GENCON is the biggest US gaming convention of the year and it is going on in Indiana, August 14-17. This is the 46th year of the con, and it is here that game designers and producers display their new and soon-to-be-released board/card/dice games to the general public. Over 49,000 people attended the con last year, and even more are expected this year.
I’m not one of them. I’d love to be, but you know – life.
I have, however, been keeping up with the market and there are several games I am very interested in, debuting or at least showing at GENCON. This is my list of new gaming hotness I am looking forward to playing:
1. Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game by Plaid Hat Games (SRP $59.00)
2-5 players in a small, weakened colony of survivors attempt to survive a world where most of humanity is either dead or diseased, flesh-craving monsters. Each player leads a faction of survivors with dozens of different characters in the game.
Dead of Winter is a meta-cooperative psychological survival game. This means players are working together toward one common victory condition — but for each individual player to achieve victory, he must also complete his personal secret objective. This secret objective could relate to a psychological tick that’s fairly harmless to most others in the colony, a dangerous obsession that could put the main objective at risk, a desire for sabotage of the main mission, or (worst of all) vengeance against the colony! Certain games could end with all players winning, some winning and some losing, or all players losing. Work toward the group’s goal, but don’t get walked all over by a loudmouth who’s looking out only for his own interests!
Why I dig it: I like that it is a game with zombies, without zombies being the focus. They are just one of the things the players have to overcome while trying to survive a brutal winter in an apocalyptic world, striving to meet a defined group objective. At the same time, each player has a unique hidden goal that would enable them to win, individually. This is a story-centric game, requiring the players to socialize and communicate to survive, sometimes making difficult moral decisions. It has a subversive element without using the traitor mechanic of other games. This tops my list, and I’ve preordered it at Area-51 Gaming and Collectables. Thanks, Erin.
2. Age of Warby Fantasy Flight Games (SRP $12.99)
Age of War is a quick-playing game of conquest. Fourteen cards are laid out at the start of the game, each showing one castle and the symbols required to conquer this castle, with the symbols separated into battle lines. Each castle belongs to a clan, with some clans having only a single castle and some having up to four castles.
A player starts his turn by rolling seven dice, the six sides of which show archery, cavalry, daimyo, and 1-3 infantry. He then selects a card and uses the symbols rolled to conquer exactly one of the battle lines on this card (by placing the appropriate dice on that line). If he can do this, he then rolls the remaining dice, ideally conquering another line; if he can’t conquer a line, he removes one die from play, then rolls again. His turn ends when either he conquers every line on the card (in which case he claims it) or he no longer has dice available to roll.
Each card is worth a number of victory points. You can conquer cards owned by other players, but you need to conquer an additional daimyo line in the process. If a player owns all the castles of one clan, however, those castles are secure and cannot be stolen. What’s more, these castles are now worth more points because you’ve united the clan under one ruler (you) and strengthened your hold over Japan.
Why I dig it: This is Parker Brother’s Risk Express, re-themed to Feudal Japan. Using dice and cards, it plays in 1/10th the time it takes to play a game of Risk. I’ve been trying to get (the out of print) Risk-Express on E-bay but is expensive and rare. Now, the same game, by the same game designer, is being released with a different, even more cool theme and a seriously affordable price point, it’s a no-brainer. It scratches the Risk-itch without costing 2-4 hours of frustrating dice rolls. Now, it’s only 20 minutes of frustrating dice rolls. Like Dead of Winter, I pre-ordered at Area-51.
3. Knightmare Chess (new edition) by Steve Jackson Games (SRP $29.95)
Knightmare Chess is chess played with cards that break the rules in wild and unpredictable ways. Some affect a single move, and some change the entire game. Knightmare Chess plays quickly out of the box, but it also includes variants, and it’s easy for players to customize. This new edition includes Knightmare Chess 2, for a total of 158 beautiful cards, each painted by Rogério Vilela. Bonus: two blank cards for those who want to create their own fiendish, clever rules. Note: Knightmare Chess requires a working knowledge of chess and a chess set to play.
Why I dig it: Chess is a classic game of strategy. I love Chess, I really do, but it is dry and probably the game most referred to as being serious, and it’s not serious, it is a game. I do appreciate the strategy of the classic game, but it is after all, a game. Knightmare Chess introduces random elements to the game that requires adaptive thinking and seat-of-the-pants response. While I’m sure there are some who would consider it a perversion of a pure game, I think adding random elements to the game is a brilliant idea. Life is full of surprises that you couldn’t see coming and you have to deal with those the best you can, and this elevates Chess to an abstraction of real life, rather than just a battlefield.
