As a result, only Beth Heile is on hand at SPIEL '21, and she and partner John K are gathering games for BGG.CON 2021 in November, meeting with publishers to talk about GeekUp bits, and taking pics of what's on display at the show. Here's a sampling of what she saw in the media showcase room:
• Lost Ruins of Arnak: Expedition Leaders was still being worked on only three weeks ago, according to a representative from Czech Games Edition, but CGE prints in the Czech Republic, so shipping was not an issue regarding get copies to SPIEL '21.
• Golem, from Flaminia Brasini, Virginio Gigli, Simone Luciani, and Cranio Creations
• SCOUT, from Kei Kajino and Oink Games, with this new version featuring circus-themed icons on the suits as a visual aid, with each card being named to represent an individual performer.
• It's a Wonderful Kingdom, from Frédéric Guérard and Le Boîte de Jeu
• Lisbon Tram 28, from Pedro Santos Silva and MEBO Games, includes a completely superfluous, yet thematic bell. The publisher noted that playtesters loved ringing it as they took actions, so the bell made it into the final game for ambiance...
• One of the 100 copies of Hippocrates from Alain Orban and Game Brewer shipped to SPIEL '21 in advance of the full production run.
• Moon Adventure from Jun Sasaki and Oink Games, with the publisher describing this title (which features elements of 2014's Deep Sea Adventure) as a "hard co-operative game".
• Garden Nation, from Rémi Saunier, Nathalie Saunier, and Bombyx
• ECO: Coral Reef from Unique Board Games, with designer Izik Nevo saying he was inspired by his time as a diver, his love of chess, and his desire to bring attention to the issue of pollution on the sea turtle population.
• EXIT: Das Spiel – Die Rückkehr in die verlassene Hütte, from Inka Brand, Markus Brand, and KOSMOS introduces 3D elements to this best-selling line of escape room-inspired games. Updated: Image now spoiler-proof due to reader request.
• Components in Paleo: Ein neuer Anfang, an expansion for the 2021 Kennerspiel-winning game Paleo from Peter Rustemeyer and Hans im Glück.
• Living Forest, from Aske Christiansen and Ludonaute
• Dreadful Circus, from Bruno Faidutti and Portal Games
• CATAN: Logik Rätsel, a solitaire logic puzzle that I previously wrote about here
• Mille Fiori, from Reiner Knizia and Schmidt Spiele, which I described in detail here
• 1923 Cotton Club, from Pau Carles and Looping Games
• Wer lacht, verliert! is a party game aimed at folks who (at a minimum) would not object to the NSFW image posted below. I'm fairly certain you will not find a copy of this game at BGG.CON 2021, so you'll have to buy one for yourself should you want to play.
• Beth took a break from shooting pics to take aim at a shifty character from Spiel des Jahres-winning MicroMacro: Crime City. (Note Beth's "golden ratio" earrings, which are awesome.)
I greatly appreciate her efforts to sample the SPIEL '21 offerings on top of everything else she's doing!
Archive for Convention Reports
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I'm still updating BGG's SPIEL '21 Preview, which might be of interest even if you're not heading to Essen, Germany for the show given the wide variety of games listed, with the latest being the space-based card-management game Apogee from French publisher DTDA Games.
DTDA Games showed up at SPIEL '19 seemingly out of nowhere with Efemeris, and now it's a late arrival at SPIEL '21, too, with the publisher not being listed in Merz Verlag's SPIEL-GUIDE 2021 or its late registration list from the end of September.
What's more, I just heard from Korean publisher Playte — formerly OPEN'N PLAY — which booked at SPIEL '21 the week of October 4. Yes, Merz Verlag is still booking publishers down to the wire, and I need to get those titles listed ASAP, even though they'll be available only for demo right now.
Ideally I can give you a good picture of what will be there in Essen to help you know what you want there on your table...
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Aside from all the board game action, one of the things I loved about my first Gen Con experience was randomly bumping into different people I only "knew" from Twitter. I'm really glad I crossed paths with Jason Matthews (Twilight Struggle, Imperial Struggle, 1960: The Making of the President) and got to chat with him for a bit in between meetings.
Capstone Games, and thankfully Clay was still friendly with us after we "stuck him" playing Stick 'Em the last time we saw him in early 2020 at the GAMA Trade Show. We got to play a quick game of their new fantasy-themed, 2-player duel card game, Riftforce from designer Carlo Bortolini.
The goal of Riftforce is to gain 12 Riftforce (VPs) before your opponent. At the beginning of the game players draft 4 out of 10 different guilds with unique special abilities. Then you create and shuffle a deck of element cards for your respective guilds and draw a hand of 7 cards. You each essentially have a deck of four suits of cards with 5, 6, or 7 on them representing the card's health.
On your turn, you either play up to 3 cards along the rift with the same suit or with the same number, or you can discard a card and activate up to 3 cards you've previously played, again, either matching the number or the suit. This is when you trigger the special abilities of your guilds to attack and hopefully destroy your opponent's element cards, which is the main way you score points.
Besides playing cards and activating cards, you can also check and draw as an action. First you gain 1 point for each location on the rift that you have at least one card and your opponent doesn't have any opposing. Then you draw back up to 7 cards.
Riftforce quickly becomes a deep, thinky card game as you're managing your hand of cards to strategically play and place cards along the rift, while holding some back so you can activate the ones you've played. Timing is very important as well. The 10 different guilds all have interesting abilities and it's super fun exploring synergies between them.
I've already played 3 more times since Gen Con and dig it more and more with each play, in spite of always getting whooped.
Genius Games, I got schooled on pea plant genetics when playing a few rounds of Genotype: A Mendelian Genetics Game, a new worker-placement, dice-drafting game for 1-5 players from designers John Coveyou, Paul Salomon, and Ian Zang.
