Words by David C. Obenour
Gen Con | August 3-6, 2023 | Indiana Convention Center & Surrounding Area
Almost two weeks later, we’re still processing all of the games we heard about and were able to play at this year’s Gen Con! Following our last post, there’s still dice to be rolled, cards to be drawn, damage to be scribbled down, and lots, lots more fun. Head back into the exhibitor hall with us one more time for part two of our highlights from this year’s new and new-to-us games.
Beyond the Sun (Rio Grande Games)
Humanity has achieved the ability for intergalactic exploration, igniting a new era of discovery and innovation. In Beyond the Sun, players navigate a number of classic mechanisms such as area control, tech trees, contracts, and worker placement. Choices are many, but well designed components and icons help guide the turns for a mid-weight game that plays remarkably smoothly. Returning to Gen Con for the first time since the pandemic, Rio Grande Games has been missed with their open room of fun and free to play games.
The Perfect Wave (The Op)
Shaka, brah! The sun is low but there’s still another chance to catch that one great wave before packing it in for the day. Play through the deck to look for a swell that’s just right but don’t stay on the beach too long because you still have to paddle out far enough to actually catch, surf, and perform some gnarly tricks on it! The Perfect Wave is a really fun and unique concept with mechanisms that perfectly ride it.
Bonsai (dV Games)
One of the most exciting games at Gen Con was oddly enough one of its most tranquil. In Bonsai, players grow and prune their bonsai trees with tiles of trunk, greens, flowers, and fruit. Starting with a small growth in a kintsugi planter, each game progresses with different scoring conditions and through drafted tiles and actions from the shared progression of cards. Exceedingly elegant from concept through execution.
Forest Shuffle (Lookout Games)
While nature can be random, its habitats don’t develop through chance. Each ecology is a balance of the many growths and creatures that occupy them. In Forest Shuffle, players create their own environment through drafting and layering multi-use cards of trees and growths, and birds and beasts. Playing throughout a season in under an hour, by winter no two forests will look alike – or score alike – with multiple paths for finding your way to the most vibrant habitat.
Outcast Silver Raiders (self-released)
Outcast Silver Raiders is a blood-drenched occult medieval roleplaying game in the Old School Renaissance (OSR) tradition. You need more than that? Did you see the illustrations from heavy metal artist, Kim Diaz Holm? The maps and fanatically scrawled calligraphy of Lex Rocket? Isaac VanDuyn’s work in bringing it all together for the finished stark dark tomes? How about the looks of worry on the faces of your parents for when you do decide to go down this dark path?
Chaotic Studio (Broadway)
Rush, rush, rush. Deadlines are tight and tensions run high at the animation studio. Just have to get these last drawings done and then off to… oh no! You’ve slammed into your coworker and now slides are mixed and everywhere. In Chaotic Studio, players draw an illustration on three overlapping and transparent slides, keep one and then mix the rest in with everyone else’s. Then it’s time to sort out which ones match as you try to guess what everyone else was drawing. A delightfully clever concept and use of components.
Terrorscape: Amorphous Peril (ICE Makes)
Breaking into an abandoned mansion seemed like an okay idea at the time. The storm wasn’t letting up and you didn’t want to spend the night in your broken down car. You fools! What you wouldn’t give to only wake up with neck cramps and not fearing decapitation! In Terrorscape, players compete in asymmetric chase of one killer vs many hapless survivors. Cooperate to find the keys or repair the radio or play as a brutally homicidal maniac committed to not letting either of those things happen. The hunt is on!
Blood and Valor: End of Empires (Firelock Games)
The First World War reached all corners of the globe and now Blood and Valor is back with more tabletop action and scenarios in even more theaters! Building off of the earlier released core rule set similar to Firelock’s Blood & Plunder, this skirmish based system offers easy to follow rules for under two hour battles with less than a few dozen models. With so many tabletop endeavors feeling exactly like that – a true endeavor in modeling, reading, planning, and then finally playing – the accessibility of Blood and Valor is a real selling point.
