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This past weekend was TotalCon, an old school game convention in Mansfield, MA. By old school, I don't mean retro games or anything like that, instead TotalCon has the feeling of old friends, meeting up year after year to play board games. This was my first year at the con, but the 27th for everyone else. Everyone was very welcoming while inviting me into their traditional tournaments and routines. This could be the high school reunion of board game conventions, but way more fun and way less awkward.
I arrived after midnight on Friday and had a little over 24 hours to squeeze in as many games as possible. Click through the jump for the full recap.
Ex-Fruitless Pursuits Contributor Michael Taylor was at TotalCon demoing games on behalf of Eagle and Gryphon Games. One of those was Jesse Catron's upcoming game, Salmon Run. I've played previous versions of the game, but this was the first time I was able to play the production version.
Salmon Run is an upstream race with awesome components, wonderful art, modular boards, and deckbuilding elements. It's on the lighter side, and perfect for a gaming group like mine.
Super Awesome Frat Boy Keg Party
It was late. Our Salmon Run game ended and devolved into a meeple rolling dexterity challenge. "Can you roll and make the bears stand up?" asked either Kevin Kulp or Anthony Racano of The Cardboard Jungle. It seemed impossible at first, but in the delirium of 2AM, we persisted. Eventually they stood up, and by the next night, everyone was hi-fiving, yelling "DUDE!!!" and singing the theme song to Super Awesome Frat Boy Keg Party.
Super Heartthrob - Game of the Con
The Flip The Table guys came down from Maine and brought some real goodies with them. The best being a kit-bashed, amped-up version of the 80's dream hunk game, Heartthrob. In the game, you choose which guy you want to date, etc.. then you have to guess which guy the other players chose. At first it's based on looks only, but then we start to reveal a little bit about the guys and everything changes. Everyone liked Greg until he developed both a rash and the nickname "Golden Boy". Trevor held strong with his deep stare and the reveal of his twin brother that he often switches dates with. This game is fun, but with Flip Florey at the helm it becomes an absolute blast. Hire him to come to your party and bring Super Heartthrob.
Now, while you already have Flip at your party for Super Heartthrob, you might want him to make some balloon animals. His balloon sheep was super impressive, as it watched the extended Dice Tower crew play Catan Twister.
And what is Catan Twister? Exactly what you think. The Settlers of Catan board is on a nearby table, with roads and settlements, but no dice. The dice were replaced with a spinner and twister mat. Each time a resource is chosen by the spinner, the players need to place a body part on that space on the mat. Lots of jokes about "trading wood" but seemingly more fitting than your average game of Catan at the dining room table.
This drew a crowd and basically stopped every surrounding game for about a half an hour. Especially when everyone went crashing to the ground.
I don't think it's actually called Pac-Man Math, but it really should be. I talked Flip The Table's moderator extraordinaire Chris Michaud into bringing this gem down to TotalCon. Being a huge Pac-Man fan, I had to try it out.
The game is simple (and nothing like Pac-Man) in that you draw either number cards (0-10), or modifier cards (+, -, x). Then you play them on your card or an opponents. EXACTLY LIKE PAC-MAN.
It's actually a little fun in manipulating the other players and kind of ganging up sometimes, but it's seriously nothing like Pac-Man. Check out Flip The Table's podcast all about the game right here: http://tableflipsyou.blogspot.com/2012/08/episode-8-arcade-s...
Pixel Lincoln: The Deckbuilding Game
We played lot of Pixel Lincoln. I didn't have a schedule and really just hung around the open gaming area, but over the weekend a lot of people stopped at the Game Salute booth asking to play Pixel Lincoln. I managed to get most of those people into a game, and we even threw in the new unreleased Environment cards to mix thing up a little.
The best part about Game Salute being there was that they had the production prototype, so we got to play with the sweet, sweet meeples and all of the boards. These were the first public sessions using the prototype and I can say it's really the ultimate way to experience the game. I was glad to be able to share that pre-release prototype experience with everyone.
I think the craziest game was when I played Insanity Mode (we mixed up the cards to create 2 oversized random levels) with Chris Michaud, Kevin Kulp and Katie D'Amico. Definitely a great time.
While I didn't get to play Nothing Personal, I hovered around a session for a while. Tom Vasel was on hand to run demos and everyone had great things to say about it. It's a game about gangsters earning respect via blackmail and bribery, also coming soon from Game Salute.
The award for Most Innovative Game of the Con would go to Charles Beauvais' ChromaCubes. It's a crayon coloring dice game. Yes, it's a CRAYON COLORING DICE GAME. Each turn you roll dice and color part of a picture based off of the colored dice you rolled. While that sounds very simple, it has some very solid mechanics. You need to make dice combos for certain parts of the image, and you need to use your dice in order to re-roll them. So simple, so different, and so jealous that I didn't make this game. Great work Charles.
Wits and Wagers: Music of the 50's, 60's and 70's
In between games I was asked to play in a Wits and Wagers tournament, which was awesome since I love Wits and Wagers. After committing, I realized it was themed to Music of the 50's, 60's and 70's, of which I know very little about. So not only did I have no clue when answering the questions, I had no clue when betting on the right answer.
My strategy to bet on the big gaps and follow the lead of the players who knew some answers started to pay off, but it was the few questions that I made educated guesses on that sealed the deal for me. "How many top 40 hits were released in 1967?" With this question I could at least use a little math to my advantage, so I made a big bet and eventually won the tournament.
Our host Larry Whelan did a great job, using custom questions with great projected visuals, and special mid-way multiple choice bonuses. He also asked everyone what they would like the theme to be next year. I suggested Star Wars, of course.
We played a handful of back to back Maximum Throwdown sessions which were equally epic. But if I had to choose one, it has to be the very first 3 way tie in the history of throwing down. There's some great news about this game on the horizon so keep your eyes peeled for info.
We got in an intense 4 player version of Kevin Kulp and Island Officials family friendly card game, Pigpen. In the game, players pen their pigs and aim for big points. Players can also destroy their opponents pens, and in this game they sure did. Chris Michaud ended the game victorious with 2 double pig pens, something I have never witnessed in my non-stop playtesting of this game.