In Genotype you are competing to gain the most victory points, which primarily come from fulfilling phenotype trait requirements on pea plant Cards. I had a great experience playing 2 rounds of a 5-player game. I'm not sure if it was the game itself or the fun, competitive people I was playing with (probably a mix of both), but I really enjoyed the blend of tight worker placement with dice-drafting and how well it was integrated with the theme. Plus, the fact that it's educational and even includes a booklet explaining how the gameplay elements tie back to the history and science behind is icing on the cake.My player board during my demo game
• I previously mentioned Public Market, from Point Salad designers Molly Johnson, Robert Melvin, and Shawn Stankewich, in a tile-laying games post, but it was great to stop by the Talon Strikes Studios booth to check it out in person.
In Public Market, players bid on and draft fish tiles which you put in your ice chest to eventually sell based on the current market prices. After you sell your catch, you get a new ice chest. Each ice chest is different and presents new placement puzzles for you to solve as you load it up with more fish, plus you can unlock bonuses by covering shrimp in your ice chest. All the while, you can also build up an engine by earning permanent fish increases by completing Today's Catch cards.
The play mat looked great and really made the theme pop, but it's an upgrade and doesn't come with the game by default.
• I met briefly with Sam Healey at the Mythic Games booth where some people were deeply engaged in a game of Carlos G.Q.'s 6: Siege - The Board Game, an asymmetrical game with miniatures based on Ubisoft's acclaimed tactical shooter video game, Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six: Siege, which is available for pre-order and coming out in 2022.
At the next table over, a few folks were playing Monsterpocalypse Miniatures Game since Mythic Games and Privateer Press are co-producing a Monsterpocalypse big-box product range coming to Kickstarter Fall 2021, targeted for delivery in late 2022.
Samuel Bryant and Gwen Ruelle's 2019 release Fire Tower, so I made an impromptu stop at the Runaway Parade Games booth to see what it was all about.
Gwen gave me quick rundown of Fire Tower, which is a competitive 2-4 abstract strategy game that plays in 15-30 minutes, where your goal is to protect your own fire tower while trying to spread the blaze towards your opponents. You play action cards that allow you to alter the direction of the wind and add varying patterns of fire, water, and defensive barriers on the board. But most importantly, you get push those beautiful, chunky, orange gems around the board while you play!
They were also showing off the Fire Tower: Rising Flames expansion, which is new 2021 release that adds a new action cards, other special cards, a flock of firehawks, and a solo mode.
Dune: A Game of Conquest and Diplomacy, the new fast-paced, streamlined version of the original Dune board game from Gale Force Nine and designers Bill Eberle, Jack Kittredge, Peter Olotka, Greg Olotka, and Jack Reda. They weren't demoing it at Gen Con, but I was excited enough to unbox it in the hotel lobby to take a peek at everything. I'm really looking forward to playing it! Of course, I still need to play its predecessor, but I'll likely get this to the table much sooner since it plays in an hour.
- [+] Dice rolls
covered our 3/4 game of Azul: Queen's Garden, and now it's time to cover The Mirroring of Mary King, a 2022 release from Jim Felli of Devious Weasel Games.
Candice already summarized the game, but I want to take a whack at it, too. In this two-player game, one player represents the mortal Mary King and the other player represents a ghost of one of her ancestors, and the two of you are fighting over her psyche, which is represented by a tableau of 4x3 cards that looks like this at the start of play:Non-final components
Each player has a deck of cards, which represents your mind, and one way to lose the game is to lose your mind before the other player does. Individual cards are a mixture of CONTROL cards that highlight 1-3 areas of the tableau and ACTION cards, some of which are unique to a player and some of which are common in each deck. Each player also has three stacks of cards next to the tableau that represent ideas, with these twelve cards being split between randomized CONTROL and ACTION cards.
The game lasts five rounds — Monday through Friday — and the number of CONTROL cards you can play decreases each day from 5 to 1, whereas the number of ideas that you can buy from the stacks increases from 1 to 5.Sample ACTION cards, with you choosing one of the two effects
The ghost goes first, then players alternate turns. On a turn, you reveal the top card of each of your idea stacks, then in any order you wish play CONTROL cards (up to the limit), play ACTION cards in any quantity you wish, and buy ideas (up to the limit). To buy ideas, you pay by discarding cards at random from your deck, moving those cards to your memory. When you play a CONTROL card, in the vertical orientation of your choice, you flip all of the highlighted cards in the tableau to their opposite side. At the end of the day, refill your hand from your mind to five cards.
Each side has a unique special ability, and to use it, you must first flip one of the prerogative cards to the opposing side. If you can't, then you can't use your ability.How the board looked on Wednesday, with some spaces being locked
Your goal each day is to create a contiguous block of cards showing your side of the mortal/ghost conflict to force the other player to discard cards from their mind to their memory. With ten mortal cards connected in the image above, the ghost would discard three cards. If you manage to flip all of the cards to your side, you win instantly. If no one wins by the end of Friday, you count the cards remaining in your mind, then add a bonus if you control more of the tableau than the opponent, with the higher score winning.
The Mirroring of Mary King had a great back-and-forth flow to it along the line of many two-player games, with the ghost needing to hit as hard as possible in the morning since the mortal would then have the chance to respond, including with the final plays of the game if no one wins instantly. You're wary of playing as many cards as you possibly can since you must refill your hand, which means you're burning through your mind, but ideally more choices will enable you to do more damage to the opponent along the way. Felli noted that all of the components were non final, and the current targeted release date is Gen Con 2022.
Floodgate Games booth, Candice and I received an overview of Vivid Memories, a Matthew Dunstan and Brett J. Gilbert design that is in transit from the manufacturer with an anticipated late November/early December 2021 release date.
