Words by David C. Obenour
Gen Con | August 1-4, 2019 | Indiana Convention Center
Two weeks after we first entered Gen Con’s massive exhibitor hall, we’re back with the second half of the games that we played at this year’s convention (if you haven’t already, be sure to check out part one from last week)!
From horror to highways, from mountains to machines, it was an amazing year for new and new-to-us games! Let’s get to it…
Campy Creatures (Keymaster Games)
Campy Creatures definitely caught a lot of attention for its incredible pulp horror inspired art. More then just great illustrations, the game is smartly designed too, clearly presenting the needed information while never losing the theme. As for the playing, Campy Creatures uses familiar bluffing and hand-management mechanics that aren’t necessarily novel or even strongly thematically tied to the cards, but still make for a fun half hour of mostly simultaneous play.
Mechanica (Resonym Games)
Resonym Games impressed a lot of us with their hit party game, Visitor in Blackwood Grove. Following it up, the small publisher is showing they aren’t afraid of offering more for your table with Mechanica – successfully funded on Kickstarter earlier this year. Utilizing tile-placement and engine building mechanics, players work on assembling assembly lines that they can upgrade (with tiles) and chain together for maximum efficiency (literally engine building). Lots of fun components play well with the theme here making for an exciting game that broadens expectations from this already pretty great publisher!
Though primarily known for bright yellow boxes and wildly fun and creative components in children’s games, Haba has an impressive catalog of titles for more seasoned gamers as well. Playing out like a bluff and memory driven game of Go Fish, players in Mountains collect and borrow equipment from each other to complete increasingly impressive climbs. A fun little game that’s simple enough for kids younger kids and tricky enough for older and more forgetful minds.
The Shipwreck Arcana (Meromorph Games)
Shame on me for just taking notice of Meromorph Games, because not only does their new game The Shipwreck Arcana look incredible, but so did their older game Norsaga which was one of the weekend’s prized sold out titles. As for The Shipwreck Arcana, it’s a numbers logic problem wrapped up in the most beautiful art and the best possible theme. Players work cooperatively by using arcana cards (each presenting it’s own value-based rule) to ascertain each other’s fate tile (a number from 1 to 7). Arcana cards fade the more they’re used, increasing the game’s Doom timing mechanism, but also offering up new powers to the players. It’s so cleverly done on all fronts, that you’re completely caught up in the mysticism of it all. A stunning game.
Passtally (Pandasaurus Games)
A beautiful puzzley game that’s quick to explain but incredibly thinky, Pandasaurus twisted our mind in knots with Passtally. Players take turn moving their markers on the board’s edge or placing tiles of twisting lines tiles on an originally straight-lined playing board. You score by having connected your markers through the most complicated maze of lines and tiles in between. Lots of laughs and head scratches on this one.
The Stars Align (Breaking Games)
Packed neatly into its own bag, The Stars Align is travel-ready two-player game about filling up the night sky. Players draw from a deck of constellation cards and fill the flattened bag playing board with stars of their color. Complete a row or column for a “shooting star” to score a star point and the first player to complete their five-pointed star wins! Made with a lot of care for art and components, it’s a fun and beautiful little game.
Tokyo Highway (Itten Games)
Driving on the highways of a number of large cities, I’ve always thought that the maze of on and off ramps snaking through each other would be great fun for a game. Itten Games had the same thought and Tokyo Highway takes the concept and turns it into a fun little dexterity and building game. As with their other games showcased, there is a lot of thought put into how the game looks before, during and after playing. With a catalogue of new games about Stonehenge, hidden yetis and the glow of a campfire, I’m definitely excited to learn more about Itten!
Epic Spell Wars of the Battle Wizards: Annihilageddon (Cryptozoic)
Epic Spell Wars of the Battle Wizards is one of the most hilariously over-the-top games in terms of guts, gore and more (we actually heard the story of how Cryptozoic had to hire a new illustrator for Panic at Pleasure Palace as their original artist was underage). Their first departure from the core game play mechanics, Annihilageddon is a fairly classic deck-builder. Not a whole lot new to the genre introduced here, but if you’re looking for a new way to duel your fellow Battle Wizards it’s definitely a fun time.
Arkham Horror: Final Hour (Fantasy Flight Games)
One of the most popular modern heavy games out there, Arkham Horror has seen a number of expansions and spinoff games exploring many of the dark reaches of Lovecraft’s tales of horror. This latest Arkham game from Fantasy Flights promises all of the action of the “final hour” as humanity is either saved or doomed from an unspeakable ancient one. Delivering on its name, Final Hour plays in about an hour in a very similar to its originator but in for a much shorter game. If dedicating an entire afternoon isn’t your thing, but the theme intrigues you, you’ve made it just in time!
It’s always impressive when a game can do a lot with modest components that keep the price of admission low. Utilizing wonderfully colored, old ink style illustrations (that would make for pretty great tattoos), Tricky Tides fills their small box with an exciting looking game. Players take the role of shipping merchants, following suits on their navigation cards as they sail around islands picking up and dropping off goods. The trickiness of the tides comes from the nautical monster standees and event cards!
And that concludes the games we played at Gen Con 2019! Be sure to follow along for our regular gaming coverage and subscribe for free to our monthly Digital Zine to never miss an interview or feature!