The Red Dragon Inn (plus expansions)
Wayne Moulton of The Sages of RPG ran a session of The Red Dragon Inn. This is a game that I've seen everywhere and never had a chance to play. I even had the opportunity to share a panel with the designer (Geoff Bottone) last year at Metatopia. But I still never had a chance to play.
It was late Saturday night and we all jumped into the game, which is set in the tavern after a bloody day of fighting. Here you will try to gamble and drink your way to victory, or at least force your opponents to gamble and drink their way right out of the game. I lost pretty badly, but enjoyed manipulating and messing with people before my sudden doom.
While I didn't get any pictures, we also had a chance to play Wayne's prototype, Tugboats. It's a light multiplayer card game with really nice and whimsical artwork. It seemed pretty final to me. Looking forward to picking it up once released.
Super Loopin' Louie and other Late Night Loopiness
It was late, we were tired and loopy so we decided to play Super Loopin' Louie. This was two combined sets of the wonderful kids game, with a hand on each set. It was ridiculous but totally fun.
From there we spent a good hour stacking meeples on top of each other, and then got some much needed sleep.
Image via Wayne Moulton / The Sages of RPG
TotalCon was a blast. Great people and great games, with an incredible feeling of comfort. It's a very well run convention with a decent website and very helpful staff. Looking forward to going for the next 27 years.
A few weeks ago I received a wave of tweets, emails, and texts telling me to check out Boss Monster on Kickstarter. Why the onslaught of inward communication? Because a few months ago I launched Pixel Lincoln, and this was another pixel styled side-scrolling card game. But my first thought wasn't to panic... instead I wanted to play the game. It looked really cool.
The creators generously sent me a preview copy to show the differences, which I'll outline below. But first… what is Boss Monster?
Boss Monster is a standalone card game that challenges 2-4 players to become videogame-style villains and build deadly side-scrolling dungeons. Players compete to see who can lure and destroy the most adventurers. But beware! You must make your dungeon as deadly as it is attractive, or the puny adventurers might kill you first! Are you a bad enough dude to become the ultimate Boss Monster?
I've played through the game a few times now, and we've had a LOT of fun. My group is very heavy into classic video games, so that mindset definitely influenced how much they loved the game, but I assume you would be into classic games to be drawn into this in the first place. I can't speak of the other side, because classic video games have been a part of my life forever. I rarely play video games that were made in this century.
What makes this game so fun is that you play as the Boss (who is always cooler than any of the main characters). Each varies quite a bit in style, and each has a special power. But my favorite part is that you build a dungeon. You will strategically place cards from right to left, luring in adventurers. Each card adds treasure to lure them in, but they also add special abilities like "Destroy this room: Kill a Hero in this room". And that's exactly what you want to do. Kill the heroes before they reach you. If they reach you, you'll take a wound. If you kill them, you keep them as a prize.
So what is similar about the Boss Monster and Pixel Lincoln? There are three obvious similarities.
-Both games feature pixel art - Pixel Lincoln's art is almost all character art. Boss Monster's art is character art with scenery.
-Both games sidescroll - In Pixel Lincoln, each player moves throughout the level from left to right, eventually reaching the final boss. In Boss Monster, the adventurers move from left to right as well, eventually reaching you, the final boss.
-Both games mock the classic NES style cover art. - Boss Monster uses it for the main box art. Pixel Lincoln uses it in the level tuck boxes. It's that classic black box in the same style as Excitebike.
Now there are a ton of differences between the two games since they play very differently. You can see some at a glance, and the others you'll feel when playing the games.
-Pixel Lincoln uses deckbuilding as its base. You are obtaining cards to use and re-use. But Boss Monster uses dungeon building as its base. Players create their own levels and for the most part, once a card is used, you do not use it again. This creates a very different type of game.
-Hero/Boss - I've heard Boss Monster referred to as reverse Pixel Lincoln. You play as the Boss instead of the Hero. This is probably the biggest difference because it shapes the tone and feel of the game. As a Boss you want to create a tough dungeon to destroy the adventurers. In Pixel Lincoln you hope that you don't end up with a tough level, so you can survive until the end. In that aspect they are complete opposites.
But there is more to each game that shows that they have nothing to do with each other. In Boss Monster there is an initiative phase where you are trying to lure the adventurers to choose your dungeon. In Pixel Lincoln there is a hand management phase where you see what's coming and set yourself up for the next round. And while both looking 8 or 16 bit, they vary quite a bit in theme. Boss Monster is very classic dungeon game, with video game references on its cards (Robobo is wonderful) and Pixel Lincoln is more of a Mario/Megaman style game that references the era in its layout and mechanics, and meat references on its cards (Sausage Link Whip, Muttonstar).
Ultimately they are completely different games. They look quite different and play completely differently, but they will probably both appeal to the classic gamer crowd. And since we share a few common threads, we thought it would be awesome to combine our worlds together.
Boss Monster (which just passed $100,000 on Kickstarter - massive congratulations to Brotherwise Games) is including Pixel Lincoln as an Epic Hero card if they hit $130,000.
And in Pixel Lincoln, we're making a King Croak boss card. We'll release details on its release and soon as they are ready. We're just hitting the production phase, so it'll likely be with our next release or promotion. Keep an eye out for details.
Boss Monster on Kickstarter at: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/brotherwise/boss-monster...
Pixel Lincoln pre-orders at: http://shop.gamesalute.com/search?q=Pixel+Lincoln
Congress of Gamers is a small(ish) gathering of board gamers in Rockville, MD, just outside of Washington DC. It's just under 3 hours from my house, so I took the long solo drive down to see what it was all about. I really had no clue going into it because 1) Like I said, it's small(ish), 2) It's only been around for a few years, and 3) Their website is a little rough. Just finding out the location requires the user to channel their inner internet detective.
Even walking up to it, I still had no clue what to expect. The event was in a Senior Center, which sounds like it'll be a one or two room building, but this was bigger than most high schools. Tons of themed rooms, with tones of things to do. It made me want to skip 30 years into the future just to have the possibility of hanging out at one of these places.
