GenCon Recap pt. 2

This is a continuation of my GenCon recap.  The first part can be found here.

King of Tokyo

I wish I could tell you whether I liked this game.  I went to their demo booth in  the vendor hall, and started playing the game with a few other people.  The moderator seemed distracted through most of the rules explanation.  We started playing the game, and made it through one turn around the table when the moderator suggested we leave and play the game in the exhibitor hall on the schedule there.

We looked around, and some of the other players agreed and abandoned the game.  I’m not sure why an employee of the game company, trying to sell me the game, would stop our game after one turn around the table, and suggest we play the game somewhere else at some other time.  One of the reasons I come to GenCon is to have people with a vested interest in the game really teach me the games they are passionate about.  Instead, I felt like they didn’t care a whit if I played or enjoyed their game.

I never did get around to finding or playing this game again during the con.  I’ve heard this game is fun, and I literally would have bought it right then and there if we had played and I enjoyed it.

Overall Experience: 3/10

7 Wonders

So, I’ve played 7 wonders quite a few times, and I love this game.  At GenCon, I had the opportunity to teach the game to group of guys who had never played it before.  We had six people in the game, and I enjoyed every minute of teaching them the rules, talking lightly about the strategies, and seeing how they interacted with each other and what build decisions they made.

I hope my enjoyment of the game was a little infectious and that they all will pick it up and keep playing it after their first experience.  It was what I hoped the people teaching me their games at GenCon would be like when learning their game.  There were thumbs up all around for 7 Wonders.

Overall Experience: 8/10


A few nice gamers were playing this game in the exhibition hall, and invited me to play with them.  I only had a few minutes, but I figured I’d see what the fuss was about.  The game is a classic escape the zombies game, collaborative, where zombies spawn all about the board and the heroes are trying to find fire axes and shotguns to fight back.

For the most part, this game was pretty unoriginal, with the premise being handled several times before already, and this one didn’t seem especially different as to warrant attention.  It seemed like a clone of Last Night on Earth, except fully collaborative.  It also had mission markers scattered throughout the board, similar to Betrayal at House on the Hill.

One unique aspect of the game though was a slider that granted experience points to your heroes as the game goes on, giving heroes more powers but also ramping up the challenge of the zombies.

All in all, this game was ok, but didn’t get me excited to play again, although I left after 3 rounds of play.

Overall Experience: 4/10

Summoner Wars

I’ve heard a lot good things about this game, so I finally got a demo of it in the vendor hall.  I played the dark elves (or whatever they are called in the game) and my opponent played some sort of Ram race that seemed intent on rushing to my side of the board.

I always wondered why there weren’t more of these kind of board games.  Games that mimic the play of a table-top war game, but do so in a way that allows the customer to play without purchasing $1,000 in minis and painting/assembly.  It felt like a combination of Magic the Gathering and a table-top skirmish game with random decks of cards to draw and “summon” your units.

I enjoyed the game, and I can appreciate the nuance of the different factions.  It really think this game works mostly as a two-player game though, and I don’t know if my wife is really going to enjoy it or I would have considered purchasing it.  I’m told you can play 4-player, but it really felt a bit bolted on.  If anyone out there has played 4-player summoner wars and think it’s a quality 4-player game, I might be persuaded to buy.

Overall Experience: 7/10

Bioshock Infinite

Again, in the vendor hall, by plaid hat games (same vendor as Summoner Wars) is Bioshock Infinite, the board game.  First, the game looks beautiful and does a great job of evoking the atmosphere of the Bioshock games (at least, from my limited playing of them).

This is a war game with a relatively cramped map and with a few interesting mechanics that set it apart from your standard war game.  You can buy units, but you can also buy weapon turrets and alarms which help defend an area.  As you win battles, you can also unlock various powers on different units, or improve the values of units for combat, politics, or economy.  The game has a third party random element that can cause some havoc (although it didn’t really do much in our game), and it has a nice mechanic to help the losing player catch-up a bit by letting them add a random die roll to the influence they spend as events come up.

The most interesting mechanic though was definitely the sky-rail, which connected the various areas of the board and could allow you to send units anywhere, provided they could continue holding onto the skyrail for long enough before they fall to their deaths.  In the end of the game I played, I had to send units across the skyrail from 3-4 areas away and roll well enough for them to hold onto the rail for a last desperate attack.  The skyrail makes everything vulnerable, all of the time.

The downsides? Again, this seems to be mostly designed as a 2-player game, and the 4-player variant basically has teams of 2 controlling different units for their faction.  Also, the game comes in at a hefty $80, making it quite an investment in a mostly 2-player board game.

Overall Experience: 7/10

Iron GM

This was an event that I had been looking at before arriving, and when the time came, I got in-line to pay some cash for the opportunity to play in an original game by one of the top GMs in the hobby.  I realized that this was going to be a big investment as it took 6 hours on Saturday to participate, but I felt like this was one of those things I could only ever do at GenCon.

So, I waited in line and got in with my generic tickets (barely).  All of the GMs were introduced with music and fanfare, and they started picking random tables for each GM.  I’m a little bit uncertain about the qualification process.  It sounded like some of the GMs had “qualified” for the event at other conventions, but it also seemed like plenty of them has simply signed up that day.  In fact, when they realized there was a shortage of GMs, they promoted one of the ticket-holder players to GM and allowed another person with generic tickets to get in.