In the game, 2-4 players take turns drafting memory fragments — three different, two identical, or one + a bonus action — from moment tiles and placing them in an empty hex on your "brain" board. (The bonus action allows you to "rewire" your brain by moving fragments into or out of a single hex.) If you take the last fragment from a tile, you take the tile.
After all the fragments and tiles have been drafted, players take up to four actions, whether from those printed on the board or those on moment tiles, to manipulate the fragments in their brain. When you use a moment tile, you then flip it to its scoring side and (ideally) score points for particular fragment arrangements at the end of the round. Additionally, you want to create chains of fragments that link colored spaces on the brain board as you score points for those, then fill "core memory" spaces with fragments from the chains — and if you complete core memories, which require 1-3 fragments, then you score additional points at game's end.
Décorum, a co-operative game from Harry Mackin, Charlie Mackin, and Drew Tenenbaum that is subtitled "A passive aggressive game of cohabitation".
The gist of the game is that the 2-4 players are redecorating their living space, and each player has goals that they want to achieve, with everyone needing to satisfy all the goals in order to win — except that players cannot state their goals directly. Instead they must act like my mother-in-law, who responds to changes with comments like "I love it!", "It's fine", or the dreaded "It's not for me." (Technically, my MIL would never say "It's not for me"; she would instead say "It's fine", but with a tone in her voice as if she was just struck in the face with a salmon, and that tone is what registers in our brains as "It's not for me".)
In the game, you will place wall hangings, curios, and lamps in various rooms, with these items coming in four styles (modern, antique, retro, or unusual), or you'll remove these items from rooms, or you'll paint the rooms, with others undoubtedly turning up their nose at your efforts, but ideally everything will come together before you run out of time. Décorum, which is due out in January 2022, includes thirty scenarios that set up the goals for each player and undoubtedly introduce new elements over their progression.
Kites is a 2-6 player co-operative game from Kevin Hamano due out in Q1/Q2 2022 in which players take turns playing cards to flip color-coded sand timers that represent the kites. If a sand timer runs out, then that kite has crashed, and you've lost the game. To win, you must play your way through the entire deck, which includes storm cards and other complications.
Additionally, Floodgate Games expects to have Fog of Love and the Love on Lockdown expansion — which the company acquired in mid-2021 — on the U.S. market by the end of January 2022. Sagrada: The Great Facades – Glory should be available in Q1/Q2 2022, with Sagrada Legacy debuting at Gen Con 2022.
• Atlas Games didn't announce any new titles at Gen Con 2021, but it was running through the stock of its newest release: Dice Miner, which hit the retail market in August 2021. As sales manager Travis Winter told me, in statement that mirror others I've heard, a quick sell-through is a mixed blessing because you have no idea how to gauge future demand. Atlas president John Nephew mirrored that sentiment in a Sept. 29, 2021 tweet:
Wish I knew how many Dice Miner we should reprint.— John Nephew, SPIKEVAXinated (@JohnNephew) September 29, 2021
He then elaborated, "It is more complicated than usual because of the FUBAR supply chain issues and extraordinary shipping costs. I don't want to play today's shipping for a 5 year supply. But I don't know how many that would be anyway."
Winter says that with an evergreen title like Gloom, which debuted in 2005, they know how many sell annually and use that info to ensure (as much as possible) that they never run out of stock. For Dice Miner, you're shooting in the dark as to what people might want 6-12 months from now. Will buzz and demand grow, level out, or disappear?Almost mined out!
As for other titles, in November 2021 Atlas Games expects to release both the card game Gloomier: A Night at Hemlock Hall — a standalone twist on Keith Baker's Gloom that can also serve as an expansion for that game — and the role-playing game Magical Kitties Save the Day.
• Molly Zeff from Flying Leap Games was running through story after story in non-stop demos of Wing It: The Game of Extreme Storytelling, the title that launched the company in 2017. The game has the familiar structure of a judge awarding one player each round, with players being given random objects with which they must try to resolve a situation.
Flying Leap Games had two other titles at Gen Con 2021, with 2020's The Million Dollar Doodle splitting the creativity over multiple players. In the game, you receive two logo components, then combine them to create a logo that you then pass on to the next person. When you receive a logo, you then create a name for the company that bears that logo. Pass the creations, then create a slogan for the company you were handed, then pass once more to create a review for a company based on the slogan that you see. Everyone then votes on which company should be funded, so all players involved with the creative aspects of that company win.
The next title from FLG is Just Tell Me What To Do, with someone each round playing a dilemma card, after which everyone else plays one of the four advice cards in their hand, then explains why the dilemma would be best solved with their approach, after which the original player chooses a winner for the round.Sample dilemmas and advice
• Made another new friend at Gen Con 2021, then the security guard yelled at me to get my hand off the alien as apparently the oils on my skin would be corrosive. Irony!
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• In August 2021, I noted that AMIGO Games, the U.S. branch of German publisher AMIGO Spiel, had regained the rights to Uwe Rosenberg's trading card game Bohnanza and that it plans to release a 25th anniversary edition of the game in 2022.
At Gen Con 2021, head of AMIGO Games Alex Yeager passed along a few details about this title, namely that it will be released as a single large print run to ideally last for a decent portion of the year, but not stick around forever; that it will retail for at most US$25; that it will contain a new bean type (my money is on "jelly"); and that it will contain three variant games, one of which will use a collectible coin packaged in the box.
Other titles coming from AMIGO Games in the U.S. — all in October 2021 — are:
—2Can, a "golf"-style card game from Haim Shafir in which you attempt to trade cards to get the lowest score.
