Board Gaming

No Such Word as “Fail” – A Gen Con Preview Part IV

“As a nation, Americans are too superficial—they are striving to get rich quickly, and do not generally do their business as substantially and thoroughly as they should, but whoever excels all others in his own line, if his habits are good and his integrity undoubted, cannot fail to secure abundant patronage, and the wealth that naturally follows. Let your motto then always be “Excelsior,” for by living up to it there is no such word as fail.”

― P.T. Barnum, The Art of Money Getting

Maybe not the Greatest Show on Earth, but it will be close…

“Excelsior” inspires. A word that incited two of America’s greatest poets, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and Walt Whitman, “excelsior,” translated from Latin, means simply, “ever upward.” P.T. Barnum’s take on the word, however avaricious, remains a fitting assessment of the “American condition.” We want without travail and consume without ratio. And to Barnum, this is America’s greatest opportunity for the few who are prepared to do what it takes to excel at some thing. In a sense, he is right. We do like easy answers and making quick work of chores. We richly reward innovators and creators that make things easier, prettier and better. But, with that, we also refuse to accept mediocrity, and so, despite there being a “sucker born every minute,” we will not patronize purveyors of poor quality games.

Speaking of “the art of money getting,” in just a few days you will see the machinery full on in the Indianapolis Convention Center at the 45th GenCon! The Best Four Days of Gaming celebrates those game makers and thinkers among us who excel at one thing: helping us all have fun. (And lightening us of a few shekels along the way…) My final piece on GenCon 2012 wraps up the previews of the bigger game manufacturers and also offers a few tips and suggestions for getting the most out of your visit to “the Con!”

Few companies are as prodigious as Mayfair Games. Their floor space will barely have room for their catalogue, but gives them just enough to show off new games like: Aeroplanes: Aviation Ascendant, which explores the dawn of commercial aviation. Gameplay consists of competing to purchase more efficient aeroplanes, building airports, and moving passengers. The winner maintains the most airports around the world and runs their airline the most profitably. Just don’t play the TWA stronghold.

Man I miss Kirk.

In a similar transport theme, Empire Express offers a jumping on point for players curious about the Empire Builder line, without all the muss. If you like the gameplay, then you might check out the more complex version. Of course everyone is familiar with the Catan line of games, and they will expand the brand this year with Star Trek: Catan, which promises to be “95% Settlers” in a Trek skin spiced with special powers related to Trek personalities.

Plaid Hat Games made a big splash last year with two titles that sold like hotcakes: Summoner Wars, which still is buzzing, and surely will be supported with a number of expansions this year, and Dungeon Run, a classic crawl. This time, an off-beat theme scurries in with Mice and Mystics, a cooperative adventure game where the players work together battling adversaries such as rats, cockroaches, spiders, and the castle’s housecat. Boasting an ever-changing, interactive environment, the game features a rich storyline that the players help create as they play the game. It looks great, and I am adding it to my must see list.

Privateer Press expands its Infernal Contraption themed line with Heap, a seemingly deeper and more interesting game than its predecessors, described as a madcap game of vehicular mayhem where the player who cobbles together the most outrageous vehicle wins! They also add a title to the growing horror genre with Level 7 [Escape], a tile placement game which sounds a little like DungeonQuest in space (where no one hears you scream), as players fight to escape the horrors of the game before lockdown.

More cards that do bad stuff.

Along those lines, Repos Productions will show off its zombie horror survival game, City of Horror, with the goal to survive a zombie hoard’s assault on the city. Rio Grande Games will unleash the Dark Ages of the Dominion world on us. I am sure this will be on a lot of people’s lists. Check out their many other fun titles and Dominion expansions while you are buying this one.

Steve Jackson Games adds a trio of titles to its ever-popular Munchkin line, Apocalypse, Skullkickers and Zombies 3: Hideous Hideouts. Always good for a fun, quick game, these expansions will surely enhance your already overstuffed Munchkin collection. Explore the room!

Wizards of the Coast releases three huge looking D&D related properties in their Dungeon Command line; Heart of Cormyr, Sting of Lolth and Tyranny of Goblins. All three are interchangeable, and would make for a huge melee if played together. They will also showcase Dungeon!, a reboot of its 1975 classic, originally touted as similar to Dungeons & Dragons, “although much simplified and transformed into a board game.” Hmmmm. Will give it a look to see how much it has changed over the years.

Components look good. Now, where’s my elephant gun?

Last but certainly not least, Z-Man Games will have a cadre of new games including highly anticipated Africana, a card drafting and safari adventure game, Alcatraz, a prison scapegoat game, Atlantis Rising, where you play a denizen of the fabled city fighting to prevent its destruction, and Battle Beyond Space, a massive, multi-player free-for-all space battle where everyone slugs it out for total domination of space.

Whew, and that concludes my preview of games to come…But, before you head off for the Con, I wrap up with just a few suggestions for those of you who may not have been through the adventure before (I know at least one of our readers will be a first time attendee this year).

A few suggestions, in no particular order:

  1. Play in an event. Come on. This is why you went, to play in a game. Playing in a sanctioned event of any game type is fun, exposes you to different strategies and play-styles and, heck, you might just make a friend for life.
  2. Demo a bunch of games. Read my four articles. ‘Nuff said.
  3. Buy some dice. Maybe it is just me, but I cannot walk by the Chessex tables, and there will be two of them, without picking up some colorful dice. In all shapes, sizes, colors and finishes. They are just fun to have.
  4. See the art. Many of your favorite game’s artists will likely be there, selling prints and just talking shop. Often they will sign game cards, and shoot the breeze about your favorite pieces. How often do you get the chance to do that?
  5. Bring some games. If you are on a budget, and only planning on picking up one or two games, might be a good idea to bring a few standbys just in case.
  6. Bring a bag. While most vendors will give you something to carry your bounty in, it may not be the most comfortable to carry. A backpack or other carrying device may be in order.
  7. Stock up on snacks. The lines, prices, selection and quality are all cons. Very few pros. A few granola bars might just save the day.
  8. Beat the rush. On everything. Eat at off times. Get there at least one day first thing for the dealer room. Try to walk it on Thursday or Friday before the weekend crowd settles in. Demo games early. If you see a chance, take it. If there is a game you are wanting to get, buy it the first chance you get. Most manufacturers brought a limited supply of everything and the newest and most popular stuff will sell out quick.
  9. Check out some new games. See #2 above. List of new stuff here. You really need to devote some time to just roaming the dealer hall, from end to end. It is amazing.
  10. GenCon App. Very helpful.
  11. #GenCon. Constant chatter and updates.
You cannot leave GenCon until you spot at least two chain-mail bikinis and the Leah slave outfit girl.

If you are coming, please let us know, we will be there looking out for new games to report on and there should be Twitter updates from Joe. I am sure we will both have a ton of stuff to say on the other side of the event. Talk more then.


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