But I was there to play games. The main room had a whole bunch of people playing Power Grid at once, with a silent Board Game Auction happening along side of it. Instead, I spent my time in the Unpub Protozone, a room for established, and up-and-coming designers to demo their new and unpublished games. The mood was very upbeat and creative in there, with a lot of great minds huddled around each game. I only played a few, and photographed a few more, but overall had a great time.
I was one of the first designers to arrive, so my first few games were play tests of my own game, ZombieZone. It's a 2 player head-to-head battle game, currently in beta testing.
We played the game about 8-10 times throughout the day, with most players getting in more than one session, which is always a great initial compliment in these testing sessions. Everyone seemed to be having a blast, with it being the loudest game in the room (at least until Pole Position got rolling) and the anonymous user feedback forms proved that everyone did enjoy themselves.
My goal with the game right now is to finalize the basic units and start introducing new ones. The balance leans a little bit to the Zombie side right now and these sessions have helped tighten it up. You can pick up a copy of ZombieZone at The Game Crafter, or print your own at this link: http://buttonshy.blogspot.com/2012/10/zombiezone-full-pnp.ht...
VivaJava: The Coffee Game: The Dice Game
With VivaJava just shipping out to its Kickstarter backers, getting a chance to play TC Petty III's dice version of the game was an unexpected surprise. I knew TC would be in attendance (as he was co-running the event) but I had no clue such a prototype existed. I think this was the one of the first public tests of the game.
So what can I tell you about it? Well, it's basically VivaJava lite. Just replace the beans with dice. If you've played VivaJava, you'll recognize all of the familiar mechanics. There are the blends (and even the epic Rainbow blend), the research (which modifies your die rolls instead of your bean pulls). Players can bet on other blends, and also obtain more/better dice.
If you haven't played VivaJava, the prototype might take a little more explanation, if only to bring in the coffee theme. Players will roll dice trying to make their best coffee blend. A blend is similar to a poker hand, with 3 of a kind beating a pair, and 4 of a kind beating 3 of a kind. Only one blend can be in play at once, so a better blend will dethrone the previous leader. Points are scored throughout the game, with the most coming in after successfully surviving a full round as the top blend. The alternative to blending is to research, which gives you special abilities once you reach certain checkpoints on the blend board.
As a fan of VivaJava, I was instantly hooked on this. And as a fan of great mechanics, I think most would also get hooked in. The only thing missing from VivaJava is the social side to it… but this is smaller, lighter, and quicker. It really captures the brilliance of VivaJava, with dice.
Walls of Light
I didn't expect to get to play Walls of Light. This is Jesse Catron's Game Crafter game about stained glass windows. Probably one of the most extreme themes (extreme, as in far from the normal, not to be confused with an EXTREME! theme) I've played in a while, and it meshes really nicely with the mechanics.
In the game, players are completing windows by playing transparent tiddly winks on top of each other to form various colors. When two colors form a third color, a player may earn extra points (as points are calculated by the amount of different colors in a single window).
The game is very inexpensive and you can get a copy at The Game Crafter for just $9.99. It's light on components, but the quality of the design makes it feel like it should cost twice as much. I ordered my copy and I'm looking forward to playing again.
I've talked about Salmon Run a few times before. It's a very solid, customizable, deckbuilding Salmon racing game, and it's currently nearing the end of it's very long Kickstarter run. You can still pledge for the next 12 days.
Each time I play, I enjoy the game more and more. Even this time, I lost terribly, but still had a great time. Gryphon Games lis doing an amazing job with the production mock ups, but I will miss the art and appeal of the prototype. Look at that 3D rendered bear!
I didn't get to play these last three games, but everyone seemed to have a great time with them. I can vouch for event co-organizer, Darrell Louder's upcoming Dice Hate Me game, Compounded. It's solid. Absolutely solid.
I didn't get the names of the designers of Pole Position, but they came in asking if there was space to demo their game, and they quickly had everyone in the room playing their horse race / auction game, ALL AT ONCE. It was crazy how it took off, and sustained that momentum all day long.
East India Company
The final game that I missed was Paul Owens' East India Company. I was told that it was THE game to play at Congress Of Gamers, but it didn't make the table the day I was there. I got to chat with Paul for a while (great guy) and he let me take a few shots of the game. Hope to play at an upcoming event.
And that was my day at the Rockville Senior Center a/k/a Congress of Gamers. A nice, small gathering of great designers and great games. I say it was small because there were only a few dozen people in the room throughout the day, but that was plenty to keep the games going on a consistent basis. The silent auction was worth it too. I didn't get anything because I saw it too late, but I know someone bought Power Grid with 2 extra maps for $20. That would have been worth the 3 hour drive alone.
Mon Oct 15, 2012 11:28 pm
Originally posted at http://www.fruitlesspursuits.com
Part One covered Friday. Part Two covered Saturday and Sunday. So what is left to talk about?
GEN CON MONDAY!
You may be wondering what Gen Con Monday is all about. It's the day where your flight is canceled and you are stuck in Indianapolis for an additional 24 hours. Luckily, I was stuck there with designer Jay Treat who A) was great company, and B) had a few games on hand.
Keep reading for a look into our extended Gen Con and all of the games we were able to play. Not a ton of personal photos this time around.... sorry!
Her Majesty's Clockwork Tournament
While waiting for information about our delayed flight, which was just delayed at that point, we tested out Jay's entry to The Game Crafter's steampunk design contest.
It's a dice based game, as required by the contest, but it also features a game board and additional components. Players must connect gears in a machine, which will then earn them wrenches (will provide re-rolls later) or coins (victory points).
You can't just place any gears in the machine though! They need to be going in the right direction for you to earn points. We had a lot of fun with this, and it was very close in the end. The contest has now ended, but winners have not been announced yet. Check out the full list here: http://news.thegamecrafter.com/post/30804729317/steampunk-ch...
After our flight was ultimately canceled, we headed to our hotel, ate, and played a late night, grumbly game of Smash Up, one of Gen Con's most popular games. I picked it up on Friday before it sold out, but never had a chance to play at the convention.