—Flip-Pix!, a real-time game in which you have double-sided cards with pictures on one side and letters on another. To begin play, you flip over a card from the deck so that it shows either images or letters (depending on how you set up the deck), then if it shows images, everyone looks at the letter side of their cards and races to find a letter that starts the name of one object depicted on the card. As soon as someone plays a card, everyone flips their cards to the image side to find something that begins with one of the letters on the card just played. Whoever plays all of their cards first wins.
—CLACK! Thwack!, which plays like Haim Shafir's real-time game CLACK!, except that everyone has a stick with a suction cup on it, and you need to slap and grab cards that match whatever was rolled on the dice that round.
—Quick Cups, another real-time game from Haim Shafir, with players manipulating their five colored cups as quickly as possible to match a revealed pattern. As with Bohnanza, AMIGO Games has gained the rights to this design that originally appeared from AMIGO Spiel, but was first released in English by another publisher, in this case Spin Master.
—Magic Mountain, a design from Jens-Peter Schliemann and Bernhard Weber that I'll describe in detail because it seems like a neat design with an unusual physical element:Quote:In Magic Mountain, you want to move the sorcerers' apprentices down the mountain ahead of the witches — but you don't always know how the will-o'-the-wisps will make the figures move.You might notice the "Play together, not against each other!" tagline on the cover of Magic Mountain. Yeager noted that for the most part the company's titles in the U.S. have been sold by toy stores, not game stores, so co-operative games might not be familiar to the AMIGO Games audience. That said, Yeager wants to ensure that AMIGO Games releases something more suited for hobby gamers, such as Alexander Pfister's Monster Expedition, at least once a year to keep a foothold in that market.
To set up, place supports on the game board to elevate the starting area, then place six sorcerers' apprentices in the back row and four witches on their designated starting spaces. Add the five colored will-o'-the-wisp marbles to the bag.
On a turn, draw a will-o'-the-wisp, then place it at the top of one of the six starting channels and let it go. If the will-o'-the-wisp hits a figure, the ball will stop. Pick up this figure and move it to the next open colored space on the winding path that matches the color of the will-o'-the-wisp. If you're moving a sorcerers' apprentice, you might want to do it quickly because if the will-o'-the-wisp hits that same figure, you can move it once again! Don't rush moving the witches, though, since you want them to move as little as possible. If a will-o'-the-wisp doesn't hit any figures, then you must move a witch of your choice to the next matching colored space. Once all five will-o'-the-wisps have been drawn, return them to the bag and start again.
If you manage to move four sorcerers' apprentices to the bottom of the mountain before three witches get there, you win! You can adjust the difficulty of the game by requiring more sorcerers' apprentices or fewer witches or both. Alternatively, you can play the game competitively, with each player or team trying to get their group of four figures down the mountain first.
• Ivan Lashin's Furnace was on tables at the booth of both originating publisher Hobby World and licensing partner Arcane Wonders, with this being a 2-4 player game with an extremely clever bidding system in which you want to grind through raw materials to earn the most money. (For more details on the gameplay, head to my detailed overview from May 2021.)
Hobby World's Julia Klokova said that an expansion is currently under development, with Furnace: Interbellum consisting of new characters with special powers, new aspects in the production chain, and a new twist on bidding.
• Publisher Restoration Games was awaiting many new titles that were in transit...somewhere other than Gen Con 2021, so it was demoing future releases on its main demo tables, with the highlights being Return to Dark Tower, which was funded on Kickstarter in February 2020, and...
Thunder Road: Vendetta, which is launching on Kickstarter in the near future.Components not final
• Artisans of Splendent Vale from Nikki Valens and Renegade Game Studios is another title with a crowdfunding connection — with that Kickstarter having launched two days after Gen Con 2021 ended. I don't recall seeing the game being demoed at the show, but you could marvel at the size of the box, which I estimate to be .65 descents. (I assume you're familiar with that unit of measurement?)
• Aside from reliable sellers like BANG! and its Decktective game line, publisher dV Giochi brought approximately one hundred copies of Wonder Book from Martino Chiacchiera and Michele Piccolini to Gen Con 2021, with visitors playing the pop-up adventure game on one or two tables practically every time I passed the booth.
• Auction site eBay had a giant booth at Gen Con 2021, and many people speculated before the show what might be taking place there. Turns out that you could have your picture taken and placed on a trading card-like printout. Yes, you too could be Carol Lomas!
Okay, I discovered a bit more to this story later, and I'll get to that in a future post...
• On the way to dinner on Thursday night, we met a new friend far from the convention center, a friend we only barely didn't step on thanks to its camouflage.
• We also saw intriguing DNA-inspired signs/decorations outside the headquarters of pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly and Company.
• Then we passed this amazing scene. Why settle for miniatures when you can set up the life-sized work at your home?
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Gamewright in two posts: a June 2021 preview of Phil Walker-Harding's roll-and-write game Super Mega Lucky Box, and a July 2021 round-up of Happy City, Chicken Chicken, Hedgehog Roll, Secret Squad, and Qwixx Mixx.
I had mentioned in that July 2021 post that Qwixx Mixx is, as far as I know, the first expansion Gamewright has ever released to retail, so I asked Nora Meiners, Gamewright's consumer marketing manager, about this during Gen Con 2021. Meiners stated that the number one seller on Gamewright's website has consistently been Qwixx replacement scoring pads (link), so it made sense to expand the Qwixx line with an additional title that could be an add-on for such orders.
Yōkai, a co-operative card game from Julien Griffon due out in September 2021 in which you try to group like spirits together, and Word Heist, a design for 2-6 players from Nyles Breecher, Patrick Lindsay, and Jordan Sorenson due out in October 2021 in which you use revealed letters to create a word that you hope others won't guess. You must give some hints as to which letters you used, and the more hints you give, the more you can score...as long as an opponent doesn't guess the word. If they do, then they score for all the letters used in the word, whether those letters were hinted or not.
