2017 Non-Random Gen Con Preview

Thousands of people are currently descending (or getting ready to descend) on Indianapolis to attend the 50th Gen Con, which officially opens on Thursday.  I won’t be among them, but I’m still keeping an eye on a number of games.  Here are seven that I have non-randomly selected to talk about here that I have a particular interest in for one reason or another.

image by BGG user W Eric Martin

Bob Ross: Art of Chill Game (Prospero Hall, Big G Creative) takes the work of the iconic host of The Joy of Painting and applies it to a board game.  On your turn, you roll a die, then try to collect the paints and tools needed to complete various features on a painting before Bob does.  The quicker you complete a feature, the more points you’ll get.  When someone completes all three features (or Bob does), move on to a new painting.  The first player to 30 points wins.

Bob Ross died in 1995, but he left quite a legacy behind.  It’s been 22 years, and people are still watching his show, and apparently making games about him.  The game looks pretty decent, too – it’s primarily a set collection game, and could have been done with just about any theme.  But it’s Bob Ross, it has a very striking cover, and I totally would be going to check it out.  This should be available at Gen Con, and will be sold exclusively in Target stores beginning in October.

image by BGG user W Eric Martin

A Game of Thrones Catan: Brotherhood of the Watch (Klaus Teuber/Benjamin Teuber, Fantasy Flight Games) is the inevitable result of the purchase of Catan by Asmodee/Fantasy Flight.  In the game, you’re producing resources, building roads, founding settlements – you probably know how Catan works.  The big difference here seems to be that you’re trying to strengthen the Wall that protects Westeros from the Wildlings.  You win if you’re the first to 10 points, but if the Wildlings manage to breach the Wall three times, then the player with the most guards on the Wall wins.

Typically, I try to keep this list to games that will actually be for sale at Gen Con.  This game will be for demo only.  But I’m kind of morbidly curious about it.  I knew when Asmodee bought Catan and handed it off to Fantasy Flight that we’d see Game of Thrones or Star Wars slapped on it soon enough.  It doesn’t sound interesting enough for me to break my fast from all things Catan, but I think this is one I’d at least want to go by and see in action.

image by BGG user W Eric Martin

Secrets (Bruno Faidutti/Eric M. Lang) is a social deduction game kind of in the tradition of Faidutti’s 2013 game Mascarade.  In this one, each player is a member of the CIA or KGB (or possibly a hippie).  On your turn, you’ll draw two characters, reveal them, then secretly discard one and offer the other to another player.  They can accept or reject.  If they accept, they get the character, its points, and its special power.  If they refuse, the offering player gets the character.  Powers can include looking at someone else’s loyalty, revealing your own to everyone else, shoot a negative victory point at someone, kill all of your characters, or even swap loyalties.  When someone has 4 (or 5) cards in front of them, the game ends and the team with the highest score wins.  However, if the hippie has the lowest score, he wins and everyone else loses.

I’m generally suspicious of social deduction games – it seems like a lot of them are just Werewolf knockoffs, and that’s not very fun.  Mascarade was different with shifting roles, actual deduction, and a lot of pushing your luck.  It’s a lot of chaos, and a lot of fun.  Secrets is more of a game in that vein.  It also adds the third team element (hippie) that I like so much in a game like Shadow Hunters.  So this is one I would definitely want to check out.

image by BGG user Sonar

Sonar (Roberto Fraga/Yohan Lemonnier, Matagot) is a 2-4 player version of the popular Captain Sonar released last year.  Instead of four roles, a team is made up of two – Captain and Radio Operator.  As in the original, the Captain is in charge of moving and the Radio Operator is in charge of listening to the opponent and trying to deduce where they are.  The Captain is also in charge of collecting and spending energy on the sonar, going into silent mode, shooting a torpedo into an exact coordinate, or surfacing to erase your tracks.  If you manage to do two damage to your opponent, you win.

