLAV I and the Millennium Falcon soon to ship. It’s a great system, fun to play, and the presentation on the conference floor was complete with a Death Star trench run in all its glory.

Zombicide:
Charlie: This was a Kickstarted game that hit its goal some time ago. It was one of the first times it’s been for sale, and the price point took many people by surprise. A solid game, with great art assets and tons of minis in the box, but at $90 it felt a bit high. There was lots of traffic at the booth, but the team seemed to leave the conference with more units than they wanted to. Clever features included a game board where the individual spaces were only apparent if you knew to look for them, as they tended to follow the natural breaks in the terrain/art rather than an imposed grid. Zombies responded to noise and moved toward the player, sometimes in massive hoards. Players worked together to gather food and other resources and get off the map alive.

Dark Angels vs. Tyranid skirmish
40k artillery
40k air support
Tyranids
Aliens 1
Aliens 2
Aliens 3
Atlantis
Cataan dress
Clay-O-Rama
Clay-O-Rama
Damn dirty Stormtroopers!
The Foundry
Atlantis 2
Robo Robo Rally
Robo Robo Rally 2
Pods
Littlest Batman
Artists row
Trench run.
Flames of War Vietnam
Klingons
Fortress America
Magic tourney
Memoir '44
Memoir '44 2
Memoir '44 3
Mice and Mystics
Mice and Mystics 2
Mice and Mystics 3
Rohirim
Rohirim 2
SMERSH
Spartacus
Terraclips
Terraclips 2
Terraclips 3
Zombicide
Assassin
12 foot wookie

Comments

Excellent write-up and awesome pictures!

I also heard some good rumors about Evil Baby Orphanage.

This is PERFECT for people like me who wish they'd gone to Gencon but couldn't manage it. Thanks!

Zombicide:
Charlie: This was a Kickstarted game that hit its goal some time ago. It was one of the first times it’s been for sale, and the price point took many people by surprise. A solid game, with great art assets and tons of minis in the box, but at $90 it felt a bit high.

You'd better be selling something meaty like Space Hulk if you're going to sling your game for that much. I wonder if they're having production issues?

[quote=Certis]This is PERFECT for people like me who wish they'd gone to Gencon but couldn't manage it. Thanks!

You'd better be selling something meaty like Space Hulk if you're going to sling your game for that much. I wonder if they're having production issues?

I would like to think it was production issues, but I would suspect it is greed. They got 781,000 kickstarted when they asked for 20,000k. They did the kickstarter to lower production costs and said before the cash wave hit that it would be retailed at $89, but you think when they additonal cash came in they would have made a larger print run. I wonder if they thought the interest in the game would mean they could demand a higher price.

Certis wrote:

This is PERFECT for people like me who wish they'd gone to Gencon but couldn't manage it. Thanks!

Zombicide:
Charlie: This was a Kickstarted game that hit its goal some time ago. It was one of the first times it’s been for sale, and the price point took many people by surprise. A solid game, with great art assets and tons of minis in the box, but at $90 it felt a bit high.

You'd better be selling something meaty like Space Hulk if you're going to sling your game for that much. I wonder if they're having production issues?

We may be working on an in-depth story in which we talk to the creators.

Watch this space!

Just notice the Aliens pictures on the side bar. Was that an actual playable game? Or a fan made product?

Also, any opinions on how kid friendly Mice & Mystics is? I read the free Storybook chapter they have and it seems cool thought I would have to do most of the speaking.

And CoolStuffInc has a great pre-order price on Netrunner. I'm VERY excited to get it!

Was Core Worlds being demoed with an expansion? Demyx picked that up last year and we had a good time with it.

Netrunner can't hit stores (again) soon enough.

Certis wrote:

This is PERFECT for people like me who wish they'd gone to Gencon but couldn't manage it. Thanks!

Zombicide:
Charlie: This was a Kickstarted game that hit its goal some time ago. It was one of the first times it’s been for sale, and the price point took many people by surprise. A solid game, with great art assets and tons of minis in the box, but at $90 it felt a bit high.

You'd better be selling something meaty like Space Hulk if you're going to sling your game for that much. I wonder if they're having production issues?

Not sure if the game has the staying power of Space Hulk — the rules are a bit wonky, but can be house ruled into shape and the game seems to almost beg for it — but the bits are gorgeous. The miniatures are fantastic and, while the boards don't have the glossy embossed awesomeness of the new edition of SH, they are thick and sturdy, and the artwork is really well done.

Still, somehow, $80 would have been a little more palatable. Of course I spent $100 on KS for the extra zombies and some additional heroes.

