I recently returned from Gen Con 2023 in Indianapolis, Indiana. If you don’t know, this convention is the largest of its kind in the US, and one of the biggest in the world, and is so big in fact that it takes over most of the downtown area. They have events spanning the entire convention center, Lucas Oil Stadium, and every hotel in at least a two-block radius around them. This year was the biggest and busiest yet, topping 70 thousand attendees over the four days! This was also the first year I attended as a writer. I have been a few times before and was even a Game Master last year (to help cut down on my cost of attending), but this was a whole new experience.
To start off, I was invited by the people at Renegade Games Studio to attend their media night. There they showed us a lot of upcoming games and products that they have in the works, most of which I will talk about in a later article. As a teaser, Renegade is the company with the license for games in the universes of The World of Darkness, G.I. Joe, Transformers, My Little Pony, Axis & Allies, RoboRally, and many others. As a huge fan of all things G.I. Joe, I was especially excited for the opportunity to attend this event!
I interviewed the designer of a game I recently received via Kickstarter called Robot Quest Arena by Wise Wizard Games and Perfect Day Studio. Paul Waite is actually a video game designer by trade who was able to translate an idea from digital to tabletop in order to produce it faster. In the game you control a battle robot trying to collect a target number of points. These points are gained by doing damage to other robots, knocking other robots out, or by standing on scoring locations inside the arena. The game is a lot of fun and incorporates deck building with tactical movement, which is a feature I like to see explored. Paul was able to share with me that they have plans to release more expansions to the game in the future, in the form of additional robots, upgrade cards, and terrain tiles. They also had an adorable plush of one of the robots, which my girlfriend had to fight to not bring home.
I also got to interview Will Shick, the Director of Product Development for Marvel Crisis Protocol at Atomic Mass Games, and he even ran me through a demo with the contents of their brand new “Earth’s Mightiest” core set. The new models are amazing, and the production value of the core set is top notch. I can’t wait to get my hands on this at home, so I can paint and play this action-packed skirmish miniatures game. Even my girlfriend, who doesn’t particularly like miniature games, is excited for the opportunity to throw cars and buildings at me (my characters).
Over the course of the rest of the convention I tried to demo games of various sizes and notoriety. The “BIG” draw item this year was the release of Disney Lorcana by Ravensburger, and boy was it all the talk! They had lines starting 12+ hours before the doors opened most days, which is especially noteworthy as Gen Con has never before allowed lines to form outside of the sales floor. I tried to get a demo game, but sadly was unable to do so. The game, which is a TCG, is now out everywhere, so if it is of interest to you, I’m sure you can find it around (Editor’s note: you absolutely can’t, yet.).
Some of the other games I had the pleasure of trying out were:
- Kites by Floodgate Games, a cooperative card game where you must play cards in order to flip over corresponding sand timers to try to keep all 6 full. It was a bit frantic, and not great for people who suffer from analysis paralysis, but I like the concept and that it was fast and easily approachable. It plays 2-6 players in under 10 Minutes with an MSRP of $20.
- Expedition by Lowtek Games, is a fun compact competitive game where you move around from planet card to planet card attempting to leave flag cubes in certain patterns to complete hidden goals. The game is designed for 2 players but has rules to allow for solo or 3 player games. Most games last less than 15 minutes and it targets teens+.
- Flapjacks & Sasquatches Dice by Prolific Games and Left Justified Studio, which is a rework of a game we already love. In this version you roll 5 6-sided dice and a single 8-sided die (the sasquatch die) in a manner similar to Yahtzee, however you are instead trying to get enough chop results to equal or exceed the value of tree results you have. This quick and fun push your luck game is family friendly for 2-6 players. The Kickstarter is live with a few days left, if you’re interested in checking it out.
- Block and Key by Inside Up Games, is a very interesting game where you are attempting to form shape and color configurations in a 3D playing area. You place different ceramic cube forms in an effort to achieve individual goals, based on simple to learn restrictions. The cube forms are kind of reminiscent of Tetris pieces, but with various colors on different sides. I like the potential of this game, though I did not get to demo it for very long.
- Redwood by Sit Down!, is a Tableau building with set collection game. The idea is that you are trying to take the best photographs possible while exploring the wilderness. This is done by moving your figure around with various movement sticks, then orienting an exposure template over the game board. Depending on where it aims and what falls under it, you gain various cards, tokens, and points. It is a game that requires very good understanding of spatial awareness, so be warned. The artwork is lovely, and it captures a theme you don’t tend to see a lot of.
- Winterhaven Woods by Featherstone Games, is another nature based game. However, in this one you are trying to populate your tableau with different critters. The art style of the maker, Joel Bodkin, is gorgeous and is what drew me to the booth. He told me that he made this game to help his child learn counting, pattern recognition, and set building. I was a bit surprised then to hear that one aspect of the game involves predator animals eating the cute little bunnies, squirrels, and hedgehogs, to gain the players victory points.
- Fluxx The Board Game by Looney Labs, is almost exactly what it sounds like. If you have never played any of the Fluxx games, they are simple to start, but hard to win. In the beginning you only have two rules: draw a card, then play a card. The board game version adds a small stack of goal cards already out and face up. In order to win the game you have to accomplish a set number of goal cards, normally 3. You accomplish goal cards by having 2 of your 3 player tokens on the 2 locations shown on the top goal card. Various cards played throughout the turns can modify pretty much anything, even the board layout. It plays 2-4 players in 15-45 minutes and is family friendly.
- Thunder Road Vendetta by Restoration Games was the only “nostalgia game” I played during the convention. Restoration Games is all about refreshing, rebooting, and remarketing older games that are out of print, and they do a good job at it. Thunder Road is a bit like if Mad Max and Death Race had a baby that was a board game. Each player manages a team of 3 cars (small, medium, and large), and sometimes an attack helicopter, as you race to survive and cross the finish-line first. Using dice to activate your cars, or other abilities you must navigate hazards, boulders, concrete vs. sand paths, and whether to avoid, or ram, other cars. Beware though, as any car in front of you can be shot, so it isn’t always best to race to the front straight out of the gate. The game has excellent production value but is very dice dependent.
After so many great games, and averaging about 15K steps a day, I was happily exhausted! I can’t wait to do it again next year. I look forward to seeing many of these games at my local game store, and even in front of me at my own table. In the meantime, we still have about a dozen new games to try out here at home, and when I get my hands on the MCP models I hope to do them justice with a quality paint job. Here is hoping you all have lots of happy gaming in your future!