Plans are nothing; planning is everything.

– Dwight D. Eisenhower, Five Star General, Supreme Commander of Allied Forces WWII, 34th President of the USA

My boss is a taskmaster. Which is good, because sometimes I find it hard to stay on task. He learned it from his boss decades ago; a guy he affectionately refers to as “The Old Sarge,” who constantly drilled into him the following mantra: “Plan your work and work your plan!” My guess is that the Old Sarge heard it direct from General Eisenhower as they stormed the beaches of Normandy in “Operation Overlord.” Either way, the message is now passed on again, leaving you to wonder, what in the blue blazes does this have to do with my upcoming trip to GenCon? Well, let me assure you faithful readers, it has everything to do with it.

GenCon LLC, the entity behind the “Best Four Days in Gaming,” celebrating its 45th year this year, released the map of its “Exhibit Hall,” or vendor’s room, or, as I heretofore decree it shall ever-after be referred to as…. “Gamer Nerd-Vana” ® © ™ (Anyone seriously wanting to obtain the rights to use this catchy phrase for their nerd-related enterprise, please contact my agent.)

The big boys, corporate sponsors and perennial powerhouses are well represented. (An upcoming GenCon preview piece will address their wares). As you can see from the map, they have huge footprints near all the entrances and exits so they are hard to miss, even in a fire drill. However, the smaller, start-up and new game companies get pushed off to less trafficked space. If you are not looking pretty hard, you may just miss them. With a room full of over 40,000 people, some game companies and their products may be as hard to find as a renaissance faire reject dressed as a night elf playing harp music in Klingon. Well…maybe not the best example; it is GenCon after all.

On the outside: fearsome DeathMage. On the inside: Jimmy Buffett fan.

And so, in three short paragraphs we come full circle. In order to make the most of your GenCon trip, it is best to spend a little upfront time, yes, planning. (Ok, ok, “planning” for GenCon is a lot like knowing what all your Christmas presents are and the order in which you will open them, but go with me on this one). Planning is particularly acute when you are going with friends. You could literally spend all four days in the dealer hall and not see or do the same thing the whole trip. Probably you do not have that luxury. Likely, each of you will have different things on your to-do lists, so, best to coordinate, divide, then go all Eisenhower on its ass.

Looking through the list of dealers with space in the hall, there are a ton of interesting, small up-and-coming game companies making an appearance. This piece profiles a few of them (the letters A-L) with some interesting games.

5th Street Games will be featuring its newest title Castle Dash and a trio of animal games, from My Happy Farm, Farmageddon, to The Crow and the Pitcher. All four games are done in 30 minutes or less, and are apparently geared toward the Farmville addicts out there who can now try their farm-hand at real life agri-gaming. Castle Dash looks to be a quick and fun combat/thievery game, likely best for three to four players.

Ape Games, which had a real hit at the Con last year with 1955: The War of Espionage, looks to have another huge one its hands with Rolling Freight. When I first read the write up on it, I immediately thought: Ticket to Ride clone, but after watching the how-to-play video, I was immediately shamed back into my corner. With a great look and seemingly immersive game play this one could be really fun. While I have never been drawn to a “rails” game, this one may be my first. I promise more to come on this one.

¿Qué pasa? with Baksha Games’ new release Banditos? Attorney General Eric Holder may not find it too funny, but the concept of running “fast and furious” south of the border to rob the Banco de Mexico sounds dangerously delicious. Maybe its the 80’s theme or the handlebar mustachios; either way, color me interested. If there is a frickin’ El Camino card I am coming home with a box! Time to bust out the Refreshments, (and I don’t just mean chips and dip), pack your Jean-Luc Picard ID card, and lets roll!

“Four day badges? We don’t need no stinkin’ four day badges”

Blood & Cardstock’s card game, Showbiz Shuffle, puts you at the helm of a Hollywood hit making movie studio. But be careful, you could end up with bad ratings or a drinking problem! (Which you may have at the Con anyway…) If you like the idea of tabletop miniatures mixed with conventional board games, you may be drawn to Chaostle, by Chivalry Games. Yes, Chaos. TLE.

A couple that I will cheek out are Prince of the Dragon Throne from Clever Mojo Games, and one I am very excited about, Conquistador GamesRoad to Enlightenment, with players vying for world domination, (it never gets old), through control of scientists, artists, philosophers, religious leaders, politicians and military leaders, to be recognized as the most prestigious monarch. Set in the 17th and early 18th centuries, you can bet your man-dresses this one will be a blast.

“I’m going to war. These shoes or the red ones?”

Fireside Games will be showing off their cooperative castle defense game, Castle Panic!, which got a little deeper this year with the addition of its first expansion The Wizard’s Tower. Both games have won some awards, and look to be fun for the whole family with simple concepts and card play. Floodgate Games opens them on Legacy: Gears of Time, and while the card art is a little basic, I am always curious how a time travel game counts down. Another such game, Timeline: Discoveries could prove interesting. Gamewick Games (where they are “Getting Lit…with Imagination!) shuffle into the con with their entry in the zombie craze, Pittsburgh 68, a “frenzied card-n-dice game” that promises to play like a zombie movie. Expect it to be heavy on brain eating and cardio.

Another primate purveyor, Gorilla Games swings in with its catalogue including World Conquerors and the expansion Revolutionaries. Another game of global domination with cards and dice, it also features historical figures who dramatically change the course of battle. Eisenhower anyone?