Smash Up is a "shuffle-building game" where you pick two factions (Aliens, Ninjas, Dinosaurs, Zombies, Tricksters, Robots, Wizards and Pirates) and shuffle them together into one epic deck. Then you will try to gain control of bases for big points and eventually win by reaching 15 points.
Each faction plays completely differently and can make for some great combinations. Dinosaurs are big and bad. Zombies come back from the dead. Tricksters mess with everyone. Choosing your combination is one of the best parts of the game. Seeing it come together is really nice as well.
So, was a long, stressful day, and I was really tired. The game is all about combos and my brain wasn't processing anything. I've played it since and had a LOT of fun with it. It's odd though. It feels light, but there is a lot going on. (Dive Hate Me has a full podcast about their newly defined game type: "Cards With Words", which I would definitely consider this one of) Up to 10 cards in hand and up to 5 bases on the board makes for a lot of text to read. There aren't any symbols or reminders for ongoing effects and you need to track our own score. These aren't major issues, but they might detract newcomers a little bit.
I've heard that the next four factions are going to be Ghosts, Bears!, Plants and Steampunks. I hope they provide a scoring component as well. Looking forward to seeing where AEG goes with this game.
One of my new-ish prototypes is a game called ZombieZone. I got a few games in and got some great feedback.
It's a gridded board (think bigger chess with obstacles) with Zombies battling Humans (think checkers that move by die rolls and flip over to become Zombies). I've been testing it for about a year and a half now and I think it's polished enough to go into pre-production. The game will be available from The Game Crafter during the month of October, and available for wide release in 2013.
The awesome artwork (cover seen above, and new tokens that aren't seen here) is by Carey Pietsch, who is currently working on additional characters to really amp things up.
I'm a sucker for a good collectible card game. I love the randomness of opening up packs of cards almost as much as playing the games. Jay had two decks of Kaijudo and we played a few rounds (of which I think I lost every single one).
The game was very interesting. It had a Magic: The Gathering "Lite" feel, but it was a lot different at the same time. There are so many MTG habits that you need to forget when playing this game. The first was that all creatures cannot block. They must have the "Blocker" ability. Another interesting thing is that each player has 5 shields protecting himself from being attacked by the other player. The shields are cards from their deck and as they are destroyed (by your opponent's attacks) you are given them as a reward. It's a neat catch-up mechanic, but it didn't help me win any games.
I've almost picked up a few packs of these since Gen Con, but I've been able to resist. At least I've been able to so far.
The last game that we had a chance to play was Hanabi. And what a closer it was.
Hanabi is a cooperative game of memory and deduction with a FIREWORKS theme! Players hold their hand so that they cannot see it themselves, and the other player must give clues as to which cards are in their hand. Cards each have a number and a color, and the goal is to place them down in color coordinated piles from #1 to 5. Sounds easy, but it's is sooooo hard. You can only give so many clues before you run out of turns and you have to start guessing your cards. With so many variables (5 colors, 5 numbers, 5 cards), you will start second guessing everything. We scored around a 20 or so our first time and that's really good. The second game ended abruptly mid-way through, which would have been crushing if it wasn't to board a plane to finally head home.
And that was Gen Con Monday! Getting stuck a few states away for 24 extra hours is no fun, but thanks to Jay Treat, I ended up having a great time.
Convention season has started winding down, but we'll be at Metatopia in November and Unpub in January for sure.
Today is Talk Like A Pirate Day, the only day that you can get away with calling your co-workers names like Landlubber and Drivelswigger. It's also the reason that we are giving away a copy of Gamewright's new pirate-themed game, Scallywags! And if you win, you can talk like a pirate whenever you pull out the game.
If you have kids and are looking for a fun, light game Scallywags fits the bill.
You’ll be counting your booty and having a blast in no time. (http://www.play-board-games.com)
What kind of things can you say when you're a pirate? Well, we went right to the source. Scallywags designer, and possible-pirate Chevee Dodd has this to say about the game:
I have no clue what he said, but I like it!
Post a comment at Fruitless Pursuits (link below) in your best pirate voice anytime from now until 11:59PM PST on Sunday, September 23rd. The winner will be announced on Monday, September 24th.
Piratey comments go here: http://www.fruitlesspursuits.com/2012/09/talk-like-pirate-da...
That's it! Now go post some hornswaggle before I scavenge yer hardtack, ya dungbie!
Oringally posted at the pop culture site http://www.fruitlesspursuits.com.
Some people will argue that there are too many games on Kickstarter. They predict a bubble that will burst at some point, ending the new school method of production funding… leaving us where we were a few years ago, or opening up a door for a brand new process.
While there are a lot of games on Kickstarter (a few hundred at any given point, it seems), right now it's easy to argue that there are too many good games on Kickstarter.
Which to pledge to? Well, here are three that you can't miss out on. All three launched within a few days of each other, and all three soared to hit 50% of their funding goal in very little time. And these are games that have been in the works for a while now. We've spoken about two of them at least a few times before.
First up is Salmon Run, a game that I've been looking forward to since I played a prototype at Unpub 2 in January.
Short description: A highly customizable modular board game race to the finish using deckbuilding as a base. And you play as SALMON!
Pledge Level Sweet Spot: $40 gets you a full copy of the game, free US shipping, and 3 of each of the Kickstarter Exclusive Bald Eagle and Grizzly Bear cards.
Funding Goal: Salmon Run has a low initial goal of just $6,000 and it's currently 79% funded. There is a long time to go, and they've hinted at some stretch rewards.
Read on for Mars Needs Mechanics and Story Realms!
Next up is Mars Needs Mechanics, which we've mentioned as well, even as recently as our Gen Con Recap (part 2).
Short description: A wonderful and quick commerce game with a high concept steampunk theme. From the publisher of Chicken Caesar.
Pledge Level Sweet Spot: $45 gets you a full copy of the game, free US shipping, a sweet box wrap, and a Kickstarter exclusive mechanism card.
Funding Goal: This game is a hefty $15,000, but in just one holiday weekend it's managed to reach 49% of its goal. The first stretch reward has been announced too. If they hit $35,000 all of the components will be upgraded to a high-quality linen-covered material.
And finally... Story Realms! A game I've never talked about before, but one that has absolutely caught my eye. I met the co-designer at Gen Con, and heard very good things from those who were able to play.
