2017 Random Gen Con Preview, Part I

Welcome to my third year of random Gen Con previews, where I randomly select entries from the BGG Gen Con Preview list and talk about them for a little bit.  The goal is to highlight some games you might accidentally skip over, though I usually will hit a few that are destined to be big successes.  If you’re not familiar with Gen Con, it’s an annual gaming convention held in Indianapolis, IN.  This year, it will run from August 17-August 20.  It is the fiftieth year of the show, which is a pretty big milestone.  But that’s enough exposition – on with the meat!  The BGG preview list was at 146 items at the time I wrote this.

image by BGG user W Eric Martin

Photosynthesis (Hjalmar Hach, Blue Orange Games) is a game about building a forest.  In the game, your trees will be getting light points based on their position relative to the sun.  These points can be spent to plant new seeds, grow exiting trees, or even end their life cycle to collect point tokens.  The game lasts for three full revolutions of the sun around the game board, and the player who has collected the most points at that point is the winner.

This is a game that was completely off my radar until writing this post.  It looks gorgeous, and has a cool environmental theme to it.  It seems like it’s mostly an abstract game, but one with very nice art and components.  If I were to be at Gen Con, I think this is one I would seek out to try.

image by BGG user DrCrow

Catacombs & Castles (Aron West, Elzra Corp.) is a standalone game in the Catacombs family, and serves as an introduction to the system.  As opposed to the original game, this can be played competitively, with a team of Catacomb players versus a team of Castle players.  You can also do the one-vs-all game, as in the original set.  If you’re unfamiliar with Catacombs, it’s a dexterity game where players are flicking their pieces, trying to hit each other and deal damage.  This game can be played on its own, or it can be combined with the base game as an expansion.

I enjoy Catacombs a lot, though I have the first edition with the much too dark art.  I wish I had waited and gone for the more cartoony third edition, but oh well.  This was a Kickstarter run last June and promised for November, though it is now a year later and hasn’t been delivered.  Hopefully, it will make an appearance at Gen Con.  I’d want to give it a try if I was there.

image by BGG user W Eric Martin

Professor Evil and the Citadel of Time (Matthew Dunstan/Brett J. Gilbert, Funforge) is a new game from the designers of Elysium.  It’s kind of a treasure hunting game where you’re running around trying to rescue treasures stolen from history by Professor Evil, and he is moving around thwarting you.  The game is fully cooperative, and all players are up against the game’s AI.  On your turn, you have three actions – open a door, move to an open room, disable a trap, or grab a treasure.  After your turn, Professor Evil moves – roll three dice, moving him with two of them and advancing the time marker 5-10 minutes with the other.  If Professor Evil gets hold of a treasure before you do, it’s gone, and if you lose four treasures this way, you lose.  However, if you manage to rescue four treasures, you win.

I get a bit of a Kill Doctor Lucky vibe from this one, as you’re moving around a mansion trying to thwart the whims of an automatically controlled character.  They’re really nothing alike – this looks more like a puzzle, and it’s also cooperative.  I think it looks interesting, I’d be willing to try it out.

image by BGG user sydstar

Pirate 21 (Jeremy Commandeur, Indie Boards & Cards) is a pirate-themed card game based loosely on the mechanics of Blackjack.  Each player is dealt two cards, and then takes turns either drawing a new card, using a character ability, passing, or knocking.  If you knock, you end the round, and the player who is closest to 21 without going over wins a coin.  The object is to be the first to four coins.

This looks like a pretty light-hearted game, with its soul being found in the character abilities.  Without those, it’s just Blackjack that is played against each other instead of a dealer.  One card in the deck is the Black Spot, which means you can’t win the round, but could still get a coin if you have the lowest score or get eliminated.  Might be fun, though I don’t know if it’s one I’d play often, even if it is a quick game.

image by BGG user W Eric Martin

Chemistry Fluxx (Andrew Looney, Looney Labs) is at least the fifteen billionth iteration of the 1997 game Fluxx.  Fluxx is so named because the rules are constantly in flux.  The basic rules of the system are as follows: draw a card, play a card.  As you play, you may be changing rules so that you’re drawing more cards and playing more cards, or other fun things.  The object is to get a certain combination of cards in front of you and have the matching victory condition in play when it happens.  In Chemistry Fluxx, you’re making chemical compounds with certain elements.  If you’re the first one to complete a goal, you win.

What can I say.  It’s Fluxx.  Either you’re predisposed to like it or you’re not.  I admit, I enjoyed Fluxx the first few times I played it.  But then I got tired of games that could be over before I even got a turn, or could go on for hours.  I think they’ve been working on fixing that particular aspect for a while, but I’ve already moved on.  So no, I probably wouldn’t seek this out.

image by BGG user JustinDJacobson

Indulgence (G.W. D’Arcey/Rob Daviau/Justin D. Jacobson, Restoration Games) is one of three games being released by Restoration, a company with a mission of updating and reprinting classic titles.  This is based on the 1981 game Dragonmaster, which in turn was based on the 1966 game Coup d’Etat, which in itself was based on the 1930 game Barbu.  Indulgence is a 3-4 player trick-taking game where an Edict is chosen at the beginning of each round that penalizes players for taking certain cards.  You can attempt to Sin by taking all of the forbidden cards (shoot the moon), but in any case you play until all cards have been played.  Florins are paid to the Ruler (first player) for taking forbidden cards, and you play until everyone has been Ruler once, or someone can’t pay their fines.  The player with the most cash wins.

Dragonmaster is a game I’m unfamiliar with, but I do really like Restoration Games’ approach of going after classic titles that have a lot of nostalgic value to them.  In fact, people have been giving them grief for retheming the game into being about the (I believe former) Catholic practice of selling indulgences for the forgiveness of sins instead of keeping the fantasy world from the previous version.  But, in my eyes, that’s part of modernizing the game.  This game, as well as Downforce and Stop Thief! will be debuting at Gen Con, and I think I’d have to stop by to check them all out if I was there.

image by BGG user ajnos

Victorian Masterminds (Antoine Bauza/Eric M. Lang, Space Cowboys) is a game where crooks are trying to take advantage of the death of Sherlock Holmes.  You’ll be doing lots of evil things, sending out agents to destroy buildings, kidnap scientists, complete missions, and generally get what you need to construct your doomsday device.  There’s not a lot of information out there, but it is presumed to be a Gen Con release.  Really, all you need to say is Eric Lang, Antoine Bauza, and Space Cowboys, and this is something I would DEFINITELY check out.

That will do it for the first random preview.  The next one will land at some indeterminate point in the future.  Thanks for reading!



  1. You just put Victorian Masterminds on the radar for sure!

    Like you, I had moved on from Fluxx but for some dumb reason was intrigued by this one. Sadly, it’s no different. Played two games; first was over in 5 minutes and second dragged on for what felt like 30 minutes (with only two players!).

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