Gencon is the kind of magical place where everything you want can come true with the curse and downside of midnight approaching every single day (still better than Cinderella, she only got one midnight and a glass slipper. Pffft she didn't even get boardgames). So you can imagine how hard it can be to cram what you can over four days, clock ticking for 6pm for the convention hall to close. It may not seem like much when we make lists and blogs like these because there's absolutely no way to see everything and give fair assumptions that these are indeed the best games of the show (just the best from what we played). Now with that in mind, the last few games we tried out, definitely stole the show for us and the following are what we just cannot wait to own on our shelves!
I backed Conan last year when it was on kickstarter for just purely the theme alone (BARBARIAN, SMASH) without the knowledge that brilliant designers like Bruno Cathala, Ludovic Maublanc, Frederic Henry and Antoine Bauza A-list designers were behind the game. So of course to try this game, I absolutely had to see.
The game is scenario based and the the one that was available for demo was about rescuing the princess that was locked away in one of the buildings in the village. Players will either play as heroes in Conan's lore, or as the Overlord player who controls the minions of evil. Sounds a lot like other existing games like Imperial Assault or Descent, sure, but we found gameplay to be absolutely solid, staying fresh yet familiar to other similar games that already exist.
What we liked to see was how your actions could be allocated from a gem pool (think sort of like Terra Mystica) that recycles itself dependent on how much you invest in each turn and how those gems are shared between your amount of actions and the amount of health you have. So it left us feeling like this:
The minis were gorgeous, I loved how each character played and above all, the overlord board has a lot available to you in a nicely displayed board. So no fiddling with cards and a bunch of things in front of you. The power of ORGANIZATION
Hit Z Road
I had the pleasure of the designer, Martin Wallace, teach--no, sorry, did I say teach? I meant, ENJOY THE PAIN AND TEARS SHED BEFORE HIS VICTIMS. This man, this man, I know he was getting a kick out of it all.
(Things aren't going well)
Hit Z Road is set in the zombie apocalypse, keeping a fresh take on a theme that is so "been there, done that". There's a bidding track for you to bid on who gets to go first, but you're given a very very limited amount of resources to spend, so wasting it all on getting first pick will leave you nothing to defend yourself with. You've got adrenaline to change your die face, bullets to fight with and fuel to run or use for bids when you want to keep your more valuable resources (take it from me, hoard the bullets! Hoard them I say!)
You get a group of five survivors, each giving you a die to roll when in situations where you fight zombies. And part of the pressure of the game is choosing which situations to put your survivors through. Cards are flipped face up on the table in sets of two, sometimes running into zombies, sometimes finding supplies and sometimes just flat out killing survivors. And it's the turn order that determines what gets picked first so if you're left with nothing to bid with at the end, you're stuck with last pick so you can say hello to hoards of zombies at your front door.
What the game does a fantastic job at doing is making you feel under a lot of pressure and scrambling for supplies, trying to survive for as long as you can. There's been plenty of zombie games before this, but Hit Z Road has done the best job at capturing the anxiety and worry that comes with it.
Game of Thrones: Hand of the King
Ok, I love Bruno Cathala, his games just so happen to be some of my favourite games. He has a way of making his games simple yet strategic. Hand of the King is no exception to this!
Original art (BIG brownie points on this alone), Game of Thrones characters in the book and not limited to the ones in the show, you're moving Varys throughout the board, collecting sets of characters from one shared house, picking them up trying to gain majority of that house to win points for them. If you so happen to pick up the last character of any house, you're given a special powered character that you utilize right away like killing Ned Stark, no matter if he's still on the board or collected in front of someone.
The game is super simple, plays in probably in 10 minutes and I'm ready to go back for more for those quick lunchtime or travel games.
Game of Thrones: The Iron Throne
One of my troubles is getting my friends to play Cosmic Encounter with me. The theme doesn't appeal to them, some think it can be too random, and now I have my way to trick them to play with me without them even knowing it!
Game of Thrones: The Iron Throne is basically a Game of Thrones themed Cosmic Encounter. Do I really have to say more? Ok. Think of the betrayal and intrigue of the Game of Throne Board Game...without the board. You're playing different houses in the Game of Thrones universe, trying to spread your influence by winning battles. You have four characters in front of you with power (identified as crowns), that will be battling other houses. When you fight another player, you have to win by having more crowns than they do (plus card modifiers), campaigning for support from other others as well. If you win, not only do you get to spread influence (which is what the game revolves around) but you can also take a hostage! Take a hostage and they can be used as bargaining chips for future turns, or in true Game of Thrones fashion, you can torment them and make that character lose four crowns (if they lose all of their crowns, that character dies).
In the game I played, we only played one round, and we all went all out. My Tyrion was tormented and died. So when I took Catelyn for hostage, I felt a bit vindictive and tormented her and killed her. And after a lot of other things happening, Danaerys, Margaery and all the Targaryn forces were gone just like that. Sounds a lot like Game of Thrones doesn't it? This is probably the quintessential game for capturing that spirit.
Thanks for checking out our write ups! We had a ton of fun at gencon, and we just can't wait for this year's new releases!