When talking about sales and business life during the pandemic, Meiners mentioned that not having NY Toy Fair in early 2021 has been rough on Gamewright's publicity efforts since the company focuses on mainstream-friendly games and NY Toy Fair is all about introducing those games to retailers. "You have a small build-up for these new games in lots of places that collectively add up", she said, but without that show, you lose the most effective marketers of your titles.
• Publisher Pops & Bejou Games had hoped to debut CULTivate from designers Austin Foss, Jake Sells, and Jenna Radtke at Gen Con 2021, but the shipment was stuck somewhere in the Los Angeles-Long Beach port mess that I wrote about in this overview post, so they had only two demo copies on hand to show off how each player takes the role of a cult leader, then tries to gain followers and place them in particular patterns on their player board while simultaneously keeping others from doing this.
• Publisher Games by Bicycle had a trio of new releases that hit the U.S. market in August 2021 available for demo or purchase, with Crystallized being a 2-4 player game from Frederica Scott Vollrath in which each turn you play one of three cards in hand. For the colors that you match, you place crystals from your reserve onto the shared storage board — but not all the crystals in play will fit on this board. If you need to place crystals but no room remains, then you can give them to another player who still has this color in their reserve, which means you want to void yourself of colors as quickly as you can so that others can't stick you with unplayable crystals. Whoever holds the fewest crystals when the storage board is full wins.
Charlie Hoopes' Emergency Broadcast is a pattern-building game for 2-4 players in which you take turns placing domino-style tiles on a shared game board to try to score objective cards in your card, whether immediately (in case you think opponents will wreck the layout) or at the end of a round for bonus points. In the first round, you draw six tiles and place five, then in the second round you draw five and place four, but only on top of whatever was placed in the first round. Tiles in the third round are then placed on top of second-level tiles, with new objective cards dealt out at the start of that round.Game board and sample objective cardsDesigner Charlie Hoopes
Sideshow Swap, which was originally self-published by designers Phillip James and Adam Stevenson in 2019, is a 2-8 player game in which you're trying to end up with the most valuable performer in play. Performers are numbered 0-15, with each player getting one face down at the start of play and five others being placed in a pool. Each turn, you take your salary, optionally purchase a ticket, then either play a ticket (and take the special action printed on it) or swap your performer with one from the pool. You can always peek at your own performer, but everything else you've seen needs to stick in memory. When the deck of tickets runs out _ or someone plays the unique game-ending ticket — the game ends, and whoever holds the highest performer wins.
• Publisher Greenbrier Games had advance copies of BarBEARian Battlegrounds: Tales of BarBEARia and the Candy Horde expansion, both of which will hit retail outlets in the U.S. on October 20, 2021. Co-designer Julie Ahern let loose with many bear puns while giving an overview of this 2-6 player game in which you assign dice each round over three seasons to various actions that include attacking your neighbors, gathering resources, gaining specialist powers, placing flags on locations on the adventure board — all in a quest for glory.
Yashima: Legend of the Kami Masters, a 2015 title from designers Tony Gullotti and Joshua Sprung, with Ahern saying that the game will feature redesigned cards for a cleaner game.
Gordon Alford's map-exploration and storybook-driven game Lost Ones, which was Kickstarted in November 2020, was available for demo at Gen Con 2021 thanks to copies that had been airshipped ahead of the main shipment, which will ideally have a retail release in Q1 2022.
• I've already posted a detailed overview of Azul: Queen's Garden from designer Michael Kiesling, which Next Move Games will debut at SPIEL '21, then release in various countries before the end of 2021, but I'm trying to make sure that I check off everything in my notebook, so here's another pic from my demo game at Gen Con 2021. Go check out that overview if you want to know what's going on with all the bits...Non-final components
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a broad overview of Gen Con 2021 that tries to give a perspective on the show as a whole and some of what we can expect from the game industry in the coming year. Now it's time to dive into game- and publisher-specific coverage thanks to dozens of pages of notes and even more images.
Let's start the journey as all journeys begin: filling the suitcase.Packed and ready to go to
Okay, I don't have much to say about this other than that preparation for Gen Con 2021 felt far more like my preparations for NY Toy Fair than for any Gen Con of years past. BGG didn't have a booth at the show, so all of us attending lacked a home base and we were left to whatever we had scheduled individually — which for me meant 32 publisher meetings over four days to check out what was new, what they have coming, and how things stand for them given all that's going on in the world.Birds at the airport?! Good thing I packed appropriately. Sic 'em, Katniss!
• The first stop Thursday morning was the press room to pick up my press badge, and while there a PR representative rolled in the first cart of games picked up from exhibitors for display in the press room.
I shot a few pics before it was time to head into the exhibit hall, starting with Horrified: American Monsters from Ravensburger since this title was debuting at the show and had not previously been made public. (In fact, Ravensburger had a limited supply of this title, and as far as I could tell it was selling copies only to those who had preordered the game ahead of time.)Bonus seventh cryptid in the background
I love the look of the game board in The Belgian Beers Race from Michaël Boutriaux, BYR Games, and Grand Gamers Guild, mostly because when shot at this level of detail, the board looks like an abstract art print from the 1950s. As for what the game is about, um, beers and racing, I assume. Look at this image!
Hachette Boardgames booth, this being the game-based branch of Hachette Book Group, which is the largest publishing company in France. Asmodee may not have made it to Gen Con 2021, but the French contingent of the game industry was still present thanks to Hachette, which since February 2019 has acquired Gigamic, Sorry We Are French, Le Scorpion Masqué, and Blackrock Games, which distributes titles for several dozen game publishers, in addition to founding two internal studios: Funnyfox and Studio H.