A midwestern boy myself, I would be remiss if I did not heap a copious measure of attention on Gut Bustin’ Games’ line of hillbilly themed diversions, Trailer Park Wars and Redneck Life. Perchance these campestral contests play as different as a tornado, or a redneck divorce, but, I’ll bet in either game, just like our dupal disasters, someone is going to lose a double-wide.Their newest offering, Oh Gnome You Don’t, seems to be less reality based and more pun, which according to the comedy experts, is the lowest form of humor.

Live the dream. ’Nuff said.

The guys from Level Zero Games (“because everyone starts at level zero”) should be back with their cyber-themed card game Node as well as The Depths, an interesting concept of eat or be eaten at the bottom of the sea.

My next post will focus on the smaller game makers from M-Z and after that, a couple final preview pieces on the big boys and girls of the Con! Let us know in the comments below if you are interested in any of these games (or others), and we will try to slot in a demo.


18 thoughts on “The Best Laid Plans – A GenCon Preview Part I

  1. I will be checking out a game in the playtest area this called Democracy. Little bit about it here . Now normally this wouldnt really be an enthralling sounding game to me, but its designed by Mark Rein-Hagen. If that name sounds familiar, you may Recognize it from some little known RPG books he penned. Some of them include Vampire: the Masquerade, Werewolf: the Apocolypse, Wraith, everything you would consider the classic World of Darkness, he is responsible for (mostly). So when the guy who made one of the best rpg worlds ever says “hey check out my board game.” I’m inclined to check it out.

  2. Thanks for the preview. This is my first trip to GenCon, and it’s good to get some different perspectives on what is out there. I’ll be looking forward to visiting the big boys, but thanks for also focusing on the smaller guys.

    1. Never fear, I will also be exposing their wares in an upcoming piece. It is easy to get lost in the Fantasy Flight or AEG or Wizards booths, and so, I wanted to start looking at and featuring some of the smaller players first.

      If you are planning on playing in events, make sure you carve out some time to spend in the dealer room, as it is only open from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm.

      Let us know your thoughts on your return. We would love to hear about your first time experience. Questions? Fire away.

      Plus, don’t miss our fearless leader, Joe Babbitt himself, who will be hanging out in the board-game hall, I believe. Joe? What will be your “20?”

      1. “It’s easy to get lost in the Fantasy Flight booth” – True story. My first GenCon, the line to check out for FFG was so long i was in front of another booth for long enough to research and buy a game from them.

        Honestly, I need to give some thought to what I want to scope for PSS at GenCon. I’ll be so busy with AEG stuff and getting more people aware of PSS that I hadn’t given any thought to new games!

      1. John:

        Good point. The other thing to do is make sure you pour out all the goodies and schwag you will get in the schwag bags they hand you with your badge. There really are some good coupons and deals in there and other enticements to try a broad spectrum of games. I still have and use all the Gen Con dice given away in them.

  3. Hey Bill, I think you mean “swag bag.” Pretty sure “schwag bag” is something else entirely, and if they’re giving those away at GenCon, it’s going to be a very interesting time. 🙂

  4. Thanks for the mention! We will be running our newest games that are going to print soon. Come out and play Cheap Shot and Flea Marketeers! Look for us in the tabletop area after 7:00 PM and join us! Lisa Steenson, Grand Pooh Bah, Gut Bustin’ Games

    1. Lisa:

      Absolutely! Thank you for the update. I am sure some of us Heartlanders will be stopping by for a little home cooking. Best of luck with the Con!


  5. I messaged Joe about this; there are a few things off with our preview!

    To clarify: Depths is a closed game project. We’ve finished that one and moved on. Node will still be at the show!

    We WILL be premiering our Net Gain property at this Gen Con, though! It’s a realistic post-cyberpunk future centered around the “Brokers”, powerful and brilliant strategists who work for corporations, executing shadowy plots, schemes, and conspiracies against their competitors…

    We’ll be showing a professionally produced live-action trailer (put together by the fine folks at TMU Pictures under our direction), showing all the thrills and excitement on corporate espionage (with lots of gunplay as well)!

    We’ll also be releasing an interactive story game (like choose your own adventure, but more depth and complexity) with a free story to start and more adventures to follow! Open Hand is an interactive story following the adventures of the broker Luc, as he pounces to steal some valuable information a rival accidentally revealed. One of the possible endings of the story is the very action that unfolds in the trailer!

    Finally, we’ll be showing our first peek at the Net Gain computer strategy game! In this title, players create their own brokers and sign up with a corporation, investigating their competitors, exposing their weaknesses, planning elaborate missions to exploit them, then executing their mission with the skilled specialists under their command!

    We’ve got a lot of information on these projects on our facebook page, and we’ll be revealing more leading up to Gen Con.

    1. John:

      Sorry about the inclusion of Depths, but I have got to say that the rest of your update, um….blows it out of the water! All of those titles sound very very cool and I will make it a point to personally stop by the booth and pick your brain about them!

      Look for more to come on these many projects in the very near future.

      Thanks again for the post! Keep feeding us the good stuff so there is no “garbage out” next time.


    2. I didn’t actually get a message from you. I better check to see that all my links are working, so thanks for the heads up 🙂 On topic, that all sounds awesome! I’ll have to swing by too!

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