Each GM was allowed at this point to propose a different system from the base 3.5 D&D system the game was using.  As long as the table agreed, the switch was allowed.  Very few GMs were denied their opportunity to switch systems, and I felt like if one of these talented GMs was going to give me a better experience in a different system, I was all for it.

That was until the GM who drew our table number suggested that we could play as 1st level characters in a mid-level game, OR we could accept his own custom-house-rule system.  We looked around, and with much skepticism, allowed him to use his own home-brew system.  Once all of the GMs were assigned, they were given 1 hour to create an original adventure using the now revealed “secret ingredients.”  The secret ingredients were: “Dread Wraith, Drunken Wager, and Deep Wreckage.”  During that hour, the players were to create a character.  The GM was not allowed to say more than 3 words to the players during this time.

What actually happened was our GM spent the entire time writing notes (bypassing the three words rule) to us on how to create characters in his home-brew system.  Because of the fun players around the table, this ended up being the most fun part of the process.  I’ll spare you the gory details, but we ended up as a group of Minotaur pirates in a bronze-age fantasy world.

When the game started, our GM was pretty clearly ad-libbing to try and get into a groove for the adventure.  Unfortunately, while he tried to tie in our detailed character backgrounds, he ended up spending the first 2 hours of the game having us interact with townsfolk at the tavern, marketplace, elixir shop, etc.  He made it difficult for us to even find some adventure, so that by the time half of our allotted game time was over, we would take any possible ticket to adventure, regardless of how absurd or how forced it would be.

And they ended up being quite forced.  Our GM worked in the components by having is sail off-course to one island, and then forcefully controlling my character with a magic artifact to sail to a different island.  Of course, there was a Dread Wraith on one and there was Deep Wreckage at the other.

When all was said and done, I was pretty disappointed with the experience.  I was really hoping for one of these top GMs to run an exciting, well-paced, creative story.  Instead, I got to play around with a rules-light FATE system, but missed out on the meat and potatoes of what I went to Iron GM for: a great adventure.

Overall Experience: 4/10

True Dungeon

My last event of GenCon was to try True Dungeon for the first time.  The marshaling area was a bit difficult to find, but once there our group pulled out the random pack of 10 items we were each given and began trading them around.  We found that, after opening our packs of items, our group was sorely under-equipped.

Still, we picked classes and got ready to practice our craft.  I ended up playing a Paladin, as the rare item in my pack was magical armor.  Next, we were taken to an area to practice the skills we’d need in true dungeon.  This ended up being shuffleboard for the combat characters, and various memory games for the spell casters.

The shuffleboard combat was actually pretty innovative, with outlines of the enemy on the opposite end of the table with various zones assigned to numbers of a d20 roll.  You dropped your weapon token into the puck and you slide your puck across the table aiming for a hit zone.  You can hit other people’s pucks and improve/worsen your outcomes.  We were instructed that most people who don’t defeat an enemy fail to do so because they take too long, and that it would be better to attack quickly en-masse.

I’m not fully aware of all the spellcaster mechanics, but I do know that our Druid had to memorize leaves of different trees, and when casting a spell the moderator of the room would show a picture of a leaf.  If the Druid was correct, the spell as more effective, if not, the spell was less effective.

The thief played an operation-style game on magic chests to earn clues and treasure.  The clues ended up being of arguable value, and we never did get treasure from a chest because our thief died pretty early on.

The actual game starts with a combat, which we handled pretty well, and then moved onto a puzzle that we never figured out how to solve.  When you fail a puzzle, everyone in the party takes damage as you’re pushed to the next room.  We passed another combat and then failed another puzzle (which, I’m pretty convinced we over-thought).  In the next combat, we fought a will’o’wisp type creature that had a tiny little picture on the shuffleboard and who proceeded to annihilate half the party.  Nobody played a cleric in the group, so we had scarce little healing between the druid and paladin.

With only half the group left alive, we went into another room with yet another puzzle.  This time, with only four people working on it, we actually did better and solved it before heading into the final combat.  True Dungeon brought out a big robotic evil-looking treant to do battle against us.  With only four of us, we were pretty certain to be toast.  Thankfully, our shuffleboard skills somehow picked up with lots of critical hits, and the beastie had a terrible run at the d20, and the four remaining party members survived.

The dungeon itself was well done, the dark ball-room and multi-colored lighting helped the feel of the dark forest.  The actors were very hit or miss, with the initial plot hook delivered so poorly I was afraid we were in for a long day.  Still, some of the actors were enthusiastic, had great costumes, and delivered their lines well.

The biggest drawback is that the event is very expensive, costing almost $50 per person.  That and some of the bad acting and the commercialization of the “item” token packs where people are expected to make multiple runs to try and acquire more “rare” magic items to survive subsequent adventures making first time runs extra-difficult hurt the experience a little.  Still, it was a fun event, and something that really felt like a “GenCon” only type experience, and it ended our convention on a high note.

Overall Experience: 7/10

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