Captain Sonar was one of my favorites from last year, and it’s interesting to see how they’ve reduced the game.  CS could be played with 8 people, which can be kind of daunting.  This one is also played in turn-based mode rather than real-time (though Captain Sonar could also be played as a turn-based game).  This is another game that is exclusive to Target, but will be at Gen Con.

image by BGG user JanaZemankova

That’s a Question (Vlaada Chvátil, Czech Games Edition) is a party game that is basically a slightly more advanced version of Would You Rather.  Each player has a hand of hexagonal cards, each with words or phrases on three sections of the card.  On your turn, you’ll choose another player and present him/her with one of three question prompts: What would you miss more if it ceased to exist?; Which of these would you choose?; or Whom do you consider worse?  The answerer chooses two responses, then everyone votes on what they think he/she will choose.  The answerer gets points for people getting their vote wrong, while voters get points for being right.  At the end of the game, the high score wins.

As regular readers of this blog know, Vlaada is my absolute favorite designer.  Which is why it really pains me to say that there is absolutely nothing about this game that appeals to me.  Vlaada has made party games before – Codenames, which is pretty universally beloved; and Bunny Bunny Moose Moose, which while I didn’t enjoy it, was at least creative.  This doesn’t seem that creative to me.  This is probably his most run-of-the-mill game yet, and I really am saddened that I don’t want to play it at all.  If it was being played, I would join in just to see if my suspicions are correct, but I’m mostly including it here so I can give voice to my profound sense of disappointment.

image by BGG user gil orey

Viral (Gil d’Orey/Antonio Sousa Lara, Arcane Wonders) is the latest game in the Dice Tower Essentials line.  In the game, you are a virus trying to infect a human body.  In each of the six rounds, players will each pick a pair of cards – an action and a zone.  These are played face down, then players go around and resolve.  You’ll repeat this for a second pair of cards.  These four cards will not be available to you next round.  Actions include moving, infecting, attacking, absorbing other viruses, attracting or repelling other viruses, or protecting yourself.  Having the most viruses in a zone scores points.  Too many viruses in a zone causes a crisis, which will score but remove all viruses from that zone.  Events happen each round that will affect things.  After six rounds, the player with the most viral points wins.

This looks like a pretty fun area-control action-programming game with elements of deckbuilding, which ticks a lot of boxes for me in something I’m looking for.  I like the theme – it’s a pretty lighthearted look at disease, with the happy ending that doctors will cure stuff in the end.  The DT Essentials are usually pretty good games, so I’m looking forward to hopefully trying this one out some day.

image by BGG user toulouse

Whistle Stop (Scott Caputo, Bézier Games) is a tile laying train game.  Players begin with a number of trains, and will be heading west.  Along the way, you’ll be picking up goods and delivering them to different towns as you go, trying to earn lots of points.  You can also upgrade your trains, as well as buy stocks.  When one player has gotten all their trains to the West Coast, or when a set number of rounds have happened, the game ends and the player with the high score wins.

I’m not a huge train gamer, but I enjoy them.  This one, while it has a familiar tile laying aspect, looks different enough that it can stand apart from the crowd.  I have enjoyed designer Scott Caputo’s other game (Kachina/Volüspá), and while this one is very different, it looks to still have a good puzzle-like aspect to it.  I think this will be one of the hits of Gen Con this year.


Speaking of the hits of Gen Con, here are my predictions for the five games for sale that people will be talking about most.  In alphabetical order:

  1. Codenames Duet (Vlaada Chvátil/Scot Eaton, Czech Games Edition)
  2. First Martians: Adventures on the Red Planet (Ignacy Trzewiczek, Portal Games)
  3. Photosynthesis (Hjalmar Hach, Blue Orange Games)
  4. Professor Evil and The Citadel of Time (Matthew Dunstan/Brett J. Gilbert, Funforge)
  5. Whistle Stop (Scott Caputo/Bézier Games)

For those of you going to the show, have a great time!  For the rest of us, see you at GenCant!  Thanks for reading!

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