Hachette debuted three titles at Gen Con 2021: the second edition of IKI from Koota Yamada and SWAF, and Studio H's Oltréé (Antoine Bauza and John Grümph) and the English version of Suspects (Sebastien Duverger Nedellec, Paul Halter, and Guillaume Montiage). The 2020 releases Dinner in Paris and Nidavellir were also available for purchase.
In a comment that was echoed by many other publishers over the course of the show, Hachette's Adrien Crochette said that advance copies of these games had been brought in for sale at Gen Con 2021 (and that arrival had been uncertain until immediately before the show opened), but the general release of these games in the U.S. had been pushed back from September to "ideally by the end of the year". The games were still in China at that point, and movement was predicted but not guaranteed, given all the uncertainty about what it would cost to ship them, whether containers would even be available, what the delay might be when the games arrive at the Los Angeles-Long Beach port, and so on.
Asked what we might see from Hachette in the future, given that Blackrock Games on its own has a 400-product catalogue and handles roughly 90 new releases each year, Crochette said that the current goal is to choose 8-10 games per year from this catalog and the other companies it owns, then import and promote this limited selection in the United States. After all, despite the size of Hachette Book Group, the Hachette games division in the U.S. currently consists solely of Crochette.
One other new item Hachette had on hand was Gigamic's and Nouri Khalifa's Quantik, which had debuted in Europe in 2019 and which is part of Gigamic's "classic" line along with Quarto, Quixo, and Quoridor. Regarding this last title, which debuted in 1997, Crochette said that Hachette is awaiting a massive restocking of Quoridor as TikTok has recorded more than (checks stats again) 62 million views of Quoridor-related videos and sales of the game pick up at online sites a few hours each new video drops.
If you have been playing games for a while or like to scan thrift store shelves, you might think that everyone knows about Quoridor — but the video and sales evidence shows otherwise. Similarly, while talking about this trend later with a Ravensburger representative, he mentioned that at a previous Gen Con, they had put Labyrinth on a demo table, which baffled a German executive who was visiting given that Labyrinth is more than thirty years old and has sold more than 20 million copies. Doesn't everyone know this game?!
No, they do not. Ravensburger demoed the game repeatedly throughout the day and sold many copies in the process. Sales of 20 million copies sounds impressive, but the world has more than 7 billion people in it, so in all likelihood less than 1% of the world's population is familiar with Labyrinth — which means plenty of room for sales growth remains.
One of Hachette's future releases in the U.S. is In the Palm of Your Hand from designer Timothée Decroix and publisher La Boîte de Jeu, with this being a party game for 2-8 players in which you attempt to convey a specific memory depicted on a card — in the image and video below, that would be a person on a rocking chair on a front porch — by miming the image with various components in the open hand of a player while that player has their eyes closed. The other players in the game don't see your card — only the miming — and they then contribute cards to a pool from which the active player must try to identify the correct image.The secret image, followed below by a tactile description of that image
At Gen Con 2021, @HachetteGames demoed In the Palm of Your Hand from La Boîte de Jeu, a party game in which you try to convey an image by "drawing" it in another player's hands w/ the included game components. Everyone else tries to get that player to choose the wrong card. —WEM pic.twitter.com/74zUSclsgq— BoardGameGeek (@BoardGameGeek) September 25, 2021
25th Century Games had a range of titles in stock, both old and new, such as On the Rocks, a drafting game from designers Christina and Michael Pittre and co-publisher PenTree Games in which you try to assemble the right ingredients in your various glasses to complete drink orders.
Company owner Chad Elkins said that copies of the game were already gone from the warehouse, with everything in distribution other than what was for sale at the show. This might sound like a good thing, but Elkins says that combination of a small print run and a quick sellout is a mixed blessing since you have no idea what demand might really be. Should you invest in a second printing immediately? Especially since production and shipping issues might delay arrival of those games until after the initial buzz fades?
Tutankhamun and Space Explorers were also out of stock at the warehouse level, but he plans to Kickstart Yuri Zhuravljov's Space Explorers: Age of Ambition in 2022 for release in 2023, with a reprint of the base game taking place at the same time. This expansion includes seven modules for use with the base game, with at most three modules being added to any one game.
Also on the display tables at Gen Con 2021 was the second edition of Danny Devine's tile-laying game Kōhaku, co-published with Gold Seal Games. Players take turns drafting a koi tile and a feature tile from a shared display, placing those tiles in their personal grid in a checkerboard fashion. Feature tiles score based on what's adjacent to them or what's present in the entire grid.
The initial release of Kōhaku featured acrylic tiles, whereas this new release has ye olde cardboard tiles to keep the price reasonable. Aside from copies flown in for Gen Con 2021, the general release of Kōhaku will take place in Q1 2022.
A surprise release at Gen Con 2021 was Holly Jolly, a 2-4 player card game from Ben Pinchback and Matt Riddle that gives 25CG a second Christmas title in its line-up following 2018's Christmas Lights: A Card Game. Each turn in the game, you add one of the three light or tinsel cards to the tree, changing the collective value of the lights or tinsel (depending on what you add), with you then taking an ornament or present card to match this total value, with these latter cards scoring in various game-y ways.
Elkins isn't sure whether the main shipment of Holly Jolly will arrive in time for holiday sales in 2021. If not, he'll make the game available for purchase on the 25CG website, then release the game into retail in Q4 2022. Given the shipping issues now, long-range plans aren't a bad thing for publishers to consider as long as they can afford to sit on inventory.
Other titles coming from 25th Century Games:
• Three Sisters is a roll-and-write design that designers Pinchback and Riddle Kickstarted through their Motor City Gameworks brand, with 25CG having come on board later to co-publish and distribute. This title should hit retail outlets in Q1 2022.
Gartenbau from David Abelson and Alex Johns should hit Kickstarter in October 2021 for a 2022 release.
• David Conklin's Blazon will launch on Kickstarter after that, with this being a game about medieval shield-making with art by Ian O'Toole.
