Once again this year I will be attending Gen Con August 17-20th to enjoy the best four days in gaming. This is the Con where board game publishers either release or demo many of their new games and this year is no exception with dozens of games slated for their debut. I have put together the following list of my Top 10 Games I’m Interested in Trying Out at Gen Con and plan to do a debrief and quick write up about each of them when it is all over. I am sure that I will try out more games than these ten but these are the ones I will make sure to see. Enjoy my list and let me know if you agree or have your own list. I have copied descriptions from either Board Game Geek or from the publishers sites for each of the below games and then added my editorial comments at the end of each entry.
10. Time of Legends: Joan of Arc from Mythic Games
Time of Legends: Joan of Arc is a story-driven board game set during the tumult of the 100 Years War that uses finely-sculpted miniatures and 3D scenery to set the scene for a game of cunning and skill as well as a little bit of luck. The game is a combination of interwoven card play, resource management, and position on the board. You will need to master all three to beat the best opponents. Getting your men into the right position, and heading off your enemy, will be no use if you cannot muster the cards and other resources to make the most of it. Joan of Arc allows a huge amount of freedom in your actions. In every turn, you can choose to spend or save resources, and when you come to activate a unit you can choose between combat, interrogation, search, exploration, prayers, and other actions. You can also use your actions to level up your heroes so there is some progression in the game itself, which I always really enjoy. Scenarios range from small affairs with a few models and simplified role-play elements, to full battles with dozens of knights, archers and men-at-arms. All scenarios typically play in under an hour. The game also includes a battle mode, to fight out conflicts between armies of your choosing.
Did I also mention that this is a miniatures game? Here is a look at some of the minis that are in the game. I am a big fan of tactical miniatures games and a few that I have really enjoyed over the past year or so are Conan from Monolith Editions as well as Dark Souls from Steamforged Games. I would guess that by the look of the miniatures and the high level of detail present in the art that I’ve seen so far for this game, that it will at least look great even if it doesn’t play great. I would very much like to demo this game and it is being debuted at Gen Con so I need to make sure and find their booth and hit this up early on to make sure I get a play in. Time of Legends: Joan of Arc launches on Kickstarter October 10, 2017.
9. Firefly Adventures: Brigands & Browncoats from Galeforce Nine
Firefly Adventures: Brigands and Browncoats is a cooperative, mission based, skirmish-level game where the players use the different skills and abilities of characters from the cult TV classic including Malcolm, Zoë, Jayne, Kaylee and Wash to succeed. The game contains two distinct miniature game pieces for each crew member, one in casual relaxed pose, the other in a heroic action stance. Crew may choose to Act Casual or Act Heroic and each pose has a unique set of actions that the Crew can perform on their turn, but be warned – while no one’s gonna pay much mind to someone with a casual demeanor, acting all heroic is sure to attract unwanted attention.
When you and the Crew get to work, a Job Briefing will tell you all you need to know; what your Crew needs to accomplish, how they might succeed and how long they have to get it done. Some Jobs are easier and faster, some are longer and more involved. What type of Job you want to tackle is up to you. You can work a single Job, or a series of Jobs, using the Credits you earn from one Job to equip the Crew for the next Job.
I have really enjoyed Gale Force Nine’s other Firefly game and love running through the Verse looking for trouble and this game is sure to provide more of the same but this time in a cooperative setting where players are working together rather than against one another. I’m intrigued by the various stances that the minis can take and am looking forward to seeing how each of these abilities end up working themselves out in the game. This game will be available for demo at Gen Con and it appears that the base game is designed with expansions in mind as some of the better known characters are not included. It supposedly will be ready for retail shelves later this year.
8. The King’s Will from ADC Blackfire
In The King’s Will, a new Euro game designed by Hans-Peter Stoll, players will be overseeing the buildup of their personal duchy in an attempt to garner the favor of the King. How do you please the King? Well, it is hard to even know what it is that he wants as his demand cards are hidden at the outset of the game and must be discovered by players throughout the game to even know what their goals need to be. But beware the King’s wrath as if you cannot meet his demands, you will lose points at the end.
I like hidden information games and this one appears to be a new and novel approach to that genre. Players will use a shifting tile system to choose actions to take and those actions are varied including governing, which allows for multiple actions that lessen construction costs, development, which allows for more resources to be collected, enrichment, that allows a peak at the King’s Will cards, building, etc. I really enjoy thinky Euro games and this one has a lot of thinking necessary, as well as some mental acuity as you will have to remember what demand tiles contain after you see them. You don’t want to give that information to your opponents for free. This game will be demoed at Gen Con and I am looking forward to it as it gives me a Stefan Feld type feel, although victory points are extremely tight in this one.
