GenCon is the United States' biggest board gaming convention, packed to the gills with gaming, cosplay and nerdery of every conceivable type. I had 16 show floor hours to play probably six months' worth of games FOR YOU, dear friends. Here are the pretty, puzzley and spacey things I was most excited about from GenCon 50.
The recent successes of cleanly-designed titles like Time Stories (or Machi Koro, or Lanterns, or Above & Below...) has emboldened designers and publishers to release titles that were unimaginable from major studios only a few years ago. I saw a huge variety of peaceful-looking and pretty games at GenCon 50, perhaps representing a wave of gamers uninterested in another box sporting a period-costumed white man staring into the middle distance.
Photosynthesis (Blue Orange Games)
Blue Orange continues their forays into the casual gamer market from their home territory of kids titles this year with Photosynthesis, a gorgeous forest-themed engine-building thinker of a game. This one should be in stock this week, it sold out at the show.
Seikatsu is a tile-laying game for 2-3 players scored along diagonal axis from the corners of the board. Games that play well at two but can accommodate more are always popular, and I think the both the Japan and gardening themed game markets can absorb a few more titles. I played this one in prototype but we should see it before the holidays.
Whistle Stop (Bezier Games)
Speaking of popular themes, build a better train game and the world will lay track to your door. Whistle Stop has a gentle aesthetic but plays like a souped-up Tsuro with an added pick up and deliver mechanic. Put in your preorders now, this one hits shelves early September and my fingers are crossed for good stock through the holidays.
Exit: The Game won this year's Spiel Des Jahres (Game Of The Year) and Uwe Rosenberg's unlikely quilting-themed spatial reasoning game Patchwork is consistently one of our bestsellers. Mattel is even getting in on the action with an escape room, but I'm more excited about these two:
Nmbr 9 (Z-Man)
With simultaneous play and a very euro-style fair distribution, this is a quick but brain-busting gem for fans of Blokus or Tetris style puzzle games. It might be physically impossible to just play one round. It's best to consider all Z-Man titles limited edition since they seem allergic to reprints, so snag one of these when they arrive in the next few weeks.
Magic Maze (Sit Down!)
I didn't manage to snap a picture of this one because it's played real-time and there was a line of about fifty folks waiting to play after me, but hoo boy it's a delight. Magic Maze has been out in Europe for a while, the publisher told me at the booth the US version was delayed after a misprint forced them to return the whole shipment. It's co-operative and played in real time, players must move through a modular board to accomplish their goals without talking.
Clank! In Space (Renegade)
Clank! was one of our favorite deckbuilders in years, and while some folks groused about a new base game so soon after the original I couldn't be more pleased with how it came out. Clank! In Space has a modular board with new obstacles and just as much push-your-luck treasure hunting silliness as the original.
A customer in the shop tipped me off that Space Pathfinder was coming down the line (Thank you, Alex!) so I made sure to play a demo at GenCon... then I played three more demos, you know, just to be sure. The best set of space combat rules I've ever encountered with that sweet Pathfinder dedication to interesting character builds: Starfinder is one of the most exciting new RPGs in years.
First Martians: Adventures On The Red Planet
Ignacy Trzewiczek's multi-award winning 1-4 player classic Robinson Crusoe got a shiny new spacelift, with new scenarios and challenges in the original rules framework. It also integrates with an app to keep games balanced, and it can be played in a legacy campaign format where previous games inform later games.
Did you attend? What new releases are you excited about? Call, Facebook or Instagram