Time for my second random Gen Con preview. If you’re just joining us, I’m randomly selecting seven games from the BGG Gen Con preview list and talking about them. My hope is to find some gems I might otherwise have overlooked, but it’s all random. Since I won’t be there this year, I’ll also give my initial thoughts and whether or not it would be something I’d go check out. The BGG list was at 212 items at the time of this writing.
1750: Britain vs. France (Jason Huffman, Battle Hardened Games) is a historical wargame where players are engaging in the bloody conflict between Britain and France in the mid 18th century. You’ll either play as Britain or France, and will be recruiting officers, taking colonies by force, and exporting to aid your economy. In the end, you will get a score for the number of colonies you have captured, countries you have convinced to join your cause, and enemy leaders you’ve taken prisoner.
This is a very beautiful looking game. It looks like it plays fairly quickly with a lot of strategic decisions to be had. I, however, don’t really have any desire to play it. I’m not really into wargames in general, and this theme doesn’t really appeal to me at all. I”ll be glad to hear what others think, and would even play if someone else wanted to bring it to the table, but it’s not one I would seek out.
Codenames Duet (Vlaada Chvátil/Scot Eaton, Czech Games Edition) is at least the fourth standalone game in the Codenames franchise, following the 2015 original, last year’s Codenames Pictures, and the completely unnecessary Codenames: Deep Undercover. This one is a two-player only cooperative game where cards are laid out in a 5×5 grid, and each player has a key for the words that the other player needs to guess. The challenge is that you don’t want to reveal too many innocent bystander cards, and you don’t want your partner to guess one of three assassins. The keys are not the same, but there is some overlap, so you need to be careful. You win by revealing 15 secret words collectively.
I’ve played the original Codenames a few times and really liked it. And I am, of course, a Vlaada fanboy, so there’s that. But my understanding is that this one is primarily the work of Scot Eaton, who presented the variant that CGE liked so much that they published it. I’m assuming the included word cards could also work in original Codenames. I’ve heard a lot of good things about this, and this is a game I’d definitely want to go check out.
Hotshots (Justin de Witt, Fireside Games) is a cooperative game about fighting wildfires, which makes it the second cooperative firefighting game I know of (Flash Point Fire Rescue is the other, which is about a burning building). In this one, you’re fighting fires by rolling dice and trying to match combos on the tiles. If flames get out of control, the tile will be scorched and lost, which could be a good thing. However, lose too many tiles and you lose. Extinguish the fire to win.
Firefighting is a pretty fascinating theme to me, and I’m glad that there’s another game tackling the subject. Fireside is the company that produced Castle Panic, so they have a good track record on cooperative games. I think this is one I’d want to check out, though it might be a little too light for me.
Lazer Ryderz (Anthony Amato/Nicole Kline, Greater Than Games) is a trackless racing game coming out of GTG’s Fabled Nexus imprint. Your goal is to capture three prisms (excuse me, prizms). It’s played without a board, so there’s no set way to get to the prizms. Instead, like in X-Wing, you’re using pieces to measure distance and turns. Those pieces will remain on the board as your laser (excuse me, lazer) trails. The faster you go, the harder it is to turn, but you do want to try to get there before others or you risk crashing into someone else’s lazer trail. The first person to get three prizms wins.
This game is CLEARLY going for a very eighties vibe – the packaging, the not-so-subtle references to Tron, and even the VHS quality of the how-to-play video all scream EIGHTIES! And while all the extra Zs are really obnoxious, this game looks really fun. It’s like X-Wing meets Tron, and how could that be a bad thing?
Wasteland Express Delivery Service (Jonathan Gilmour/Ben Pinchback/Matt Riddle, Pandasaurus Games) is a post-apocalyptic pick-up-and-deliver game. You’re moving water, food, and weapons around the board, fighting raiders and trying to complete different missions as you go. You’ll be upgrading your ride and hiring riders to help you be successful. The game comes with ten different scenarios that build a narrative, but there’s also a random setup for single-session games.
I’ve never seen Mad Max, but this game really seems like it’s trying to give that feel. The pieces looks great, and the game seems like it is pretty solid. I like the pedigree of the designers involved here, and I’ve heard some good things about this one, so I think this is one I’d seek out to try.
Port Royal (Alexander Pfister, Steve Jackson Games) was originally released in 2014 by Pegasus Spiele, but it’s now finally getting a domestic release. In the game, players are racing to 12 points by drafting pirates and ships. On your turn, you take the deck and begin revealing cards. You keep going until you choose to stop, or until you bust by revealing two ships of the same color. If you bust, play passes to the next person. If you stop, you can take a ship or hire a pirate. Ships give you money, pirates give ongoing benefits. After this, other players may do the same but must pay you for the privilege. At the end of a round where someone has reached 12 points, the game ends and the high score wins.
I’ve gotten to play Port Royal a few times on Yucata.de, and once in real life. It works much better as a face-to-face game, and I really enjoy it. It’s a nice quick, not too mentally taxing game that has some very interesting and unique mechanisms going on. I’m glad to see it getting a domestic release, but I really wish SJG hadn’t decided to change the cover, especially since the card artwork is supposedly not getting changed. Anyway, this is a good one to hunt down if you haven’t played.
Smile (Michael Schacht, Z-Man Games) is a game about gathering cute creatures through the use of fireflies. In each of the ten rounds, you’ll be placing beads out on creatures that you want to stay in a round. When you back out, you’ll get a card with beads on it, but lower numbers get beads first so you risk lowering your score. There’s not a whole lot of information about how to play, just a brief description on BGG and on the Z-Man website. But it looks cute and I tend to like Michael Schacht games, so this is one I’d be interested to try. And with Pandemic Legacy Season 2 coming out, I’m sure this one will be completely overshadowed at Gen Con.
That’s it for Random Preview #2. More to come in the weeks leading up to Gen Con in August. Thanks for reading!