7. Thunderstone Quest from Alderac Entertainment Group
I am a huge fan of Thunderstone, having either played or owned all of the various iterations over the years, including the original as well as Thunderstone Advance.
So, we are now into the third edition as Thunderstone returns with Thunderstone Quest. Recruit your heroes, arm your party, then visit the dungeon, which is pretty similar to the standard games but with a twist. The dungeon has new perils not seen in prior editions. The addition of all-new dungeon tiles create new challenges and rewards as you explore deeper and deeper in the dungeon. Each quest brings new dungeons as well as new side adventures!
In case you don’t know, Thunderstone is a fantasy deck-building game. Each player starts with a basic deck of cards that they can use to purchase, or upgrade to, other, more powerful cards. Thunderstone Quest brings new play modes to the table. The game will tell a specific story with a series of pre-set dungeon tiles, monsters, heroes and support cards. Each will come with a series of mini-adventures and a story booklet that tells players what happens as they progress through the scenarios.
Once players have completed the quests they will be able to enjoy great replay value with the available selection of monsters, heroes, and support cards, as well as the new dungeon tiles, by choosing random set-ups before the start of play. Aside from heroes, such as wizards, fighters, rogues, and clerics, cards will include supplies that heroes need like weapons, spells, items, or light to reach further into the dungeon. The dungeon deck is created by combining several different groups of monsters together. Certain groups of monsters may be more or less susceptible to different hero types, so players have to take this into account when they choose what to buy.
I love Thunderstone and eagerly await a demo of Thunderstone Quest as it appears to offer a new take on an established and successful series.
6. Sheriff of Nottingham Merry Men Expansion from Arcane Wonders
My group loves Sheriff of Nottingham. It includes all the elements we like to see in games including bluffing, deal making and chicanery. No matter how many times we play the game, we always are willing to get it back to the table. I have purchased several small expansions or promo cards since it was released in 2014 including Gambler’s Risk, and love them all as they simply deepen the experience by adding new tricks. So with the announcement of the first true expansion called Merry Men, I was immediately intrigued and added this game to my list.
In Merry Men, there are actually 5 separate modules that can be added to play as well as an option in include a sixth player. The modules include Deputies, which allows for up to players to search bags at the same time in place of the Sheriff, Merry Men, which adds in character cards that if successfully smuggled will activate with various special abilities, Black Market, which adds in a set of illegal goods cards that can be smuggled in, Laws, which allows the Sheriff to draw law cards that will remain in play for the entire round changing the rules and Special Orders, which requires that players get through certain combinations of goods that usually involve an illegal good or contraband for extra points. This expansion seems to simply be more good stuff and I can’t say no to more goodness!
5. The Thing Infection at Outpost 31 from USAopoly Games
In this hidden identity game based on John Carpenter’s 1982 Sci-Fi cult movie classic The Thing, starring a young Kurt Russell, 4-8 players will have to race to find out which player has been infected by the alien. They will have to sweep the outpost room by room using various tools, weapons and other equipment at their disposal all the while worrying whether they will be taken out by the beast when there backs are turned and assimilated. The game seems to promise a very tense and paranoia filled experience which is something that our group loves. Here is a link to an article that I was able to find on the design: http://birthmoviesdeath.com/2017/07/22/sdcc-2017-mondo-and-project-raygun-talk-the-thing-infection-at-outpost-31
Demos will be available of the game and I am really interested in this one as I love thematic hidden identity games.
4. Iron Curtain from Ultra PRO
From the design team of Asger Harding Granerud and Daniel Skjold Pederson, who brought us 13 Days last year at Gen Con, comes another game about the Cold War in Iron Curtain. Iron Curtain is an area control game that uses strategy cards to drive the action in the game as players must manage their hand to take various actions including influencing country cards in order to dominate them to score points on your Ideology Track.