Short description: A storytelling RPG / board game set in the meta-fictional universe of Storm Hollow. Suitable for all ages too.
Pledge Level Sweet Spot: It's $75, but you'll get a lot for your money. The full Story Realms Box Set including one copy of Story Realms: Preludes and one copy of Story Realms: Pieces of A Broken World, plus access to stretch rewards and free shipping. You can get into the game for cheaper, but this reward level is very hard to resist.
Funding Goal: The goal is $20,000, but it's already 62% there. I have a feeling this one will do very well, and the creators must as well. Their is a massive stretch goal chart going all the way up to $250,000. I would love to see it go that high.
And that concludes the epic boardgame edition of Kickstart the Week. Does your wallet feel as empty as mine?
Continued from Gen Con 2012 Mega Recap (part one) and originally posted at the pop culture mega site, http://www.FruitlessPursuits.com.
After a full day of gaming and meeting people, it was time to get to work! On Saturday I scheduled 8 hours of game sessions at 3 different locations and my play time was limited... but I managed to squeeze in some fun.
Not as much fun as this guy though.
Read on for more Gen Con madness, including Mars Needs Mechanics, The Game Crafter, and a super secret prototype from Tasty Minstrel Games.
Mars Needs Mechanics
I have wanted to play Mars Needs Mechanics for a while now, and missed my chance at the World Boardgaming Championships a few weeks ago. Luckily everywhere I went designer Ben Rosset was demoing the game. Either he has super powers, or he cloned himself... because someone was always playing this game. And I see why. The prototype board is beautiful, and the game is so quick to learn, and lots of fun. It's a steampunk styled game about sending engineers to Mars. In the game you will collect components (buy low!) and build mechanisms (sell high!). There is also a great little track that goes around the board, determining where the value of your components will go up, down, or stay the same. Manipulating that track was my favorite part of our session. Also, I played against Pikachu!
Look for Mars Needs Mechanics on Kickstarter. Coming August 31st from Nevermore Games.
More Pixel Lincoln sessions! I met more backers throughout the weekend and made some new fans. Everyone had great things to say about the game, including BoardGameGeek reviewer Daniel Cain (lastalchemist):
**Game of the Con - GenCon 2012**
What a ******* AWESOME game. If someone would have asked me if a side scrolling board game could be made, I would have told you that you were crazy, but the designer did it. Filled with all sorts of gaming goodness this game really packs a punch. I'm kicking myself for not jumping on the Kickstarter when I had the chance, because this is definitely a game I need ot have in my collection. A lighter deckbuilding game than Thunderstone, but it doesn't tread in the usual troupes that most every other deckbuilder does. It not only finds it's own path, but it's clearly that bath with Bearderang! If you want your deckbuilder to be mechanical and routine, you can have your Dominion. But if you want meat based weapons, 16 bit awesomeness, then pick up Pixel Lincoln.
The Game Crafter
I had a few hours scheduled at The Game Crafter's booth. If you don't already know, The Game Crafter is a print on demand board game service. The easiest way to describe it is CafePress for games. As a creator you can create games using their many, many components and buy just one copy for yourself, nor host it in their shop. As a gamer you can search through their massive catalog of games and find some great games that you won't be able to find in your local store.
My favorite thing about The Game Crafter is the community. Owner JT (seen below) is very active in their community, and also sets up regular game design contests on the site. My game Sandwich City won the Dec 2011 Resource Design contest, so I demoed it at their booth to much joy from all of the players. I gave a copy to one of them who told me since that it was the highlight of Gen Con for her, and that they've played it at least 10 times since. Awesome!
Super Secret Tasty Minstrel Games Project
Another highlight was meeting up with Michael Mindes of Tasty Minstrel Games. If you don't know Michael, he's the founder of the company and also the voice. He's very open about his methods and practices in releasing, marketing and creating games, which is a great asset to up and coming designers and publishers. If you are interested in the industry I would suggest checking out his site: http://playtmg.com/.
After my very first Steak n' Shake dinner we jumped into a secret prototype Tasty Minstrel Games project. I can't really say anything about it, but I can say that I played it again as soon as it was finished. The cards in the game had full art (which was REALLY cool), but no pictures were allowed. There was one that Michael had to create himself, which he had no problem with us photographing (see below).
While I can't say much about the game, I can say I'm excited for it. We tested a few tweaks and made suggestions, hoping to make it into the rulebook in the top tier of playtesters.
My opponent in the game (and now in real life too) Michael Keller posted an exclusive image of this just a few seconds before mine hit the web. I decided to go all out TMZ and say mine was exclusive as well. It's on!
And here are a few quick images of my one full swoop around the exhibit hall... which could be a small, yet overpopulated town. Gen Con released the numbers this week. There was an "attendance record of 134,775, including more than 41,000 unique attendees". It was packed in there.
Mega sized Ticket To Ride
Ian Steadman, designer of Alchemy: The Magnum Opus
Two of the coolest costumes at the show.
I don't know anything about this game, but as I was passing by I could not resist taking a picture.
Super Dungeon Explore! Some of the best miniatures out there.
More Super Dungeon Explore!
D&D has a huge presence this year.
Good luck getting anywhere near Greater Than Games booth. Sentinels of the Multiverse was sold out and the tables were jam packed at all times.
The new must-have Sentinels of the Multiverse deluxe edition. You can just buy the box if you already have the game. Available now at: http://sentinelsofthemultiverse.com/
Zombicide in action. See what you can do when you raise almost a million dollars on Kickstarter? You can buy a blue fez!
Don't mess with these guys.
And that was the end of Gen Con... or was it? Check back for the shocking conclusion in Part Three!
Originally posted at the pop culture mega-site, Fruitless Pursuits (http://www.fruitlesspursuits.com). Visit us for more posts on Board Games, TV, Movies, Comics, Star Wars, and much more.
After a whirlwind of a weekend in Indianapolis, I'm finally home from Gen Con and looking back at my first experience at the largest board game convention in the US.
There were tens of thousands of people playing thousands of different games. It's by far the biggest convention I've ever seen (even bigger than the Philly car shows) and one of the best weekends you can experience as a gamer.
