Gen Con, the ‘four best days in gaming’, is in the books for another year. I’m always excited about coming to Indianapolis for this show, but because it’s a work event for me, my experience is a little different than the average con-goer. My highlights are often showing off the games in our booth and seeing people’s reactions to them (KTBG’s upcoming Fossilis was really well received) as well as catching up with friends old and new. Despite that approach, I did get plenty of time this year to walk the exhibit floor and see a bunch of the games creating hype this year.
There is often one or two games that stand out as the games of the show, and while this year it was a little more diffused, I would definitely point to Black Angel and the Funkoverse games as taking the ‘buzz’ crown for 2019. Black Angel sold out super quickly and generated crowds of spectators everywhere it was played. The mechanic of Solenia used in a more complex game combined with the pedigree of Sébastien Dujadin’s name made it a no brainer. I wasn’t as sure about Funkoverse, Funko’s first foray into board gaming using their super collectable Pop-style minis and taking advantage of their IPs like Harry Potter, DC, Rick and Morty, and even the Golden Girls. However, I got to sit down and give it a try, and I have to say that I had a lot of fun with the game. There are a couple different modes to try, like capture the flag, and they introduce some neat timing mechanics that gamers will enjoy puzzling over, but people new to the hobby will be able to pick up no problem. And that’s really where Funkoverse’s strength lies. It will be a series of games that will attract new players to the hobby through their love of popular IPs, but there is enough game there to please gamers who just want to do battle with Batwoman and the Joker (look for a more thorough review in the coming weeks).
From my booth I could hear the electronic voice of Rob Daviau shouting instructions in Heist from University Games. It was annoying and intriguing enough that I had to give it a try, and I have to admit this fun little real-time co-operative game was a ton of fun. Players work together to break into a vault. Each one has their own role, and the central box will spout instructions on where to pass equipment around the table and when to activate each item. You can set the difficulty for a greater challenge, but be careful. Too many mistakes and you’ll get caught by the police. If you do manage to break the safe the box satisfyingly explodes with gold. It stressed me out, but I really liked it.
Another game I had a lot of fun with was JAWS from Ravensburger. It’s a one-against-many title with one person taking the role of the shark and the others taking on the main characters of the film, Brody, Hooper, and Quint. It’s played out over two stages, the first on Amity Island, and the second on the Orca. As the humans, we won our game, but just barely. Our shark player did an excellent job staying one step ahead of us for the most part. As much fun as I had, I’m not sure how often I’d play JAWS. It took us about two hours which was a long investment. I will say that with the right crew of people, it was a fun experience.
It’s not surprising that Unmatched from Mondo garnered a lot of attention. In this game, you apply a simple and intuitive combat system to settle the age old question: who would win in a fight between Bigfoot and Robin Hood? They both have an intimate knowledge of the woods. Give the edge to Locksley in range, but definitely strength is owned by the Sasquatch. The base set includes King Arthur, Medusa, Sinbad, and Alice in Wonderland, but there are countless new characters from the real and imagined worlds that can be added. Can’t wait to see where this is going to go!
Slide Quest from Blue Orange was another game that surprised me. I sat down to play one round, and an hour later we were shouting, laughing, and setting up the next stage. The goal is to tip the slanting board to move a knight with a ball-bearing inside through a maze of obstacles. It was at its best when we had four players, one at each side responsible for completing their part of the mission. Very silly fun.
There were a great number of games that I didn’t get to try myself, but still heard a lot about. Ishtar from Iello looked beautiful and gathered people around it on a regular basis. Incubation from Synapses Games was super charming and its straight forward ruleset had it selling quickly. Sinister Six from Spin Master had huge crowds trying it out. I didn’t play it at Gen Con, but actually got a sneak preview from designer Daryl Andrews a couple days before and it’s a blast. Definitely best at higher player counts, but Marvel fans will eat it up. CMON’s Foodies also seemed to have a lot of attention. That’s another one I didn’t get to try, but look forward to checking out in the future.
Speaking of CMON, they made a few big splashes at the show. There was a private room where people could try out the electronic Teburu gaming system. I didn’t get in, but the reports were generally positive. The big news had to be the announcement of Ankh, Eric Lang’s third (and possibly final?) game in his Blood Rage, Rising Sun series. As you can expect, there will be some sweet minis and a crap ton of hype around this game leading up to the Kickstarter later this year.
There are lots of games that I’m missing in this report, but the big ones will make their way out to an FLGS near you soon. It’s great to see the continued growth and diversification of the games and people in this hobby. Gen Con is one of the most important events on the gaming calendar and I’m already counting down the days to the 2020 show.
Were you at Gen Con this year? We’d love to hear what game, event, or memory stood out to you the most. Let us know in the comments below.