Post Gen Con Most Wanted
on Aug 18, 2016
Another Gen Con has come and gone, and once again I’ve not been in attendance. I’ve never been! But of course, I watched the announcements online and heard at least anecdotally about the on-the-floor hype. Some of the Review Corner’s writers were there, however, and they’ve of course been left wanting. Not because the show wasn’t satisfying, but because there are a ton of new games on the way that look to make the rest of 2016 and into 2017 an exciting time for our hobby. We put together a list of our “Most Wanted” from among the games announced, launched, demoed or played at the convention, and most of these are already available for preorder here at Miniature Market. So here are our top picks!
I’ve recently gotten back into miniatures after a full decade between me and my last Warhammer army (which was Empire, for the record), so Fantasy Flight’s announcement that they were going “full mini” with a rank-and-file tabletop wargame was the show’s most exciting and surprising news. There are some really interesting aspects to the Runewars Miniatures Game, particularly how FFG seem to be leveraging their experience with X-Wing and Armada to create a highly accessible, innovative minis game with custom-manufactured components and great looking figures. I’m also looking forward to seeing where FFG takes this- will they expand into paints, terrain and other supplies? And how will additional units be packaged, will we be seeing blister packs, army boxes or some combination thereof? This is the number one game I will be watching for the next several months.
I've been reading Lovecraft from a probably too-young age and I have, over the years, tried most Lovecraftian games and found them lacking. The first edition of FFG's Mansions of Madness is one of those games I found lacking, primarily because of the brutally long setup time, and the need for one player to endure being the Keeper and have them spend most of their night reading cards and watching the other people play the game. With this new edition, my tablet plays the Keeper, and even better, the setup times are exponentially reduced. It's literally a dream come true for me, and I can't wait to get my paws on this one.
The buzz for XCOM seemed to die down shortly after the game was released, app-drive gameplay controversy aside. But what got lost in the hubbub surrounding the game's use of a mobile app to drive the action was the fact that XCOM really is a solid, frantic, push-your-luck game that works perfectly with the source material. So I was excited to see that FFG is still supporting the game in the form of an expansion that aims to smoothly integrate both more challenges and more desperately needed resources in the war for earth's survival. I'll be there with my phone charged up on day one.
The other big name sci-fi franchise recently got an epic 4X implementation, but I’m more excited about boldly going where no board game has managed to go before – at least successfully. Hopefully Star Trek: Ascendancy delivers. The universe is ideal for the genre. The possibilities of discovery are infinite! Galaxy-spanning planetary alliances and conquest-bent empires clash in both hot and cold wars with tense diplomacy and destructive starships. With countless imaginative species and mind-warping future tech to paint on a blatantly contemporary canvas that unpacks our modern worldviews, this stellar sandbox is ripe 4X ground. Gale Force Nine has mixed success with intellectual property games, but this one definitely looks promising enough to seek out and explore.
In 1981, the gaming world received "Spies!", an awesome espionage game. And then...boardgaming darkness. The ensuing decades became a wasteland of true spying, occasionally peppered with Euros slipping the word spy into their title and featuring gameplay having about as much to do with actual secret agency as Mage Knight does with actual fantasy adventure. Now, into this uncharted realm comes Covert.
Renegade Game Studios' GenCon offering lets two to four players scour Europe, which movies and books have told us is the only place on earth with secrets worth discovering, trying to break codes, complete missions and even track each other down. It features streamlined play with multiple uses for gameplay components, the "take that" interaction of true spying, hewing closer to Le Carre than Fleming, and actual codebreaking. I'm grabbing a copy as soon as I can, to see if the long night without espionage is finally over.
When it comes to cooperative games, Fantasy Flight's Lord of the Rings LCG reaches damn close to perfection; done right, the expandable card game format is a perfect companion to a narrative, scenario-driven design, offering theoretically infinite adventures and challenges. The only thing that could improve that peanut-butter-and-chocolate mixture is Fantasy Flight's recent focus on pushing storytelling and roleplaying, as seen in Descent: Road to Legend, Mansions of Madness 2nd Edition, and now the Arkham Horror LCG. While a lot of Arkham LCG's gameplay details have yet to be revealed, Fantasy Flight is making some impressive promises, particularly the notion that "your decisions aren't limited by the cards in your hand" -- they want you to feel like the character, able to make the breadth pf choices you would in a traditional RPG, with your customizable deck simply representing the tools at your disposal.