Continue reading for my full Gen Con 2012 recap!
First of all, this convention is bigger than any convention I've ever been to, or even dreamed about. It feels about 10 times the size of the Wizard World show in Philadelphia, and dwarfs Origins (which was itself a pretty big convention). The gaming rooms go on and on, and on and on. Here is an example of just the corner of one of them.
Gen Con is pretty big about new releases. It's the time of the year that many companies either receive and release their game, or at least get a bunch of early copies to the show (which often sell out really quickly). Games like Seasons and Netrunner sold out in the first two hours of the show. Greater Than Games (creators of Sentinels of the Multiverse) said on Friday that they "Sold almost everything". If you have to choose one day to attend, Saturday is usually the best for variety, but not if you want to buy games! I came with the intention to pick up one new game, so I went for Smash Up, AEG's new "shufflebuilding game", where you start the game by mixing up two different factions like Robots and Pirates. I heard it's light and fun.. which is perfect for my gaming group.
Did I mention that the cosplay is out in full force? I would say that 1 in 4 is in some sort of costume. Some of the best never even left the hallways, as they were posing for photos all day long, and others were playing games at tables, using the restroom, or wandering the streets of Indianapolis. I heard rumors of a Pikachu spotting at our hotel, 8 miles away.
Finally, I played some games! I spent much of the day running sold out Pixel Lincoln sessions (and then immediately running over to the Game Salute booth to play with others who couldn't get in on the sessions). There was a great variety of gamers and everyone really enjoyed the game.
After hours I was able to jump in on some other games. Here are a few:
The first prototype that I played was Microbrew by John DuBois. It's a game about purchasing and selling beer. It had a solid commerce mechanic, but had a few kinks that still needed to be worked out. After the game myself, designer Jay Treat, a friend, and John tossed around some ideas to improve on those issues. Hope to see this again at some point, and see what has been updated.
I found out about the First Exposure Playtest Hall about 10 hours after arriving at Gen Con. It was a silent second floor room for testing new games, and felt completely different than the loud open halls downstairs. Grant Rodiek (designer of Farmageddon) was there testing his diceless war game, Empire Reborn, and I was able to sit in for a few rounds and see it in action. It had a great responsive battle system where each player chooses and plays a Tactic, which vary in style depending on which army you are playing. I wish I was able to get to play this one.
Battle Beyond Space
Back downstairs I jumped into a game of Battle Beyond Space. The new Z-Man game has brilliant cover art, solid plastic components and a theme that I always enjoy, so I was really excited to get a chance to get an unexpected game in. The game mixes abstract strategy with the randomness of card drawing in a way that often removes the control that you worked so hard to setup. I've heard complaints about this (and also that it's very abstract), but I think it's great for a light-to-medium gaming group like mine. The simple rules make it very easy to teach, and knowing the possibilities of the random cards should help to strategize in future games.
I had one game purchase in mind before I went to the convention, and it was Seasons. It sold out well before I even left New Jersey, and I tried to forget about it. Luckily, I caught up with Dan Patriss, W. Eric Martin, Adam O’Brien and had a chance to play.
The first thing you will notice is that the game is beautiful. Wonderful art, great components, and everything else you would hope for. It also plays really well. You roll dice depending on the current season, and choose which one to take. Dice will help you obtain energy, gain points, or draw cards. It sounds very simple, but that's really just the beginning of it. Actually, in the beginning you draft cards (which we skipped for the not-so-quick beginner setup), and then you set up three sets of cards for the three phases of the game. After playing just once, I think the drafting and setup is going to be the most fun and creative part of the game.
This has been called the next 7 Wonders, and rightly so. The biggest difference is that it plays best with two players. We played late (really late) with four and it went for almost two hours. But I've heard it shines with two. If I can ever find a copy, I'll be all over the two player game.
And that was the end of my first night at Gen Con. An amazing experience with some great people. Here are some quick shots from the rest of day one.
I have no clue what this is, but I want it.
The Great Heartland Hauling Co. designer Jason Kotarski plays Farmageddon...
...with designer Grant Rodiek at the 5th Street Games booth.
Lots of Magic the Gathering.
Richard Bliss a/k/a the Game Whisperer interviews Adam Clark a/k/a Kicktraq.
It's a balloon animal.
The Unpub blue noodle, signifying the best place to play upcoming games. Definitely the place to be.
The aliens start to invade in Jay Treat's cooperative game, Assault on Khyber Station.
George Tagmire demos Traitor Tavern with fellow beer game creator, John DuBois.
John Moller's Flummox gets an all new look.
Here is the Flummox himself...
...and the back of the cards.
Michael Coe, designer and 1/2 of Crash Games, plays his new two player abstract, Dungeon Heroes.
I missed out on a session of this game by about 10 seconds.
Designer Frank Branham signs a copy of Battle Beyond Space.
John Moller is the last man standing. (Ok, so he's sitting, but still.)
Check back for part two of my Gen Con 2012 recap!
Originally posted at the pop culture mega-site, Fruitless Pursuits (http://www.fruitlesspursuits.com). Visit us for more posts on Board Games, TV, Movies, Comics, Star Wars, and much more.
Thu Aug 23, 2012 12:50 pm
Originally posted at the pop culture mega-site, Fruitless Pursuits (http://www.fruitlesspursuits.com). Visit us for more posts on Board Games, TV, Movies, Comics, Star Wars, and much more.
For the first night in what seems like forever, I was able to wrangle up my gaming group up on a Saturday night to play a handful of board games. It's more my fault than theirs, because I have been working non-stop on Pixel Lincoln. Even during the games, I had to pause for phone calls, emails and texts about Pixel Lincoln. But even with all of that going on, it was a bit of a break for me, and a great return to Saturday night board games.
Continue to read all about our adventures in blending kittens, protecting our castle from waves of enemies, and a $2 game that turned out to be pretty awesome.
Kittens In A Blender
First up was Kittens In A Blender, a simple (seriously, very simple) card game where the goal is to place your opponents kittens into the blender, and yours into the box. Eventually the Blend cards will come out and the blender spins, destroying all of the cute kittens... and the boxed kittens are saved, and removed from the game. Players get 2 points for each saved kitten and -1 point for each blended one.
