Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Gen Con 2012 Recap - Part One (with SEASONS!)

After a whirlwind of a weekend in Indianapolis, I'm finally home from Gen Con and looking back at my first experience at the largest board game convention in the US.

There were tens of thousands of people playing thousands of different games. It's by far the biggest convention I've ever seen (even bigger than the Philly car shows) and one of the best weekends you can experience as a gamer.

Click through the jump for the recap!

First of all, this convention is bigger than any convention I've ever been to, or even dreamed about. It feels about 10 times the size of the Wizard World show in Philadelphia, and dwarfs Origins (which was itself a pretty big convention). The gaming rooms go on and on, and on and on. Here is an example of just the corner of one of them.

Gen Con is pretty big about new releases. It's the time of the year that many companies either receive and release their game, or at least get a bunch of early copies to the show (which often sell out really quickly). Games like Seasons and Netrunner sold out in the first two hours of the show. Greater Than Games (creators of Sentinels of the Multiverse) said on Friday that they "Sold almost everything". If you have to choose one day to attend, Saturday is usually the best for variety, but not if you want to buy games! I came with the intention to pick up one new game, so I went for Smash Up, AEG's new "shufflebuilding game", where you start the game by mixing up two different factions like Robots and Pirates. I heard it's light and fun.. which is perfect for my gaming group.

Did I mention that the cosplay is out in full force? I would say that 1 in 4 is in some sort of costume. Some of the best never even left the hallways, as they were posing for photos all day long, and others were playing games at tables, using the restroom, or wandering the streets of Indianapolis. I heard rumors of a Pikachu spotting at our hotel, 8 miles away.

Pixel Lincoln
Finally, I played some games! I spent much of the day running sold out Pixel Lincoln sessions (and then immediately running over to the Game Salute booth to play with others who couldn't get in on the sessions). There was a great variety of gamers and everyone really enjoyed the game.

After hours I was able to jump in on some other games. Here are a few:

The first prototype that I played was Microbrew by John DuBois. It's a game about purchasing and selling beer. It had a solid commerce mechanic, but had a few kinks that still needed to be worked out. After the game myself, designer Jay Treat, a friend, and John tossed around some ideas to improve on those issues.  Hope to see this again at some point, and see what has been updated.

Empire Reborn
I found out about the First Exposure Playtest Hall about 10 hours after arriving at Gen Con. It was a silent second floor room for testing new games, and felt completely different than the loud open halls downstairs. Grant Rodiek (designer of Farmageddon) was there testing his diceless war game, Empire Reborn, and I was able to sit in for a few rounds and see it in action. It had a great responsive battle system where each player chooses and plays a Tactic, which vary in style depending on which army you are playing. I wish I was able to get to play this one.

Battle Beyond Space
Back downstairs I jumped into a game of Battle Beyond Space. The new Z-Man game has brilliant cover art, solid plastic components and a theme that I always enjoy, so I was really excited to get a chance to get an unexpected game in. The game mixes abstract strategy with the randomness of card drawing in a way that often removes the control that you worked so hard to setup. I've heard complaints about this (and also that it's very abstract), but I think it's great for a light-to-medium gaming group like mine. The simple rules make it very easy to teach, and knowing the possibilities of the random cards should help to strategize in future games.

I had one game purchase in mind before I went to the convention, and it was Seasons. It sold out well before I even left New Jersey, and I tried to forget about it. Luckily, I caught up with Dan Patriss, W. Eric Martin, Adam O’Brien and had a chance to play.

The first thing you will notice is that the game is beautiful. Wonderful art, great components, and everything else you would hope for. It also plays really well. You roll dice depending on the current season, and choose which one to take. Dice will help you obtain energy, gain points, or draw cards. It sounds very simple, but that's really just the beginning of it. Actually, in the beginning you draft cards (which we skipped for the not-so-quick beginner setup), and then you set up three sets of cards for the three phases of the game. After playing just once, I think the drafting and setup is going to be the most fun and creative part of the game.

This has been called the next 7 Wonders, and rightly so. The biggest difference is that it plays best with two players. We played late (really late) with four and it went for almost two hours. But I've heard it shines with two. If I can ever find a copy, I'll be all over the two player game.

And that was the end of my first night at Gen Con. An amazing experience with some great people. Here are some quick shots from the rest of day one.

I have no clue what this is, but I want it.

The Great Heartland Hauling Co. designer Jason Kotarski plays Farmageddon...

...with designer Grant Rodiek at the 5th Street Games booth.

Lots of Magic the Gathering.

Richard Bliss a/k/a the Game Whisperer interviews Adam Clark a/k/a Kicktraq.

It's a balloon animal.

The Unpub blue noodle, signifying the best place to play upcoming games. Definitely the place to be.

The aliens start to invade in Jay Treat's cooperative game, Assault on Khyber Station.

George Tagmire demos Traitor Tavern with fellow beer game creator, John DuBois.

John Moller's Flummox gets an all new look.

Here is the Flummox himself...

...and the back of the cards.

Michael Coe, designer and 1/2 of Crash Games, plays his new two player abstract, Dungeon Heroes.

I missed out on a session of this game by about 10 seconds. :(

Designer Frank Branham signs a copy of Battle Beyond Space.

John Moller is the last man standing. (Ok, so he's sitting, but still.)

Check back for part two of my Gen Con 2012 recap!

Part 2:
Part 3:


  1. What did Zach Galifianakis Think of Farmageddon?

  2. I really wasn't as unhappy as I look in those couple of pictures haha. Seasons (pic 1) was an absolute blast (if a bit long for 3-4 players), and honestly Battle Beyond Space wasn't all that deep, it was quick and easy enough to be kinda fun in a random sort of way.

    Also Jason granted us an on demand game of Pixel Lincoln which was one of the hits of the con for me.

    Great Pics!