Every year, tens of thousands of people descend on Indianapolis for the best four days in gaming, Gen Con. It’s a time for old friends to get together and game, companies to show off their latest titles, and the hobby as a whole gets a chance to see what games will shape the coming year. Gen Con 2018 was a ton of fun, even if it wasn’t without controversy. Hopefully, what will be remembered will be the games themselves. Speaking of which, here are three that stood out over the past weekend.
This was a bit of a surprise, as there hasn’t been too much buzz about this new roll n’ write game. None the less the simple rules and lovely presentation made it a hot item on the Gen Con floor. Railroad Ink comes in two editions, the Deep Blue and the Blazing Red. Players roll dice and use the results to create a transportation empire, connecting cities with roads and railways, and earning points for their longest routes and having built in the middle of the board. However, each edition also introduces two mini-expansions. In the Deep Blue edition, you can add Lakes or Rivers dice and in the Blazing Red, you can add Meteors or Volcanoes. The expansions come in the form of two extra dice you’ll roll with the standard four, but they all have a big impact on the gameplay. Deep Blue tends to have more of a puzzle feel to it, where Blazing Red is all about chaos and making the best of unpredictable circumstances. There has been no shortage of roll n’ writes that have come out over the last little while, but there are a few things I really like about Railroad Ink. The inclusion of the expansions is a great way to keep gameplay fresh, the illustrations are whimsical and engaging, but one of my favourite elements is the dry erase boards. They double as screens and cheat sheets, and it means you won’t be going through a bunch of paper or having to laminate on your own. On their own, you can play up to six players, or combine both editions to play up to 12. Definitely a great bargain for $20 a pop. Look for Railroad Ink later this year.
It can get boring to constantly play as the good guys. Sometimes you just want to embrace your evil side. Villainous allows you to do just that. Players choose a classic Disney villain to control, each with unique objectives they’re trying to accomplish. Picking from such baddies as Jafar, Ursula, Prince John, Captain Hook, Maleficent, and more, you’ll control your own Realm, moving your Villain marker around to different locations to perform actions. You can spend turns gaining Power, playing Villain cards, targeting opponents with Fate cards, moving items, heroes, or allies around, defeating heroes, or discarding cards. This game is going to be high on the nostalgia factor for people who grew up on Disney movies like myself. The art will bring on all the feels, and it’s great to play on the other side of the coin. Completing the effect are the super cool Villain markers. This is definitely a game that those young at heart will love.
The third game is probably the most unique of all of the ones I’m mentioning today. Keyforge is a bit of an experiment of a card game by Fantasy Flight. However, with the brilliant designer of Magic: The Gathering and Netrunner, Richard Garfield, behind it, seems like a risk worth taking. The hook in Keyforge, is that the game is made up of pre-assembled decks, and no two are the same, like anywhere. Each pack of 37 cards is 100% unique, which is an incredible undertaking. The idea behind Keyforge is that players are leading their Archons in an effort to collect Aember and forge keys to enter a Crucible’s secret vaults. The decks each contain three of seven houses in the game, and on a turn a player has to decide which house will be active for that turn, allowing them to play, use, or discard cards from their hand of that house. Cards are either Actions, Creatures, Artifacts, or Upgrades, some have special abilities, or will earn a player Aember when played. Of course, players are able to launch attacks at one another with their Creatures earning rewards for their efforts. The ultimate goal is for players to forge keys, with a player needing three forged to claim victory. This is the first Unique Deck Game (UDG) ever created (at least as far as I know) and it will be interesting to see how it’s received. The idea is that there should be synergies and strategies for any combination of the 350 plus cards that are available at launch. The fun will be in buying a random deck and finding how to make them work together. Will there be balance issues? Will consumers want to take the risk? Hard to say, but it’s a lot of fun to try and make your deck deadly against an opponent. Time will tell about the rest.
This is of course not an exhaustive list of Gen Con games. There are far too many to cover in one article. We’ll go further into depth with each of these titles and more in the coming weeks.