It all sounds very morbid, but it's balanced out a billion times over by the cutest artwork ever. It's hard not to laugh as you place your neighbors little Goober into the blender and then throw down a Blend card. The table will all cry "noooooooooo!", but the sadness pretty much stops as soon as you draw new adorable kittens.
There was one interesting downfall of the game, that had an easy but unnecessary fix. Each player plays as a color (blue, pink, green or yellow) and those are the kittens that you will score. But there is no defining landmark / token / card or anything to show which color is assigned to each player. It's easy enough to remember your own.. but if you want to play some serious Kittens In A Blender, it's good to know which opponent you are screwing over at a glance. The game is fairly mindless, but remembering the colors yanks my brain right out of the mindless fun. We improvised with the wooden discs from another game. Placing them in front of all of the players ended all confusion and let us get right back to blending kittens.
I have been itching to play Castle Panic for a while now. My local game store always has a few copies on the shelf, and I always go for something silly that never gets played. After the recent episode of Tabletop, I realized I had to get the game. A friend even sent me the expansion too, which after last night... I can't wait to play.
If you don't already know, Castle Panic is a board game version of a tower defense game. It's cooperative, and it's HARD! On each turn, waves and waves of enemies march towards your castle and destroy it while you helplessly watch it all happen. As a group, you can do something about it, but oh man are they quick. In our first round we already lost a chunk of our castle, and things were looking grim. On each turn you'll draw two random monsters to add to the board, and if you're unlucky it'll be something even worse.
We fought hard and eventually lost it all. I'd like to say we had no chance, but we were about 7/8 of the way through all of the monsters. If we survived about 3 more turns we would have won. The group was devastated, but all wanted to play again immediately. We collectively decided to come back next time we get together, and we moved on to another game.
I picked this game up at my local Barnes & Noble for $2.00. They have games on clearance most of the time, and most of the time it's some sort of DVD trivia game. My wife found this one and the components and theme were intriguing. Rival gangs? Little wooden bullets? Dynamite? Real-time gameplay? It looked pretty solid from the start.
There is quite a bit of math involved in the fast-paced gameplay, but it's simple math. Players will flip over 3 cards, each featuring 2 numbers. Then players will flip over 2 of their gun tokens, which have numbers on the bottom. The goal is to place your guns onto opponents number cards. The mathy part is that you must place a numbered gun that matches either the sum or difference of the two numbers. They only use numbers 1-9 so the math isn't hard, but you have to be fast. As soon as your three cards are covered with gun tokens, you're out of the round.
The best part comes in the shape of bullets and dynamite. Any player can play a bullet, while yelling "RELOAD" to allow all players to flip over two more gun cards. That player has a slight disadvantage because they have to use a hand to move the bullet to the center of the table, but there is no choice when the numbers in front of you don't add up. And then there is the dynamite, which was slightly underused in our game, even with its powerful effect. Playing the dynamite makes all other players stop and count to ten, while you can place multiple tokens onto one card to add up to the sum. It's the only time you can place more than one token, but I would just use it as 10 free seconds to look around the table and do some calculations, while my opponents were stalled.
All in all, a great night of gaming. We kept it fairly light, but it was just that kind of night. We hoped to get Gloom to the table, but the depression of losing our castle was enough for one night. Maybe next time.
Originally posted at http://www.fruitlesspursuits.com
Last weekend I drove out to Origins Game Fair in Columbus, OH. It was my first time to Origins and will definitely not be my last. I met up with great friends, and made plenty of new ones. I played some unreleased board games, ate some ridiculous food...
And in between all of that, I had this photo taken.
Please ignore the massive water spot on my shirt.
If I could recap Origins with just one photo, that would be it.
But if you want to read a LOT more about the event (including meeting Felicia Day and Wil Wheaton, game designers Loren Overby & Chevee Dodd, games like Sentinels of the Multiverse & Swinging Jivecat Voodoo Lounge, the whole Tentacle Bento controversy, and much more….) then keep reading!
After a 9+ hour drive, myself, my brother George and my brother-in-law Marty arrived in Columbus, OH. We had a few goals in mind, but the huge scope of the event dictated our daily activities. One of my goals was to meet Felicia Day and Wil Wheaton, as I'm a huge Geek & Sundry fan as well as everything they are currently doing to push board games to the masses. There is Tabletop, The Guild series of Munchkin, and much more going on right now, and it's great for the industry.
Felicia Day and Wil Wheaton
Immediately upon entering the show (actually before you even pay admission) we stopped by their tables and got to talk for a few minutes and get some photos. A few nights before the show, we made up a some custom Pixel Lincoln cards with Felicia, Wil and Adrienne Wilkinson in pixel form. These were going to be used in Pixel Lincoln demos throughout the weekend.. just to have the spirit of the show in the games. I was able to give a copy to each of them, and they also signed my copies. Their excitement about Pixel Lincoln was an awesome way to kick off the weekend. Wil Wheaton was loving the weapons, especially the Sausage Link Whip.
Once we finally made it into the hall we met up with Crash Games. Patrick, Michael and Ian are known for their huge early kickstarter success, Rise! I've chatted with them online many times, but meeting them in person was another highlight of the trip. We got to check out their Legend of the Lost Dutchman prototype (which was my only game purchase at Origins, and it was a Kickstarter pre-order!) and the fantastic final version of Rise! These guys were a lot of fun and are very passionate about their games.
If you squint you can see Crash Games in the back. My photos got better throughout the weekend.
Greater Than Games (Dice Hate Me)
Patrick directed me to the DiceHateMe / Clever Mojo Games booth and there I was able to catch up with all of the wonderful folks at DiceHateMe. I was able to play a game of the mega-sized version of their addicting app, Lucky Dice. It was part of a contest and I lost terribly, but I still highly recommend the app. It kills me to know that there is a top maximum score of 105 that is achievable with the right dice rolls and choices. I will shoot for that goal forever.