Townsfolk Tussle (Panic Roll)
This vintage cartooniverse has always had something sinister lurking between its frames. A feeling that as soon as the credits had rolled, something unnerving played out beyond the eyes of the entertained masses. In Townsfolk Tussle, two to five loopy heroes throw up fisticuffs against sketchy bosses up to no good. With tougher challenges each go around, you’ll need to explore Eureka Springs for gear and allies as you seek to restore order and maybe even prove worthy of becoming the new sherif!
Connecto (UltraPRO Entertainment)
All the fun of connect-the-dots drawing is back with eye-blurring symbol searching and dry erase racing. Flip a card to find an outlined path of symbols you then race to connect. As soon as you think you’ve identified the drawing, write it down and flip the timer! A simple concept with some fun variations through easy, medium, and hard drawing cards, Connecto is a fun and frenzied for all ages.
Fortify (Barrel Aged Games)
A moving truck rolling down the hot summer street can only mean one thing, there’s about to be a whole bunch of boxes on the curb! Put out the call and grab as many balloons from the junk drawer there are – it’s time for a neighborhood water balloon fight! Build your fortress as large as can be to welcome in more friends with their own gear and abilities while chucking water balloons and dice to soak your opponents. Described as Rampart as a board game, Fortify packs a lot of thematic and thinky fun in a small box.
Slugblaster (Wilkie’s Candy Lab)
Shut up, dad! You couldn’t even possibly comprehend the tricked out dimensions our crew is rolling through! Slam the door in the face of authority figures and narcs as you kickflip over a quantum centipede in this dimension hopping, hoverboard trending, certainly unsafe and possibly illegal RPG. For as much that’s changed in the scifi future, being a teen still fits the tropes. The rich kid with all the latest gear, the smart kid who knows how to actually use it, and of course skateboarders. What’s different are the dimensions and that can lead to some dicey situations. Live fast, don’t get caught, and try not to eat it on camera.
There’s gold in them boxes! Klondice is a fun and fast game where players take turns rolling fists full of beautifully gold looking dice to fulfill shared sets and runs. Some cooperation is required but be careful not to give your opponent too much opportunity! Games are toys and toys should be fun and MindWare was well aware of that in making this little game of luck and choices.
Whale to Look (Oink)
Masters of the artfully minimal and cleverly compact, Japan’s Oink Games returns with Whale to Look. Fitting a lot of fun components into another of their standard small boxes, Whale to Look pits players as competing tour companies offering sight-seers a chance to experience these majestic and elusive sea creatures. Find where the schools of fish are and aren’t to strike off on your own or follow the leads of your rivals, just don’t hesitate too long or you’ll be left with nothing to see!
Starry Night Sky (Buffalo Games & Puzzles)
It’s time to take out your telescope to find myth and meaning in the Starry Night Sky! In this game that’s every bit as fun to play as it is to look at (shiny and celestial), players take turns gathering and exploring before the break of dawn. Gathering offers new exploration goals and star resources to be spent, and exploring moves your telescope throughout the night sky to score points through discovering and completing constellations.
Revel in all the hot goss action of your favorite reality dating show as you look for love or fame on Lovestruck. In this clever party game, players are contestants with their own motives and your goal is to partner up correctly by the season finale. Every round – or episode – sends contestants out on dates filled with love, drama, and special action cards for more dates, screen time, or (gasp!) scandal.
Davy Jones Locker: Curse of the Ghost Ships (PudKat Games)
Following all of the high seas action of The Kraken Wakes, return to the depths of Davy Jones Locker and set sail on the murky waters of Curse of the Ghost Ship! Headed soon to Kickstarter, this new adventure navigates a cooperative unfolding story filled with treasure and treachery. With a number of new components, cards, rules, and narratives, it will be up to you and your crew to balance your greed for gold with your guts for ghosts as you discover treasure, cursed and otherwise.