• O'Toole is also handling art duties on 25th Century Games' new version of Reiner Knizia's classic auction game Ra.
• Green Team Wins will be a 2022 release from Nathan Thornton, co-designer of Medium, in which you try to answer questions in the same way that everyone else does.
Each game, you use 15 question cards. Reveal a card, then have everyone answer it simultaneously. Whichever answer is the most popular one constitutes the "correct" answer, and everyone who gave that answer is part of the green team — at least for this turn. You score 1 point whenever you join the green team, and you score 2 points each time you're already on the green team and give the correct answer. The player count is open so long as you can manage to track who's answered what!•••
Hoo boy, have I covered only two publishers so far?! Let's see whether I can cover ground more quickly in future posts so that I'm not doing this until SPIEL '21 opens in mid-October...
- [+] Dice rolls
• The PSC Games booth was my first stop on day one. I had the opportunity to play a quick (tense!) game of Paolo Mori's Caesar!: Seize Rome in 20 Minutes!. As a fan of Mori's 2019 release, Blitzkrieg!: World War Two in 20 Minutes, I was curious to see what he cooked up with the follow-up, and Caesar! did not disappoint.
The overall gameplay and setting differ from Blitzkrieg!, but they scratch the same itch in terms of being quick-playing, two-player games with tough decisions and tension driven by a solid chit-pull system.
In Blitzkrieg!, placing your chits on particular spaces on the different World War II theater tracks allows you to activate special abilities, whereas in Caesar!, you trigger special abilities by closing off regions on the map, similar to completing a box in the Dots and Boxes game many people have probably played as a child.
When a region is closed off, whoever has the highest influence value gets to place one of their control tokens in it. The interesting thing here is that closing the region off and gaining the special ability is independent from taking control of the region, and the goal of the game is place all of your influence control markers out before your opponent. However, the special abilities are very helpful, so there's a balance of knowing when to close something to snag a special ability versus trying to take control of the region, but ultimately it's ideal to do both if you can manage it. Rarely is that possible, though, so it makes for interesting choices.
There are a few other fresh new twists in Caesar! that makes it stand apart from Blitzkrieg!, but I dig both of these games. They did not have copies of Caesar! at Gen Con, but I was able to pre-order it (targeted for shipping in November 2021), and I'm looking forward to playing it more.
Kombo Klash, a new tactical, tile-laying and combo-scoring game for 2-4 players from designer "Nero" Ondrej Sova and Hub Games, the publishing company behind Holding On: The Troubled Life of Billy Kerr and Adventure Mart.
Waggle Dance is Bright Eye Games' new version of Mike Nudd's worker bees, dice worker-placement game for 1-4 players that's all about making more honey than your opponents, with this design having been originally released by Grublin Games Publishing in 2014.
Chip Theory Games gave me a gameplay rundown of burncycle, a co-operative, puzzly infiltration game in which 1-4 players command a team of robots using "creative action sequencing" to take down evil, human-run corporations. After checking it out in person, I'm pumped to get burncycle on my table and play it. Even though the components and art weren't final, I was still impressed, as always, with the component quality from Chip Theory Games.Art and components not finalized
Too Many Bones in Q4 2021.
Unbreakable launches on Gamefound on October 19, 2021 as the final release in the Too Many Bones series, including at least two new Gearlocks, new encounters and baddies pack, a whole new narrative, and more.
• Grand Gamers Guild had a variety of new releases to share, starting with Richard Yaner's Gorinto, an interesting, Japanese, elemental, abstract strategy game for 1-4 players with scoring goals that vary each game.
For another take on the elements, Mythalix from designers Julian Gaine and Kyri Karaiskakis is an area control, battle game in which 2-4 players each command a mythical god with their own unique powers and abilities.
The Artemis Odyssey, a sequel to The Artemis Project and a reimplementation of Ad Astra from designers Bruno Faidutti and Serge Laget that is being crowdfunded on Kickstarter (KS link) for a targeted 2022 release.
Cephalofair Games booth to introduce myself to Isaac Childres, who I had met digitally at Gen Con Online 2020 when he gave an overview of his 2020 hit, Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion. I happened to catch some players deeply engaged in a demo game of Frosthaven with the coolest custom Talisman Sabre Terrain 3D landscaping. It was very impressive and immersive thematically.
Jim Felli, creator of Cosmic Frog, at the Devious Weasel Games booth to play Felli's upcoming 2022 release The Mirroring of Mary King, a two-player game in which one person is a mortal contemporary woman named Mary King (Eric) and the other player is the ghost of Mary's long dead ancestor, a 17th century Scottish merchant burgess of the same name (me).
The goal of the game is to get the central tableau cards, representing an image of Mary, switched completely to your respective side (mortal or ghost), so we took turns playing control cards and special action cards to manipulate the state of Mary to our own advantage. I've conveniently included a photo of when I, the ghost player, had a moment in the lead before Eric played his cards right and ended up victorious in the end.Prototype components
There was an interesting tug-of-war feeling throughout the game, and I noticed that you have to carefully think through the implications of what you do each turn to avoid leaving opportunities open for your opponent. I had some very thinky moments as I was constantly trying to put myself in good leading position while also defending myself from any of Eric's mortal antics. I appreciated that the rules were fairly easy to digest, but the decisions were often challenging.
From my experiences with his games, Jim Felli is a master at creating unique games, with the uniqueness coming from a combo of the theme and the gameplay mechanisms as they relate to the theme. The Mirroring of Mary King continues with this trend, and I'm looking forward to checking out the finished version in 2022.