The game is somewhat of a micro game as it only contains 18 strategy cards, a host of red and blue wooden cubes, a starter card, a scoring track card and get this…no board! The cards are used to form the board as the players vie for control and domination of the various country cards as they are laid out to create or makeup the board. The game is designed to be played by 2 players in 20-30 minutes so is both fast and furious. I am currently working on an interview with one of the designers Daniel Skjold Pederson and am eagerly looking forward to playing this game at Gen Con as they are offering demos. Here is a quick look at some of the cards that form the board:
3. Hunt for the Ring from Ares Games
In Hunt for the Ring, one player takes the role of Frodo and his companions, who are journeying from the Shire to Rivendell, while up to four other players represent the Nazgûl who are trying to hunt down the hobbits. While traveling, Frodo and others must resist being corrupted by the Ring that he wears. This game is from the makers of the War of the Ring and is sure to feed that desire that we all have for the Lord of the Rings and a journey to Middle Earth.
Hunt for the Ring is a hidden movement game played in two chapters, with each chapter being played on a different game board. In the first chapter, the Frodo player attempts to move from the Shire to Bree, gaining corruption points if they fail to do so after sixteen turns. If the Frodo player succeeds, they can either record their exit point (and other game details) to play the second chapter at a later time, or they can continue immediately, with the second chapter having the Frodo player moving from Bree to Rivendell. In this chapter, the Frodo player doesn’t control the hobbits directly, but instead draws cards from a journey deck, with each card showing one of many paths to Rivendell. The game also has some really interesting looking minis that are definitely unique but I really like them. I missed this game at Origins but will not let it slip through my fingers at Gen Con.
2. Combat Infantry from Columbia Games
Combat Infantry, previously known as K.I.S.S. and Courage, is a fast-paced World War II tactical level game that employs wooden blocks. I have played several Columbia Games offerings, including Richard III The Wars of the Roses and The Last Spike, and really like their games as the rules are easy to understand, the components are great and the game play is really good. I also have come to really like block wargames and appreciate their fog of war elements, as it adds a whole additional level of tension and strategy. The game system for Combat Infantry features innovative and interactive rules for Fire Combat, Close Combat, Morale, and Leaders, and delivers a high level of tactical realism, yet is very playable.
Players command a German or American infantry battalion, composed of three infantry companies and a heavy weapons company. Future expansion sets will include British, Soviet, Italian, and Japanese battalions. Unit types include leaders, rifle squads, machine guns, mortars, anti-tank and tank units. Unlike other tactical level games that I have played (such as Combat Commander), cards are not used to drive the actions of units but units are activated by company and platoon leaders. The game includes four geomorphic maps at a scale of 100 meters per hex and extra maps will be available for separate purchase. We have reached out to the designer Tom Dalgliesh for an interview and will be meeting with Grant Dalgliesh at Gen Con to get a demo and do some video footage of the game to share with you.
1. Terraforming Mars: Hellas & Elysium from Stronghold Games
I absolutely love Terraforming Mars and chose it as my Best Game of 2016. Now that there is an expansion to this amazingly deep and thematic Euro game, I have been looking forward to Gen Con since the announcement so I could run through the Exhibit Hall to get my copy the first day! Terraforming Mars: Hellas & Elysium, the first expansion for Terraforming Mars, consists of a double-sided game board presenting two new areas of Mars for players to explore, colonize and extract resources to fuel corporate greed:
• Elysium takes players almost to the opposite side of Mars’ equator, with vast lowlands for oceans in the north and a dry, mineral-rich south. Place a tile on Olympus Mons, the highest peak in the solar system, to gain three free cards!
• Hellas, the southern wild, includes Mars’ south pole and the enormous seven-hex Hellas crater that just begs to become a giant lake. Building around the pole gives you new placement bonuses in the form of heat and possibly even water.
Each of these maps consists of new sets of milestones and awards with relevance for that particular map. Place three tiles around the south pole to be a Polar Explorer, for example, or race to have the most estates beside water on Elysium!
There you have my Top 10 Games I’m Interested in Trying Out at Gen Con 2017! Have a great time and tune in the week after to start reading about my experiences with these great games!
If you love thematic, hidden identity games you should come check out Warehouse 13: The Board Game.
The new Richard Garfield game “Carnival of Monsters” will be promoted at the booth of Arcane Wonders. There will be a kickstarter campaign in October to get this game illustrated by famous Magic the Gathering artists like John Avon and Jesper Myrfors. Larry Elmore will join the project, too. @ Grant: If you are interested, contact me, I will be at GenCon the whole four days.
I will be interested in hearing what you think of Gen Con this year. Do you think it would be better to give as a gift to my nephew who likes D&D Thunderstone or just wait for Thunderstone Quest to come out and purchase that?