I've always wanted to go to Gencon and have never done so. It's about an eight-hour drive which I now realize is totally do-able. May need to go next year based on your article. How easy is it to get engaged in things going solo, and perhaps not being previously exposed to the games featured?

crunchy wrote:

I've always wanted to go to Gencon and have never done so. It's about an eight-hour drive which I now realize is totally do-able. May need to go next year based on your article. How easy is it to get engaged in things going solo, and perhaps not being previously exposed to the games featured?

You can spend two days just roaming the show floor during the day. The trick is finding things to do between 5pm and 10am.

wordsmythe wrote:

I also heard some good rumors about Evil Baby Orphanage.

I demoed evil Baby Orphanage on the floor and bought it on the spot. It's a quick card management game with a shared deck, and great art that totally highlights the exceedingly silly premise of the game. It can get a bit complicated later in the game when there are lots of cards in play, but I expect that a single game would run 20-30 minutes for experienced players - and simple, quick games are the only kind my wife will play.

Also:

crunchy wrote:

I've always wanted to go to Gencon and have never done so. It's about an eight-hour drive which I now realize is totally do-able. May need to go next year based on your article. How easy is it to get engaged in things going solo, and perhaps not being previously exposed to the games featured?

I drove right through Kitchener on my way down from Toronto. There are a number of Torontonians who make it down for Gen Con, and so you might be able to ride-share as well, sharing some of the gas/driving.

Feegle wrote:

I drove right through Kitchener on my way down from Toronto. There are a number of Torontonians who make it down for Gen Con, and so you might be able to ride-share as well, sharing some of the gas/driving.

I may take you up on that next year. Thanks!

Finding things to do in the evenings is easy enough if you follow the right people on Twitter. Of course, following goodjers and making plans with them is *never* a bad thing to do.

crunchy wrote:

I've always wanted to go to Gencon and have never done so. It's about an eight-hour drive which I now realize is totally do-able. May need to go next year based on your article. How easy is it to get engaged in things going solo, and perhaps not being previously exposed to the games featured?

Going solo would be alright, if you're cool going solo. We had lots of singles in our games when we demoed them. In fact, about a third of the games I demoed I did solo. Imagine going to the biggest, most bad ass game store you've ever gone to. You will not get bored.

Like wordy said tho, you have to find something to do at night. We have an S&T every year, but it would be helpful to draft a wingman or get real chummy with your car pool friends. Even just a game or two to take the edge off before bed would help a bit.

As far as events and tickets go, I have bought exactly 6 tickets and participated in 3 different events in the five years I've gone. Alternately, you could spend all your time playing one game in the player hall, over and over again or one long session. If there's a game you find on the floor that you really like, it's easy to do that. If there's one you have an eye on before the con, it's easy to see if there are sessions you might be interested in camping out in. Or... just shop and learn. It's all good.

Feegle wrote:

simple, quick games are the only kind my wife will play. :)

Almost all of my time on the floor was with my wife plus others this year, which is probably why I looked at a lot of simpler, abstract, and generally quick games.

So you're aaying your wife is simple, abstract, and quick?

Zombie Orpheus studios was there with their movies. Just a quick pimp for their latest KickStarter for the next installment of The Gamers movie series. Should be another great one. Right up our community's alley. I mean... finger-->butt

TheWanderer wrote:

So you're aaying your wife is simple, abstract, and quick?

I'm saying that when you're walking the floor as part of a group of 3+ people, you play the games that cycle fast enough that you can all jump in and try it out together.

LockAndLoad wrote:

Also, any opinions on how kid friendly Mice & Mystics is? I read the free Storybook chapter they have and it seems cool thought I would have to do most of the speaking.

I'll let you know after I play it with my niece.

wordsmythe wrote:
TheWanderer wrote:

So you're aaying your wife is simple, abstract, and quick?

I'm saying that when you're walking the floor as part of a group of 3+ people, you play the games that cycle fast enough that you can all jump in and try it out together.

I know.

We never did hear much about your dad's reaction overall. What did he think of the spectacle?

TheWanderer wrote:
wordsmythe wrote:
TheWanderer wrote:

So you're aaying your wife is simple, abstract, and quick?

I'm saying that when you're walking the floor as part of a group of 3+ people, you play the games that cycle fast enough that you can all jump in and try it out together.

I know.

We never did hear much about your dad's reaction overall. What did he think of the spectacle?

Sorry for not responding. He thought it was awesome and wants to bring more friends and family in the future.