While at the DiceHateMe booth, I was able to play my first full game of Origins. It was Darrell Louder's Compounded, which I sadly missed out on at Unpub 2 and various events since. In the game, players must commit chemicals to various tiles on the board, trying to make chemical compounds. You also have to claim the compounds before someone else jumps on it, or before it catches fire. I had a blast playing this game, and can't wait to play it again. The design is very solid, and seeing the graphic design work that they've started on this, I can't wait to see how nice the final product looks.
The Unpub area was the place that I spent most of the weekend. Marked by a blue noodle, it was kind of a known, but unknown area to play some really awesome unpublished games with their designers. This was the hottest place in the convention, and outlasted everyone else with games going past 4AM. Unpub creator / Cartrunk Entertainment's John Moller is doing a huge service for designers with his events. Just having that many super-creative people in one area is something to be proud of.
The blue noodle.
Swinging Jivecat Voodoo Lounge
You know a game is great when you play it twice in a row. Swinging Jivecat Voodoo Lounge draws you in for many reasons. It has a great name and great components (martini glasses with hanging monkeys for scoring!) but it keeps you around for one reason... it's a great game. In the game, you create linked contacts within various voodoo lounges (which reminded a little me of your roads in Settlers of Catan), by completing temporary objectives you will gain skulls, which you will use almost as currency later. It seems like a lot, but it all clicks after a few rounds. We played this with David MacKenzie from CleverMojo Games, and I probably would have played all night until I won.
Pixel Lincoln: The Deckbuilding Game
This was one of the two games that I brought with me to the convention. I already planned to launch the Kickstarter on June 5th, so I wanted to get in some last minute testing and also try to spread the word about the upcoming campaign. I managed to get a few sessions in and got some very valuable feedback from everyone who played. Luckily I brought stickers, paper, card sleeves and pens, and I could tweak things on the fly.
Sentinels of the Multiverse
Late Friday night, I was able to join in on a session of Sentinels of the Multiverse with designer Christopher Badell. I've been itching to play this fictional superhero card game (as opposed to real superheroes?) for a long time. It was a massive Kickstarter success and from the things I've heard about Greater Than Games, it has a huge future as well. We got to play with some unreleased cards, and there were even more in Christopher's heavily guarded card box. There is so much to this game that I just got a tiny taste of it, but it's a definite must buy for me.
Agent Saboteur - Loren Overby / Atomic City Games
During one of my only tips through the main exhibit hall, I wandered into Loren Overby's space. I recognized a few of the games that he had on display as The Game Crafter games and introduced myself. I've played one of his games previously, and it was great. So naturally we all jumped right into one of his games, Holder of Secrets. It's a quick card game where everyone plays as a secret agent trying to stop incidents from happening around the world. As incidents arise, you will commit to one of them. Then there is a round of knowledge-sharing where you have to play a card that is lower than the cards drawn from the deck. This happens until you stop and take all of the cards, or you bust and get nothing. Players then try to guess which fake passport your spy is using to stop this incident. If they guess correctly, they will win the incident. There is a ton of bluffing in the game, and it goes really well with the theme. It's available now on The Game Crafter, and definitely one I will be picking up.
Soda Pop Miniatures, creators of the supercute chibi adventure game Super Dungeon Explore, were on hand with their super controversial card game Tentacle Bento. It was recently massively successful on Kickstarter, and then removed because of complaints. The game is a matching game about schoolgirls being snatched up by tentacles, which sounds much worse in text than it looks in the game. There is a very light anime style to the artwork that is pretty naughty, but at the same time, seems pretty fitting to the culture. Already being removed from Kickstarter, Soda Pop Miniatures moved the campaign to their own site and it's already passed it's Kickstarter amount and is currently at $44,000.
When I walked up to the booth I jokingly told Soda Pop's John Cadice that I was totally offended. His response: "Already? It's still early!" We talked a little bit about the controversy, and how this compares to first person shooter games that are horrible things in reality, but they've made it into our mainstream markets. Whether you are offended or not, the game is doing very well. Within about 10 seconds of hitting the booth, my brother in law was already signing up for a pre-order.
Chevee Dodd - Scallywags
While waiting to start up a game in the Unpub area, I started to chat with Chevee Dodd. His shiny copy of Scallywags stood out among the unpublished prototypes, so I asked him about it. It turns out Scallywags was picked up by Gamewright and Chevee just received his first copy of it. The game comes out this summer, and has the usual high quality Gamewright polish. I chatted with Chevee about the history of Scallywags and the long road to getting published by Gamewright, and the biggest thing I learned from that conversation was that patience and persistence pays off. He only wanted Gamewright to publish this game and now a few years later, it's about to happen. For the full history of the game, there is an excellent article up at Hyperbole Games.
Chevee also won the award for best business cards at the show.
I originally was only going to bring my game Sandwich City to Origins. Then Pixel Lincoln became a priority, but I still brought a few copies of Sandwich City just in case. I was glad to have brought it because I got to meet up with Mr. and Mrs. Games and Grub (Eric Leath) and play through a session. It was a lot of fun, more relaxing for me than any other game because I've played it so many times before, and in the end I traded a copy of the game to Eric for a sweet Abraham Lincoln Rubber Duckie. There's a full recap of this game session over at the wonderful Games And Grub site.
VivaJava: The Coffee Game
T.C. Petty and DiceHateMe's VivaJava is one of my favorite games that I've played all year. I played it first at Unpub 2 in January, instantly backed it when it was launched on Kickstarter, and I've been patiently waiting since. The highly interactive game about brewing coffee beans is due for an August release, but the near-final version of the game was on display at Origins. We played a late night game with T.C. and various industry insiders and it felt even better than the prototype. August cannot come soon enough.
I couldn't talk about the trip without mentioning Dirty Frank's Hot Dog Palace. Eric form Games and Grub sent out a very helpful list of restaurants in the area just before the show and this one stuck out immediately. If you are a gourmet hot dog fan, and ever in the Columbus, OH area, it's so worth it. Just look at the picture. The place was really cool too, with all kinds of crazy celebrity paintings on the wall, including a massive Hall & Oates centerpiece.
Overall, I had a wonderful time. The people and games were amazing, and I'm already looking forward to next year.
Amazing pixel art by Ken Grazier @ http://geek-craft.com/
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