4. Mars Attacks – The Dice Game by Steve Jackson Games (SRP $19.95)
In Mars Attacks: The Dice Game, the Martian players compete to see who can subjugate which U.S. cities first.
At the start of the game, four stacks of cards are dealt out randomly, with each stack having as many cards as players. On a turn, the player first declares which city he wants to attack, then rolls all ten dice. Any dice showing the “nuke” symbol are locked and cannot be rerolled. Laser guns are similarly locked, allowing the player to reroll only the alien heads. If he rerolls and ever has as many nuke symbols showing as the number on the face-up cards and the supplementary token, his turn ends; otherwise he can stop at any time, and if he doesn’t have enough guns or alien heads to claim his target, he marks his total with one of his tokens, allowing him to add on to this number on a future turn — assuming that someone else doesn’t claim the card first.
Some city cards have special powers, such as Seattle’s, which allows you to place one die on the symbol of your choice prior to rolling. Las Vegas, true to its nature, wants you to go bust multiple times in order to claim the card. Whoever ends up decimating the largest portion of the earth wins. Ak ak ak ak ak!
Why I dig it: It’s themed for a ridiculous cult movie, has dice and plays in 20 minutes. Questions?
5. Run, Fight or Die!by Grey Fox Games (SRP $49.95)
As in most zombie games, you represent a unique character with your own character traits, except in Run, Fight, or Die! you will also have your own individual board with zombies you alone will encounter. Zombies move closer to you every round. You run from location to location, searching for weapons and survivors in a desperate attempt to stay alive. Survivors may bring new skills to help you in your desperate fight for survival, or in some cases, new challenges to overcome. In either case, every survivor provides you victory points. The game ends either when one player finds five survivors and declares the last round, or when a player reaches the town line (and the total Followers in play meets a minimum), or if a player gets bitten and turns. Be careful, some followers may turn against you, while others can slow you down. When it comes right down to it, the choice is simple: Run, Fight, or Die!
Scoring is based on the total points of survivors and remaining health of the players’ characters.
Run, Fight, or Die! is a frantic first person experience for 1 to 4 players (will play up to 6 with the 5/6 player expansion). The game is loaded with goodies, including 4 Action Boards, 5 Character Boards, a Loot Deck, a Location Deck, an Event Deck, a Follower Deck, Mutant Deck, 7 Custom Dice, tokens and beautifully crafted miniatures.
Why I dig it: A simple, fast-playing zombie game sounds a little tired in light of all of the other zombie games on the market right now, but this one looks like a lot of fun. It has a lot of stereotypical characters that are funny and though it is a push-your-luck, Yahtzee-type game, has a lot of flavor. Simply, it looks like a lot of fun. WANT.
6. Car Wars Classic by Steve Jackson Games (SMR $19.95)
In Car Wars, you can drive the freeways of the future, where the right of way goes to the biggest guns. Players choose their vehicles – complete with weapons, armor, power plants, suspension, and even body style. Then they take them out on the road to come home as “aces,” or to crash and burn. If a driver survives, his abilities improve, and he can earn money to buy bigger and better cars. Advanced rules let players design their own customized cars, trucks, and cycles.
Why I Dig It: I cut my teeth on Car Wars back in the 1980’s. While I haven’t actually played it since 1986, I have logged hundreds of hours with this game. Maybe thousands, measuring vehicle movement half an inch at a time. It is cool that it is coming back into print, but the CLASSIC indicates it has not changed. I’ll wait to see what is different, if anything. Some of the best gaming memories I have are of playing Car Wars.
Now that I think about it, some of my worst gaming memories are of Car Wars, too.
7. Hipster Dice by Steve Jackson Games (SMRP $4.95)
Based on the underground German phenomenon Nichteinechteswürfelspiel and updated with vintage rules, Hipster Dice is poised to be the perfect game to play while you’re waiting in line at the second-hand clothing store. Get it before it is cool.
Why I Dig It: I don’t. It looks like a non-game, but based on my loyalty to SJG and the low price point, I’ll probably buy it. I’m so not a hipster.