The customization doesn't end when you build your deck before the game, either. After the scenario, you'll get upgrade points to swap out cards in your deck for more powerful versions, but the scenario's outcome can also have negative effects, driving your character to madness or isolating them from their allies. A steady stream of LCG-style expansions should give this campaign-based game plenty of legs.
There aren't a lot of licenses that fill me with knuckle-whitening excitement these days. I'm not a Star Wars guy and I don't go bonkers over super heroes of either big "universe". Those Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, though? They fill the 12-year-old me deep down inside my heart with joy. And with the upcoming TMNT: Shadows of the Past game my friends and I can play out battles between the green machines and Shredder, plus his mutant goons, just like we did with action figures about twenty years ago.
It's a "one vs. all" strategic miniatures combat game, with one player taking on the role of the baddies and the other players taking up the roles of the titular turtles. A brilliant dice-sharing system allows the heroes to make their dice results available to players adjacent to them on the table; a clever mechanic to portray the teamwork which has always been the underlying theme of the franchise. Each session is scenario driven and ranges from rescuing an iconic ally of the turtles to beating down the big bad guy, all based on the currently-running TMNT comic book by IDW and leaving plenty of room for more missions in future expansions
Codenames is the smartest party game to arrive on these shores in quite some time. It's a fun and engaging challenge to say just the right thing to get your team to guess your clues. And, as the guesser, it's fantastic to try and draw on all the implications of the single word. But now, that same experience is coming in pictorial form. Every card has a picture with a couple of items on it. This replicates the experience of not wanting to say too much for fear of misleading your team. Plus, with a slightly smaller playing area, there are less neutral cards and your clues have to be that much sharper. My excitement for Codenames: Pictures is hard to contain. And I'll even have the opportunity to mix them together for a word/picture hybrid. Codenames: Pictures and Also Words.
Terraforming Mars looks like the kind of management game I really like. The classic sci-fi setting is a big part of that, where players are different corporations overseeing the terraforming of the Red Planet. As they monitor the temperature, ocean levels, and atmosphere they will receive VP for doing so, along with further rewards for laying the groundwork for future human exploration in the solar system.
This sounds like a very detailed, somewhat fussy game. But for me that's actually part of the appeal. I tend toward more light-hearted fare, but I also tend to enjoy detailed management games like this. It lends a measure of specificity to the on-board action. Did my colonies fail because they had poor access to water? How is the temperature affecting settlement? I don't know if those are situations that can be accomplished in this game, but the possibilities for expressing such a complex thing as terraforming intrigues me. I'm hopeful that the game is up to the challenge.
An unexplored virgin land teeming with resources appears on the map. Will it be left alone, shining and pristine? Of course not. It's a tale that has repeated itself through human history and Cry Havoc posits that things are unlikely to change. With 2-3 players, you'll take control of one of 3 alien races hoping to invade, fight, or frack their way to control of this planet. Add a fourth player and one of you will play as the indigenous Trogs, a faction with a different set of rules.
Portal's new asymmetric hybrid game sold out before GenCon even started and has only picked up steam since then. Combining light versions of familiar mechanics like deckbuilding with an innovative "area control within area control" battle system, this is sure to be a breakout hit of 2016.
Kevin Wilson's original Doom spawned a thousand sons and it's still the king of them all. It was a brutal, take no prisoners affair with an overlord player that continually beat you down. Ammo was scarce, life was brittle, and nightmares were reality. It was Doom.
Then it went out of print and the Descent/Imperial Assault line carried on. None of them recaptured the raw brutality of the original and the experience was softened with each successive iteration. But Doom is back, baby. Infuse a touch of influence from the fantastic Gears of War board game and you have a winner. Best of all, this one doesn't require an app and we can get back to good old school one versus many play. Time to die.