Game Previews from GenCon 2011

While at GenCon this year I was floored by the amount of new games that were being previewed and available to purchase at the convention. Checking out these new games is one of the big reasons that I go to GenCon, so today I’d like to talk about some of the games that I got to demo while I was there. This post is titled “previews” because I haven’t had a chance to play any of these games in their entirety, but they all stood out to me either from before I went to the con or while I was walking the exhibit hall.

These are just a few of the games that I saw and was excited about at GenCon. The first two previews here are games that I got to play demos of and talk to some of the people from the companies about the games. The rest of the games in this post are ones that I was hoping to get a chance to play but just didn’t have the time to play or wait for a spot to open up at the tables.

Ninja: Legend of the Scorpion Clan (Alderac Entertainment Group)

This is one of the games that I was excited for even before going to GenCon because I’m a big fan of what AEG has been doing with their Legend of the 5 Rings products, plus I love ninjas so that pretty much sealed the deal for me checking this out. Ninja is a board game that takes place in the L5R universe, and I have a copy of it here at home so there will definitely be a full review of it up in the next few weeks. The game plays with 2-4 players and allows 1 or 2 players to control the ninja and traitor as they secretly move about the board and try to avoid the samurai guards controlled by the other players. The samurai players place traps, objectives, and sleeping guards in hidden locations around the board to surprise the ninja, and every player has a small hand of action cards to add even more surprise into the equation.

Above and beyond the “I love ninjas” caveat, many of our friends (including myself) have been playing the game Letters From Whitechapel a lot recently and I was even more excited to see that Ninja appears to share many similarities with that game. I’m happy to see that Ninja is supposed to play quicker than Whitechapel, and the game also doesn’t end if the ninja or traitor are found but instead they get to kill and/or flee from the guards and still attempt to sneak away.

Food Fight! (Cryptozoic Entertainment)

The stand up displays for this game were immediately eye-catching. By eye-catching, I mean it featured badass looking food wearing combat gear and wielding guns! I jumped into the demo of the game knowing nothing more than that it is a card game, and I was pleasantly surprised once we got into playing the demo. Our first play through involved a dealt out hand, choosing which cards to play for either Breakfast, Lunch, or Dinner, and then flipping up cards and battling against other players that chose the same meal that you did.

Food Fight’s cards are all extremely stylistic and, if you’re a fan of the game’s particular kind of humor, incredibly funny. If you think things like Private Pancake, Corporal Taco, and Sergeant Sushi all decked out in army outfits are funny, then this game is perfect for you. However, as we played that first hand I couldn’t help but find it to be a mediocre game at best. That’s when the demo changed completely. Once we’d played one hand to learn how the basic game played, we were each dealt a hand of cards from which we drafted one card and proceeded to pass hands around the table in the familiar card drafting fashion. I can understand why they were demoing the game without the drafting at first, but at least one of our friends ONLY got to play the game with a non-drafted hand and that confuses me. Once I started to draft the cards the game immediately improved for me and I understood the card designs and enjoyed it a hell of a lot more.

I still haven’t gotten the chance to play a full game of Food Fight, but it seems like an incredibly quick and fun card drafting game infused with a lot of humor and interesting choices that I look forward to playing over the next few months.

Leviathans (Catalyst Game Labs)

Leviathans is one of the games I was really looking forward to demoing at GenCon, but unfortunately I never got a chance to do it because of a busy schedule and packed demo tables (I’m incredibly happy that the demo tables were packed though). It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of Catalyst’s work on Battletech, so I’m naturally interested in this new game that they’re putting out.

Seeing the awesome looking tables that they were running only makes me more excited to play this game. At first I was skeptical of the steam-style large flying boats concept, but the more I see about it the more I think it is cooler because of the oddity the game is infused with. I will be going out of my way in the future to get a chance to play this game, and as soon as I do I’ll be sure to let everyone know what I think. For now, I’m happy enough saying that I’m excited to see how it plays!

Assault on Icecrown Citadel Raid Deck – World of Warcraft TCG (Cryptozoic Entertainment)

I’ve been a casual observer of the WoW TCG for several years now, and have been annoying our own Vanir by somehow avoiding playing the game with him every time we see each other (only 1-2 times a year). The Assault on Icecrown Citadel Raid Deck boxed set is probably going to be what finally tips me into playing the game. It’s been out since earlier in 2011, but I hadn’t seen it until I went to GenCon. This boxed set contains 4 full decks and 4 oversized hero cards, which is the really exciting part of the boxed set – you get to play as Jaina Proudmoore, Sylvanas Windrunner, and Tirion Fordring against another player as the Lich King.

Each hero deck contains an insanely good equipment cards, Tirion’s Ashbringer is particularly vicious, and each of the action cards in the deck has custom art showing the deck’s hero performing the action instead of generic artwork. I found this to be a particularly nice touch to make each deck feel more unique and specifically designed for the heroes. I also enjoy how the raid deck’s mechanics mirror the Icecrown Citadel elements from the MMO, specifically it made me laugh seeing that the Lich King’s hero card does 300,000 damage if you allow him to flip over (hint: don’t let him flip his card over).

I’ve been excited to try out a Raid Deck for some time and getting the chance to play these three epic heroes against the Lich King is a big draw for me.

Gears of War: The Board Game (Fantasy Flight Games)

This game was getting a lot of attention at the convention, but it is another one that I didn’t get a chance to demo and instead took some time to watch other people play it. I can say that one of our friends played in a demo and immediately bought the game, so that is a pretty good endorsement for me and I look forward to trying it out with him sometime soon.

At first glance Gears of War appears similar to games like Descent and Castle Ravenloft, but apparently the board layout is determined by mission and isn’t as random as those types of adventure games. The aspect that I’m most interested in is playing this style of game that is futuristic, and not fantasy based, where you get to shoot guns and worry about how much ammo you have left!

Penny Arcade The Game – Gamers vs. Evil & The Walking Dead Board Game (both by Cryptozoic Entertainment)

Both of these games were on my list of games to check out at the Cryptozoic booth along with Food Fight, but again my schedule at GenCon was so crazy at times that I didn’t get around to trying them out. These are both on my list for games to check out as soon as I can.