Smirk & Dagger Games, I checked out a demo of its upcoming 2022 release The Spill from Andy Kim, at the tail end of its Kickstarter campaign (KS link). In The Spill, 1-4 players work together to contain an oil spill — black dice dropped through a custom randomizer tower — and save the sea life.Prototype components
Smirk & Laughter Games, I had a great time working co-operatively with brave strangers to struggle through the puzzly, horror-themed tile-placement game The Night Cage from designers Christopher Ryan Chan, Chris McMahon, Rosswell Saunders.
- [+] Dice rolls
Some of that spirit was still present at Gen Con 2021, both in me and in others. We had jobs to do, sure, but for the most part the jobs could have been done elsewhere or delayed until another time. This time everyone was uncertain whether the Indiana Convention Center would be absent life or flooded with more humans than we could reasonably stand. We recognized the folly of being there, while also wanting to connect with others, desperate to be part of something larger than ourselves and hoping that something wouldn't be a tally of the diseased and deceased.
In the end, Gen Con reported that "a unique attendance of over 35,000 gaming fans" made their way to the ICC, which was populated with "more than 320 exhibiting publishers and vendors, including more than 90 first-time Gen Con exhibitors". Many of those first-time exhibitors found room at Gen Con 2021 solely because of all the publishers that weren't on site, whether those that had cancelled prior to the sign-up deadline (such as Asmodee, Paizo, CMON, and BGG itself) or those that had cancelled later, when it became clear that the conditions for a convention weren't ideal — although who's to say at this point we're ever going to return to "ideal".
Gen Con also notes that "[p]ublishers released more than 200 new games during the convention", which is far off the numbers of years past. I barely managed to push BGG's Gen Con 2021 Preview over two hundred new titles being sold and demoed, with almost as many titles being removed from the list as added to it in the final weeks ahead of the show. By comparison, BGG's Gen Con 2019 Preview listed 635 titles.
At the show, almost every publisher had stories of games stuck somewhere in the distribution pipeline, whether due to a shortage of paper at the manufacturer, a record number of cargo ships backed up near the Los Angeles-Long Beach port complex, a container tagged for and awaiting customs inspection for weeks, or a lack of drivers to move goods to a final warehouse.
Publishers spoke of previously unimaginable — yet now commonplace — prices for containers, with the highest price I heard being $35,000, roughly ten times the "normal" price of 2019. Every publisher expects retail prices for games to rise in 2022, if not sooner, given that a $35k cost on a container that contains, say, five thousand big box games equals a $7/copy shipping cost, compared to 70 cents not too long ago. One publisher had hoped to bring in advance copies of a Kickstarted game to seed the market and generate buzz, but each copy of the game would have cost $70 to ship, so that plan was out, leaving only a single copy on hand to represent what was to come...some day.
Multiple publishers stated that prices have been held down relative to what's included in a box, with the $40 game of today generally containing more components of better quality than the $40 game of 2010. Now it's time to increase prices to better represent a game's components, but more for survival's sake than anything else. Few people want to increase prices as they don't want their games to compare unfavorably on the market, but given the choice of working for nothing or maintaining a functioning business with positive cash flow, the latter seems like a no-brainer.
Despite the relative lack of new games and an attendance count half that of 2019, nearly every publisher I spoke with said that sales at Gen Con 2021 were outpacing those of 2019. Apparently the folks who did come to the show were those with money to burn, those who wanted some sense of normalcy in the simple act of attending an event and taking home souvenirs, lots and lots of souvenirs. Titles from 2020 that had been featured only on livestream presentations had their first spotlight at a convention, some moving as well as 2021 releases while others struggled to overcome the impression that they were passé.
Publishers obviously welcomed game sales, but they also talked about the value of being able to talk to players in person, see people interact with their games, and experience buzz in real-time. One publisher mentioned that Thursday demoes for a new release had seemed slow, but over the four days of the show, more and more people came to test the game and sales picked up, proving in real time the value of a convention — although the hope, of course, is that those players carry their excitement for the game back home to share it with others. Time will tell.
Time was on everyone's mind for all sorts of reasons, whether it was the short window of time between Gen Con and Origins (which many publishers are skipping on the assumption that few people will attend both shows) or between Origins and SPIEL (which many publishers are skipping due to lack of product, governmental restrictions, or medical uncertainty); the thought that conventions might all be conducted this way in the future (with everyone masked and eating furtively to avoid seeming callous); or the recognition that one of the first things to do after leaving Gen Con is conduct a Covid test to ensure that you brought home only what you had intended to carry.
On that last point, Gen Con reports that "[o]ver 90% of Gen Con’s attendees were vaccinated against COVID-19 according to surveys conducted by organizers", and while the safest choice of all is to never leave your residence, once you have a Covid vaccine, your risk of getting seriously ill due to the disease falls drastically. Whether you want to take that risk, well, that decision will vary from person to person, but anyone who does, say, go skydiving will ideally wear a parachute in order to avoid risking harm to others — not to mention yourself.
What risks will future shows carry? For many first-time exhibitors, the possibility of not finding a space for themselves on the exhibit floor at Gen Con 2022. Maybe Asmodee has exited the convention business permanently, content to pitch games to mainstream audiences, and maybe it will once again lay claim to a vast section of booths. All publishers face the possibility that increased shipping costs and the uncertainty of manufacturing will become a permanent part of the business, forcing them to land items at their warehouse months ahead of a show to ensure inventory.
For players, well, perhaps you'll have to be content with less spectacle and fewer choices, but ideally you can still make connections with others across the gaming table in this hobby that we love.•••
Candice Harris and I will be posting overviews of specific games and publishers over the next couple of weeks as we go through all of our notes and photos. I hope you'll keep checking in to see what we saw, played, and anagrammed.
- [+] Dice rolls
I've been posting pics and notes about new and upcoming game releases on BGG's Twitter account, and posts will resume shortly with compilations of what Candice and I saw, played, and juggled.
- [+] Dice rolls